Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jonson, Claggart and Envy

Satiromastix, Dekker, Act 1 Sc. 2

To see my fate, that when I dip my pen
In distill’d roses, and do strive to drain
Out of mine ink all gall; that when I weigh
Each syllable I write or speak, because
Mine enemies with sharp and searching eyes
Look through and through me, carving my poor labours
Like an anotomy.  Oh heavens, to see
That when my lines are measur’d out as straight
As even parallels, ‘tis strange that still,
Still some imagine they are drawn awry.
The error is not mine, but in their eye
That cannot take proportions.


 Disproportionate Droeshout Engraving:

Melvilliana, Blog
Jan 10 2017

Fronted I have, part taken the span
Of portents in nature and peril in man.
I have swum — I have been
'Twixt the whale's black flukes and the white shark's fin;
The enemy's desert have wandered in
And there have turned, have turned and scanned,
Following me how noiselessly,
Envy and Slander, lepers hand in hand.
--from In a Bye-Canal by Herman Melville
Robert Penn Warren half-suspected the influence of Ben Jonson on Melville's poem "In a Bye-Canal." In a footnote to the speaker's claim there of having literally and figuratively lived between "the whale's black flukes and the white shark's fin," Warren wonders:
Can this be an echo of the "wolf's black jaw" and the "dull ass' hoof" in Ben Jonson's "An Ode to Himself" (Underwoods)? In both Jonson and Melville, the content is the same: the affirmation of independence in the face of a bad and envious age.
--Melville the Poet (number 160 in the Scholarship section of Melville's Sources by Mary K. Bercaw)
Short answer: Yes.
And since our dainty age
Cannot endure reproof,
Make not thyself a page
To that strumpet, the stage,
But sing high and aloof,
Safe from the wolf's black jaw and the dull ass's hoof.
--from An Ode to Himself by Ben Jonson
The next question would be, did Melville adapt the phrasing from "An Ode to Himself" as Robert Penn Warren suggests, or was Melville remembering the same line as it appeared in Jonson's "Apologetical Dialogue"? Melville owned the 1692 Works of Ben Jonson  (Sealts 302 / Bercaw 405); his copy has survived and is now held by the New-York Historical Society. So Melville could have recalled "wolf's black jaw" and "dull ass's hoof" from the Apologetical Dialogue that follows Poetaster in the Folio edition. Jonson introduces the appended Dialogue as his only "Answer" to critics:
"only once spoken upon the Stage and all the Answer I ever gave to sundry impotent Libels then cast out (and some yet remaining) against me, and this Play."
In concert with certain additions to the Quarto text of Poetaster, the Apologetical Dialogue thus presents, as David Bevington explains, Ben Jonson's
"supreme defence of his position in the War of the Theatres and more broadly in the writing of drama for the London stage." --Poetaster: Textual Essay
Jonson's much-quoted line may be found in a variety of later contexts. Isaac Disraeli, for one example, includes it in the second volume of his Miscellanies of Literature, with generous extracts from what he calls the "Apologetical Epilogue to the Poetaster":
Leave me! There's something come into my thought
That must and shall be sung, high and aloof,
Safe from the wolfs black jaw, and the dull ass's hoof.
Friend. I reverence these raptures, and obey them." --Quarrels of Authors
In Disraeli's version, speeches by Jonson's companions "Nasutus" and "Polyposus" are assigned to one Friend in dialogue with the Author.

Claggart/Envy - Master-of-Arms of the Bellipotent in Billy Budd:

Billy Budd, Melville, ch. 12
Now envy and antipathy, passions irreconcilable in reason, nevertheless in fact may spring conjoined like Chang and Eng in one birth. Is Envy then such a monster? Well, though many an arraigned mortal has in hopes of mitigated penalty pleaded guilty to horrible actions, did ever anybody seriously confess to envy? Something there is in it universally felt to be more shameful than even felonious crime. And not only does everybody disown it, but the better sort are inclined to incredulity when it is in earnest imputed to an intelligent man. But since its lodgement is in the heart not the brain, no degree of intellect supplies a guarantee against it. But Claggart's was no vulgar form of the passion. Nor, as directed toward Billy Budd, did it partake of that streak of apprehensive jealousy that marred Saul's visage perturbedly brooding on the comely young David. Claggart's envy struck deeper. If askance he eyed the good looks, cheery health and frank enjoyment of young life in Billy Budd, it was because these went along with a nature that, as Claggart magnetically felt, had in its simplicity never willed malice or experienced the reactionary bite of that serpent. To him, the spirit lodged within Billy, and looking out from his welkin eyes as from windows, that ineffability it was which made the dimple in his dyed cheek, suppled his joints, and dancing in his yellow curls made him preeminently the Handsome Sailor. One person excepted, the Master-at-arms was perhaps the only man in the ship intellectually capable of adequately appreciating the moral phenomenon presented in Billy Budd. And the insight but intensified his passion, which assuming various secret forms within him, at times assumed that of cynic disdain- disdain of innocence. To be nothing more than innocent! Yet in an aesthetic way he saw the charm of it, the courageous free-and- easy temper of it, and fain would have shared it, but he despaired of it.

Satiromastix, Dekker
That same Crispanus is the silliest dor, and Fannius the slightest cobweb-lawnpiece of a poet.  Oh God!
Why should I care what every dor doth buzz
In credulous ears; it is a crown to me,
That the best judgements can report me wrong’d.
I am one of them that can report it.
I think but what they are, and am not mov’d.
The one a light voluptuous reveller,
The other, a strange arrogating puff,
Both impudent, and arrogant enough.
S’lid, do not CRITICUS REVEL l in these lines, ha, Ningle, ha?      (Paraphrase of  lines from  Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels)    



Dryden, Juvenal dedication to the Earl of Dorset

The subject of this book confines me to satire; and in that, an author of your own quality, (whose ashes I will not disturb,) has given you all the commendation which his self-sufficiency could afford to any man: “The best good man, with the worst-natured muse.” In that character, methinks, I am reading Jonson’s verses to the memory of Shakespeare; an insolent, sparing, and invidious panegyric: where good nature, the most godlike commendation of a man, is only attributed to your person, and denied to your writings; for they are every where so full of candour, that, like Horace, you only expose the follies of men, without arraigning their vices; and in this excel him, that you add pointedness of thought, which is visibly wanting in our great Roman. There is more of salt in all your verses, than I have seen in any of the moderns, or even of the ancients; but you have been sparing of the gall, by which means you have pleased all readers, and offended none.