Oberon, the Fairy Prince
A Masque of Prince Henry's
By Ben Jonson
Stay, the cheerful Chanticlere
Tells you that the time is near:
See the gates already spread!
Every satyr bow his head.
There the whole palace opened, and the nation of Fays were discovered, some with instruments, some bearing lights, others singing; and within, afar off in perspective, the knights masquers sitting in their several sieges. At the further end of all, Oberon, in a chariot which to a loud triumphal music began to move forward, drawn by two white bears, and on either side guarded by three Sylvans, with one going in front.
Melt earth to sea, sea flow to air,
And air fly into fire,
Whilst we in tunes to Arthur's chair
Bear Oberon's desire;
Than which there can be nothing higher,
Save JAMES, to whom it flies:
But he the wonder is of tongues, of ears, of eyes.
Who hath not heard, who hath not seen,
Who hath not sung his name?
The soul that hath not, hath not been,
But is the very same
With buried sloth, and knows not fame,
Which him doth best comprise:
For he the wonder is of tongues, of ears, of eyes.
By this time the chariot was come as far forth as the face of the scene. And the Satyrs beginning to leap and express their joy for the un-used state and solemnity, the foremost Sylvan began to speak.
Give place, and silence; you were rude too late.
This is a night of greatness and of state,
Not to be mixed with light and skipping sport:
A night of homage to the British court,
And ceremony, due to Arthur's chair
From our bright master, Oberon the fair;
Who, with these knights attendants, here preserved
In Faery land, for good they have deserved
Of yon high throne are come of right to pay
Their annual vows, and all their glories lay
At's feet, and tender to this only great
True majesty, restoréd in this seat;
To whose sole power and magic they do give
The honor of their being; that they live
Sustained in form, fame, and felicity
From rage of fortune or the fear to die.
And may they well. For this indeed is he,
My boys, whom you must quake at when you see.
He is above your reach, and neither doth
Nor can he think within a Satyr's tooth.
Before his presence you must fall or fly.
He is the matter of virtue, and placed high.
His meditations to his height are even,
And all their issue is akin to heaven.
He is a god o'er kings, yet stoops he then
Nearest a man when he doth govern men,
To teach them by the sweetness of his sway,
And not by force. He's such a king as they,
Who're tyrants' subjects, or ne'er tasted peace,
Would in their wishes form for their release.
'Tis he that stays the time from turning old,
And keeps the age up in a head of gold;
That in his own true circle still doth run,
And holds his course, as certain as the sun.
He makes it ever day and ever spring
Where he doth shine, and quickens everything
Like a new nature: so that, true to call
Him by his title, is to say, He's all.
I thank the wise Silenus for this praise.
Stand forth, bright Fays and Elves, and tune your lays
Unto his name. Then let your nimble feet
Tread subtle circles, that may always meet
In point to him; and figures, to express
The grace of him and his great empress.
That all that shall tonight behold the rites
Performed by princely Oberon and these knights
May, without stop, point out the proper heir
Designed so long to Arthur's crowns and chair.
Ben Jonson's Plays and Masques.. Robert Adams, Ed.
New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1979.
Site copyright © 1996-1999 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.