This HTML etext of Ben Jonson's "The Masque of Hymen" (1606) was created in March 2003 by Anniina Jokinen of Luminarium. The text is unaltered, and this etext also preserves, as much as possible within the constraints of the medium, the layout of the print edition. Jonson's footnotes have not been included. Another etext of the same, including Jonson's notes, is forthcoming. The Greek may be viewed with either the TekniaGreek or BSTGreek fonts.
Jonson, Ben. The Works of Ben Jonson. A New Edition.
Edited, with a Biographical Memoir, by William Gifford.
Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company, 1853. 668-674.
H Y M E N Æ I ;
THE SOLEMNITIES OF MASQUE AND BARRIERS AT A MARRIAGE.
H Y M E N Æ I, &c.
| ITis a noble and just advantage that the things subjected to understandinghave of those which are objected to sense ;|
that the one sort are but momentary, and merely taking ; the other impressing, and lasting : else the glory of all these
solemnies had perished like a blaze, and gone out, in the beholders' eyes. So short lived are the bodies of all things, in
comparison of their souls. And thoughbodies oftimes have the ill luck to be sensually preferred, they find afterwardsthe
good fortune (when souls live) to be utterly forgotten. This it is hath made the most royal princes, and greatest persons
(who are commonly the personaters of these actions) notonly studious of riches, and magnificence in the outward celebra-
tion or shew, which rightly becomes them ; butcurious after the most high and hearty inventions,to furnish the inward
parts ; and those grounded upon antiquity, andsolid learning : which though their voice be taught to sound to present
occasions, their sense or doth or should always lay holdon more removed mysteries. And howsoever some may squeam-
ishly cry out, that all endeavor of learning and sharpness in these transitory devices,especially where it steps beyond
their little, or (let me not wrong them,) no brain at all, is superfluous : I am contented, these fastidious stomachs should
leave my full tables, and enjoy at home their clean empty trenchers, fittest for such airy tastes ; where perhaps a few
Italian herbs, picked up and made into a sallad, may find sweeter acceptance than all the most nourishing and sound
meats of the world.
For these men's palates, let no meanswer, O Muses. It is not my fault, if I fill them out nectar,and they run to metheglia.
Vaticana bibant, si delectentur.
All the courtesy I cando them, is to cry again :
Prætereant, si quid non facit ad stomachum.
As I will from the thoughtof them, to my better subject.
| On the night of the Masques (which were two,|
One of men, the other of women)the scene
being drawn, there was first discovered an altar ;
upon which was inscribed, in letters of gold,
To this altar entered five pages, attired in
Bid all profane away ; Cho.Fly thenall profane away,
Cho.Fly thenall profane away,
Hy. What more than usual light,
Or reign on earth, thosePowers
'Tis so : this sameis he,
O you, whose better blisses
That know, how well it binds
Sit now propitious aids,
Here out of a microcosm, or globe,
These represented the four Humors and four Af-
Hy. Save, save the virgins ; keep your hallow'd
Hereat, Reason, seated on the top of the globe, as in
Rea. Forbear your rude attempt ; what igno-
At this the Humors and Affections sheathed their
Rea. The pair, which do each other side,
Here the upper part of the scene, which was all of
Rea. And see where Juno, whose greatname
Their descent was made in two greats clouds, that put Cho. Haste, haste, for Hesperus his headdown bows.
Cho. Haste, haste, for Hesperus his headdown bows.
Rea. Convey them, Order, to theirplaces,
By this time the ladies were paired with the men, Cho. Whilstall this roof doth ring,
Cho. Whilstall this roof doth ring,
Rea. Such was the golden chain let down
This speech being ended, they dissolved : andall took
Rea. See, see ! the bright Idalianstar,
Hym. Haste, therefore, haste, and call,away !
At this, the whole scene being drawn again, and all
Rea. Here stay, and let your sports be
With this, to a soft strain of music, they paced
Of this SONG, then, only one staff was sung, but
Glad time isat his point arrived,
Shrink not, softvirgin, you will love,
Help, youthsand virgins, help to sing
See ! Hesperusis yet in view.
Haste, tenderlady, and adventure ;
Now, youths,let go your pretty arms ;
Good matrons,that so well are known
So ! nowyou may admit him in ;
Now free fromvulgar spite or noise,
And look, beforeyou yield to slumber,
Then coin them'twixt your lips so sweet,
And, Juno, whosegreat powers protect
And Venus, thou,with timely seed,
And, when thebabe to light is shown,
Cease, youthsand virgins, you have done ;
| Hitherto extended thefirst night's solemnity, whose grace in the execution, left not where to add unto it, with wish-|
ing : I mean (nor do I court them) in those, that sustained the nobler parts. Such was the exquisite performance, as,
beside the pomp, splendor, or what we may call apparelling of such presentments, that alone (had all else been absent )
was of power to surprize with delight, andsteal away the spectators from themselves. Nor was there wanting whatso-
ever might give to the furniture or complement ; either in richness, or strangeness of the habits, delicacy of dances, mag-
nificence of the scene, or divine rapture of music. Only, the envy was, that it lasted not still, or, now it is past, cannot
by imagination, much less description, be recovered toa part of that spirit it had in the gliding by.
Yet, that I may not utterlydefraud the reader of his hope, I am drawnto give it those brief touches, which may leave
behind some shadow of what it was : and first of the attires.
That of the lords, hadpart of it, for the fashion, taken from theantique Greek statues, mixed with some modern addi-
tions : which made it both graceful andstrange. On their heads they wore Persiccrowns, that were with scrolls of gold
plate turned outward, and wreathed about with a carnation and silver net-lawn ; the one end of which hung carelessly
on the left shoulder ; the other was trickedup before, in several degrees of folds, between the plaits, and set with rich
jewels and great pearl. Their bodies were of carnation cloth of silver, richly wrought, and cut to express the naked, in
manner of the Greek thorax ; girt under thebreasts with a broad belt of cloth of gold,embroidered, and fastened before
with jewels : their labels were of white cloth of silver, laced, and wrought curiously between, suitable to the upper half
of their sleeves ; whose nether parts with their bases, were of watchet clothof silver, cheveroned all over with lace.
Their mantles were of several-colored silks, distinguishing their qualities, as theywere coupled in pairs ; the first, sky-
color ; the second, pearl-color ; the third,flame-color ; the fourth, tawny ; and these cut in leaves, which were subtly
tacked up, and embroidered with O's, and between every rank of leaves a broad silver race. They were fastened on the
right shoulder, and fell compass down the back in gracious folds, and were again tied with a round knot to the fasten-
ing of their swords. Upontheir legs they wore silver greaves, answering in work to their labels. And these were their
The ladies attire was whollynew, for the invention, and full of glory ; as having in it the most true impression of a
celestial figure : the upper part of white cloth of silver, wrought with Juno's birds and fruits ; a loose under garment,
full gathered, of carnation, striped withsilver, and parted with a golden zone ; Beneath that, another flowing garment,
of watchet cloth of silver, laced withgold ; through all which, though they were round, and swelling, there yet appeared
some touch of their delicate lineaments, preservingthe sweetness of proportion, and expressing itself beyond expression.
The attire of their heads did answer, if not exceed ; their hair being carelessly ( but yet with more art than if more af-
fected ) bound under the circle of a rare and rich coronet, adorned with all variety, and choice of jewels ; from the top
of which flowed a transparent veil, down to the ground ; whose verge returning up, was fastened to either side in most
sprightly manner. Their shoes were azure and gold, set with rubies and diamonds ; so were all their garments ; and
every part abounding in ornament.
No less to be admired, for the grace and greatness, was the whole machineof the spectacle from whence they came,
the first part of which was a MIKROKOSMOS, or globe, filled with countries, and those gilded ; wherethe sea was ex-
prest, heightened with silver waves. This stood, or rather hung ( for no axle was seen to support it ) and turning softly,
discovered the firstmasque (as we have before, but too runningly, declared ) whichwas of the men, sitting in fair compo-
sition, within a mine of several metals : to which the lights wereso placed, as no one was seen ; but seemed as if only
Reason, with the splendorof her crown, illumined the whole grot.
On the sides of this, which began the other part, were placed twogreat statues, feigned of gold, one of Atlas, the oth-
er of Hercules,in varied postures, bearing up the clouds, which were of relievo, embossed, and tralucent as naturals :
to these a cortineof painted clouds joined, which reached to the utmost roof of the hall ; and suddenly opening, revealed
the three regions of air : in the highest of which sat Juno, in a glorious throne of gold, circled with c omets, and fiery
meteors, engenderedin that hot and dry region ; her feet reaching to the lowest : where was made a rainbow, and within
it musicians seated,figuring airy spirits, their habits various, and resembling the several colors caused in that part of the
air by reflection. The midst was all of dark and condensedclouds, as being the proper place where rain, hail, and other
watery meteors aremade ; out of which two concave clouds from the rest thrust forth themselves ( in natureof those
Nimbi, wherein, by Homer, Virgil, &c., the gods are feigned to descend ) and these carried theeight ladies over the
heads of the two terms ;1 who,as the engine moved, seemed also to bow themselves ( by virtue of their shadows ) and
discharge their shoulders of their glorious burden : when having set them on the earth, both they and the clouds gath-
ered themselves upagain, with some rapture of the beholders.
But that, which (as above in place, so in the beauty) was most taking in the spectacle, was the sphereof fire, in the
top of all, encompassing the air, and imitated with such art and industry, as the spectators might discern the motion
(all the time the shews lasted ) without any mover; and that so swift, as no eye could distinguish any color of the
light, but might form to itself five hundred several huesout of the translucent body of the air, objected betwixt it and
And this was crowned with a statue of Jupiter the Thunderer.
1 Atlasand Hercules, the figures mentioned before.