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Oberon, the Fairy Prince.

Ben Jonson

This HTML etext of Ben Jonson's "Oberon, The Fairy Prince" was created in February 2003 by Anniina Jokinen of Luminarium. It is provided (mirrored, really) through Renascence Editions by her kind permission.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.
    Source text:
    Jonson, Ben. The Works of Ben Jonson. A New Edition.
    Edited, with a Biographical Memoir, by William Gifford.
    Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company, 1853.  696-699.
This edition is made available to the public for nonprofit purposes only. It is not represented by the publisher as a scholarly edition in the peer-reviewed sense. Unique site content is copyright ©2003 Anniina Jokinen. This e-text may not be reproduced or published in any form without express written consent from the copyright holder. For corrections, comments, and queries, please email the editor.

This etext is dedicated to Matt Steggle at Sheffield Hallam University; Thank you for criticism, support, and inspiration.  —AJ.




The first face of the scene appeared all obscure, and 
     nothing perceived but a dark rock,  with  trees be-
     yond it, and all wildness that could be  presented : 
     till, at  one corner of  the cliff, above the  horizon, 
     the moon began to shew, and rising,  a SATYR was 
     seen by her light to put forth his head and call. 

1 Sat.  CHROMIS !  Mnasil !  None appear ? 
           See you not who riseth here ? 
           You saw Silenus, late, I fear. --
           I'll prove if this can reach your ear. 

He wound his cornet, and thought himself answered ;
                  but was deceived by the echo. 

           O, you wake then ! come away, 
               Times be short are made for play ; 
               The humorous moon too will not stay : -- 
               What doth make you thus delay ? 
           Hath his tankard touch'd your brain ? 
               Sure, they're fallen asleep again : 
               Or I doubt it was the vain 
               Echo, did me entertain. 
           Prove again-- 

[ Wound his cornet the second time, and found it.]

                                  I thought 'twas she ! 
               Idle nymph, I pray thee be 
               Modest, and not follow me :
               I not love myself, nor thee. 

Here he wound the third time, and was answered by 
     another satyr, who likewise shewed himself. 

           Aye, this sound I better know : 
               List !  I would I could hear moe. 

At  this  they  came  running  forth  severally,  to  the 
     number  of  ten,  from  divers  parts  of  the  rock, 
     leaping and making antick actions and gestures ;
     some  of  them   speaking,  some  admiring :  and 
     amongst  them  a  SILENE,  who is ever the  prefect 
     of  the Satyrs, and  so presented in all their chori 
     and meetings.

2 Sat.  Thank us, and you shall do so. 
3 Sat.  Aye, our number soon will grow. 
2 Sat.  See Silenus! 
3 Sat.  CERCOPS too! 
4 Sat.  Yes.   What is there now to do ? 
5 Sat.  Are there any nymphs to woo ? 
4 Sat.  If there be, let me have two. 
Silen.  Chaster language !   These are nights,
           Solemn to the shining rites 
           Of the Fairy Prince, and knights 
           While the moon their orgies lights. 
2 Sat.  Will they come abroad, anon ? 
3 Sat.  Shall we see young OBERON
4 Sat.  Is he such a princely one, 
           As you spake him long agon ? 
Silen.  Satyrs, he doth fill with grace 
           Every season, every place ; 
           Beauty dwells but in his face ; 
           He's the height of all our race. 
       Our Pan's father, god of tongue, 
           Bacchus, though he still be young, 
           Phoebus, when he crowned sung, 
           Nor Mars when first his armor rung,
       Might with him be named that day : 
           He is lovelier, than in May 
           Is the spring, and there can stay 
           As little, as he can decay. 
Omn.   O, that he would come away ! 
3 Sat.  Grandsire, we shall leave to play 
           With Lyaeus now ;  and serve 
           Only OBERON.
Silen.  He'll deserve 
           All you can, and more, my boys. 
4 Sat.  Will he give us pretty toys, 
           To beguile the girls withal ? 
3 Sat.  And to make them quickly fall. 
Silen.  Peace, my wantons ! he will do 
           More than you can aim unto. 
4 Sat.  Will he build us larger caves ? 
Silen.  Yes, and give you ivory staves, 
           When you hunt ; and better wine -- 
1 Sat.  Than the master of the vine ? 
2 Sat.  And rich prizes, to be won, 
           When we leap, or when we run ? 
1 Sat.  Ay, and gild our cloven feet ? 
3 Sat.  Strew our heads with powder sweet ? 
1 Sat.  Bind our crooked legs in hoops 
           Made of shells, with silver loops ? 
2 Sat.  Tie about our tawny wrists 
           Bracelets of the fairy twists ? 
4 Sat.  And, to spight the coy nymphs' scorns, 
           Hang upon our stubbed horns 
           Garlands, ribands, and fine posies -- 
3 Sat.  Fresh as when the flower discloses ? 
1 Sat.  Yes, and stick our pricking ears 
           With the pearl that Tethys wears. 
2 Sat.  And to answer all things else, 
           Trap our shaggy thighs with bells ; 
           That as we do strike a time, 
           In our dance shall make a chime -- 
3 Sat.  Louder than the rattling pipes 
           Of the wood gods -- 
1 Sat.  Or the stripes 
           Of the taber ;  when we carry 
           Bacchus up, his pomp to vary. 
Omn.   O, that he so long doth tarry ! 
Silen.  See !  the rock begins to ope, 
           Now you shall enjoy your hope ; 
           'Tis about the hour, I know. 

There the whole  scene  opened, and  within was dis-
     covered the frontispiece of  a bright and glorious 
     palace, whose  gates  and walls were transparent. 
     Before  the  gates  lay  two  SYLVANS,  armed  with 
     their clubs, and  drest  in  leaves,  asleep.  At this
     the Satyrs wondering, Silenus proceeds :

Silen.  Look !  does not his palace show 
           Like another sky of lights ? 
           Yonder, with him, live the knights, 
           Once, the noblest of the earth, 
           Quicken'd by a second birth : 
           Who, for prowess, and for truth, 
           There are crown'd with lasting youth : 
           And do hold, by Fate's command, 
           Seats of bliss in Fairy land. 
           But their guards, methinks, do sleep ! 
           Let us wake them.-- Sirs, you keep 
           Proper watch, that thus do lie 
           Drown'd in sloth ! 
1 Sat.  They have ne'er an eye 
           To wake withal. 
2 Sat.  Nor sense, I fear ; 
           For they sleep in either ear. 
3 Sat.  Holla, Sylvans ! -- sure they're caves 
           Of sleep these, or else they're graves. 
4 Sat.  Hear you, friends ! -- who keeps the keepers? 
1 Sat.  They are the eighth and ninth sleepers ! 
2 Sat.  Shall we cramp them ? 
Silen.  Satyrs, no. 
3 Sat.  Would we had Boreas here, to blow 
           Off their heavy coats, and strip them. 
4 Sat.  Ay, ay, ay ;  that we might whip them. 
3 Sat.  Or that we had a wasp or two 
           For their nostrils. 
1 Sat.  Hairs will do 
           Even as well :  take my tail. 
2 Sat.  What do you say to a good nail 
           Through their temples ? 
3 Sat.  Or an eel, 
           In their guts, to make them feel ? 
4 Sat.  Shall we steal away their beards ? 
3 Sat.  For Pan's goat, that leads the herds ? 
2 Sat.  Or try, whether is more dead, 
           His club, or the other's head ? 
Silen.  Wags, no more :  you grow too bold. 
1 Sat.  I would fain now see them roll'd 
           Down a hill, or from a bridge 
           Headlong cast, to break their ridge- 
           Bones :  or to some river take 'em, 
           Plump ;  and see if that would wake 'em, 
2 Sat.  There no motion yet appears. 
Silen.  Strike a charm into their ears. 

    At which the Satyrs fell suddenly into this catch. 

                        Buz, quoth the blue flie,
                            Hum, quoth the bee :
                        Buz and hum they cry,
                            And so do we.
                        In his ear, in his nose,
                            Thus, do you see ? -- [They tickle them.
                            He eat the dormouse ;
                            Else it was he.

The two  Sylvans  starting up amazed, and  betaking 
     themselves to their arms, were thus questioned by 
     Silenus : 

Silen.  How now, Sylvans !  can you wake ? 
           I commend the care you take 
           In your watch !   Is this your guise, 
           To have both your ears and eyes 
           Seal'd so fast ;  as these mine elves 
           Might have stol'n you from yourselves ? 
3 Sat.  We had thought we must have got 
           Stakes, and heated them red-hot,
           And have bored you through the eyes, 
           With the Cyclops, ere you'd rise. 
2 Sat.  Or have fetch'd some trees to heave 
           Up your bulks, that so did cleave 
           To the ground there. 
4 Sat.  Are you free 
           Yet of sleep, and can you see 
           Who is yonder up aloof ? 
1 Sat.  Be your eyes yet moon-proof ? 
1 Syl.  Satyrs, leave your petulance, 
           And go frisk about and dance ; 
           Or else rail upon the moon : 
           Your expectance is too soon. 
           For before the second cock 
           Crow, the gates will not unlock ; 
           And, till then, we know we keep 
           Guard enough, although we sleep. 
1 Sat.  Say you so ?  then let us fall 
           To a song, or to a brawl : 
           Shall we, grandsire ?   Let us sport 
           And make expectation short. 
Silen.  Do, my wantons, what you please. 
           I'll lie down and take mine ease. 
1 Sat.  Brothers, sing then, and upbraid, 
           As we use yond' seeming maid. 


               Now, my cunning lady : moon,
               Can you leave the side so soon,
                   Of the boy, you keep so hid?
               Midwife Juno sure will say,
               This is not the proper way,
                   Of your paleness to be rid.
               But, perhaps, it is your grace
               To wear sickness in your face,
                   That there might be wagers laid
                   Still, by fools, you are a maid.

               Come, your changes overthrow,
               What your look would carry so ;
                   Moon, confess then, what you are,
               And be wise, and free to use
               Pleasures that you now do lose.
                   Let us Satyrs have a share.
               Though our forms be rough and rude,
               Yet our acts may be endued
                   With more virtue : every one
                   Cannot be ENDYMION.
Here they fell suddenly  into  an  antick  dance  full  of 
     gesture and swift motion, and  continued  it  till  the 
     crowing  of  the  cock :   at  which  they  were inter-
     rupted by Silenus.

    Silen.  Stay, the cheerful Chanticleer
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 
     Faies  were   discovered,   some   with   instruments, 
     some  bearing  lights,  others  singing ;  and  within, 
     afar off  in  perspective, the  knights  masquers  sit-
     ting  in  their  several  sieges : at the further end of 
     all,  OBERON ,  in   a  chariot,  which,  to  a  loud  tri-
     umphant 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's nothing can be 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 unused state 
     and  solemnity,   the   foremost   SYLVAN   began  to

    1 Syl.  Give place, and silence ; you were rude too late ;
This is a night of greatness, and of state,
Not to be mixt 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 preserv'd
In Fairy land, for good they have deserv'd
Of yond' 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, restored in this seat ;
To whose sole power and magic they do give
The honor of their being ; that they live
Sustain'd in form, fame, and felicity,
From rage of fortune, or the fear to die.
    Silen.  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 every thing,
Like a new nature : so that true to call
Him, by his title, is to say, He's all.
    1 Syl.  I thank the wise Silenus for his praise.
Stand forth, bright FAIES and ELVES, and tune your lays
Unto his name ; then let your nimble feet
Tread subtile circles, that may always meet
In point to him ; and figures, to express
The grace of him and his great emperess.
That all, that shall to-night behold the rites,
Perform'd by princely Oberon, and these knights,
May, without stop, point out the proper heir
Design'd so long to Arthur's crowns and chair.



      1 Faie.  Seek you majesty, to strike ? 
                   Bid the world produce his like. 
      2 Faie.  Seek you glory, to amaze ? 
                   Here let all eyes stand at gaze. 
        Cho.        Seek you wisdom, to inspire 
                       Touch them at no other's fire. 

      1 Faie.  Seek you knowledge, to direct ? 
                   Trust to his without suspect. 
      2 Faie.  Seek you piety, to lead ? 
                   In his footsteps only tread. 
         Cho.       Every virtue of a king, 
                       And of all, in him, we sing. 

Then the lesser Faies dance forth their dance ; 
    which ended, a full  SONG  follows by all the 

         The solemn rites are well begun ;
             And though but lighted by the moon,
         They shew as rich, as if the sun
             Had made this night his noon.
     But may none wonder that they are so bright,
     The moon now borrows from a greater light :
             Then, princely Oberon,
                 Go on,
             This is not every night.

OBERON  and  the  knights  dance  out  the  first 
  masque dance, which was followed with this 


                   Nay, nay,
                   You must not stay,
                   Nor be weary yet ;
                   This is no time to cast away ;
                   Or for Faies so to forget
                   The virtue of their feet.
                   Knotty legs, and plants of clay,
                   Seek for ease, or love delay.
                   But with you it still should fare
                   As with the air of which you are.

After which, they danced  forth  their  second 
   masque dance, and were again excited by a 


      1 Faie.  Nor yet, nor yet, O you in this night blest,
                   Must you have will, or hope to rest.
      2 Faie.  If you use the smallest stay,
                   You'll be overta'en by day.
      1 Faie.  And these beauties will suspect
                   That their forms you do neglect,
                   If you do not call them forth.
      2 Faie.  Or that you have no more worth
                   Than the coarse and country Fairy,
                   That doth haunt the hearth, or dairy.

Then followed the measures, corantos, galliards, 
     &c., till  PHOSPHORUS  the day-star appeared, 
     and called them away ; but first they were in-
     vited home by one of the Sylvans, with this 


           Gentle knights,
           Know some measure of your nights.
           Tell the high-graced Oberon,
           It is time that we were gone.
           Here be forms so bright and airy,
               And their motions so they vary,
           As they will enchant the Fairy,
               If you longer here should tarry.

    Phos.  To rest, to rest !  the herald of the day, 
Bright Phosphorus, commands you hence ; obey. 
The moon is pale, and spent ;  and winged  night 
Makes headlong haste to fly the morning's sight
Who now is rising from her blushing wars, 
And with her rosy hand puts back the stars.
Of which myself the last, her harbringer, 
But stay to warn you, that you not defer 
Your parting longer :  then do I give way, 
As Night hath done, and so must you, to Day. 

After this, they danced their  last  dance into the work; 
    And with a  full  SONG  the  star  vanished,  and  the 
    whole machine closed. 

    O yet how early, and before her time,
    The envious morning up doth climb,
        Though she not love her bed !
    What haste the jealous Sun doth make,
    His fiery horses up to take,
        And once more shew his head !
    Lest, taken with the brightness of this night,
    The world should wish it last, and never miss his light.

F  I  N  I  S.   

©1999-2003 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.

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