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356.—THE DIFFERENCE OF WITS.
Ben Jonson. INGENIORUM DISCRIMINA. Not. 1.- In the difference of wits 1 have observed there are many notes : and it is a little mastery to know them; to discern what every nature, every disposition, will bear; for, before we sow our land, we should plough it. There are no fewer forms of mind, than of bodies amongst us.
The våriety is incredible, and therefore we must search. Some are fit to make divines, some poets, some lawyers, some physicians, some to be sent to the plough, and trades.
There is no doctrine will do good, where nature is wanting. Some wits are swelling and high, others low and still ; some hot and fiery, others cold and dull; one must have a bridle, the other å spur.
Not. 2.—There be some that are forward and bold ; and these will do every little thing easily ; I mean that is hard-by and next them, which they will utter unretarded without any shame-fast. ness. These never perform much, but quickly. They are what they are, on the sudden; they show presently like grain, that, scattered on the top of the ground, shoots up, but takes no root : has a yellow blade, but the ear empty. They are wits of good promise at first, but there is an ingenistitium ;* they stand still at sixteen, they get no higher.
Not. 3.—You have others that labor only to ostentation, and are ever more busy about the colors and surface of a work than in the matter and foundation : for that is hid, the other is seen.
Not. 4.--Others, that in composition are nothing but what is rough and broken ; Quæ per salebras, altaque saxa cadunt And, if it would come gently, they trouble it of purpose. They would not have it run without rubs, as if that style were more strong and manly, that struck the ear with a kind of unevenness. These men err not by chance, but knowingly and willingly; they are like men that affect a fashion by themselves, have some singularity in a ruff, cloak, or hat-band ; or their beards specially cut to provoke beholders, and set a mark upon themselves. They would be reprehended, while they are looked on. And this vice, one that is authority with the rest, loving, delivers over to them to be imitated, so that oft-times the faults which he fell into the others seek for: this is the danger, when one becomes a precedent.
Not. 5.-Others there are that have no composition at all; but a kind of tuning and rhyming fall, in which they write. It runs and slides, and only makes a sound. Women's poets they are called, as you have women's tailors :
They urite a verse as smooth, as soft as cream;
You may sound these wits, and find the depth of them with your middle finger. They are cream-bowl, or but puddle deep.
Not. 6.—Some that turn over all books, and are equally search. ing in all papers, that write out of what they presently find or meet, without choice; by which means it happens, that what they have discredited and impunged in one week, they have before or after extolled the same in another. Such are all the essayists, even their master Montaigne. These, in all they write, confess still what books they have read last; and therein their own folly, so much, that they bring it to the stake raw and undigested: not
• A Wit-stand.
that the place did need it neither ; but that they thought them. selves furnished, and would vent it.
Not. 7.-Some again (who after they have got authority, or, which is less, opinion, by their writings, to have read much) dare presently to feign whole books and authors, and lie safely. For what never was will not easily be found, not by the most curious.
Not. 8.-And some, by a cunning protestation against all read. ing, and false venditation of their own naturals, think to divert the sagacity of their readers from themselves, and cool the scent of their own fox-like thefts; when yet they are so rank, as a man may find whole pages together usurped from one author: their necessities compelling them to read for present use, which could not be in many books; and so come forth more ridiculously, and palpably guilty than those who, because they cannot trace, they yet would slander their industry.
Not. 9.—But the wretcheder are the obstinate contemners of all helps and arts; such as presuming on their own naturals (which perhaps are excellent) dare deride all diligence, and seem to mock at the terms, when they understand not the things; thinking that way to get off wittily, with their ignorance. These are imitated often by such as are their peers in negligence, though they cannot be in nature: and they utter all they can think with a kind of violence and indisposition ; unexamined, without relation either to person, place, or any fitness else; and, the more wilful and stubborn they are in it, the more learned they are esteemed of the multitude, through their excellent vice of judgment : who think those things the stronger, that have no art; as if to break were better than to open; or to rent asunder gentler than to loose.
Not. 10.—It cannot but come to pass that these men, who commonly seek to do more than enough, may sometimes happen on something that is good and great ; but very seldom: and, when it comes, it doth not recompense the rest of their ill. For their jests and their sentences (which they only and ambitiously seek for) stick out, and are more eminent; because all is sordid and vile about them; as lights are more discerned in a thick darkness than a faint shadow. Now because they speak all they can (however unfitly) they are thought to have the greater copy: where the learned use ever election and a mean; they look back to what they intended at first, and make all an even and proportioned body. The true artificer will not run away from nature, as he were afraid of her; or depart from life, and the likeness of truth; but speak to the capacity of his hearers. And, though his language differ from the vulgar somewhat, it shall not fly from all humanity, with the Tamerlanes, and the Tamer-chams of the late age, which had nothing in them but the scenical strutting, and furious vociferation, to warrant them to the ignorant gapers. He knows it is his only art, so to carry it that none but artificers perceive it. In the meantime, perhaps, he is called barren, dull, lean, a poor writer, or by what contumelious word can come in their cheeks, by these men who without labor, judgment, knowledge, or almost sense, are received or preferred before him. He gratulates them, and their fortune. Another age, or juster men, will acknowledge the virtues of his studies, his wisdom in dividing, his subtlety in arguing, with what strength he doth inspire his readers, with what sweetness he strokes them; in inveighing, what sharpness ; in jest, what urbanity ho uses : how he doth reign in men's affections; how invade and break in upon them; and makes their minds like the thing he writes. Then in his elocution to behold what word is proper, which hath ornaments, which height, what is beautifully translated, where figures are fit, which gentle, which strong, to show the composition manly: and how he hath avoided faint, obscure, obscene, sordid, humble, improper, or effeminate phrase ; which is not only praised of the most, but commended (which is worse), especially for that it is naught.
357.-WINTER WALK AT NOON.
Without a cloud, and white without a speck