Old Fortunatus – Act One, Scene One

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Enter FORTUNATUS, meanly attired; he walks ere he speak once or twice about cracking nuts.

So, ho, ho, ho, ho!

[Within.] Ho, ho, ho, ho!

There boy!

There boy!

And thou be’st a goodfellow, tell me how thou callst this wood.

This wood.

Ay, this wood, and which is my best way out?

Best way out?

Ha, ha, ha, that’s true.  My best way out is my best way out, but how that out will come in, by this maggot, I know now.  I see by this we are all worm’s meat.  Well, I am very poor and very patient.  Patience is a virtue.  Would I were not virtuous—that’s to say, not poor—but full of vice—that’s to say, full of chinks.  Ha, ha, so I am, for I am so full of chinks that a horse with one eye may look through and through me.  I have sighed long, and that makes my windy.  I have fasted long, and that makes me chaste.  Marry, I have prayed little, and that makes I shall dance in this conjuring circle.  I have wandered long, and that makes me weary; but for my weariness, anon, I’ll lie down.  Instead of fasting, I’ll feed upon nuts, and instead of signing will laugh and be lean, Sirrah Echo.

Sirrah Echo.

Here’s a nut.

Here’s a nut.

Crack it.

Crack it.

Hang thyself!

Hang thyself!

Th’art a knave, a knave.

A knave, a knave.

Ha, ha, ha, ha!

Ha, ha, ha, ha!

Why so.  Two fools laugh at one another.  I at my tittle-tattle gammer echo, and she at me.  Shortly there will creep out in print some filthy book of the old hoary wand’ring knight, meaning me.  Would I were that book, for then I should be sure to creep from hence.  I should be a good soldier, for I traverse my ground rarely—marry, I see neither enemy nor friends, but popinjays and squirrels and apes and owls and daws and wagtails and the spite is that none of these gress-eaters can speak my language, but this fool that mocks me and swears to have the last word, in spite of my teeth.  Ay, and she shall have it because she is a woman, which kind of cattle are indeed all Echo, nothing but tongue, and are like the great bell of Saint Michael’s in Cyprus, that keeps most rumbling when men would most sleep.  Echo, a pox on thee for mocking me!

A pox on thee for mocking me!

Why so, snip snap, this war is at an end, but this wilderness is world without end.  To see how travel can transform.  My teeth are turn’d into nutcrackers.  A thousand to one I break out shortly, for I am full of nothing but waxing kernels; my tongue speaks no language but an almond for parrot, and crack me this nut:  if I hop three days more up and down this cage of cuckoos’ nests, I shall turn wild man sure, and be hired to throw squibs among the commonalty upon some terrible day.  In the meantime to tell truth here will I lie.  Farewell, fool.

Farewell, fool!

Are not these comfortable words to a wise man?  All hail, Signior Tree.  By your leave, I’ll sleep under your leaves.  I pray, bow to me, and I’ll bend to you, for your back and my brows must, I doubt, have a game or two at noddy ere I wake again.  Down, great heart, down. Hey, ho, well, well.             [He lies down and sleeps.

Enter a Carter, a Tailor, a Monk, a Shepherd, all crown’d; a Nymph with a globe, another with Fortune’s wheel, then FORTUNE.  After her, Four KINGS with broken crowns and scepters, chained in silver gyves and led by her.  The foremost come our singing.  FORTUNE takes her chair; the KINGS lying at her feet, she treading on them as she goes up.

The Song

Fortune smiles, cry holiday!
Dimples on her cheeks do dwell.
Fortune frowns, cry wellada!
Her love is heaven, her hate is hell.
Since heaven and hell obey her power,
Tremble when her eyes do lower,
Since heaven and hell her power obey,
When she smiiles, cry holiday!
Holiday with joy we cry,
And bend and bend and merrily,
Sing hymns to Fortune’s deity,
Sing hymns to Fortune’s deity.
Let us sing, merrily, merrily, merrily,
With our song let heaven resound.
Fortune’s hands our heads have crown’d,
Let us sing, merrily, merrily, merrily.

Accursed queen of chance, what had we done,
Who having sometimes, like young Phaetons,
Rid in the burnish’d chariot of the sun,
And sometimes been thy minions, when thy fingers
Weav’d wanton love-nets in our curled hair,
And with sweet juggling kisses warm’d our cheeks.
Oh, how have we offended thy proud eyes,
That thus we should be spurn’d and trod upon,
Whilst those infected limbs of the sick world
Are fix’d by thee for stars in that bright sphere,
Wherein our sunlike radiance did appear.

Accursed queen of chance, damn’d sorceress!

Most powerful queen of chance, dread sovereignness!

[To her train.] No more. [To the KINGS.] Curse on, your cries to me are music,
And fill the sacred roundure of mine ears
With tunes more sweet than moving of the spheres.
Curse on.  On our celestial brows do sit
Unnumbered smiles, which then leaps from their throne
When they see peasants dance and monarchs groan.
Behold you not this globe, this golden bowl,
This toy call’d world at our imperial feet?
This world is Fortune’s ball wherewith she sports.
Sometimes I strike it up into the air
And then create I emperors and kings.
Sometimes I spurn it, at which spurn crawls out
That wild beast multitude.  Curse on you fools!
‘Tis I that tread on necks of conquerors
And when like semi-gods they have been drawn
In ivory chariots to the capitol,
Circled about with wonder of all eyes,
The shouts of every tongue, love lf all hearts,
Being swol’n with their own greatness, I have prick’d
The bladder of their pride and made them die
As water bubbles, without memory.
I thrust base cowards into honour’s chair,
Whilst the true spirited soldier stands by
Bare-headed, and all bare, whilst at his scars
They scoff that ne’er durst view the face of wars.
I set an idiot’s cap on virtue’s head,
Turn learning out of doors, clothe wit in rags,
And paint ten thousand images of loam
In gaudy silken colours.  On the backs
Of mules and asses I make asses ride
Only for sport to see the apish world
Worship such beasts with fond idolatry.
This, Fortune does, and when this is done,
She sits and smiles to hear some curse her name,
And some with adoration crown her fame.

True center of this wide circumference,
Sacred commandress of the destinies,
Our tongues shall only sound thy excellence!

Thy excellence our tongues shall only sound!

Thou painted strumpet, that with honeyed smiles
Openest the gates of heaven and criest, “Come in,”
Whose glories being seen, thou with one frown,
In pride, lower than hell tumblest us down.

Ever for ever will we ban thy name.

How sweet your howlings relish in mine ears!
Stand by.  Now rise.  Behold, here lies a wretch                     [She comes down.
To vex your souls.  This beggar I’ll advance
Beyond the sway of thought.  Take instruments
And let the raptures of choice harmony
Through the hollow windings of his ear,
Carry their sacred sounds and wake each sense
To stand amaz’d at our bright eminence.           [Music awhile, and he waketh.

Oh, how am I transported!  Is this earth?
Or blest Elysium?

Fortunatus, rise.

Dread goddess, how should such a wretch as I
Be known to such a glorious deity?
Oh, pardon me, for to this place I come,
Lead by my fate, not folly.  In this wood
With weary sorrow have I wandered
And three times seen the sweating sun take rest
And three times frantic Cynthia naked ride
About the rusty highways of the skies
Stuck full of burning stars, which lent her light
To court her Negro paramour grim night.

This travel now expires, yet from this circle,
Where I and these with fairy troops abide,
Thou canst not stir, unless I be thy guide.
I the world’s empress am; Fortune my name.
This hand hath written in thick leaves of steel
An everlasting book of changeless fate,
Showing who’s happy, who unfortunate.

If every name, dread queen, be there writ down,
I am sure mine stands in characters of black;
Though happiness herself lie in my name,
I am sorrow’s heir, and eldest son to shame.

No, we are sons to shame, and sorrow’s heirs.

Thou shalt be one of Fortune’s minions.
Behold these four chain’d like Tartarian slaves.
These I created emperors and kings,
And these are now my basest underlings.
This sometimes was a German emperor,
Henry the Fifth, who being depos’d,
Was after thrust into a dungeon,
And thus in silver chains shall rot to death.
This Frederick Barbarosa, emperor
Of Almain once, but by Pope Alexander
Now spurn’d and trod on when he takes his horse,
And in these fetters shall he die his slave.
This wretch once wore the diadem of France,
Louis the Meek, but through his children’s pride,
Thus have a caused him to be famished.
Here stands the very soul of misery,
Poor Bajazeth, old Turkish emperor,
And once the greatest monarch in the East.
Fortune herself is sad to view thy fall,
And grieves to see thee glad to lick up crumbs
At the proud feet of that great Scythian swain,
Fortune’s best minion, warlike Tamberlaine.
Yet must thou in a cage of iron be drawn
In triumph at his heels, and there in grief
Dash out thy brains.

Oh, miserable me!

No tears can melt the heart of destiny.
These have I ruin’d and exalted those.
These hands have conquered Spain, these brows fill up
The golden circle of rich Portugal,
Viriat, a monarch now, but born a shepherd.
This Primislaus, a Bohemian king,
Last day a carter.  This monk Gregory,
Now lifted to the Papal dignity.
Wretches, why gnaw you not your fingers off
And tear your tongues out, seeing yourselves trod down?
And this Dutch botcher wearing Münster’s crown,
John Leyden, born in Holland, poor and base,
Now rich in empery and Fortune’s grace.
As these I have advanc’d, so will I thee.
Six gifts I spend upon mortality,
Wisdom, strength, health, beauty, long life, and riches.
Out of my bounty, one of these is thine.
Choose then which likes thee best.

Oh, most divine,
Give me but leave to borrow wonder’s eye
To look, amaz’d at thy bright majesty,
Wisdom, strength, health, beauty, long life and riches.

Before thy soul, at this deep lottery,
Draw forth her prize, ordain’d by destiny.
Know that here’s no recanting a first choice.
Choose then discreetly, for the laws of Fate,
Being graven in steel, must stand inviolate.

Daughters of Jove and the unblemish’d night,
Most righteous Paerce, guide my genius right,
Wisdom, strength, health, beauty, long life, and riches.

Stay, Fortunatus, once more hear me speak.
If thou kiss wisdom’s cheek and make her thine,
She’ll breath into thy lips divinity,
And thou, like Phœbus shalt speak oracle;
Thy heaven-inspir’d soul, on wisdom’s wings,
Shall fly up to the parliament of Jove
And read the statutes of eternity,
And see what’s past, and learn what is to come.
If thou lay claim to strength, armies shall quake
To see thee frown, as kings at mine do lie,
So shall thy feet trample on empiry.
Make health thine object, thou shalt be strong proof
‘Gainst the deep searching darts of surfeiting,
Be ever merry, ever revelling.
Wish but for beauty, and within thine eyes,
Two naked Cupids amorously shall swim,
And on thy cheeks I’ll mis such white and red,
That Jove shall turn away young Ganymede,
And with immortal arms shall circle thee.
Are thy desires long life?  Thy vital thread
Shall be stretched out; thou shalt behold the change
Of monarchies, and see those children die,
Whose great great grandsires now in cradles lie.
If through gold’s sacred hunger thou dost pine,
Those gilded wantons which in swarms doe run
To warm their slender bodies in the sun,
Shall stand for number of those golden piles,
Which in rich pride shall swell  before thy feet.
As those are, so shall these be infinite.
Awaken then thy soul’d best faculties,
And gladly kiss this bounteous hand of Fate,
Which strives to bless thy name of Fortunatus.

Old man, take heed, her smiles will murder thee.

Old man, she’ll crown thee with felicity.

Oh, whither am I wrap’d beyond myself?
More violent conflicts fight in e’ry thought
Than his whose fatal choice Troy’s downfall wrought.
Shall I contract myself to wisdom’s love?
Then I lose riches.  And a wise man poor
Is like a sacred book that’s never read;
To himself he lives, and to all else seems dead.
This age things better of a gilded fool
Then of a threadbare saint in wisdom’s school.
I will be strong; then I refuse long life,
And though mine arm should conquer twenty worlds,
There’s a lean fellow beats all conquerors.
The greatest strength expires with loss of breath.
The mightiest, in one minute, stoop to death.
Then take long life, or health; should I do so,
I might grow ugly, and that tedious scroll
Of months and years much misery may enrol.
Therefore I’ll beg for beauty; yet I will not.
The fairest cheek hath oftentimes a soul
Leprous as sin itself; then hell more foul.
The wisdom of this world is idiotism,
Strength a weak need.  Health, sickness enemy,
And it at length will have the victory.
Beauty is but a painting, and long life
Is a long journey in December gone,
Tedious and full of tribulation.
Therefore, dread sacred empress, make me rich,                          [Kneels down.
My choice is store of gold.  The rich are wise.
He that upon his back rich garments wears
Is wise, though on his head grow Midas’ ears.
Gold is the strength, the sinews of the world,
The health, the soul, the beauty most divine,
A mask of gold hides all deformities.
Gold is heaven’s physic, life’s restorative.
Oh, therefore make me rich.  Not as the wretch
That only serves lean banquets to his eye
Has gold, yet starves, is famish’d in his store.
No, let me ever spend, be never poor.

Thy latest words confine thy destiny.
Thou shalt spend ever and be never poor.
For proof receive this purse; with it this virtue
Still when thou thrusts thy hand into the same,
Thou shalt draw forth ten pieces of bright gold
Currant in any realm where then thou breathest.
If thou canst dribble out the sea by drops
Then shalt thou want; but that can ne’er be done,
Nor this grow empty.

Thanks, great deity.

The virtue ends when thou and thy sons end.
This path leads thee to Cyprus; get thee hence.
Farewell, vain courteous fool.  Thou wilt repent
That for the love of dross thou hast despised
Wisdom’s divine embrace; she would have borne thee
On the rich wings of immortality.
But now go dwell with cares and quickly die.

We dwell with cares, yet cannot quickly die.

[Exeunt all singing.  Manet FORTUNATUS.

“But now go dwell with cares and quickly die?”
How quickly?  If I die tomorrow, I’ll be merry today; if next day, I’ll be merry tomorrow.  Go dwell with cares?  Where dwells care?  Hum ha, in what house dwells care that I may choose an honester neighbour?  In princes courts?  No.  Among fair ladies, neither; there’s no care dwells with them but care how to be most gallant.  Among gallants then?  Fie, fie, now.  Care is afraid sure of a gilt rapier, the scent of musk is her poison.  Tobacco chokes her, rich attire presseth her to death.  Princes, fair ladies, and gallants have amongst you then, for this wet-eyed wench care dwells with wretches.  They are wretches that feel want.  I shall feel none if I be never poor, therefore care I cashier you my company.  I wonder what blind gossip this minx is that is so prodigal, she should be a good one by her open dealing.  Her name’s Fortune.  It’s no matter what she is, so she does as she says.  “Thou shalt spend ever, and be never poor.”  Mass, yet I feel nothing here to make me rich; here’s no sweet music with her silver sound.  Try deeper.  Ho, God, be here.  [Draws from the purse.] Ha, ha!  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten.  Good, just ten.  It’s gold sure.  It’s so heavy.  Try again.  One, two, &c.  Good again; just ten, and just ten.  Ha, ha, ha!  This is rare.  A leather mint, admirable.  An Indian mine in a lamb’s skin; miraculous!  I’ll fill three or four bags full for my sons, but keep this for myself.  If that lean tawny face tobacconist death that turns all into smoke, must turn me so quickly into ashes, yet I will not mourn in ashes, but in music.  Hey, old lad, be merry!  Here’s riches, wisdom, strength, health, beauty, and long life, if I do not die quickly.  Sweet purse, I kiss thee.  Fortune, I adore thee.  Death, I defy thee.                                                   [Exit.

Proceed to the next scene


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