ACT 2. SCENE 1.
Inside Volpone's apartments, Volpone and Mosca.
Volp : Good morning, to the day ; and next, my gold : Open the shrine, that I may see my Lord.i
Mosca pulls a curtain, exposing an alcove piled high with stacks of gold coins, fine plate and divers jewelry as Volpone sits himself in a plush armchair, well placed, to admire.
Volp : Hail the world's soul ; and mine console! Glad moreso than teeming earth's to see the long'd-for Sun peep through the horns of destiny am I, to view abyssal splendour darkening his rays to light the missal of my worship, heavenly. What's lying here, amongst other hoards, shew'st like a flame by night ; or like the bright struck out of chaos, when all darkness fled unto itself, inside its anus. O, thou angelic son of Sol by self himself begot, and brighter than thy father still, let me in adoration kiss thee, and thee, and every sacred relick of your treasure in this room entombed. Well did wise poets by thy resplendent name call that age which they would have deemed best ; thou being the best of all things that are, or that could be, and far transcending all style of joy, in children, parents, friends, or any other waking dream or toy. Thy looks when they to Venus did ascribe, they should have given her twenty thousand Coinids, such are thy beauties, and our love! Dear hallowed dumb God of the rich and riches, that to all men giv'st tongue ; that canst do naught but sit and wait, and yet mak'st men do all, to make you great. Oh ye, the price of souls! True Hell is made worth heaven by your spell, for thou art virtue, fame and all things well. Honour, too ; for the widest of clientele who can get thee he shall be noble, valiant, honest, wise,--
Volp : 'Tis as you say ; and yet I glory more the cunning purchase of my wealth than its content possession in good health ; since I gain my gold not in a common way. I use no trade, no venture and no stealth. I wound no earth with plough-shares, fat no beasts ; I have no mills for iron, oil, corn, men or yeasts, to grind them into powder then send bills. I blow no subtle glass ; expose no ships to threat'ning, furrow-faced sea ; I turn no monies in the public bank, nor prostitute lips, nor usure hips.
Mosc : No sir, nor devour soft prodigals like all the other thrips. There's those who will swallow a melting heir as glibly as your Dutch will pills of butter fair, nor purge for it ; tear forth the fathers of poor families out of their beds, and coffin them alive in some kind clasping prison, where their bones may be forth-coming when the dead are risen ; but your sweet nature isn't to these courses given. You loathe the widdow's or the orphan's tears should wash your pavements, or their piteous cries ring up your roofs, beating the air to summon vengeance's truths.
Volp : Right, Mosca; as I love youths I do loathe such.
Mosc : And 'sides, sir, nor are you like that sad thresher who will stand, with a huge flail, watching a heap of corn, and, hungry, dares not taste the smallest grain, but feeds on mallows, and such bitter herbs ; nor like the merchant, who though fill'd his vaults with rich Candian wine, and all the best distilled off Rhine, yet drinks the lees of Lombardy dilute in brine. You will not lie in straw, whilst moths and worms feed on your sumptuous hangings and soft beds.
Volp : What should I do, but cocker up my genius, and live free to all delights my fortune calls me on ? I have no wife, no parent, child, ally, to yield my wealth upon. Whom I so make must then be heir, and this drives all observe me, square. This draws new clients daily, to my house, men every age, and women, too, that bring me presents, send me plate, coin, jewels, give me their all withal in vain but dear hope that when I die (which they expect each greedy minute) it shall return then ten-fold upon them ; whilst some, covetous above the rest, seek to engross me whole, and counter-work the one unto the other, contend in gifts, as they would seem in love. All this I suffer, playing with their hopes, and am content to coin them into profit, to look upon their kindness, and take more, and look on that; still bearing them in hand, letting the cherry knock against their lips, and draw it by their mouths, and back again.
Mosc : You know the use of riches, and dare give now from that bright heap, to me, your poor observer, as to your whores, slaves, servants, or your hermaphrodite, or what other household-trifle your pleasure allows maintenance.
Volp: Hold thee, Mosca. My hand is open, you well know, but never without cause. Or else they envious who term thee parasite may have a point, their poisoned tongues gaining a purchase I would disappoint.
Mosc : How right you are, and how plainly great, glorious Volpone of the gilded bait ; how proper it is and how natural that none ate without his collateral ; not by the hunger but by the deed, not by the need but by a number, added and calculated on past activity, projected into future proclivity, like an umbrella extended under limpid skyes quickly recalled at the slighest sign of rains. 'Tis wisest to let none eat, whether they need or not, but only those must eat who have in fairness earned their spot -- those, they must eat whether be starv'd or not, and let them fatten and then rot.
Volp : So great's this system our philosophers have wrought! Perfect indeed, such that no argument was ever brought...
Mosc : Yet by your excellent permission I conceive a plan such as'd be the envy of all choreographers, in your serene manner to decive and by your most inspired direction to achieve the usual forms of all ambition, well chained to familiar fruition.
Mosca bends and whispers in Volpone's ear, to his approbation. Volpone puts some gold pieces in his hand.
Mosc (apart) : Honesty's outright against all common sense : men must be knaves, 'tis in their own defense. Mankind's dishonest ; if you think it fair among known cheats to play upon the square you'll be undone ; nor can weak truth your reputation save : the knaves will all agree to call you knave. Wronged shall he live, insulted and oppressed, who dares be a lesser villain than the rest.
Volp (monologue) : The follower who climbs, with pain, mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain, stumbling from thought to thought in due time falls headlong down into doubt's boundless sea where, like to drown, books bear him up awhile, and make him try to swim on hollow bladders of philosophy. Yet still he hopes to overtake th'escaping light, the vapour that still dances in his dazzled sight, 'till, spent, it leaves him to eternal night. Then old age and experience, hand in hand, lead him to Death ; and make him understand : spite of a search so painful, and so long, his whole life he's been in the wrong. Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies, who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.
Rosalba enters. Her maid's uniform is scandalous : the minuscule apron barely covers her pubis, leaving her legs completely bare ; her substantial breasts are only covered by inch-wide straps united behind her neck. She is walking easily on very tall, nail-sharp heels.
Volpone winks at her ; Rosalba winks right back. Volpone stands from his chair. Rosalba raises her arms straight above her head, elbows straigthening by degrees. She clasps her wrists, pushing her chest out. Volpone dancingly turns to the left. Rosalba takes one step towards him, lowering her arms under her breasts, squeezing them between arm and forearm. Volpone dancingly turns to the right. Rosalba, arms to the side, palms level with the hips, shakes her shoulders, liberating her breasts from under the straps. Her nipples are pierced and shielded in glimmering gold ; Volpone falls back into his chair. Rosalba turns and mimmicks slowly sitting ; from behind she is completely bare ; a tiny piercing shines. She looks at him over her shoulder. Volpone raises his clasped hands in the traditional display of congratulation. Rosalba turns and curtsies, rising her apron over her waist as she does, fully exposing herself, all the way to the golden bellybutton ornament. Volpone repeats his gesture, to the left and to the right. Rosalba scurries to him ; at two paces' distance she bends, from the hips, back and knees perfectly straight, until their eyes are level.
Rosa : Kind master, my chores I'm done with for the day, the plates all shining, the silver in its tray, the butter separated from its whey... Perhaps your eminence might now be pleased to flay the maid appearance off your humble fay that is your pleasure to so grossly underpay ? Shall I this conceit of an apron throw away, and, with bated breath my bottom underplay, all natural inclinations disobey s'as on your lovely snake to put in play the bird of loving prey ?
Volp : We've done that yesterday...
Rosa : Then shall it be the time for cabaret ? Shall dancing split me all the way, my womanhood each other step in full display ? Wine leads hooked tuna furtherest astray ; shall I pour forth the Cabernet ?
Volp : That's what we did on Saturday...
Rosa : What then of darken Beaujolais ? Does your eminent pleasure rather ricochet towards such usage as in the same way both man and woman can purvey ? Would you my nether ring puree ?
Volp : I do not think today.
Rosa : Beloved master, let me earn my day!
Volp : There is, of course there is a way. Tell, eager whore, do you know the merchant and the armator Voltor' ?
Rosa : The one that speech seems to abhor, the one... who's not a bachelor no mor', for finally far reaching, costly nets turned up the finest albacore ?
Volp : Her name's Eliana ; she too shall be a whore.
Rosa : What an uproar!
Volp : Go, hastily, your wings spread out and soar, go forth and once more save a poor child from an obsequious bore.
Rosa (apart) : What if she's promised ? What if... she swore ? What if she loves him to her core, what if I can't get in the door ?
Rosa (outloud) : Your pleasure satisfied is my one valour ; your will, deliciously outrageous, alone refills my vigour... Though these exertions one day I may deplore, no woman can both refuse and yet adore. Forthwith I go, but 'ere going, I plead, I beg, and I implore : once caught, make her thorough and true a whore. I wish to see her cry, and beg, and wallow on the floor ; I wish to see her stripped, nude, bared of all decor, humiliation heaped on her galore, her life and reputation shred past all restore, her fate and being fixed, forevermore. Pray you, great One, my plea do not ignore.
Volp : Worry you not on those. And golden ducats, four.
Volp (monologue) : Such is the whor'esprit de corps, that they bear not the thought of one uncared for, neglected, underexposed or not as sore. Truly the cow's their mentor, so much they have in common with every herbivore ; in truth whores at the candy store would stuff each other's every fold and pore 'till none of them could make it out the door. No lock is needed ; to keep free womanhood well fettered therefore ensure there's a herd of them, then show the open door. No need of eunuch, Argus or centaur to guard the Amazonian shore : just let them be, they'll war after their fashion to ensure they stay in sight of any old familiar Sycamore. Whatever nonsense on her breast or head she wore, no woman has yet walked alone.———
- This first encounter with Ben Jonson's originally worthless prose produced a shock. I was expecting, fairly speaking and quite openly, material much much better than he managed to muster in "five weeks". Working this crap into tolerable shape was sheer agony, I even took multiple passes -- something unheard with me. [↩]
- Hypertext is one thing, one tiny small negligible thing ; but hyperpoetry... fuck, are you kidding me ?! [↩]