Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Beaumont & Fletcher, The Masque of the Inner-Temple and Gray's Inn

Beaumont & Fletcher, The Masque of the Inner-Temple and Gray’s Inn, The Works of Beaumont & Fletcher, Volume II, Ed. The Rev. Alexander Dyce, London, Edward Moxon, Dover Street, 1843.

This masque was the unassisted production of Beaumont. (453)

Of this show his majesty was graciously pleased to take view, with the prince, the Count Palatine and the Lady Elizabeth their highnesses, at the windows of his privy gallery, upon the water, till their landing, which was at the privy stairs; (457)

The Device or Argument of the Masque: Jupiter and Juno, willing to do honour to the marriage of the two famous rivers Thamesis and Rhine, employ their messengers severally, Mercury and Iris, for that purpose. They meet and contend: then Mercury, for his part, brings forth an anti-masque all of spirits or divine natures; but yet not of one kind or livery (because that had been so much in use heretofore), but, as it were, in consort, like to broken music: and, preserving the propriety of the device,--for that rivers in nature are maintained either by springs from beneath or showers from above,--he raiseth four of the Naiades out of the fountains, and bringeth down five of the Hyades out of the clouds to dance. Hereupon Iris scoffs at Mercury, for that he had devised a dance but of one sex, which could have no life: but Mercury… calleth forth out of the groves four Cupids, and brings down from Jupiter’s altar four Statuas of gold and silver to dance with the Nymphs and Stars: in which dance, the Cupids being blind, and the Statuas [459] having but half life put into them, and retaining still somewhat of their old nature, giveth fit occasion to new and strange varieties both in the music and paces. This was the first anti-masque. /

Then Iris, for her part, in scorn of this high-flying device, and in token that the match shall likewise be blessed with the love of the common people, calls to Flora, her confederate,--for that the months of flowers are likewise the months of sweet showers and rainbows,--to bring in a May-dance, or rural dance, consisting likewise not of any suited persons, but of a confusion of commixture of all such persons as are natural and proper for country sports. This is the second anti-masque. /

Then Mercury and Iris, after this vying one upon the other, seem to leave their contention; and Mercury, by the consent of Iris, brings down the Olympian knights, intimating that Jupiter having, after a long discontinuance, revived the Olympian games, and summoned thereunto from all parts the liveliest and activest persons that were, had enjoined them, before they fell to their games, to do honour to these nuptials. The Olympian games portend to the match celebrity, victory, and felicity. This was the main masque. (459-60)

Iris appareled in a robe of discoloured taffeta, figured in variable colours, like the rainbow, a cloudy wreath on her head, and tresses. Mercury in doublet and hose of white taffeta, a white had, wings on his shoulders and feet, his caduceus in his hand, speaking to Iris as followeth: (460)

Mercury: Stay, foolish maid!
Or I will take my rise upon a hill,

And never cease clap my willing wings,
Till I catch hold of thy discolour’d bow,
And shiver it beyond the angry power
Of your curst mistress to make up again. (461, curst: ie. Cross)

Mercury: Juno…
…she did never yet
Clasp weak mortality in her white arms,
As he hath often done: … (461)

Iris: But what hath he to do with nuptial-rites?
Let him keep state upon his starry thorne, (462)

Mercury: Ye Nymphs, who, bathing in your loved springs,
Beheld these rivers in their infancy,
And joy’d to see them, when their circled heads
Refreshe’d the air, and spread the ground with flowers; (462)

Immediately upon which speech, four Naiades arise gently out of their several fountains, and present themselves upon the stage, attired in long habits of sea-green taffeta, with bubbles of crystal, intermixt with powdering of silver, resembling drops of water, bluish tresses, on their heads garlands of water-lilies. They fall into a measure, dance a little, then make a stand. (462)

These Statuas… at their coming, the music changed from violins to hautboys, cornets, &c., and the air of the music was utterly turned into a soft time, with drawing notes, excellently expressing their natures, (464)

All these persons appareled to the life, the men issuing out of one side of the boscage, and the women from the other. The music was extremely well fitted, having such a spirit of country jollity as can hardly be imagined; but the perpetual laughter and applause was above the music.
The dance likewise was of the same strain; and the dancers, or rather actors, expressed every one of their part so naturally and aptly, as when a man’s eye was caught with the one, and then passed on to the other, he could not satisfy himself which did best. (465)

Mercury: I took a message, and I bare it through
A thousand yielding clouds, and never stay’d
Till his high will was done: the Olympian games,
Which long had slept, at these wish’d nuptials
He pleas’d to have renew’d, … (466)

The Fourth Song:
Ye should stay longer, if we durst:
Away! Alas, that he that first
Gave Time wild wings to fly away,
Hath now no power to make him stay!
And though these games must needs be play’d,
I would this pair, when they are laid,
And not a creature nigh’em,
Could catch his scythe, as he doth pass,
And clip his wings, and break his glass,
And keep him ever by’em. (469)


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