Reader title


Nicholas Copernicus
 De Revolutionibus

John Dee
 The Mathematicall Praeface

Robert Recorde
 The Castle of Knowledge

Marcellus Palingenius Stellatus
 The Zodiake of Life

Thomas Digges
 A Perfect Description of the Celestial Orbs

Giordano Bruno
 The Ash Wednesday Supper

Galileo Galilei
 Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems

Ben Jonson
 News From the New World Discovered in the Moon

John Donne
 Loves Growth

John Donne
 A Valediction: forbidding mourning


Ben Jonson   (1572-1637)

News From the New World Discovered in the Moon

A Masque, as it was presented at court (Whitehall) before King James, January 6 and February 11, 1621

Nascitur e tenebris: et se sibi vindicat orbis.

Enter two Heralds, a Printer, Chronicler, and Factor

1 Herald. News, news, news!

2 Herald. Bold and brave news:

1 Herald. New as the night they are born in.

2 Herald. Or the phant'sie that begot 'em.

1 Herald. Excellent news!

2 Herald Will you hear any news?

Printer. Yes, and thank you too sire: what's the price of em?

1 Herald. Price, coxcomb! what price, but the price o" your ears? As if any man used to pay for anything here.

2 Herald. Come forward; you should be some dull tradesman by your pig-headed sconce now, that think there's nothing good anywhere but what's to be sold.

Printer. Indeed I am all for sale, gentlemen, you say true: I am a printer, and a printer of news; and I do hearken after 'em wherever they be, at any rates; I'll give anything for a good copy now, be it true or false, so't be news.

1 Herald. A fine youth!

Chronicler. And I am for matter of state, gentlemen, by consequence, ---story; to fill up my great book---my Chronicle, which must be three ream of paper at least; I have agreed with my stationer aforehand to make it so big, and I want for ten quire yet. I ha' been here ever since seven o'clock i' the morning to get matter for one page, and I think I have it complete; for I have both noteed the number and the capacity of the degrees here; and told twice over how many candles there are i' the room lighted, which I will set you down to a snuff precisely, because I love to give light to posterity in the truth of things.

1 Herald. This is a finer youth!

Factor. Gentlemen, I am neither printer nor chronologer, but one that otherwise take pleasure i' my pen: a factor of news for all the shieres of England; I do write my thousand letters a week ordinary, sometime twelve hundred, and maintain the business at some charge both to hold up my reputation with mine own ministers in town and my friends of correspondence in the country; I have friends of all ranks and of all religions, for which I keep an answering catalogue of dispatch; wherein I have my puritan news, my protestant news, and my pontificial news.

2 Herald. A superlative this!

Factor. And I have hope to erect a Staple for News ere long, whither all shall be brought and thenc again vented under the name of Staple-news, and not trusted to your printed conundrums of the serpent in Sussex, or the witches bidding the devil to dinner at Derby: news that when a man sends them down to the shieres where they are said to be done, were never there to be found!

Printer. Sir, that's all one, they were made for the common people; and why should not they ha' their pleasure in believing of lies are made for them, as you have in Paul's, that make 'em for yurselves.

1 Herald. There he speaks reason to you sir.

Factor. I confess it; but it is the printing I am offended at, I would have no news printed; for when they are written, though they be false, they remain news still.

Printer. See men's divers opinions! It is the printing of 'em makes 'em news to a great many who will indeed believe nothing but what's in print. For those I do keep my presses, and so many pens going to bring forth wholesome relations, which once in a half a score years, as the age grows forgetful, I print over again with a new date, and they are of excellent use.

Chronicler. Excellent abuse rather.

Printer. Master Chronicler, do not you talk, I shall----

1 Herald . Nay, gentlemen, be at peace one with another, we have enough for you all three, if you dare take upon trust.

Printer. I dare, I assure you.

Factor. And I, as much as comes.

Chronicler. I dare too, but nothing so much as I have done; I have been so cheated with false relations i' my time, as I ha' found it a far harder thing to correct my book, than collect it.

Factor. Like enough; but to your news gentlemen, whence come they?

1 Herald. From the MOON, ours, sir.

Factor. From the Moon! which way? by sea or by land?

1 Herald. By moonshine; a nearer way, I take it.

Printer. Oh, by a trunk! I know it, a thing no bigger than a flute-case: a neighbour of mine, a spectacle maker, has drawn the moon through it at the bore of a whistle, and made it as great as a drum-head twenty times, and brought it within the length of this room to me, I know not how often.

Chronicler. Tut, that's no news; your perplexive glasses are common. No, it will fall out to be Pythagoras' way, I warrant you, by writing and read i' the moon.

Printer. Right, as well read of you, i' faith; for Cornelius Agrippa has it, in disco lunae; there 't is found.

1 Herald. Sir, you are lost, I assure you; for ours came to you neither by the way of Cornelius Agrippa nor Cornelius Drible.

2 Herald. Nor any glass of-

1 Herald. No philosopher's phantasie.

2 Herald. Mathematician perspecil.

1 Herald. Or brother of the Rosy Cross's intelligence, no forced way, but by the neat and clean power of poetry.

2 Herald. This mistress of all discovery.

1 Herald. Who, after a world of these curious uncertainties, hath employed thither a servant of hers, in search of truth: who has been there---

2 Herald. In the moon.

1 Herald. In person

2 Herald. And is this night returned.

Factor. Where? Which is he? I must see his dog at his girdle, and the bush of thorns at his back, ere I believe it.

1 Herald. Do not trouble your faith then, for it that bush of thorns should prove a goodly grove of oaks, in what case were you and your expectation?

2 Herald. Those are stale ensigns o' the stage's man i' the moon, delivered down to you by musty antiquity, and are as of doubtful credit as the makers.

Chronicler. Sir, nothing again antiquity, I pray you, I must not hear ill of antiquity.

1 Herald. Oh! You have an old wife belike, or your venerable jerkin there--- make much of 'em. Our relation, I tell you still, is news.

2 Herald. Certain and sure news.

1 Herald. Of a new world.

2 Herald. And new creatures in that world.

1 Herald. In the orb of the moon.

2 Herald. Which is now found to be an earth inhabited.

1 Herald. With navigable seas and rivers.

2 Herald. Variety of nations, polities, laws.

1 Herald. With havens in 't, castles, and port-towns.

2 Herald. Inland cities, boroughs, hamlets, faires and markets.

1 Herald. Hundreds and wapentakes! Forests, parkes, coney-ground, meadow pasture, whatnot?

2 Herald. But differing from ours.

Factor. And has your poet brought all this?

Chronicler. Troth, here was enough: 't is a pretty piece of poetry as 't is.

1 Herald. Would you could hear on, though!

2 Herald. Gi' your minds 't a little.

Factor. What inns or alehouses are there there? Does he tell you?

1 Herald. Truly, I have not asked him that.

2 Herald. Nor were you best, I believe.

Factor. Why in travel, a man knows these things without offence; I am sure if he be a good poet he has discovered a good tavern in his time.

1 Herald. That he has, I should think the worse of his verse else.

Printer. And his prose too, i' faith.

Chronicler. Is he a man's poet, or a woman's poet, I pray you?

2 Herald. Is there any difference?

Factor. Many, as betwixt your man's tailor and your woman's tailor.

1 Herald. How, may we beseech you?

Factor. I'll show you; your man's poet may break out strong and deep i' the mouth, as he said of Pindar, Monte, decurrens velut amnis: but your woman's poet must flow, and stroke the ear, and, as one of them said of himself sweetly--"must write a verse as smooth and calm as cream, in which there is no torrent, nor scarce stream."

2 Herald. Ha' you any more on 't?

Factor. No, I could never arrive but to this remnant.

1 Herald. Pity! Would you had had the whole piece for a pattern to all poetry.
Printer. How might we do to see your poet? Did he undertake this journey, I pray you, to the moon o' foot?

1 Herald. Why do you ask?

Printer. Because one of our greatest poets (I know not how good a one) went to Edinburgh afoot, and came back; marry, he has been restive, they say, ever since; for we have had nothing from him: he has set out nothing I am sure.

1 Herald. Like enough, perhaps he has not all in; when he has all in, he will set out, I warrant you, at least those from whom he had it; it is the very same party that has been i' the moon now.

Printer. Indeed! Has he been there since? Belike he rid thither then?

Factor. Yes, post, upon the poet's horse, for a wager.

1 Herald. No, I assure you, he rather flew upon the wings of his muse. There are in all but three ways of going thither: one is Endymion's way, by rapture and sleep, or a dream. The other Menippus's way, by wing, which the poet took. The third, old Empedocles' way, who, when he leapt into Aetna, having a dry sear body and light, the smoke took him and whift him up into the moon, where he lives yet, waving up and down like a feather, all soot and embers, coming out of that coal-pit: our poet met him and talked with him.

Chronicler. In what language, good sir?

2 Herald. Only by signs and gestures, for they have no articulate voices there, but certain motions to music: all the discourse there is harmony.

Factor. A fine lunatic language, i' faith; how do their lawyers then?

2 Herald. They're Pythagorans, all dumb as fishes, for they have no controversies to exercise themselves in.

Factor. How do they live then?

1 Herald. On the dew o' the moon, like grasshoppers, and confer with the doppers.

Factor. Ha' you doppers?

2 Herald. A world of doppers! But they are as lunatic persons, walkers only: that have leave only to HUM and HA, not daring to prophesy, or start upon stools to raise doctrine.

1 Herald. The brethren of the Rosy Cross have their college within a mile of the moon: a castle i' the air that runs upon wheels with a winged lanthorn--

Printer. I ha' seen 't in print.

2 Herald. All the fantastical creatures you can think of are there.

Factor. 't is to be hoped there are women there, then.

1 Herald. And zealous women, that will outgroan the groaning wives of Edinburgh.

Factor. And lovers as fantastic as ours.

2 Herald. But none that will hang themselves for love, or eat candles' ends, or drink to their mistress' eyes til their own bid 'em goodnight, as the sublunary lovers do.

Factor. No, sir?

2 Herald. No. Some few of you shall have that sigh or whistle themselves away; and those are presently hung up by their heels like meteors, with squibs i' their tails, to give the wiser sort warning.

Printer. Excellent!

Factor. Are there no self-lovers there?

2 Herald. There were; but they are all dead of late for want of tailors.

Factor. 'S light, what luck is that! We could have spared them a colony from hence.

2 Herald. I think two or three of them live yet, but they are turned moon-calves by this.

Printer. Oh ay, moon-calves! What monster is that, I pray you?

2 Herald. Monster! None at all, a very familiar thing, like our fool here on earth.

1 Herald. The ladies there play with them instead of little dogs.

Factor. Then there are ladies?

2 Herald. And knights and squires.

Factor. And servants and coaches?

1 Herald. Yes, but the coaches are much o' the nature of the ladies, for they go only with the wind.

Chronicler. Pretty, like China waggons.

Factor. Ha' they any places of meeting with their coaches, and taking the fresh open air, and then to convert when they please, as in our Hyde Park or so?

2 Herald. Above all the Hyde Parks in Christendom, far more hiding and private; they do all in clouds there; they walk i' the clouds, they sit i' the clouds, they lie i' the clouds, they ride and tumble i' the clouds, their very coaches are clouds.

Printer. But ha' they no carmen to meet and break their coaches?

2 Herald. Alas, carmen! They will over a carman there, as he will do a child here, you shall have a coachman with cheeks like a trumpter, and a wind in his mouth, blow him afore him as far as he can see him; or skirr over him with his bat's wings a mile and a half ere he can steer his wry neck to look where he is.

Factor. And they ha' there, New Wells too, and physical waters, I hope, to visit all time of year?

1 Herald. Your Tunbridge, or the Spaw itself, are mere puddle to 'em: when the pleasant months o' the year come, they all flock to certain broken islands which are called there the Isles of Delight.

Factor. But by clouds still?

1 Herald. What else? Their boats are clouds too.

2 Herald. Or in a mist; the mists are ordinary i' the moon; a man that owes money there needs no other protection; only by a mist and walk in 't, he's never discerned; a matter of a baubee does it.

1 Herald. Only one island they have is called the Isle of the Epicoenes, because there under one article both kinds are signified, for they are fashioned alike, male and female the same; not heads and broad hats, short doublets and long points; neither do they ever untruss for distinction, but laugh and lie down in moonshine, and stab with their poniards; you do not know the delight of the Epicoenes in moonshine.

2 Herald. And when they ha' tasted the springs of pleasure enough, and billed, and kist, and are ready to come away; the shees only lay certain eggs (for they are never with child there), and of those eggs are disclosed a race of creatures like men, but are indeed a sort of fowl, in part covered with feathers (they call them VOLATEES), that hop from island to island: you shall see a covey of them if you please, presently.

1 Herald. Yes, faith, tis time to exercise their eyes, for their ears begin to be weary.

2 Herald. Then know we do not move these wings so soon,

On which our poet mounted to the moon

Menippus like, but all 'twixt it and thus

Thus clears and helps to the presentment,


(enter the VOLATEES for the anti-masque and dance, after which)

2 Herald. We have all this while (though the muses' heralds) adventured to tell your majesty no news; for hither to we have moved rather to your delight than your belief. By now be pleased to expect a more noble discovery worthy of your ear as the object will be to your eye: a race of your own, formed, animated, lightened, and heightened by you, who, rapt above the moon far in speculation of your virtues, have remained there intranced certain hours with wonder of the piety, wisdom, majesty reflected by you on them from the divine light to which only you are less. These, by how much higher they have been carried from earth to contemplate your greatness, have now conceived the more haste and hope in this their return home to approach your goodness; and led by that excellent likeness of yourself, the Truth, -- imitating Procrustes' endeaver, that all the motions be formed to the music of your peace, and have their ends in your favor, which alone is able to resolve and thaw the cold they have presently contracted in coming through the colder region.

(music. Here the scene opens and discovers the Region of the Moon, from which the Masquers descend and shake off their icicles.)

First song:

Howe'er the brightness may amaze,
Move you, and stand not still at gaze,
As dazzled with the light:
But with your motions fill the place,
And let their fullness win your grace,
Till you collect your sight.

So while the warmth you do confess,
And temper of these rays no less
To quicken than refine,
You may by knowledge grow more bold,
And so more be able to behold
The body whence they shine.

(the first dance follows.)

Second Song:

Now look and see in yonder throne,
How all those beams are cast from one!
This is that orb so bright,
Has kept your wonder so awake;
Whence you from as a mirror take
The sun's reflected light.

Read him as you would do the book,
Of all perfection, and but look
What his proportions be;
No measure that is thence contrived,
Or any motion thence derived,
But is pure harmony.

(here the main dance and revels)

Third Song:

Not that we think you weary be,
For he
That did this motion give,
And made it so long lived,
Could likewise give it perpetuity.

Nor that we doubt you have not more,
And store
Of changes to delight,
For they are infinite,
As is the power that brought forth those before

But since the earth is of his name
And fame
So full, you cannot add,
Be both the first and glad
To speak him to the region whence you came.

(the last dance)

Fourth Song:

Look, look already where I am,
Bright fame,
Got up into the sky,
Thus high,
Upon my better wing,
To sing

The knowing king,
and make the music here
with your ears on earth the same.


Join then to tell his name
And say but James is he:
All ears will take the voice,
And in the tune rejoice,
Or Truth hath left to breathe, and Fame hath
Left to be.

1 Herald. See! What is that this music brings, and is so carried in the air about?
2 Herald. Fame, that doth nourish the renown of kings, and keep that fair which Envy would blot out.

(Then thus it is ended.)

Dartmouth College
Copyright 1999, MATC
Last updated 20 January 2000