Sejanus His Fall
TO THE NO LESS NOBLE BY VIRTUE THAN BLOOD
ESME LORD AUBIGNY
My LORD,-If ever any ruin were so great as to survive, I think this be one I send you,
The Fall of Sejanus. It is a poem, that, if I well remember, in your lordship's sight,
suffered no less violence from our people here, than the subject of it did from the rage of
the people of Rome; but with a different fate, as, I hope, merit: for this hath outlived their
malice, and begot itself a greater favour than he lost, the love of good men. Amongst
whom, if I make your lordship the first it thanks, it is not without a just, confession of the
bond your benefits have, and ever shall hold upon me,
Your lordship's most faithful honourer. BEN JONSON.
TO THE READERS
THE following and voluntary labours of my friends, prefixed to my book, have relieved
me in much whereat, without them, I should necessarily have touched. Now I will only
use three or four short and needful notes, and so rest.
First, if it be objected, that what I publish is no true poem, in the strict laws of time, I
confess it: as also in the want of a proper chorus; whose habit and moods are such and so
difficult, as not any, whom I have seen, since the ancients, no, not they who have most
presently affected laws, have yet come in the way of. Nor is it needful, or almost possible
in these our times, and to such auditors as commonly things are presented, to observe the
old state and splendour of dramatic poems, with preservation of any popular delight. But
of this I shall take more seasonable cause to speak, in my observations upon Horace his
Art of Poetry, which, with the text translated, I intend shortly to publish. In the mean
time, if in truth of argument, dignity of persons, gravity and height of elocution, fulness
and frequency of sentence, I have discharged the other offices of a tragic writer, let not
the absence of these forms be imputed to me, wherein I shall give you occasion hereafter,
and without my boast, to think I could better prescribe, than omit the due use for want of
a convenient knowledge.
The next is, lest in some nice nostril the quotations might savour affected, I do let you
know, that I abhor nothing more; and I have only done it to shew my integrity in the
story, and save myself in those common torturers that bring all wit to the rack; whose
noses are ever like swine, spoiling and rooting up the Muses' gardens; and their whole
bodies like moles, as blindly working under earth, to cast any, the least, hills upon virtue.
Whereas they are in Latin, and the work in English, it was presupposed none but the
learned would take the pains to confer them: the authors themselves being all in the
learned tongues, save one, with whose English side I have had little to do. To which it
may be required, since I have quoted the page, to name what editions I followed: Tacit.