Ben Jonson and King James: Biography and Portrait

Ben Jonson and King James: Biography and Portrait

Ben Jonson and King James: Biography and Portrait

Ben Jonson and King James: Biography and Portrait

Excerpt

BRICKLAYING, though useful, is a tedious occupation. One brick is very like another, and however attractive may be the houses which ultimately emerge from the untidy chrysalis of scaffolding, those who build them rarely meet those who go to live in them. For more bricks are waiting to be laid elsewhere; endless bricks, timelessly patterning the first brick of all that was thumped squarely out of shapeless clay and set in the indifferent sun to dry; brick to be set on brick and next to brick, tapped into alignment, sealed with mortar, in dull pedantic movements so that no one can repeat under his breath even the stateliest hexameter without setting his bricks awry, while if one turned to Pindar chaos would come quick between strophe and antistrophe.A dusty life, in which hands become hard and stony and heart dry, even though one's head is full of the grandeur of dead Rome that has found new garments in living Italy, of the tall white ghosts of Greece that come out of haunted medieval forests, of strange islands somewhere between Ireland and Cathay that look to sea-weary voyagers like an earthly paradise, and wash down gold in their streams, and hide silver in their mountains.... But the barrow creaks, the hod comes over the wall . . .

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