The scene is poetry.
The stage is the brain, whereon it is acted.
First is presented a dumb show, as a young lady in a ship, swimming over the scene in various weather. Afterwards this ship comes back again, having then a commander of war as its owner. In various weather, this ship being in great distress, Jupiter relieves it.
Then appear six masquers in several dresses, as dressed by Love, Valor, Honor, Youth, Age, Vanity. Vanity signifies the world, and Age mortality.
Then there is presented in a show the nine Muses, who dance a measure in four and twenty figures, and nine musical instruments made of goose-quills, playing several tunes as they dance.
Then the chorus speaks.
The bride and bridegroom going to the temple: Fancy speaks the prologue to Judgment as king. Vanity speaks an epilogue to the Thoughts, which are spectators; Honor speaks another.
Great King, we here present a masque at night
To Judgment’s view, and for the mind’s delight.
If it be good set lights of praise about;
If it be bad then put those torches out.
A ship of youth in the world’s sea was sent;
Balanced with self-conceit and pride it went.
And large sails of ambition set thereon,
Hung to a tall mast of good opinion.
And on the waves of plenty did it ride, 5
With winds of praise and beauty’s flowing tide.
Unto the land of riches it was bound,
To see if golden fame might there be found,
And thus it swam in a sweet calm of peace;
No boisterous storm of war did on it seize. 10
But when that she had passed nineteen degrees,
The land of happiness she no longer sees,
For then rebellious clouds foul black did grow,
And showers of blood into those seas did throw,
And vapors of sad sighs full thick did rise 15
From grief of hearts, which in the bottom lies.
Then fears like to the northern winds blew high,
And stars of hopes were clouded in the sky.
Down went the sun of all prosperity,
Reeled in the troubled seas of misery. 20
On sorrow’s billows high this ship was tossed;
The card of mirth and mark of joy was lost.
The point of comfort could not be found out;
Her sides did beat upon the sands of doubt.
Prudence was pilot, and with much ado 25
A haven of great France she got into.
Glad was this ship that she safe harbor got,
Then on the river of Loire she straight swam up.
For on this river she no tempest feared,
But directly her course to Paris steered, 30
And in that place she did some time remain
To mend this torn and tattered bark again.
New sails she made, and all her tacklings fit,
Trimmed herself fine and gay, respect to get.
At last a noble lord this ship did buy, 35
Who was resolved with it to live and die.
Then this same ship another voyage went;
Balanced it was with spice of sweet content.
The mast was merit, sails of love tied thereon,
Which sails by virtue’s zephyrs were blown.
On the great sea of honor did it go; 5
Fame was the land which it did traffic to.
At last a storm of poverty did rise,
And showers of miseries fell from the skies,
And thund’ring creditors a noise did make
With threat’ning bills, as if the ship they’d break, 10
Forced it towards the northern pole, where cold
And icy wants did of this ship take hold.
At last the sun of charity did melt
Those icy wants, so liberty she felt,
And oars of honest industry did row, 15
Till gentle gales of friendship made it go.
But when the storms of dangers all were past,
Upon the coast of Flanders it was cast.
But this ship was so tottered, torn, and rent,
That none but gods her ruin could prevent. 20
Her hair with lovers’ hopes curled in long rings,
Her braids hard plaited with his protestings,
Yet oftentimes those curlèd hairs went out
With lovers’ windy fears, and damps of doubt.
Strings of threaded tears about her neck she wore, 5
Which, dropped from th’lover’s eyes, his image bore.
His sighs, as pendants, did hang at each ear,
Sometime were troublesome, if heavy were.
Her gown was made of admiration,
Embroideries of praises placed thereon; 10
Ribbons of verses love hung here and there,
According as the several fancies were.
With some she tied her looking-glass of pride,
And fan of good opinion by her side.
Sometimes Love pleasure took a veil to place, 15
Of glances, which did cover all her face.
His headpiece was of prudence, where his eye
Of judgment dangers and mistakes did spy;
His breast-plate made of courage, to keep out
Bullets of fear, and blows of timorous doubt.
The gauntlets on his hands were active skill, 5
Wherewith he held a poleaxe of good will.
His sword was strong, and a stiff metal blade,
For it was all of pure bright honor made.
A scarf, which Fortune gave, his waist did tie,
Embroidered thick with stars of purple dye. 10
A plume of valor on his headpiece waved;
A cloak of merit all his body saved.
His spurs, rowelled with hope, did pierce the side
Of strong ambition, whereon he did ride.
Thus was he armed, and for great fame did fight. 15
She was his mistress, he her champion knight.
Her hair had curls of pleasure and delight,
Through which her skin did cast a glimm’ring light.
As lace, her bashful eyelids downwards hung;
A modest count’nance o’er her face was flung.
Blushes, as coral beads, she strung, to wear 5
About her neck, and pendants for each ear.
Her gown was by proportion cut and made,
With veins embroidered, with complexion laid.
Light words with ribbons of chaste thoughts she ties,
And loose behavior, which through errors flies. 10
Rich jewels of bright honor she did wear,
By noble actions placed everywhere.
Thus dressed, to Fame’s great court straightways she went,
There danced a ball with Youth, Love, Mirth, Content.
A milk-white hair-lace wound up all her hairs,
And a deaf coif did cover both her ears.
A sober look about her face she ties,
And a dim sight doth cover half her eyes.
About her neck a kercher of coarse skin, 5
Which time had crumpled and worn creases in.
Her gown was turned to melancholy black,
Which loose did hang upon her sides and back.
Her stockings cramps had knit, red worsted gout,
And pains, as garters, tied her legs about. 10
A pair of palsy gloves her hands did cover,
With weakness stitched, and numbness trimmed all over.
Her shoes were corns, and hard skin sewed together;
Hard skin was soles, and corns the upper leather.
A mantle of diseases laps her round, 15
And thus she’s dressed, till Death lays her in ground.
Thus Love, and War, and Age, and Youth did meet
In scenes of poetry, and numbers sweet.
War took out Love, and Age did take out Youth,
And all did dance upon the stage of truth.
A crown of jewels on her head was put,
And every jewel like a planet cut;
The diamond, carbuncle, and sapphire,
Ruby, topaz, and emerald was there.
Her face was like the sun, which shinèd bright, 5
And all those jewels from her face took light.
A chain of gold was linked by destiny,
And in each link a good effect did lie,
And as the zodiac round the world doth bind,
So did this chain about her body wind. 10
Silver cloth for her gown the Fates did spin,
And every thread was twisted hard therein.
Her hair in curls hung loose, by Cupid blown,
Between which curls her shoulders white were shown,
Youth strewed green rushes to the temple gate, 15
In Beauty’s chariot she rid in great state.
With great applause her charioteer drove on,
Eyes of delight, as lackies, run along.
Then to the altar this fair bride was led
By blushing Modesty, in crimson red, 20
And Innocency, dressed in lily white;
Hymen did bear the torch, which burned bright.
Her train was carried by the Graces three,
As lovely Hope, Good Faith, and Charity.