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  • Title: Galathea (Modern)
  • Editor: David Bevington

  • Copyright David Bevington. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: John Lyly
    Editor: David Bevington
    Peer Reviewed

    Galathea (Modern)

    [Enter Rafe alone.
    Call you this seeking of fortunes, when one can find nothing but birds' nests? Would I were out of these woods! For I shall have but wooden luck. Here's nothing but the skreeking of owls, croaking of frogs, hissing of adders, barking of foxes, walking of hags. 295But what be these?
    Enter Fairies, dancing and playing [on musical instruments], and so exeunt.
    I will follow them, To hell I shall not go, for so fair faces never can have such hard fortunes. What black boy is this?
    [Enter the Alchemist's boy, Peter.
    [To himself] What a life do I lead with my master! Nothing but blowing of bellows, beating of spirits, and scraping of crosslets. It is a very secret science, for none almost can understand the language of it: sublimation, almigation, calcination, rubification, incorporation, circination, cementation, albification, and fermentation, with as many terms unpossible to be uttered as the art to be compassed.
    [Aside] Let me cross myself. I never heard so many great devils in a little monkey's mouth.
    Then our instruments: crosslets, sublimatories, cucurbits, limbecks, decensors, vials, manual and mural, for imbibing and conbibing, bellows molificative and indurative.
    [Aside] What language is this? Do they speak so?
    Then our metals: saltpeter, vitriol, sal tartar, sal preparat, argoll, resagar, sal ammoniac, agrimony, lunary, brimstone, valerian, tartar alum, breemwort, glass, unslaked lime, chalk, ashes, hair, and what not, to 310make I know not what.
    [Aside] My hair beginneth to stand upright. Would the boy would make an end!
    And yet such a beggerly science it is, and so strong on multiplication that the end is to have neither gold, wit, nor honesty.
    [Aside] Then am I just of thy occupation.[Coming forward] What, fellow, well met!
    Fellow? Upon what acquaintance?
    Why, thou say'st the end of thy occupation is to have neither wit, money, nor honesty; and methinks, at a blush, thou shouldst be one of my occupation.
    Thou art deceived. My master is an alchemist.
    What's that? A man?
    A little more than a man, and a hair's breadth less than a god. He can make of thy cap gold, and, by multiplication of one groat, three old angels. I have known him of the tag of a point to make a silver bowl of a pint.
    That makes thee have never a point; they be all turned to pots. 325But if he can do this, he shall be a god altogether.
    If thou have any gold to work on, thou art then made forever, for with one pound of gold he will go near to pave ten acres of ground.
    How might a man serve him and learn his cunning?
    Easily. First, seem to understand the terms, and specially mark these points. In our art there are four spirits.
    Nay, I have done, if you work with devils!
    Thou art gross. We call those "spirits" that are the grounds of our art, and, as it were, the metals more incorporative for domination. The first spirit is quicksilver.
    That is my spirit, for my silver is so quick that I have much ado to catch it; and when I have it, it is so nimble that I cannot 335hold it. I thought there was a devil in it.
    The second, orpiment.
    That's no spirit, but a word to conjure a spirit.
    The third, sal ammoniac.
    A proper word.
    The fourth, brimstone.
    That's a stinking spirit, I thought there was some spirit in it because it burnt so blue. For my mother would often tell me that when the candle burnt blue, there was some ill spirit in the house, and now I perceive it was the spirit brimstone.
    Thou canst remember these four spirits?
    Let me alone to conjure them.
    Now are there also seven bodies -- but here cometh my master.
    [Enter [the] Alchemist. [He stands apart from Rafe and Peter.]
    This is a beggar.
    350Peter. No, such cunning men must disguise themselves as though there were nothing in them, for otherwise they shall be compelled to work for princes, and so be constrained to bewray their secrets.
    I like not his attire, but am enamored of his art.
    [Aside] An ounce of silver limed, as much of crude mercury, of 355spirits four, being tempered with the bodies seven, by multiplying of it ten times, comes for one pound eight thousand pounds, so that I may have only beechen coals. .
    Is it possible?
    It is more certain then certainty.
    I'll tell thee one secret: I stole a silver thimble. Dost thou think that he will make it a pottle pot?
    A pottle pot? Nay, I dare warrant it a whole cupbord of plate. Why, of the quintessence of a leaden plummet he hath framed twenty dozen of silver spoons. Look how he studies. I durst venture my life he is now casting about how of his breath he may make golden bracelets, for oftentimes of smoke he hath made silver drops.
    What do I hear?
    Didst thou never hear how Jupiter came in a golden shower to Danae?
    I remember that tale.
    That shower did my master make of a spoonful of tartar alum, but with the fire of blood and the corrosive of the air he is able to make nothing infinite. -- But whist! He espieth us.
    [Coming forward] What, Peter, do you loiter, knowing that every minute increaseth our mine?
    I was glad to take air, for the metal came so fast that I feared my face would have been turned to silver.
    [Indicating Rafe] But what stripling is this?
    One that is desirous to learn your craft.
    Craft, sir boy? You must call it mystery.
    All is one: a crafty mystery, and a mystical craft.
    Canst thou take pains?
    But thou must be sworn to be secret, and then I will entertain thee
    I can swear, though I be a poor fellow, as well as the best man in the shire. But, sir, I much marvel that you, being so cunning, should be so ragged.
    O my child, gryphs make their nests of gold, though their coats are 385feathers, and we feather our nests with diamonds, though our garments be but frieze. If thou knewest the secret of this science, the cunning would make thee so proud that thou wouldst disdain the outward pomp.
    [To Rafe] My master is so ravished with his art that we many times go supperless to bed, for he will make gold of his bread, and such is the drought of his desire that we all wish our very guts were gold.
    I have good fortune to light upon such a master.
    When in the depth of my skill I determine to try the uttermost of mine art, I am dissuaded by the gods. Otherwise, I durst undertake to make the fire, as it flames, gold; the wind, as it blows, silver; the water, as it runs, lead; the earth, as it stands, iron; the sky, brass; and men's thoughts, firm metals.
    I must bless myself, and marvel at you.
    Come in, and thou shalt see all.
    I follow, I run, I fly. They say my father hath a golden thumb. You shall see me have a golden body.
    I am glad of this, for now I shall have leisure to run 400away. Such a bald art as never was! Let him keep his new man, for he shall never see his old again. God shield me from blowing gold to nothing, with a strong imagination to make nothing anything!