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Short poem

John Marston (1575?-1634)

The Scourge of Villainy
(Excerpt: Proemium in Librum Tertium)

              1In serious jest, and jesting seriousness,
              2I strive to scourge polluting beastliness;
              3I invocate no Delian deity,
              4No sacred offspring of Mnemosyne;
              5I pray in aid of no Castalian Muse,
              6No nymph, no female angel, to infuse
              7A sprightly wit to raise my flagging wings,
              8And teach me tune these harsh discordant strings.
              9I crave no sirens of our halcyon times,
            10To grace the accents of my rough-hew'd rhymes;
            11But grim Reproof, stern Hate of Villainy,
            12Inspire and guide a Satire's poesy.
            13Fair Detestation of foul odious sin,
            14In which our swinish times lie wallowing,
            15Be thou my conduct and my Genius,
            16My wits-inciting sweet-breath'd Zephyrus.
            17O that a Satire's hand had force to pluck
            18Some floodgate up, to purge the world from muck!
            19Would God I could turn Alpheus river in,
            20To purge this Augean oxstall from foul sin!
            21Well, I will try; awake, Impurity,
            22And view the veil drawn from thy villainy!


1] This is from three books of satires, first published in 1598, followed by a second edition in 1599.

3] Delian deity: Apollo.

4] Offspring of Mnemosyne: the Muses.

5] pray in: invoke.
Castalian: the fountain of Castalia, on the slopes of Parnassus, was sacred to Apollo and the Muses.

19-20] An allusion to the sixth labour of Hercules.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: John Marston, The Scourge of Villanie. Three bookes of satyres (London: J. R[oberts]., sold by J. Buzbie, 1598). STC 17485.
First publication date: 1598
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.257; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/28

Form: couplets

Other poems by John Marston