Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 150

The scene from Robert Greene's The Honorable Historie of Frier Bacon and Frier Bongay (1594) in which Friar Bacon's Brazen Head Speaks

The Life and Complete Work in Prose and Verse of Robert Greene, M.A., Cambridge and Oxford, in Fourteen Volumes, ed. Alexander B. Grosart.  Volume 13.  Printed for Private Circulation, 1881-83.  

The Honorable Historie of frier Bacon, and frier Bongay. As it was plaid by her Maiesties seruants.  Made by Robert Greene, Maister of Arts.  London.  Printed for Edward White, and are to be sold at his shop, at the little North dore of Poules, at the signe of the Gun.  1594

Enter Frier Bacon drawing the courtaines with a white stick, a booke in his hand, and a lampe lighted by him, and the brasen Head, and Miles, with weapons by him.

  Bacon.  Miles where are you?

  Miles.  Here sir.

  BaconHow chaunce you tarry so long?

  MilesThinke you that the watching of the brazen head craues no furniture?  I warrant you sir I haue so armed my selfe that if all your deuills come, I will not feare them an inch.

  [77] BaconMiles, thou knowst that I haue diued into hell,
And sought the darkest pallaces of fiends;
That with my Magick spels great Belcephon,
Hath left his lodge and kneeled at my cell;
The rafters of the earth rent from the poles,
And three-formd Luna hid her siluer looks,
Trembling vpon her concaue contenent;
When Bacon red vpon his Magick booke.
With seuen years tossing nigromanticke charmes,
Poring vpon darke Hecats principles,
I haue framd out a monstrous head of brasse,
That, by the inchaunting forces of the deuil,
Shall tell out strange and vncoth Aphorismes,
And girt faire England with a wall of brasse.
Bungay and I haue watcht these threescore dayes,
And now our vitall spirites craue some rest:
If Argos livd and had his hundred eyes,
They could not ouerwatch Phobeters night.
Now Miles in thee rests Frier Bacons weale;
The honour and renowne of all his life,
Hangs in the watching of this brazen-head;
Therefore I charge thee by the immortall God
That holds the soules of men within his fist,
This night thou watch; for ere the morning star
Sends out his glorious glister on the north,
The head will speake; then Miles, vpon thy life,
[78] Wake me, for then by Magick art Ile worke,
To end my seuen yeares taske with excellence;
If that a winke but shut thy watchfull eye,
Then farewell Bacons glory and his fame.
Draw close the courtaines Miles now; for thy life,
Be watchfull and-- 
Here he falleth asleepe.

  MilesSo, I thought you would talke your selfe a sleepe anon; and tis no meruaile for Bungay on the dayes, and he on the nights, haue watcht iust these ten and fifty dayes; now this is the night, and tis my taske and no more.  Now Iesus blesse me what a goodly head it is, and a nose: you talke of nos autem glorificare, but heres a nose that I warrant may be cald nos autem popelare for the people of the parish; well I am furnished with weapons: now sir I will set me downe by a post and make it as good as a watch-man to wake me, if I chaunce to slumber.  [He falls asleep, knocks his head against the post, wakes, thinking the head has spoken.]  I thought goodman head, I would call you out of your mementoPassion of God I haue almost broke my pate.  Vp Miles to your task, take your browne bill in your hand, heeres some of your maisters hobgoblins abroad.   With this a great noise.

[The head speakes.]

  HeadTime is.

  MilesTime is, Why maister Brazenhead, haue you such a capitall nose, and answer you with sillables, Time is: is this all my maisters cunning, to spend seuen years studie about Time is?  well sir, it may be we shall haue some better orations of it anon, well Ile watch you as narrowly as euer you were watcht, and Ile play with you as the Nightingale with the Slowworme, Ile set a pricke against my brest: now rest there Miles.  Lord haue mercy vpon me, I haue almost kild my selfe: [A great noise.]  vp Miles, list how they rumble.

  HeadTime was.

  MilesWell, frier Bacon, you spent your seuen yeares studie well, that you can make your Head speake but two wordes at once, Time was: yea marie, time was when my maister was a wise man, but that was before he began to make the Brazen-head: you shall lie while your arce ake, and your Head speake no better: well I will watch and walke vp and downe, and be a Perepatetian and a Philosopher of Aristotles stampe, [A great noise.] what, a freshe noise? take thy pistols in hand Miles.

Heere the Head speakes and a lightning flasheth forth, and a hand appeares that breaketh down the Head with a hammer.

  HeadTime is past.

  [80] MilesMaister, maister, vp, hels broken loose, your Head speakes, and theres such a thunder and lightning, that I warrant all Oxford is vp in armes: out of your bed, and take a browne bill in your hand, the latter day is come.

  Bacon.  Miles, I come.
Oh passing warily watcht,
Bacon will make thee next himselfe in loue;
When spake the Head?

  Miles.  When spake the Head?  Did you not say that hee should tell strange principles of Philosophie?  why sir it speaks but two wordes at a time.

  Bacon.  Why villaine hath it spoken oft?

  Miles.  Oft? marie hath it thrice: but in all those three times it hath vttered but seuen wordes.

  Bacon.  As how?

  Miles.  Marrie sir, the first time he said, Time is, as if Fabius cumentator should haue pronounst a sentence: he said, Time was, and the third time with thunder and lightning as in great choller, he said Time is past.

  [81] Bacon.  Tis past indeed, A villaine time is past,
My life, my fame, my glorie, all are past:
Bacon, the turrets of thy hope are ruind downe,
Thy seuen yeares studie lieth in the dust;
Thy Brazen-head lies broken, through a slaue
That watcht, and would not when the Head did will, --
What said the Head first?

  Miles.  Euen sir, Time is.

  Bacon.  Villaine if thou hadst cald to Bacon then,
If thou hadst watcht, and wakte the sleepie frier,
The Brazen-head had vttered Aphorismes,
And England had been circled round with brasse;
But proud Astmeroth, ruler of the North,
And Demegorgon maister of the fates,
Grudge that a mortall man should worke so much;
Hell trembled at my deep commanding spels,
Fiendes frownd to see a man their ouermatch:
Bacon might bost more than a man might boast,
But now the braues of Bacon hath an end,
Europes conceit of Bacon hath an end,
His seuen yeares practise sorteth to ill end,
And, villaine, sith my glorie hath an end,
I will appoint thee fatall to some end:
[82] Villaine auoid, get thee from Bacons sight,
Vagrant, go rome and range about the world,
And perish as a vagabond on earth.

  MilesWhy then sir you forbid me your seruice.

  BaconMy seruice villaine, with a fatall curse,
That direfull plagues and mischiefe fall on thee.

  MilesTis no matter, I am against you with the old prouerb, The more the fox is curst, the better he fares: God be with you sir, Ile take but a booke in my hand, a wide sleeued gowne on my backe, and a crowned cap on my head, and see if I can want promotion.

  BaconSome fiend or ghost haunt on they wearie steps,
Vntill they doe transport thee quicke to hell,
For Bacon shall haue neuer merrie day,
To loose the fame and honour of his Head.