A monologue from the play by Ben Jonson

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Sejanus, His Fall (1603).
  • SEJANUS: What excellent fools
    Religion makes of men! Believes Terentius,
    If these were dangers--as I shame to think them--
    The gods could change the certain course of fate?
    Or, if they could, they would now, in a moment,
    For a beef's fat, or less, be bribed t' invert
    Those long decrees? Then think the gods, like flies,
    Are to be taken with the steam of flesh,
    Or blood, diffused about their altars; think
    Their power as cheap as I esteem it small.
    Of all the throng that fill th' Olympian hall,
    And, without pity, lade poor Atlas' back,
    I know not that one deity, but Fortune,
    To whom I would throw up, in begging smoke,
    One grain of incense; or whose ear I'd buy
    With thus much oil. Her I indeed adore;
    And keep her grateful image in my house,
    Sometimes belonging to a Roman king,
    But now called mine, as by the better style.
    To her I care not if, for satisfying
    Your scrupulous fancies, I go offer. Bid
    Our priest prepare us honey, milk, and poppy,
    His masculine odours, and night-vestments. Say
    Our rites are instant, which performed, you'll see
    How vain, and worthy laughter, your fears be.