And Theon replied: He is welcome,—a very well-shaped gentleman, and fitted for the office; but whether I shall not spoil him in my particular application, I cannot tell. In my opinion he seems such a one as will keep an entertainment to its primitive institution, and not suffer it to be changed, sometimes into a mooting hall, sometimes a school of rhetoric, now and then a dicing-room, a playhouse, or a stage. For do not you observe some making fine orations and putting cases at a supper, others declaiming or reading some of their own compositions, and others proposing prizes to dancers and mimics? Alcibiades and Theodorus turned Polition's banquet into a place [p. 215] of initiation, representing there the sacred procession and mysteries of Ceres; now such things as these, in my opinion, ought not to be suffered by a steward, but he must permit such discourse only, such shows, such merriment, as promote the particular end and design of such entertainments; and that is, by pleasant conversation either to beget or maintain friendship and good-will among the guests; for an entertainment is only a pleasant recreation at the table with a glass of wine, aiming to contract friendship through mutual good-will. But now because things pure and unmixed are usually surfeiting and odious, and the very mixture itself, unless the simples be well proportioned and opportunely put together, spoils the sweetness and goodness of the composition; it is evident that there ought to be a director who shall take care that the mirth and jollity of the guests be exactly and opportunely tempered. It is a common saying, that a voyage near the land and a walk near the sea are the best recreation. Thus our steward should place seriousness and gravity next jollity and humor; that, when they are merry, they should be on the very borders of gravity itself, and when grave and serious, they might be refreshed as sea-sick persons, having an easy and short prospect to the mirth and jollity on the shore. For mirth may be exceeding useful, and make our grave discourses smooth and pleasant,—
As near the bramble oft the lily grows,But against vain and empty humors, that wantonly break in upon our feasts, like henbane mixed with the wine, he must caution the guests, lest scoffing and affronts creep in under these, lest in their questions or commands they grow scurrilous and abuse, as for instance by enjoining stutterers to sing, bald-pates to comb their heads, or a cripple to rise and dance. So the company once abused [p. 216] Agapestor the Academic, one of whose legs was lame and withered, when in a ridiculing frolic they ordained that every man should stand upon his right leg and take off his glass, or pay a forfeit; and he, when it was his turn to command, enjoined the company to follow his example and drink as he did, and having a narrow earthen pitcher brought in, he put his withered leg into it, and drank his glass, and every one in the company, after a fruitless endeavor to imitate, paid his forfeit. It was a good humor of Agapestor's, and thus every little merry abuse must be as merrily revenged. Besides, he must give such commands as will both please and profit, putting such as are familiar and easy to the person, and when performed will be for his credit and reputation. A songster must be enjoined to sing, an orator to speak, a philosopher to solve a problem, and a poet to make a song; for every one very readily and willingly undertakes that
And neighboring rue commends the blushing rose.
In which he may outdo himself.An Assyrian king by public proclamation promised a reward to him that would find out any new sort of luxury and pleasure. And let the governor, the king of an entertainment, propose some pleasant reward for any one that introduceth inoffensive merriment, profitable delight and laughter, such as attends not scoffs and abusive jests, but kindness, pleasant humor, and good-will; for these matters not being well looked after and observed spoil and ruin most of our entertainments. It is the office of a prudent man to hinder all sort of anger and contention; in the exchange, that which springs from covetousness; in the fencing and wrestling schools, from emulation; in offices and state affairs, from ambition; and in a feast or entertainment, from pleasantness and joke. [p. 217]