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.

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