Monday, April 25, 2011

The State of Chymistry in 1728

Let us take the Road. 
Hark! I hear the Sound of Coaches!
The Hour of Attack approaches,
To your Arms, brave Boys, and load.
See the Ball I hold!
Let the Chymists toil like Asses,
Our Fire, their Fire surpasses,
And turns all our Lead to Gold! 
John Gay, The Beggar's Opera Act II, Scene I

Silver and gold are back in the news again today. I mentioned them back here. The Beggar's Opera (1728) underscores man's perpetual lust for gold and also shows how as late as 1728 "chymistry" was still regarded as a mere quest for transmutation of base metals into gold. 

The Beggar's Opera later inspired Bertold Brecht and others. According to the Wiki:
Instead of the grand music and themes of opera, the work uses familiar tunes and characters that were ordinary people. Some of the songs were by opera composers like Handel, but only the most popular of these were used. The audience could hum along with the music and identify with the characters. The story satirised politics, poverty and injustice, focusing on the theme of corruption at all levels of society. 
 We need a popular comeback of The Beggar's Opera.

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