A nice JVM is http://jamvm.sourceforge.net/. It's not the gargantuan, unportable mess that other JVMs are, which typically aim for speed first and sanity later.
Something like JamVM should also be quick to start up, too. But I completely agree that common JVMs suck for general scripting tasks. Solaris, I believe, tries to optimize this by sharing JVM instances. But "scripts" which require the JVM are still dog-slow.
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