Page images
PDF
EPUB

After the thing it loves.9
Oph. They bore him barefac'd on the bier;!

Hey no nonny, nonny hey nonny:2

And in his grave rain'd many a tear ; Fare you well, my dove! .

Laer. Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade revenge, It could not move thus.

Oph. You must sing, Down a-down, an you call him adown-a. O, how the wheel becomes it !3 It is the false steward, that stole his master's daughter.

1

9 Nature is fine in love : and, where'tis fine,

It sends some precious instance of itself

After the thing it loves.] These lines are not in the quarto, and might have been omitted in the folio without great loss, for they are obscure and affected; but, I think, they require no emendation. Love (says Laertes) is the passion by which nature is most exalted and refined; and as substances, refined and sub. tilised, easily obey any impulse, or follow any attraction, some part of nature, so purified and refined, flies off after the attracting object, after the thing it loves :

'“ Ás into air the purer spirits flow,
“ And separate from their kindred dregs below,

“ So flew her soul.” Johnson. The meaning of the passage may be-That her wits, like the spirit of fine essences, flew off or evaporated. Fine, however, sometimes signifies artful. So, in All's Well that Ends Well : “ Thou art too fine in thy evidence.” Steevens.

They bore him barefac'd on the bier ; &c.] So, in Chaucer's Knighte's Tale, Mr. Tyrwhitt's edit. ver. 2879:

“ He laid him bare the visage on the bere,

“ Therwith he wept that pitee was to here.” Steevens. 2 Hey no nonny, &c.] These words, which were the burthen of a song, are found only in the folio. See Vol. XIV, King Learn Act III, sc. iii. Malone.

These words are also found in old John Heywood's Play of The Wether :

“ Gyve boys wether, quoth a nonny nonny. I am informed, that among the common people in Norfolk, to ronny signifies to trifle or play with. Steevens.

30, how the wheel becomes it! &c.] The story alluded to I do not know; but perhaps the lady stolen by the steward was reduced to spin. Johnson.

The wheel may mean no more than the burthen of the song, which she had just repeated, and as such was formerly used. I met with the following observation in an old quarto black-letter book, published before the time of Shakspeare. “ The song was accounted a good one, thogh it was not moche

Laer. This nothing 's more than matter.

Orh. There 's rosemary, that 's for remembrance; pray you, love, remember: and there is pansies, that 's for thoughts.

graced by the wheele which in no wise accorded with the subject matter thereof."

I quote this from memory, and from a book, of which I cannot recollect the exact title or date ; but the passage was in a pre. face to some songs or sonnets. I well remember, to have met with the word in the same sense in other old books.

Rota, indeed, as I am informed, is the ancient musical term in Latin, for the burden of a song. Dr. Farmer, however, has just favoured me with a quotation from Nicholas Breton's Toyes of an Ille Head, 1577, which at once explains the word wheel in the sense for which I have contended:

“ That I may sing, full merrily,

“Not heigh bo wele, but care away!" i. e. not with a melancholy, but a cheerful burthen.

I formerly supposed that the ballad alluded to by Ophelia, was that entered on the books of the Stationers' Company: “ October 1580. Four ballades of the Lord of Lorn and the False Steward," &c. but Mr. Ritson assures me there is no corresponding theft in it. Steevens.

I am inclined to think that wheel is here used in its ordinary sense, and that these words allude to the occupation of the girl who is supposed to sing the song alluded to by Ophelia.—The following lines in Hall's Virgidemiarum, 1597, appear to me to add some support to this interpretation:

“ Some drunken rimer thinks his time well spent,
“ If he can live to see his name in print;
“ Who when he is once fleshed to the presse,
" And sees his handselle have such fair successe,

Sung to the wheele, and sung unto the payle,

“ He sends forth thraves of ballads to the sale." So, in Sir Thomas Overbury's Characters, 1614: “She makes her hands hard with labour, and her head soft with pittie; and when winter evenings fall early, sitting at her merry wheele, she sings a defiance to the giddy wheele of fortune.”

Our author likewise furnishes an authority to the same purpose. Twelfth Night, Act II, sc. iv:

Come, the song we had last night: “ The spinsters and knitters in the sun,

“ Do use to chaunt it." A musical antiquary may perhaps contend, that the controverted words of the text alludes to an ancient instrument men. tioned by Chaucer, and called by him a rote, by others a vielle, which was played upon by the friction of a wheel. Malone.

* There's rosemary, that's for remembrance;—and there is pansies, that's for thoughts. ] There is probably some mythology in

Laer. A document in madness; thoughts and remembrance fitted.

Oph. There 's fennel for you, and columbines :5.

the choice of these herbs, but I cannot explain it. Pansies is for
thoughts, because of its name, Pensees ; but why rosemary indi.
cates remembrance, except that it is an ever-green, and carried
at funerals, I have not discovered. Johnson.
So, in All Fools, a comedy, by Chapman, 1605:

" What flowers are these?
“ The pansie this.

“O, that 's for lovers' thoughts !" Rosemary was anciently supposed to strengthen the memory, and was not only carried at funerals, but worn at weddings, as appears from a passage in Beaumont and Fletcher's Elder Brother, Act III, sc. iii. And from another in Ram-Alley, or Merry Tricks, 1611 :

will I be weit this morning,
Thou shalt not be there, nor once be graced with

“ A piece of rosemary, Again, in The Noble Spanish Soldier, 1634: “ I meet few but are stuck with rosemary: every one asked me who was to be married.

Again, in Greene's Never too Late, 1616: “ she hath given thee a nosegay of flowers, wherein, as a top-gallant for all the rest, is set in rosemary for remembrance.

Again, in A Dialogue between Nature and the Phenix, by R. Chester, 1601 :

“ There's rosemarie ; the Arabians justifie

(Physitions of exceeding perfect skill).

“ It comforteth the braine and memorie,&c. Steevens. Rosemary being supposed to strengthen the memory, was the emblem of fidelity in lovers. So, in A Handfull of Pleasant Delites, containing sundrie New Sonets, 16mo. 1584:

Rosernary is for remembrance

* Betweene us daie and night;
“ Wishing that I might alwaies have

“ You present in my sight.” The poem in which these lines are found, is entitled A Nosegaie alwaies sweet for Lovers to send for Tokens of Love, &c. Maione.

5 There's fennel for you, and columbines:] Greene, in his Quip for an Upstart Courtier, 1620, calls fennel, women's weeds : “ fit generally for that sex, sith while they are maidens, they wish wantonly."

Among Turbervile's Epitaphes, &c. p. 42, b. I likewise find the following mention of fennel :

“ Your fenell did declare

(As simple men can showe)
Só That Aattrie in my breast I bare,

Where friendship ought to grow."

there's rue for you; and here's some for me:-we may call it, herb of grace o' Sundays::—you may wear your

I know not of what columbines were supposed to be emblema. tical. They are again mentioned in All Fools, by Chapman, 1605;

“ What 's that?-a columbine?

“ No: that thankless Aower grows not in my garden." Gerard, however, and other herbalists, impute few, if any, virtues to them; and they may therefore be styled thankless, be. cause they appear to make no grateful return for their creation. Again, in the 15th Song of Drayton's Polyolbion :

“The columbine amongst, they sparingly do set.” From the Caltha Poetarum, 1599, it should seem as if this flower was the emblem of cuckoldom:

the blue cornuted columbine, “ Like to the crooked horns of Acheloy.” Steevens. Columbine was an emblem of cuckoldom on account of the horns of its nectaria, which are remarkable in this plant. See Aquilegis, in Linnæus's Genera, 684. S. W. The columbine was emblematical of forsaken lovers :

“ The columbine in tawny often taken,
Is then ascribed to such as are forsaken.
Browne's Britannia's Pastorals, B. I, Song ii, 1613.

H. White. Ophelia gives her fennel and columbines to the king. In the collection of Sonnets quoted above, the former is thus mentioned:

Fennel is for flatterers,

“ An evil thing 'tis sure ;
“ But I have alwaies meant truely,

“ With constant heart most pure." See also, Florio's Italian Dictionary, 1598: “ Dare finocchio, to give fennel,—to flatter, to dissemble." Malone.

there's rue for you ; and here's some for me :-we may call it, herb of grace o’Sundays: &c.] I believe there is a quibble meant in this passage; rue anciently signifying the same as ruth, i. e. sorrow. Ophelia gives the queen some, and keeps a proportion of it for herself. There is the same kind of play with the same word in King Richard II.

Herb of grace is one of the titles which Tucca gives to William Rufus, in Decker's Satiromastix. I suppose the first syllable of the surname Rufus introduced the quibble.

In Doctor Do-good's Directions, an ancient ballad, is the same allusion :

“ If a man have light fingers that he cannot charme,
“ Which will pick men's pockets, and do such like harme,
“ He must be let blood, in a scarfe weare his arme,
“ And drink the herb grace in a posset luke-warme.”

Steevens. The following passage from Greene's Quip for an Upstart Courtier, will furnish the best reason for calling rue herb of grace o' Sundays: “ some of them smil'd and said, Rue was called

rue with a difference.7—There's a daisy:8-I would give you some violets; but they withered all, when my father died:'— They say, he made a good end,

Herbegrace, which though they scorned in their youth, they might wear in their age, and that it was never too late to say miserere." Henley.

Herb of grace was not the Sunday name, but the every day name of rue. In the common Dictionaries of Shakspeare's time it is called herb of grace. See Florio's Italian Dictionary, 1598, in v. ruta, and Cotgrave's French Dictionary, 1611, in v. rue. There is no ground, therefore, for supposing with Dr. Warburton, that rue was called herb of grace, from its being used in exorcisms performed in churches on Sundays.

Ophelia only means, I think, that the Queen may with peculiar propriety on Sundays, when she solicits pardon for that crime which she has so much occasion to rue and repent of, call her rue, herb of grace. So, in King Richard II:

“ Here did she drop a tear; here in this place
“I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace.
Rue, even for ruth, here shortly shall be seen,

“ In the remembrance of a weeping queen.” Ophelia, after having given the Queen rue to remind her of the sorrow and contrition she ought to feel for her incestuous marriage, tells her, she may wear it with a difference, to distinguish it from that worn by Ophelia herself; because her tears flowed from the loss of a father, those of the Queen ought to flow for her guilt. Malone.

7 — you may wear your rue with a difference.) This seems to refer to the rules of heraldry, where the younger brothers of a family bear the same arms with a difference, or mark of distinction. So, in Holinshed's Reign of King Richard II, p. 443: “ – be. cause he was the youngest of the Spensers, he bare a border gules for a difference.

There may, however, be somewhat more implied here than is expressed. You, madam, (says Ophelia to the Queen) may call your RUE by its Sunday name, HERB OF GRACE, and so wear it with a difference to distinguish it from mine, which can never be any thing but merely rue, i. e. sorrow. Steevens.

8 There's a daisy :] Greene, in his Quip for an Upstart Cour. tier, has explained the significance of this flower: “- Next them grew the dissEMBLING DAISIE, to warne such light-of-love wenches not to trust every faire promise that such amorous hachelors make them.” Henley.

9 I would give you some violets; but they wither'd all, when my father died:] So, in Bion's beautiful elegy on the death of Adonis:

πάντα συν αυτω «Ως τήνος τίθνακε, και ανθεα πάντ' έμαράνθη.” Todd. The violet is thus characterized in the old collection of Son. nets above quoted, printed in 1584 :

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »