Page images
PDF
EPUB

Puck.

Thou speak'st aright;"

I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon, and make him smile,
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing, in likeness of a filly foal:
And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab;1
And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her wither'd dew-lap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,

Again, in Spenser's Epithalamion, 1595:

"Ne let house-fyres, nor lightning's helpelesse harms,
"Ne let the pouke, nor other evil spright,

"Ne let mischievous witches with their charmes,
"Ne let hobgoblins," &c.

Again, in the ninth Book of Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, edit. 1587, p. 126:

66

and the country where Chymæra, that same pooke, Steevens.

"Hath goatish bodie," &c.

9 Puck. Thou speak'st aright;] I would fill up the verse, which I suppose the author left complete:

I am, thou speak'st aright;

It seems that, in the fairy mythology, Puck, or Hobgoblin, was the trusty servant of Oberon, and always employed to watch or detect the intrigues of Queen Mab, called by Shakspeare, Tita nia. For, in Drayton's Nymphidia, the same fairies are engaged in the same business. Mab has an amour with Pigwiggen: Obe ron, being jealous, sends Hobgoblin to catch them, and one of Mab's nymphs opposes him by a spell. Johnson.

1 — a roasted crab;] i. e. a wild apple of that name. So, in the anonymous play of King Henry V, &c.

"Yet we will have in store a crab in the fire,

"With nut-brown ale," &c.

Again, in Damon and Pythias, 1582:

"And sit down in my chaire by my wife fair Alison, "And turne a crabbe in the fire," &c.

So, in the old ballad :

"I love no rost, but a nut-brown toast
"And a crab laid in the fire,

"And little bread shall do me stead;
"Much bread I nought desire."

In Summer's Last Will and Testament, 1600, Christmas is described as

66

sitting in a corner, turning crabs,

"Or coughing o'er a warmed pot of ale." Steevens.

And tailor cries,2 and falls into a cough;

And then the whole quire hold their hips, and loffe;3
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear

A merrier hour was never wasted there.-
But room, Faery, here comes Oberon.

Fai, And here my mistress:-'Would that he were
gone!

2 And tailor cries,] The custom of crying tailor, at a sudden fall backwards, I think I remember to have observed. He that slips beside his chair, falls as a tailor squats upon his board. The Oxford editor, and Dr. Warburton after him, read-and rails or cries, plausibly, but I believe not rightly. Besides, the trick of the fairy is represented as producing rather merriment than anger. Johnson.

"Be

This phrase perhaps originated in a pun. Your tail is now on the ground. See Camden's Remaines, 1614, PROVERBS. tween two stools the tayle goeth to the ground." Malone. hold their hips, and loffe;] So, in Milton's L'Allegro: "And laughter holding both his sides." Steevens.

3

4 And waxen -] And encrease, as the moon waxes. Johnson. A feeble sense may be extracted from the foregoing words as they stand; but Dr. Farmer observes to me, that waxen is probably corrupted from yoxen, or yexen. Yoxe Saxon, to hiccup. Yyxyn. Singultio. Prompt. Parv.

Thus, in Chaucer's Reve's Tale, v. 4149:

"He yoxeth, and he speaketh thurgh the nose." Again, in the preface to XII. mery Festes of the Wyddow Edyth. 1575:

"Beside the cough, a bloudy flyx,

"And cuir among a deadly yex."

Again, in Philemon Holland's translation of the 27th Book of Pliny, chap v: "-and also they do stay the excessive yex or hocket."

That yex, however, was a familiar word, so late as the time of Ainsworth the lexicographer, is clear from his having produced it as a translation of the Latin substantive-singultus.

The meaning of the passage before us will then be, that the objects of Puck's waggery laughed till their laughter ended in a yex or hiccup.

It should be remembered, in support of this conjecture, that Puck is at present speaking, with an affectation of ancient phraseology. Steevens.

5 But room, Faery,] Thus the old copies. Some of our modern editors read" But make room, Fairy." The word Fairy, or Faery, was sometimes of three syllables, as often in Spenser.

A a

Johnson.

SCENE II.

Enter OBERON,6 at one door, with his train, and
TITANIA, at another, with hers.

Obe. Ill met by moon-light, proud Titania.
Tita. What, jealous Oberon? Fairy, skip hence;
I have forsworn his bed and company.

Obe. Tarry, rash wanton. Am not I thy lord?
Tita. Then I must be thy lady: But I know
When thou hast stol'n away from fairy land,
And in the shape of Corin sat all day,

8

Playing on pipes of corn, and versing love'
To amorous Phillida. Why art thou here,
Come from the farthest steep of India?
But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,
Your buskin'd mistress, and your warrior love,
To Theseus must be wedded; and you come

6 Enter Oberon,] Oberon had been introduced on the stage in 1594, by some other author. In the Stationers' books is entered "The Scottishe Story of James the fourthe, slain at Flodden, intermixed with a pleasant Comedie, presented by Oberon, King of Fairies." The judicious editor of The Cant. Tales of Chaucer, in his Introductory Discourse, (See Vol. IV, p. 161) observes that Pluto and Proserpina in The Merchant's Tale, appear to have been "the true progenitors of Oberon and Titania.” Steevens.

7 Titania,] As to the Fairy Queen, (says Mr. Warton, in his Observations on Spenser) considered apart from the race of fairies, Chaucer, in his Rime of Sir Thopas, mentions her, together with a Fairy land. Again, in The Wif of Bathes Tale, v. 6439: "In olde dayes of the king Artour,

"Of which that Bretons speken gret honour;
"All was this lond fulfilled of faerie;
"The Elf-quene, with hire joly compagnie
"Danced ful oft in many a grene mede:

"This was the old opinion as I rede." Steevens.

of

8 Playing on pipes of corn,] Richard Brathwaite (Strappado "for the Devil, 1615,) has a poem addressed "To the queen harvest, &c. much honoured by the reed, corn-pipe, and whistle:" and it must be remembered, that the shepherd boys of Chaucer's time, had

9

[ocr errors]

many a floite and lilting horne,

"And pipés made of greené corne.” Ritson.

➡versing love—] Perhaps Prior was the last, who employed this verb:

"And Mat mote praise what Topaz verseth." Steevens.

[ocr errors]

To give their bed joy and prosperity.

Obe. How canst thou thus, for shame, Titania,
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?

Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night1
From Perigenia, whom he ravished?2

And make him with fair Æglé break his faith,
With Ariadne, and Antiopa?

Tita. These are the forgeries of jealousy:
And never, since the middle summer's spring,3

1 Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night-] The glimmering night is the night, faintly illuminated by stars. In Macbeth our author says:

"The west yet glimmers with some streaks of day." Steevens. 2 From Perigenia, whom he ravished?] Thus all the editors; but our author who diligently perused Plutarch, and gleaned from him, where his subject would admit, knew, from the life of Theseus, that her name was Perygine, (or Perigune,) by whom Theseus had his son Melanippus, She was the daughter of Sinnis, a cruel robber, and tormenter of passengers in the Isthmus. Plutarch and Athenæus are both express in the circumstance of Theseus ravishing her. Theobald.

In North's translation of Plutarch (Life of Theseus) this lady is called Perigouna. The alteration was probably intentional, for the sake of harmony. Her real name was Perigune. Malone. Aglé, Ariadne, and Antiopa, were all at different times mistresses to Theseus. See Plutarch.

Theobald cannot be blamed for his emendation; and yet it is well known that our ancient authors, as well as the French and the Italians, were not scrupulously nice about proper names, but almost always corrupted them. Steevens.

And never, since the middle summer's spring, &c.] By the middle summer's spring, our author seems to mean the beginning of middle or mid summer. Spring, for beginning, he uses again in King Henry IV, P. II:

[ocr errors]

"As flaws congealed in the spring of day:"

which expression has authority from the scripture, St. Luke, i, 78: whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us." Again, in the romance of Kyng Appolyn of Thyre, 1510:

[ocr errors]

arose in a mornynge at the sprynge of the day," &c. Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. III, c. x:.

"He wooed her till day-spring he espyde." Steevens. So Holinshed, p. 494: "the morrowe after about the spring of the daie." Malone.

The middle summer's spring, is, I apprehend, the season when trees put forth their second, or, as they are frequently called, their midsummer shoots. Thus, Evelyn in his Silva: "Cut off

4

Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or on the beached margent of the sea,

To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land,
Have every pelting river made so proud,
That they have overborne their continents:7

all the side boughs, and especially at midsummer, if you spy them breaking out." And again, "Where the rows and brush lie longer than midsummer, unbound, or made up, you endanger the loss of the second spring." Henley.

4 Paved fountain,] A fountain laid round the edge with stone.

Johnson. Perhaps paved at the bottom. So, Lord Bacon in his Essay on Gardens: "As for the other kind of fountaine, which we may call a bathing-poole, it may admit much curiosity and beauty As that the bottom be finely paved. . . . the sides likewise," &c. Steevens.

The epithet seems here intended to mean no more than that the beds of these fountains were covered with pebbles, in oppo. sition to those of the rushy brooks, which are oozy.

The same expression is used by Sylvester in a similar sense: "By some cleare river's lillie-paved side."

5 the winds, piping-] So, Milton:

Henley.

"While rocking winds are piping loud." Johnson. And Gawin Douglas, in his translation of the Æneid, p. 69, 1710, fol. Edinb.

"The soft piping wynd calling to se."

The Glossographer observes, "we say a piping wind, when an ordinary gale blows, and the wind is neither too loud, nor too calm.” Holt White.

6

·pelting river -] Thus the quartos: the folio reads— petty. Shakspeare has in Lear the same word, low pelting farms. The meaning is plainly, despicable, mean, sorry, wretched, but as it is a word, without any reasonable etymology, I should be glad to dismiss it for petty: yet it is undoubtedly right. We have "petty pelting officer" in Measure for Measure. Johnson. So, in Gascoigne's Glass of Government, 1575:

"Doway is a pelting town pack'd full of poor scholars.", This word is always used as a word of contempt. So, again, in Lyly's Midas, 1592: " - attire never used but of old women and pelting priests." Steevens.

7 overborne their continents:] Borne down the banks, that contain them. So, in Lear:

« PreviousContinue »