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"In Spenser's 'Epithaliam,' (1595:)—
Ne let house-fyres, nor lightning's helpelesse harms,
Again, in the ninth book of Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses,' (1587 :)—
and the country where Chymæra, that same pooke, Hath goatish bodie," etc. STEVENS. We have a New-York Americanism, which comes through the Dutch, from the same root-spook; meaning, any fearful and supernatural visitor, though generally a ghost. Ben Jonson calls his Robin Goodfellow, whose occupations are described as resembling Puck's, Pug, in the play of which Pug is the hero, ("The Devil is an Ass.") Burton ("Anatomy of Melancholy") soon after speaks of a Puck as a peculiar sort of demon, like a ** Will of the Wisp." It would appear, therefore, to have been already long a familiar name, and not of the Poet's invention. Yet there is a curious coincidence between the name and a similar sounding one familiar to the language of our North American Indians, and connected with a similar playful superstition:
An ingenious attempt has been made by our countrywoman, Mrs. E. Oakes Smith, to identify the Puck of Shakespeare with a noted personage, of similar name, who figures in our aboriginal mythology. Her theory is based upon the curious Indian researches of H. R. Schoolcraft, Esq., published some years since in New York. Puck-pa-wis, it seems, is the name of a mythological character who figures in the fictitious lodgelegends of the Algonquins; whose language, now the principal tongue among the lake-tribes of the northwest, formerly prevailed, with some variations of dialect, from the St. Lawrence to the Roanoke, at the time when those regions were visited by Raleigh, and other contemporaries of Shakespeare. Puck-pa-wis (according to Schoolcraft) is always represented as “a roving, jumping, dancing, adventure-hunting character-a kind of harum-scarum merry-Andrew, who performs all sorts of feats and pranks." He figures sometimes alone, but frequently has an attendant company of sprites called Puck-wudj-inninees"-an epithet commonly translated "the little vanishers," or, to render it more clearly, (inninee being the diminutive form of the term for man,) "the little wild vanishing men of the woods." They are described as inhabiting rocky ledges and crevices, or frequenting rural and romantic points of land on lakes, bays, and rivers, particularly if they be crowned with pine-trees. They are depicted, in the oral language of the Algonquins, as flitting among thickets, or running with a whoop up the sides of mountains, and over plains. Puck-pa-wis, the chief of the troop, is sometimes described as carrying a magic shell; sometimes he is tossing a tiny ball before him. He is always represented as very small, and frequently being invisible-vanishing and re-appearing to those whom he visits with his pranks. (See SCHOOLCRAFT'S "Algic Researches.")
"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."-JOHNSON.
"WAXEN in their mirth"-Dr. Farmer's conjecture, that "waxen" is a misprint for yexen, (i. e. hiccup,) makes a broader picture. However, "waxen," as the old plural of wax, is also comic enough. They increase their mirth, without new cause, till they sneeze. "Neeze" is the antiquated spelling of sneeze, and retained as late as our common version of the Bible.
"PERIGENIA, whom he ravished"-Her true nam seems to have been Perigone. North, in his Translation of Plutarch," (1579,) calls her Perigouna. This last would have suited Shakespeare's verse as well as Perigenia," and perhaps he did not procure the name from North's "Plutarch."
"the MIDDLE SUMMER'S SPRING"-The "spring" is the beginning; as the spring of the day-a common
expression in our early writers. The "middle summer" is the midsummer.
"PAVED fountain"-A “fountain," or clear stream. rushing over pebbles-certainly not an artificially "paved fountain," as Johnson has supposed. The paved foun tain is contrasted with the rushy brook. The epithet "paved" is used in the same sense as in the "pearlpaved ford" of Drayton, the "pebble-paved channel" of Marlowe, and the "coral-paven bed" of Milton.
"the winds, piping to us in vain"-In Churchyard's "Charitie," a poem published in 1595, the “distemperature" of that year is thus described :
A colder time in world was never seen:
This "progeny of evils" has been recorded by the theologians as well as the poets. In Strype's "Annals," we have an extract from a lecture preached by Dr. J. King, in which are enumerated the signs of divine wrath with which England was visited in 1593 and 1594. The lecturer says:-"Remember that the spring (that year when the plague broke out) was very unkind, by means of the abundance of rains that fell. Our July hath been like to a February; our June even as an April: so that the air must needs be infected." Then, having spoken of three successive years of scarcity, he adds-" And see, whether the Lord doth not threaten us much more, by sending such unseasonable weather, and storms of rain among us: which if we will observe, and compare it with that which is past, we may say that the course of nature is very much inverted. Our years are turned upside down. Our summers are no summers: our harvests are no harvests: our seed-times are no seed-times. For a great space of time, scant any day hath been seen that it hath not rained upon us."
"Contagious fogs; which falling in the land"—The manuscript diary of the theatrical astrologist, Dr. For man, which has recently thrown so much light on Shakespearian chronology, as our readers will find in various parts of this edition, (see CYMBELINE," Introductory Remarks,") gives an account of the weather in 1594, which translates into homely prose the fairy poetry of
the dramatist :—
"Ther was moch sicknes but lyttle death, moch fruit, and many plombs of all sorts this yeare and small nuts, but fewe walnuts. This monethes of June and July were very wet and wonderfull cold like winter, that the 10 dae of Julii many did syt by the fyer, yt was so cold; and soe was yt in Maye and June; and scarce too fair dais together all that tyme, but yt rayned every day more or lesse. Yf yt did not raine, then was yt cold and cloudye. Mani murders were done this quarter. There were many gret fludes this sommer, and about Michelmas, thorowe the abundaunce of raine that fell sodeinly, the brige of Ware was broken downe, and at Stratford Bowe, the water was never seen so byg as yt was: and in the lattere end of October, the waters burst down the bridg at Cambridge. In Barkshire were many gret waters, wherewith was moch harm done sodenly."
Within this is another square, every side of which is parallel to the external square; and these squares are joined by lines drawn from each corner of both squares, and the middle of each line. One party, or player, has wooden pegs, the other stones, which they move in such a manner as to take up each other's men, as they are called; and the area of the inner square is called the pound, in which the men taken up are impounded. The figures are, by the country-people, called 'Nine Men's Morris,' or Merrils: and are so called because each party has nine men."
"HUMAN MORTALS"-This expression has been supposed to indicate the difference between mankind and fairy-kind, in the following manner-that they were each mortal, but that the less spiritual beings were distinguished as human. Upon this assertion of Stevens, Ritson and Reed enter into fierce controversy. Chapman, in his "Homer," has an inversion of the phrase, "mortal humans;" and we suppose that, in the same way, whether Titania were, or were not, subject to death, she employed the language of poetry in speaking of "human mortals," without reference to the conditions of fairy existence.
- their winter HERE"-"The emendation proposed by Theobald, their winter cheer,' is plausible. The original reading is—
The humane mortals want their winter heere. Johnson says 'here' means in this country, and their 'winter' signifies their winter evening sports. The ingenious author of a pamphlet, Explanations and Emendations,' etc., (Edinburgh, 1814,) would read—
The human mortals want; their winter here, No night is now with hymn or carol blest.
The writer does not support his emendation by any argument; but we believe that he is right. The swollen rivers have rotted the corn, the fold stands empty, the flocks are murrain, the sports of summer are at an end, the human mortals want. This is the climax. Their winter is here-is come-although the season is the latter summer, or autumn; and in consequence the hymns and carols which gladdened the nights of a seasonable winter are wanting to this premature one. The therefore which follows introduces another clause in the catalogue of evils produced by the brawls of Oberon and Titania; as in the case of the preceding use of the same emphatic word in two instances:—
Therefore, the winds, piping to us in vain, etc.
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain," etc. KNIGHT.
"on old Hyems' CHIN, and icy crown"-This line is printed in all the older editions, as well as the modern
And on old Hyem's chin, and icy crown
which does not show any necessity of conjectural emendation. The image of the snowy beard of Winter, as well as his "icy crown," being wreathed with "sweet summer buds," is sufficiently clear, as well as poetical, and suits the personification of Hyem. Thus, in Golding's "Ovid," a great storehouse of the mythology and poetical imagery of the Elizabethan poets, we have
Winter forlorne, Forladen with the icicles that dangled up and downe, Upon his gray and hoarie beard, and snowy frozen crowne. This has, with much probability, been thought to have suggested the present image-chin being used, with little stretch of poetical license, for beard. Yet there is some ground for the emendation insisted upon by Gifford and Dyce-" Hyems, with a chaplet of summer buds upon his chin, (says Dyce,) is a grotesque figure, which must startle the dullest reader." "What child (says Gifford) does not see that the line should be
And on old Hyems' thin and icy crown!" Certainly thinne, the old spelling, may have been misprinted chinne; and we have in RICHARD II. a similar phraseology:
White beards have armed their thin and hairless scalps.
Still I do not think this sufficient to disturb the authority of three original editions, concurring in an image which has, I believe, been used by ancient poets, and certainly by modern painters.
"The CHILDING autumn"-i. e. Productive, teeming. or pregnant; as the Poet has in his " Sonnets:"The teeming autumn big with rich increase.
"a fair VESTAL"-It is well known that a compliment to Queen Elizabeth was intended in this very beautiful passage. Warburton has attempted to show, that by the mermaid, in the preceding lines, Mary. Queen of Scots, was intended. It is argued with his usual fanciful ingenuity, but will not bear the test of examination, and has been refuted by Ritson. Whiter, in his ingenious attempt to trace the association of ideas, which prompted many of Shakespeare's allusions and images, maintains that these images were derived from the masques and pageants which abounded in that age; and that the Poet even may have alluded to some actual exhibition of splendid court-flattery.
"LOVE-IN-IDLENESS"-The tri-coloured violet, commonly called pansies, or heart's-ease, is here meant. One or two of its petals are of a purple colour. It has other fanciful and expressive names, such as-" Cuddle me to you," "Three faces under a hood," "Herb trinity," etc.
"The one I'll STAY"-This is the invariable reading of the old copies. Theobald, followed by most of the editors, changed it to
The one I'll slay, the other slayeth me. But the old reading does not need this violent change of sense, though the verbal change may be small. He will not allow Helena to "stay" him, but he will "stay" (stop) Hermia: Lysander "stayeth" (hindereth) him.
"LUSCIOUS woodbine"-In the editions of Stevens. and those who follow his text, for the sake of closer regularity of metre, with little regard to its melody, the "luscious woodbine" of the old copies is changed into lush woodbine.
Thou shall know the MAN
"I desire no surer evidence to prove that the broad Scotch pronunciation once prevailed in England, than such a rhyme as the first of these words affords to the second."-STEVENS.
There is an ultraism of the long slender sound of a, which has of late become an affectation among some speakers; and this, it is clear, could not rhyme with on. But man, with the a sounded as in tan, hat, is among the purest English sounds, as can be shown from numerous rhymes which would not allow the sound of mon. The latitude of an occasional rhyme like this is a common poetical license-like that in Puck's speech, (act iii. scene 2,) where one rhymes with alone.
— now a ROUNDEL"-The "roundel," or round, as its name implies, was a dance of a circular kind. Ben Jonson, in the Tale of a Tub," seems to call the rings. which such fairy dances are supposed to make in the grass, rondels
I'll have no rondels, I, in the queen's paths.
"Love takes the meaning in love's conference"-i. e. "In the conversation of those who are assured of each other's kindness, not suspicion, but love takes the meaning. No malevolent interpretation is to be made, but all is to be received in the sense which love can find, and which love can dictate."-JOHNSON.
wilt thou DARKLING leave me"-i. e. In the dark, a word found also in LEAR, and in Milton. It is now antiquated to the general reader, though Johnson, in his
noble poem, the " Vanity of Human Wishes," attempted pleased the queen better than if it had gone through in to revive it
Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate.
"Speak, OF ALL LOVES"-"Of all loves" is a pleasing adjuration used by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. it may be found in OTHELLO.
the right way; yet he could order his voice to an instrument exceeding well.' It is by no means improbable that Shakespeare was familiar with this local anecdote, and has applied it in the case of Snug, the joiner.' Bottom, and Quince, and the other hard-handed men,' must also have been exceedingly like the citizens of Coventry, who played their Hock play before the queen, on the memorable occasion of her visit to their neighbourhood."-KNIGHT.
ACT III.-SCENE I.
- in EIGHT and six"-i. e. In alternate verse of eight and six syllables.
"-a lion among ladies, is a most dreadful thing"There is an odd coincidence between this passage and a real occurrence at the Scottish court, in 1594. Prince Henry, the oldest son of James the First, was christened in August, in that year. While the king and queen were at dinner, a triumphal chariot, with several allegorical personages on it, was drawn in "by a blackmoore. This chariot should have been drawn in by a lyon, but because his presence might have brought some fear to the nearest, or that the sight of the lighted torches might have commoved his tameness, it was thought meet that the Moore should supply that roome."
"-CUES and all"-Untheatrical readers may require to be informed that in Shakespeare's day, as at present, a cue, technically, is the last word of the preceding speech, from which the next speaker commences.
"A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire"-So, in "Robin Good-fellow, his Mad Pranks and Merry Jests," reprinted by the Percy Society
Thou hast the power to change thy shape
And in the ballad in the "Introduction" to the same
"-tell them plainly he is Snug, the joiner"-"This passage will suggest to our readers Sir Walter Scott's description of the pageant at Kenilworth, when Lambourne, not knowing his part, tore off his vizard, and swore, Cogs-bones! he was none of Arion or Orion either, but honest Mike Lambourne, that had been
"The OOSEL-COCK, so black of hue"-By the "ooselcock," in Shakespeare's day, was meant the black-bird, and not another bird which has in later days been known as the oosel-cock. Yarrell states, ("British Birds," i. 211,) of the black-bird, "the beak and the edges of the eye-lids in the adult male are gamboge
drinking her majesty's health from morning till mid-yellow," which is what Bottom means by "orange
night, and was come to bid her heartily welcome to Kenilworth Castle.' But a circumstance of this nature actually happened upon the queen's visit to Kenilworth, in 1575; and is recorded in the 'Merry Passages and Jests,' compiled by Sir Nicholas Lestrange, and lately published by the Camden Society, from the Harleian MS.:-There was a spectacle presented to Queen Elizabeth upon the water, and, among others, Harry Goldingham was to represent Arion upon the dolphin's back, but finding his voice to be very hoarse and unpleasant when he came to perform it, he tears off his disguise and swears he was none of Arion, not he, but even honest Harry Goldingham; which blunt discovery
Sometimes a walking fire he'd be,
PLAIN-SONG cuckoo"-The "cuckoo," having no variety of note, sings in "plain song," (plano cantu;) by which expression the uniform modulation or simplicity of the chant was distinguished in opposition to pricksong, or variated music sung by note.
-I can GLEEK"-To "gleek" is to joke, scoff, or gird. Bottom is congratulating himself on the humour of what he has just said.
"Be kind and courteous to this gentleman"-Hazlitt happily contrasts this exquisitely fanciful passage with the spirited freshness of the dialogue between Theseus
and Hippolyta, in the hunting-scene, in the fourth act, which is as heroical and spirited as the other is full of luscious tenderness:-"The reading of this play is like wandering in a grove by moonlight; the descriptions breathe a sweetness like odours thrown from the beds of flowers. Titania's exhortation to the fairies to wait upon Bottom is remarkable for a certain cloying sweetness, in the repetition of the rhymes. The sounds of the lute and of the trumpet are not more distinct than the poetry of this passage, and of the conversation between Theseus and Hippolyta."
- light them at the fiery glow-worm's EYES"'Shakespeare was certainly a much truer lover of nature, and therefore a much better naturalist, than Dr. Johnson, who indeed professed to despise such studies; but the critic has, nevertheless, ventured in this instance to be severe upon the Poet:-'I know not how Shakespeare, who commonly derived his knowledge of nature from his own observation, happened to place the glowworm's light in his eyes, which is only in his tail.' Well, then, let us correct the Poet, and make Titania describe the glow-worm with a hatred of all metaphorAnd light them at the fiery glow-worm's tail. We fear this will not do. It reminds us of the attempt of a very eminent naturalist to unite science and poetry in verses which he called the Pleasures of Ornithology,' of which union the following is a specimen :
Thou, Porrex, thou shalt dearly 'by the same.
"is all forgot"-Gibbon points out in a poem of Gregory Nazianzen (a Greek father of the fourth century) on his own life, some beautiful lines, which burst from the heart, and speak the pangs of injured and lost friendship, resembling these. He adds"Shakespeare had never read the poems of Gregory Nazianzen: he was ignorant of the Greek language; but his mother tongue, the language of nature, is the same in Cappadocia as in Britain."
"ARTIFICIAL gods"—" Artificial" is used actively, as artist or artificer-like-a sense not found elsewhere,
and indicating a familiarity with its primitive Latin meaning.
like coats in heraldry"-In the Poet's day. heraldry was part of the familiar learning of all, and this passage doubtless needed no illustration. But modern heralds and commentators differ as to the allusion. Mr. Douce's solution of it is, perhaps, the best:'Helen says, we had two seeming bodies, but only one heart." She then exemplifies the position by a simile- we had two of the first, (i. e. bodies,) like the double coats in heraldry that belong to man and wife. as one person, but which, like one single heart, have but one crest."
No, no, SIR"-There is some difference of the text here. The quartos, differing only in their metrical arrangement, have
No, no, he'll Seem to break loose; take on, as you would follow. The folios give the passage thus::
No, no, sir, seem to break loose. The last seems preferable in sense.
- the eastern gate, all fiery-red"-This splendid passage was perhaps suggested by some lines in Chaucer's" Knight's Tale:"
The besy larke, the messager of day,
"Ho! ho! ho!"-This is Puck's exclamation in the ballads and tracts relating to him, especially in "Robin Good-fellow, his Mad Pranks and Merry Jests," (1628,) where it often occurs, when the Goblin is peculiarly pleased at the success of any of his tricks.
"—and all shall be well"-This is the "country proverb" Puck alludes to before. It is to be found among John Heywood's "Epigrams, or Three Hundred Proverbs."
"DEM., HEL., etc., sleep"-The old stage-direction in the folio is, "They sleep all the Act;" meaning that they are supposed to continue asleep during the interval between the third and fourth acts; and they are still sleeping at the opening of the fourth act, until they are suddenly roused by the horns of Theseus's huntsmen.
ACT IV.-SCENE I.
"-do coy"-i. e. Stroke, or caress.
"Give me your NEIF"-i. e. Fist. Ben Jonson has it neuf, in his "Poetaster." Pistol also uses it in HENRY IV. It is still a north-country word.
So doth the woodbine, the sweet honeysuckle, Gently entwist-the female ivy so
Enrings the barky fingers of the elm.
This is certainly very different from the usual Shakespearian construction. Nor is our Poet fond of expleIf the 'elm' is the only plant entwisted and enringed, we have only one image. But if the woodbine' is not meant to be indentical with the honeysuckle,' we have two images, each distinct and each beautiful. Gifford pointed out the true meaning of the passage, in his note upon a parallel passage in Ben Jonson:
How the blue bindweed doth itself enfold
In many of our counties (says Gifford) the woodbine is still the name for the great convolvulus."
With this exposition of Gifford and Knight, Mr. Nares, a high authority, ("Glossary," word Woodbine,) concurs. But, agreeing with them in rejecting the punctuation and understanding of the "sweet honeysuckle" as a mere expletive phrase, I yet doubt their botanical explanation. I think it certain that the distinction intended is that well known in the Poet's age, between the woodbine, as the plant itself, and the honeysuckle as its flower. Baret, in his Dictionary, (1580,) so defines them-" The woodbine that beareth the honeysuckle;" and some years later we find the distinction used in dramatic poetry. In the "Fatal Union," (1640,) we have
--a honeysuckle, The amorous woodbine's offspring.
"Dian's bud o'er Cupid's flower"-" Dian's bud” is the bud of the agnus castus, or chaste-tree. In " Macer's Herbal," by Lynacre, it is said-"The virtue of this hearbe is, that it will keep man and woman chaste." Cupid's flower" is that on which the "bolt of Cupid fell"-the viola tri-colour, dove-in-idleness, or heart's
Stubbs, in his "Anatomie of Abuses," (1585,) thus speaks of the general spirit of revelry which at this season took possession of the community, in his day :
Against May, Whit-Sunday, or some other time of the year, every parish, town, and village, assemble themselves together, both men, women and children, old and young, even all indifferently; and either going all together, or dividing themselves into companies, they go some to the woods and groves, some to the hills and mountains, some to one place, some to another, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes; and in the morning they return, bringing with them birch-boughs and branches of trees, to deck their assemblies withal."
Marvellous as it may seem, all this innocent hilarity appears to be so much heathenism to Stubbs.
Chaucer, in his “Knight's Tale," (from which Shakespeare is supposed to have derived his Theseus and Hippolyta,) has some beautiful lines in reference to the rites of May:—
Thus passeth yere by yere, and day by day,
And maketh him out of his slepe to starte,
And sayth, "Arise, and do thine observance."
the VAWARD of the day"-i. e. The early part of the day; the van-ward.