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Romeo and Juliet (act ii. sc. 4). The third has not been traced to its source, but the fourth, and the subsequent lines, are taken, with a little variation, from Corydon's Farewell to Phillis," published in a little black letter miscellany, called "The Golden Garland of Princely Delights," and reprinted entire by Dr. Percy. *
In act iv. sc. 2, the clown is introduced singing part of the two first stanzas of a song which has been discovered among the ancient MSS. of Dr. Harrington of Bath, and there ascribed, though perhaps not correctly, to Sir Thomas Wyatt. It is evident that Shakspeare trusted to his memory in the quotation of these popular pieces, for most of them deviate, in some degree, from the originals; in the present instance, the first two lines, as given by the clown,
The commencement of a madrigal, the composition of William Elderton, is sung by Benedict, in Much Ado about Nothing.
"The god of love,
That sits above," &c.
and a song beginning in a similar manner, is mentioned by Mr. Ritson, to be in "Bacchus' Bountie," 4to. bl. 1. 1593; Elderton's production was parodied by a puritan of the name of Birch, under the title of "The Complaint of a Sinner." In Love's Labour's Lost, a sweet air, as Armado terms it, commencing with the word "Concolinel," is sung by Moth (act iii. sc. 1), but no further intimation is given; and in another part of the same comedy, the burden of an ancient ditty is chaunted by Roseline and Boyet (act iv. sc. 1). In As You Like It, Touchstone quotes a stanza from a ballad of which the first line is "O sweet Oliver," and which appears to be the same with the ballad of
"O sweete Olyver,
Leave me not behinde thee,
entered by Richard Jones, on the books of the Stationers' Company, August 6th, 1584; and in the subsequent act, Orlando alludes to a madrigal under the title of Wit whither wilt. Act iv. sc. 1.
All's Well that Ends Well affords but two passages from the minstrel poesy of the day, which are put into the mouth of the clown; one of these is evidently 'aken from a ballad on the Sacking of Troy, and the other seems to be the chorus of a song on courtship or marriage. Act. i. sc. 3.
From the Taming of the Shrew we collect the initial lines of two apparently very popular ballads; the first beginning "Where is the life that late I led,”‡ which is likewise quoted by Ancient Pistol, and referred to in "A gorgious Gallery of gallant Inventions," 4to. 1578; there is also a song or sonnet with this title, observes Mr. Malone, in "a handeful of pleasant Delites, containing
Reliques, vol i. p. 220.
Act iv. se. 1.-There appears to be allusions to two catches in this scene. Grumio exclaims "fire, fre; cast on no water," which Judge Blackstone traces to the following old catch in three parts:—
"Scotland burneth, Scotland burneth.
Cast on some more water."
Grumio a little afterwards calls out, "Why, Jack boy! ho boy!" the beginning, as Sir John Hawkins a serts, of an old round in three parts, of which he has given us the musical notes.
sundrie new Sonets," etc. 1584, where we read of "Dame Beautie's replie to the lover late at libertie, and now complaineth himselfe to be her captive, intituled, Where is the life that late I led :
"The life that erst thou led'st, my friend,
Was pleasant to thine eyes," &c.
The second fragment with which Petruchio has favoured us, commencing
has given rise to one of the most pleasing and pathetic of modern ballads, founded on a professed introduction of as many of our poet's ballad fragments as could consistently be adapted. "Dispersed through Shakspeare's plays," says the ingenious associator, are innumerable little fragments of ancient ballads, the entire copies of which could not be recovered. Many of these being of the most beautiful and pathetic simplicity, the editor was tempted to select some of them, and with a few supplemental stanzas to connect them together, and form them into a little Tale.' That much taste and poetic spirit, together with a very successful effort in combination, have been exhibited in this little piece, the public approbation has unequivocally decided.
To the character of Autolycus, in the Winter's Tale, a very humorous exemplar of the fallen state of the minstrel tribe, we are indebted for some illustration of the prevalency of ballad-writing at the commencement of the reign of James the First. Most of the songs attributed to this adroit rogue, are, there is reason to think, the composition of Shakspeare, with the exception of the catch beginning "Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way (act iv. sc. 2); but, in his capacity ballad-vender, he throws considerable light on the subject to which these motley strains were devoted. He is represented as having ballads of all descriptions, and the "prettiest love-songs for maids"-" and where some stretched-mouthed rascal would, as it were, mean mischief, and break a foul gap into the matter, he makes the maid to answer, Whoop, do me no harm, good man; puts him off, slights him, with Whoop, do me no harm, good man." Accordingly at the Fair he is applied to for these precious wares:—
Percy's Reliques, vol. i. p. 259.
† Act iv. sc. 3.-We shall add, in this note, in order to complete the catalogue, all the fragments of ancient minstrelsy that have escaped our enumeration in the text.
In Troilus and Cressida, Pandarus, lamenting the approaching departure of Cressida, expresses sorrow by quoting an old song beginning
"O heart, o heart, o heavy heart,
Why sigh'st thou without breaking."
Hamlet, bantering Polonius, quotes part of the first stanza of a ballad entitled, Jephtha, Judge of Israel. This has been published by Dr. Percy, retrieved, as he relates, from utter oblivion by a lady, who wrote it down from memory as she had formerly heard it sung by her father.-Percy's Reliques, vol. La p. 189. It is probable that Hamlet, who appears to have been well versed in ballad-lore, has again introduced two morsels from this source, in his dialogue with Horatio on the conduct of the king at the play: the strongly mark his triumph in the success of his plan for unmasking the crimes of his uncle :—
"Why let the strucken deer go weep," &c.
"For thou dost know, O Damon dear," &c.
Jago in the drunken scene with Cassio, in the view of adding to his exhilaration, sings a portion of tus songs; the first apparently a chorus,—
"And let me the canakin, clink, clink," &c.
"King Stephen was a worthy peer."
from a humorous ballad of Scotch origin, preserved by Percy in his Reliques, vol. i. p. 204.
Mercutio, in the following passage, alludes to two ballads of considerable
"Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim,
the first line referring to the celebrated ballad of "Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and Witham of
"Clo. What hast here? ballads ?
Mop. Pray now, buy some: I love a ballad in print, a'-life for then we are sure they are true. Aut. Here's one to a very doleful tune, How a usurer's wife was brought to bed of twenty money-bags at a burden; and how she longed to eat adder's heads, and toads carbonadoed.
Mop. Is it true, think you?
Aut. Very true; and but a month old.
Dor. Bless me from marrying a usurer!
Aut. Here's the midwife's name to't, one mistress Taleporter; and five or six honest wives that were present: why should I carry lies abroad?
Mop. 'Pray you now, buy it.
Clo. Come on, lay it by: And let's first see more ballads; we'll buy the other things anon.
Aut. Here's another ballad, Of a fish, that appeared upon the coast, on Wednesday the fourscore of April, forty thousand fathom above water, and sung this ballad against the hard hearts of maids: it was thought she was a woman, and was turned into a cold fish, for she would not exchange flesh with one that loved her: the ballad is very pitiful, and as true.
Dor. Is it true, think you?
Aut. Five justices' hands at it; and witnesses, more than my pack will hold.
Clo. Lay it by too: Another.
Aut. This is a merry ballad; but a very pretty one.
Mop. Let's have some merry ones.
Aut. Why, this is a passing merry one; and goes to the tune of, Two maids wooing a man: there's scarce a maid westward, but she sings it; 'tis in request, I can tell you."-Act iv. sc. 3.
The request, in fact, for these popular pieces of poetry was then infinitely greater than has since been obtained in more modern times; not a murder, or an execution, not a battle or a tempest, not a wonderful event or a laughable adventure, could occur, but what was immediately thrown into the form of a ballad, and the muse supplied what humble prose now details to us among the miscellaneous articles of a newspaper; a statement which is fully confirmed by the observation of another character in this very play, who tells us that "such a deal of wonder is broken out within this hour, that ballad-makers cannot be able to express it."-Act v. sc. 2.
In the Second Part of King Henry the Fourth, Falstaff enters a room, in the Boar's Head Tavern, singing the first two lines of a ballad which Dr. Percy has reprinted under the title of "Sir Lancelot Du Lake." This, which is merely a metrical version of three chapters from the first part of Morte Arthur, is quoted imperfectly by the knight, owing to the interruptions attending his situation; the opening lines of the ballad are,
which Falstaff mutilates and alters, by omitting the last word of the first line, and Converting approved into worthy; the version and quotation, it may be remarked, are strong proofs of the popularity of the romance,
To the admirably drawn character of Silence in this play, we are indebted for several valuable fragments of popular poesy. This curious personage, who, when sober, has not a word to say, is no sooner exhilarated by the circling glass, than he chaunts forth an abundance of unconnected stanzas from the minstrelsy of his times. Having nothing original in his ideas, no fund of his own on which to draw, he marks his festivity by the vociferous repetition of scraps of catches, songs, and glees. We may, therefore, conceive the poet to have appropriated to this simple justice in his cups, the most generally known and, of course, the favourite, convivial songs of the age. They are of such a character, indeed, as to
Cloudesly," and the second to "King Cophetua and the Beggar-Maid;" popular pieces which are again the objects of allusion in " Much Ado about Nothing," act i.; and in the Second Part of Henry IV. act v. 3-Percy's Reliques vol. i. pp. 154, 198.
The same play will afford us three or four additional references; Mercutio, ridiculing the old Nurse, gives us a ludicrous fragment commencing "An old hare hoar," vol. xx p. 116; and Peter, after calling for two songs called “Heart's ease," and "My heart is full of woe," attempts to puzzle the musicians by asking for an explanation of the epithet silver in the first stanza of "A Song to the Lute in Musicke," written by Richard Edwards, in the “Paradise of Daintie Devises," and commencing,
warrant the belief, that there was not a hall in Shakspeare's days but what had echoed to these jovial strains; a conclusion which almost imperatively calls for the admission of a few, as specimens of the vocal hilarity of our ancestors, when warmed, according to Shallow's confession, by " too much sack at supper."
Do nothing but eat and make good cheer,
And ever among so merrily.
Fal. There's a merry heart!-Good master Silence, I'll give you a health for that anon.
Be merry, be merry, &c.
Fal. I did not think, master Silence had been a man of this mettle.
Well said, master Silence.
Sil. And we shall be merry ;-now comes in the sweet of the night.
Sil. Fill the cup and let it come;
I'll pledge you a mile to the bottom."
Act v. sc. 3.
After drinking another bumper, and singing another song, allusive to the rights of pledging, "Do me right, And dub me knight"; and quoting the old ballad of Robin Hood, and the Pindar of Wakefield, master Silence is carried to bed, fully saturated with sack and good cheer.
A character equally versed in minstrel lore, and equally prodigal of his stock, though wanting the excuse of inebriation, has been drawn by Beaumont and Fletcher, in the of person Old Merry thought in their "Knight of the Burning Pestle," printed in the year 1613; but, in point of nature and humour, it is a picture which falls infinitely short of Shakspeare's sketch.
Many of the old songs, or rather the fragments, of them, which are scattered through the dramas of our poet, either proceed from the professed clown or fool of the play, or are given as the wild and desultory recollections of derangement, real or feigned; the ebullitions of a broken heart, and the unconnected sallies of a disordered mind.
Shakspeare's fools may be considered, in fact, as exact copies of the living manners and costume of these singular personages, who, in his era, formed a necessary part of the household establishment of the great. To the due execution of their functions, a lively fancy, and a copious fund of wit and sarcasm, together with an unlimited license of uttering what imagination and the occasion prompted. were essential; but it was likewise required, that bitterness of allusion, and aspe rity of remark, should be softened by the constant assumption of a playful and unintentional manner. For this purpose, the indirect method of quotation, and generally from ludicrous songs and ballads, is resorted to, with the evident intention of covering what would otherwise have been too naked and too severely felt. Thus, in an old play, entitled "A very mery and pythie Comedy, called, The longer thou livest the more Foole thou art," printed about 1580, the appearance of a character of this description is prefaced by the following stage-note:-" Entreth Moros, counterfaiting a vaine gesture and a foolish countenance, synging the foote of many songs, as fools were wont."
The simple yet sarcastic drollery of the fool, and the wild ravings of the madman, have been alike employed by Shakspeare, to deepen the gloom of distress. In the
* Dear is here to be remembered in its double sense.-Farmer.
My wife's as all, that is, as all women are.-Steevens.
tragedy of Lear it is difficult to ascertain whether the horrors of the scene are more heightened by the seeming thoughtless levity of the former, or by the delirious imagery of the latter. The greater part of the bitterly sportive metres, attributed to the fool, in this drama, appears evidently to have been written for the character; and as the reliques drawn from more ancient minstrelsy seem rather the foot or burden of each song than the commencement, and are at the same time of little poetical value, we shall forbear enumerating them. The fragments, however, allotted to Edgar are both characteristic and apparently initial; the line which Mr. Steevens asserts to have seen in an old ballad,
Through the sharp hawthown blows the cold wind,"
is so impressive as absolutely to chill the blood; and the legendary pieces beginning "Saint Withold footed thrice the wold,"
"Child Rowland to the dark tower came,"
Act iii. sc. 4.
are reliques which well accord with the dreadful peculiarity of his situation. The two subsequent quotations are from pastoral songs, of which the first,
as Mr. Malone observes, has a marked propriety, alluding to an association then common; for in a description of beggars, published in 1607, one class of these vagabonds is represented as counterfeiting madness;
66 they were so frantique
They knew not what they did, but every day
Make sport with stick and flowers like an antique ;-
The second seems to have been suggested to the mind of Edgar by some connection, however distant and obscure, with the business of the scene. Lear fancies he is trying his daughters; and the lines of Edgar, who is appointed one of the commission, allude to a trespass which takes place in consequence of the folly of a shepherd in neglecting his charge, the lines appear to be the opening stanza of a lyris pastoral. "A shepherd," remarks Dr. Johnson," is desired to pipe, and the request is enforced by a promise, that though his sheep be in the corn, i. e. committing a trespass by his negligence-yet a single tune upon his pipe shall secure them from the pound.
"Sleepest, or wakest thou, jolly shepherd ?
Thy sheep be in the corn;
And for one blast of thy minikin mouth,
Thy sheep shall take no harm."
If the assumed madness of Edgar is heightened by the casual repetition of these artless strains, how is the real distraction of the heart-broken Ophelia augmented in its pathos by a similar appeal! The interesting fragments which she sings, certainly do not produce their effect, as Sir Joshua Reynolds imagined, by marking an "utter insensibility to her own misfortunes;" for they manifestly refer both to her father's death, and to her own unfortunate attachment, their influence over the heart being felt as the consequence of this indirect allusion.
Of the first three fragments, which appear to be parts of the same ballad, and, as the king observes, are a "conceit upon her father," the two prior have been beautifully incorporated by Dr. Percy in his "Friar of Orders Gray:"
"How should I your true love know,
From another one?
By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon."
This finely descriptive line, Dr. Percy has interwoven in his ballad of The Friar of Orders Gray,