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When we have laugh'd to fee the fails conceive,
To fetch me trifles, and return again,
8 Which he with pretty and with fwimming gate FOLLOWING (her womb then rich with my young Squire)
Would imitate Following what he did not follow the fhip, whofe motion the imitated: for that failed on the water, the on the land. If by following we are to underland imitating, it will be a mere pleona mimi tating would imitate. From the Poet's defcription of the actions it plainly appears we fhould read
[Exeunt Queen and her train.
The foregoing Note is very ingenious, but fince folying is a word of which I know not any example, and the Fairy's favou rite might, without much licentioufnefs of language, be faid to follow a fhip that failed in the direction of the coal, I think there is no fufficient reafon for adopting it. The coinage of new words is a violent remedy, pot 10 be ufed but in the latt neceffity. * I. II. I. and IV. Fairies.
i. e. wantoning in Sport and Gaiety. Thus the old English writers and they beleven
Ob. Well, go thy way; thou shalt not from this grove,
'Till I torment thee for this injury.
My gentle Puck, come hither, thou remember'st 9
9 -Thou remember'ft Since once I fat upon a promon
And beard a mermaid on a dol-
That the rude fea grew civil at
To hear the fea maid's mufick—] The firft thing obfervable on thefe words is, that this action of the Mermaid is laid in the fame time and place with Cupid's attack upon the Veftal. By the Veftal every one knows is meant Queen Elizabeth. It is very natural and reasonable then to think that the Mermaid ftands for fome eminent perfonage of her time. And if fo, the allegorical covering, in which there is a mixture of fatire and panegyric, will lead us to conclude that this perfon was one of whom it had been inconvenient for the author to fpeak openly, either in praife or difpraife. All this agrees with... Mary Queen of Scots, and with no other. Queen Elizabeth could not bear to hear her commended; and her fucceffor would not for give her fatyrift. But the poet has fo well marked out every diftinguished circumftance of her life and character in this beautiful allegory, as will leave no room to doubt about his fecret
meaning. She is called a Mermaid, 1. to denote her reign over a kingdom fituate in the fea, and 2, her beauty and intemperate luft.
-Ut turpiter atrum
for as Elizabeth for her chastity
On a Dolphin's back.] This evidently marks out that diftinguifhing circumstance of Mary's fortune, her marriage with the dauphin of France, fon of Henry II.
Uttering fuch dulcet and barmonious breath.] This alludes to her great abilities of genius and learning, which rendered her the most accomplished princefs of her age.
The French writers tell us, that, while she was in that court, the pronounced a Latin oration in the great hall of the L'ouvre, with fo much grace
Since once I fat upon a promontory,
Puck. I remember.
Ob. That very time I faw, but thou could'st not, Flying between the cold moon and the earth, Cupid all-arm'd: a certain aim he took 1
and eloquence, as filled the whole court with admiration.
That the rude fea grew civil at her fong. By the rude fea is meant Scotland encircled with the ocean; which rose up in arms against the regent, while he was in France. But her return home prefently quieted those disorders: And had not her ftrange ill conduct afterwards more violently inflamed them, fhe might have passed her whole life in peace. There is the greater juftness and beauty in this image, as the vulgar opinion is, that the mermaid always fings in ftorms.
And certain ftars hot madly from their fpheres, To hear the fea maid's mufick.] Thus concludes the description, with that remarkable circumftance of this unhappy lady's fate, the destruction the brought upon feveral of the English nobility, whom he drew in to fupport her caufe. This, in the boldeft expreffion of the fablime, the poet images by certain ftars footing madly from their Ipheres: By which he meant the earls of Northumberland and Westerland, who fell in her quarrel; and
Norfolk, whofe projected marriage with her was attended with fuch fatal confequences. Here again the reader may obferve a peculiar juftnefs in the imagry. The vulgar opinion being that the mermaid allured men to deftruction by her fongs. To which opinion Shakespear alludes in his Comedy of Errors,
O train me not, faucet mermaid,
with thy note,
To drown me in thy fifler's flood of tears.
On the whole, it is the nobleft and juftet allegory that was ever written. The laying it in fairy land, and out of nature, is in the character of the fpeaker.
And on thefe occafions Shakefpear always excels himself. He is born away by the magic of his enthufiafm, and hurries his reader along with him into thefe ancient regions of poetry, by that power of Verle, which we may well fancy to be like what,
-Olim Fauni Vatefque canebant.
Cupid all-arm'd;] Surely,
principally the great duke of this prefents us with a very un
At a fair Vestal, throned by the weft,
And loos'd his love-fhaft fmartly from his bow,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet mark'd I-where the bolt of Cupid fell,,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound;
Fetch me that flow'r; the herb I fhew'd thee once;
Puck. I'll put a girdle round about the earth
claffical Image. Where do we read or fee, in ancient Books, Monuments, Cupid arm'd more than with his Bow and Arrow; and with thefe we for ever fee him arm'd. And thefe are all the Arms he had Occafion for in this prefent Action; a more illuftrious One, than any, his Friends, the Clafficks, ever brought him upon. Change I make is fo fmall, but the Beauty of the Thought fo great, which this Alteration carries with it, that, I think, we are not to hesitate upon it. For what an Addition is this to the Compliment made upon this Virgin Queen's Celibacy, that it
alarm'd the Power of Love? as if his Empire was in Danger, when this Imperial Votre's had de
clared herself for a fingle Life:
Ob. Having once this juice,
I'll watch Titania when she is asleep,
And drop the liquor of it in her eyes :
Enter Demetrius, Helena following him.
Dem. I love thee not, therefore purfue me not. Where is Lyfander, and fair Hermia?
The one I'll flay; the other flayeth me. 4
Thou told'st me, they were ftoll'n into this wood;
Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.
I am invifible.] I thought proper here to obferve, that, as Oberon and Puck his Attendant, may be frequently obferved to fpeak, when there is no mention of their Entering; they are defigned by the Poet to be fuppos'd on the Stage during the greateft Part of the Remainder of the Play; and to mix, as they pleafe, as Spirits, with the other. Actors; and embroil the Plot,
by their Interpofition, without being feen, or heard, but when to their own Purpose.
4 The one I'll fay, the other ftayeth me.] Thus it has been in all the Editions hitherto: but Dr. Thirlby ingenioufly faw, it must be, as I have corrected in the Text. THEOBALD.
ing. I 3
5 Wood, or mad, wild, rav