Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

When we have laugh'd to fee the fails conceive,
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind:
Which the, with pretty and with fwimming gate,
Following (her womb then rich with my young fquire)
Would imitate; and fail upon the land,
To fetch me trifles, and return again,
As from a voyage rich with merchandize.
But the, being mortal, of that boy did die ;.
And, for her fake, I do rear up her boy;
And, for her fake, I will not part with him.

Ob. How long within this, wood intend you stay?
Queen. Perchance, 'till after Thefeus' wedding-day.
If you will patiently dance in our round,
And fee our moon-light revels, go with us;
If not, fhun me, and I will fpare your haunts.

Ob. Give me that boy, and I will go with thee. Queen. Not for thy fairy kingdom. * Elves, away: We fhall chide down-right, if I longer stay.

[Exeunt Queen and her train.

[blocks in formation]

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'ft 9


[blocks in formation]

nious breath,

That the rude fea grew civil at ber fong;

And certain ftars foot madly from their spheres

To hear the fea maid's mufick-] The first thing obfervable on these 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 speak 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 forgive 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 Definat in pifcem mulier formofa Jupernè.

for as Elizabeth for her chastity is called a Veftal, this unfortunate lady on a contrary account is called a Mermaid. 3. An antient story may be fuppofed to be here alluded to. The emperor Julian tells us, Epiftle 41. that the Sirens (which, with all the modern poets, are Mermaids) contended with precedency with the Mufes, who overcoming them, took away their wings. The quarrels between Mary and Elizabeth had the fame cause, and the fame iffue.

On a Dolphin's back.] This evidently marks out that diftinguishing 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 princess 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 and

Since once I fat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back,
Uttering fuch dulcet and harmonious breath,
That the rude fea grew civil at her fong;
And certain ftars fhot madly from their spheres,
To hear the fea-maid's mufick.

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 '

and eloquence, as filled the whole court with admiration.


Norfolk, whofe projected mar-
riage with her was attended with
fuch fatal confequences. Here
again the reader may obferve a
peculiar juftnefs in the imag'ry.
The vulgar opinion being that
the mermaid allured men to de-
ftruction by her fongs. To which
opinion Shake pear alludes in his
Comedy of Errors,

That the rude fea grew civil at her fong.] By the rude fea is meant Scotland encircled with the ocean; which rofe up in arms against the regent, while fhe 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 paffed her whole life in peace. There is the greater juftnefs and beauty in this image, as the vulgar opinion is, that the mermaid always fings in ftorms.

And certain fars fhot 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 apon feveral of the English nobility, whom he drew in to fupport her caufe. This, in the boldest expreffion of the fablime, the poet images by certain ftars fhosting madly from their Ipheres: By which he meant the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland, who fell in her quarrel; and principally the great duke of

[ 2

[ocr errors]

O train me not, feet 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 laud, and out of nature, is in the character of the speaker. 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 these ancient regions of poetry, by that power of Verfe, which we may well fancy to be like what,

Olim Fauni Vatefque canebant.


Cupid all-arm'd ;] Surely, this prefents us with a very unclaffical

[ocr errors]

At a fair Veftal, throned by the west,
And loos'd his love-fhaft fmartly from his bow,
As it fhould pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might fee young Cupid's fiery fhaft
Quench'd in the chafte beams of the wat'ry moon,
And the Imperial Votrefs paffed on,

In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet mark'd I-where the bolt of Cupid fell,,
It fell upon a little wettern flower;

Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound;
And maidens call it Love in idleness. 2
Fetch me that flow'r; the herb I fhew'd thee once;
The juice of it, on fleeping eye-lids laid,
Will make or man, or woman, madly doat
Upon the next live creature that it fees.
Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again,
Ere the Leviathan can fwim a league.

Puck. I'll put a girdle round about the earth In forty minutes.


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.- The 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 Votrejs had de


clared herself for a fingle Life:
fo powerful would her great Ex-
ample be in the World.-
Queen Elizabeth could not but
be pleafed with our Author's
Addrefs upon this Head.

WARBURTON. All-armed, does not fignify dressed in panoply, but only enforces the word armed, as we might fay all-booted. I am afraid that the general fenfe of alarmed, by which it is used for put into fear or care by whatever caufe, is later than our Authour.

2 And maidens call it Love in idleness.] This is as fine a metamorphofis as any in Ovid: With a much better moral, intimating that irregular love has only power when people are idle, or not well employed. WARBURTON.


Ob. Having once this juice,

I'll watch Titania when she is afleep,
And drop the liquor of it in her eyes :
The next thing which the waking looks upon,
Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull,
On medling monkey, or on bufie ape,
She fhall purlue it with the foul of love:
And ere I take this charm off from her light,
(As I can take it with another herb)
I'll make her render up her page to me.
But who comes here? I am invifible, 3
And I will over-hear their conference.



Enter Demetrius, Helena following him.

Dem. I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.
Where is Lyfander, and fair Hermia?
The one I'll flay; the other flayeth me. 4
Thou told'ft me, they were ftoll'n into this wood;
And here am I, and wood within this wood; s
Because I cannot meet my Hermia.
Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.

Hel. You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant,
But yet you draw not iron; for my heart
Is true as steel. Leave you your pow'r to draw,
And I fhall have no pow'r to follow you.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »