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When we have laugh'd to fee the fails conceive,
Ob. How long within this, wood intend you stay?
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.
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
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,
Puck. I remember.
Ob. That very time I faw, but thou could'st not,
and eloquence, as filled the whole court with admiration.
Norfolk, whofe projected mar-
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
O train me not, feet mermaid,
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
At a fair Veftal, throned by the west,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound;
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:
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,
Enter Demetrius, Helena following him.
Dem. I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.
Hel. You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant,