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On the bat's back I do fly,
After summer, merrily * : pointing, let them examine that like; the editor will think his duty discharged in showing that under his punctuation the song recovers its beauties, and has a perfect consistency. All the thoughts of it turn upon Ariel's approaching happiness, in that he should now be able to pursue the summer, and live upon
the more delicate productions of it-pleasures he had long been deprived of by his confinement in this island ; first by Sycorax, and now by Prospero ; and to paint his eager relish of them, he is made to express himself as if in actual possession :
Where the bee sucks, there suck I; “ In a cowslip's bell I lie;
“ There I couch :” which couch is not a tautology, but an enforcing and heightening of the image, to make us conceive more strongly the extreme minuteness of this being, which can thus nestle itself whole in the cup of such a small Hower. CAPELL.
4 After summer, merrily :) This is the reading of all the editions. Yet Mr. Theobald has substituted sun-set, because Ariel talks of riding on the bat in this expedition. An idle fancy. That circumstance is given only to design the time of night in which fairies travel. One would think the consideration of the circumstances should have set him right. Ariel was a spirit of great delicacy, bound by the charms of Prospero to a constant attendance on his occasions. So that he was confined to the island winter and summer. But the roughness of winter is represented by Shakspeare as disagreeable to fairies, and such like delicate spirits, who, on this account, constantly follow summer. Was not this then the most agreeable circumstance of Ariel's newrecovered liberty, that he could now avoid winter, and follow summer quite round the globe ? But to put the matter quite out of question, let us consider the meaning of this line :
“ There I couch when owls do cry." Where? in the cowslip's bell, and where the bee sucks, he tells us : this must needs be in summer. When ? when owls
and this is in winter :
“ When blood is nipp'd, and ways be foul,
The Song of Winter, in Love's Labour's Lost. The consequence is, that Ariel “fies after summer." Yet the Oxford editor has adopted this judicious emendation of Mr. Theobald. WARBURTON,
Ariel does not appear to have been confined to the island summer and winter, as he was sometimes sent on so long an errand as to the Bermoothes.
When he says,
“ On the bat's back I do fly,"
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,
&c. he speaks of his present situation only; nor triumphs in the idea of his future liberty, till the last couplet :
Merrily, merrily," &c. The bat is no bird of passage, and the expression is therefore probably used to signify, not that he pursues summer, but that, after summer is past, he rides upon the warm down of a bat's back, which suits not improperly with the delicacy of his airy being. After summer is a phrase in King Henry VI. Part II. Act II. Sc. IV.
Shakspeare, who, in his Midsummer Night's Dream, has placed the light of a glow-worm in its eyes, might, through the same ignorance of natural history, have supposed the bat to be a bird of passage. Owls cry not only in winter. It is well known that they are to the full as clamorous in summer; and as a proof of it, Titania, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the time of which is supposed to be May, commands her fairies to
keep back “ The clamorous owl, that nightly hoots.” Steevens. Our author is seldom solicitous that every part of his imagery should correspond. I therefore think, that though the bat is * bird of passage," Shakspeare probably meant to express what Dr. Warburton supposes. A short account, however, of this winged animal may perhaps prove the best illustration of the passage before us :
“ The bat (says Dr. Goldsmith, in his entertaining and instructive Natural History,) makes its appearance in summer, and begins its flight in the dusk of the evening. It appears only in the most pleasant evenings ; at other times it continues in its retreat ; the chink of a ruined building, or the hollow of a tree. Thus the little animal even in summer sleeps the greatest part of his time, never venturing out by day-light, nor in rainy weather. But its short life is still more abridged by continuing in a torpid state during the winter. At the approach of the cold season, the bat prepares for its state of lifeless inactivity, and seems rather to choose a place where it may continue safe from interruption, than where it may be warmly and commodiously lodged."
When Shakspeare had determined to send Ariel in pursuit of summer, wherever it could be found, as most congenial to such an airy being, is it then surprising that he should have made the bat, rather than “the wind, his post-horse; an animal thus delighting in that season, and reduced by winter to a state of lifeless inactivity ? MALONE.
shall I live now, Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.] This thought is
Pro. Why, that's my dainty Ariel : I shall miss
But yet thou shalt have freedom: so, so, so.-
Ari. I drink the air before me, and return
Behold, sir king, The wronged duke of Milan, Prospero: For more assurance that a living prince Does now speak to thee, I embrace thy body; And to thee, and thy company, I bid A hearty welcome. not thrown out at random. It composed a part of the magical system of these days. In Tasso's Godfrey of Bulloigne by Fairfax, b. iv. st. 18:
“ The goblins, fairies, feends, and furies mad,
Ranged in flowrie dales, and mountaines hore,
“ And under every trembling leafe they sit.” The idea was probably first suggested by the description of the venerable elm which Virgil planted at the entrance of the infernal shades. En. VI. v. 282:
Ulmus opaca, ingens; quam sedem somnia vulgò
Holt White. I drink the air -] “To drink the air ”—is an expression of swiftness of the same kind as 'to devour the way' in K. Henry IV.
JOHNSON. So, in Venus and Adonis :
“ His nostrils drink the air." Again, in Timon of Athens :
“ - and through him
Whe’r thou beest he, or no?,
First, noble friend,
Whether this be,
You do yet taste
7 WHE'R thou beest he, or no,] Whe'r for whether, is an abbreviation frequently used both by Shakspeare and Jonson. So, in Julius Cæsar :
“ See, whe'r their basest metal be not mov'd:” Again, in The Comedy of Errors :
“ Good sir, whe'r you'll answer me, or not.” M. Mason. 8 Thy dukedom I resign ;] The duchy of Milan being through the treachery of Antonio made feudatory to the crown of Naples, Alonso promises to resign his claim of sovereignty for the future.
STEEVENS. 9 You do yet TASTE
Some subTILTIES O'the isle,] This is a phrase adopted from ancient cookery and confectionary. When a dish was so contrived as to appear unlike what it really was, they called it a subtilty. Dragons, castles, trees, &c. made out of sugar, had the like denomination. See Mr. Pegge's Glossary to the Form of Cury, &c. Article Sotiltees.
Froissard complains much of this practice, which often led him into mistakes at dinner. Describing one of the feasts of his time, he says
there was grant planté de mestz si etranges et si desguisez qu'on ne les pouvait deviser;" and L'Etoile speaking of a similar entertainment in 1597, adds “ Tous les poissons estoient fort dextrement desguisez en viande de chair, qui estoient monstres
Believe things certain : - Welcome, my friends
But you, my brace of lords, were 1 so minded,
[Aside to SEB. and Ant. I here could pluck his highness' frown upon you, And justify you traitors; at this time I'll tell no tales. SEB. The devil speaks in him.
Alon. - If thou beest Prospero,
marins pour la pluspart, qu'on avait fait venir exprès de tous les costez." STEEVENS.
who THREE HOURS since -] The unity of time is most rigidly observed in this piece. The fable scarcely takes up a greater number of hours than are employed in the representation : and from the very particular care which our author takes to point out this circumstance in so many other passages, as well as here, it should seem as if it were not accidental, but purposely designed to shew the admirers of Ben Jonson's art, and the cavillers of the time, that he too could write a play within all the strictest laws of regularity, when he chose to load himself with the critick’s fetters.
The Boatswain marks the progress of the day again--which but three glasses since, &c. and at the beginning of this act the duration of the time employed on the stage is particularly ascertained ; and it refers to a passage in the first act, of the same tendency. The storm was raised at least two glasses after mid day, and Ariel was promised that the work should cease at the sixth hour.