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viceable. Hence when one would give another absolute assurance of meeting him, he would say proverbially-hold or cut low-strings-i. e. whether the bow-string held or broke; for cut is used as a neuter verb like frets. As when we say, the string frets, the silk frets, for the passive, it is cut or fretted.
WARBURTON. 18 To dew her orbs upon the green.] The orlis here meant, are the circles supposed to be made by the fairies on the ground, whose verdure proceeds from the fairy's care to water them. JOHNSON.
19 The cowslips tall her pensioners be.] The cowslip was a favourite among the fairies.
20 —changeling.] Changeling is commonly used for the child supposed to be left by the fairies, but here for a child taken away.
JOHNSON. 21 —or spangled star-light sheen.] Sheen is shining, bright, gay.
22 But they do square;] to square here is to quarrel. The French word contrecarrer has the same import.
JOHNSON. 23 Robin Good -fellow.] This account of Robin Good-fellow corresponds, in every article, with that given of him in Harsenet's Declaration, chap. XX. p. 134: “And if that the bowle of curds and creame were not duly set out for Robin Good-fellow, the Frier, and Sisse the dairy-maid, why then either the pottage was burnt to next day in the poi, or the cbeeses would not curdle, or the butter would not come, or the ale in the fat never would have good head. But if a Peeter penny, or an housle-egge were beturned, or a patch of tythe unpaid, then 'ware of bull-beggars, spirits,” &c. He is mentioned by Cartwright as a spirit particularly fond of disconcerting and disturbing domestic peace and economy. T. WARTON. 24 Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn:] The sense of these lines is confused. Are not you he, says the fairy, that fright the country girls, that skim the milk, work in the hand-mill, and make the tired dairy woman churn without effect? The mention of the mill seems out of place, for she is not now telling the good, but the evil he does. I would regulate the lines thus: “ And sometimes make the breathless housewifechurn “ Skim milk, and bootless labour in the quern.” or by a simple transposition of the lines: “ And bootless make the breathless housewife churn “ Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern." Yet there is no necessity of alteration. Johnson.
25 —no barm:) Barm is a name for yeas', yet used in our midland counties, and universally in Ireland. So in Mother Bombie, a Comedy, 1594: “ It behoved my wits to work like barme, alias yeast.” Again in The Humorous Lieutenant of Beaumont and Fletcher: “ I think my brains will work yet without barms."
26 And tailor cries-] He that slips beside his chair falls as a tailor squats upon his board; hence the custom of crying tailor at a sudden fall backwards.
27 And never since the middle summer's spring.] That is the beginning of the middle summer, or Midsummer. Spring for beginning he again uses. iid Part Hen. IV.
“ As flaws congealed in the spring of day.”
28 pelting river-] Without any reasonable etymology, our author uses pelting for mean, despicalle, petty. In Measure for Measure, he says, petty, pelting officer.
JOHNSON. 29 The nine men's morris is filled up with mud:] The nine men's morris was a game something like draughts; played by rusticks on a square cut in the ground or turf. See Cotgrave's Dictionary, at the word Merelles,
30 The human mortals want their winter here;] should we not read, ‘wants their winter here?' Sbakspeare says the fold stands empty, the nine men's morris is filled up, the quaint mazes lack their usual tread, these are all a description of depopulation which is completed in the next lines: “ winter here,” (i. e. in the country near Athens, for all the actors are from Athens itself,) “wants his mortals to bless the night with hymn and carol.” It appears to me that, by using this construction, and recurring at each therefore, to the fairies' quarrel as the cause of these disorders, Titania's speech becomes much more intelligible than it is in the common reading.
31 —henchman.] Page of honour. This office was abolished by Queen Elizabeth. GRAY.
32 At a fair vestal.] This is a compliment to Elizabeth, which was wisely enough paid by a poet to a living sovereign. When monarchs, however, have no longer the power to hurt, truth will resume its sacred throne. The political wisdom of this princess is still revered, for the best of reasons, because every act of her history proves her to have possessed it: but her beauty, her mercy, and her chastity, in spite even of Shakspeare, are “ like the baseless fabric of a vision," they “ Jeave not a rack behind.”
33 Love-in-idleness.] Taylor, the water poet, quibbling on the names of plants, mentions this flower,
“ When passions are let loose, without a bridle, “Then precious time is turn'd to love-in-idle.”
34 - I am invisible.] I thought proper here to observe that, as Oberon and Puck bis attendant, may be frequently observed to speak, when there is no mention of their entering; they are designed by the poet to be supposed on the stage during the greatest part of the remainder of the play; and to mix as they please, as spirits, with the other actors, and embroil the plot by their interposition, without being seen or heard but when to their own purpose. THEOBALD.
35 -and wood within this wood;] wood is frantic, mad.
36 Come now a roundel;] a roundel, rondill, or roundelay, is a song beginning and ending with the same sentence.
Perhaps roundel means rather a circular dance in which the parties hold hands.
37 Be it ounce-] The ounce is the tiger-cat.
38 0, take the sense, &c.] i.e. “ regard my speech with the same innocence as I meant it: in the conversation of those, who know they possess a mutual attachment, suspicion should not be permitted to enter."
39 Speak of all loves,] of all loves is an adjuration more than once used by our author. So Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2. Scene 8. “ — to send her your little page of all loves."
40 Enter Quince, &c.] In the time of Shakspeare there were many companies of players, sometimes five at the same time contending for the favour of the public. Of these, some were undoubtedly very unskilful and very poor, and it is probable that the de. sign of this scene was to ridicule their ignorance, and the odd expedients to which they might be driven by the want of proper decorations. Bottom was perhaps the head of a rival house, and is therefore honoured with an ass's head.
JOHNSON. 41 O Bottom thou art changed ! what do I see on thee?] It is plain by Bottom's answer that Snout mentioned an ass's head. Therefore we should read,
Snout. O Bottom thou art changed! what do I see on thee? An ass's head!
Johnson. 42 The ousel-cock,] i.e. the cock black-bird.
43 —the fiery glow-worm's eyes.] I know not bow Shakspeare, who commonly derived his know