Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

No night is now with hymn or carol blest: 8 -
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound: 9

and Fay were called Fairies, who foon grew to be a mighty people, and conquered all nations. Their eldest son Elfin governed Ame. rica, and the next to him, named Elfinan, founded the city of Cleopolis, which was enclosed with a golden wall by Elfinine. Hisson Elfin overcame the Gobbelines; but of all fairies, Elfant was the most renowned, who built Panthea of chryftal. To these suc. ceeded Elfar, who flew two brethren giants; and to him Elfinor, who built a bridge of glass over the sea, the sound of which was like thunder. At length Elficleos ruled the Fairy-land with much wisdom, and highly advanced its power and honour: he left two sons, the eldest of which, fair Elferon, died a premature death, his place being supplied by the mighty Oberon ; a prince, whose " wide memorial'fill remains; who dying left Tanaquil to succeed him by will, she being also called Glorian or Gloriana." I tranfcribe this pedigree, merely to prove that in Shakspeare's time the noiion of Fairies dying was generally known. REED.

7 - their winter here ; ] Here, in this country, -I once in. clined to receive the emendation proposed by Mr. Theobald, and adopted by Sir T. Hanmer, their winter cheer; but perhaps alte. ration is unnecessary. 6. Their winter" may mean those sporis with which country people are wont to beguile a winter's evening, at the season of Christmas, which, it appears from the next line was pare ticularly in our author's contemplation:

in The wery winter nights restore the Christmas games,
" And now the seson doth invite to banquet townilh dames."

Romeus and Juliet, 1562. MALONE. 3 No nighi is now with hymn or carol bleft: -] Since the coming of Christianity, this season, [ winter, } in com mein oration of the birth of Christ, has been particularly devoted to feitivity. And to this cuftoin, notwithstanding the impropriety, hymn or carol bleft certainly alludes. WARBURTON.

Hymns and carols, in the time of Shakfperre, during the season of Christmas, were sung cvery niglit about the streets, as a pretext for collecting money from house to house.

STEEVENS, 9 That rheumatick diseases do abound: ] Rheumatick diseases figa nified in Shakspeare's time, not what we now call Theumatism, but distillations from the head, catarrhs, &c. So, in a paper entitled 5. The State of Sir H. Sydney's bodie, &c. Feb. 1567 ; Sydney's Memorials, Vol. I. p. 94: - he hath verie much distempered diverse parts of his bodie, as namely, his hedde, his ftomach, &c. we fee

And, thorough this distemperature,
The seasons alter: hoary headed frosts

[merged small][ocr errors]

and thereby is always subje& to coughes, dilillations, and other rumatick diseases." MALONE.

Therefore the moon, the governess of floods, &c.] The repeated adverb therefore, throughout this speech, I suppose to have conftant reference to the first time when it is used. All these irregularities of season happened in consequence of the disagreement between the king and queen of the fairies, and not in consequence of each other. Ideas crouded fast on Shakspeare ; and as he commiţted them 10 paper, he did not attend to the distance of the leading obje& from which they took their rise. Mr. Malone concurs with me on this occasion.

That the festivity and hospitality attending Christmas, decreased, was the subject of complaint to many of our ludicrous writers. Among the rest to Nash, whose comedy called Summer's Lajt Will and Testament, made its first appearance in the same year with this play, viz. 1600. There Christmas is introduced, and Summer says to him :

Christmas, how chance thou com'st not as the rest,
" Accompanied with some music or some song?
" A merry cárrol would have grac'd thee well,

" Thy ancestors have us'd it heretofore.".
Christmas. Ay, antiquity was the mother of ignorance, " &c.
and then proceeds to give reasons for such a decay in mirth and
house-keeping.

The confusion of seasons here described, is no more than a poeti. cal account of the weather, which happened in England about the time when the Midsummer-Night's Dream was written. For this information I am indebted to chance, which furnished me with a few leaves of an old meteorelogical history.

The date of the piece, however, may be better determined by a description of the same weather in Churchyard's Charilie, 1595, when, says he, "a colder season, in all sorts, was never seene." He then proceeds to say the same over again in rhime:

A colder time in world was neuer seene :
" The skies do lowre, the sun and moone waxe dim;
66 Sommer scarce knowne but that the leaues are greene.
" The winter's waste driues water ore the brim;
16 Upon the land, great flotes of wood may swim.
" Nature thinks scorne to do hir dutie right,

" Because we have displcasde the Lord of Light."
Let the reader compare these lines with Shakspeare's, and hç.

Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose; 3
And on old Hyems' chin, * and icy crown,

will find that they are both descriptive of the same weather and its consequences.

Churchyard is not enumerating, on this occasion, fictitious but real misfortunes. He wrote the present Poem to excite Charity on his own behalf; and among his other sufferings very naturally dwelt on the coldness of the season, which his poverty had rendered the less supportable.

L'Allegro, and il Penseroso, will naturally impute ope incident to different causes. Shakspeare, in prime of life and success, fancifully ascribes this distemperature of seasons to a quarrel between the playful rulers of the fairy world; while Churchyard, broken down by age and misfortunes, is seriouly disposed to represent the same inclemency of weather, as a judgement from the Almighty ou the offences of mankind. STEEVENS.

Therefore the moon, the governefs of floods, &c.] This line has no immediate copnedion with that preceding it (as Dr. Johnson feems to have thought). It does not refer to the omission of hymns or carols, but of the fairy rites, which were disturbed in consequence of Oberon's-quarrel with Titania. . The moon is with peculiar propriety represented as incensed at the ceffation not of the carols, (as Dr. Warburton thinks,) nor of the heathen rites of adoration,. as Dr. Johnson supposes, ) but of those sports, which have been always reputed to be celebrated by her light.

As the whole paffage has been much misunderstood, it inay be proper to observe that Titania begins with saying,

" And never, since the middle summer's spring,
• Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,

" But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport. ' She then particularly' enumerates the several consequences that have flowed from their contention. The whole is divided into four clauses:

Therefore the winds, &c.
« Thai they have overborne their continents:
2.“ The Ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain ;

" The ploughman lost his sweat;

" No night is now with hymn or carol bleft;
3." Therefore the Moon washes all the air,

6. That rheumatick diseases do abound:
4.- And, thorough this distemperature, we fee,
* The seasons alter:

and the mazed world,
" By their increase, now knows not which is which :

[ocr errors]

An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: The spring, the summer,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

s And this same progeny of evil comes

• From our debate, from 047 diffention." In all this there is no difficulty. All these calamities are the consequence of the diffention between Oberon and Titania; as seems to be fufficienily pointed out by the word therefore, so often repeated. Those lines which have it not, are evidently put in apposition with the preceding line in which that word is found.

MALONE. this distemperature, ] Is, this perturbation of the elements.

STEEVENS. By distemperature, I imagine is meant in this place, the pertur-. bed state in which the king and queen had lived for some time past. MALONE.

3 Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose; ] To have " faow in the lap of June,” is an expression used in Northward Hoe, 1607, and Shakspeare himself in Coriolanus, talks of the "consecrated snow that lies on Dian's lap" and Speuser in his Faery Queen, B. II. c. ii. has: 16 And fills with flow'rs fair Flora's painted lap."

STEEVENS. This thought is elegantly expressed by Goldsmith in bis Traveller : " And winter lingering chills the lap of May."

M. MASON. Hyems' chin, ] Dr. Grey, not inelegantly, conje&ures, that the poet wrote:

on old Hyems' chill and icy crown." It is not indeed casy to discover how a chaplet can be placed on the chin. STEEVENS.

I believe this peculiar image of Hyem's chin must have come from Virgil, (£ncid iv. 253 ) through the medium of the tranilation of the day:

tum flumina mento
Precipitant senis, & glacie riget horrila barba." S. W.
Thus translated by Phacr, 1561;

and from his hoary beard adowne,
" The ftrcames of waters fall; with yce and frost his face dotla

frowne.
This singular image was, I believe, suggested to our poet by
Golding's translation of Ovid, Book II:

The childing autumn,' angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries; and the 'mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which :
And this same progeny of evils comes

[ocr errors]

" And lastly, quaking for the colde, food Winter all forlorne, “ With rugged head as white as dove, and garments all to

torne, “ Forladen with the ilycles, that dangled up and downe Upon his gray and hoary beard, and foo wie frozen crown."

MALONE. It should rather be for thin, i. e. thin-hair'd. TYRWHITT. So, Cordelia, speaking of Lear:

to watch, poor perdu ! " With this thin helm." STÉEVENS. Thinne is nearer to chinne (the fpelling of the old copies) than thill, and therefore, I think, more likely to have been the author's word. MALONE.

s The childiug autumn,] Is the pregnaut autumn, fragifer autumnuse So, in Heywood's Brażen Age, 1613:

• Fifty in number childed all one night." Again, in his Golden Age, 1611 :

16 I childed in a cave remote and filent." Again, in his Silver Age, 1613 :

" And at one instant she shall child two issues." There is a rose called the childing roso. 'STEEVENS.

Again, in Palo's Godfrey of Bulloigne, by Fairfax, B. xyut, ft. 26:

" An hundreth plants beside (even in his fight)

- Childed an hundreth nymphes so great, fo dight." Childing is an old term in botany, when a small flower grows out of a large one ; " the childing autumn," therefore mcans the autumn which unseasonably produces flowers on those of summer. Florifts have also a childing daisy, and a childing scabious.

HOLT WHITE. 6 By their increase,] That is, By their produce. JOHNSON, So, in our author's 97th Sonnet :

"The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

“ Bearing the wanton burthen of the primc." The latter expression is scriptural : 6. Then shall the earth bring forth her increase, and God, even our God, shall give us his blefling, Psalm lxvii. MALONE. Vol. VII.

E

« AnteriorContinuar »