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Farewel, thou lob of spirits, I'll be gone;
Puck. The king doth keep his revels here to-night;
occurs in an old comedy, called The Wisdom of Doctor Dodypoll, 1600; i. e. the same year, in which the first printed copies of this play made their appearance. An enchanter says:
cs 'Twas I that led you through the painted meads,
- lob of spirits,] Lob, lubber, looby, lobcock, all denote both inactivity of body, and dulness of mind. Fohnson.
Both lob and lobcock are used as terms of contempt in The Rival Friends, 1632: Again, in the interlude of Faccb and Esau, 1568:
“ Should find Esau such a lout or a lob.” Again, in the second book of Homer, as translated by Arthur Hall, 1581 :
yet fewe he led, bycause he was a lobbe.” Again, in The Knight of the Burning Pestle, by Beaumont and Fletcher: “ There is a pretty tale of a witch that had the devil's mark about her, that had a giant to her son, that was called Loblye-by-the-fire.” This being seems to be of kin to the lubber-fiend of Milton, as Mr. Warton has remarked in his Observations on the Fairy Queen. Steevens.
changeling :) Changeling is commonly used for the child supposed to be left by the fairies, but here for a child taken away.
Johnson. So, Spenser, B. I, c. X:
“ And her base elfin brood there for thee left,
Steevens. It is here properly used, and in its common acceptation; that is, for a child got in exchange. fairy is now speaking Ritson.
1- trace the forests wild:] This verb is used in the same sense in Browne's Britannia’s Pastorals, B. II, Song II, 1613:
“ In shepherd's habit seene
“ To trace our woods." Again, in Milton's Comus, v. 423: “ May trace huge forests, and unharbour'd heaths.”
But she, perforce, withholds the loved boy,
Fai. Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
-sheen,] Shining, bright, gay. Johnson. So, in Tancred and Gismund, 1592:
but why “ Doth Phæbus' sister sheen despise thy power?” Again, in the ancient romance of Syr Tryamoure, bl. 1. no date :
“ He kyssed, and toke his leave of the quene,
“And of other ladies bright and shene.” Steevens. 3 But they do square;] To square here is to quarrel. The French word contrecarrer has the same import. Johnson. So, in Fack Drum's Entertainment, 1601:
let me not seem rude,
pray let me go, for he 'll begin to square,” &c. Again, in Promos and Gassandra, 1578:
Marry, she knew you and I were at square,
“ And lest we fell to blowes, she did prepare.” Steevens. It is somewhat whimsical, that the glasiers use the words square and quarrel as synonymous terms for a pane of glass.
Blackstone. Robin Good-fellow ;] This account of Robin Good-fellow corresponds, in every article, with that given of him in Harse. net's Declaration, ch. 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 pot, or the cheeses 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 behind, or a patch of tythe unpaid, -then ’ware of bull-beggars, spirits,” &c. He is mentioned by Cartwright [Ordinary, Act III, sc. i,] as a spirit particularly fond of disconcerting and disturbing domestic peace and economy. T. Warton.
5 That fright-] The old copies read-frights; and in grammatical propriety, I believe, this verb, as well as those that follow, should agree with the personal pronoun he, rather than with you. If so, our author ought to have written-frights, skims, labours, makes, and misleads. The other, however, being the
Skim milk; and sometimes labour in the quern,
more common usage, and that which he has preferred, I have corrected the former word. Malone. 6 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 milk, work in the handmill, 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 that he does. I would regulate the lines thus:
And sometimes make the breathless housewife churn
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. Fohnson.
Dr. Johnson thinks the mention of the mill out of place, as the fairy is not now telling the good, but the evil he does. The observation will apply, with equal force, to his skimming the milk, which, if it were done at a proper time, and the cream preserved, would be a piece of service. But we must understand both to be mischievous pranks. He skims the milk, when it ought not to be skimmed:(So, in Grim the Collier of Croydon :
“ But woe betide the silly dairy-maids,
- For I shall fleet their cream-bowls night by night.”) and grinds the corn, when it is not wanted; at the same time, perhaps, throwing the flour about the house. Ritson.
A Quern is a hand-mill, kuerna, mola. Islandic. So, in Chau. cer's Monkes Tale :
- Wheras they made him at the querne grinde.” Again, in Stanyhurst's translation of the first book of Virgil, 1582, quern-stones are mill-stones :
s. Theyre corne in quern-stoans they do grind,” &c. Again, in The More the Merrier, a collection of epigrams, 1608:
“ Which like a querne can grind more in an hour." Again, in the old Song of Robin Goodfellow, printed in the 3d volume of Dr. Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry:
“ I grind at mill,
“ Their malt up still,” &c. Steevens. 1-no barm ;] Barme is a name for yeast, yet used in our midland counties, and universally in Ireland. So, in Mother Bombie, a comedy, 1594: “It behoveth 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 barm.” Steevens.
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,
8 Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,
You do their work,] To those traditionary opinions Milton has reference in L'Allegro:
“ Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
“ Then lies him down the lubber fiend." A like account of Puck is given by Drayton, in his Nymphidia:
“ He meeteth Puck, which most men call
“Of purpose to deceive us;
“ He doth with laughter leave us.' It will be apparent to him, that shall compare Drayton's poem with this play, that either one of the poets copied the other, or, as I rather believe, that there was then some system of the fairy empire generally received, which they both represented as accurately as they could. Whether Drayton or Shakspeare wrote first, I cannot discover. Fohnson.
Gervase of Tilbury, speaking of the Portunus, a species of dæmon, says:-"Cum inter ambiguas noctis tenebras Angli solitarii equitant, Portunus nonnunquam invisus equitanti se copulat, et cum diutius comitatur euntem, tandem loris arreptis equum in lutum ad manum ducit, in quo dum infixus volutatur, Portunus exiens cachinnum facit, & sic hujuscemodi ludibrio humanam simplicitatem deridet.” See also Mr. Tyrwhitt, on v. 6441, of the Cant. Tales of Chaucer.
The same learned editor supposes Drayton to have been the follower of Shakspeare; for, says he, Don Quixote (which was not published till 1605) is cited in the Nymphidia, whereas we have an edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in 1600.
In this century, some of our poets have been as little scrupulous in adopting the ideas of their predecessors. In Gay's ballad, inserted in The What d'ye call it, is the following stanza:
Are not you he?
“ How can they say that nature
“ Has nothing made in vain ; “Why then beneath the water
“ Should hideous rocks remain ?" &c. &c. Compare this with a passage in Cha cer's Frankeleines Tale, 'Tyrwhitt's edit. v. i, 11,179, &c.
“ In idel, as men sain, ye nothing make,
“ But, lord, thise grisly fendly rockes blake," &c. &c. And Mr. Pope is more indebted to the same author for beauties, inserted in his Eloisa to Abelard, than he has been willing to acknowledge. Steevens.
If Drayton wrote The Nymphidia after A Midsummer Night's Dream had been acted, he could with very little propriety say:
“ Then since no muse hath been so bold,
" Which lye from others reading;
“ Jove prosper my proceeding." Holt White. Don Quixote, though published in Spain, in 1605, was probabiy little known in England, till Skelton's translation appeared, in 1612. Drayton's poem was, I have no doubt, subsequent to that year. The earliest edition of it, that I have seen, was printed in 1619. Malone.
sweet Puck,] The epithet is by no means superfluous; as Puck alone was far from being an endearing appellation. It signified nothing better than fiend, or devil. So, the author of Pierce Ploughman puts the pouk for the devil, fol. lxxxx, B. V, penult. See also, fol. lxvii, v. 15: “none helle powke.”
It seems to have been an old Gothic word. Puke, puken; Sa. thanas, Gudin. And. Lexicon Island. Tyrwhitt.
In The Bugbears, an ancient MS. comedy, in the possession of the Marquis of Lansdowne, I likewise met with this appellation of a fiend : “ Puckes, puckerels, hob howlard, by gorn and Robin Good
felow.” Again, in The Scourge of Venus, or the wanton Lady, with the rare Birth of Adonis, 1615:
- Their bed doth shake and quaver as they lie,
“. As if it groan’d to bear the weight of sinne ;
“ And cry out at the shame they do live in: