« PreviousContinue »
Edg. The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice of a nightingale. Hopdance cries in Tom's belly for two white herring:2 Croak not, black angel; I have no food for thee.
many songs, as fooles were wont;" and among them is this passage, which Dr. Johnson has very justly suspected of corruption :
“ Com over the boorne, Bessé,
“Com over the boorne, Bessé, to me." This song was entered on the books of the Stationers' Company in the year 1564.
A bourn in the north signifies a rivulet or brook. Hence the names of many of our villages terminate in burn, as Milburn, Sherburn, &c. The former quo:ation, together with the following instances, at once confirm the justness of Dr. Johnson's remark, and support the reading.
So, in Drayton's Polyolbion, Song 1:
“ The bourns, the brooks, the becks, the rills, the rivulets.” Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. II, c. vi:
“ My little boat can safely passe this perilous bourne." Shakspeare himself, in The Tempest, appears to have discriminated bourn from bound of land in general:
“ Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none." Again, in The Vision of Pierce Plowman, line 8:
“ Under a brode banke by bourne syde.” To this I may add, that bourn, a boundary, is from the French borne. Bourne, or (as it ought to be spelt) burn, a rivulet, is from the German burn, or burn, a well. Steevens.
There is a peculiar propriety in this address, that has not, I believe, been hitherto observed. Bessy and Poor Ton it seems, usually travelled together. The author of The Court of Conscience, or Dick Whippers Sessions, 1607, describing beggars, idle rogues, and counterfeit madmen, thus speaks of these associates :
“ Another sort there is among you ; they
“ Do rage with furie as if they were so frantique “ They knew not what they did, but every day
“ Make sport with stick and flowers like an antique ; “ Stowt roge and harlot counterfeited gomme ;
“ One calls herself poor Besse, the other Tom.” The old song of which Mr. Steevens has given a part, consisted of nine lines, but they are not worth insertion. Malone.
in the voice of a nightingale.] Another deponent in Harse. net's book, (p. 225) says, that the mistress of the house kept a nightingale in a cage, which being one night called, and conveyed away into the garden, it was pretended the devil had killed it in spite. Perhaps this passage suggested to Shakspeare the circumstance of Tom's being haunted in the voice of a nightingale. Percy.
Hopdance cries in Torn's belly - ] In Harsenet's book, p. 194, 195, Sarah Williams (one of the pretended demoniacks) deposeth,
- that if at any time she did belch, as often times she did by rea
Kent. How do you, sir? Stand you not so amaz’d: Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions? Lear. I'll see their trial first :-Bring in the evi.
dence.Thou robed man of justice, take thy place;- [To Edg. And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity, [To the Fool. Bench by his side :-You are of the commission, Sit you too.
[To KENT Edg. Let us deal justly. Sleepest, or wakest thou, jolly shepherd ?3
Thy sheep be in the corn;
Thy sheep shall take no harm.
Lear. Arraign her first; 'tis Goneril. I here take my oath before this honourable assembly, she kicked the poor king her father.
son that shee was troubled with a wind in her stomacke, the priests would say at such times, that then the spirit began to rise in der .... and that the wind was the devil.” And, “as she saith, if they heard any croaking in her belly.... then they would make a wonderful matter of that." Hoberdidance is mentioned before in Dr. Percy's note.
Steevens. “ One time shee remembereth, that shee having the said croaking in her belly, they said it was the devil that was about the bed, that spake with the voice of a toad.” Ibidem. Malone.
white herring:) White herrings are pickled herrings. See The Northumberland Household Book, p. 8. Steevens.
3 Sleepest, or wakest &c.] This seems to be a stanza of some pastoral song. A shepherd is desired to pipe, and the request is enforced by a promise, that though his sheep be in the corn, i. e. committing a trespass by his negligence, implied in the question, Sleepest thou or wakest? yet a single tune upon his pipe shall secure them froin the pound. Folinson.
Minikin was anciently a terın of endearment. So, in the enterlude of The Repentance of Marie Magdalaine, 1567, the Vice says, “ What mynikin carnal concupiscence !" Barrett, in his Alveurie, or Quadru. ple Dictionary, 1580, interprets feat, by “ proper, well-fashioned, minikin, handsome.”
In The Interlude of the Four Elements, &c. printed by Rastell, 1519. Ignorance sings a song composed of the scraps of several others. Among them is the following line, on which Shakspeare may have designed a parody:
“ Sicepyst thou, wakyst thou, Geffery Coke.” Steevens. 4 Pur!) This may be only an imitation of the noise made by a cat. Purre is, however, one of the devil's mentioned in Harsenet's book, p. 50. Malone.
Fool. Come hither, mistress; Is your name Goneril?
Edg. Bless thy five wits!
Kent. O pity -Sir, where is the patience now, That you so oft have boasted to retain ?
Edg. My tears begin to take his part so much, They 'll mar my counterfeiting.
[Aside. Lear. The little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me.
Edg. Tom will throw his head at them :-
Be thy mouth or black or white,
5 Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint stool.] This is a proverbial expression which occurs likewise in Mother Bombie, 1594, by Lyly.
Steevens. 6 Be thy mouth or black or white,] To have the roof of the mouth black is in some dogs a proof that their breed is genuine. Steevens. brach or lym ; &c.] Names of particular sorts of dogs.
Pope. In Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, Quarlous says,—"all the lime-hounds of the city should have drawn after you by the scent."
-A limmer or leamer, a dog of the chace, was so called from the leam or leash in wirich he was held till he was let slip. I have this information from Caius de Canibus Britannicis.-So, in the book of Antient Tenures, by T. B. 1679, the words, canes domini regis lesos," are translated « Leash hounds, such as draw after a hurt deer in a leash, or liam.” Again, in The Muses Elysium, by Drayton :
My dog hook at my belt, to which my lyam's tyd." Again :
“ My hound then in my lyam," &c. Among the presents sent from James I, to the king and queen of Spain were, “ A cupple of lyme houndes of singular qualities.” Again, in Massinger's Bashful Lover:
smell out “Her footing like a lime-hound.” The late Mr. Hawkins, in his notes to The Return from Parnassus,
Or bobtail tike, or trundle-tail ;9
Dogs leap the hatch, and all are fled. Do de, de de. Sessa. Come, march to wakes and fairs, and market towns:-Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.3
p. 237, says, that a rache is a dog that hunts by scent wild beasts, birds, and even fishes, and that the female of it is called a brache : and in Magnificence, an ancient interlude or morality, by Skelton; printed by Rastell, no date, is the following line :
“ Here is a leyshe of ratches to renne an hare.” Steevens. What is here said of a rache might perhaps be taken by Mr. Haw. kins, from Holinshed's Description of Scotland, p. 14, where the sleuthound means a bloodhound. The females of all dogs were once called braches; and Ulitius upon Gratius observes, “ Racha Saxonibus canem significabat unde Scoti hodie Rache pro cane fæmina habent, quod Anglis est Brache.” Tollet.
- brach, or lym ; &c.] The old copies have-brache or hym. The emendation was made by Sir T. Hanmer. A brache signified a particular kind of hound, and also a bitch. A lym or lyme, was a blood-hound. See Minsheu's Dict. in y. Malone.
bobtail tike,] Tijk is the Runick word for a little, or worthless dog: 56 Are Mr. Robinson's dogs turn'd tikes, with a wanion ?”
Witches of Lancaster, 1634. Steevens. • trundle-tail;] This sort of dog is mentioned in A Woman killed with Kindness, 1617 :
your dogs are trundle-tails and curs." Again, in The Booke of Huntyng, &c. bl. 1. no date:
dunghill dogs, trindle-tails.” &c. Steevens. 1 Tom will make them-] Thus the quartos. Folio-will make him. Malone.
2 Do de, de de. Sessa. Come, &c.] The quartos read-loudla, doudla, come, &c. The folio as in the text, except that the word Sessa is spelt sesse. See p. 251, n. 6. Malone.
Here sessey again, which I take to be the French word cessez pronounced cessey, which was, I suppose, like some others in com. inon use among us. It is an interjection enforcing cessation of any action, like, be quiet, have done. It seems to have been gradually corrupted into, so, so. Fohnson.
This word is wanting in the quarto : in the folio it is printed sese. It is difficult in this place to say what is meant by it. It should be remembered, that just before, Edgar had been calling on Bessey to come to him; and he may now with equal propriety invite Sessy (perhaps a female name corrupted from Cecilia) to attend him to wakes and fairs. Nor is it impossible but that this may be a part of some old song, and originally stood thus:
Lear. Then let them anatomize Regan, see what breeds about her heart: Is there any cause in nature, that makes these hard hearts ? - You, sir, I entertain you for one of my hundred; only, I do not like the fashion of your garments: you will say, they are Persian attire ;4 but let them be changed.
[To Edg. Kent. Now, good my lord, lie here,5 and rest awhile.
Sissy, come march to wakes,
And fairs, and market towns.So, in Humor's Ordinarie, an ancient collection of satires, no date :
“ To make Sisse in love withal.” Again:
“ My heart's deare blood, sweet Sisse is my carouse." There is another line in the character of Edgar which I am very confident I have seen in an old ballad, viz.
“Through the sharp hawthorn blows the cold wind.” Steevens. Dr. Johnson is surely right, in supposing that sessy is a corruption of cessez, be quiet, stop, hold, let alone. It is so used by Christofero Sly, the drunken Tinker, in The Taming of the Shrew, and by Edgar himself, in a preceding scene“ Dolphin, my boy, Sessy; let him trot by.” But it does not seem equally clear that it has been corrupted into so, so.
thy horn is dry.] Men that begged under pretence of lunacy used formerly to carry a horn, and blow it through the streets.
Johnson. So, in Decker's O per se 0, 4to. 1612. He is speaking of beggars. “ The second beginnes :-what will you give poor Tom now? one pound of your sheepes feathers to make Poore Tom a blanket, or one cutting of your Sow side &c. to make poore Tom a sharing horne &c. -give poore Tom an old sheete to keepe him from the cold” &c. Sig. M 3.
A horn is at this day employed in many places in the country as a cup for drinking, but anciently the use of it was much more general. Thy horn is dry, however, appears to be a proverbial expression, introduced when a man has nothing further to offer, when he has said all he had to say. Such a one's pipe's out, is a phrase current in Ireland on the same occasion.
I suppose Edgar to speak these words aside. Being quite weary of his Tom o' Bediam's part, and finding himself unable to support it any longer, he says privately,“ – I can no more: all my ma erials for sustaining the characier of Poor Tom are now exhausted ; my horn is dry: i.e. has nothing more in it; and accordingly we have no more of his dissembled madness till he meets his father in the next Act, when he resumes it for a speech or two, but not without expressing the same dislike of it that he expresses here, “ I cannot daub it further.” Steevens.
you will say, they are Persian attire ;] Alluding, perhaps, to Clytus refusing the Persian robes oílered him by Alexander. Steevens.