Page images

And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be";
In their gold coats spots you see o;

of the same stampe, wherein the corrupte orthography in the most, hath been the sole or principal cause of corrupte prosodye in over-many ?”

The following passage, however, in the 3d book of Sidney's Arcadia, may suggest a different reading :

- what mov'd me to invite “ Your presence, (sister deare,) first to my moony sphere?”

STEEVENS. The passage from Harvey tends to overthrow the notion that the Saxon genitive was employed. If Goddes were pronounced as a dissyllable, it would have the same prosody as God hys. But with regard to this and similar verses, see the Essay on Shakspeare's Versification. BosweLL.

4 To dew her ORBS upon the green :) The orbs here mentioned are circles supposed to be made by the fairies on the ground, whose verdure proceeds from the fairies' care to water them. Thus, Drayton :

“ They in their courses make that round,
“ In meadows and in marshes found,

“ Of them so called the fairy ground." Johnson. Thus, in Olaus Magnus de Gentibus Septentrionalibus : “— similes illis spectris, quæ in multis locis, præsertim nocturno tempore, suum saltatorium orbem cum omnium musarum concentu versare solent." It appears from the same author, that these dancers always parched up the grass, and therefore it is properly made the office of the fairy to refresh it. STEEVENS.

s The cowslips tall her PENSIONERS be ;] The cowslip was a favourite among the fairies. There is a hint in Drayton of their attention to May morning :

“ For the queen a fitting tower,
“ Quoth he, is that fair cowslip flower.-
“ In all your train there's not a fay
“ That ever went to gather May,
“ But she hath made it in her way,

“ The tallest there that groweth." JOHNSON. This was said in consequence of Queen Elizabeth's fashionable establishment of a band of military courtiers, by the name of pensioners. They were some of the handsomest and tallest young men, of the best families and fortune, that could be found. Hence, says Mrs. Quickly, in The Merry Wives, Act II. Sc. II. : “ -- and yet there has been earls, nay, which is more, pen

Those be rubies, fairy favours,

In those freckles live their savours : I must go seek some dew-drops here, And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear". Farewell, thou lob of spirits o, I'll be gone; Our queen and all her elves come here anon. Puck. The king doth keep his revels here to

night; Take heed, the queen come not within his sight. For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,

sioners.” They gave the mode in dress and diversions.They accompanied the Queen in her progress to Cambridge, where they held staff-torches at a play on a Sunday evening, in King's College Chapel. T. WARTON.

• In their gold coats spots you see ;] Shakspeare, in Cymbeline, refers to the same red spots :

“ A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops

“l' th' bottom of a cowslip." PERCY. Perhaps there is likewise some allusion to the habit of a pensioner. See a note on the second Act of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Sc. II. STEEVENS.

? And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.] The same thought occurs in an old comedy callid 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 :

“ 'Twas I that led you through the painted meads
“ Where the light fairies danc'd upon the flowers,

Hanging on every leaf an orient pearl." STEEVENS. 8 — LOB of spirits,] Lob, lubber, looby, lobcock, all denote both inactivity of body and dulness of mind. Johnson,

Both lob and lobcock are used as terms of contempt in The Rival Friends, 1632. Again, in the interlude of Jacob 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 Lob-lye-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,

Because that she, as her attendant, hath
A lovely boy, stol'n from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling! :
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild':
But she, perforce, withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy:
And now they never meet in grove, or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled star-light sheen,
But they do square' ; that all their elves, for fear,

9 - 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,
“ Such men do changelings call, so call’d by fairy theft.”

STEEVENS. It is here properly used, and in its common acceptation ; that is, for a child got in exchange. A fairy is now speaking. Ritson.

I - 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.”

Holt WHITE. ? — 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. l. no date:

“ He kyssed and toke his leave of the quene,

“ And of other ladies bright and shene." STEEVENS. 3 But they do SAUARE ;) To square here is to quarrel. The French word contrecarrer has the same import. Johnson. So, in Jack Drum's Entertainment, 1601 : “

let me not seem rude,
“ That thus I seem to square with modesty."

“ pray let me go, for he'll begin to square," &c. Again, in Promos and Cassandra, 1578:

“Marry, she knew you and I were at square,
And lest we fell to blowes, she did prepare." STEEVENS.

Creep into acorn cups, and hide them there.
Fai. Either I mistake your shape and making

Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite,
Call’d Robin Good-fellow * : are you not he,
That fright” the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk; and sometimes labour in the quern,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churno;

It is somewhat whimsical, that the glasiers use the words square and quarrel as synonymous terms for a pane of glass.

BLACKSTONE. 4 — Robin Good-fellow :) This account of Robin Good-fellow corresponds, in every article, with that given of him in Harsenet'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 aconomy. T. WARTON.

Reginald Scot gives the same account of this frolicksome spirit, in his Discoverie of Witchcraft, Lond. 1584, 4to. p. 66: “ Your grandames' maids were wont to set a bowl of milk for him, for his pains in grinding malt and mustard, and sweeping the house at midnight—this white bread and bread and milk, was his standing fee.” Steevens.

s 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 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 sometime make the drink to bear no barm?; Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm ?

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. Johnson.

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.

The charge against Puck is not that he skims the milk at an improper time, but that he steals the cream. Jonson says the same of Mab in his Entertainment at Althorpe:

“ This is Mab the mistress fairy,
“ That doth mighty rot the dairy,
“ And can hurt or help the churning,

“ As she please, without discerning." MALONE, A Quern is a hand-mill, kuerna, mola. Islandic. So, in Chaucer's Monkes Tale :

“Wheras they made him at the querne grinde.” Again, in Stonyhurst's translation of the first book of Virgil, 1582, quern-stones are mill-stones :

“ 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. 7- 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."


« PreviousContinue »