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Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
strange ill conduct afterwards more violently inflamed them, she might have passed her whole life in peace. There is the greater justness and beauty in this image, as the vulgar opinion is, that the mermaid always sings in storms:
“And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
“ To hear the sea-maid's musick.” This concludes the description, with that remarkable circumstance of this unhappy lady's fate, the destruction she brought upon several of the English nobility, whom she drew in to support her cause. This, in the boldest expression of the sublime, the poet images by certain stars shooting madly from their spheres : By which he meant the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, who fell in her quarrel; and principally the great Duke of Norfolk, whose projected marriage with her was attended with such fatal consequences. Here again the reader may observe a peculiar justness in the imagery. The vulgar opinion being that the mermaid allured men to destruction with her songs. To which opinion Shakspeare alludes in his Comedy of Errors:
“O train me not, sweet mermaid, with thy note,
“ To drown me in thy sisters flood of tears." On the whole, it is the noblest and justest allegory that was ever written. The laying it in fairy land, and out of nature, is in the character of the speaker. And on these occasions Shakspeare always excels himself. He is borne away by the magic of his enthusiasm, and hurries his reader along with him into these ancient regions of poetry, by that power of verse which we may well fancy to be like what,
" Olim fauni vatesque canebant.” WARBURTON. “And certain stars shot madly from their spheres." So, in our author's Rape of Lucrece :
“And little stars shot from their fixed places.” Malone. Every reader may be induced to wish that the foregoing allusion, pointed out by so acute a critic as Dr. Warburton, should remain uncontroverted; and yet I cannot dissemble my doubts concerning it.—Why is the thrice-married Queen of Scotland stiled a Sea-MAID ? and is it probable that Shakspeare (who understood his own political as well as poetical interest) should have ventured such a panegyric on this ill-fated Princess, during the reign of her rival Elizabeth ? If it was unintelligible to his audience, it was thrown away; if obvious, there was danger of offence to her Majesty.
“A star dis-orb’d,” however, (See Troilus and Cressida,) is one of our author's favourite images ; and he has no where else so happily expressed it as in Antony and Cleopatra :
At a fair vestal, throned by the west ?;
“ - the good stars, that were my former guides,
« Into th' abysm of hell.". • To these remarks may be added others of a like tendency, which I met with in The Edinburgh Magazine, Nov. 1786. – “ That a compliment to Queen Elizabeth was intended in the expression of the fair Vestul throned in the West, seems to be generally allowed; but how far Shakspeare designed, under the image of the Mermaid, to figure Mary Queen of Scots, is more doubtful. If by the rude sea grew civil at her song, is meant, as Dr. Warburton supposes, that the tumults of Scotland were appeased by her address, the observation is not true; for that sea was in a storm during the whole of Mary's reign. Neither is the figure just, if by the stars shooting madly from their spheres to hear the sea-maid's musick, the poet alluded to the fate of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, and particularly of the Duke of Norfolk, whose projected marriage with Mary was the occasion of his ruin. It would have been absurd and irreconcileable to the good sense of the poet, to have represented a nobleman aspiring to marry a queen, by the image of a star shooting or descending from its sphere.”
See also Mr. Ritson's observations on the same subject. On account of their length they are given at the end of the play.
STEEVENS. · Cupid ALL ARM'D:] All arm'd does not signify dressed in panoply, but only enforces the word armed, as we might say, all booted. Johnson. So, in Greene's Never Too Late, 1616:
“Or where proud Cupid sat all arm’d with fire." Again, in Lord Surrey's translation of the 4th book of the Æneid:
“ All utterly I could not seem forsaken.” Again, in King Richard III. :
“ His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights.” Shakspeare's compliment to Queen Elizabeth has no small degree of propriety and elegance to boast of. The same can hardly be said of the following, with which the tragedy of Soliman and Perseda, 1599, concludes. Death is the speaker, and vows he will spare
" none but sacred Cynthia's friend,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts:
If incense was thrown in cart-loads on the altar, this propitious deity was not disgusted by the smoke of it. Steevens.
2 At a fair vestal, throned by the west;] A compliment to Queen Elizabeth. Pope.
It was no uncommon thing to introduce a compliment to this resolute, this determined virgin, in the body of a play. So again, in Tancred and Gismund, 1592 :
“ There lives a virgin, one without compare,
STEEVENS. 3 — fancy-free.] i. e. exempt from the power of love. Thus, in Queen Elizabeth's Entertainment in Suffolke and Norfolke, written by Churchyard, Chastity deprives Cupid of his bow, and presents it to her Majesty : “ – and bycause that the Queene had chosen the best life, she gave the Queene Cupid's bow, to learne to shoote at whome she pleased : since none could wound her highnesse hart, it was meete (said Chastitie) that she should do with Cupid's bowe and arrowes what she pleased." STEEVENS.
4 And maidens call it, LOVE-IN-IDLENESS.] This is as fine a metamorphosis as any in Ovid: with a much better moral, intimating, that irregular love has only power when people are idle, or not well employed. WARBURTON.
I believe the singular beauty of this metamorphosis to have been quite accidental, as the poet is of another opinion, in The Taming of a Shrew, Act I. Sc. IV.:
“ But see, while idly I stood looking on,
“ If I achieve not this young modest girl.” . And Lucentio's was surely a regular and honest passion. It is scarce necessary to mention, that love-in-idleness is a Hower.
Fetch me that flower; the herb I show'd thee once;
Puck. I'll put a girdle round * about the Earth 5 In forty minutes.
[Exit Puck. OBE.
Having once this juice,
* So quarto F. ; folio, and quarto R., omit round. Taylor, the water-poet, quibbling on the names of plants, mentions it as follows:
“ When passions are let loose without a bridle,
“ Then precious time is turn’d to love-in-idle." STEEVENS. The flower or violet, commonly called pansies, or heart's ease, is named love-in-idleness in Warwickshire, and in Lyte's Herbal. There is a reason why Shakspeare says it is “now purple with love's wound,” because one or two of its petals are of a purple colour. Tollet.
It is called in other counties the Three coloured violet, the Herb of Trinity, Three faces in a hood, Cuddle me to you, &c.
STEEVENS. s I'll put a GIRDLE ROUND ABOUT THE EARTH -] This expression also occurs in The Bird in a Cage, 1633 :
“ And when I have put a girdle 'bout the world,
“ This purchase will reward me." Perhaps it is proverbial. Again, in Bussy d'Ambois, by Chapman, 1613 :
“ To put a girdle round about the world.” And in other plays. STEEVENS. 6 – I am INVISIBLE :) I thought proper here to observe,
And I will over-hear their conference.
Enter DEMETRIUS, HELENA following him. Dem. I love thee not, therefore pursue me not. Where is Lysander, and fair Hermia ? The one I'll slay, the other slayeth me?. Thou told'st me, they were stoln into this wood, And here am I, and wood within this wood, Because I cannot meet with Hermia. Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more. Hel. You draw me, you hard-hearted ada
mant; But yet you draw not iron', for my heart
that, as Oberon, and Puck his 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.
7 The one I'll stay, the other slayeth me.] The old copies read
“ The one I'll stay, the other stayeth me.” STEEVENS. Dr. Thirlby ingeniously saw it must be, as I have corrected in the text. TheoBALD.
8 — and wood within this wood,] Wood, or mad, wild, raving. Pope.
In the third part of the Countess of Pembroke's Ivy-Church, 1591, is the same quibble on the word :
“ Daphne goes to the woods, and vowes herself to Diana;
“ Phæbus grows stark wood for love and fancie to Daphne." We also find the same word in Chaucer, in the character of the Monke, Tyrwhitt's edit. v. 184:
" What shulde he studie, and make himselven wood !" Spenser also uses it, Æglogue III. March :
“ The elf was so wanton, and so wode." “ The name Woden,” says Verstegan in his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 1605 : “signifies fierce or furious; and in like sense we still retain it, saying when one is in a great rage, that he is wood, or taketh on as if he were wood.”
STEEVENS. See Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act II. Sc. III. HARRIS. 9 You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant ;
But yet you draw not iron,] I learn from Edward Fenton's