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at all, and then you will play bare-faced.-But, masters, here are your parts : and I am to entreat you, request you, and desire you, to con them by to-morrow night; and meet me in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moon-light; there will we rehearse: for if we meet in the city, we shall be dogg'd with company, and our devices known. In the mean time I will draw a bill of properties?, such as our play wants. I pray you, fail me not.

Bot. We will meet; and there we may rehearse more obscenely, and courageously. Take pains; be perfect, adieu.

Quin. At the duke's oak we meet.
Bot. Enough; Hold, or cut bow-strings 8.

[Exeunt.

ACT II.
SCENE I. A Wood near Athens.
Enter a Fairy at one door, and Puck at another.
Puck. How now, spirit! whither wander you?
Fai. Over hill, over dale,

Thorough bush, thorough briar",
Over park, over pale,

Thorough flood, thorough fire.
I do wander every where,

Swifter than the moones sphere; 6 This allusion to the Corona Veneris, or baldness attendant upon a particular stage of, what was then termed, the French disease, is too frequent in Shakspeare, and is here explained once for all.

7 Articles required in performing a play. 8 To meet whether bowstrings hold or are cut is to meet in all

But the origin of the phrase has not been satisfactorily explained. So Drayton, in his Nymphidia, or Court of Fairy:

• Thorough brake, thorough briar,
Thorough muck, thorough mire,
Thorough water, thorough fire.

events.

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;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,

In those freckles live their savours :
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear“.
Farewell, thou lob5 of spirits, 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,
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 forest wild :

2 The orbs here mentioned are those circles in the herbage commonly called fairy-rings, the cause of which is not yet certainly known. Thus, also, Drayton:

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

Of them so called fairy ground.' Olaus Magnus says that these dancers parched ap the grass; and therefore it is properly made the office of the fairy to refresh it.

3 The allusion is to Elizabeth's band of gentlemen pensioners, who were chosen from among the handsomest and tallest young men of family and fortune ; they were dressed in habits richly garnished with gold lace. See vol, i. p. 218, note 9. * In the old comedy of Doctor Dodypoll, 1600, 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.' 5 Lubber or clown. Lob, lobcock, looby, and lubber, all denote inactivity of body and dulness of mind. The reader will remember Milton in L'Allegro:

• Then lays him down the lubber fiend.' 6 A changeling was a child changed by a fairy; it here means one stolen or got in exchange.

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 8; that all their elves, for fear,
Creep into acorn cups, and hide them there.

Fai. Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite,
Calld Robin Good-fellow: are you not be,
That fright the maidens of the villagery :
Skim milk; and sometimes labour in the querno,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm 10;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,
You do their work 11; and they shall have good luck:
Are not

you

he? Puck.

Thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon, and make him smile,
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,

7

9

Shining. 8 Quarrel. For the probable cause of the use of square for quarrel, see Mr. Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 182.

A

quern was a handmill. 10 • And if that the bowle of curds and creame were not duly set out for Robin Goodfellow, the frier, and Sisse the dairy-maid, why then either the pottage was burnt 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 Peeterpenny, or an housle-egg were behind, or a patch of tythe unpaid,

—then ware of bull-beggars, spirits,' &c. Harsnet's Declaration, &c. ch. xx. p. 134. So also, Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, 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 milk was his standing fee.'

11 Milton refers to these traditions in L’Allegro. And Drayton, in his Nymphidia, gives a like account of Puck. Drayton followed Shakspeare; the Nymphidia was one of his latest poems, and was published for the first time in 1619.

6

Neighing in likeness of a filly foal:
And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In
very

likeness of a roasted crab 12;
And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her wither'd dew-lap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And tailor cries 13, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips, and loffe;
And
yexen

14 in their mirth, and neeze, and swear A merrier hour was never wasted there. But room, Faëry, here comes Oberon. Fai. And here my mistress :—'Would that he

were gone!

SCENE II.

Enter OBERON, at one door, with his Train, and

TITANIA, at another, with hers.
Obe. Ill met by moon-light, proud Titania.

Tita. What, jealous Oberon? Fairy, skip hence; I have forsworn his bed and company.

Obe. Tarry, rash wanton: Am not I thy lord ?
Tita. Then I must be thy lady: But I know

12 Wild apple.

13 Dr. Johnson thought he remembered to have heard this ludicrous exclamation upon a person's seat slipping from under him. He that slips from his chair falls as a tailor squats upon his board. Hanmer thought the passage corrupt, and proposed to read rails or cries.'

14 The old copy reads: “And waxen in their mirth, &c.' Though a glimmering of sense may be extracted from this passage as it stands in the old copy, it seems most probable that we should read, as Dr. Farmer proposed, yexen. To yex is to hiccup, and is so explained in all the old dictionaries. The meaning of the passage will then be, that the objects of Puck's waggery laughed till their laughter ended in a yex or hiccup. Puck is speaking with an affectation of ancient phraseology.

you come

When thou hast stol'n away from fairy land,
And in the shape of Corin sat all day,
Playing on pipes of corn"; and versing love
To amorous Phillida. Why art thou here,
Come from the farthest steep of India ?
But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,
Your buskin'd mistress, and your warrior love,
To Theseus must be wedded; and
To give their bed joy and prosperity.

Obe. How, canst thou thus, for shame, Titania,
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?
Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night
From Perigenia, whom he ravished?
And make him with fair Æglé break his faith,
With Ariadne, and Antiopa??

Tita. These are the forgeries of jealousy: And never, since the middle summer's springs, Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead, By paved fountain, or by rusby brook, Or on the beached margent of the sea, To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind, But with thy brawls thou hast disturbid our sport. Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain, As in revenge, have suck'd

up

from the sea Contagious fogs; which falling in the land, Have every pelting * river made so proud, · The shepherd boys of Chaucer's time had

Many a floite and litling horne

And pipés made of grené corne. 2 See the Life of Theseus in North's Translation of Plutarch. Æglé, Ariadne, and Antiopa were all at different times mistresses to Theseus. The name of Perigune is translated by North Perigouna.

3 Spring seems to be here used for beginning. The spring of day is used for the dawn of day in K. Henry IV. Part II.

* A very common epithet with our old writers, to signify paltry, palting appears to have been its original orthography.

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