Page images
PDF
EPUB

80

90

95

Where perhaps some beauty lies,
The Cynosure of neighbouring eyes *.
Hard by, a cottage chimney smoaks
From betwixt two aged oaks,
Where Corydon and Thyrsis, met,
Are at their savoury dinner set
Of herbs and other country messes,
Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses ;
And then in haste her bower she leaves,
With Thestylis to bind the sheaves ;
Or, if the earlier season lead,
To the tann'd haycock in the mead.
Sometimes with secure delight
The upland hamlets y will invite,
When the merry bells ring round?,
And the jocúnd rebecks sound a
To many a youth and many a maid,

Dancing in the chequer'd shade b; at once; and never excite expectation by concealment, by gradual approaches, and by interrupted appearances.- .-T. WARTON.

Where perhaps some beauty lies,

The Cynosure of neighbouring eyes. Most probably from Burton's “Melancholy,” as Peck observes : but in Shakspeare we have "your eyes are lodestarres,” “Mids. Night's Dream," a. i. s. 1. And this was no uncommon compliment in Chaucer, Skelton, Sydney, Spenser, and other old English poets, as Mr. Steevens has abundantly proved. Milton enlivens his prospect by this unexpected circumstance, which gives it a moral charm.-T. WARTON.

The upland hamlets. In opposition to the hay-making scene in the lower lands.—THYER.

? When the merry bells ring round. See Shakspeare, “Henry IV.” P. II. a. iv. s. 4 :

And bid the merry bells ring to thine ear.-T. WARTON.

· And the jocund rebecks sound. The rebeck was a species of fiddle ; and is, I believe, the same that is called in Chaucer, Lydgate, and the old French writers, the rebible. It appears from Sylvester's “Du Bartas” that the cymbal was furnished with wires, and the rebeck with strings of catgut, ed. 1621, p. 221. "But wyerie cymbals, rebecks sinewes twined.” Du Cange quotes a middle-aged barbarous Latin poet, who mentions many musical instruments by names now hardly intelligible “Gloss. Lat. v. Baudosa." One of them is the rebeck. 'Quidam rebeccam arcuabant :” where by arcuabant, we are to understand that it was played upon by a bow,

The word occurs in Drayton's “Eclogues, vol. iv. p. 1391. "He tuned his rebeck to a mournful note.” And see our author's "Liberty of Unlicensed Printing :"

“The villages also must have their visitors to enquire, what lectures the bagpipe and the rebeck reads even to the gammuth of every municiple (town) fidler, &c. If, as I have supposed, it is Chaucer's "ribible,” the diminutive of "rebibe” used also by Chaucer, I must agree with Sir John Hawkins, that it originally comes from “rebeb,” the name of a Moorish musical instrument with two strings played on by a bow. Sir John adds, that the Moors brought it into Spain, whence it passed into Italy, and obtained the appellation of ribeca. “Hist. Mus.” ii. 86. Perhaps we have it from the French rebec and rebecquin. In the Percy household book, 1512, are recited, “mynstralls in household iij, viz. a tabarett, a luyte, and a rebecc.” It appears below queen Elizabeth's reign in the music establishment of the royal household.-T. WARTON.

b Chequer'd shade. So, in “Titus Andronic.” a. ii. s. 3:

The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind
And make a chequer'd shadow on the ground.-RICHARDSON.

66

arcus.

100

105

110

115

And young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday,
Till the livelong daylight fail :
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale a,
With stories told of many a feat,
How faery Mab the junkets eat :
She was pinch’d and pullid she sed e;
And he, by friar's lantern led f,
Tells how the drudging goblin swet,
To earn his cream-bowl duly set 8,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath thresh'd the corn,
That ten day-labourers could not end :
Then lies him down the lubbar fiend,
And, stretch'd out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength;
And crop-full out of doors he flings,
Ere the first cock his matin rings.
Thus done the tales, to bed they creep,
By whispering winds soon lulld asleep.
Tower'd cities please us then ,
And the busy hum of men,

c Till the livelong daylight fail.
Here the poet begins to pass the night with mirth; and he begins

with the night or evening of the sunshine holiday,” whose merriments he has just celebrated.-T. WARTON.

Then to the spicy nut-brown ale. This was Shakspeare's "gossip's bowl,”- “ Midsummer Night's Dream,” a.i. s. 1. The composition was ale, nutmeg, sugar, toast, and roasted crabs, or apples : it was called lamb's wool. Our old dramas have frequent allusions to this delectable beverage. In Fletcher's “Faithful Shepherdess” it is styled "the spiced wassel-boul."-T.WARTON.

e She was pinch'd and pulld, she sed, &c. “He” and “she” are persons of the company assembled to spend the evening, after a country wake, at a rural junket: all this is a part of the pastoral imagery which now prevailed in our poetry.-T. WARTON.

? And he, by friar's lantern led, &c. “Friar's lantern," is the Jack-and-lantern, which led people in the night into marshes and waters. Milton gives the philosophy of this superstition, “Paradise Lost,” b. ix. 634—642. In the midst of a solemn and learned enarration, his strong imagination could not resist a romantic tradition consecrated by popular credulity.-T. WARTON.

& Tells how the drudging goblin swet,

To earn his cream-bowl duly set, &c. This goblin is Robin Goodfellow. · His cream-bowl was earned, and he paid the punctuality of those by whom it was duly placed for his refection, by the service of threshing with his invisible fairy flail, in one night, and before the dawn of day, a quantity of corn in the barn, which could not have been threshed in so short a time by ten labourers. He then returns into the house, fatigued with his task; and overcharged with his reward of the cream-bowl, throws himself before the fire, and, stretched along the whole breadth of the fire-place, basks till the morning.-T. WARTON.

h Tower'd cities please us then, “Then,"

," that is at night. The poet returns from his digression, Perhaps disproportionately prolix, concerning the feats of fairies and goblins, which protract the conversation over the spicy bowl of a village supper, to enumerate other pleasures or amusements of the night or evening. "Then” is in this line a repetition of the first “Then,” ver. 100.

120

125

130

Where throngs of knights and barons bold,
In weeds of peace, high triumphs holdi,
With store of ladies, whose bright eyes
Rain influence, and judge the prize
Of wit or arms, while both contend
To win her grace, whom all commend.
There let Hymen oft appear
In saffron robe, with taper clear),
And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With masque and antique pageantryk ;
Such sights as youthful poets dream
On summer eves by haunted stream.
Then to the well-trod stage anon,
If Jonson's learned sock be on?;
Or sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child,

Warble his native wood-notes wild m.
Afterwards, we have another “Then,” with the same sense and reference, ver. 131.
Here too is a transition from mirth in the country to mirth in the city.-T. WARTON.

In weeds of peace, high triumphs hold. By "triumphs" we are to understand, shows, such as masks, revels, &c., and here, that is in these exhibitions, there was a rich display of the most splendid dresses, of the “ weeds of peace.” See “Samson Agonistes,” v. 1312.-T. WARTON.

| There let Hymen oft appear

In saffron robe, with taper clear, &c.
For, according to Shakspeare, “Love's Labour's Lost,” a. iv. 8. 3:-

Revels, dances, masks, and merry hours,

Forerun fair Love, strewing her way with flowers. Among these triumphs, were the masks, pageantries, spectacles, and revelries, exhibited with great splendour, and a waste of allegoric invention, at the nuptials of noble personages. Here, of course, the classical Hymen was introduced as an actor, properly habited, and distinguished by his characteristic symbols.—T. WARTON.

* And pomp, and feast, and revelry,

With masque, and antique pageantry. Therevels, according to Minsheu, were “sports of dauncing, masking, comedies, tragedies, and such like, used in the king's house, the houses of court, or of other great personages.' The “antique pageants” were, at first, merely processions and emblematic spectacles at the public reception of distinguished personages. See Warton's “Hist. of Eng. Poetry,” vol. ii. 204. They were afterwards distinguished by speaking characters. From these the poet proceeds to the “well-trod stage;" on which expression Mr. Warton remarks that Milton had not yet gone such extravagant lengths in puritanism, as to join with his reforming brethren in condemning the stage.-TODD.

If Jonson's learned sock be on. This expression occurs in Jonson's recommendatory verses, prefixed to the first folio edition of Shakspeare's plays in 1623:

Or when thy socks were on.-T. WARTON.
m Or sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child,

Warble his native wood-notes wild. There is good reason to suppose, that Milton threw many additions and corrections into the “Theatrum Poetarum," a book published by his nephew Edward Phillips, in 1675: it contains criticisms far above the taste of that period: among these is the following judgment on Shakspeare, which was not then, I believe, the general opinion, and which perfectly coincides both with the sentiment and words of the text:"In tragedy, never any expressed a more lofty and tragic highth, never any represented nature more purely to the life ; and where the polishments of art are most wanting, as probably his learning

1

135

140

145

150

And ever, against eating cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
Married to immortal verse;
Such as the meeting soul may pierce,
In notes, with many a winding bout n
Of linked sweetness long drawn out,
With wanton heed and giddy cunning o;
The melting voice through mazes running,
Untwisting all the chains that tie
The hidden soul of harmony P;
That Orpheus' self may heave his head
From golden slumber on a bed
Of heap'd Elysian flowers 4, and hear
Such strains, as would have won the ear
Of Pluto, to have quite set free
His half-regain'd Eurydice.

These delights if thou canst give,

Mirth, with thee I mean to live. was not extraordinary, he pleases with a certain wild and native elegance,” &c. “Mod. Poets,” p. 194.-T. WARTON.

Milton shows his judgment here in celebrating Shakspeare's comedies, rather than his tragedies: but for models of the latter, he refers us rightly, in his “ Penseroso,” to the Grecian scene, ver. 97.-HURD.

The present editor reprinted Phillips's “Theatrum,” as far as concerned the English poets, in 1800, and again at Geneva, in 1824.

n Bout. “Bout” is a fold or twist, and often used in this sense by Spenser. See “Faer. Qu.” 1. xi. 3.--TODD.

With wanton heed and giddy cunning. “Cunning” is used in the same sense, in our translation of the Psalms:—"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning,” Ps. cxxxvii. 5. Which Sandys rightly paraphrases,- Let my fingers their melodious skill forget,” Ps. ed. 1648, p. 210. -TODD.

p The melting voice through mazes running,

Untwisting all the chains that tie

The hidden soul of harmony. Mr. Malone thinks that Milton has here copied Marston's comedy, “What you Will," 1607. Suppl. Shaks. vol. i. 588:

Cannot your trembling wires throw a chain

Of powerful rapture 'bout our mazed sense ? But the poet is not displaying the effect of music on the senses, but of a skilful musician on music. Milton's meaning is not, that the senses are enchained or amazed by music; but that, as the voice of the singer runs through the manifold mazes or intricacies of sound, all the chains are untwisted which imprison and entangle the hidden soul, the essence or perfection of harmony. In common sense, let music be made to show all, even her most hidden powers.—

T. WARTON.

9 Of heap'd Elysian flowers. See “Paradise Lost,” b. iii. 359. Mr. Warton adds, that Milton's florid style has this distinction from that of most other poets; that it is marked with a degree of dignity. _Pope has borrowed Milton's “Elysian flowers,” in his “Ode on St. Cecilia's Day.”—TODD.

[ocr errors]

IL PENSEROSO.

5

10

15

HENCE, vain deluding Joys,

The brood of Folly without father bred !

How little you bested,
Or fill the fixed mind with all your toys !
Dwell in some idle brain,

And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess,
As thick b and numberless
As the gay motes that people the sun-beams;

Or likest hovering dreams,
The fickle pensioners c of Morpheus' train.
But hail, thou goddess, sage and holy,
Hail, divinest Melancholy!
Whose saintly visage is too bright
To hit the sense of human sight,
And therefore to our weaker view
O’erlaid with blank, staid Wisdom's hue;
Black, but such as in esteem
Prince Memnon's sister d might beseem,

Hence, vain deluding Joys, &c. The opening of this poem is formed from a distich in Sylvester, the translator of “Du Bartas,” p. 1084:

Hence, hence, false pleasures, momentary joyes !
Mocke us no more with your illuding toyes !-BOWLE.

As thick, &c. This imagery is immediately from Sylvester's Cave of Sleep in “Du Bartas,” p. 316, edit. fol. 1621. He there mentions Morpheus, and speaks of his “fantasticke swarms of dreames that hovered," and swarms of dreams

Green, red, and yellow, tawney, black and blew : and these resemble

The unnumbered moats which in the sun do play. And these dreams, from their various colours, are afterwards called the "gawdy swarme of dreames.” Hence Milton's "fancies fond," "gaudy shapes," "numberless gay motes in the sun-beams," and the “hovering dreams of Morpheus.”—T. WARTON.

The fickle pensioners, &c. "Fickle” is transitory, perpetually shifting, &c. “ Pensioners” became a common appellation in our poetry, for train, attendants, retinue, &c. As in the “Mids. Night's Dream,” a. ii. s. l. of the faery queen:

The cowslips tall her pensioners be. This was in consequence of queen Elizabeth's fashionable establishment of a band of military courtiers by that name. They were some of the handsomest and tallest young men, of the best families and fortune, that could be found: they gave the mode in dress and diversions: they accompanied the queen in her progress to Cambridge, where they held torches at a play on a Sunday in King's College chapel.--T. WARTON.

d Prince Memnon's sister. This is, an Ethiopian princess, or sable beauty. Memnon, king of Ethiopia, being an auxiliary of the Trojans, was slain by Achilles. See Virg. “Ân.”i. 493. “Nigri Memnonis arma." It does not however appear that Memnon had any sister. Tithonus,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »