« PreviousContinue »
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
Winter. When icicles hang by the wall,2
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail, 3
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
ers, in Norfolk Canterbury-bells, and at Namptwich in Cheshire la. die-smocks.” Shakspeare, however, might not have been suffi. ciently skilled in botany to be aware of this particular.
Mr. Tollet has observed, that Lyte in his Herbal, 1578 and 1579, remarks, that cowslips are in French, of some called coquu, prime vere, and brayes de coquu. This, he thinks, will suffi. ciently account for our author's cuckoo-buds, by which he supposes cowslip-buds to be meant; and further directs the reader to Cotgrave's Dictionary, under the articles-Cocu, and herbe a coque.
Steevens. Cuckoo-buds must be wrong. I believe cowslip-buds, the true reading. Farmer.
Mr. Whalley, the learned editor of Ben Jonson's works, many years ago proposed to read crocus buds. The cuckoo-flower, he observed, could not be called yellow, it rather approaching to the colour of white, by which epithet, Cowley, who was himself no mean botanist, has distinguished it:
“ Albaque cardamine,” &c. Malone. Crocus buds is a phrase unknown to naturalists and gardeners.
Steevens. 2 When icicles hang by the wall,] i. e. from the eaves of the thatch or other roofing, from which in the morning icicles are found depending in great abundance, after a night of frost. So, in King Henry IV:
When blood is nipp'd, and ways be foul,
“Let us not hang like roping icicles,
“Upon our houses' thatch." Our author (whose images are all taken from nature) has alluded in The Tempest, to the drops of water that after rain flow from such coverings, in their natural unfrozen state:
“His tears run down his beard, like winters' drops
“ From eaves of reeds.” Malone. 3 And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,] So, in K. Henry VI, P. III:
“What time the shepherd, blowing of his nails,
-nightly sings the staring owl,
“ To-whit, to-whoo, the owle does cry.” H. White. Tu-whit, to-who,] These terms were employed also to denote the musick of birds in general. Thus, in the song of Spring, in Summer's Last Will and Testament, 1600:
“ Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds doe sing,
“ Cuckow, jugge, jugge, pu we, to witta woo. But, in Sidney's verses at the end of the Arcadia, they are confined to the owl:
“Their angel-voice surpriz'd me now;
** And, therefore, O thou precious owl,” &c. Todd.
w doth keel the pot.] This word is yet used in Ireland, and signifies to scum the pot. Goldsmith.
So, in Marston's What you will, 1607:-“ Faith, Doricus, thy brain boils, keel it, keel it, or all the fat's in the fire.” Steevens.
To keel the pot is certainly to cool it, but in a particular manner: it is to stir the pottage with the ladle to prevent the boiling over. Farmer.
- keel the pot.] i. e. cool the pot: “The thing is, they mix their thicking of oatmeal and water, which they call blending the litting, Çor lithing] and put it in the pot, when they set on, be. cause when the meat, pudding and turnips are all in, they cannot so well mix it, but 'tis apt to go into lumps; yet this method of theirs renders the pot liable to boil over at the first rising, and every subsequent increase of the fire; to prevent which it becomes necessary for one to attend to cool it occasionally, by lad. ing it up frequently with a ladle, which they call keeling the pot, and is indeed a greasy office.” Gent. Mag. 1760. This account seems to be accurate. Ritson.
When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
To keel signifies to cool in general, without any reference to the kitchen. So, in the ancient metrical romance of The Sowdon of Babyloyne, MS. p. 80:
“ That alle men shall take hede
“Howe the wynde theyr bodyes shal kele.” Again, in Gower De Confessione, Amantis, Lib. V, fol. 121, b:
“ The cote he found, and eke he feleth
“ That there durst he not abide." Again, fol. 131, b:
“With water on his finger ende
“ Thyne hote tonge to kele.” Mr. Lambe observes, in his notes on the ancient metrical History of The Battle of Floddon, that it is a common thing in the North" for a maid servant to take out of a boiling pot a wheen, i. e. a small quantity, viz. a porringer or wo of broth, and then to fill up the pot with cold water: The broth thus taken out, is called the keeling wheen. In this manner greasy Joan keeled the pot."
"Gie me beer, and gie me grots,
“ And lumps of beef to swum abeen; 6 And ilka time that I stir the pot,
“He's hae frae me the keeling wheen.” Steevens.
the parson’s -saw,] Saw seems anciently to have meant, not as at present, a proverb, a sentence, but the whole tenor of any instructive discourse, So, in the fourth chapter of the first Book of The Tragedies of John Bochas, translated by Lidgate:
“ These old poetes in their sawes swete
“ Full covertly in their verses do fayne," &c. Steevens. Yet in As you like it, our author uses this word in the sense of a sentence, or maxim: “ Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,” &c. It is, I believe, so used here. Malone.
7 When roasted crabs &c.] i.e. the wild apples so called. Thus in The Midsummer Night's Dream :
Arm. The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. You, that way; we this way. [Exeunt.
“ And sometimes lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
“In very likeness of a roasted cra).” When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,] Hence, perhaps, following passage in Milton's Epitaphium Damonis:
grato cum sibilat igni “ Molle pyrum, —
Steevens. The bowl must be supposed to be filled with ale; a toast and some spice and sugar being added, what is called lamb's wool is produced. So, in King Henry V, 1598 (not our author's play):
“ Yet we will have in store a crab in the fire,
“ With nut-brown ale, that is full stale, &c. Malone. 8 In this play, which all the editors have concurred to censure, and some have rejected as unworthy of our poet, it must be confessed that there are many passages mean, childish, and vulgar; and some which ought not to have been exhibited, as we are to they were, to a maiden Queen. But there are scattered through the whole many sparks of genius; nor is there any play that has more evident marks of the hand of Shakspeare. Fohnson.
ACT I....SCENE I. Page 15.
This child of fancy, that Armado hight, &c.] This, as I have shown in the note in its place, relates to the stories in the books of chivalry. A few words, therefore, concerning their origin and nature, may not be unacceptable to the reader. As I don't know of any writer, who has given any tolerable account of this matter : and especially as Monsieur Huet, the bishop of Avranches, who wrote a formal treatise of The Origin of Romances, has said little or nothing of these in that superficial work. For having brought down the account of Romances to the later Greeks, and entered upon those composed by the barbarous western writers, which have now the name of Romances almost appropriated to them, he puts the change upon his reader, and instead of giving us an account of these books of chivalry, one of the most curious and interesting parts of the subject he promised to treat of, he contents himself with a long account of the poems of the Provincial writers, called likewise Romances; and so, under the equivoque of a common term, drops his proper subject, and entertains us with another, that had no relation to it more than in the name.
The Spaniards were of all others the fondest of these fables, as suiting best their extravagant turn to gallantry and bravery; which
in time grew so excessive, as to need all the efficacy of Cervantes's incomparable satire to bring them back to their senses. The French suffered an easier cure from their doctor Rabelais, who enough discredited the books of chivalry, by only using the extravagant stories of its giants, &c. as a cover for another kind of satire against the refined politicks of his countrymen; of which they were as much possessed as the Spaniards of their romantick bravery: a bravery our Shakspeare makes their characteristic in this description of a Spanish gentleman:
A man of complements, whom right and wrong
From tawny Spain, lost in the world's debate.* The sense of which is to this effect: This gentleman, says the speaker, shall relate to us the celebrated stories recorded in the old romances, and in their very style. Why he says from tawny Spain, is, because these romances, being of the Spanish original, the heroes and the scene were generally of that country. He says, lost in the world's debate, because the subjects of those romances were the crusades of the European Christians against the Saracens of Asia and Africa.
Indeed, the wars of the Christians against the Pagans were the general subject of the romances of chivalry. They all seem to have had their ground-work in two fabulous monkish historians: the one, who under the name of Turpin, Archbishop of Rheims , wrote The History and Achievements of Charlemagne and his Twelve Peers; to whom, instead of his father, they assigned the task of driving the Saracens out of France and the south parts of Spain: the other, our Geoffry of Monmouth.
Two of those peers, whom the old romances have rendered most famous, were Oliver and Rowland. Hence Shakspeare makes Alençon, in The first Part of King Henry VI. say: “Froys. sard, a countryman of ours, records, England all Olivers and Rowlands bred, during the time Edward the Third did reign." In the Spanish romance of Bernardo del Carpio, and in that of Roncesvalles, the feats of Roland are recorded under the name of
* From tawny Spain, &c.] This passage may, as Dr. Warburton ima. gines, be in allusion to the Spanish Romances, of which several were ex. tant in English, and very popular at the time this play was written. Such, for instance, as Amadis de Gaule, Don Bellianis, Palmerin d'Oliva, Palme. rin of England, the Mirrour of Knighthood, &c. But he is egregiously mis. taken in asserting that “the heroes and the scene were generally of that country,” which, in fact, (except in an instance or two, nothing at all to the present purpose) is never the case. If the words lost in the world's debate will bear the editor's construction, there are certainly many books of chivalry on the subject. I cannot, however, think that Shakspeare was particularly conversant in works of this description : but, indeed, the alternately rhyming parts, at least, of the present play, are apparently by an inferior hand; the remains, no doubt, of the old platformo Ritson. VOL. IV.