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At a fair vestal, throned by the west;8
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
none but sacred Cynthia's friend,
“ Whose life is heaven's delight, and Cynthia's friend.” If incense was thrown in cart-loads on the altar, this propitious deity was not disgusted by the smoke of it. Steevens.
8 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,
-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 bowe, 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.
1 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:
Fetch me that flower; the herb I show'd thee once;
Puck. I'll put a girdle round about the earth?
[Exit Puck. Obe.
Having once this juice,
“ 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 flower. 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.
2 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 girdie '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.
But who comes here? I am invisible;3
Enter DEMETRIUS, HELENA following him.
Hel. You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant;
3 — I am invisible;] I thought proper here to observe, 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. 4 The one I'll slay, 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. 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, &c. 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.
But yet you draw not iron,] I learn from Edward Fenton's Certaine Secrete Wonders of Nature, bl. 1. 1569, that—“there is now a dayes a kind of adamant which draweth unto it fleshe, and the same so strongly, that it hath power to knit and tie together,
Is true as steel: Leave you your power to draw,
Dem. Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair?
Hel. And even for that do I love you the more.
Dem. Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit; For I am sick, when I do look on thee.
Hel. And I am sick, when I look not on you.
Dem. You do impeach your modesty? too much,
Hel. Your virtue is my privilege for that. 8
two mouthes of contrary persons, and drawe the heart of a man out of his bodie without offendyng any parte of him.” Steevens.
impeach your modesty - ) i. e. bring it into question. So, in The Merchant of Venice, Act III, sc. ii:
“ And doth impeach the freedom of the state,
“ If they deny him justice.” Steevens. 8 — for that.] i. e. For leaving the city, &c. Tyrwhitt.
9 It is not night, when I do see your face, &c.] This passage is paraphrased from two lines of an ancient poet [Tibullus]:
Tu nocte vel atra “ Lumen, et in solis tu mihi turba locis.” Fohnson. As the works of King David might be more familiar to Shakspeare than Roman poetry, perhaps, on the present occasion, the eleventh verse of the 139th Psalm, was in his thoughts : “ Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day.” Steevens.
Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company;1
my respect, are all the world: Then how can it be said, I am alone, When all the world is here to look on me?
Dem. I'll run from thee, and hide me in the brakes, And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.
Hel. The wildest hath not such a heart as you.”
Dem. I will not stay thy questions;3 let me go:
Hel. Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field,
[Exeunt DEM. and HEL. Obe. Fare thee well, nymph! ere he do leave this grove, Thou shalt fly him, and he shall seek thy love.
i Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company;] The same thought occurs in King Henry VI, P. II:
“ A wilderness is populous enough,
“ So Suffolk had thy heavenly company.” Malone. 2 The wildest hath not such a heart as you.]
“ Mitius inveni quam te genus omne ferarum.” Ovid. See Timon of Athens, Act IV, sc. i:
where he shall find “ The unkindest beasts more kinder than mankind.” S. W. 3 I will not stay thy questions ;] Though Helena certainly puts a few insignificant questions to Demetrius, I cannot but think our author wrote-question, i. e. discourse, conversation. So, in As you like it: “I met the duke yesterday, and had much question with him.” Steevens.
4 To die upon the hand, &c.] To die upon, &c. in our author's language, I believe, means to die by the hand.” So, in The two Gentlemen of Verona:
“ I'll die on him that says so, but yourself.” Steevens.