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Now it is the time of night,"

That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide:
And we fairies, that do run

By the triple Hecate's team,
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic; not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house:
I am sent, with broom, before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.

Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their Train.
Obe. Through this house give glimmering light,
'By the dead and drowsy fire:

Every elf, and fairy sprite,

Hop as light as bird from brier;1

Again, in the ancient metrical romance of Sir Bevis of Hampton, bl. 1. no date:

"But by the other day at none,

"These two dragons were foredone." Steevens.

Now it is the time of night, &c.] So, in Hamlet:
""Tis now the very witching time of night,
"When churchyards yawn

8 I am sent, with broom, before,


To sweep the dust behind the door.] Cleanliness is always necessary to invite the residence and the favour of the fairies: "These make our girls their slutt'ry rue,

"By pinching them both black and blue,

"And put a penny in their shoe

"The house for cleanly sweeping." Drayton. Johnson, To sweep the dust behind the door, is a common expression, and a common practice in large old houses, where the doors of halls and galleries are thrown backward, and seldom or ever shut.


9 Through this house give glimmering light,] Milton perhaps had this picture in his thought:

"And glowing embers through the room

"Teach light to counterfeit a gloom." Il Penseroso,

So, Drayton:

"Hence shadows, seeming idle shapes

"Of little frisking elves and apes,

"To earth do make their wanton 'scapes,
"As hope of pastime hastes them."

I think it should be read:

66 Through this house in glimmering light," Johnson,

And this ditty, after me,
Sing and dance it trippingly.

Tita. First, rehearse this song by rote:
To each word a warbling note,

Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.


Obe. Now, until the break of day,2
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,

Which by us shall blessed be;3

1-as light as bird from brier;] This comparison is a very ancient one, being found in one of the poems of Lawrence Minot, p. 31:

"That are was blith als brid on brere."


2 Now, until, &c.] This speech, which both the old quartos give to Oberon, is, in the edition of 1623 and in all the following, printed as the song. I have restored it to Oberon, as it apparently contains not the blessing which he intends to bestow on the bed, but his declaration that he will bless it, and his orders to the fairies how to perform the necessary rites. But where then is the song?—I am afraid it is gone after many other things of greater value. The truth is that two songs are lost. The series of the scene is this: after the speech of Puck, Oberon enters, and calls his fairies to a song, which song is apparently wanting in all the copies. Next Titania leads another song, which is indeed lost like the former, though the editors have endeavoured to find it. Then Oberon dismisses his fairies to the despatch of the ceremonies.

The songs, I suppose, were lost; because they were not inserted in the players' parts, from which the drama was printed.

3 To the best bride-bed will we,


Which by us shall blessed be;] So, in Chaucer's Merchantes Tale, Tyrwhitt's edit. v. 9693:

"And whan the bed was with the preest yblessed—."

We learn also from "Articles ordained by King Henry VII, for the Regulation of his Household," that this ceremony was observed at the marriage of a Princess. "All men at her comming in to bee voided, except woemen, till shee bee brought to her bedd; and the man both; he sittinge in his bedd in his shirte, with a gowne cast about him. Then the Bishoppe, with the Chaplaines, to come in, and blesse the bedd: then everie man to avoide without any drinke, save the twoe estates, if they liste, priviely." p. 129. Steevens.


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Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,

Shall upon their children be.-
With this field-dew consecrate,
Every fairy take his gait;"

And each several chamber bless,7
Through this palace with sweet peace:

- hare-lip,] This defect in children seems to have been so much dreaded, that numerous were the charms applied for its prevention. The following might be as efficacious as any of the rest. "If a woman with chylde have her smocke slyt at the neather ende or skyrt thereof, &c. the same chylde that she then goeth withall, shall be safe from having a cloven or hare lippe." T. Lupton's Fourth Book of Notable Thinges, 4to. bl. 1. Steevens. 5 Nor mark prodigious,] Prodigious has here its primitive signification of portentous. So, in King Richard III:


"If ever he have child, abortive be it,


Prodigious, and untimely brought to light." Steevens.

·take his gait;] i. e. take his way, or direct his steps. So, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. I, c. viii:

"And guide his weary gate both to and fro."

Again, and more appositely, in one of the poems of Lawrence Minot, p. 50:

"Take thi gate unto Gines,

"And grete tham wele thare;

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By gate, I believe, is meant, the door of each chamber.

M. Mason. Gait, for a path or road, is commonly used at present in the northern counties. Harris.

7 Every fairy take his gait;

And each several chamber bless, &c.] The same superstitious kind of benediction occurs in Chaucer's Miller's Tale, v. 3479, Tyrwhitt's edition:

"I crouche thee from elves, and from wightes.
"Therwith the nightspel said he anon rightes
"On foure halves of the hous aboute,

"And on the threswold of the dore withoute.
"Jesu Crist, and Seint Benedight,

"Blisse this hous from every wicked wight,

"Fro the nightes mare, the wite Paternoster." &c. Steevens.

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[Exeunt OBE. TITA. and Train.

Puck. If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, (and all is mended)
That you have but slumber'd here,
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I'm an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck



Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,1
We will make amends ere long:
Else the Puck a liar call.

So good night unto you all.

Give me your hands,2 if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.


an honest Puck,] See Mr. Tyrwhitt's note, &c. Act II,

sc. i, on the words- -"sweet Puck."


9 unearned luck—] i. e. if we have better fortune than we have deserved. Steevens.

1 Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,] That is, if we be dismissed without hisses. Johnson.

So, in J. Markham's English Arcadia, 1607: “But the nymph, after the custom of distrest tragedians, whose first act is entertained with a snaky salutation," &c. Steevens.

2 Give me your hands,] That is, Clap your hands. Give us your applause. Johnson.

3 Wild and fantastical as this play is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great. Johnson.


T. S. Manning, Printer, No. 143 N. Third Street.

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