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Your hands, than mine, are quicker for a fray;
[Exit, pursuing Helena. Obe. This is thy negligence : still thou mistak’st, Or else commit'st thy knaveries wilfully p.
Puck: Believe me, king of shadows, I mistook. Did not you tell me, I should know the man By the Athenian garments he had * on? And so far blameless proves my enterprize, That I have ’nointed an Athenian's eyes : And so far am I glad it so did sort”, As this their jangling I esteem a sport.
Obe. Thou seest, these lovers seek a place to fight: Hie therefore, Robin, overcast the night; The starry welkin cover thou anon With drooping fog, as black as Acheron; And lead these testy rivals so astray, As one come not within another's way. Like to Lysander sometime frame thy tongue, Then stir Demetrius up with bitter wrong; And sometime rail thou like Demetrius; And from each other look thou lead them thus, Till o'er their brows death-counterfeiting sleep With leaden legs and batty wings doth creep : Then crush this herb into Lysander's eye; Whose liquor hath this virtuous property ®, To take from thence all error, with his might, And make his eye-balls roll with wonted sight.
* First folio omits this speech.
# Quarto R., and folio, hath. so did sort,] So happen in the issue. Johnson. So, in Monsieur D'Olive, 1606; never look to have any action sort to your honour."
STEEVENS. VIRTUOUS property,) Salutiferous. So he calls, in The Tempest, poisonous dew, wicked dew. Johnson.
When they next wake, all this derision
there, Troop home to church-yards : damned spirits all, That in cross-ways and floods have burial”,
* So Quarto F.; Quarto R. apply; folio, imply.
Hopeless and helpless doth Ægeon wend.” Steevens. · For night's SWIFT DRAGONS, &c.] So, in Cymbeline, Act II. Sc. II.:
“Swift, swift, ye dragons of the night!” See my note on this passage, concerning the vigilance imputed to the serpent tribe. Steevens.
This circumstance Shakspeare might have learned from a passage in Golding's translation of Ovid, which he has imitated in The Tempest :
“ Among the earth-bred brothers you a mortal war did set, “And brought asleep the dragon fell, whose eyes were never
damned spirits all, That in CROSS-Ways and floods have burial,] The ghosts of self-murderers, who are buried in cross-roads; and of those who being drowned, were condemned (according to the opinion of the ancients) to wander for a hundred years, as the rites of sepulture had never been regularly bestowed on their bodies. That the waters were sometimes the place of residence for damned spirits, we learn from the ancient bl. 1. romance of Syr Eglamoure of Artoys, no date :
“ Let some preest a gospel saye,
Already to their wormy beds are gone;
Obe. But we are spirits of another sort:
to their WORMY BEDS -] This periphrasis for the grave has been borrowed by Milton, in his Ode on the Death of a Fair Infant :
“ Or that thy beauties lie in wormy bed.” Steevens.
STEEVENS. 5 I with the MORNING's love have oft made sport ;] Thus all the old copies, and I think, rightly. Tithonus was the husband of Aurora, and Tithonus was no young deity.
Thus, in Aurora, a collection of sonnets, by Lord Sterline, 160+:
“ And why should Tithon thus, whose day grows late,
“Enjoy the morning's love? Again, in The Parasitaster, by J. Marston, 1606 :
“ Aurora yet keeps chaste old Tithon's bed;
“ Yet blushes at it when she rises." Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, b. iii. c. iii.:
“ As faire Aurora rising hastily,
“ All night in old Tithonus' frozen bed." Again, in The Faithful Shepherdess of Fletcher:
- (), lend me all thy red,
“ Thou risest ever-maiden? How such a waggish spirit as the King of the Fairies might make sport with an antiquated lover, or his mistress in his absence, may be easily understood. Dr. Johnson reads with all the modern editors : “ I with the morning light,” &c. STEEVENS.
Will not this passage bear a different explanation ? By the morning's love I apprehend Cephalus, the mighty hunter and paramour of Aurora, is intended. The context, And, like a forester,” &c. seems to show that the chace was the sport which Oberon boasts he partook with the morning's love.
Hlout WHITE. The connection between Aurora and Cephalus is also pointed out in one of the Poems that form a collection intitled The Phoenix Nest, &c. 4to, 1593, p. 95:
And, like a forester, the groves may tread,
Goblin, lead them up and down.
Enter LYSANDER. Lys. Where art thou, proud Demetrius ? speak
thou now. Puck. Here, villain ; drawn and ready. Where
art thou ? Lys. I will be with thee straight. Puck.
Follow me then To plainer ground.
[E.vit Lys. as following the voice.
Enter DEMETRIUS. DEM.
Lysander! speak again. Thou runaway, thou coward, art thou fled ? Speak. In some bush? Where dost thou hide thy
head ? Puck. Thou coward, art thou bragging to the
“ Aurora now began to rise againe
In hope to kiss upon Acteian plaine
Yong Cephalus," &c. STEEVENS. 6 Even till the eastern gate, &c.] What the fairy monarch means to inform Puck of, is this.—That he was not compelled, like meaner spirits, to vanish at the first appearance of the dawn.
Telling the bushes that thou look’st for wars,
Yea; art thou there? Puck. Follow my voice; we'll try no manhood here.
[Exeunt. Re-enter LYSANDER. Lys. He goes before me, and still dares me on; When I come where he calls, then he is gone. The villain is much lighter heel'd than I: I follow'd fast, but faster he did fly; That fallen am I in dark uneven way, And here will rest me. Come, thou gentle day!
[Lies down. For if but once thou show me thy grey light, I'll find Demetrius, and revenge this spite. [Sleeps.
Re-enter Puck and DEMETRIUS. Puck. Ho, ho! ho, ho! Coward, why com'st
7 Puck. Ho, ho! no, no! Coward, why com'st thou not ?] This exclamation would have been uttered by Puck with greater propriety, if he were not now playing an assumed character, which he, in the present instance, seems to forget. In the old song printed by Peck and Percy, in which all his gambols are related, he concludes every stanza with Ho, ho, ho! So, in Grim the Collier of Croydon :
“ Ho, ho, ho, my masters ! No good fellowship !
“That he is not worthy to be bid sit down ? " Again, in Drayton's Nymphidia :
“ Hoh, hoh, quoth Hob, God save thy grace." It was not, however, as has been asserted, the appropriate exclamation, in our author's time, of this eccentric character; the devil himself having, if not a better, at least an older, title to it. So, in Histriomastix (as quoted by Mr. Steevens in a note or