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I am the cygnet to this pale faint swan, Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death; decisive than that of the persecuted second folio of Shakspeare, for representing Death as a Woman. The writer of the Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, was sufficiently intimate with Lucretius, Horace, Ovid, Phædrus, Statius, Petronius, Seneca the dramatist, &c. to know that they all concurred in exhibiting Mors as a Goddess. Thus Lucan, lib. vi. 600 :
Elysias resera sedes, ipsamque vocatam,
Quos petat è nobis, Mortem tibi coge fateri. Mr. Spence, in his Polymetis, p. 261, (I refer to a book of easy access,) has produced abundant examples in proof of my assertion, and others may be readily supplied. One comprehensive instance, indeed, will answer my present purpose. Statius, in his eighth Thebaid, describing a troop of ghastly females who surrounded the throne of Pluto, has the following lines :
Stant Furiæ circum, variæque ex ordine Mortes,
Sævaque multisonas exercet Pæna catenas. From this group of personification, &c. it is evident, that not merely Death, as the source or principle of mortality, but each particular kind of death, was represented under a feminine shape. For want, therefore, of a corresponding masculine term, Dobson, in his Latin version of the second Paradise Lost, was obliged to render the terrific offspring of Satan, by the name of Hades; a luckless necessity, because Hades, in the 964th line of the same book, exhibits a character completely discriminated from that of Death,
For the satisfaction of English antiquaries, let me add, that in an ancient poem (which in point of versification resembles the pieces of Longiand) there is a contest for superiority between our Lady Dame Life, and the ugly fiend Dame Death.
Milton himself, however, in his second Elegy, has exhibited Death not only as a female, but as a queen :
Magna sepulchrorum regina, satelles Averni,
Sæva nimis Musis, Palladi sæva nimis. See Mr. Warton's note on this passage. Consult also Milton's third Elegy, v. 16:
Mors fera, Tartareo diva secunda Jovi. Again, In Obitum Præsulis Eliensis :
Mors atra noctis filia. Dryden, likewise, in his Indian Queen, Act II. Sc. I, has attributed the same sex to Death:
The gods can but destroy ;
“I'll court her now, since victory's grown coy." Were I inclined to be sportive, (a disposition which commenta
And, from the organ-pipe of frailty, sings
tors should studiously repress,) might I not maintain, on the strength of the foregoing circumstances, that the editor of the folio 1632, (far from being an ignorant blunderer,) was well instructed in the niceties of Roman mythology; and might not my ingenious fellow-labourer, on the score of his meditated triumph over Mr. Gray, be saluted with such a remark as reached the ear of Cadmus ?
Quid, Agenore nate, peremptum Serpentem spectas ? et tu spectabere serpens. Fashionable as it is to cavil at the productions of our Cambridge poet, it has not yet been discovered that throughout the fields of classick literature, even in a single instance, he had mistook his way. Steevens. ; With many legions of strange FANTASIES ;
Which, their THRONG and PRESS to that last hold,
CONFOUND Themselves.] So, in our author's Rape of Lucrece:
“ Much like a press of people at a door,
“ Throng his inventions, which shall go before." Again, in King Henry VIII. :
which forc'd such way,
And press in, with this caution.” Malong.
in their throng and press to that last hold." In their tumult and hurry of resorting to the last tenable part. Johnson.
8 I am the CYGNET-] Old copy-Symet. Corrected by Mr. Pope. MALONE.
YOU ARE BORN
Which he hath left so shapeless and so rude.] A description of the Chaos almost in the very words of Ovid : Quem dixere Chaos, rudis indigestaque moles. Met. i.
WHALLEY. “ Which Chaos hight, a huge rude heap :“ No sunne as yet with lightsome beames the shapeless world
did view.” Golding's Translation, 1587. MALONE. VOL, XV.
Re-enter Bigor and Attendants, who bring in King
John in a Chair.
P. Hen. How fares your majesty ?
Poison'd, -ill-FARE;] Mr. Malone supposes fare to be here used as a dissyllable, like
fire, hour, &c. But as this word has not concurring vowels in it, like hour, or fair, nor was ever dissyllabically spelt (like fier) faer ; I had rather suppose the present line imperfect, than complete it by such unprecedented means.
STBEVENS. ? This scene has been imitated by Beaumont and Fletcher, in The Wife for a Month, Act IV. Steevens.
3 To thrust his icy fingers in my maw ;] Decker, in The Gul's Hornbook, 1609, has the same thought: “- the morning waxing cold, thrust his frosty fingers into thy bosome.”
Again, in a pamphlet entitled The Great Frost, Cold Doings, &c. in London, 1608 : “ The cold hand of winter is thrust into our bosoms." STEEVENS. The corresponding passage in the old play runs thus :
Philip, some drink. O, for the frozen Alps “ To tumble on, and cool this inward heat,
“ That rageth as a furnace seven-fold hot." There is so strong a resemblance, not only in the thought, but in the expression, between the passage before us and the follow, ing lines in two of Marlowe's plays, that we may fairly suppose them to have been in our author's thoughts :
“O, I am dull, and the cold hand of sleep
breast “And made a frost within me.” Lust's Dominion.
Nor let my kingdom's rivers take their course
tears, That might relieve you ! K. John. .
The salt in them is hot.Within me is a hell; and there the poison Is, as a fiend, confin'd to tyrannize On unreprievable condemned blood.
Enter the Bastard.
Bast. O, I am scalded with my violent motion, And spleen of speed to see your majesty. K. John. O cousin, thou art come to set mine
eye : The tackle of my heart is crack'd and burn'd; And all the shrouds, wherewith my life should sail, Are turned to one thread, one little hair : My heart hath one poor string to stay it by, Which holds but till thy news be uttered ;
“ O, poor Zabina, O my queen, my queen,
Tamburlaine, 1591. Lust's Dominion, like many of the plays of that time, remained unpublished for a great number of years, and was first printed in 1657, by Francis Kirkman, a bookseller. It must, however, have been written before 1593, in which year Marlowe died. Malone.
4- I do not ask you much,] We should read, for the sake of metre, with Sir T. Hanmer-" I ask not much.” Steevens.
SO STRAIT,] i. e. narrow, avaricious; an unusual sense of the word. STEEVENS.
And then all this thou see'st is but a clod,
Bast. The Dauphin is preparing hitherward;
[The King dies. Sal. You breathe these dead news in as dead an
My liege! my lord !-But now a king,-now thus.
P. Hen. Even so must I run on, and even so stop. What surety of the world, what hope, what stay, When this was now a king, and now is clay!
Bast. Art thou gone so ? I do but stay behind,
7 And module of confounded royalty.) Module and model, it has been already observed, were, in our author's time, only different modes of spelling the same word. Model signified not an archetype after which something was to be formed, but the thing formed after an archetype; and hence it is used by Shakspeare and his contemporaries for a representation. So, in The London Prodigal, 1605 : “ Dear copy of my husband! O let me kiss thee!
[Kissing a picture. “ How like him is this model ?" MALONE. 8 Were in the washes, all unwarily, &c.] This untoward accident really happened to King John himself. As he passed from Lynn to Lincolnshire, he lost by an inundation all his treasure, carriages, baggage, and regalia. Malone,