Page images

In equal curls, and well conspir❜d to deck,
With shining ringlets, the smooth iv'ry neck.
Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains,
And mighty hearts are held in slender chains.
With hairy springes we the birds betray,
Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey,
Fair tresses man's imperial race insnare,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.



Th' advent'rous Baron the bright locks admir'd;
He saw, he wish'd, and to the prize aspir'd.
Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way,
By force to ravish, or by fraud betray;
For when success a Lover's toil attends,
Few ask, if fraud or force attain'd his ends.
For this, ere Phoebus rose, he had implor'd 35
Propitious heav'n, and ev'ry pow'r ador'd,
But chiefly Love-to Love an Altar built,
Of twelve vast French Romances, neatly gilt.
There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves,
And all the trophies of his former loves;
With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre,
And breathes three am'rous sighs to raise the fire.



Ver. 28. with a single hair.] In allusion to those lines of Hudibras, applied to the same purpose:

"And tho' it be a two foot Trout,

'Tis with a single hair pull'd out."



Ver. 28. And beauty draws us, &c.] Steevens quotes Bucha

nan's Epigrams, lib. I. xiv. p. 77.

"Et modo membra pilo vinctus miser abstrahor uno."
"One hair of thine in fetters ties."


[ocr errors]

Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes
Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize:
The pow'rs gave ear, and granted half his pray'r,
The rest, the winds dispers'd in empty air.



But now secure the painted Vessel glides, The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides: While melting music steals upon the sky, And soften'd sounds along the waters die; Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play, Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay. All but the Sylph—with careful thoughts opprest, Th' impending woe sat heavy on his breast. He summons straight his denizens of air; The lucid squadrons round the sails repair: Soft o'er the shrouds aërial whispers breathe, That seem❜d but Zephyrs to the train beneath. Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold, Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold; Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight, Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light, Loose to the wind their airy garments flew, Thin glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew, Dipp'd in the richest tincture of the skies, Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes; While ev'ry beam new transient colours flings, Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings. Amid the circle, on the gilded mast,

Superior by the head, was Ariel plac'd;


Ver. 45. The pow'rs gave ear,] Virg. Æneid. xi.





His purple pinions op'ning to the sun,

He rais'd his azure wand, and thus begun.

Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your chief give ear! Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Demons, hear! Ye know the spheres, and various tasks assign'd 75 By laws eternal to th' aërial kind.


Ver. 75. Ye know] Those who are fond of tracing images and sentiments to their source, may, perhaps, be inclined to think, that the hint of ascribing tasks and offices to such imaginary beings, is taken from the Fairies, and the Ariel of Shakespear; let the impartial critic determine, which has the superiority of fancy. The employment of Ariel in the Tempest, is said to be "To tread the ooze

Of the salt deep;

To run upon the sharp wind of the north;
To do-business in the veins of th' earth,
When it is bak'd with frost;

To dive into the fire; to ride

On the curl'd clouds."

And again,

"In the deep nook, where once

Thou call'dst me up at midnight to fetch dew

From the still vext Bermoothes."

Nor must I omit that exquisite song, in which his favourite and

peculiar pastime is expressed:

"Where the bee sucks, there suck I,

In a cowslip's bell I lie;

There I couch when owls do cry;

On the bat's back I do fly,

After sun-set, merrily;

Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,

Under the blossom that hangs on the bough."

With what wildness of imagination, but yet with what propriety, are the amusements of the fairies pointed out in the Midsummer Night's Dream; amusements proper for none but fairies!


Some in the fields of purest ether play,

And bask and whiten in the blaze of day.

Some guide the course of wand'ring orbs on high,
Or roll the planets through the boundless sky. 80
Some less refin'd, beneath the moon's pale light
Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night,
Or suck the mists in grosser air below,

Or dip their pinions in the painted bow,
Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main,
Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain.


"For the third part of a minute, hence:
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds :
Some war with rear-mice for their leathern wings
To make my small elves coats; and some keep back

The clamourous owl, that nightly hoots, and wonders

At our quaint spirits.”


Shakespear only could have thought of the following gratifications for Titania's lover; and they are fit only to be offered to her lover by a fairy-queen.

"Be kind and courteous to this gentleman,
Hop in his walks, and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricots and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries,
The honey-bags steal from the humble bees,
And for night tapers crop their waxen thighs,
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes,
To have my love to bed, and to arise;

And pluck the wings from painted butterflies,

To fan the moon-beams from his sleeping eyes."

If it should be thought that Shakespear has the merit of being the first who assigned proper employments to imaginary persons, in the foregoing lines, yet it must be granted that by the addition of the most delicate satire to the most lively fancy, Pope, in a following passage (ver. 91) has equalled any thing in Shakespear, or perhaps in any other author.


Others on earth o'er human race preside,

Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide:
Of these the chief the care of nations own,
And guard with arms divine the British Throne. 90
Our humbler province is to tend the Fair,
Not a less pleasing, tho' less glorious care;
To save the powder from too rude a gale,
Nor let th' imprison'd essences exhale;

To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow'rs; 95
To steal from rainbows ere they drop in show'rs
A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs,
Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs;
Nay oft, in dreams, invention we bestow,
To change a Flounce, or add a Furbelow.


This day, black omens threat the brightest Fair That e'er deserv'd a watchful spirit's care; Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight;

But what, or where, the fates have wrapt in night. Whether the Nymph shall break Diana's law, 105 Or some frail China jar receive a flaw;


Ver. 90. And guard with Arms] The Poet was too judicious to desire this should be understood as a compliment. He intended it for a mere piece of raillery; such as he more openly pursues on another occasion; when he says,

"Where's now the Star which lighted Charles to rise?

With that which follow'd Julius to the skies.

Angels, that watch'd the Royal Oak so well,
How chanc'd you slept when luckless Sorrel fell?"


Ver. 105. Whether the nymph, &c.] The disaster, which makes the subject of this poem, being a trifle, taken seriously; it naturally led the Poet into this fine satire on the female estimate of human mischances. Warburton.

« EelmineJätka »