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In equal curls, and well conspir❜d to deck,
Th' advent'rous Baron the bright locks admir'd;
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."
Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes
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 dive into the fire; to ride
On the curl'd clouds."
"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 dip their pinions in the painted bow,
"For the third part of a minute, hence:
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,
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:
To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow'rs; 95
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,
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.