Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

makes the hare-lip; mildews the white wheat, and hurts the poor creature of earth.

Saint Withold footed thrice the wold;
He met the night-mare, and her nine-fold ;

Bid her alight,

And her troth plight,
And, aroint thee, witch, aroint thee 4 !

The Lapland method of cure for “a disease of the eyes called the pin and web, which is an imperfect stage of a cataract, is given by Acerbi in his Travels, vol. ii, p. 290. BLAKAWAY. 4 Saint Withold footed thrice the wold ; He met the night-mare, and her NINE-FOLD;

Bid her alight,

And her troth plight,
And, aroint thee, witch, aroint thee!] We should read it thus :

“ Saint Withold footed thrice the wold,
“ He met the night-mare, and her name told,
“ Bid her alight, and her troth plight,

“ And aroynt thee, witch, aroynt thee right." i. e. Saint Withold traversing the wold or downs, met the nightmare; who having told her name, he obliged her to alight from those persons whom she rides, and plight her troth to do no more mischief. This is taken from a story of him in his legend. Hence he was invoked as the patron saint against that distemper. And these verses were no other than a popular charm, or night-spell against the Epialtes. The last line is the formal execration or apostrophe of the speaker of the charm to the witch, aroynt thee right, i. e. depart forthwith. Bedlans, gipsies, and such like vagabonds, used to sell these kinds of spells or charms to the people. They were of various kinds for various disorders, and addressed to various saints. We have another of them in the Monsieur Thomas of Fletcher, which he expressly calls a night-spell, and is in these words:

“ Saint George, Saint George, our lady's knight,
“ He walks by day, so he does by night;
“ And when he had her found,
“He her heat and her bound;
“ Until to him her troth she plight,

“ She would not stir from him that night.” WARBURTON. This is likewise one of the “magical cures” for the incubus, quoted, with little variation, by Reginald Scott in his Discovery of Witchcraft, 1584. STEEVENS.

In the old quarto the corruption is such as may deserve to be noted. “ Swithald footed thrice the olde anelthu night moore

Kent. How farés your grace ?

Enter Gloster, with a Torch.
LEÁR. What's he?

and her nine fold bid her, O light and her troth plight and arint thee, with arint thee." Johnson.

Her nine fold seems to be put (for the sake of the rhyme) instead of her nine foals. I cannot find this adventure in the common legends of St. Vitalis, who, I suppose, is here called St. Withold. TYRWHITT.

Shakspeare might have met with St. Withold in the old spurious play of King John, where this saint is invoked by a Franciscan_friar. The wold I suppose to be the true reading. So, in The Coventry Collection of Mysteries, Mus. Brit. Vesp. D. viii. p. 23, Herod says to one of his officers : . . " Seyward bolde, walke thou on wolde,

“And wysely behold all abowte," &c. Dr. Hill's reading, the cold, (mentioned in the next note,) is the reading of Mr. Tate in his alteration of this play in 1681.

Lest the reader should suppose the compound-night-mare, has any reference to horse-flesh, it may be observed that mara, Saxon, signifies an incubus. See Keysler, Antiquitat. sel. Septentrion. p. 497, edit. 1720. Steevens.

It is pleasant to see the various readings of this passage. In a book called the Actor, which has been ascribed to Dr. Hill, it is quoted “ Swithin footed thrice the cold.Mr. Colman has it in his alteration of Lear

Swithin footed thrice the world.The ancient reading is the olds : which is pompously corrected by Mr. Theobald, with the help of his friend Mr. Bishop, to the wolds : in fact it is the same word. Spelman writes, Burton upon olds : the provincial pronunciation is still the oles : and that probably was the vulgar orthography. Let us read then,

St. Withold footed thrice the oles,
He met the night-mare, and her nine foles, &c.

FARMER, I was surprised to see in the Appendix to the last edition of Shakspeare, [i. e. that of 1773] that my reading of this passage was “ Swithin footed thrice the world." I have ever been averse to capricious variations of the old text; and, in the present instance, the rhyme, as well as the sense, would have induced me to abide by it. World was merely an error of the press. Wold is a word still in use in the North of England ; signifying a kind of down near the sea. A large tract of country in the East-Riding of Yorkshire is called the Woulds. COLMAN. VOL, X.

M .

Kent. Who's there? What is't you seek ?
Glo. What are you there? Your names ?

EDG. Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt, and the water 5; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat, and the ditch-dog ; drinks the green mantle of the standing pool ; who is whipped from tything to tything, and stocked, punished, and imprisoned'; who hath had three suits to his back,

Both the quartos and the folio have old, not olds. Old was merely the word wold misspelled, from following the sound. There are a hundred instances of the same kind in the old copies of these plays. .

For what purpose the Incubus is enjoined to plight her troth, will appear from a passage in Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft, 1584, which Shakspeare appears to have had in view : “ -howbeit, there are magical cures for it, [the night-mare or incubus,] as for example:

“ S. George, S. George, our ladies knight,
“ He walk'd by daie, so did he by night,
“ Until such time as he hir found :
“ He hir beat and he hir bound,
Until hir troth she to him plight

“ She would not come to hir [r. him] that night.” Her nine fold are her nine familiars. Aroint thee! [Dii te averruncent !7 is explained in Macbeth, Act I. Sc. III. Saint Withold is introduced in the old play of King John :

“ Sweet St. Withold of thy lenitie,

“ Defend us from extremitie.” MALONE. 5 - the wall-newt, and the WATER;] i. e. the water-nert. This was the phraseology of Shakspeare's time. “He was a wise man and a merry," was the common language. So Falstaff says to Shallow, “he is your serving-man, and your husband,i. e. husband-mån. Rowe repeated the word newt. MALONE.

6 – whipped from TYTHING to TYTHING,] A tything is a division of a place, a district; the same in the country, as a ward in the city. In the Saxon times every hundred was divided into tyth. ings. Edgar alludes to the acts of Queen Elizabeth and James I. against rogues, vagabonds, &c. In the Stat. 39 Eliz. ch. 4, it is enacted, that every vagabond, &c. shall be publickly whipped and sent from parish to parish. STĚevens.

7 -- and stocked, punished, and imprisoned ;) So the folio.

six shirts to his body, horse to ride, and weapon to wear,

But mice, and rats, and such small deer,

Have been Tom's food for seven long year 8. Beware my follower :-Peace, Smolkin; peace o,

thou fiend ! Glo. What, hath your grace no better company ?

EDG. The prince of darkness is a gentleman'; Modo he's call’d, and Mahu ?.

The quartos read, perhaps rightly—" and stock-punished, and imprisoned." Malone. 8 But mice, and rats, and such small DEER,

Have been Tom's food for seven long year. This distich is part of a description given in the old metrical romance of Sir Bevis, of the hardships suffered by Bevis, when confined for seven years in a dungeon :

“ Rattes and myce and such smal dere

“ Was his meate that seven yere.” Sig. F. iij. PERCY. Dere was used for animals in general. So Barclay in his Eclogues, 1570:

Everie sorte of dere “ Shrunk under shadowes abating all their chere.” MALONE. 9 - Peace, SMOLKIN; peace,] “ The names of other punie spirits cast out of Trayford were these : Hilco, Smolkin, Hillio,” &c. Harsnet, p. 49. PERCY.

* The prince of darkness is a gentleman ;] This is spoken in resentment of what Gloster had just said—“ Has your grace no better company ?” STEVENS.

2 The prince of darkness is a gentleman ; • Modo he's callid, and Mahu.] So, in Harsnet's Declaration, Maho was the chief devil that had possession of Sarah Williams ; but another of the possessed, named Richard Mainy, was molested by a still more considerable fiend called Modu. See the book already mentioned, p. 268, where the said Richard Mainy deposes : " Furthermore it is pretended ... that there remaineth still in mee the prince of all other devils, whose name should be Modu.He is elsewhere called, “the prince Modu.So, p. 269 : “ When the said priests had dispatched theire business at Hackney (where they had been exorcising Sarah Williams) they then returned towards mee, uppon pretence to cast the great Prince Modu .... out mee.” Steevens.

In The Goblins, by Sir John Suckling, a catch is introduced which concludes with these two lines :

Glo. Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so

vile, That it doth hate what gets it.

Edg. Poor Tom's a-cold.

Glo. Go in with me; my duty cannot suffer 3 To obey in all your daughters' hard commands : Though their injunction be to bar my doors, And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you; Yet have I ventur’d to come seek you out, And bring you where both fire and food is ready.

LEAR. First let me talk with this philosopher:What is the cause of thunder ?

Kent. Good my lord, take his offer ; Go into the house.. LEAR. I'll talk a word with this same learned *

Thebano:-
What is your study?
Edg. How to prevent the fiend, and to kill ver-

min.
LEAR. Let me ask you one word in private.

KENT. Importune him once more to go, my lord, His wits begin to unsettle 5.

* Quartos, most learned.
“ The prince of darkness is a gentleman ;

Mañu, Mahu is his name.” I am inclined to think this catch not to be the production of Suckling, but the original referred to by Edgar's speech. Reed. 3 — cannot suffer -] i, e. My duty will not suffer me, &c.

M. Mason. 4 – learned Theban :] Ben Jonson in his Masque of Pan's Anniversary, has introduced a Tinker whom he calls a learned Theban, perhaps in ridicule of this passage. Steevens.

5 His wits begin to unsettle.] On this occasion, I cannot prevail on myself to omit the following excellent remark of Mr. Horace Walpole, [now Lord Orford] inserted in the postscript to his Mysterious Mother. He observes, that when“ Belvidera talks of

Lutes, laurels, seas of milk, and ships of Amber, she is not mad, but light-headed. When madness has taken possession of a person, such character ceases to be fit for the stage, or at least should appear there but for a short time; it being the

« ForrigeFortsett »