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Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him,
(Weak masters though ye be,)] The meaning of this passage may be, Though you are but inferior masters of these supernatural powers-though you possess them but in a low degree. ŚTEEVENS
-by whose aid, (Weak masters though ye be,)] That is : ye are powerful auxikiaries, but weak if left to yourselves ;—your employment is then to make green ringlets, and midnight mushrooms, and to play the idle pranks mentioned by Ariel in his next song ; yet by your aid I have been enabled to invert the course of nature. We say proverbially, “ Fire is a good servant, but a bad master.”
BLACKSTONE. But this rough magick, &c.] This speech of Prospero sets out with a long and distinct invocation to the various ministers of his art: yet to what purpose they were invoked does not very distinctly appear. Had ourauthor written" All this,” &c. instead
Re-enter ARIEL: after him, ALONSO, with a fran
tick gesture, attended by GONZALO; SEBASTIAN and ANTONIO in like manner, attended by ADRIAN and FRANCISCO: they all enter the circle which PROSPERO had made, and there stand charmed; which PROSPERO observing, speaks.
A solemn air, ani the best comforter
of_" But this,” &c. the conclusion of the address would have been more pertinent to its beginning. STEEVENS. 3 A solemn air, and the best comforter
To an unsettled fancy, cure thy brains, &c.] Prospero does not desire them to cure their brains. His expression is optative, not imperative; and means-May musick cure thy brains! i. e. settle them. Mr. Malone reads :
“ To an unsettled fancy's cure! Thy brains,
“ Now useless, boil within thy scull:"— STEEVENS. The old copy reads-fancy. For this emendatian I am answerable. Prospero begins by observing, that the air which had been played was admirably adapted to compose unsettled minds. He then addresses Gonzalo and the rest, who had just before gone into the circle : “ Thy brains, now useless boil within thy scull," &c. (the soothing strain not having yet begun to operate.) Afterwards, perceiving that the musick begins to have the effect intended, he adds, " The charm dissolves apace.” Mr. Pope and the subsequent editors read-boil'd. MALONE.
4-boil'd within thy skull !] So, in A Midsummer Night's dream,“ seething brains, &c. occur : and in The Winter's Tale, we have “boild brains.'
fellowly drops.] I would read, fellow drops. The additional syllable only injures the metre, without enforcing the sense. Fellowly, however, is an adjective used by Tusser.
Melting the darkness, so their rising senses
blood, You brother mine, that entertain'd ambition, Expellid remorse and nature ;' who, with Sebastian, (Whose inward pinches therefore are most strong,) Would here have kill'd your king; I do forgive
thee, Unnatural though thou art !—Their understanding Begins to swell, and the approaching tide Will shortly fill the reasonable shores, That now lie foul and muddy. Not one of them, That
yet looks on me, or would know me :-Ariel, Fetch me the hat and rapier in
[Exit ARIEL I will dis-case me, and myself present, As I was sometime Milan :-quickly, spirit; Thou shalt ere long be free.
my cell ;
Ariel re-enters, singing, and helps to attire
In a cowslip's bell I lie :S
6 Thou'rt pinch'd for't now, Sebastian. — Flesh and blood,] Thus the old copy : Theobald points the passage in a different manner, and perhaps rightly:
“ Thou’rt pinch'd for't now, Sebastian, flesh and blood.”
remorse and nature ;] Remorse is by our author and the contemporary writers generally used for pity, or tenderness of heart. Nature is natural affection. MALONE.
There I couch when owls do cry.'
• In a cowslip's bell I lie :) So, in Drayton's Nymphidia »
“ At midnight, the appointed hour;
“ On Hipcut hill that bloweth.” The date of this poem not being ascertained, we know not whether our author was indebted to it, or was himself copied by Drayton. I believe, the latter was the imitator. Nymphidia was not written, I imagine, till after the English Don Quixote had appeared in 1612. Malone.
- when owls do cry.] i. e. at night. As this passage is now printed, Ariel says that he reposes in a cowslip's bell during the night. Perhaps, however, a full point ought to be placed after the word couch, and a comma at the end of the line. If the passage should be thus regulated, Ariel will then take his departure by night, the proper season for the bat to set out upon the
After summer, merrily :) This is the reading of all the editions. Yet Mr. Theobald has substituted sun-set, because Ariel talks of riding on the bat in this expedition. An idle fancy. That circumstance is given only to design the time of night in which fairies travel. One would think the consideration of the circumstances should have set him right. Ariel was a spirit of great delicacy, bound by the charms of Prospero to a constant attendance on his occasions. So that he was confined to the island winter and summer. But the roughness of winter is represented by Shakspeare as disagreeable to fairies, and such like delicate spirits, who, on this account, constantly follow summer.
WARBURTON. To this Mr. Steevens objects that the bat is no bird of passage, and the expression is therefore probably used to signify, not that he pursues summer, but that, after summer is past, he rides upon the warm down of a bat’s back; which suits not improperly with the delicacy of his airy being. But Mr. Malone thinks that though the bat is “no bird of passage,” Shakspeare probably meant to express what Dr. Warburton supposes. When Shak speare had determined to send Ariel in pursuit of summer, wherever it could be found, as most congenial to such an airy being, is it then surprising that he should have made the bat, rather than “the wind, his post-horse;" an animal thus delighting in that season, and reduced by winter to a state of lifeless inactivity?
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.? Pro. Why, that's my dainty Ariel : I shall miss
thee; But yet thou shalt have freedom : so, so, so.To the king's ship, invisible as thou art : There shalt thou find the mariners asleep Under the hatches; the master, and the boatswain, Being awake, enforce them to this place; And presently, I pr’ythee.
Ari. I drink the airs before me, and return
Behold, sir king,
Whe'r thou beest he, or no,
shall I live now, Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.] This thought is not thrown out at random. It composed a part of the magical system of these days. The idea was probably first suggested by the description of the venerable elm which Virgil planted at the entrance of the infernal shades.
3 I drink the air -] To drink the air — is an expression of swiftness of the same kind as to devour the way in K. Henry IV.
+ Whe'r thou beest he, or no,] Whe'r for whether, is an abbreviation frequently used both by Shakspeare and Jonson.