« AnteriorContinua »
XLV. The Maid of Neidpath. There is a tradition in Tweeddale, that when Neidpath Castle, near Peebles, was inhabited by the Earls of March, a mutual passion subsisted between a daughter of that noble family, and a son of the Laird of Tushielaw, in Ettrick Forest. As the alliance was thought unsuitable by her parents, the young man went abroad. During his absence the lady fell into a consumption, and at length, as the only means of saving her life, her father consented that her lover should be recalled. On the day when he was expected to pass through Peebles, on the road to Tushielaw, the young lady, though much exhausted, caused herself to be carried to the balcony of a house in Peebles, belonging to the family, that she might see him as he rode past. Her anxiety and eagerness gavę such force to her organs that she is said to have distinguished his horse's footsteps at an incredible distance. But Tushielaw, unprepared for the change in her appearance, and not expecting to see her in that place, rode on without recognizing her, or even slackening his pace. The lady was unable to support the shock, and, after a short struggle, died in the arms of her attendants."
This is an account in prose of the events narrated in the poem. You should carefully compare the two versions, and see what is added to make the poem, and what is left to the reader's imagination.
XLVI. Wolsey and More. 1. The marble chair: the seat of the Chancellors. “Anciently the king's court migrated with his Majesty from place to place, .... until the manifest inconveniences of the arrangement produced a change ; and in the reign of Edward III., Chancery settled down at Westminster. A corner of the great hall had already been allotted to the Common Pleas; and now at the upper end, and on the right hand side, in a recess left open, with only a bar to keep off the suitors and people, the hitherto moveable authority was fixed. A marble table on an elevated floor, reached by five or six steps, with a marble chair close to it, were the visible signs of this dignified court. Writs and letters patent were signed on the table, and my lords were inaugurated by being solemnly placed in the chair."--Dr. Stoughton.
2. The Star Chamber took its name from the room in which it sat, and was in reality but another name for the ancient ordinary council of the king, which under the Plantagenets exercised an arbitrary jurisdiction. Under the Tudors, and especially through the influence of Wolsey, these proceedings became more illegal, though as a check on the excessive power of the nobles they were then useful. In this court the accused were examined privately, sometimes by torture, and were punished by fines and imprisonment, and, at a later time, by mutilation, without a fair trial. Under Charles I., it became a means of tyrannically asserting the royal prerogative, and of levying fines for the Crown. It was abolished by the Long Parliament in 1641.
3. Sir Thomas More (1480—1535) succeeded Wolsey as Chancellor, and was beheaded by Henry VIII. for relusing the Oath of Supremacy (see Extract xlviii.). He was one of the most learned and the best men of his time. He published a famous book in Latin (since translated) called Utopia, or the country of Nowhere, in which he relates the manners and life of a people who, having all things in common, and choosing their rulers annually, managed to live without the evils and troubles that afflicted the England of his own day. For a full account of this book and of its author see Reading Book, No. VI. in this series.
4. pageantry : pompous display. See Extract xx., Note 5. 5. Master Roper, the son-in-law, not the grandson, of the Chancellor.
6. se'nnight : a contraction of seven night, i.e. a week.
7. Puisne : inferior in rank; an adjective applied to certain judges in England.
It is the same word as puny: old French puisné; Latin, post-natus, born after : hence younger, and therefore inferior in size and strength. 8. L'opia : see Note 3.
XLVIII. State Trials. 1. The principle of constitutional government, as opposed to tyranny.
2. arras : tapestry, so named from Arras, North France, where it was first made.
3. Te Deum Laudamus : we praise Thee, O God.
4. a Bill of Attainder : Strafford was at first impeached. That is, a committee of the House of Commons charged him with certain acts of treason, and the Lords were the judges, This procedure was changed for a Bill of Attainder, by which
the Commons also became the judges. In other words, tne question was put to the vote, and the trial lost all meaning. A bill of any sort must be passed by both Houses, and receive the royal assent before becoming law.
5. Fiat justitia : Let justice be done.
6. Naseby : the battle by which Cromwell crushed the power of Charles I., June 14, 1645.
XLIX. Pyramus and Thisbe.
Pyramus and Thisbe were two lovers in Babylon. As their engagement was not allowed by their parents, they met secretly, and conversed through a crack in the wall that separated their houses. Their lamentable end is told in the course of this extract. These scenes are taken from The Midsummer Night's Dream. Duke Theseus is about to be married, and a number of artizans are preparing to act a little play before them, in the palace, in honour of the event. The ignorance and self-conceit of the players are very amusing
2. A comedy cannot be lamentable; but lamentable is a good long word, and therefore Quince uses it.
3. The part of Ercles or Hercules was popular on the stage, and was personated in a noisy ranting manner. Bottom means that he would like to play the part of a tyrant, so that he might make a great noise. He gives a specimen of his style in the following nonsensical lines, which should be read with exaggerated emphasis.
4. purple-in-grain : a red dye varying in colour from scarlet to violet. The dried body of the insect called Kermes (from which the dye is obtained) resembles a grain in appearance : hence the name of the dye. The Kermes lives on oak trees, in the South of Europe. Its name is the origin of our criinson.
5. Properties : articles used in acting, dresses excepted. 6. obscenely : ignorantly misused by Bottom for obscurely.
7. hold, or cut bow-strings : “This proverbial expression came originally from the camp. When a rendezvous was appointed, the militia soldiers would frequently make excuse for not keeping word, that their bowstrings were broke, i.e. their arms unserviceable. Hence when one would give another absolute assurance of meeting him, he would say proverbially-hold, or cut bow-strings-i.e, whether the bowstring held or broke.”—Warburton.
8. By'r lakin : by our ladykin, or little lady. Thus Marry is a corruption of the name of the Virgin Mary. Parlous : a contraction of perilous.
9. prologue, a spoken introduction to a play. So epilogue, a short poem or speech at the end of the play.
10. So in Tempest II. 2.
Stephano. Out o' the moon, I do assure thee: I was the man i' the moon when time was.
Caliban. I have seen thee in lier and I do adore thee. My mistress show'd me thee, and thy dog and thy bush.
11. During the interval Bottom has met with the fairies, and undergone some strange adventures.
12. A masque is properly a dance with masks; but during the reigns of Elizabeth-Charles I. it was a very costly entertainment, consisting of a short fable acted (often by amateurs), with songs and dances, and grand scenery and dresses.
13. A brief: a short account in writing. From Latin, brevis, short, through French bref. A barrister's brief is a short account of his client's case.
14. In this Prologue, Quince does not mind his stops, and thus makes his meaning the exact opposite of what is intended. With a little thought you will easily see what the punctuation should be.
15. A recorder was a small flute or bird-pipe, so called because birds were taught to record, that is, to sing by it.
16. Ninus : the mythical founder of Nineveh. 17. hight : is called ; a participle of the Anglo-Saxon hátan, to call, and used for some of the passive tenses without an auxiliary. As an old-fashioned word, Shakespeare only uses it in burlesque, as here. 18. sinistér : left hand.
" Limander and Helen are spoken by the blundering player, for Leander and Hero. Shafalus and Procrus, for Cephalus and Procris.”—Johnson.
20. Epilogile. See Note 9.
21. A Bergomask dance : a rustic dance in mimicry of the clumsy dance of the peasants of Bergomasco, a Venetian province.
L. The Spy. 1. The period to which this tale refers is that of the American War of Independence, 1775–1783.
2. Major André, Adjutant-general of the British army, while conducting negotiations with the American General Arnold, who intended to betray the post he held, was hanged as a spy by Washington.
LI. The Old Tortoise. I. Depeoikot: literally the house-carriers.
LIV. Hymn of Pan. 1. Pan: the great god of flocks and shepherds among the Greeks.
2. Tmolus : the god of Mt. Tmolus in Lydia, and said to have decided the musical contest between Apollo and Pan. 3. Daedal : curiously wrought ; variegated.
LV. A Sailor's Life. 1. Supercargo : the officer of a merchant-ship who superintends the commercial transactions of the voyage.
2. ex officio : by right of his office.
LVI. On the Division of Labour. 1. From The Wealth of Nations (1776), by Adam Smith.
LVII. Sonnet on his own Blindness. 1. John Milton became totally blind at the age of fortyfive (1653), having nobly sacrificed his failing sight to the duty laid on him by the Council, of writing a defence of the English people (for the execution of Charles I.).
Again and again in Milton's later writings, in prose and in verse, there are passages of the most touching sorrow over his darkened and desolate condition, with yet a tone of the most pious resignation ; and now and then an outbreak of a proud conviction that God, in blinding his bodily eyes, had meant to clear and enlarge his inner vision, and make him one of the world's truest seers and prophets.”—Prof. Masson,