網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版
[ocr errors]

defiance of Melancholy”; or may we suppose a subtle reference to some recent grief that had been in the special cottage in view, from the influence of which the inmates had hardly yet recovered ? We have no right to assume the latter meaning ; but it would be quite in Milton's way, and it would obviate a certain sense one might feel, on the other supposition, that the phrase had been brought in for the rhyme only.—“ Sweet-briar . eglantine.As these are now, with strict botanists, names for the same plant (Rosa rubigenosa), Warton supposes that by “the twisted eglantine” Milton meant the honeysuckle ; Mr. Keightley, more accurately, suggests the dog-rose (Rosa canina). The name is from the French eglantier, which is formed from aiguille, a needle, and implies prickliness. The sound of the word, as well as the associations with it, has made it a favourite with English poets from Chaucer downwards. Chaucer has the forms eglatere and eglentere. Popularly, several of the smaller-flowered kinds of wild-rose, besides the sweet-briar, are still called eglantine.

53. “Oft listening," etc. Here the poet passes on to a new pleasure, or a prolongation of the former. He has been looking round about the cottage or farmhouse, listening to the cock crowing, or watching him strutting to the stack or barn-door; and now, sauntering in its neighbourhood, he hears, from the hill-side, and echoing through the wood, the horn of the early huntsman, out with the hounds.

57. Sometime walking.Here, distinctly, L'Allegro is away from his cottage, and out on his morning walk. — not unseen.

Happy men love witnesses of their joy” is Hurd's acute note on this expression.

59. eastern gate: an expression found in Shakespeare, William Browne, elsewhere in Milton, and in the poets generally.

60. "state": i.e.“his stately progress," as Mr. Keightley expresses it.

62. dight," arrayed: from the A.-S. dihtan, to arrange, furbish, set in order; still extant in the Scottish dicht, to wipe or clean. Skeat connects the word with the Latin dictare. The clouds in thousand liveries dight.Almost a translation, as Warton has remarked, of a phrase in Milton's own description of Morning in the first of his Latin Prolusiones Oratoriæ or Cambridge Academical Exercises : “Ipsa quoque tellus in adventum Solis cultiori se induit vestitu, nubesque juxta variis chlamydate coloribus pompa solenni longoque ordine videntur ancillari surgenti Deo.” Compare the whole description of morning phenomena there with that in L’Allegro. Warton also quotes a passage from Browne's Britannia's Pastorals

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

(Book I. Song 4), in which there is an enumeration of morning phenomena not unlike that of a portion of Milton's poem: e.g. “ Chanticler, the village-cock,” the “swart ploughman,” the “reechoes of the deep-mouthed hound,” and “the shepherd's daughter with her cleanly pail."

67. tells his tale.Warton, on a suggestion from a friend, proposed to understand this to mean “telling the tale ” of his sheep, i.e. counting them; and this is certainly one of the meanings of the word tale, from A.-S. talu, number,—e.g. " the tale of the bricks” which the Israelites had to make in Egypt (Exod. v. 8). Browne, in his Shepherd's Pipe, Ecl. v., as Warton pointed out, has this passage :

" When the shepherds from their fold

All their bleating charges told,
And, full careful, searched if one

Of all their flock were hurt or gone." It may be that Warton's reading is right, the rather because, as in this passage from Browne, counting the sheep was a morning occupation for each shepherd, whereas one can hardly fancy shepherds met under a hawthorn and telling stories to each other so early in the day. Still the other, and more popular and pleasing, interpretation may be defended ; and tale, narrative, is radically the same as tale, number.

69. “Straight mine eye,” etc. By this rapid turn of phrase Milton skilfully indicates a new paragraph in his description. Hitherto he has been delighting in the phenomena of early morning ; now his eye catches “s new pleasures,i.e. he is still out on his walk, but some time has elapsed, and it is farther on in the day.

Straightmeans “instantaneously,” not in the actual succession of sights in the walk, but in the poem, or what of the walk he chooses, as L'Allegro, to remember or fancy.

70. "landskip: spelt lantskipin the First and Second Editions.

71. Russet lawns, and fallows grey.Lawn now commonly means a stretch of green grass in front of a mansion; but the epithet "russet” (reddish) shows that Milton, here as in the five other places where he has used the word in his poetry, understood it rather in its original sense of land or laund, any open space, even if moory.

Over such, and over the “grey fallows,” the sheep might be seen nibbling. A fallow is a piece of ploughed land left unsown, generally yellow or tawny in colour, as in fallow deer; but the A.-S. fealu, like the German falb (Latin fulvus), implies a range of hues from yellow to gray, and is allied indeed to pale (pallidus). 73, 74. Mountains," etc.

See Introd. I. 132.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

75. with daisies pied.Almost certainly a recollection of Shakespeare's “When daisies pied and violets blue” in the last song

“ in Love's Labour's Lost. “Pied,” a common word with the old poets, means variegated in colour: thus pie or magpie, and piebald. Drayton speaks of the “py'd kingfisher.” Shakespeare is supposed to have invented the word “piedness” in a passage about flowers (Winter's Tale, IV. 3); but Hakluyt has the same word. See Richardson's Dict. and Skeat's under Pie. 77—80. “ Towers and battlements,etc.

See Introd. I. 132. 79. lies,” lodges, resides : not an uncommon old meaning. A passage in point, quoted by Mr. Browne, is “When the Court lay at Windsor” (Merry Wives, II. 2); and the same sense of the word lie gives the point to Sir Henry Wotton's jocular definition of an ambassador as “one who lies abroad for the good of his country.”

80. cynosure” (literally “the dog's tail,” Kuvos oủpa) was the Greek name for that part of the constellation of the Lesser Bear which contains the pole-star. The Phoenician mariners directed their eyes to this in steering their course, while the Greeks steered by the Greater Bear. Thus Ovid, Fasti, III. 107-8:

“ Esse duas Arctos, quarum Cynosura petatur

Sidoniis, Helicen Graia carina notet.” By metaphor from this "cynosure" of Phoenician navigation, any thing or person on whom eyes were fastened for any reason might be called their 66 cynosure.

Mr. Browne quotes an apt passage from Hacket's Life of Archbishop Williams, where the Countess of Buckingham is spoken of as “the Cynosura that all the Papists steered by.”

83—88. “ Corydon and Thyrsis . . . Phillis ... Thestylis." Stock-names in pastoral poetry, here applied by Milton to English rustics. Their being at dinner indicates that it is now about mid-day. 91, 92. “ Sometimes, with secure delight,

The upland hamlets will invite.So Milton again marks a new paragraph in the poem, changing the

It is now past mid-day, and in the afternoon; and we are invited to a rustic holiday among the “upland hamlets” or little villages among the slopes, away from the river-meadows and the haymaking.—"secure," not here in its derivative meaning of “safe,” but in its original meaning of " careless" or "free from care” (securus). Mr. Browne happily quotes a discrimination, and even opposition, of the two meanings from Ben Jonson

" Men may securely sin, but safely never.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

scene.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

94. "rebecks." The rebeck was a kind of fiddle, supposed to be the same as Chaucer's ribibe ; which again is the Arabic rebeb, a twostringed instrument played with a bow, which the Arabs are said to have brought into Spain (Warton, and Richardson's Dict.) Warton notes that the name of the fiddler in Romeo and Juliet (IV. 4) is Hugh Rebeck.

96. “chequered shade.So, as the commentator Richardson noted, in Titus Andronicus, II. 3 :

“ The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind

And make a chequered shadow on the ground.” 98. “On a sunshine holiday." The word "sunshine” used adjectively, for “sunshiny.” Milton repeats the exact phrase in Comus, 959. Shakespeare had the adjective before him (Richard 11. IV. 1); Spenser has “sunshiny" (F. Q. I. xii. 23).

Then: i.e. as it grows dark.

How Faery Mab the junkets eat.See the famous description of the Fairy Queen Mab in Romeo and Juliet, I. 4; also another, more prosaic, in Ben Jonson's masque, The Satyr (1603). The beginning of the latter may be quoted :

“ This is Mab, the mistress Fairy,

That doth nightly rob the dairy,
And she can hurt or help the churning,
As she please, without discerning ;

I00.

IO2.

She that pinches country wenches
If they rub not clean their benches,
And with sharper nails remembers
When they rake not up their embers ;
But, if so they chance to feast her,

In a shoe she drops a tester.” -"junkets,from Low Lat. juncata, Ital. giuncata, meaning creamcheese, or the like country delicacy made from milk, and so called because such things were wrapt in rushes (Ital. giunco, a rush). 103, 104. She was pinched and pulled, she said ;

And he," etc. She in the first line and he in the second are two of the persons who are telling the stories round the nut-brown ale. One, a girl, tells about Queen Mab, and can vouch, from her own experience, that all is true that is said of the pranks of that Fairy; for “she was pinched and pulled” by her, exactly as in the legends. Then, another colloquist, a man, follows with his story. 104, 105. And he, by Friar's lantern led,

Tells how the drudging goblin," etc.

[ocr errors]

66

So in the First Edition ; but in the Second the first line runs by the Friar's lantern led.This seems to be a misprint; for, though the construction is difficult with the other reading, it would be hopeless with this. The construction with the other seems to be “ And he [the male speaker), by Friar's lantern led [i.e. who had had an experience of Friar Rush as distinct as the girl had had of Queen Mab], tells how the drudging goblin,” etc.—_" By Friar's lantern

-“ led: i.e. who had once been led into a marsh at night by that mysterious flickering light which philosophers call the Ignis Fatuus, and try to explain by physical causes, but which is known in English and Scottish popular mythology as the fiendish being Jack-o'-theLantern, or Will-o'-the-Wisp, or Spunkie, who flits in luminous form over marshy lands, to deceive travellers and lure them to their destruction. Milton here calls the same Friar's lantern,” meaning, it is supposed, “ Friar Rush's lantern; and, if so, Mr. Keightley insists that he is wrong, inasmuch as the “Friar Rush” of the popular Fairy mythology is a domestic spirit, who haunts houses, and not the same being at all as the out-of-doors“ Jack-o'-the-Lantern." Whether it was the Friar's lantern or Jack's lantern, however, it had once misled the rustic who was now talking over the nut-brown ale. He was therefore an authority in this class of subjects, and any story of his would be heard with attention. The story he does tell, after his qualifying personal preface about his encounter with Jacko'-the-Lantern, refers to quite another member of the Fairy brotherhood, viz. “The Drudging Goblin." 105-114.

how the drudging goblin sweat

To earn his cream-bowl,etc. The “drudging goblin” is Robin Goodfellow, alias Hobgoblin, alias (by high promotion) Shakespeare's Puck.—Although the word “Robin Goodfellows” is sometimes found in the plural as a name for an order of goblins (Goblin, Kobold in the German mythology, perhaps the same as the Greek koßados, a rogue), there was one pre-eminent Robin Goodfellow. He was a kind of masculine Queen Mab, performing among the ploughmen and farm-labourers the same offices of mischievous interference and occasional good service that her fairy ladyship did among the housemaids and dairymaids. In the rustic imagination, and usually in books, he was represented as a huge, loutish fellow, of great strength, but very lazy, who could be roused, by kind treatment, and especially by a bowl of cream or the like set out for him, to do an immense stroke of work in the barn during the night. He figures a good deal in Elizabethan popular literature; e.g. he is one of the characters in Ben Jonson's masque Love Restored. Coming in there among the Court masquers, he says : " Are these your court sports ? Would I had kept me to my

« 上一頁繼續 »