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Now are frolic; not a mouse
the dust behind the door2. Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their Train. Obe. Through this house give glimmering light,
By the dead and drowsy fire:
Hop as light as bird from brier;
Tita. First, rehearse this song by rote:
SONG AND DANCE.
Which by us shall blessed be * ; 2 Cleanliness is always necessary to invite the residence or favour of the Fairies. So Drayton, in his Nymphidia :
* These make our girls their sluttery rue,
The house for cleanly sweeping.' To sweep the dust behind the door is a common expression, for to sweep the dust from behind the door, a necessary monition in large old houses, where the doors of halls and galleries are thrown backward and seldom shut. 3 Milton perhaps had this picture in his thoughts:
And glowing embers through the room
Teach night to counterfeit a gloom.' 4 This ceremony was in old times used at all marriages. Mr. Douce has given the formula from the Manual for the use of Salisbury. We may observe on this strange ceremony, that the purity of modern times stands not in need of these holy aspersions to lull the senses and dissipate the illusions of the devil.
And the issue, there create,
their children be.-
Make no stay;
[Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and Train. The married couple would no doubt rejoice when the benediction was ended. In the French romance of Melusine, the Bishop who marries her to Raymondin blesses the nuptial bed. The ceremony is there represented in a very ancient cut.
The good prelate is sprinkling the parties with holy water. Sometimes, during the benediction, the married couple only sat on the bed; but they generally received a portion of the consecrated bread and wine. It is recorded in France, that, on frequent occasions, the priest was improperly detained till midnight, whilst the wedding guests rioted in the luxuries of the table, and made use of language that was extremely offensive to the clergy, and injurious to the salvation of the parties. It was therefore ordained, in the year 1577, that the ceremony of blessing the nuptial bed should for the future be performed in the day-time, or at least before supper, and in the presence of the bride and bridegroom, and of their nearest relations only. 5 Portentous.
6 Way, course. 7 The same superstitious •kind of benediction occurs in Chaucer's Millere's Tale, vol. i. p. 105, 1. 22. Whittingham's Edit.
304 MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM. ACT. V. Puck. If we shadows have offended,
Think but this (and all is mended),
have but slumber'd here,
And Robin shall restore amends. [Exit. 8 i. e. if we have better fortune than we have deserved. 9 i. e. hisses. 10 Clap your hands, give us your applause.
Wild and fantastical as this play is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great.
JOHNSON. Johnson's concluding observations on this play are not conceived with his usual judgment. There is no analogy or resemblance between the Fairies of Spenser and those of Shakspeare. The Fairies of Spenser, as appears from his description of them in the second book of the Faerie Queene, canto x. were a race of mortals created by Prometheus, of the human size, shape, and affections, and subject to death. But those of Shakspeare and of common tradition, as Johnson calls them, were a diminutive race of sportful beings, endowed with immortality and supernatural powers, totally different from those of Spenser.