« PredošláPokračovať »
It even occurs in Skeltons, and Surreys Poems, and, what is stil more extraordinary, in Spensers Faërie quene, and Shakspeares Loves-labours-loft (if, in fact, that part of it ever receive'd the illuminateing touch of our great dramatist). Mister Steevens, in his note on the last instance, observes that whales " is the Saxon genitive case," meaning that it requires to be pronounce'd as a dissyllable, (thus, whalës, or, more properly, whaleës,) which it, certainly, is in every instance.
V. 522. Thou shalt take us with the dede.)
That is, with the manner (a law-phrase, cum manu opere, ovesque le main cuvre), flagrante delicto, or in the very act, and, in what the Scots call’d, in respect of their deer-stealers, the reid, or bluidy, hand.
V. 1213. A lay of Bretayne callyd hyt ys. ]
THE SQUYR OF LOWE DEGRE.
This strange and whimsycal, but genuine Engleish, performance is here giveën from a copy in quarto, and black-letter, without date, « Imprented at Lon. don by me Wyllyam Copland," extant among mis. ter Garricks old plays, now in the British museum (K. vol. 9). That it was printed before 1575 is evi. dent from Lanehams “ Letter," allready mention'd; and, in fact, as Copland dye'd in 1568, or 1569, could not be lateër than one of those years. It was, more. over, license'd to John Kynge, on the roth of June 1560; and, from the apparent modernisation of the printed copy, seems of much greater antiquity. Spen. ser, in his Faery quene, has introduce'd “ The squire of lowe degree;' and, in Shakspeares play of King Henry the fifth, captain Fluellen says to ancient Pistol, “ You call'd me yesterday mountain squire, but i wil make you to-day a squire of lowe degre" (A& V, scene 1). These allusions prove, at least, the popularity of the poem ; its age, however, cannot be easeyly ascertain'd; for, though it has been thought even anteriour, in point of date, to the time of Chaucer, it is never mention'd by any one writeër, before the sixteenth century; nor is it known to be extant in manuscript; and, in fact, the Museum copy is the onely one that exists in print.
V. 1. It was a squyer of lowe degre.]
A squire was a state or condition inferiour, and, generally speaking, preparatory; to that of a knight, upon whom the squire attended in the nature of a servant; haveing the care of his horse and armour; dress. ing and undressing him; and carveing his meat, and serveing him with bread and wine, at table. See Me. moires sur l'ancienne chevalerie, tome I, P. 11, &c. A most curious and interesting account of the education, employments, and progress, of a page, varlet, or squire, wil be found in the Histoire et plaisante cronicque du petit Jehan de Saintré, an excellent romance of the fifteenth century (Paris, 1523, 1724).
V. 29. And in the arber was a tre, &c.]
Warton, who conjectures this poem to be “ coëval with Chaucer,” says, in a note, “ From this passage, and another of the same fort, an ingenious correspon. dent* has taken occasion to consider Chaucers Rime of
* This ingenious correspondent turns out to be mister, afterward doctor Percy, since dean of Carlile, and now bishop, of Dromore. See a note in his Reliques of ancient English poetry, London, 1794, III, xxiü.
for Thopas in a new light;" and transcribes his words. «« The rhyme of fir Thopas was intended, by Chaucer, as a kind of burlesque on the old ballad-romances ; many of which he quotes.... Now, in these old romances, nothing is so common as impertinent digres. sions, containing affected enumerations of trees, birds, &c. There is a specimen of the former in an old romance, intitled, The Squyer of lowe degre:* where it is remarkable that the author has reckoned the lily, the piany, the sother-wood, &c. as trees. With the same accuracy the pie, the popinjay, the Sparrow, &c. are classed among the singing birds in the lines which immediately follow the list of trees.... From these lines we shall easily perceive the drift of Chaucer's humour in the following stanzas of Sir Thopas :
There springen herbes grete and smal,
And many a clove gelofer,
Or for to lie in cofer.
That joye it was to here;
She song full loud and clere.
* Though this “ ingenious correspondent” has allready fay'd, that, in what he is please'd to call “ the old balladromances,” nothing is so common as these impertinent digres
fions and enumerations, he was not able to produce a single inftance, except The Squyr of lowe degre, which, after all, is not prove'd to be one of these “ old ballad-romances;” none of which, in fact, contains any such impertinenceës,
The ingenious correspondent" ads that Speght and Urry have “ substituted wood-larke, instead of woodcock, not considering that Chaucer is jocose.” Tyr. whitts edition, however, indisputablely the best, reads wood dove; and as Lybeaus Disconus, one of the romanceës enumerateëd by Chaucer, is alludeëd to in The squyr of lowe degre, it is not, probablely, allso, of his age. (See Observations on the Fairy queen, I, 139.)
Bottom, the weaver, in Shakspeares Midsummernights-dream, after he has receive'd Robin Good-fel. lows favour of an asses head, sings part of one of these “old ballad-romances,” to convince his companions, whom he supposeës to be within hearing, that he is not afray'd :
6. The woofel cocke, so blacke of hew,
With orange-tawny bill,,
The wren with little quill;
The plainsong cuckow grey;
And dares not answer, nay.” Dureing the performance of this fingular melody, the queen of Fairys, allured out of her nap by such har. monious strains, exclaims,
“ What angel wakes me from my flow'ry bed.'. V.51. The jaye jangled them amonge.] Thus, in The cherrie and the flae :
“ The jargon of the jangling jays." Again, in The houlate, a stil more ancient poem, by Holland :
“Thus jowkit with juxtèrs the janglane ja." . Again, in Wedderburns Complainte of Scotland, St. Andrews, 1549; “ the jargolyne of the suallou gart the jay jangil."
V. 82. As was the giaunte fyr Colbraunde.]
This Colbrond was a Danish giant, whom sir Guy, earl of Warwick, like another David, fought in single combat, defeated, and new. The combat is elaborately describe'd by Robert of Gloucester, and Henry de Knyghton, the historians, and Michael Drayton the poet, each of whom, no doubt, was indebted to the old Engleish romance of “ Sir Guy, or the Latin one of a certain imaginary Girardus Cornubienfs, for whom see Hearnes appendix to the Chronicon de Dunstaple, Num. XI, and who was translateëd, in drawling stanzas of balade royal, by dan John Lydgate, monk of Bury; though it hapens not to be mention'd by any historical writeër of or near the time of action. Warton, indeed, an admirable judge, to be sure, of literary antiquitys! seems to have no doubt of both Bevis and Guy being “ English heros," and actually refers, for the latter, to “ Will. Malmess. Geft. Angl. ii. 6. where it would, probablely, be somewhat difficult to find him. Camden, indeed, a profess'd antiquary, and even the more learned Selden, are nearly as credulous as " honest Tom."
V. 140. Lynen cloth i shall none were.]
He means, in fact, to become a pilgrim, not "an hermyte," the former being a vagabond, the latter stationary; and, instead of a linen shirt, would wear one of hair or woolen ; as such-like ignorant and despicable enthusiasts were wont to do. Thus, fir Armado, in Loves labours loft, says, “ The naked truth of it is, i have no shirt; i go woolward for penance."
Again, in Ywaine and Gawain, V. 267: