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of a beautiful and faithful wife. As he approaches his own house, and already treads on the brink of perdition, he exclaims with an exuberance of satisfaction not to be restrained
“How near am I to a happiness
That earth exceeds not ! not another like it :
The treasures of the deep are not so precious,
As are the concealed comforts of a man
Lock'd up in woman's love. I scent the air
Of blessings when I come but near the house:
What a delicious breath marriage sends forth!
The violet bed's not sweeter. Honest wedlock
Is like a banqueting house built in a garden,
On which the spring's chaste flowers take delight
To cast their modest odours; when base lust,
With all her powders, paintings, and best pride,
Is but a fair house built by a ditch side.
When I kehold a glorious dangerous strumpet,
Sparkling in beauty and destruction too,
Both at a twinkling, I do liken straight
Her beautified body to a goodly temple
That's built on vaults where carcases lie rotting;
And so by little and little I shrink back again,
And quench desire with a cool meditation;
And I'm as well, methinks. Now for a welcome
Able to draw men's envies upon man:
A kiss now that will hang upon my lip,
As sweet as morning dew upon a rose,
And full as long; after a five days' fast
She'll be so greedy now and cling about me:
I take care how I shall be rid of her:
And here 't begins.”
This dream is dissipated by the entrance of Brancha and his Mother.
“ Bran. Oh, sir, you're welcome home.
Moth. Oh, is he come? I am glad on't.
Lean. (Aside.) Is that all ?
Why this is dreadful now as sudden death
To some rich man that flatters all his sins
With promise of repentance when he's old,
And dies in the midway before he comes to 't.
Sure you're not well, Brancha! how dost, prithee?
Bran. I have been better than I am at this time.
Lean. Alas, I thought so.
Bran. Nay, I have been worse too,
Than now you see me, sir.
Lean. I'm glad thou mend'st yet,
I feel my heart mend too. How came it to thee?
Has any thing dislik'd thee in my absence ?
Bran. No, certain, I have had the best content
That Florence can afford.
Lean. Thou makest the best on't:
Speak, mother, what's the cause ? you must needs know.
Moth. Troth, I know none, son; let her speak herself; Unless it be the same gave Lucifer a tumbling cast; that's pride.
Bran. Methinks this house stands nothing to my mind;
I'd have some pleasant lodging i' th' high street, sir;
Or if 'twere near the court, sir, that were much better;
'Tis a sweet recreation for a gentlewoman
To stand in a bay window, and see gallants.
Lean. Now I have another temper, a mere stranger
To that of yours, it seems; I should delight
To see none but yourself.
Bran. I praise not that;
Too fond is as unseemly as too churlish ;
would not have a husband of that proneness,
To kiss me before company, for a world;
Besides, 'tis tedious to see one thing still, sir,
Be it the best that ever heart affected;
Nay, wer't yourself, whose love had power you know
To bring me from my friends, I would not stand thus,
And gaze upon you always; troth, I could not, sir;
As good be blind, and have no use of sight,
As look on one thing still: what's the eye's treasure,
But change of objects? You are learned, sir,
And know I speak not ill; ’uis full as virtuous
For woman's eye to look on several men,
As for her heart, sir, to be fixed on one.
Lean. Now, thou com’st home to me; a kiss for that word.
Bran. No matter for a kiss, sir; let it pass;
'Tis but a toy, we'll not so much as mind it;
Let's talk of other business, and forget it.
What news now of the pirates ? any stirring?
Prithee discourse a little.
Moth. (Aside.) I'm glad he's here yet,
To see her tricks himself; I had lied monstrously
If I had told 'em first.
Lean. Speak, what's the humour, sweet,
You make your lips so strange? This was not wont.
Bran. Is there no kindness betwixt man and wife,
Unless they make a pigeon-house of friendship,
And be still billing? 'Tis the idlest fondness
That ever was invented; and 'tis pity
It's grown a fashion for poor gentlewomen;
There's many a disease kiss'd in a year by't,
And a French court'sy made to't. Alas, sir,
Think of the world, how we shall live, grow serious;
We have been married a whole fortnight now.
Lean. How? a whole fortnight! why, is that so long?
Bran. 'Tis time to leave off dalliance; 'tis a doctrine
Of your own teaching, if you be remember'd,
And I was bound to obey it.
Moth. (Aside.) Here's one fits him;
This was well catch'd i' faith, son, like a fellow
That rids another country of a plague,
And brings it home with him to his own house.
[A messenger from the Duke knocks within. Who knocks?
Lean. Who's there now? Withdraw you, Brancha;
Thou art a gem no stranger's eye must see,
Howe'er thou’rt pleas'd now to look dull on me. [Exit Brancha." The Witch of Middleton is his most remarkable performance; both on its own account, and from the use that Shakspeare has made of some of the characters and speeches in his . Macbeth.' Though the employment which Middleton has given to Hecate and the rest, in thwarting the purposes and perplexing the business of familiar and domestic life, is not so grand or appalling as the more stupendous agency which Shakspeare has assigned them, yet it is not easy to deny the merit of the first invention to Middleton, who has embodied the existing superstitions of the time, respecting that anomalous class of beings, with a high spirit of poetry, of the most grotesque and fanciful kind. The songs and incantations made use of are very nearly the same. The other parts of this play are not so good; and the solution of the principal difficulty, by Antonio's falling down a trap-door, most lame and impotent. As a specimen of the similarity of the preternatural machinery, I shall here give one entire scene.
"The Witches' Habitation.
Enter Heccat, Stadlin, Hoppo, and other Witches.
Hec. The moon's a gallant: see how brisk she rides.
Stad. Here's a rich evening, Heccat.
Hec. Aye, is 't not, wenches,
To take a journey of five thousand miles ?
Hop. Ours will be more to-night.
Hec. Oh, 't will be precious. Heard you the owl yet?
Slad. Briefly, in the copse,
As we came through now.
Hec. 'Tis high time for us then.
Stad. There was a bat hung at my lips three times
As we came through the woods, and drank her fill :
Old Puckle saw her.
Hec. You are fortunate still,
The very scritch-owl lights upon your shoulder,
And woos you like a pigeon. Are you furnish'd ?
Have you your ointments ?
Hec. Prepare to flight then.
I'll overtake you swiftly.
Stad. Hie then, Heccat!
We shall be up betimes.
Hec. I'll reach you quickly.
[ They ascend. Enter FIRESTONE. Fire. They are all going a-birding to-night. They talk of fowls i' th' air, that fly by day, I'm sure ther'll be a company of foul sluts there to-night. If we have not mortality affeared, I'll be hang’d, for they are able to putrify it, to infect a whole region. She spies me now.
Hec. What, Firestone, our sweet son ?
Fire. A little sweeter than some of you; or a dunghill were too good for me.
Hec. How much hast there?
Fire. Nineteen, and all brave plump ones; besides six lizards, and three serpentine eggs.
Hec. Dear and sweet boy! What herbs hast thou ?
Fire. I have some mar-martin and man-dragon.
Hec. Marmarittin, and mandragora, thou would'st say.
Fire. Here's pannax, too. I thank thee; my pan akes, I am sure, with kneeling down to cut 'em.
Hec. And selago,
Hedge-hissop, too! How near he goes my cuttings!
Were they all cropt by moon-light?
Fire. Every blade of 'em, or I am a moon-calf, mother.
Hec. Hie thee home with 'em.
Look well to th' house to-night: I'm for aloft.
Fire. Aloft, quoth you? I would you would break your neck once, that
I might have all quickly (Aside.)-Hark, hark, mother! They are above the
steeple already, flying over your head with a noise of musicians.
Hec. They are indeed. Help me! Help me! I'm too late else.
SONG (in the air above.)
Come away, come away!
Heccat, Heccat, come away!
I come, I come, I come, I come,
With all the speed I may,
With all the speed I may.
Where's Stadlin? (Above) Here. Hec.
Where's Puckle? (Above.)
And Hoppo too, and Hellwain too;
We lack but you, we lack but you.
Come away, make up the count
I will but ’noint, and then I mount.
(A Spirit descends in the shape of a cal.) (Above.) There's one come down to fetch his dues ;
A kiss, a coll, a sip of blood;
And why thou stay'st so long, I muse, I muse,
Since th' air's so sweet and good ?
Hec. Oh, art thou come,
What news, what news? Spirit. All goes still to our delight,
Either come, or else
Refuse, refuse. Hec. Now I am furnish'd for the flight. Fire. Hark, hark! The cat sings a brave treble in her own lan
Hec. (Ascending with the Spirit.)
Now I go, now I fly,
Malkin, my sweet spirit, and I.
Oh, what a dainty pleasure 'tis
To ride in the air
When the moon shines fair,
And sing, and dance, and toy, and kiss !
Over woods, high rocks, and mountains,
Over seas our mistress' fountains,
Over steep towers and turrets
We fly by night, ’mongst troops of spirits.
No ring of bells to our ears sounds,
No howls of wolves, no yelps of hounds;
No, not the noise of water's breach,
Or cannon's roar our height can reach. (Above.) No ring of bells, &c.
Fire. Well, mother, I thank your kindness. You must be gamboling i' the air, and leave me to walk here like a fool and a mortal. [Exit.
The incantation scene at the cauldron is also the original of that in Macbeth, and is in like manner introduced by the Duchess's visiting the Witches' habitation.