Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
 
Poems of Fancy: II. Fairies: Elves: Sprites
Queen Mab
William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
From “Romeo and Juliet,” Act I. Sc. 4.

  O, THEN, I see, Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife; and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies        5
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep:
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs;
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
The traces, of the smallest spider’s web;
The collars, of the moonshine’s watery beams;        10
Her whip, of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film;
Her wagoner, a small gray-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid:
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut,        15
Made by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,
Time out of mind the fairies’ coach-makers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
On courtiers’ knees, that dream on court’sies straight;        20
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,—
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,        25
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail,
Tickling a parson’s nose as ’a lies asleep,
Then dreams he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,        30
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts, and wakes;
And, being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two,        35
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night;
And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which, once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,        40
That presses them, and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage.
 
 
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