Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Songs and Their Settings
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
From ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream

Scene: A Wood near Athens.  Enter a Fairy and Puck at opposite doors.

PUCK—How now, spirit! whither wander you?
  Fairy—      Over hill, over dale,
      Thorough bush, thorough brier,
        Over park, over pale,
      Thorough flood, thorough fire,        5
      I do wander everywhere,
      Swifter than the moonè’s sphere;
      And I serve the fairy queen,
      To dew her orbs upon the green.
      The cowslips all her pensioners be:        10
      In their gold cups spots you see;
      Those be rubies, fairy favors,
      In those freckles live their savors.
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.        15
Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I’ll be gone.
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.
  Puck—The king doth keep his revels here to-night.
Take heed the queen come not within his sight:
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,        20
Because that she, as her attendant, hath
A lovely boy, stol’n from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling:
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild;        25
But she perforce withholds the lovèd boy,
Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy:
And now they never meet in grove, or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen,
But they do square; that all their elves, for fear,        30
Creep into acorn cups, and hide them there.
  Fairy—Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Called Robin Goodfellow. Are you not he
That frights the maidens of the villagery;        35
Skims milk, and sometimes labors in the quern,
And bootless makes the breathless housewife churn;
And sometimes makes the drink to bear no barm;
Misleads night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,        40
You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
Are not you he?
  Puck—                Fairy, thou speak’st aright:
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon, and make him smile,
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,        45
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal.
And sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab;
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.        50
The wisest aunt telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me:
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And “tailor” cries, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,        55
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.—
But room, Fairy: here comes Oberon.
  Oberon—My gentle Puck, come hither: thou remember’st
Since once I sat upon a promontory,        60
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,
That the rude sea grew civil at her song,
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
To hear the sea-maid’s music.
  Puck—                        I remember.
  Oberon—That very time I saw (but thou couldst not)
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all armed: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal thronèd by the west,
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow,        70
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft
Quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.        75
Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,
And maidens call it love-in-idleness.
Fetch me that flower,—the herb I showed thee once:        80
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid,
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that is seen.
Fetch me this herb; and be thou here again
Ere the leviathan can swim a league.        85
  Puck—I’d put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes.

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