British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview

SCENE IV

KING, HUNCAMUNCA.

KING. Let all but Huncamunca leave the room.

Exeunt CLEORA and MUSTACHA.

Daughter, I have observed of late some grief
Unusual in your countenance -- your eyes
57That, like two open windows, used to show

The lovely beauty of the rooms within, 5
Have now two blinds before them. -- What is the cause?
Say, have you not enough of meat and drink?
We've giv'n strict orders not to have you stinted.

HUNC. Alas! my lord, I value not myself

That once I eat two fowls and half a pig; 10
58Small is that praise! but oh! a maid may want
What she can neither eat nor drink.

KING. What's that?

HUNC. O59 spare my blushes; but I mean a hus-
band.

KING. If that be all, I have provided one,

A husband great in arms, whose warlike sword 15
Streams with the yellow blood of slaughtered giants,
Whose name in Terra Incognita is known,
Whose valor, wisdom, virtue make a noise
Great as the kettle-drums of twenty armies.

HUNC. Whom does my royal father mean?

KING. Tom Thumb. 20

HUNC. Is it possible?

KING. Ha! the window-blinds are gone;
60A country-dance of joy is in your face;
Your eyes spit fire, your cheeks grow red as beef.

HUNC. Oh, there's a magic-music in that sound,

Enough to turn me into beef indeed! 25
Yes, I will own, since licensed by your word, I'll own Tom Thumb the cause of all my grief.
For him I've sighed, I've wept, I've gnawed my
sheets.

KING. Oh! thou shalt gnaw thy tender sheets no
more;

A husband thou shalt have to mumble now. 30

HUNC. Oh! happy sound! henceforth let no one tell
That Huncamunca shall lead apes in hell.*
Oh! I am overjoyed!

KING. I see thou art.
61Joy lightens in thy eyes, and thunders from thy
brows;

Transports, like lightning, dart along thy soul, 35
As small-shot through a hedge.

HUNC. Oh! say not small.

KING. This happy news shall on our tongue ride
post,
Ourself we bear the happy news to Thumb.
Yet think not, daughter, that your powerful charms

Must still detain the hero from his arms; 40
Various his duty, various his delight; Now is his turn to kiss, and now to fight;
And now to kiss again. So, mighty 62 Jove,
When with excessive thund'ring tired above,
Comes down to earth, and takes a bit -- and then 45
Flies to his trade of thund'ring back again.


SCENE V

GRIZZLE, HUNCAMUNCA.

63GRIZ. Oh! Huncamunca, Huncamunca, oh!

____________________
*
The proverbial fate of one who dies an old maid.
57
Lee hath improved this metaphor:

Dost thou not view joy peeping from my eyes,
The casements opened wide to gaze on thee,
So Rome's glad citizens to windows rise,
When they some young triumpher fain would we.

Gloriana (LEE].

58
Almahide hath the same contempt for these appetites:

To eat and drink can no perfection be.

Conquest of Granada [DRYDEN].

The Earl of Essex is of a different opinion, and seems to place the chief happiness of a general therein:

Were but commanders half so well rewarded,
Then they might eat. BANKS'S Earl of Essex.

But, if we may believe one who knows more than either, the devil himself, we shall find eating to be an affair of more moment than is generally imagined:

Gods are immortal only by their food.

Lucifer, in the State of Innocence [DRYDEN].

59
'This expression is enough of itself,' says Mr. D[enni]s, 'utterly to destroy the character of Huncamunca!' Yet we find a woman of no abandoned character in Dryden adventuring farther, and thus excusing herself:

To speak our wishes first, forbid it pride,
Forbid it modesty; true, they forbid it,
But Nature does not. When we are athirst,
Or hungry, will imperious Nature stay,
Nor eat, nor drink, before 'tis bid fall on?

Cleomenes [DRYDEN].

Cassandra speaks before she is asked: Huncamunca afterwards. Cassandra speaks her wishes to her lover: Huncamunca only to her father.

60

Her eyes resistless magic face;
Angels, I see, and gods am dancing there.

LEE'S Sophonisba.

61
Mr. Dennis, in that excellent tragedy called Liberly Asserted, which is thought to have given so great a stroke to the late French king, hath frequent imitations of this beautiful speech of King Arthur:

Conquest light'ning in his eyes, and thund'ring in his arm.
Joy lightened in her eyes.
Joys like lightning dart along my soul.

62

Jove, with excessive thund'ring tired above,
Comes down for ease, enjoys a nymph, and then
Mounts dreadful, and to thund'ring goes again.

Gloriana [LEE].

63
This beautiful line, which ought, says Mr. W -- [ Welsted? Warburton?], to be written in gold, is imitated in the New Sophonisba [THOMSON]:

Oh! Sophonisba, Sophonisba, oh!
Oh! Narva, Narva, oh!

The author of a song called Duke upon Duke hath improved it:

Alas! 0 Nick! O Nick, alas!

Where, by the help of a little false spelling, you have two meanings in the repeated words.

-588-

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