Figuretive Language In Cymbeline

Miner, Earl, ed. Selected Poetry and Prose of John Dryden.

New York: The Modern Library, 1985.

"SONG FROM SHAKESPEARE'S CYMBELINE, A" William Collins (1746) William COLLINS used a Shakespeare play known for its beautiful songs as source material for his "A Song from Shakespeare's Cymbeline." First published in the Folio of 1623, Cymbeline was mislabeled a tragedy as that publication had no romance classification, which is the correct one for Cymbeline. Shakespeare based the play on several sources familiar to his audience, which told stories of mistaken identity, disguise, and misrepresentation, all in the name of love. In the play set in the pre-Christian period of English history, its deities are the Roman gods, and Jupiter even makes an appearance. It contained the song considered the most beautiful AUBADE of its time, "Hark, hark, the lark," as well as the dirge "Fear no more the heat o' th' sun," the latter found in act 4, scene 2, of Cymbeline, verses 258-281.

The mourning song is delivered by two characters over the supposedly dead body of Fidele, in actuality Princess Imogen, very much alive and disguised as a page. Collins incorporates some imagery from the dirge, including that of storms, along with the declaration by the devoted men that Fidele shall never be forgotten. However, he also includes imagery from a recitation by Arviragus that occurs previous to the dirge in lines 218-29 of the same scene. In those lines Arviragus tells Fidele's body that "fairest flowers / Whilest summer lasts" will "sweeten" her "sad grave." He promises the grave will be decorated with "pale primrose," which resembles her complexion; "azur'd harebell," which is blue like her veins; and "The leaf of eglantine," sweet as her breath. He explains, "The raddock would, / With charitable bill" deliver the flowers, along with moss, where a raddock refers to a robin. He is interrupted by Guiderus, who accuses him of being "wench-like" in expressing beautiful thoughts, when the thoughts should be more serious.

Collins combined elements from Arviragus's too-feminine verses with the dirge imagery and references. The result is "A Song from Shakespeare's Cymbeline," with the explanatory subtitle "Sung by Guiderus and Arviragus over Fidele, Suppos'd to be Dead." He constructed six verses of four lines each with a RHYME scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, ghgh, ijij, klkl. Its iambic qua-trameter rhythm makes it easy to set to music, along the lines of a BALLAD.

The first line promises, To fair Fidele's grassy tomb Soft maids and village hinds shall bring Each op'ning sweet, of earliest bloom, And rifle all the breathing spring.

This echoes the dirge promise by the two men "All lovers young, all lovers must / Consign to thee and come to dust" (4.2. 274-275). Collins paraphrases Arviragus's promise that the grave shall be graced with flowers, although delivered by humans; the robin will be mentioned later in the poem.

The second verse promises that "no wailing ghost" will "vex with shrieks this quiet grove." Instead shepherds will assemble along with "melting virgins,"

meaning emotional young women, to declare their love. At the same time the grave will not be disturbed by a "wither'd witch" or "goblin" but rather shall be haunted by "female fays," who will decorate it "with pearly dew." The dirge from Cymbeline had likewise stated, in the words of both men,

No exorciser harm thee.

Nor no witchcraft charm thee.

Ghost unlaid forbear thee.

Nothing ill come near thee (4.2. 276-280)

The robin appears in Collins's fifth stanza, which promises,

The redbreast oft at ev'ning hours Shall kindly lend his little aid, With hoary moss, and gather'd flow'rs, To deck the ground where thou art laid,

These lines directly imitate those of Arviragus.

The fifth stanza adopts Shakespeare's storm imagery. The men had told Fidele, "Fear no more the lightning-flash, / Nor th' all-dreaded thunder-stone / Fear not slander, censure rash" in lines 270-272; Collins writes in his fifth verse,

When howling winds, and beating rain, In tempests shake the sylvan cell, or midst the chace on ev'ry plain, The tender thought on thee shall dwell.

Collins concludes by writing that tears will be constantly shed and thoughts will focus on Fidele, who will be "Belov'd, till life could charm no more; / And mourn'd, till Pity's self be dead." Fidele will enjoy immortality through thoughts and words. Collins does his part, although Shakespeare's verse achieved an easy immortality on its own, to guarantee that the two characters' devotion to Fidele, and Fidele himself, shall never be forgotten.

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