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I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this curled hand


-Pray, I cannot

Tho' inclination be as sharp as th’ill. Amidst this multitude of conjectures, I must own myself not satisfied. I think by one light addition we may greatly clear up the difficulty. The king, conscious of his own guilt, is defirous, yet afraid, to repent and pray: is it not natural that be Thould say ;

A brother's murder-Pray, I (would, yet] cannot-Now this flight addition will explain the next puzzling line : let us consider, what we may reasonably expect him to have said after this : “ I wou'd pray, but I cannot, tho' my inclination, [my great defire] to do fo is no less powerful and persuasive with me, than the already determined resolution of my mind fo to do: that is, I am no less desirous to do what I would (namely, pray) and cannot, than I am refolv'd to do fo:" the seeming want of difference between inclination aid will, causes all the obscurity: if the reader attends to that, and observes, that by inclination he means, a longing desire, a disposition to do it with pleasure ; and by will, the determination of the mind, the actual resolution, I think all will be clear: and the words I have added in the foregoing line, if not genuine, (tho’ they seem to bid fair for it) at least add to the explaining the poet's thought. The lacter fine lines,

Try what repentance can, what can it not ?

Yet what can it, when one cannot repent? throw fome light on these in question : he could not pray, for his guilt defeated his intent : here he would try the force of allpowerful repentante,yet again is check'd by his guilty conscience: for tho', fays he, repentance can do all things, yet what can it do when one cannot really and truly use it when we are indeed desirous of repenting, but are by our guilt prevented from so doing: when we would fly to its aid, and be pardon’ù for our offence, and yet retain the offence itself, and beg for forgiveness, while we still are guilty the whole speech is a comment on itself.

In Philafter, the king is praying to be forgiven,-tho' still rem taining his offence, as here :

But how can I
Look to be heard of gods, that must be just,
Praying upon the groups F hold by wrong?

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Were thicker than itself with brother's blood ?
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy

But to confront the visage of offence?
And what's in prayer, but this twofold force,
To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past; but oh! what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder!
That cannot be, since I am still poffefs’d
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon'd, and retain th’offence ?
In the corrupted currents of this word,
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice;
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself,
Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above;
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In its true nature, we ourselves compellid
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can ; what can it not?
Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
O, wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O, limed foul ! that struggling to be free,
Art more engag'd! Help, angels, make affay,
Bow stubborn knees, and heart, with strings of steel,
Be soft as finews of the new-born babe ;
be well.

[The King kucels

Enter Hamlet.

Ham. (29) Now might I do it pat, now he is pray

ing; And now I'll do't, and so he goes to heaven,

(29) It has been remarked, there is great want of resolution in Hamlet, for when he had so good an opportunity to kill his uncle and revenge his father, as here, he thuffles it off with a paltry excuse, and is afraid to do what he so ardently longs for:


And so am I reveng'd ?--that would be scann'd
A villain kills my father, and for that,
1, his fole fon, do this fame villain send
To heav'n! O! this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father groftly, full of bread,
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands, who knows, save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
'Tis heavy with him.-Am I then reveng'd,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season's for his passage ?
Up sword, and know thou a more horrid bent,
When he is drunk, asleep, or in his rage,
Or in th'incestuous pleasures of his bed;
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't :
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damn’d and black
As hell whereto it goes.

SCENE X. Part of the Scene between Hamlet and

his Mother. Queen. What have I done that thou dar'st wag thy

In noise fo rude against me?

Ham. Such an act,
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love,
And fets a blister there ; makes marriage-vows
As false as dicers' oaths : Oh, such a deed,
As from the body of contraction plucks


the observation may be confirmed from many other passages: in the next page, he himself observes, that all occasions do inform agains bim,and (pur bis dull revenge: but 'tis not my design in this work, to cnter into exact criticism on the characters.

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The very soul, and sweet religion makes
A rhapsody of words.

Queen. Ah me, what act !

Ham. Look here, upon this picture, and on this ;
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
See what a grace was feated on this brow;
Hyperion's curls, the front of Jove himself,

like Mars, to threaten or command,
(30) A station like the herald Mercury,
New lighted on a heaven-kifling hill;
A combination, and a form indeed,
Where every god did seeni to fet his feal,
To give the world assurance of a man:
This was your husband. Look you now what follows;
Here is your husband, like a (31) mildew'd ear,
Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?
Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
And batten on this moor?

Queen. O, Hamlet, speak no more;
Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grained spots,
As will not leave their tinct.



(30) A Station, &c.] The poet employs this word in a sense different from what it is generally used to signify : for it means here, an attitude, a silent posture, fixt deneaner of perfor, in opposition to an active behaviour. Theobald, 'Tis very probable Milton took the first hint of the following fine lines from the present passage :

Like Maa's son he stood,
And shook his plumes, that heavenly fragrance fill'd
The circuit wide.

Par. Loft, B. 5. 285.

(21) Mildew'd ear.] Probably he alludes to Pharaoh's dream, Gen. xli.

And he dreamed and behold feven ears of corn came up on one stalk rank and good: and behold seven thin ears and talled with the east wind, sprang up after them : and the thin ears de youred the rank and full ears. See v. 22.

Enter Ghost.

Ham. Save me, and hover o'er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards; what would your gracious figure?

Queen. Alas! he's mad.
Ham. Do

you not come your tardy fon to chide
That, laps'd in time and paffion, lets go by
Th'important acting of your dread command ?
O, fay-

Ghoft. Do not forget; this vifitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpofe.
But, look! amazement on thy mother fits :
O step between her and her fighting foul !
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works :
Speak to her, Hamlet.

Ham. How is it with you, madam?

Quecn. Alas! how is't with you?
That thus you bend your eye on vacancy,
And with th'incorporeal air doth hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And as the sleeping foldiers in th'alarm,
Your bedded hairs, like (32) life in excrements,


(32) Like life in excrements.] Shakespear very frequently calls the hair an excrement, that is, without life or sensation, and his meaning here is, Hainlet's surprize had such an effect on him,that his hairs, as if there was life in those excrementitious parts,started yp and stood on end. So, in Macbeth,

And my

fell of hair Wou'd at a dismal treatise rouse and stir

As life were in't. My notes on this play have so much swelled under my hand, I am oblig'd to lay aside a design I had of giving the reader a transiation of the discourse between Hamlet and his mother, from Saxo Grammaticus, which is extremely fine,and will be no small amusement to the reader if he thinks proper to consult that historian; from whom Shakespear has taken the whole of Hambt's disguis’d madness; the scene before us; his friendship with Horatio ; the death of Polonius; his banishment into England; his return from thence, and killing the usurper:--The Gloft seems to have been his own invention.

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