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ving made Lucretia address Time personally in the two preceding stanzas, and again a little lower,—
"Why work'st thou mischief in thy pilgrimage." probably was here inattentive, and is himself answerable for the present inaccuracy. Malone.
If deemed necessary to alter the reading, instead of rendering it with his hours, it would be much better to change the preceding lines, and to read—Thy office is, &c. Thy duty is, &c. for uniformity sake. I am certain, that in Shakespeare's time the present reading was deemed accurate, however it may be now criticised, and, indeed, without much reason. The poet, though addressing Time personally, is marking what is the office and glory of Time: for instance, might not Lucretia have said to Tarquin, without any impropriety or inaccuracy :—
"Tarquin forbear, nor this advantage take;
"Forbear, for Tarquin's honor is at stake." As I could not immediately find a couplet to point out my meaning, I have thus ventured to make one; but, perhaps, it will be said, that the last line should be—
Forbear, I say, thy honor, &c.
Pedantic folly! Editor. P. 91, 1. 5. And cherish springs. If these words make any sense, it is such as is directly contrary to the sentiment here advanced, which is concerning the decays, and not the repairs of Time. The poet certainly wrote—and tarish springs; i. e. dry up springs, from the French tarir, or tarissement, exarefacere, eificcatio; these words being peculiarly applied to springs or rivers. Warsvkton.
Dr. Johnson thinks Shakespeare wrote—nnd perish springs: and Dr. Farmer has produced from the Maids' Tragedy, a passage, in which the word perish is used in the active sense.
If change were necessary, that word might, perhaps, have as good a claim to admission as any other; but I know not why the text has been suspected of corruption. The operations of Time, here described, are not all uniform; nor has the poet confined himself solely to its destructive qualities. In some of the instances mentioned, its progress only is adverted to. Thus we are told his glory is,— .,
"To wake the morn, and centinel the night,
"And turn the giddy round of Fortune's wheel."
In others its salutary effects are pointed out:—
"To cheer the ploughman with increaseful crops;
"To unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light;
"To wrong the wronger till he render right."
Where then is the difficulty of the present line, even supposing that we understand the word springs in its common acceptation? It is the office of Time (says Lucretia) to dry up the sap of the oak, and to furnish springs with a perpetual supply; to deprive the one of that moisture which she liberally bestows upon the other. In the next line the employment of Time is equally various and discordant:—
"To make the child a man, the man a child." To advance the infant to the maturity of man, and to reduce the aged to the imbecility of childhood.
By springs, however, may be understood (as has been observed by Mr. Toilet) the shoots of young trees; and then the meaning will be—It is the office of Time, on the one hand, to destroy the ancient oak: on the other, to cherish young plants, and to bring them to maturity. I believe this to be the true sense of the passage. Springs have this signification in many ancient books. Malone.
Ib. 1. 6. To spoil antiquities of hammer'd steel. The poet was here, I believe, thinking of the costly monuments erected in honor of our ancient kings, and some of the nobility, which were frequently made of cast iron or copper, wrought with great nicety; many of which had, probably, even in his lime, begun to decay. There are some of these monuments yet to be seen in Westminster Abbey and other old cathedrals. Malon E.
Mr. Henley observes, that the poet rather alluded to those vast port-cullises of iron, from which even the strongest castles derived their strength.
Ib. 1. 17. Retiring minute. Retiring here signifies returning, coming back again. Malone.
Ib. 1. 21. This wreck. Head—Thy wreck.
P. 92,1.1, 2, 3, &c. Disturb his hours, &c. In this and the following stanzas the author plays, as usual, upon his words, but in a manner so peculiar to himself that no imitation can be compared with it; for even in the jingle of words the solemnity of the subject is still preserved. Editor.
Ib. 1. 8. His curled hair. This now common fashion is always mentioned by Shakespeare as a distinguishing characteristic of a person of rank. Malone.
Ib. 1. 20. His unrecalliug crime. His crime, which cannot be unacted. Unrecalliug for unreculled, or rather for unrecallable. This licentious use of the participle is common in the writings of our author and his cotemporaries. Malone.
Ib. 1. 28. Death's-man; i. e. executioner. So in one of our author's plays.:—
"He's dead; I am only sorry
"He had no other death's-man." Steevens. P. 93,1. 15. 0 idle words! Thus Dr. Sewell reads without authority. The quarto edition has it—Out, idle words! The octavo, 1607, has—Our, which has been followed by that of 1616. Out is an exclamation of abhorrence or contempt, yet used in the north. MaLone.
Our was certainly a misprint. Editob.
Ib. 1. 20. I force not argument a straw; i. e. I do not value or esteem argument. Malone.
Ib. 1. 21. All help of law. Other copies read—the help.
Ib. 1. 23. And nnsearchful night. Thus the octavo; 1607, and all the subsequent copies, uncheerful is the reading of the quarto, 1594. Malone.
P. 94, 1. 6. And wast afraid. Other copies have it afear'd; an old word, used now by the vulgar. Editor.
Ib. 1. 8 and 10. Starts—imparts. Other copies have it—starteth and impartnth ; and yet re id consumes and fumes. It is better to read—starts, &c as vanisheth is, in the same stanza, made rhyme for breath. Editor,
Ib. 1. 25. A badge of fame to slander's livery. In our author's time the servants of the nohility all wore silver badges on their liveries, on which the arms of their masters were engraved. Malone.
P. 95, 1. 5. This bastard grass. Thus the edition of 1616, and all the moderns. The true reading (graff) was supplied by the earliest copy. Malone.
This sentiment is adopted from the wisdom of Solomon. Chap. iv. v. 3. "But the multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take a deep rooting from bastard slips, nor lay any fast foundation." Steevens. v
Grass is certainly a misprint, and yet an unpardonable erratum; for had it been the word intended, there could have been only one iong f, which is not similar to a double f. The author means a sprout or cion. Editor.
Ib. 1. 14. First offence. He&d—forc'd offence.
lb. 1. 16. Nor fmil, Read—fold.
P. 96, 1. 9. True grief is fond. Fond, in old language, ufoolish. Malone.
Ib. 1. 27. Feelingly surpris'd. Other copies read-suffie'd.
P. 97, 1. 10. Be you ever dumb. Thus the edition of 1616: the first reads—Be you mute and dumb.
Ib. 1. 11. No stops. This word is used here in a musical sense. Malone.
Ib. 1. 13. Relish your nimble notes to pleasing ears The quarto, and all the other editions, till that of 1616, read—ralish, which was either used in the same sense as relish, or was a different mode of spelling the same word. If ears be right, pleasing, I think, was used by the poet for pleased. Malone.
Ib. 1. 14. Distress likes dumps. A dump is a melancholy song. Malone.