Page images

that state, but that in the enjoyment of her, his master should find the gratification of all his most romantic wishes. STEEV. Line 182. a traitress,] It seems that traitress was in that age a term of endearment, for when Lafeu introduces Helena to the king, he says, You like a traytor, but such traytors his majesty does not much fear. JOHNSON. Line 197. And shew what we alone must think;] And shew by realities what we now must only think. JOHNSON.

Line 216. is a virtue of a good wing,] I confess, that a virtue of a good wing is an expression that I cannot understand, unless by a metaphor taken from falconry, it may mean, a virtue that will fly high, and, in the stile of Hotspur, Pluck honour from the moon. JOHNSON. Mr. Edwards is of opinion, that a virtue of a good wing refers to his nimbleness or fleetness in running away. STEEVENS.

Line 232.

What power is it, which mounts my love so high, That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye!] She means, by what influence is my love directed to a person so much above me; why am I made to discern excellence, and left to long after it, without the food of hope. JOHNSON.

Line 234.

The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
To join like likes, and kiss like native things.
Impossible be strange attempts, to those
That weigh their pains in sense; and do suppose,
What hath been,] All these lines are obscure, and,

I believe, corrupt. I shall propose an emendation, which those

who can explain the present reading, are at liberty to reject.

Through mightiest space in fortune nature brings
Likes to join likes, and kiss like native things.

That is, nature brings like qualities and dispositions to meet through any distance that fortune may have set between them; she joins them and makes them kiss like things born together.

The next lines I read with Hanmer.

Impossible be strange attempts to those

That weigh their pain in sense, and do suppose
What ha'n't been, cannot be.

New attempts seem impossible to those who estimate their labour

or enterprises by sense, and believe that nothing can be but what they see before them.



Senoys-] Senoys were the natives of Sienna.
He had the wit, which I can well observe
To-day in our young lords; but they may jest,
Till their own scorn return to them unnoted;

Ere they can hide their levity in honour.] i. e. Ere their titles can cover the levity of their behaviour, and make it pass for desert. WARBURTON.

I believe honour is not dignity of birth or rank, but acquired reputation: "Your father, (says the king,) had the same airy "flights of satirical wit with the young lords of the present time, "but they do not what he did, hide their unnoted levity in honour,

Line 242. 288.

[ocr errors]

cover petty faults with great merit."

This is an excellent observation. Jocose follies, and slight offences, are only allowed by mankind in him that overpowers them by great qualities. JOHNSON. Line 292.

So like a courtier, contempt nor bitterness
Were in his pride or sharpness; if they were,

His equal had awak'd them;] He was so like a courtier, that there was in his dignity of manner nothing contemptuous, and in his keenness of wit nothing bitter. If bitterness or contemptuousness ever appeared, they had been awakened by some injury, not of a man below him, but of his equal. This is the complete image of a well bred man, and somewhat like this Voltaire has exhibited his hero Lewis XIV. JOHNSON.

Line 297. His tongue obey'd his hand:] We should read,
His tongue obeyed the hand.

That is, the hand of his honour's clock, shewing the true minute when exceptions bad him speak. JOHNSON.

Line 298. He us'd as creatures of another place.] i, e. He made allowances for their conduct, and bore from them what he would not from one of his own rank. WARBURTON.

Line 300. Making them proud of his humility,

In their poor praise he humbled:] Every man has soen the mean too often proud of the humility of the great, and

perhaps the great may sometimes be humbled in the praises of the mean, of those who commend them without conviction or discernment: this, however is not so common; the mean are found more frequently than the great. JOHNSON.

Line 307. So in approof lives not his epitaph,

As in your royal speech.] Epitaph for character.

Approof is approbation. If I should allow Dr. Warburton's interpretation of epitaph, which is more than can be reasonably expected, I can yet find no sense in the present reading. JOHNS.

Line 312. whose judgments are

Mere fathers of their garments;] Who have no other use of their faculties, than to invent new modes of dress. Johns.


Line 339. -Steward, and Clown.] A Clown in Shakspeare is commonly taken for a licensed jester, or domestick fool. We are not to wonder that we find this character often in his plays, since fools were, at that time. maintained in all great families, to keep up merriment in the house. In the picture of Sir Thomas More's family, by Hans Holbein, the only servant represented is Patison the fool. This is a proof of the familiarity to which they were admitted, not by the great only, but the wise.

In some plays, a servant, or a rustic, of remarkable petulance and freedom of speech, is likewise called a clown. JOHNSON. Line 341. To even your content.] To act up to your desires.


349. -you lack not folly to commit them, and have ability enough to make such knaveries yours.] After premising that the accusative, them, refers to the precedent word, complaints, and that this, by a metonymy of the effect for the cause, stands for the freaks which occasioned those complaints, the sense will be extremely clear. You are fool enough to commit those irregularities you are charged with, and yet not so much fool neither, as to discredit the accusation by any defect in your ability. HEATH.

Line 356.

-to go to the world,] Means, to be married. 381. Clo. You are shallow, madam, e'en great friends ;] In the old copy, in great friends.

The meaning of which seems to be, you are not deeply skilled in the character of offices of great friends. JOHNSON.

Line 398. A prophet, I, madum; and I speak the truth the next way:] The phrase-speak the truth the next way, means directly; as they do who are only the instruments or canals of others; such as inspired persons were supposed to be. WARBURTON.

Line 410. Was this fair face the cause, &c.] This is a stanza of an old ballad, out of which a word or two are dropt, equally necessary to make the sense and the alternate rhime. For it was not Helen who was king Priam's joy, but Paris. WARBURTON. Fond done,] Is foolishly done. Among nine bad if one be good,


Line 412. 417.

There's but one bad in ten.] This second stanza of the ballad is turned into a joke upon the women: a confession, that there was one good in ten. Whereon the Countess observed, that he corrupted the song, which shews the song said, Nine good

in ten.

If one be bad amongst nine good,
There's but one bad in ten.

This relates to the ten sons of Priam, who all behaved themselves well but Paris. For, though he once had fifty, yet at this unfortunate period of his reign he had but ten; Agathon, Antiphon, Deiphobus, Dius, Hector, Helenus, Hippothous, Pammon, Paris, and Polites. WARBURTON.


Line 432. Clo. That man, &c.] The clown's answer is obHis lady bids him do as he is commanded. He answers with the licentious petulance of his character, that if a man does as a woman commands, it is likely he will do amiss; that he does not amiss, being at the command of a woman, he makes the effect, not of his lady's goodness, but of his own honesty, which, though not very nice or puritanical, will do no hurt; and will not only do no hurt, but, unlike the puritans, will comply with the injunctions of superiors, and wear the surplice of humility over the black gown of a big heart; will obey commands, though not much pleased with a state of subjection.

Here is an allusion, violently enough forced in, to satirize the obstinacy with which the puritans refused the use of the ecclesiastical habits, which was, at that time, one principal cause of the

breach of union, and, perhaps, to insinuate, that the modest purity of the surplice was sometimes a cover for pride. JOHNSON. The aversion of the puritans to a surplice is alluded to in many of the old comedies. So in the following instance:

"She loves to act in as clean linen as any gentlewoman "of her function, about the town; and truly that's the reason "that your sincere puritans cannot abide a surplice, because they 'say 'tis made of the same thing that your villainous sin is com"mitted in, of your prophane holland.”


Cupid's Whirligig by E. S. 1616. STEEVENS. Line 475. By our remembrances-] That is, according to our recollection. So we say, he is old by my reckoning. JOHNSON. --and choice breeds

Line 489.

A native slip to us from foreign seeds:] i. e. Our choice furnishes us with a slip from foreign seeds, which we nourish and rear, as if it were a native. HEATH. -can't no other,

Line 513.

But, I your daughter, he must be my brother?] The meaning is obscured by the elliptical diction. Can it be no other way, but if I be your daughter he must be my brother? JOHNSON. Line 519. Now I see

The mystery of your loneliness, and find

Your salt tears' head:] i. e. "I now find the "mystery of your creeping into corners, and weeping, and pining "in secret." The Steward, in the foregoing scene, where he gives the Countess intelligence of Helena's behaviour, says

Alone she was, and did communicate to herself her own words to her own ears. THEOBALD. Line 531. Your salt tears' head.] The force, the fountain of your tears, the cause of your grief. JOHNSON.

Line 555. captious and intenible sieve.] The word captious I never found in this sense; yet I cannot tell what to substitute, unless carious for rotten, which yet is a word more likely to have been mistaken by the copyers than used by the author.

JOHNSON. Line 557. And lack not to lose still:] Perhaps we should read And lack not to love still. TYRWHITT.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »