« PreviousContinue »
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
And bring him to our eye. [Exit an Officer.]-What can man's wisdom do,9
In the restoring his bereaved sense?
He, that helps him, take all my outward worth.
Our foster-nurse of nature is repose,
The which he lacks; that to provoke in him,
All bless'd secrets,
All you unpublished virtues of the earth,
Spring with my tears! be aidant, and remediate,
That wants the means to lead it.1
Enter a Messenger.
The British powers are marching hitherward.
It is thy business that I go about;
Therefore great France
My mourning, and important2 tears, hath pitied.
Harlocks, must be a typographical error for charlock, the common name of sinapis aroensis, wild mustard. Harris.
8 Darnel,] According to Gerard, is the most hurtful of weeds among corn. It is mentioned in The Witches of Lancashire, 1634:
"That cockle, darnel, poppy wild,
"May choak his grain," &c.
See Vol. X, p. 68, n. 4.
What can man's wisdom do,] Do should be omitted, as needless to the sense of the passage, and injurious to its metre. Thus, in Hamlet:
"Try what repentance can: what can it not?"
Do, in either place, is understood, though suppressed. Steevens. the means to lead it.] The reason which should guide it.
important —] In other places of this author for importunate. Johnson.
See Comedy of Errors, Act V, sc. i. The folio reads, importuned.
No blown ambition3 doth our arms incite,
A Room in Gloster's Castle.
Enter REGAN and Steward.
Reg. But are my brother's powers set forth?
Madam, with much ado
Your sister is the better soldier.
Reg. Lord Edmund spake not with your lord at
Stew. No, madam.
Reg. What might import my sister's letter to him?
Reg. 'Faith, he is posted hence on serious matter.
3 No blown ambition -] No inflated, no swelling pride. Beza on the Spanish Armada :
"Quam bene te ambitio mersit vanissima, ventus,
Et tumidos tumidæ vos superastis aquæ." Johnson. In the Mad Lover of Beaumont and Fletcher, the same epithet is given to ambition.
Again, in The Little French Lawyer:
"I come with no blown spirit to abuse you." Steevens.
· your lord —] The folio reads, your lord; and rightly. Goneril not only converses with Lord Edmund, in the Steward's presence, but prevents him from speaking to, or even seeing her husband. Ritson.
The quartos read-with your lady. In the manuscripts from which they were printed an L only was probably set down, according to the mode of that time. It could be of no consequence to Regan, whether Edmund spoke with Goneril at home, as they had travelled together from the Earl of Gloster's castle to the Duke of Albany's palace, and had on the road sufficient opportunities for laying those plans of which Regan was apprehensive. On the other hand, Edmund's abrupt departure without even speaking to the Duke, to whom he was sent on a commission, could not but appear myste rious, and excite her jealousy. Malone.
In pity of his misery, to despatch
Stew. I must needs after him, madam, with my letter. Reg. Our troops set forth to-morrow; stay with us; The ways are dangerous.
I may not, madam; My lady charg'd my duty in this business.
Reg. Why should she write to Edmund? Might not
Transport her purposes by word? Belike,
Something-I know not what :-I'll love thee much, Let me unseal the letter.7
Madam, I had rather Reg. I know, your lady does not love her husband; I am sure of that: and, at her late being here, She gave strange œiliads, and most speaking looks To noble Edmund: I know, you are of her bosom. Stew. I, madam?
Reg. I speak in understanding; you are, I know it:9 Therefore, I do advise you, take this note :1 My lord is dead; Edmund and I have talk'd; And more convenient is he for my hand, Than for your lady's :-You may gather more.2
5 His nighted life;] i. e. His life made dark as night, by the extinction of his eyes. Steevens.
with my letter.] So the folio. The quartos read-letters. The meaning is the same. Malone.
7 Let me unseal &c.] I know not well why Shakspeare gives the Steward, who is a mere factor of wickedness, so much fidelity. He now refuses the letter; and afterwards, when he is dying, thinks only how it may be safely delivered. Johnson.
She gave strange ciliads,] Oeillade, Fr. a cast, or significant glance of the eye.
Greene, in his Disputation between a He and She Coney-catcher, 1592, speaks of "amorous glances, smirking oeiliades," &c. Steevens. 9 I speak in understanding; you are, I know it.] Thus the folio. The quartos read-in understanding, for I know't. Malone. So, in The Winter's Tale: "I speak as my understanding instructs Steevens.
I do advise you, take this note :] Note means in this place not a letter, but a remark. Therefore observe what I am saying. Johnson. So, in Measure for Measure:
takes note of what is done." Steevens.
If you do find him, pray you, give him this ;3
So, fare you well.
If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor,
Preferment falls on him that cuts him off.
Stew. 'Would I could meet him, madam! I would
Enter GLOSTER, and EDGAR, dressed like a Peasant. Glo. When shall we come to the top of that same hill? Edg. You do climb up it now: look, how we labour. Glo. Methinks, the ground is even.
Hark, do you hear the sea?
Edg. Why, then your other senses grow imperfect By your eyes' anguish.
So may it be, indeed:
Methinks, thy voice is alter'd ;7 and thou speak'st
Edg. You are much deceiv'd; in nothing am I chang'd,
You may gather more.] You may infer more than I have directly told you. Johnson. So, in King Henry VI, P. I:
"Thou art my heir; the rest I wish thee gather." Steevens. give him this;] I suppose Regan here delivers a ring or some other favour to the Steward, to be conveyed to Edmund.
4 What party-] Quarto, What lady. Johnson. 5 Scene VI.] This scene, and the stratagem by which Gloster is cured of his desperation, are wholly borrowed from Sidney's Arcadia, Book II. Johnson.
6 No, truly.] Somewhat, necessary to complete the measure, is omitted in this or the foregoing hemistich. Sir Thomas Hanmer supplies the defect, though perhaps but aukwardly, by reading
No truly, not.
thy voice is alter'd; &c.] Edgar alters his voice in order to pass afterwards for a malignant spirit. Johnson.
But in my garments.
Methinks, you are better spoken. Edg. Come on, sir; here's the place:-stand still.How fearful
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!8
The crows, and choughs, that wing the midway air,
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!] This description has been much admired since the time of Addison, who has remarked, with a poor attempt at pleasantry, that "he who can read it without being giddy, has a very good head, or a very bad one." The description is certainly not mean, but I am far from thinking it wrought to the utmost excellence of poetry. He that looks from a precipice finds himself assailed by one great and dreadful image of irresistible destruction. But this overwhelming idea is dissipated and enfeebled from the instant that the mind can restore itself to the observation of particulars, and diffuse its attention to distinct objects. The enumeration of the choughs and crows, the samphire-man, and the fishers, counteracts the great effect of the prospect, as it peoples the desert of intermediate vacuity, and stops the mind in the rapidity of its descent through emptiness and horror. Johnson.
It is to be considered that Edgar is describing an imaginary precipice, and is not therefore supposed to be so strongly impressed with the dreadful prospect of inevitable destruction, as a person would be who really found himself on the brink of one. M. Mason.
Half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!] " Samphire grows in great plenty on most of the sea-cliffs in this country: it is terrible to see how people gather it, hanging by a rope several fathom from the top of the impending rocks as it were in the air." Smith's History of Waterford, p. 315, edit 1774. Tollet.
This personage is not a mere creature of Shakspeare's imagination, for the gathering of samphire was literally a trade or common occupation in his time, it being carried and cried about the streets, and much used as a pickle. So, in a song in Heywood's Rape of Lucrece, in which the cries of London are enumerated under the title of the cries of Rome:
"I ha' rock-samphier, rock-samphier;
"Thus go the cries in Rome's faire towne;
"First they go up street, and then they go downe: "Buy a map, a mill-mat," &c.
Again, in Venner's Via recta, &c. 4to. 1622: "Samphire is in like manner preserved in pickle, and eaten with meates. It is a very pleasant and familiar sauce, and agreeing with man's body." Malone.