« PreviousContinue »
proverb. Rækel, in Islandick, is said to mean a cur. dog, and this was probably the first use among us of the word rake; as lean as a rake is, therefore, as lean as a dog too worthless to be fed. JOHNSON.
It may be so: and yet I believe the proverb, as lean as a rake, owes its origin simply to the thin taper forin of the instrument made use of by hay-makers. As thin as a whipping-post, is another proverb of the same
Warburton's assertion of pikes and forks being synonimous is so true, that at this day, in the neighbourhood of Exeter, the pitch-fork is by every one called a pike.
2 The one side must have bail.-] Bale is an old word for misery.
3 That like not peace, &c.] Coriolanus does not use the two sentences consequentially, but first reproaches them with unsteadiness, then with their other occasional vices.
JOHNSON. -I'd make a quarry-] Why a quarry? I suppose, not because he would pile them square, but because he would give them for carrion to the birds
to gird-] To sneer, to gibe. Of his demerits rob Cominius.] Demerit had formerly the same signification as merit.
-brows bound with oak.] The crown given by the Romans to him that saved the life of a citizen, which was accounted more honourable than any other.
. -mammock'd it-) To mammock, is, to pull to pieces.
-a man that fears you less than he, That's lesser than a little.] The sense requires it to be read,
-nor a man that fears you more than he, Or more probably,
-nor a man but fears you less than he, That's lesser than a little.10 Who, sensible, outdarés - The old editions read,
Who sensibly outdaresi Thirlby reads,
Who, sensible, outdoes his senseless sword. He is followed by the later editors, but I have taken only half his correction.
JOHNSON. The thought seems to have been taken from Sida ney's Arcadia, p. 293.
-their flesh abode the wounds constantly, as though it were less sensible of smart than " the senseless armour, which by piecemeal fell away from them, by the blows it received.”
STEEVENS. -prize their hours-] I know not who core rected it to prize their honours. A modern editor, who had made such an improvement, would have spent half a page in ostentation of his sagacity.
JOHNSON. Coriolanus blames the Roman plunderers only for
wasting their time in packing up trifles of such small
Which men are best inclin'd.] I cannot but suspect this passage of corruption. Why should they march, that four might select those that were best inclin'd? How would their inclinations be known? Who were the four that should select them? Perhaps, we may read,
-Please you to march,
Which men are least inclin'd. It is easy to conceive that, by a little negligence, feur might be changed to four, and least to best. Let us march, and that fear which incites desertion will free my army from cowards.
JOHNSON. The author of the Revisal thinks the poet wrote,
“ And so I shall quickly draw out,” &c.
Wert thou the Hector, That was the whip of your bragg'd progeny,] The Romans boasted themselves descended from the Trojans, how then was Hector the whip of their progeny? It must mean the whip with which the Trojans scourged the Greeks, which cannot be but by a very unusual construction, or the author must have
forgotten the original of the Romans; unless whip has some meaning which includes advantage or superiority, as we say, he has the whip-hand, for he has the advantage.
JOHNSON. 15 Here is the steed, we the caparison,] This is an odd encomium. The meaning is, this man performed the action, and we only filled up the show. JOHNSON.
-when drums and trumpets shall,
Let him be made an overture for the wars: All here is miserably corrupt and disjointed. We should read the whole thus,
-when drums and trumpets shall,
An overture for the wars! The thought is this, If one thing changes its usual nature to a thing most opposite, there is no reason but that all the rest which depend on it should do so too. [If drums and trumpets prove flatterers, let the camp bear the false face of the city.] And if another changes its usual nature, that its opposite should do so too. [When steel softens to the condition of the parasite's silk, the peaceful hymns of devotion should be employed to excite to the charge.] Now, in the first instance, the thought, in the common-reading was entirely lost by putting in courts for camps: and the latter miserably involved in nonsense by blunder ing hymns into him.
WARBURTON. The first part of the passage has been altered, in my opinion, unnecessarily by Dr. Warburton; and the latter not so happily, I think, as he often conjectures. However, both his alterations have had the good luck to be admitted into Dr. Johnson's text of Shakspeare. In the latter part, which only I mean to consider, instead of him (an evident corruption) he substitutes hymns; which perhaps may palliate, but certainly has not cured the wounds of the sentence. I would propose an alteration of two words :
-When steel grows “ Soft as the parasite's silk, let this [i. e, silk] be
made « A coverture for the wars !" The sense will then be apt and complete. When steel grows soft as silk, let armour be made of silk instead of steel.
Observations and Conjectures, fc. printed at
Oxford, 1766. It should be remembered, that the personal pronoun him, is not unfrequently used by Shakspeare, and other writers of that age, instead of it, the neuter.
STEEVENS. -articulate-] That is, enter into articles. 18 Being a Volce,] It may be just observed, that Shakspeare calls the Volci, Volces, which the modern