« PreviousContinue »
POET. Upon the heels of my presentment 3, sir. Let's see your piece.
PAIN. "Tis a good piece.
POET. So 'tis: this comes off well and excellent".
Admirable How this grace
4 Upon the heels, &c.] As soon as my book has been presented to lord Timon. JOHNSON. s-presentment,] The patrons of Shakspeare's age do not appear to have been all Timons.
"I did determine not to have dedicated my play to any body, because forty shillings I care not for, and above, few or none will bestow on these matters." Preface to A Woman is a Weathercock, by N. Field, 1612. STEEVENS.
It should, however, be remembered, that forty shillings at that time were equal to at least six, perhaps eight, pounds at this day. MALONE.
6 'Tis a good piece.] As the metre is here defective, it is not improbable that our author originally wrote
""Tis a good piece, indeed."
So, in The Winter's Tale :
"'Tis grace indeed."
7 - this comes OFF well and excellent.] The meaning is, the figure rises well from the canvas. C'est bien relevé. JOHNSON. What is meant by this term of applause I do not exactly know. It occurs again in The Widow, by Ben Jonson, Fletcher, and Middleton:
"It comes off very fair yet."
Again, in A Trick to Catch the Old One, 1608: " Put a good tale in his ear, so that it comes off cleanly, and there's a horse and man for us. I warrant thee." Again, in the first part of Marston's Antonio and Mellida :
Fla. Faith, the song will seem to come off hardly. "Catz. Troth, not a whit, if you seem to come off quickly."
The same expression occurs in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act II. Sc. I.: "Now trust me, madam, it came hardly off;" and in Hamlet, Act III. Sc. II.: "Now this, overdone, has come tardy off." In these instances, and in those quoted by Mr. S. it seems to mean, what we now call getting through with a thing. We still say a man comes off with credit, when he acquits himself well; and such appears to be the Poet's meaning here.
Speaks his own standing! what a mental power This eye shoots forth! how big imagination
8 - How this GRACE
Speaks his own STANDING!] This relates to the attitude of the figure, and means that it stands judiciously on its own centre. And not only so, but that it has a graceful standing likewise. Of which the poet in Hamlet, speaking of another picture, says: "A station, like the herald, Mercury, "New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill."
which lines Milton seems to have had in view, where he says Raphael :
"At once on th' eastern cliff of Paradise
"He lights, and to his proper shape returns.
This sentence seems to be obscure, and, however explained, not very forcible. "This grace speaks his own standing," is only, "The gracefulness of this figure shows how it stands." I am inclined to think something corrupted. It would be more natural and clear thus:
Speaks his own graces!'
"How this posture displays its own gracefulness." But I will indulge conjecture further, and propose to read:
How this grace
Speaks understanding! what a mental power "This eye shoots forth!" JOHNSON.
The passage, to my apprehension at least, speaks its own meaning, which is, how the graceful attitude of this figure proclaims that it stands firm on its centre, or gives evidence in favour of its own fixure. Grace is introduced as bearing witness to propriety. A similar expression occurs in Cymbeline, Act II. Sc. IV. : never saw I figures
"So likely to report themselves." STEEVENS.
I cannot reconcile myself to Johnson's or Warburton's explanations of this passage, which are such as the words cannot possibly imply. I am rather inclined to suppose, that the figure alluded to was a representation of one of the Graces, and, as they are always supposed to be females, should read the passage
How this standing
How this Grace (with a capital G)
Speaks its own standing -!"
This slight alteration removes every difficulty, for Steevens's explanation of the latter words is clearly right; and there is surely but little difference between its and his in the trace of the letters. This amendment is strongly supported by the pronoun this,
Moves in this lip! to the dumbness of the gesture One night interpret9.
PAIN. It is a pretty mocking of the life. Here is a touch; Is't good?
I'll say of it,
It tutors nature: artificial strife 1
prefixed to the word Grace, as it proves that what the Poet pointed out, was some real object, not merely an abstract idea.
9 to the dumbness of the gesture
One might INTERPRET.] The figure, though dumb, seems to have a capacity of speech. The allusion is to the puppet-shows, or motions, as they were termed in our author's time. The person who spoke for the puppets was called an interpreter. See a note on Hamlet, Act III. Sc. V. MALONE.
Rather-one might venture to supply words to such intelligible action. Such significant gesture ascertains the sentiments that should accompany it. STEEVens.
So, in Cymbeline, p. 84:
never saw I pictures
So likely to report themselves."
See Johnson's note on that passage. BOSWELL.
- artificial STRIFE-] Strife, for action or motion.
Strife is either the contest of art with nature:
or it is the contrast of forms or opposition of colours. JOHNSON.
So, under the print of Noah Bridges, by Faithorne:
Faithorne, with nature at a noble strife,
"Hath paid the author a great share of life," &c.
And Ben Jonson, on the head of Shakspeare by Droeshout: "This figure which thou here seest put,
"It was for gentle Shakspeare cut:
"With nature, to out-doo the life." HENLEY.
That artificial strife means, as Dr. Johnson has explained it, 'the contest of art with nature,' and not the contrast of forms or opposition of colours,' may appear from our author's Venus and Adonis, where the same thought is more clearly expressed:
Enter certain Senators, and pass over.
PAIN. How this lord's follow'd!
POET. The senators of Athens :-Happy men 2!
PAIN. Look, more!
POET. You see this confluence, this great flood of visitors 3.
I have, in this rough work, shap'd out a man,
Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In Drayton's Mortimeriados, printed I believe in 1596, (afterwards entitled The Barons' Wars,) there are two lines nearly resembling these:
"Done for the last with such exceeding life,
"As art therein with nature were at strife." MALONE. - Happy MEN!] Mr. Theobald reads-happy man; and certainly the emendation is sufficiently plausible, though the old reading may well stand. MALONE.
The text is right. The Poet envies or admires the felicity of the senators in being Timon's friends, and familiarly admitted to his table, to partake of his good cheer, and experience the effects of his bounty. RITSON.
this confluence, this great flood of visitors.]
Mane salutantûm totis vomit ædibus undam. JOHNSON. this BENEATH World-] So, in Measure for Measure, we have "This under generation;" and in King Richard II. : "- the lower world." STEEVENS.
5 Halts not particularly,] My design does not stop at any single character. JOHNSON.
In a wide sea of wax:] Anciently they wrote upon waxen tables with an iron style. HANmer.
I once thought with Sir T. Hanmer, that this was only an allusion to the Roman practice of writing with a style on waxen tablets; but it appears that the same custom prevailed in England about the year 1395, and might have been heard of by Shak
Infects one comma in the course I hold;
I'll unbolt to you.
PAIN. How shall I understand you? POET. You see how all conditions, how all minds, (As well of glib and slippery creatures, as Of grave and austere quality,) tender down Their services to lord Timon: his large fortune, Upon his good and gracious nature hanging, Subdues and properties to his love and tendance All sorts of hearts; yea, from the glass-fac'd flatterer 2
speare. It seems also to be pointed out by implication in many of our old collegiate establishments. See Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 151. STEEVENS.
Mr. Astle observes in his very ingenious work On the Origin and Progress of Writing, quarto, 1784, that "the practice of writing on table-books covered with wax was not entirely laid aside till the commencement of the fourteenth century." As Shakspeare, I believe, was not a very profound English antiquary, it is surely improbable that he should have had any knowledge of a practice which had been disused for more than two centuries before he was born. The Roman practice he might have learned from Golding's translation of the ninth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses:
Her right hand holds the pen, her left doth hold the emptie waxe," &c. MALONE.
-no LEVELL'D malice, &c.] To level is to aim, to point the shot at a mark. Shakspeare's meaning is, my poem is not a
satire written with any particular view, or levelled at any single person; I fly like an eagle into the general expanse of life, and leave not, by any private mischief, the trace of my passage.
8 I'll unbolt —] I'll open, I'll explain. JOHNSON.
- glib and slippery creatures,] Sir T. Hanmer, and Dr. Warburton after him, read-natures. Slippery is smooth, unresisting. JOHNSON.
All sorts of HEARTS;] So, in Othello:
"My heart's subdued
"Even to the very quality of my