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country, against those who have more opportunities of
Shakspeare took the thought from Holinshed, p. 180, of his History of Scotland: "For manie of the "people abhorring the riotous manners and superfluous "gormandizing brought in among them by the Eng"lyshemen, were willing inough to receive this "Donald for their king, trusting (because he had "beene brought up in the Isles, with the old customes " and manners of their antient nation, without tast of English likerous delicats)," &c. The same historian informs us, that in those days the Scots eat but once a day, and even then very sparingly.
-those linen cheeks of thine
Arc counsellors to fear.] The meaning is, they infect others who see them, with cowardice.
my way of life
Is fall'n into the sear,] As there is no relation between the way of life, and fallen into the sear, I am inclined to think that the W is only an M inverted, and that it was originally written,
my May of life.
I am now passed from the spring to the autumn of my days, but I am without those comforts that should succeed the sprightliness of bloom, and support me in this melancholy season.
The author has May in the same sense elsewhere.
62 skirr the country round;] To skirr is to scour.
Till famine cling thee:] To cling is to consume, to
64 I pull in resolution;] Though this is the reading of all the editions, yet, as it is a phrase without either example, elegance, or propriety, it is surely better to read,
I pall in resolution,
I languish in my constancy, my confidence begins to forsake me. It is scarcely necessary to observe how easily pall might be changed into pull by a negligent writer, or mistaken for it by an unskilful printer. With this emendation Dr. Warburton and Mr. Heath concur.
65 I bear a charmed life,] In the days of chivalry, the champions' arms being ceremoniously blessed, each took an oath, that he used no charmed weapons. Macbeth, according to the law of arms, or perhaps only in allusion to this custom, tells Macduff of the security he had in the prediction of the spirit.
To this likewise Posthumus alludes in Cymbeline,
I in my own woe charmed
"Could not find death."
66 Had I as many sons as I have hairs, I would not wish them to a fairer death: And so his knell is knoll'd.] This incident is thus related from Henry of Huntingdon by Camden in his Remains, from which our author probably copied it:
When Seyward, the martial earl of Northumberland, understood that his son, whom he had sent in
service against the Scotchmen, was slain, he demanded whether his wounds were in the fore part or hinder part of his body. When it was answered, in the fore part, he replied, "I am right glad; neither wish I any "other death to me or mine."
Shakspeare has here somehow let slip a most striking opportunity for his favourite play upon words. I wonder much at his not writing Had I as many heirs as I have hairs'—
67 I see thee compass'd with thy kingdom's pearl,] Whether this is a metaphorical expression, or only a blunder of the press, I cannot determine. Mr. Rowe first made the alteration, which has been continued by succeeding editors, who read peers. The following, passage from Ben Jonson's Entertainment of the Queen and Prince at Althorpe, may countenance the old reading, which I have inserted in the text:
"Queen, prince, duke and earls,
"Countesses, ye courtly pearls," &c.