« PreviousContinue »
And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer;
See p. 64, of this volume; and vol. ix. p. 7. See also King Henry VI. Part II, Act III. Sc. IV. where the following line is omitted in the folio, 1623 :
“ Jove sometimes went disguis'd, and why not I? ” There is still another objection to the old reading, that I had nearly forgotten. Supposing the expression-" that with the wind bated like eagles "-was defensible, and that these estridges were intended to be compared to eagles, why should the comparison be in the past time? Would it not be more natural to say,—The troops were all plumed like estridges, that, like eagles, bate with the wind, &c.
On the whole, I think it most probable that a line, in which the motion of estridges was described, was inadvertently passed over by the transcriber or compositor, when the earliest copy was printed ; an error which has indisputably happened in other places in these plays. It is observable, that in this passage, as it stands in the old copy, there is no verb: nothing is predicated concerning the troops. In the lost line, it was very probably said, that they were then advancing. Rather, however, than print the passage with asterisks as imperfect, I have, as the lesser evil, adopted Dr. Johnson's emendation. Mr. Steevens's notes perfectly explain the text as now regulated.
I have said that nothing is predicated of these plumed troops, and this is a very strong circumstance to show that a line was omitted, in which they probably were at once described as in motion, and compared (for the sake of their plumage) to ostridges. The omitted line might have been of this import :
All furnish'd, all in arms,
Glittering in golden coats like images,
“ Bated like eagles having lately bath d.” To bate is, in the style of falconry, to beat the wing, from the French battre, that is, to flutter in preparation for flight. Johnson.
I saw young Harry,-with his beaver on,
The following passage from David and Bethsabe, 1599, will confirm Dr. Johnson's assertion :
"Where all delights sat bating, wing'd with thoughts,
“ Ready to nestle in her naked breast.” Again, in Greene's Card of Fancy, 1608: “ - made her check at the prey, bate at the lure," &c.
Writers on falconry also often mention the bathing of hawks and eagles, as highly necessary for their health and spirits.-All birds, after bathing, (which almost all birds are fond of,) spread out their wings to catch the wind, and flutter violently with them in order to dry themselves. This, in the falconer's language, is called bating, and by Shakspeare, bating with the wind.'-It may be observed that birds never appear so lively and full of spirits, as immediately after bathing. STEEVENS.
This appears to be justly explained by Steevens. When birds have bathed, they cannot fly until their feathers be disentangled, by hating with the wind. M. Mason.
Bated' is, I believe, here used for bating, the passive for the active participle; a licence which our author often takes. So, in Othello :
“If virtue no delighted beauty lack." Again, in The Comedy of Errors :
“ And careful hours with time's deformed hand.” To bate, as appears from Minsheu's Dict. 1617, was originally applied to birds of prey, when they swoop upon their quarry. S'abbatre, se devaller, Fr. Hence it signifies, as Dr. Johnson has explained it, to flutter : "à Gal. batre, (says Minsheu,) i. e. to beat, because she (the hawk] beats herself with unquiet fluttering.” Malone.
The evident corruption or mutilation in these lines, has rendered any attempt to explain them a task of great difficulty. It will be necessary in the first place to ascertain the exact sense of the word estridge ; and although it is admitted that the ostrich was occasionally so denominated by our old writers, it is by no means certain that this bird is meant in the present instance. It may seem a very obvious comparison between the feathers of a crested helmet and those of the ostrich; and had the expression “plum'd like estridges" stood singly, no doubt whatever could have arisen. It is what follows that occasions the difficulty.
The old copies read, “with the wind:” now if the ostrich had been here alluded to, the conjectural substitution of wing would have been absolutely requisite ; but the line which follows cannot by any possible construction be made to apply to that bird.
Rise from the ground like feather’d Mercury,
“ And in that mood [of fury] the dove will peck the estridge.”
There is likewise a similar passage in the third part of King Henry VI. which may serve as a commentary on the above line:
“ So cowards fight, when they can Ay no further;
“ So doves do peck the faulcon's piercing talons." It would be absurd to talk of a dove pecking an ostrich; the allusion is to the practice of Aying falcons at pigeons. Thus Golding, in his translation of Ovid's Metamorphosis, fo. 9 :
“ With thittering feather sielie doves so from the gosshawk flie."
The manor of Radeclyve in Nottinghamshire was held by the service of “ mewing a goshawk;" in the original charter, “ mutandi unuin estricium.” In the romance of Guy earl of Warwick, we have:
“ Estrich falcons, of great mounde." Falconers are often called ostregers and ostringers in the old books of falconry, and elsewhere. "Estridge for ostrich or ostridge is a corrupt spelling that crept into the language at the commencement of Queen Elizabeth's reign, and it appears that after that period the two words were very often confounded together, and used one for the other.
The explanation of to bate,” as cited from Minsheu in one of the notes, cannot apply to ostriches, though it does, very properly, to a bird of prey like the falcon.
After all, there is certainly a line lost, as Mr. Malone has very justly and ingeniously conjectured; but the place should rather seem to have been after the word bath'd, than before. The sense of the old copies, as to what remains, will then be tolerably perspicuous :
“ All plum'd like estridges, that with the wind
“ Bated, like eagles having lately bath'd i. e. plumed like falcons, which, their feathers being ruffled with the wind, like eagles that have recently bathed, make a violent fluttering noise ; the words in Italics being here conjecturally offered as something like the sense of the omitted line. Douce.
After all, the original reading may admit of defence. It is not uncommon in elliptical language to leave the verb to be understood.
Thus, in Macbeth:
As if an angel dropp'd down from the clouds,
“Will you to Scone ?-No cousin, I'U to Fife.” instead of Will you go to Scone ? "
So, in All's Well that Ends Well :
“ His lordship will next morning for France ;" instead of “will set out."
Again, ibid. : “ Will you any thing with it?" instead of " Will
have any thing to do with it ? ” Boswell. 4 Glittering in golden coats like images,] This alludes to the manner of dressing up images in the Romish churches on holydays; when they are bedecked in robes very richly laced and embroidered. So, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, book i. ch. iii.:
“ He was to weet a stout and sturdie thiefe
“ He did disrobe,” &c. Steevens. s I saw young Harry,—with his beaver on,] We should read~"beaver up.". It is an impropriety to say on : for the beaver is only the visiere of the helmet, which, let down, covers the face. When the soldier was not upon action he wore it up, that his face might be seen. (Hence Vernon says he saw young Harry, &c.) But, when upon action, it was let down to cover and secure the face. Hence, in The Second Part of K. Henry IV. it is said : “ Their armed staves in charge, their beavers down."
WARBURTON. There is no need of all this note ; for beaver may be a helmet ; or the Prince, trying his armour, might wear his beaver down.
Dr. Warburton seems not to have observed, that Vernon only says, he saw "young Harry," not that he saw his face. Malone.
Bever and visiere were two different parts of the helmet. The former part let down to enable the wearer to drink, the latter was raised up to enable him to see. LORT.
Shakspeare, however, confounded them; for, in Hamlet, Horatio says, that he saw the old king's face, because “ he wore his beaver up." Nor is our poet singular in the use of this word. This was the common signification of the word ; for Bullokar in his English Expositor, 1616, defines beaver thus : “ In armour it signifies that part of the helmet which may be lifted up, to take breath the more freely.” Malone.
The poet is certainly not guilty of the confusion laid to his charge with respect to the passage in Hamlet ; for the beaver was as often made to lift up as to let down. Douce.
And witch the world with noble horsemanship.
Let them come;
There is more news :
Doug. That's the worst tidings that I hear of yet.
For a more detailed examination of this topick, see the notes at the end of this play. Boswell.
6 His cuisses on his thighs,] Cuisses, French. Armour for the thighs. Pope.
The reason why his cuisses are so particularly mentioned, I conceive to be, that his horsemanship is here praised, and the cuisses are that part of armour which most hinders a horseman's activity.
Johnson. 9 And vaulted-] The context requires vault, but a word of one syllable will not suit the metre. Perhaps our author wrotevault it, a mode of phraseology of which there are some examples in these plays. MALONE.
8 To turn and wind a firy Pegasus,] This idea occurs in Have With You to Saffron Walden, or Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is
&c. 1596 : “. her hottest fury may be resembled to the passing of a brave cariere by a Pegasus." Steevens.
9 And witch the world -] For bewitch, charm. Pope.
“ To sit and witch me, as Ascanius did.” Steevens.