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How sweet the moon-light sleeps upon this
bank !8 Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
8 How sweet the moon-light sleeps, &c.] Lucian, in his dialogue concerning Beauty, calls Homer the most excellent of the painters. The bestowing this expression upon the Father of the poets implies that poetry comprehends all the powers of her sister art : But I am afraid it would be too bold in any writer to call Apelles, or Protogenes the most excellent of the poets. For though no painter can arrive at any perfection without a poetical genius, yet his art comprehending only part of the powers of poetry, there would not be sufficient authority for the mutual appellation. There are subjects, indeed, in common to poets and painters, but even in those very subjects, (not to mention others which are the province only of the former) poetry has several adventitious aids which maintain her superiority over the other art. The description of many objects, such, for example, as certain celebrated night-pieces in the works of some of our greatest poets, may, it is true, be equalled by a representation in painting; yet, a circumstance might be thrown into such a landscape by poetry, as the utmost glow of colours could never emulate. This Shakspeare has done by a metaphorical expression in one single line ;
How sweet the moon-light sleeps upon this bank.” That verb (sleeps,] taken from animal life, and transferred, by the irresistible magic of poetry, to a before lifeless object of the creation, animates the whole scene, and conveys to the imagination an instantaneous idea of a stillness, attended with the greatest possible solemnity. J. GILBERT COOPER,
In Letters on Taste.
Creep in our ears; soft stillness, and the
-with patterns of bright gold;] We should read patens : a round broad plate of gold borne in heraldry. WABURTON.
Pattens is the reading of the first folio, and pattents of the quarto. Patterns is printen first in the folio 1632. JOHNSON.
And afterwards in Rowe, Pope, Theobald and Hanmer. CAPELL.
One of the quartos, 1600, reads pattens, the other pattents. STEEVENS.
We should read patines ; from patina, Lat. A patine is the small flat dish or plate used with the chalice, in the administration of the eucharist. In the time of popery, and probably in the following age, it was commonly made of gold. MALONE.
1 Such harmony is in immortal souls ;] But the harmony here described is that of the spheres, so much celebrated by the ancients. He says, the smallest orb sings like an angel ; and then subjoins, such harmony is in immortal souls : but tlie harmony of angels is not here meant, but of the orbs. Nor are we to think, that here the poet alludes to the notion, that each orb has its intelligence or angel to
But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
direct it ; for then with ņo propriety could he say, the orb sung like an angel: he should rather have said, the angel in the orb sung. We must therefore correct the line thus :
Such harmony is in immortal sounds :" i. e. in the music of the spheres. WARBURTON.
“ Such harmony is in immortal souls;
This passage is obscure. Immortal sounds is a harsh combination of words, yet Milton uses a parallel expression:
Spiritus & rapidos qui circinat igneus orbes, “ Nunc quoque sidereis intercinit ipse choreis “ Immortale meļos, & inenarrabile carmen.”
Perhaps harmony is the power of perceiving harmony, as afterwards, Music in the soul is the quality of þeing moved with concord of sweet sounds. This will somewhat explain the old copies, but the sentence is still imperfect; which might be completed by reading :
Such harmony is in th' immortal soul, “ But while this muddy vesture of decay “ Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.”
JOHNSON, The attempt of the first modern editor, Mr. Rowe, to cure the manifest nonsense of close in it, was by putting (us) before in—"close us in it;” which his successors retaining, discard it. Lorenzo after treating Jessica with the famous ancient doctrine of the harmony of the sphere, or rather of harmony resulting from the movement of each particular orb in it, passes to a doctrine almost as famous
that the soul was harmony; Such harmony (such another harmony as the one aboyementioned)
Doth grosly close us in, we cannot hear it.
cana " is in immortal souls." Sir John Davis touches on it, in his Nosce teipsum, in those stanzas that treat of- -what the soul is; and there were other books in the poet's time that were more full on it, and particularly Plutarch: The introduction of this allusion after the other has more of ease and nature in it, than the making those three lines beginning with such harmony a reflection on those which preceded, as is done by the change just now mentioned, which is liable to be condemned upon another score, as, by it, this improper expression is fathered upon the poet-close us, which should imply the whole man, for-closing only his soul. CAPELL. This
passage having been much misunderstood, it may be proper to add a short explanation of it.
Such harmony, &c. is not an exclamation arising from the foregoing line"So great is the harmony!" but an illustration ;- .“ of the same kind is the “ harmony.”—the whole runs thus : “ There is not one of the heavenly orbs but sings
moves, still quiring to the Cherubim. Similar " to the harmony they make, is that of immortal “ souls; or, (in other words) each of us have as
perfect a harmony in our souls as the harmony of “ the spheres, inasmuch as we have the quality of “ being moved by sweet sounds, (as he expresses it
afterwards;) but our gross terrestrial part, which “ environs us, deadens the sound, and prevents our “ hearing.”
It, [doth grossly close it in] I apprehend, refers to harmony. This is the reading of the first quarto printed by Heyes; the quarto printed by Roberts, and the folio read-close in it.
It may be objected that this internal harmony is not an object of sense, cannot be heard ;- but
Enter Musicians. Come, ho, and wake Diana with a hymn; With sweetest touches pierce your mistress'
Shakspeare is not always exact in his language-he confounds it with that external and artificial harmony which is capable of being heard. Malone.
After due deliberation upon the foregoing reasonings, my opinion is that the only method of restoring good sense to this passage is to admit Mr. Rowe's emendation, modified and improved by Mr. Pope's omission of the particle it, and, with it, the explanation that naturally belongs to it. It produces so much ease in the turn of the expression, and is so much in Shakspeare's manner, that I scarcely can be persuaded that the lines came from the hand of the poet in any other form. It is highly ridiculous to make him speak of “ the power of perceiving
harmony as an object of the hearing sense.
If ever a deviation from the harsh obscurity of ancient copies was, in any case, allowable, though supported by the authority of common sense only, it seems to be so in the present instance, in which, by that means, a passage, from being nearly unintelligible, is rendered truly beautiful.
Mr. Malone very justly observes that “ Shakspeare “ is not always exact in his language:” Accordingly, he has here applied the terms immortal souls both to-orbs and to cherubim, whereas, in strict propriety of speech, they were applicable only to the Jatter : That they have a relation to these, is, I think, sufficiently manifest ; If the orbs quired to them, thy must necessarily be supposed to sing themselves. E.