Page images

If you do find him, pray you, give him this ;3
And when your mistress hears thus much from you,
I pray, desire her call her wisdom to her.
So, fare you well.
If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor,
Preferment falls on him that cuts him off.
Stew. 'Would I could meet him, madam! I would

What party4 I do follow.

Fare thee well. [Exeunt.


The Country near Dover. Enter GLOSTER, and EDGAR, dressed like a Peasant. Glo. When shall we come to the top of that same hill ? Edg. You do climb up it now: look, how we labour. Glo. Methinks, the ground is even. Edg.

Horrible steep: Hark, do you hear the sea? Glo.

No, truly. Edg. Why, then your other senses grow imperfect By your eyes' anguish. Glo.

So may it be, indeed : Methinks, thy voice is alter'd; and thou speak'st In better phrase, and malter, than thou didst. Edg. You are much deceiv'd; in nothing am I chang’d,

You may gather more.] You may infer more than I have directly told you. Johnson. So, in King Henry VI, P.I:

“ Thou art my heir; the rest I wish thee gather.Steevens.

give him this ;] I suppose Regan here delivers a ring or some other favour to the Steward, to be conveyed to Edmund.

Malone. 4 What party-] Quarto, What lady. Johnson.

5 Scene VI.] This scene, and the stratagem by which Gloster is cured of his desperation, are wholly borrowed from Sidney's Arcadia, Book II. Johnson.

6 No, truly.) Somewhat, necessary to complete the measure, is omitted in this or the foregoing hemistich. Sir Thomas Hanmer supplies the defect, though perhaps but aukwardly, by reading

No truly, not. Steevens. 7thy voice is alter'd; &c.] Edgar alters his voice in order to pass afterwards for a malignant spirit. Johnson,


But in my garments.

Methinks, you are better spoken. Edg. Come on, sir; here's the place:-stand still...

How fearful
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low !8
The crows, and choughs, that wing the midway air,
Show scarce so gross as beetles: Half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade !9
Methinks, he seems no bigger than his head:
The fishermen, that walk upon the beach,


How fearful And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low.!] This description has been much admired since the time of Addison, who has remarked, with a poor attempt at pleasantry, that “he who can read it without being giddy, has a very good head, or a very bad one.” The description is certainly not mean, but I am far from thinking it wrought to the utmost excellence of poetry. He that looks from a precipice finds himself assailed by one great and dreadful image of irresistible destruction. But this overwhelming idea is dissipated and enfeebled from the instant that the mind can restore itself to the observation of particulars, and diffuse its attention to distinct objects. The enumeration of the choughs and crows, the samphire-man, and the fishers, counteracts the great effect of the prospect, as it peoples the desert of intermediate vacuity, and stops the mind in the rapidity of its descent through emptiness and horror. Johnson.

It is to be considered that Edgar is describing an imaginary preci. pice, and is not therefore supposed to be so strongly impressed with the dreadful prospect of inevitable destruction, as a person would be who really found himself on the brink of one. M. Mason.

Half way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!] “Samphire grows in great plenty on most of the sea-cliffs in this country: it is terrible to see how people gather it, hanging by a rope several fa: thom from the top of the impending rocks as it were in the air." Smith's History of Waterford, p. 315, edit. 1774. Tollet.

This personage is not a mere creature of Shakspeare's imagina. tion, for the gathering of samphire was literally a trade or common occupation in his time, it being carried and cried about the streets, and much used as a pickle. So, in a song in Heywood's Rape of Lucrece, in which the cries of London are enumerated under the title of the cries of Rome:

“ I ha’ rock-samphier, rock-samphier ;

“ Thus go the cries in Rome's faire towne;

First they go up street, and then they go downe:

“ Buy a map, a mill-mat,” &c. Again, in Venner's Via recta, &c. 4to. 1622: “ Samphire is in like manner preserved in pickle, and eaten with meates. It is a very plea.. sant and familiar sance, and agreeing with man's body." Malone


Appear like mice; and yon tall anchoring bark,
Diminish'd to her cock;i her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight: The murmuring surge,
That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high :-I 'll look no more;
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.

Set me where you stand.
Edg. Give me your hand : You are now within a foot
Of the extreme verge: for all beneath the moon
Would I not leap upright.3


her cock ;] Her cock-boat. Johnson. So, in The Tragedy of Hoffman, 1637: “ — I caused my lord to leap into the cock, &c.--at last our cock and we were cast ashore." Again, in Barclay's Ship of Fools :

our ship can hold no more, 6 Hause in the cocke.. Hence the term cockswain, a petty officer in a ship. Steevens.

2 Topple down headlong] To topple is to tumble. The word has been already used in Macbeth. So, in Nash's Lenten Stuff, &c. 1599: “ – fifty people toppled up their heels there." --Again:“ - he had thought to have toppled his burning car, &c. into the sea.” Steevens. 3 - for all beneath the moon

Would I not leap upright.] But what danger is in leapingupwards or downwards? He who leaps thus must needs fall again on his feet upon the place from whence he rose. We should read :

Would I not leap outright. i. e. forward : and then being on the verge of a precipice, he must needs fall headlong. Warburton.

I doubt whether the word-outright, was even in use at the time when this play was written.

Upright, with the strict definition--" perpendicularly erect,” is absurd ; for such a leap is physically impossible. Upright is barely expletive: upwards,-—" from the ground." Farmer.

One of the senses of the word upright, in Shakspeare's time, was that in which it is now used. So, in The Tempest:

time goes upright with his carriage.” Again, in Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays, 1603: “I have seene a man take his full carier: standing boult upright on both his feete in the saddle.”

And with this signification, I have no doubt it was used here. Every man who leaps, in his first effort to raise himself from the ground, springs upright. Far from thinking of leaping forward, for which, being certain destruction, nothing can compensate, Edgar says, he would not for all beneath the moon run the risk of even leaping upwards.

Dr. Warburton idly objects, that he who leaps upwards, must


Let go my hand.
Here, friend, is another purse ; in it, a jewel
Well worth a poor man's taking: Fairies, and gods,
Prosper it with thee! Go thou further off;
Bid me farewel, and let me hear thee going.

Edg. Now fare you well, good sir. [Seems to go.

With all my heart. Edg. Why I do trifle thus with his despair, Is done to cure it.4 Glo.

O you mighty gods!
This world I do renounce; and, in your sights,
Shake patiently my great affliction off:
If I could bear it longer, and not fall
To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
My snuff, and lothed part of nature, should
Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him! -
Now, fellow, fare thee well. [He leaps, and falls along.

Gone, sir? farewel,5-
And yet I know not how conceit may rob
The treasury of life, when life itself
Yields to the theft:6 Had he been where he thought,
By this, had thought been past.-Alive, or dead?

needs fall again on his feet upon the same place from whence he rose. If the commentator had tried such a leap within a foot of the edge of a precipice, before he undertook the revision of these plays, the world would, I fear, have been deprived of his labours.

Upright, in our author's time, meant also supinus. See Minsheu's Dictionary, 1617: “ Upright, or on the back, with the face upward. G. renversé, ventre en haut. L. supinus, resupinus :" but this sense is here inadmissible. Malone. 4 Why I do trifle thus with

his despair, Is done to cure it.] Mr. Theobald and Dr. Warburton, who read, with one of the quartos-'Tis done, place an interrogation point at the end of the first of these lines; but, in my opinion, improperly.

Steevens. Is done – ] Thus the quarto A, and the folio. The other quarto reads-Tis done. Malone.

5 Gone, sir? farewel.] Thus the quartos and folio. The modern editors have been content to read-Good sir, &c. Steevens.

They followed the arbitrary alteration of the editor of the second folio. Malone. Perhaps a mere typographical error. Steevens.

when life itself Vields to the thefi:] When life is willing to be destroyed.



Ho, you sir! friend -Hear you, sir?--speak!
Thus might he pass indeed : 1-Yet he revives:
What are you, sir?

Away, and let me die.
Edg. Had'st thou been aught but gossomer, feathers,


So many fathom down precipitating,
Thou hadst shiver'd like an egg: but thou dost breathe;
Hast heavy substance; bleed'st not ; speak’st; art sound.
Ter masts at each make not the altitude,
Which thou hast perpendicularly fell;
Thy life's a miracle : Speak yet again.

Glo. But have I fallen, or no?
Edg. From the dread summit of this chalky bourn:1

7 Thus might he pass indeed:] Thus might he die in reality. We still use the word passing bell. Johnson. So, in King Henry VI, P. II:

“ Disturb him not, let him pass peaceably.” Steevens. 8 Had'st thou been aught but gossomer, feathers, air,] Gossomore, the white and cobweb-like exhalations that fly about in hot sunny weather. Skinner says, in a book called The French Gardiner, it signifies the down of the sow-thistle, which is driven to and fro by the wind:

“ As sure some wonder on the cause of thunder,
“ On ebb and food, on gossomer and mist,

“ And on all things, till that the cause is wist.” Grey. The substance called Gossamer is formed of the collected webs of Aying spiders, and during calm weather in Autumn sometimes falls in amazing quantities. H. White.

See Romeo and Juliet, Act II, sc. vi, Vol. XII. Malone.

9 Ten masts at each make not the altitude,] So Mr. Pope found it in the old editions; and seeing it corrupt, judiciously corrected it to attacht. But Mr. Theobald restores again the old nonsense, at each.

Warburton. Mr. Pope's conjecture may stand if the word which he uses were known in our author's time, but I think it is of later introduction, We may say:

Ten masts on end Johnson.
Perhaps we should read-at reach, i.e. extent.
In Mr. Rowe's edition it is, Ten masts at least. Steerens.

Ten masts at each make not the altitude,] i.e.each, at, or near, the other. Such I suppose the meaning, if the text be right; bat it is probably corrupt. The word attach'd certainly existed in Shak. speare's time, but was not used in the sense required here. In Bullokar's English Expositor, 8vo. 1616, to attach is interpreted, “ To take, lay hold on.” It was verbum juris. Malone.

chalky bourn :] Bourn seems here to signify a hill. Its comiVOL. XIV.


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »