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The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,
under whose blessed cross
West. My liege, this haste was hot in question,
many limits of the charge 8 set down
Levying an army to a place is an elliptical form of expression. So in Gosson's School of Abuse, 1587: “Scipio, before he levied his forces to the walls of Carthage, gave his soldiers the print of the city in a cake, to be devoured.” — Here, as often, shall has the force of will; the two being used indifferently.
5 “We meet not on that question, or to consider that matter." Such is often tbe meaning of therefore in old English.
6 Ralph Neville, the present Earl of Westmoreland, married for his first wife Joan, daughter to John of Gaunt, by Catharine Swynford, and therefore half-sister to King Henry the Fourth. Cousin, in old English, bears much the same sense as kinsman in our time.
7 The Poet uses expedience and expedition interchangeably: likewise, expedient and expeditious. By dear, the King probably means that he has his heart set upon it.
8" Limits of the charge" probably means appointments for the undertaking. The Poet repeatedly uses to limit for to appoint; as also to appoint for to equip or furnish; that is, to arrange the outfit of an army. - Question, in the line before, is talk or discussion. Often so. The matter was warmly debated.
But yesternight: when, all athwart, there came
King. It seems, then, that the tidings of this broil
West. This, match'd with other, did, my gracious lord ; For more uneven and unwelcome news Came from the North, and thus it did import : On Holy-rood day, the gallant Hotspur there, 11 Young Harry Percy, and brave Archibald, That ever-valiant and approved Scot, At Holmedon met ; Where they did spend a sad and bloody hour, As by discharge of their artillery, And shape of likelihood, the news was told ; For he that brought them,12 in the very heat And pride of their contention did take horse,
9 That is, “A thousand of his people being butchered."
10 Corpse' for corpses. So we have horse' for horses, house for houses, sense' for senses, &c.
11 Rood is an old word for cross. So we have the expression, “The Duke that died on rood.” Holy-Rood day was the 14th of September. Hotspur is said to have been so called, because, from the age of twelve years, when he first began to bear arms, his “spur was never cold,” he being continually at war with the Scots.
12 News, and also tidings, was used indifferently as singular or plural: hence was and them in this instance.
Uncertain of the issue any way.
King. Here is a dear and true-industrious friend,
West. Faith, 'tis a conquest for a prince to boast of.
13 A most vivid expression of Sir Walter's speed and diligence.
14 Balk'd in their own blood is heaped, or laid in heaps, in their own blood. A balk was a ridge or bank of earth standing up between two furrows; and to balk was to throw up the earth so as to form those heaps or banks.
15 This reads as if the Earl of Fife were the son of Douglas, whereas in fact he was son to the Duke of Albany, who was then regent or governor of Scotland, the King, his brother, being incapable of the office. The matter is thus given by Holinshed, pointing and all: “Of prisoners among other were these, Mordacke earle of Fife, son to the governour Archembald earle Dowglas, which in the fight lost one of his eies." The Poet's mistake was evidently caused by the omission of the comma after governour.
16 Minion is darling, favourite, or pet; a frequent usage.
See riot and dishonour stain the brow
West. This is his uncle's teaching, this is Worcester,
King. But I have sent for him to answer this;
17 Among the naughty pranks which the ancient“ night-tripping fairies" were supposed to enact, was that of stealing choice babies out of their cradles, and leaving inferior specimens in their stead. Shakespeare has several allusions to the roguish practice, as many other old writers also have. See vol. iii. page 23,
5. 18 Percy had an exclusive right to these prisoners, except the Earl of Fife. By the law of arms, every man who had taken any captive, whose redemption did not exceed ten thousand crowns, had him to himself to release or ransom at his pleasure. But Percy could not refuse the Earl of Fife; for, he being a prince of the royal blood, Henry might justly claim him, by his acknowledged military prerogative.
19 An astrological allusion. Worcester is represented as a malignant star that influenced the conduct of Hotspur. And the effect of planetary predominance is implied, which was held to be irresistible. So in Daniel's fine poem “To the Countess of Cumberland": "Where all th' aspects of misery predominate; whose strong effects are such as he must bear, being powerless to redress.” See, also, vol. vii. page 148, note 21.
20 Crest is, properly, the topmost part of a helmet; and helmets were often surmounted with armorial ensigns, and adorned with costly feathers or plumes. A hawk, or a cock, was said to prune himself when he picked off the loose feathers, and smoothed the rest; all from personal pride, of
And for this cause awhile we must neglect
West. I will, my liege.
SCENE II. - The Same. An Apartment of Prince HENRY'S.
Enter Prince HENRY and FALSTAFF.
Fal. Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad ?
Prince. Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack, and unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly know.l What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? unless hours were cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the tongues of bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-houses, and the blessed Sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta,? I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day.
Fil. Indeed, you come near me now, Hal ; for we that take purses go by the Moon and the seven stars,3 and not by
21 The King probably means that he must not give the reins to his tongue while his mind is in such a state of perturbation. That he should thus keep his lips close when he is in danger of speaking indecorously, is a fine trait in his character.
1 Implying, apparently, that he should ask only for the time of the night; as that is the time for all his pleasures and pursuits.
2 Taffeta was a rich silk of a wavy lustre. So that a handsome woman blazing in a dress of flame-coloured taffeta would be a pretty brilliant and captivating phenomenon.
3 The seven stars are, probably, the constellation Pleiades.