« PreviousContinue »
592. And beauty's crest becomes the heavens well.] Crest is here properly opposed to badge. Black, says the king, is the badge of hell, but that which graces the heaven is the crest of beauty. Black darkens hell, and is therefore hateful: white adorns heaven, and is therefore lovely.
JOHNSON. And beauty's crest becomes the heavens well, i. e. the very top, the height of beauty, or the utmost degree of fairness, becomes the heavens. So the word crest is explained by the poet himself in King John:
this is the very top,
" Of murder's arms." In heraldry, a crest is a device placed above a coat of arms. Shakspere therefore assumes the liberty to use it in a sense equivalent to top or utmost height, as he has used spire in Coriolanus :
-to the spire and top of praises vouch'd.” So, “ the cap of all the fools alive" is the top of them all, because cap was the uppermost part of a man's dress." See All's Well that Ends Well.
TOLLET. 624. Some tricks, some quillets, how to cheat the devil.] Quillet is the peculiar word applied to law-chicane. I imagine the original to be this. In the French pleadings, every several allegation in the plaintiff's charge, and every distinct plea in the defendant's answer, began with the words qu'il est ;– from whence
was formed the word quillet, to signify a false charge or an evasive answer.
WARBURTON. 627. affection's men at arms :) A man at arms is a soldier armed at all points, both offensively and defensively. It is no more than, Ye soldiers of affetion.
JOHNSON 643. The nimble spirits in the arteries;] In the old system of physick they gave the same office to the arteries as is now given to the nerves ;
it appears from the name, which is derived from cepa tapeñv.
WARBURTON, 650. Teaches such beauty as a woman's eye ?] i. e. a lady's eye gives a fuller notion of beauty than any author.
JOHNSON. 656. we have forsworn our books :) i. e. our true books, from which we derive most information the eyes of women.
MALONE. 658. In leaden contemplation have found out
Such fiery numbers,–] Numbers are, in this passage, nothing more than poetical measures. Could you, says Biron, by solitary contemplation, have attained such poetical fire, such sprightly numbers, as have been prompted by the eyes of beauty ?
JOHNSON 673. the suspicious head of theft is stopp'd :] “ The suspicious head of theft, is the head suspicious of theft.” “ He watches like one that fears robbing," says Speed, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. This transposition of the adjective is sometimes met with, Grimme tells us, in Damon and Pythias : 4
“ A heavy
“ A heavy pouch with golde makes a light hart.”
FARMER. 677. For valour, is not love a Hercules,
Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?] The poet is here observing how all the senses are refined by love. But what has the poor sense of smelling done, not to keep its place among its brethren? Then Hercules's valour was not in climbing the trees, but in attacking the dragon guardant. I rather think, that for valour we should read savour, and the poet meant, that Hercules was allured by the odour and fragrancy of the golden apples.
THEOBALD. 680. As bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair ;] This expression, like that other in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, of
“ Orpheus' harp was strung with poets' sinews," is extremely beautiful, and highly figurative. Apollo, as the sun, is represented with golden hair; so that a Jute strung with his hair, means no more than strung with gilded wire.
WARBURTON. -as sweet and musical As bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair.] The author of The Revisal supposes this expression to be allegorical, p. 138. “ Apollo's lute strung with sunbeams, which in poetry are called hair."
But what idea is conveyed by Apollo's lute strung with sunbeams ?? Undoubtedly the words are to be taken in their literal sense : and, in the style of Italian imagery, the thought is highly elegant. The very same sort
of conception occurs in Lilly's Midas, a play which
“ And kept them to play musick to the gods ?" Lilly's Midas, quoted by Mr. Warton, was published
STEEVENS, 681. And, when love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.] This nonsense we should read and point thus :
And when love speaks the voice of all the gods,
Mark, heaven drowsy with the harmony. i.e. in the voice of love alone is included the voice of all the gods. Alluding to that ancient theogony, that Love was the parent and support of all the gods. Hence, as Suidas tells us, Palæphatus wrote a poem called, "Αφροδίτης και ΈρωπG- φωνή και λόλο». The voice and speech of Venus and Love, which appears to have been a kind of cosmogony, the harmony of which is so great, that it calms and allays all kinds of disorders: alluding again to the ancient use of musick, which was to compose monarchs, when, by reason of
the cares of empire, they used to pass whole nights in restless inquietude.
WARBURTON. The ancient reading is, Make heaven
JOHNSON. I cannot find any reason for this emendation, nor do I believe the poet to have been at all acquainted with that ancient theogony mentioned by the critick. The former reading, with the slight addition of a single letter, was, perhaps, the true one. When Love speaks (says Biron), the assembled gods reduce the elements of the sky to a calm, by their harmonious applauses of this favoured orator.
Mr. Collins observes, that the meaning of the passage may be this - That the voice of all the gods united, could inspire only drowsiness, when compared with the cheerful effects of the voice of Love. That sense is suf. ficiently congruous to the rest of the speech ; and inuch the same thought occurs in The Shepherd Arsileus' Reply to Syrenus' Song, by Bar. Yong ; published in England's Helicon, 1614 :
“ Unless mild Love possess your amorous breasts,
“ If you sing not of him, your songs do weary.” Dr. Warburton has raised the idea of his author, by imputing to him a knowledge, of which, I believe, he was not possessed; but should either of these explanations prove the true one, I shall offer no apology for having made him stoop from the critick's elevation. I would, however, read,
Makes heaven drowsy with its harmony. Though the words mark ! and behold! are alike used