Page images
PDF
EPUB

Or angel-veiling cloudsi. e, clouds which veil angels : and by this means gave us, as the old proverb says, a cloud for a Juno. It was Shakspere's purpose to compare a fine lady to an angel ; it was Mr. Theobald's chance to compare her to a cloud : and perhaps the ill-bred reader will say a lucky one. However, I suppose the poet could never be so nonsensical as to compare a masked lady to a cloud, though he might compare her mask to one. The Oxford editor, who had the advantage both of this emendation and criticism, is a great deal more subtle and refined, and says it should not be

angels veil'd in clouds, but

-angels vailing clouds, i. e. capping the sun as they go by him, just as a man vails his bonnet.

WARBURTON. I know not why Sir T. Hanmer's explanation should be treated with so much contempt, or why vailing clouds should be capping the sun.

Ladies unmask'd, says Boyet, are like angels vailing clouds, or letting those clouds, which obscured their brightness, sink froin before them. What is there in this absurd or contemptible ?

Johnson, Holinshed's History of Scotland, p. 91, says,

" The Britons began to avale the hills where they had lodged." i. e. they began to descend the hills, or come down from them to meet their enemies. If Shakspere uses the word vailing in this sense, the meaning is-Angels descending from clouds which

concealed

[ocr errors]

H

[ocr errors]

as on

concealed their beauties; but Dr. Johnson's exposition may be better.

TOLLET. To avale comes from the French aval (Terme de batelier] Down, downward, down the stream. So, in the French Romant de la Rose, 1415 :

" Leaue aloit aval en faisant

Son melodieux et plaisant."
Again, in Laneham's Narrative of Queen Elizabeth's
Entertainment at Kenelworth-Castle, 1575:
a sea-shore when the water is avail'd." STEEVENS.

Bishop Warburton's ridicule of Sir Thomas Han. mer might be retorted with seven-fold vengeance upon himself. There is no sense to be made of this passage, consistent with the context, but by taking the word veiling for vailing, which Shakspere has used in several other places. The verb to vail is evidently a derivative from the French avaller. Dr. Johnson's note well explains the import of the participle in the instance before us.

HENLEY. 477. shapeless gear ;] Shapeless, for uncouth, or what Shakspere elsewhere calls diffused.

WARBURTON. 483. Exeunt Ladies.] Mr. Theobald ends the fourth act here.

JOHNSON, 489. -as pigeons peas ;] This expression is proverbial :

“ Children pick up words as pigeons peas,

“ And utter them again as God shall please.” See Ray's Collection.

Steevens. 492, wassels -] Wassels were meetings of

rustick

rustick mirth and intemperance. So, in Antony and Cleopatra :

-Antony,
“ Leave thy lascivious wassels.

STEEVENS. 497 He can carve too, and lisp :) The character of Boyet, as drawn by Biron, represents an accomplished squire of the days of chivalry, particularly in the instances here noted.-" Le jeune Ecuyer appre. noit long-temps dans le silence cet art de bien parler, lorsqu'en qualité d'Ecuyer TRANCHANT, il étoit de. bout dans les repas & dans les festins, occupé à couper les viandes avec la propreté, l'addresse & l'elégance convenables, et à les faire distribuer aux nobles convives dont il étoit environné. Joinville, dans sa jeunesse, avoit rempli à la cour de Saint Louis cet office, qui, dans les maisons des Souverains, étoit quelquefois exercé propres enfans.”

Memoires sur l'ancienne Chevalerie, Tom. I. p.

16. HenLeY. 502. A mean most meanly, &c.] The mean, in musick, is the tenor. So, Bacon, “ The treble cut. teth the air so sharp, as it returneth too swift to make the sound equal ; and therefore a mean or tenor is the sweetest." Again, in Herod and Antipater, 1622 :

“ Thus sing we descant on one plain-song, kill,

“ Four parts in one; the mean excluded quite." Again, in Drayton's Barons' Wars, Cant. iii. " The base and treble married to the mean.

STEEVENS,

par leurs

505. This is the flower that smiles on every one,] The broken disjointed metaphor is a fault in writing. But in order to pass a true judgment on this fault, it is still to be observed, that when a métaphor is grown so common as to desert, as it were, the figurative, and to be received into the common style, then what may be affirmed of the thing represented, or the substance, may be affirmed of the thing representing, or the image. To illustrate this by the instance before us, a very complaisant, finical, over-gracious person, was so commonly called the flower, or, as he elsewhere expresses it, the pink of courtesy, that in common talk, or in the lowest style, this metaphor might be used without keeping up the image, but any thing affirmed of it as an agnomen : hence it might be said, without offence, to smile, to flatter, &c. And the reason is this: in the more solemn, less-used metaphors, our mind is so turned upon the image which the metaphor conveys, that it expects this image should be, for some little time, continued by terms proper to keep it in view. And if, for want of these terms, the image be no sooner presented than dismissed, the mind suffers a kind of violence by being drawn off abruptly and unexpectedly from its contemplation. Hence it is, that the broken, disjointed, and mixed metaphor, so much shocks us. But when it is once become worn and hacknied by common use, then even the very first mention of it is not apt to excite in us the representative image ; but brings immediately before us the idea of the thing represented. And

thça

then to endeavour to keep up and continue the bor. rowed ideas, by right adapted terms, would have as ill an effect on the other hand ; because the mind is already gone off from the image to the substance. Grammarians would do well to consider what has been here said, when they set upon amending Greek and Roman writings. For the much-used hacknied metaphors being now very imperfectly known, great care is required not to act in this case temerariously.

WARBURTON. This is the flower that smiles on every one,

To shew his teeth as white as whale's bone.) As white as whale's bone is a proverbial comparison in the old poets. In the Faery Queen, B. III. c. 1. st. 15.

" Whose face did seem as clear as crystal stone,
And eke, through feare, as white as whales

bone."
And in L. Surrey, fol. 14. edit. 1567:

“ I might perceive a wolf, as white as whales bone, " A fairer beast of fresher hue, beheld I never

none." Skelton joins the whales bone with the brightest precious stones, in describing the position of Pallas :

" A hundred steppes mounting to the halle,

“ One of jasper, another of whales bone ; “ Of diamantes, pointed by the rokky walle.” Crowne of Lawrell, p. 24, edit. 1736.

WARTON. It should be remembered that some of our ancient writers supposed ivory to be part of the bones of a

whale.

« PreviousContinue »