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ROM OFF A HILL WHOSE concave womb re-worded

A plaintful story from a sistering vale,

My spirits to attend this double voice accorded,

And down I laid to list the sadtuned tale;

Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale,

Tearing of papers, breaking rings a-twain,

Storming her world with sorrow's wind and rain.

Upon her head a platted hive of straw,

Which fortified her visage from the sun,

1 re-worded] repeated. Cf. Hamlet, III, iv, 143: "And I the matter will re-word."

2 plaintful... sistering] woeful . . . neighbouring.

For "sistering"

cf. Pericles, V, Prologue, 7: "her art sisters the natural roses." 3 My spirits... accorded] My spirits assented to listen to this dialogue. The metre shows that "spirits" should be read as a monosyllable (like "sprites") and "to attend "as a dissyllable (i. e., "t' attend").

Whereon the thought might think sometime it saw
The carcass of a beauty spent and done:
Time had not scythed all that youth begun,
Nor youth all quit; but, spite of heaven's fell rage,
Some beauty peep'd through lattice of sear'd age.

Oft did she heave her napkin to her eyne,
Which on it had conceited characters,
Laundering the silken figures in the brine
That season'd woe had pelleted in tears,
And often reading what contents it bears;
As often shrieking undistinguish'd woe,
In clamours of all size, both high and low.

7 her world] her being. Cf. Lear, III, i, 10-11: "Strives in his little world of man to outscorn The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.”

10 the thought might think] an awkward periphrasis for "it might be

thought."

14 Some beauty

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age] Cf. Sonnet iii, 11-12: "So thou through windows of thine age shalt see, Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time." 15-18 Oft did she heave... pelleted in tears] These lines are imitated by the poet Drummond of Hawthornden (Poems, 2d Impression, Edinburgh, 1616, Pt. II, Sonnet xi):

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15 napkin] handkerchief.

16 conceited characters] fanciful designs.

17 Laundering] washing. The verb "to launder" is still familiar in its derivative "laundress.”

18 season'd... pelleted in tears] "season'd" and "pelleted" are both

culinary terms. The seasoning of woe had fashioned the brine into pellets or little balls of tears. Cf. Ant. and Cleop., III, xiii, 165: “this pelleted storm," i. e., this hail-storm.

10

20

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Sometimes her levell'd eyes their carriage ride,
As they did battery to the spheres intend;
Sometime diverted their poor balls are tied
To the orbed earth; sometimes they do extend
Their view right on; anon their gazes lend
To every place at once, and nowhere fix'd
The mind and sight distractedly commix'd.

Her hair, nor loose nor tied in formal plat,
Proclaim'd in her a careless hand of pride;
For some, untuck'd, descended her sheaved hat,
Hanging her pale and pined cheek beside;
Some in her threaden fillet still did bide,

And, true to bondage, would not break from thence,
Though slackly braided in loose negligence.

A thousand favours from a maund she drew
Of amber, crystal, and of beaded jet,

22 her levell'd eyes . . . ride] her eyes are lifted up. A far-fetched figure from taking aim with a piece of ordnance. The eyes are likened to the cannon-piece which, levelled for aim, rides or is borne on the wheeled carriage. The bombastic figure is repeated in lines 281-282, infra. 25 orbed earth] Cf. Hamlet, III, ii, 151: "Tellus' orbed ground." 30 a careless hand of pride] a hand careless of (or indifferent to) pride or show.

31 sheaved hat] hat made of sheaves of straw, straw hat.

36 favours] lover's tokens, usually ribbons; here apparently jewels.

maund] a wicker basket. The word is now only used in provincial dialects.

37 beaded jet] beads of jet. Thus Sewell. The original reading is bedded jet, which is awkwardly explained as jet embedded in the rock (where it is ordinarily found).

Which one by one she in a river threw,
Upon whose weeping margent she was set;
Like usury, applying wet to wet,

Or monarch's hands that lets not bounty fall
Where want cries some, but where excess begs all.

Of folded schedules had she many a one,

Which she perused, sigh'd, tore, and gave the flood;
Crack'd many a ring of posied gold and bone,
Bidding them find their sepulchres in mud;
Found yet moe letters sadly penn'd in blood,
With sleided silk feat and affectedly
Enswathed, and seal'd to curious secrecy.

These often bathed she in her fluxive eyes,
And often kiss'd, and often 'gan to tear;

40-42 Like usury

begs all] This is a favourite reflection of Shakespeare. Cf. 3 Hen. VI, V, iv, 8-9: "With tearful eyes add water to the sea, And give more strength to that which hath too much," and Sonnet cxxxv, 9-10: "The sea, all water, yet receives rain still, And in abundance addeth to his store."

42 cries some] cries out for some.

43 schedules] scrolls, papers.

45 many a ring of posied gold and bone] rings of gold or bone inscribed on the inner side with posies. Cf. Merch. of Ven., V, i, 147–150: “a hoop of gold, a paltry ring. whose posy was

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'Love me, and leave

me not.' 48-49 With sleided silk... Enswathed] With untwisted or unwoven silk neatly and fancifully wrapped. Cf. Pericles, IV, Prologue, 21: "she weaved the sleided silk." Raw (or "sleided ") silk or ribbon was often wound round letters, and the ends stamped with a seal.

50 fluxive] flowing with tears.

51 'gan to tear] Malone's correction of the original reading, gaue to teare,

i. e., took to tearing.

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60

Cried "O false blood, thou register of lies,

What unapproved witness dost thou bear!

Ink would have seem'd more black and damned here!"
This said, in top of rage 'the lines she rents,
Big discontent so breaking their contents.

A reverend man that grazed his cattle nigh
Sometime a blusterer, that the ruffle knew
Of court, of city, and had let go by
The swiftest hours, observed as they flew
Towards this afflicted fancy fastly drew;
And, privileged by age, desires to know
In brief the grounds and motives of her woe.

So slides he down upon his grained bat,
And comely-distant sits he by her side;
When he again desires her, being sat,
Her grievance with his hearing to divide:
If that from him there may be aught applied
Which may her suffering ecstasy assuage,
"Tis promised in the charity of age.

53 unapproved] unproven.

58 Sometime a blusterer . . . ruffle knew] Formerly a riotous fellow who

knew the turmoil or bustle.

59–60 had let . . . flew] had passed the prime of life when the hours fly swiftest, and had watched the hours fly.

61 fancy] lover. "Fancy" is frequently used for "love," and the abstract term is here used for the concrete. Cf. infra, line 197.

64 grained bat] rough or unplaned staff or stick. Cf. Cor., IV, v, 108: "My grained ash."

65 comely-distant] at a courteous distance.

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