Page images
PDF
EPUB

Posthumus and Imogen, is a blundering piece of impertinent innovation, where the old text was right, and perfectly intelligible :

Ay, and the approbation of those, that weep this lamentable divorce under her colours, are wonderfully to extend him; be it but to fortify her judgment, which else an easy battery might lay flat, for taking a beggar without less quality.

By “ those who under her colours,” those who were on her side, her partisans, are meant. The context shows, that this must be the meaning; it was those of her party who extended, i.e. praised excessively, the good qualities of Posthumus, to fortify the judgment of Imogen in marrying a man beneath her in rank and fortune. The utter improbability of so wild a misprint as under her colours for and her dolours has not the slightest appearance of probability.

P. 487. “ Another remarkable corruption has been perpetuated near the close of this scene. Iachimo has vaunted that he will overcome the chastity of Imogen, and Posthumus has accepted his wager : the latter observes, as the text has always stood,

Let us have articles betwixt us.—Only, thus far you shall answer: if you make your voyage upon her, and give me directly to understand you have prevailed, I am no farther your enemy, &c.

“ Now, if you make your voyage upon her,' may be understood as referring to the voyage Iachimo was to make to Britain, in order to endeavour to carry his vaunt into effect; but still the expression is awkward, and one which a correction in the folio, 1632, informs us the poet did not use : the word

voyage' is a misprint, in part, perhaps, occasioned by the omission of an adjective which ought almost immediately to precede it: Posthumus observes, that if Iachimo make good his boast, then Imogen would not be worth anger: he there

fore says,

Only, thus far you shall answer : if you make good your vauntage upon her, &c.

“In other words, if you succeed and accomplish your boast, she does not merit debate.' It seems probable that good was left out in the manuscript, and that the compositor mistook 'vauntage,' and printed ' voyage,' knowing that Iachimo must necessarily cross the sea, in order to carry out his project. The sense of the poet appears to have been as different as it was superior to the ordinary interpretation.”

COLLIER. If anything were necessary to show the utter impossibility of the corrector of Mr. Collier's folio having had access to better authorities than we possess, this would suffice. And it also shows that both the corrector and Mr. Collier have“ read their Shakespeare ill."

If the expression is awkward, at least it is certain that it was what the poet thought expressive, and one that he certainly did use ; for on a similar occasion he has repeated it. Thus, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act ii. Sc. 1, Page says of Falstaff's attempt upon his wife, “ If he should make this voyage toward my wife, I would turn her loose to him.”

This may be a lesson, not only to Mr. Collier and his MS. corrector, but to us all, to be a little more cautious how we venture to pronounce our judgments of what we find in the old text, and insinuate that it is awkward, and what we can amend. It is always better to be wisely diffident; and, if we cannot comprehend the language of the poet, rather to suspect our own capacity than to impugn his judgment by attempting to improve what he has written.

SCENE VII.

P. 488. “Two emendations were proposed by Warburton and Theobald in the following: both are found in the margin of the folio, 1632, with a confirmatory addition of some importance. We here give the passage as amended, marking the changes in italics as usual :

What ! are men mad? Hath nature given them eyes
To see this vaulted arch, and the rich cope
O’er sea and land, which can distinguish 'twixt
The fiery orbs above, and the twinn'd stones

Upon th' unnumber'd beach, &c. “ For cope the ordinary text has been crop,' for O'er Of,' and for th' unnumber'd' the number’d.' We may in future

safely adopt these emendations, which require no explanation. O'er is proposed for the first time.”

The only admissible alteration in this passage is Theobald's reading unnumber'd for “ number'd,” and even that Mr. Collier himself did not adopt. The“ rich crop of sea and land” means only the productions of those elements; to change crop for cope would be to introduce a repetition of “ the vaulted arch.” The correctors have therefore adopted readings long since rejected.

Ib. The bo-peeping is ludicrous enough: Shakespeare's“ by: peeping” is quite satisfactory.

P. 489. “On such evidence we can readily believe in another amendment proposed on the next page, which, however, is not so necessary, but, at the same time, by no means uncalled for: it is part of the same description of the dealings of Posthumus

With diseas'd ventures,
That play with all infirmities for gold
Which rottenness lends nature.

“ The corrector states that they do not 'play' with these infirmities for gold, but pay, or make a return for gold by the most loathsome diseases :

That pay with all infirmities with gold.”

In a supplemental note Mr. Collier says: “At the same time the meaning may certainly be, that they gamble with their infirmities, staking them against the gold that is paid to them”!!

Is it possible that this simple passage should have been so perversely misapprehended? Is it not self-evident that the ir diseased ventures” are the "tomboys” or gross strumpets who for gold dally with any diseased person? The passage has never before been deemed to require a note, and it certainly ought now to have been passed over without notice. One is at a loss to know which is most absurd, the corrector's dation," or the exposition of the passage.

emen

P.489. The two substitutions of contemn for “ condemn," and out-stay'd for outstood, are unnecessary meddling.

ACT II. SCENE II. P. 490. How any one could have conceived that he could amend the passage,

Swift, swift, you dragons of the night, that dawning
May bare the raven's eye-

and suggest dare and bleare, is past my comprehension ! One must be blear-eyed indeed not to perceive that “ dawning may bare the raven's eye” is a highly poetical image for returning day opening the eye of night. The celebrated passage in Macbeth,

Come, seeling night
Scarf

up

the tender eye of pitiful day- , alone might have opened the eyes of the correctors to the meaning of the passage, and spared us their dare and bleare !

SCENE IV.

P. 491. The double elision produced by the alteration of the correctors in the following passage, has a most disagreeable effect, and can never have been what the poet wrote:

Which, I wonder'd,
Could be so rarely and exactly wrought,
Since the true life on't 'twas.

Monck Mason's emendation is not only much better, but more probable :

Such the true life on't was.

The interpolation of most in the reply of Posthumus is quite unnecessary. Mr. Collier has told us himself, that a pause or break in the verse often compensates for a deficient syllable. Shakespeare's versification is not to be scanned by the fingers.

P. 492. The change of “winking cupids” to winged cupids, Mr. Collier himself virtually abandons, and says it is “one

[ocr errors]

of the many cases where the fitness of altering the received text is doubtful."

This is at least a candid acknowledgment that Mr. Collier abandons all idea of authority from better sources than we possess.

SCENE V.

Ib. The proposed substitution of foaming for the old corrupt reading “Iarmen,” (which has been absurdly made German in modern editions, even in Mr. Collier's) is specious, but the correctors have missed the true word. There can be no doubt that the misprinted word was brimmen, or brimeing. Thus Bullokar: “ Brime, a term among hunters, when the wild boar goeth to the female." Shakespeare has everywhere displayed his knowledge of and fondness for terms of the chase. I am told that the word still lingers in the purlieus of the New Forest, and elsewhere provincially.

ACT III. SCENE II.

P.494. “Warburton justly calls the phrase 'the sands that run i' the clock's behalf,' fantastical; but it is only so because 'behalf' was misprinted. Imogen is speaking of horses that run much faster than the sands in clocks, and she goes on, by a familiar expression, to state how much faster they run :

I have heard of riding wagers,
Where horses have been nimbler than the sands

That run i' the clocks by half ; adding, but this is foolery,' in reference, perhaps, to her own , simile.”

This is a “super-astute” view of the passage. The sands « that run i' the clock's behalf” are the sands in an hourglass that run to mark the hour, in lieu of, or on the part of the clock.

What miserable sophistication of a clearly intelligible old reading is the by half of the correctors ! This is indeed foolery.

SCENE III. Ib.“ Belarius, contrasting the life he, Guiderius, and

X

« PreviousContinue »