Page images

This is Mr. Malone's alteration (and Mr. Steevens has adopted it) from the old copy which exhibits “foils.” Yet “foils,” I believe, is right; Lepidus had, a minute before, been extolling the virtues of Antony, and placing them in opposition to his frailties, which had only the effect of making those virtues more conspicuous; as darkness in the sky augments the lustre of the stars; and this darkness and those failings are the foils that Octavius alludes to ; it is impossible to be unmindful, here, of the same image as it is presented in Hamlet: i

“I’ll be your foil, Laertes: in mine ignorance “Your skill shall, like a star i' the darkest night, “Stick fiery off indeed.”

47. “It hath been taught us from the primal State, “That he, which is, was wish'd, until he were ; “And the ebb'd man, ne’er lov’d, till ne'er worth love, “Comes dear'd, by being lack'd.”

Dr. Warburton’s emendation, “deard,” instead of “fear'd” (the former reading) is certainly judicious, though I do not think the passage will admit of his explanation; how can “he which is” be made to imply, the man in supreme command. I believe that what we have been learning from the “primal state” is, merely, that he who was wished for, when he was away, being present, is no longer regarded ; and he who was never loved until his fortunes were ruined, becomes then an object of affection, when the sentiment can be of no use to him; and this affection is increased by considering that we want him. The second “ne'er” was not, I suspect, any error of

the press, as Mr. Malone supposes, but only another instance of that resolute disposition to jingleand chime with words, so prevalent throughout these writings. “Till ne'er worth love” is, as I interpret, “till no longer worth love.” The explananation I have offered, as well as Dr. Warburton's amendment, is fortified by a similar passage in the 2d Scene of this play:

“What our contempts do often hurl from us,

“We wish it ours again

C & She's good, being gone:

“The hand could pluck her back that shov’d her on.”

“Like a vagabond flag upon the stream.” This is a line in syllables only: it should be:

“Like to a vagabond flag,” &c. . Or, perhaps, better:

[ocr errors][merged small]

I wish that some of the commentarors had told us the meaning of “rotting with motion.” The metre wants correction, which I would propose by dismissing two words from the messenger's speech :

“To rot itself with motion.” Mes. “ I bring word,” &c.

Mr Steevens would, to repair the measure, reject “itself;” but we find this word exactly so associated in Hamlet:

& 4 The fat weed
“That rots itself in ease on Lethe's wharf.

And this, I believe, will suggest the best exlanation of the words before us—the weed on

ethe was stagnantly rotting; but here, the “vagabond flag” is rotting while in motion.

[ocr errors]

Did not so much as shew lankness; the expression is similar to that of he lords it, i.e. he puts on or exercises lordly deportment.

“Assemble we immediate council.”

This reading, instead of “me,” in the old copy appears to have been introduced by the editor of the second folio, on better ground than what Mr. Malone assigns to him, viz. that this use of “me,” though frequent, in familiar dialogue, does not occur on grave occasions. Hotspur, besides the example in the letter which he reads, “he writes me here,” relating afterwards to the kings herald, the cause of his hostility, and the conduct of Henry, observes,

& & He then
“Steps me a little higher than his word.”

But, in the present instance, Octavius is speaking to his partner in the empire, and could not, without indecorum, have expressed himself in the rejected phrase.

51. “It is my busines too. Farewell.”

I suppose, to this hemistic belonged, “good Alepidus.”

SCENE W. 52. 'Tis well for thee, “That, , being unseminar'd, thy freer thoughts

“May not fly forth of Egypt.”

'Tis well for thee that, being an eunuch, your freer thoughts (that is, your amorous imaginations) do not torment you in the absence of the person you might have loved, by following him to Italy or elsewhere, as my affections do Antony. “Free,” here, is liberal, like the hand of Desdemona, that required “a sequester from liberty,” “a frank one.” The metre requires the ejection of “thou:”

“May not fly forth of Egypt. Hast’ affections?” 54. “ — Sovereign of Egypt, hail /*

This will not agree with the measure: we might read:

“With looking on his life. Aler. “ Egypt, all hail!”

55. A termagant steed.”

This, Mr. M. Mason’s emendation of “armgaunt,” the former reading, agrees with the sense, and may, perhaps, be right; but it is so bold a correction, that I confess I cannot help entertaining some doubt of it, though I wish to adopt it. - Lo RD CHEDwok TH. “Arm-gaunt.” We may reasonably suppose, (says Mr. Davies, D. M. vol. ii. p. 342) that the horse which bore Marc Antony, was remarkable for size and beauty: the Romans were particularly attentive to the breed as well as management of horses. Arm-gaunt means fine-shaped or thin-shouldered. “I must suppose,” says Bracken, “that every one is sensible, that thinshouldered horses move the best.” Arid-gaunt, I think, is a word compounded of the Latin word armus and gaunt, the latter is an old word, well known, and armus, a shoulder, originally signified that part of a man's body; but the Latin writers, afterwards, more frequently applied it to a beast. Horace, speaking of his mule, says,

“Mantica cui lumbos onere ulceret, atque eques armos.” Lib. I. Sat. 6, 106.

I am inclined to think that “arm-gaunt” is the right word, and that it is rightly explained by Mr. Davies. LoRD CHEDwo RTH,

[ocr errors][merged small]

58. “ — JWe, ignorant of ourselves, “Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers * Deny us for our good; so find we profit, “By losing of our prayers.”

This sentiment we find in Hamlet:

& 4 Rashly
“And prais’d be rashness for it—let us know
“Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well
“When our deep plots do fail; and that should

teach us
“There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
“Rough-hew them how we will.”


« PreviousContinue »