« PreviousContinue »
some ancient monument on which these two figures were represented.
The following lines in The Winter's Tale seem to countenance such an idea:
"I doubt not then, but innocence shall make
Again, in King Richard III. :
like dumb statues, or unbreathing stones, "Star'd on each other, and look'd deadly pale."
In King Lear, we again meet with two personages introduced in the text:
"Patience and sorrow strove,
"Who should express her goodliest."
Again, in Cymbeline, the same kind of imagery may be traced : "nobly he yokes
A smiling with a sigh.
"That grief and patience, rooted in him both,
I am aware that Homer's δακρυόεν γελασασα, and a passage in
-My plenteous joys,
"Wanton in fulness, seek to hide themselves
may be urged against this interpretation; but it should be remembered, that in these instances it is joy which bursts into tears. There is no instance, I believe, either in poetry or real life, of sorrow smiling in anguish. In pain indeed the case is different: the suffering Indian having been known to smile in the midst of torture.-But, however this may be, the sculptor and the painter are confined to one point of time, and cannot exhibit successive movements in the countenance.
Dr. Percy, however, thinks, that grief may here mean griev ance, in which sense it is used in Dr. Powel's History of Wales, quarto, p. 356: "Of the wrongs and griefs done to the noblemen at Stratolyn," &c. In the original, (printed at the end of Wynne's History of Wales, octavo,) it is a gravamina, i. e. grievances. The word is often used by our author in the same sense, (So, in King Henry IV. Part I.:
the king hath sent to know "The nature of your griefs ;)" but never, I believe, in the singular number.
In support of what has been suggested, the authority of Mr. Rowe may be adduced, for in his life of Shakspeare he has thus exhibited this passage:
"She sat like Patience on a monument,
In the observations now submitted to the reader, I had once some confidence, nor am I yet convinced that the objection founded on the particle at, and on the difficulty, if not impossibility of a sculptor forming such a figure as these words are commonly supposed to describe, is without foundation. I have therefore retained my note; yet I must acknowledge, that the following lines in King Richard II. which have lately occurred to me, render my theory somewhat doubtful, though they do not overturn it :
"His face still combating with tears and smiles,
Here we have the same idea as that in the text; and perhaps Shakspeare never considered whether it could be exhibited in marble.
I have expressed a doubt whether the word grief was employed in the singular number, in the sense of grievance. I have lately observed that our author has himself used it in that sense in King Henry IV. Part II. :
an inch of any ground "To build a grief on."
Dr. Percy's interpretation, therefore, may be the true one.
I am unwilling to suppose a monumental image of Patience was ever confronted by an emblematical figure of Grief, on purpose that one might sit and smile at the other; because such a representation might be considered as a satire on human insensibility. When Patience smiles, it is to express a Christian triumph over the common cause of sorrow, a cause, of which the sarcophagus, near her station, ought very sufficiently to remind her. True Patience, when it is her cue to smile over calamity, knows her office without a prompter; knows that stubborn lamentation displays a will most incorrect to heaven; and therefore appears content with one of its severest dispensations, the loss of a relation or a friend. Ancient tombs, indeed, (if we must construe grief into grievance, and Shakspeare has certainly used the former word for the latter,) frequently exhibit cumbent figures of the deceased, and over these an image of Patience, without impropriety, might express a smile of complacence:
"Her meek hands folded on her modest breast,
After all, however, I believe the Homeric elucidation of the passage to be the true one. Tyrant poetry often imposes such complicated tasks as painting and sculpture must fail to execute. I cannot help adding, that to " smile at grief," is as justifiable an expression as to rejoice at prosperity, or repine at ill fortune." It is not necessary we should suppose the good or bad event, in either instance, is an object visible, except to the eye of imagination. STEEVENS.
The commentators have, I think, created their own difficulty by mingling together two parts of the description which the poet intended to be distinct. The meaning appears to me to be this: While she was smiling at grief, or in the midst of her grief, her placid resignation made her look like patience on a monument.' The monumental figure, I apprehend, is no more said to have smiled at grief than to have pined in thought, or to have been of a green and yellow hue.
A passage in the most pathetic poet of antiquity has been pointed out to me by my friend Mr. Combe of the Museum, which exhibits a similar description of a silent and hopeless passion :
Ενταῦθα δὴ στένουσα κακπεπληγμένη
Eurip. Hippol. v. 38.
I have to apologize to Mr. Combe, for having neglected to mention in its proper place a suggestion of his, that some lines in the same drama bore a near resemblance to a part of Hamlet's celebrated soliloquy :
"But that the dread of something after death,—
Eurip. Hippol. v. 193. BOSWELl.