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[To AGAM And thou most reverend for thy stretch'd-out life,
[To Nest. I give to both your speeches, which were such, As Agamemnon and the hand of Greece Should hold up high in brass; and such again, As venerable Nestor, hatch'd in silver, Should with a bond of air (strong as the axletrees On which heaven rides) knit all the Greekish ears To his experienc'd tongue, '-yet let it please both
8 axletree - This word was anciently contracted into a dissyllable. Thus in Beaumont and Fletcher's Bonduca:
" when the mountain
To his experienc id tongue,) Ulysses begins his oration witla praising those who had spoken before him, and marks the characteristick excellencies of their different eloquence,--strength, and sweetness, which he expresses by the different metals on which he recommends them to be engraven for the instruction of posterity. The speech of Agamemnon is such that it ought to be engraven in brass, and the tablet held up by him on the one side, and Greece on the other, to show the union of their opinion. And Nestor ought to be exhibited in silver, uniting all bis audience in one mind by his soft and gentle elocution. Brass is the common emblem of strength, and silver of gentleness. We call a soft voice a silver voice, and a persuasive tongue a silver tongue. I once read for hand, the band of Greece, but I think the text right. The hatch is a term of art for a particular me. thod of engraving. Hacher, to cut, Fr. Johnson.
In the description of Agamemnon's speech, there is a plain allusion to the old custom of engraving laws and public records
Thou great,and wise,
to hear Ulysses speak.
in brass, and hanging up the tables in temples, and other places of general resort. Our author has the same allusion in Measure for Measure, Act V, sc. i. The Duke, speaking of the merit of Angelo and Escalus, says, that .
“ it deserves with characters of brass
“ And razure of oblivion " So far therefore is clear. Why Nestor is said to be hatch'd in silver, is much more obscure I once thought that we ought to read,—thatch'd in silver, alluding to his silver hair ; the same metaphor being used by Timon, Act IV, sc. iv, to Phryne and Ti. mandra:
" thatch your poor thin roofs
“With burthens of the dead ." But I know not whether the present reading may not be under. stood to convey the same allusion; as I find, that the species of engraving, called hatching, was particularly used in the hilts of swords. See Cotgrave in v. Haché; hacked, &c. also, Hatched, as the hilt of a sword; and in v. Hacher; to hacke, &c. also, to hatch a hilt. Beaumont and Fletcher's Custom of the Country, Vol. II, p. 90:
“ When thine own bloody sword cried out against thee,
« Hutch'd in the life of bim ! As to what follows, if the reader should have no more conception than I have, of
“ a bond of air, strong as the axle-tree
“On which heaven rides; " he will perhaps excuse me for hazarding a conjecture, that the true reading may possibly be:
a bond of awe, The expression is used by Fairfax, in his 4th Eclogue, Muses Library, p. 368:
“Unto these bonds of awe and cords of duty." After all, the construction of this passage is very harsh and irregular; but with that I meddle not, believing it was left so by the author. Tyrwhitt.
Perhaps no alteration is necessary: hatch'd in silver, may mean, whose white hair and beard make him look like a figure engraved on silver.
The word is metaphorically used by Heywood, in The Iron Age, 1632:
- his face “ Is hatch'd with impudency three-fold thick." And again, in Beaumont and Fletcher's Humorous Lieutenannt :
“ His weapon hatch'd in blood.” Again, literally, in The Two Merry Milkmaids, 1620:
“ Double and treble gilt,
“ Hatch'd and inlaid, not to be worn with time." VOL. XII.
Agam. Speak, a prince of Ithaca; and be 't of less ex
Again, more appositely, in Love in a Maze, 1632:
" Thy hair is fine as gold, thy chin is hatch'd
“ With silver " Again, in Chapman's version of the 23d Iliad:
“Shall win this sword, silver'd and hatch'd; ." The voice of Nestor, which on all occasions enforced attention, might be, I think, not unpoetically called, a bond of air, because its operations were visible, though his voice, like the wind, was unseen. Steevens.
In a newspaper of the day, intitled The Newes published for Satisfaction and Information of the People, Nov. 12, 1663, No. XI, p. 86, is advertized, “ Löst, in Scotland Yard, a broad sword hatcht with silver.” Reed.
In the following verses in our author's Rape of Lucrece, nearly the same picture of Nestor is given. The fifth line of the first stanza may lead us to the true interpretation of the words hatch'd in silver. In a subsequent passage the colour of the old man's beard is again mentioned:
“I'll hide my silver beard in a gold beaver." Dr. Johnson therefore is undoubtedly mistaken in supposing that there is any allusion to the soft voice or silver tongue of Nestor. The poet, however, might mean not merely that Nestor looked like a figure engraved in silver (as Mr. Steevens supposes); but that he should actually be so engraved.
With respect to the breath or speech of Nestor, here called a dond of air, it is so truly Shakspearian, that I have not the smallest doubt of the genuineness of the expression. Shakspeare frequently calls words wind, and air. So, in one of his poems:
'" sorrow ebbs, being blown with wind of words." Again, in komeo and Juliet:
1 Three civil broils, bred of an airy word.” Again, more appositely, in Much Ado about Nothing:
“ Charın ache with air, and agony with words." The verses above alluded to are these:
“ There pleading you might see grave Nestor stand,
That matter needless, of importless burden,
Ulyss. Troy, yet upon his Davis, had been down,
What is here called speech that beguil'd attention, is in the text a bond of air; i. e. breath, or words that strongly enforced the attention of his auditors. In the same poem we find a kindred espression:
“Feast-finding minstrels, tuning my defame,
" Will tie the hearers to attend each line." Again, more appositely, in Drayton's Mortimeriados, 4to. no date:
" Torlton, whose tongue men's ears in chains could bind.” The word knit, which alone remains to be noticed, is often used by Shakspeare in the same manner. So, in Macbeth:
" to the which my duties
« For ever knit." Again, in Otheilo: "I have profess'd me thy friend, and I confess me knit to the deserving with cables of perdurable toughness."
A passage in Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie, 1589, may illustrate that before us: “Whether now persuasions may not be said violent and forcible, especially to simple myndes, in special I refer to all men's judgement that hear the story. At least waies I finde this opinion confirmed by a pretie device or embleme that Lucianus alleageih he saw in the portrait of Hercules within the citie of Marseilles in Provence; where they had figured a lustie old man with a long chayne tred by one end at his tong, by the other end at the people's enres, who stood afar off, and seemed to be drarven to him by force of that chayne fastened to his to g; as who would say, by force of his persuasions." Malone Thus, in Chapinan's version of the 13th Oct;ssey:
“ He said; and silence all their tongues contain'd
" Their ears had long been to him.” Steevens. i Thou great,--and wise,! This passage is sense as it stands; yet I have little doubt that Shakspeare wrote
Though great and wise, — M. Mason. 2 Agam. Speak, &c ] This speech is not in the quarto. Johnson. . 3. expect ] Expect for expectation. Thus, in our author's works, we have suspect for suspicion, &c. Steevens. 4— Hector's sword had lack'd a master,] So, in Cymbeline :
“ gains, or loses,
5 The specialty of rule ---] The particular rights of supreme authority. Fohnson.
6 Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions. The word hollow, at the beginning of the line, injures the metre, without improving the sense, and should probably be struck out.
M. Mason. I would rather omit the word in the second instance. To stand einpty, (hollow, as Shakspeare calls it,) is a provincial phrase applied to bouses which have no tenants. These factions, however, were avowed, not hollow, or insidious. Remove the word hollow, at the beginning of the verse, and every tent in sight would be. come chargeable as the quondam residence of a factious chief: for the plain sense must then be there are as many hollow fac. tions as there are tents. Steevens.
7 When that the general is not like the hive,] The meaning is,When the general is not to the army like the hive to the bees, the repository of the stock of every individual, that to which each particular resorts with whatever he has collected for the good of the whole, what honey is expected? what hope of advantage? The sense is clear, the expression is confused. Johnson.
8 The heavens themselves,] This illustration was probably derived from a passage in Hooker: “If celestial spheres should forget their wonted motion; if the prince of the lights of heaven should begin to stand; if the moon should wander from her beaten way; and the seasons of the year blend themselves; what would be. come of man?” Warburton.
9 the planets, and this center, li.e. the center of the earth, which, according to the Ptolemaic system, then in vogue, is the center of the solar system. Warburton.'
By this center, Ulysses means the earth itself, not the center of the earth. According to the system of Ptolemy, the earth is the center round which the planets move." M. Mason.