Imagens da página

That yarely frame the office. From the barge

lucky imitation of semi-fishes. Like poor Elkanah Settle, in his dragon of green leather, they could only wag the remigium caudæ without ease, variety, or even a chance of labouring into a grace. ful curve. I will undertake, in short, the expense of providing characteristick tails for any set of mimick Nereides, if my opponent will engage to teach them the exercise of these adscititious terminations, so “as to render them a grace instead of a deformity.” In such an attempt a party of British chambermaids would prove as docile as an equal number of Egyptian maids of honour.

It may be added also, that the Sirens and descendants of Ne. reus, are understood to have been complete and beautiful wo. men, whose breed was uncrossed by the salmon or dolphin tribes ; and as such they are uniformly described by Greek and Roman poets. Antony, in a future scene, (though perhaps with reference to this adventure on the Cydnus,) has styled Cleopatra his Thetis, a goddess whose train of Nereids is circumstantially de. picted by Homer, though without a hint that the vertebræ of their backs were lengthened into tails. Extravagance of shape is only met with in the lowest orders of oceanick and terrestrial deities. Tritons are furnished with fins and tails, and Satyrs have horns and hoofs. But a Nereid's tail is an unclassical image adopted from modern sign-posts, and happily exposed to ridi. cule by Hogarth, in his print of Strolling Actresses dressing in a Barn. What Horace too has reprobated as a disgusting combination, can never hope to be received as a pattern of the graceful:

“ ut turpiter atrum

“ Desinat in piscem mulier formosa superne." I allow that the figure at the helm of the vessel was likewise a Mermaid or Nereid; but all mention of a tail is wanting there, as in every other passage throughout the dramas of our author, in which a Mermaid is introduced.

For reasons like these, (notwithstanding in support of our commentator's appendages, and the present female fashion of bolstered hips and cork rumps, we might read, omitting only a single letter-" made their ends adornings;”-and though I have not forgotten Bayes's advice to an actress “Always, madam, up with your end,”) I should unwillingly confine the graces of Cleopatra's Nereids, to the flexibility of their pantomimick tails. For these, however ornamentally wreathed like Virgil's snake, or respectfully lowered like a lictor's fasces, must have afforded less decoration thạn the charms diffused over their unsophisticated parts, I mean, the bending of their necks and arms, the rise and fall of their bosoms, and the general elegance of submission paid by them to the vanity of their royal mistress..

The plain sense of the contested passage seems to be that these Ladies rendered that homage which their assumed characters obliged them to pay to their Queen, a circumstance ornamental to themselves. Each inclined her person so gracefully,

A strange invisible perfume hits the sense

[ocr errors]

that the very act of humiliation was an improvement of her own beauty.

The foregoing notes supply a very powerful instance of the uncertainty of verbal criticism; for here we meet with the same phrase explained with reference to four different images-Bows, GROUPS, Eyes, and tails. Steevens.

A passage in Drayton's Mortimeriados, quarto, no date, may serve to illustrate that before us :

“ The naked nymphes, some up, some downe descending,
“Small scattering Aowres one at another fung,

“ With pretty turns their lymber bodies bending, "
I once thought, their bends referred to Cleopatra's eyes, and
not to her gentlewomen. Her attendants, in order to learn their
mistress's will, watched the motion of her eyes, the bends or
movements of which added new lustre to her beauty, See the
quotation from Shakspeare's 149th Sonnet, p. 244.

In our author we frequently find the word bend applied to the eye. Thus, in the first Act of this play:

those his goodly eyes

“ now bend, now turn,” &c. Again, in Cymbeline :

“ Although they wear their faces to the bertt

“Of the king's looks." Again, more appositely, in Fulius Cesar :

" And that same eye, whose bend doth awe the world." Mr. Mason, remarking on this interpretation, acknowledges that “ their bends may refer to Cleopatra's eyes, but the word made must refer to her gentle women, and it would be absurd to say that they made the bends of her eyes adornings.” Assertion is much easier than proof. In what does the absurdity consist? They thus standing near Cleopatra, and discovering her will by the eyes, were the cause of her appearing more beautiful, in consequence of the frequent motion of her eyes; i. e. (in Shakspeare's language) this their situation and office was the cause, &c. We have, in every page of this author such diction. But I shall not detain the reader any longer on so clear a point; especially as I now think that the interpretation of these words given originally by Dr. Warburton is the true one.

Bend being formerly sometimes used for a band or troop, Mr, Tollet very idly supposes that the word has that meaning here.

Malone. I had determined not to enter into a controversy with the editors on the subject of any of my former comments; but I cannot resist the impulse I feel, to make a few remarks on the strica tures of Mr. Steevens, both on the amendment I proposed in this passage, and my explanation of it; for if I could induce him to accede to my opinion, it would be the highest gratification to me.

His objection to the amendment I have proposed, that of read. ing in the guise instead of in the eyes, is, that the phrase in the

Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
Her people out upon her; and Antony,

guise cannot be properly used, without adding somewhat to it, to determine precisely the meaning; and this, as a general observation, is perfectly just, but it does not apply in the present case; for the preceding lines,

Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,

So many mermaids, and the subsequent line,

A secming mermaid steers; very clearly point out the meaning of the word guise. If you ask in what guise? I answer in the guise of mermaids; and the connection is sufficiently clear even for prose, without claiming any allowance for poetical licence. But this objection may be entirely done away, by reading that guise instead of the guise, which I should have adopted, if it had not departed somewhat farther from the text.

With respect to my explanation of the words, and made their bends adornings, I do not think that Mr. Steevens's objections are equally well founded.

He says that a mermaid's tail is an unclassical image, adopted from modern sign posts: that such a being as a mermaid did never actually exist, I will readily acknowledge. But the idea, is not of modern invention. In the oldest books of heraldry you will find mermaids delineated in the same form that they are at this day. The crest of my own family, for some centuries, has been a mermaid; and the Earl of Howth, of a family much more ancient, which came into England with the Conqueror, has a mermaid for one of his supporters.

Boyse tells us, in his Pantheon, on what authority I cannot say, that the Syrens were the daughters of Achelous, that their lower parts were like fishes, and their upper parts like women; and Virgil's description of Scylla, in his third Æneid, corresponds exactly with our idea of a mermaid:

“ Prima hominis facies, and pulchro pectore virgo

“ Pube tenus, postrema immani corpore pristis.” I have, therefore, no doubt but this was Shakspeare's idea also. Mr. Steevens's observations on the aukward and ludicrous situa. tion of Cleopatra's attendants, when involved in their fishes' tails, is very jocular and well imagined; but his jocularity proceeds from his not distinguishing between reality and deception. If a modern fine lady were to represent a mermaid at a masquerade, she would contrive, I have no doubt, to dress in that character, yet to preserve the free use of all her limbs, and that with ease; for the mermaid is not described as resting on the extremity of her tail, but on one of the bends of it, sufficiently broad to conceal the feet.

Notwithstanding the arguments of Malone and Steevens, and the deference I have for their opinions, I can find no sense in the passage as they have printed it. M. Mason.

Enthron'd in the market-place, did sit alone,
Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,
Had gones to gaze on Cleopatra too,
And made a gap in nature.

Rare Egyptian!
Eno. Upon her landing, Antony sent to her,
Invited her to supper: she replied,
It should be better, he became her guest;
Which she entreated : Our courteous Antony,
Whom ne'er the word of No woman heard speak,
Being barber'd ten times o'er, goes to the feast;
And, for his ordinary, pays his heart,
For what his eyes eat only.
- Agr.

Royal wench!
She made great Cæsar lay his sword to bed;
He plough'd her, and she cropp’d.

I saw her once
Hop forty paces through the public street:
And having lost her breath, she spoke, and panted, .
That she did make defect, perfection,
And, breathless, power breathe forth.

Mec. Now Antony must leave her utterly.

Eno. Never; he will not ;
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety:7 Other women

4 That yarely frame the office.] i. e. readily and dexterously perform the task they undertake. See Vol. II, p. 9, n. 2. Steevens. 5- which, but for vacancy,

Had gone -] Alluding to an axiom in the peripatetic philo. sophy then in vogue, that Nature abhors a vacuum. "Warburton.

But for vacancy, means, for fear of a vacuum. Malone. 8 For what his eyes eat only.] Thus Martial :

Inspexit molles pueros, oculisque comedit." Steevens. 7 Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale

Her infinite variety:] Such is the praise bestowed by Shak. speare on his heroine ; a praise that well deserves the consideration of our female readers. Cleopatra, as appears from the te. tradrachms of Antony, was no Venus; and indeed the majority of ladies who most successfully enslaved the hearts of princes, are known to have been less remarkable for personal than mental attractions. The reign of insipid beauty is seldom lasting; but permanent must be the rule of a woman who can diversify the sameness of life by an inexhausted variety of accomplishments. To stale is a verb employed by Heywood, in The Iron Age, 1632:

“One that hath staid his courtly tricks at home.” Steevens.

Cloy th' appetites they feed; but she makes hungry,
Where most she satisfies. For vilest things
Become themselves in her;" that the holy priests!
Bless her, when she is riggish.2

Mec. If beauty, wisdom, modesty, can settle
The heart of Antony, Octavia is
A blessed lottery to him.3

8_ Other women
Cloy th' appetites they feed; but she makes hungry,

Where most she satisfies.] Almost the same thought, clothed nearly in the same expressions, is found in the old play of Pericles :

*“ Who starves the ears she feeds, and makes them hungry,

“ The more she gives them speech.” Again, in our author's Venus and Adonis :

“ And yet not cloy thy lips with loath'd satiety,

“ But rather famish them amid their plenty." Malone, 9 For vilest things Become themselves in her;] So, in our author's 150th Sonnet:

Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill .?Malone. 1- the holy priests, &c.] In this, and the foregoing description of Cleopatra's passage down the Cydnus, Dryden seems to have emulated Shakspeare, and not without success:

" she's dangerous :
“ Her eyes have power beyond Thessalian charms,
“ To draw the moon from heaven. For eloquence,
“ The sea-green sirens taught her voice their flattery;
“ And, while she speaks, night steals upon the day,
“ Unmark'd of those that hear: Then, she's so charming,
“Age buds at sight of her, and swells to youth:
“ The holy priests gaze on her when she smiles;
“ And with heav'd hands, forgetting gravity,
“ They bless her wanton eyes. Even I who hate her,
“ With a malignant joy behold such beauty,

“ And while I curse desire it.” Be it remembered, however, that, in both instances, without a spark from Shakspeare, the blaze of Dryden might not have been enkindled. Reed.

2 when she is riggish.] Rigg is an ancient word meaning a strumpet. So, in Whetstone's Castle of Delight, 1576:

Then loath they will both lust and wanton love,

“ Or else be sure such ryggs my care shall prove." Again:

“ Immodest rigg, I Ovid's counsel usde.”
Again, in Churchyard's Dolorous Gentlewoman, 1593:

“ About the streets was gadding, gentle rigge,
“ With clothes tuckt up to set bad ware to sale,

For youth good stuffe, and for olde age a stale.” Steevens. 3 Octavia is

A blessed lottery to him.] Dr. Warburton says, the poet

« AnteriorContinuar »