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When I have seen such interchange of state 3,
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
LXV. Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea, But sad mortality o'er-sways their power, How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea*, Whose action is no stronger than a flower ? 0, how shall summer's honey breath hold out Against the wreckful siege of battering days 5 When rocks impregnable are not so stout, Nor gates of steel so strong, but time decays? O fearful meditation ! where, alack, Shall time's best jewel from time's chest lie hid 6 ?
3 When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
When I have seen such interchange of state, &c.] So, in King Henry IV. Part II. :
“ O heaven! that one might read the book of fate;
" With diverse liquors!” C. 4 How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,] Shakspeare, I believe, wrote—with his rage,-i. e. with the rage of Mortality.
MALONE. 5 - SIEGE of battering days,] So, in Romeo and Juliet :
“ the siege of loving terms." STEEVENS. .6 O fearful meditation ! where, alack,
Shall time's best jewel from time's Chest lie hid?] I once thought Shakspeare might have written--from time's quest, but
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back ? Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid? ?
am now convinced that the old reading is right. “ Time's best jewel" is the person addressed, who, the author feared, would not že able to escape the devastation of time, but would fall a prey, however beautiful, to his all-subduing power. So, in his 48th Sonnet:
" thou, to whom my jewels trifles are,
“ Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art." This allusion is a favourite one of Shakspeare, for he has introduced it in several places. Thus again, in King Richard II. :
“ A jewel in a ten-times-barr’d-up chest
- Isa bold spirit in a loyal breast.” Again, in his Rape of Lucrece :
“ She wakes her heart hy beating on her breast,
“ Some purer chest, to close so pure a mind.”
“ An empty casket, where the jewel of life
“ By some damn’d villain was robb’d and ta’en away!” A similar conceit is found in an Epitaph on Prince Henry, eldest son of King James I. written in 1613 :
6. Within this marble casket lies
“ But shew'd, and then put up again.” The chest of Time is the repository where he lays up the most rare and curious productions of nature; one of which the poet
- vobis male sit, malæ tenebræ
Orci, quæ omnia bella devoratis. Catul. MALONE. Time's chest is the repository into which he is poetically supposed to throw those things which he designs to be forgotten. Thus, in Troilus and Cressida :
“ Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
“ Wherein he puts alms for oblivion.” Again, in Sonnet LII.:
“ So is the time that keeps you, as my chest." · The thief who evades pursuit, may be said with propriety to lie hid from justice, or from confinement. Steevens.
7 Or who his spoil or beauty can forbid ?] The reading of the quarto-his spoil or beauty, is manifestly a misprint.
Onone, unless this miracle have might,
Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
8 Tird with all these, &c.] ( ompare Hamlet's celebrated soliloquy with this Sonnet. C. · 9 And simple truth miscall’d simPLICITY,] Simplicity has here the signification of folly. MALONE.
And captive good attending CAPTAIN ill:] So, in Timon of Athens :
" the ass more captain than the lion." Again, in the 52d Sonnet:
« Like captain jewels in the carcanet.” Malone. 2 And LACE itself with his society ?] i. e. embellish itself. So, in Romeo and Juliet:
“- what envious streaks
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
O, him she stores, to show what wealth she had,
3 And steal dead seeing of his living hue ?] Dr. Farmer would read-seeming. MALONE.
4 — the MAP OF DAYS OUT-WORN,] So, in The Rape of Lucrece:
“Even so this pattern of the worn-out age
“ Pawn'd honest looks—." MALONE, 3 Before these bastard signs of FAIR were borne,] Fair was formerly used as a substantive, for beauty. MALONE. 6 Before the GOLDEN TRESSes of the dead,
THE RIGHT OF SEPULCHRES, were shorn away,
To live a second life on SECOND HEAD ;] Our author has again inveighed against this practice in The Merchant of Venice:
“ So are those crisped snaky golden locks,
“ The skull that bred them in the sepulchre." Again, in Timon of Athens :
"- thatch your poor thin roofs
“With burdens of the dead." So, in Swetnam Arraigned by Women, a comedy, 1620 :
“ She'll instruct them how
In him those holy antique hours are seen,
And him as for a map doth nature store,
own, In other accents do this praise confound, By seeing farther than the eye hath shown.
“For man to gaze at on a midsummer-night.” In our author's time, the false hair usually worn, perhaps in compliment to the queen, was of a sandy colour. Hence the epithet golden. See Hentzner's Account of Queen Elizabeth.
MALONE. 7 Without all ornament, ITSELF, and true,] Surely we ought to read himself, and true. In him the primitive simplicity of ancient times may be observed ; in him, who scorns all adscititious ornaments, who appears in his native genuine state, [himself and true,] &c. MALONE.
Itself is without any thing artificial by which it would be disguised, and would not be known to be itself. Boswell.
8 All tongues (the voice of souls) give thee that due,] The quarto has—that end. For the present emendation (which the rhyme requires) the reader is indebted to Mr. Tyrwhitt. The letters that compose the word due were probably transposed at the press, and the u inverted. MALONE.
9 Thine outward-] The quarto reads--- Their. MALONE.