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The Walls of Athens.
Enter Two Senators, and a Messenger.
1 SEN. Thou hast painfully discover'd; are his files
As full as thy report ?
2 SEN. We stand much hazard, if they bring not Timon.
I have spoke the least:
MESS. I met a courier1, one mine ancient friend2;
Whom, though in general part we were oppos'd, Yet our old love made a particular force,
Dear may, in the present instance, signify immediate, or imminent. It is an enforcing epithet with not always a distinct meaning. To enumerate each of the seemingly various senses in which it may be supposed to have been used by our author, would at once fatigue the reader and myself.
In the following situations, however, it cannot signify either dire or dreadful:
"Consort with me in loud and dear petition."
Troilus and Cressida.
Some dear cause "Will in concealment wrap me up a while." King Lear. STEEVENS.
It seems, in all these instances, to mean-greatest, most important. So, in Othello:
"For since these arms of mine had seven years' pith,
"Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used
See vol. ix. p. 257, where Mr. Malone gives the same explanation. Boswell.
.I — a COURIER,] The players read-a currier. STEEVENS. Mr. Upton would read-once
-ONE mine ancient friend;]
mine ancient friend. STEEvens.
And made us speak like friends":-this man was riding
From Alcibiades to Timon's cave,
With letters of entreaty, which imported
Enter Senators from TIMON.
Here come our brothers. 3 SEN. No talk of Timon, nothing of him expect.
The enemies' drum is heard, and fearful scouring Doth choke the air with dust: In, and prepare ; Ours is the fall, I fear, our foes the snare. [Exeunt.
The Woods. TIMON'S Cave, and a Tomb-stone
Enter a Soldier, seeking TIMON.
SOLD. By all description this should be the place.
3 WHOм, though in general part we were oppos'd,
Yet our old love made a particular force,
And made us SPEAK like friends :] Our author, hurried away by strong conceptions, and little attentive to minute accuracy, takes great liberties in the construction of sentences. he means, • Whom, though we were on opposite sides in the publick cause, yet the force of our old affection wrought so much upon as to make him speak to me as a friend. See p. 419, n. 1.
I am fully convinced that this and many other passages of our author to which similar remarks are annexed, have been irretrieveably corrupted by transcribers or printers, and could not have proceeded, in their present state, from the pen of Shakspeare; for what we cannot understand in the closet, must have been wholly useless on the stage. The aukward repetition of the verbmade, very strongly countenances my present observation.
Who's here? speak, ho!-No answer?-What is this?
Timon is dead, who hath outstretch'd his span: Some beast rear'd this; there does not live a man 1. Dead, sure; and this his grave.—
4 Some beast REAR'D this; there does not live a man.] [Old copy-read this.] Some beast read what? The Soldier had yet only seen the rude pile of earth heaped up for Timon's grave, and not the inscription upon it. We should read: Some beast rear'd this;
The Soldier seeking, by order, for Timon, sees such an irregular mole, as he concludes must have been the workmanship of some beast inhabiting the woods; and such a cavity as must either have been so over-arched, or happened by the casual falling in of the ground. WARBURTON.
The Soldier (says Theobald) had yet only seen the rude pile of earth heaped up for Timon's grave, and not the inscription upon it." In support of his emendation, which was suggested to him by Dr. Warburton, he quotes these lines from Fletcher's Cupid's Revenge :
"Here is no food, nor beds; nor any house
"Built by a better architect than beasts." MALone. Notwithstanding this remark, I believe the old reading to be the right. "The soldier had only seen the rude heap of earth." He had evidently seen something that told him Timon was dead; and what could tell that but his tomb? The tomb he sees, and the inscription upon it, which not being able to read, and finding none to read it for him, he exclaims peevishly, "some beast read this," for it must be read, and in this place it cannot be read by man.
There is something elaborately unskilful in the contrivance of sending a Soldier, who cannot read, to take the epithet in wax, only that it may close the play by being read with more solemnity in the last scene. JOHNSON.
I am convinced that the emendation made by Mr. Theobald is right, and that it ought to be admitted into the text :-Some beast rear'd this. Our poet certainly would not make the Soldier call on a beast to read the inscription, before he had informed the audience that he could not read it himself; which he does afterwards.
Besides; from the time he asks, "What is this?" [i. e. what is this cave, tomb, &c. not what is this inscription?] to the words, "What's on this tomb,"-the observation evidently relates to Timon himself, and his grave; whereas, by the erroneous reading of the old copy, "Some beast read this,"—the Soldier is first made
What's on this tomb I cannot read; the character
Our captain hath in every figure skill;
Before the Walls of Athens.
Trumpets sound. Enter ALCIBIADES, and Forces.
to call on a beast to read the inscription, without assigning any reason for so extraordinary a requisition ;-then to talk of Timon's death and of his grave; and, at last, to inform the audience that he cannot read the inscription. Let me add, that a beast being as unable to read as the Soldier, it would be absurd to call on one for assistance; whilst on the other hand, if a den or cave, or any rude heap of earth resembling a tomb, be found where "there does not live a man," it is manifest that it must have been formed by a beast.
A passage in King Lear also adds support to the emendation: this hard house,
"More hard than are the stones whereof 'tis rais'd."
It is evident, that the Soldier, when he first sees the heap of earth, does not know it to be a tomb. He concludes Timon must be dead, because he receives no answer. It is likewise evident, that when he utters the words some beast, &c. he has not seen the inscription. And Dr. Warburton's emendation is therefore, not only just and happy, but absolutely necessary. "What can this heap of earth be? (says the Soldier ;) Timon is certainly dead: some beast must have erected this, for here does not live a man to do it. Yes, he is dead, sure enough, and this must be his grave. What is this writing upon it?" RITSON.
The foregoing observations are acute in the extreme, and I have not scrupled to adopt the reading they recommend.
Enter Senators on the W alls.
Till now you have gone on, and fill'd the time
Our sufferance vainly: Now the time is flush
Noble, and young, When thy first griefs were but a mere conceit, Ere thou hadst power, or we had cause of fear, We sent to thee; to give thy rages balm, To wipe out our ingratitude with loves Above their quantity".
TRAVERS'D arms,] Arms across. The same image occurs in The Tempest : "His arms in this sad knot." STEEVENS.
6 the time is FLUSH,] A bird is flush when his feathers are grown, and he can leave the nest. Flush is mature. JOHNSON.
7 When crouching marrow, in the bearer strong,
Cries, of itself, NO MORE:] The marrow was supposed to be the original of strength. The image is from a camel kneeling to take up his load, who rises immediately when he finds he has as much laid on as he can bear. WARBURTON.
Pliny says, that the camel will not carry more than his accustomed and usual load. Holland's Translation, b. viii. c. xviii.
The image may as justly be said to be taken from a porter or coal-heaver, who when there is as much laid upon his shoulders as he can bear, will certainly cry, no more. MALONE.
I wish the reader may not find himself affected in the same manner by our commentaries, and often concur in a similar exclamation. STEEVENS.
8 Above THEIR quantity.] Their refers to rages,