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If the cat will after kind,
He that sweetest rose will find,
This is the very false gallop of verses 2; Why do you infect yourself with them.
Ros. Peace, you dull fool; I found them on a
TOUCH. Truly, the tree yields bad fruit.
Ros. I'll graff it with you, and then I shall graff it with a medlar: then it will be the earliest fruit 3 in the country for you'll be rotten e'er you be half ripe, and that's the right virtue of the medlar.
TOUCH. You have said; but whether wisely or no, let the forest judge.
Enter CELIA, reading a paper.
Here comes my sister, reading; stand aside.
CEL. Why should this desert silent be?
2 This is the very FALSE GALLOP OF VERSES ;] So, in Nashe's Apologie of Pierce Pennilesse, 4to. 1593: "I would trot a false gallop through the rest of his ragged verses, but that if I should retort the rime doggrell aright, I must make my verses (as he doth his) run hobbling, like a brewer's cart upon the stones, and observe no measure in their feet." MALONE.
the EARLIEST fruit-] Shakspeare seems to have had little knowledge in gardening. The medlar is one of the latest fruits, being uneatable till the end of November. STEEVENS.
• Why should this desert SILENT be?] The word silent is not in
Tongues I'll hang on every tree,
Runs his erring pilgrimage;
Buckles in his sum of age.
'Twixt the souls of friend and friend:
Will I Rosalinda write;
the old copy. Mr. Pope attempted to correct the passage by reading "Why should this a desert be?" The present judicious emendation was made by Mr. Tyrwhitt, who justly observes that "the hanging of tongues on every tree would not make it less a desert." MALONE.
This is commonly printed:
"Why should this a desert be?
But although the metre may be assisted by this correction, the sense still is defective; for how will the hanging of tongues on every tree, make it less a desert? I am persuaded we ought to read:
Why should this desert silent be? TYRWHITT.
The notice which this emendation deserves, I have paid to it, by inserting it in the text. STEEVENS.
Yet see the last sentence of Johnson's note immediately following, which will obviate the necessity of Mr. Tyrwhitt's emendation, if we adopt the slight insertion proposed by Mr. Pope.
5 That shall CIVIL sayings show.] Civil is here used in the same sense as when we say civil wisdom or civil life, in opposition to a solitary state, or to the state of nature. This desert shall not appear unpeopled, for every tree shall teach the maxims or incidents of social life. JOHNSON.
Civil, I believe, is not designedly opposed to solitary. It means only grave, or solemn. So, in The Twelfth-Night, Act III. Sc. IV.: "Where is Malvolio? he is sad, and civil." i. e. grave and demure.
Again, in A Woman's Prize, by Beaumont and Fletcher : "That fourteen yards of satin give my woman;
"I do not like the colour; 'tis too civil." STEEVENS.
The quintessence of every sprite
6 in LITTLE show,] The allusion is to a miniature-portrait. The current phrase in our author's time was painted in little."
a hundred ducats a-piece, for his picture
So, in Hamlet: " in little." STEEVENS.
7 Therefore heaven nature charg'd-] From the picture of Apelles, or the accomplishments of Pandora: Πανδωρην οτι πανίες Ολυμπια δώματ' εχονίες Δωρον εδωρησαν.—
"So perfect, and so peerless, art created
"Of every creature's best." Tempest. Perhaps from this passage Swift had his hint of Biddy Floyd.
8 Atalanta's BETTER PART;] I know not well what could be the better part of Atalanta here ascribed to Rosalind. Of the Atalanta most celebrated, and who therefore must be intended here where she has no epithet of discrimination, the better part seems to have been her heels, and the worse part was so bad that Rosalind would not thank her lover for the comparison. There is a more obscure Atalanta, a huntress and a heroine, but of her nothing bad is recorded, and therefore I know not which was her better part. Shakspeare was no despicable mythologist, yet he seems here to have mistaken some other character for that of Atalanta. JOHNSON.
Perhaps the poet means her beauty and graceful elegance of shape, which he would prefer to her swiftness. Thus Ovid:
nec dicere posses,
Laude pedum, formæne bono præstantior esset.
But cannot Atalanta's better part mean her virtue or virgin
Thus Rosalind of many parts
chastity, with which nature had graced Rosalind, together with Helen's beauty without her heart or lewdness, with Cleopatra's dignity of behaviour, and with Lucretia's modesty, that scorned to survive the loss of honour? Pliny's Natural History, b. xxXV. c. iii. mentions the portraits of Atalanta and Helen, utraque excellentissima forma, sed altera ut virgo; that is, "both of them for beauty, incomparable, and yet a man may discerne the one [Atalanta] of them to be a maiden, for her modest and chaste countenance," as Dr. P. Holland translated the passage; of which probably our poet had taken notice, for surely he had judgment in painting. TOLLET.
I suppose Atalanta's better part is her wit, i. e. the swiftness of her mind. FARMER.
Dr. Farmer's explanation may derive some support from a subsequent passage: as swift a wit as Atalanta's heels." It is observable that the story of Atalanta in the tenth book of Ovid's Metamorphosis is interwoven with that of Venus and Adonis, which our author had undoubtedly read. The lines most material to the present point run thus in Golding's translation, 1567:
She overcame them out of doubt; and hard it is to tell "Thee, whether she did in footemanshippe or beautie more
- he did condemne the young men's love. But when "He saw her face and body bare, (for why, the lady then "Did strip her to her naked skin,) the which was like to mine, "Or rather, if that thou wast made a woman, like to thine, "He was amaz'd."
And though that she
"Did flie as swift as arrow from a Turkie bow, yet hee
More wondered at her beautie, then at swiftnesse of her pace; "Her running greatly did augment her beautie and her grace." MALONE. Shakspeare might have taken part of this enumeration of distinguished females from John Grange's Golden Aphroditis, 1577: who seemest in my sight faire Helen of Troy, Polixene, Calliope, yea Atalanta hir selfe in beauty to surpasse, Pandora in qualities, Penelope and Lucretia in chastenesse to deface." Again, ibid. :
"Polixene fayre, Caliop, and
"Penelop may give place;
Atalanta and dame Lucres fayre
Of many faces, eyes, and hearts,
Ros. O most gentle Jupiter!-what tedious homily of love have you wearied your parishioners withal, and never cry'd, Have patience, good people!
CEL. How now! back friends;-Shepherd, go off a little :-Go with him, sirrah.
TOUCH. Come, shepherd, let us make an honourable retreat; though not with bag and baggage, yet with scrip and scrippage.
[Exeunt CORIN and TOUCHSTOne. CEL. Didst thou hear these verses ? Ros. O, yes, I heard them all, and more too;
Again, ibid.: "Atalanta who sometyme bore the bell of beauties price in that hyr native soyle."
It may be obseryed, that Statius also, in his sixth Thebaid, has confounded Atalanta the wife of Hippomenes, and daughter of Siconeus, with Atalanta the daughter of Enomaus, and wife of Pelops. See v. 564.
After all, I believe, that "Atalanta's better part" means onlythe best part about her, such as was most commended.
See a very ingenious disquisition on this passage by Mr. Whiter, in his Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare.
I think this stanza was formed on an old tetrastick epitaph, which, as I have done, Mr. Steevens may possibly have read in a country church-yard:
"She who is dead and sleepeth in this tomb,
"Had Rachel's comely face, and Leah's fruitful womb : "Sarah's obedience, Lydia's open heart,
"And Martha's care, and Mary's better part." WHalley. 9 Sad-] Is grave, sober, not light. JOHNSON.
So, in Much Ado About Nothing: "She is never sad but when she sleeps." STEEVENS.
1- the touches-] The features; les traits. JOHNSON. So, in King Richard III. :
Madam, I have a touch of your condition." STEEvens.