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But when in thee time's furrows I behold 9.
Presume not on thy heart, when mine is slain;
As an unperfect actor on the stage,
- time's FURROWs I behold,] Dr. Sewell reads:
Then look I death my days should EXPIATE.] I do not comprehend how the poet's days were to be expiated by death. Perhaps he wrote:
my days should expirate,"
i. e. bring them to an end. In this sense our author uses the verb expire, in Romeo and Juliet:
and expire the term
"Of a despised life."
I am sure I have met with the verb I would supply, though I have no example of it to offer in support of my conjecture. Shakspeare, however, delights to introduce words with this terminaThus we meet with festinate and conspirate, in King Lear; combinate, in Measure for Measure; and ruinate, in King Henry VI. STEEVENS.
The old reading is certainly right. Then do I expect, says Shakspeare, that death should fill up the measure of my days. The word expiate is used nearly in the same sense in the tragedy of Locrine, 1595:
"Lives Sabren yet to expiate my wrath?"
i. e. fully to satisfy my wrath.
So also, in Byron's Conspiracie, a tragedy by Chapman, 1608, an old courtier says, he is
"A poor and expiate humour of the court."
Again, in our author's King Richard III.:
"Make haste; the hour of death is expiate." MALONE.
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage, Whose strength's abundance weakens his own
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite;
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay, O'er-charg'd with burthen of mine own love's might. O, let my books be then the eloquence
2 As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put besides his part,] So, in Coriolanus:
"I have forgot my part, and I am out,
"Even to a full disgrace."
From the introductory lines of this Sonnet, it may be conjectured that these poems were not composed till our author had arrived in London, and became conversant with the stage. He had perhaps himself experienced what he here describes. MALONE.
It is highly probable that our author had seen plays represented, before he left his own country, by the servants of Lord Warwick. Most of our ancient noblemen had some company of comedians who enrolled themselves among their vassals, and sheltered themselves under their protection. See vol. v. p. 367, n. 7. STEEVENS.
The seeing a few plays exhibited by a company of strollers in a barn at Stratford, or in Warwick castle, would not however have made Shakspeare acquainted with the feelings of a timid actor on the stage. It has never been supposed that our author was himself a player before he came to London. Whether the lines before us were founded on experience, or observation, cannot now be ascertained. What I have advanced is merely conjectural.
3 O, let my BOOKS be then the eloquence-] A gentleman to whom I am indebted for the observations which are marked with the letter C, would read:
"O, let my looks," &c.
But the context, I think, shows that the old copy is right. The poet finding that he could not sufficiently collect his thoughts to express his esteem by speech, requests that his writings may speak for him. So afterwards:
"O, learn to read what silent love hath writ."
Had looks been the author's word, he hardly would have used it again in the next line but one. MALONE.
It is dangerous to make any alteration where the old copy is intelligible, or I should give a decided preference to the reading
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast *;
O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:
Mine eye hath play'd the painter, and hath steel'd
suggested by Mr. Malone's correspondent as much more poetical; the eloquence of looks is more in unison with love's fine wit, which can hear with eyes. So, Donne :
Her pure and eloquent blood
And Lord Byron, with still greater beauty, in his Bride of Abydos:
"The mind, the musick breathing from her face." BOSWELL. 4 And DUMB PRESAGERS of my speaking breast;] So, in King John:
"And sullen presage of your own decay." MALOne.
5 Mine eye hath play'd the PAINTER, and hath steel'd Thy beauty's form in TABLE OF MY HEART;] So, in All's Well that Ends Well:
'Twas pretty, though a plague,
"To see him ev'ry hour; to sit and draw
"His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls,
Again, in King John:
till I beheld myself
"Drawn in the flattering table of her eye."
A table was the ancient term for a picture. See vol. x. p. 315, n. 7. MALONE.
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee;
Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art, They draw but what they see, know not the heart.
Let those who are in favour with their stars,
6 Great princes' FAVOURITES their fair LEAVES spread, &c.] Compare Wolsey's speech in King Henry VIII. :
"This is the state of man: To-day he puts forth
7 The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil'd,
Is from the book of honour razed QUITE,] The old copy reads-famoused for worth, which not rhyming with the concluding word of the corresponding line, (quite) either one or the other must be corrupt. The emendation was suggested by Mr. Theobald, who likewise proposed, if worth was retained, to readrazed forth.
"Is from the book of honour razed quite," reminds us of Bolingbrooke's enumeration of the wrongs done to him by King Richard II. :
"From my own windows torn my houshold coat,
Again, in King Richard II. :
Then happy I, that love and am belov❜d,
Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
" 'tis not my meaning,
"To raze one title of your honour out." Malone.
This stanza is not worth the labour that has been bestowed on it. By transposition, however, the rhyme. may be recovered, without further change:
"The painful warrior for worth famoused,
"After a thousand victories once foil'd,
"Is from the book of honour quite razed—"
"My name be blotted from the book of life," is a line in King Richard II. STEEVENS.
Why it should not be worth while to correct this as well as any other manifest corruption in our author's works, I confess, I do not comprehend. Neither much labour, nor many words, have been employed upon it. MALOne.
8 Lord of my love, to whom in VASSALAGE
Thy merit hath MY DUTY STRONGLY KNIT ;] So, in Mac
"Command upon me; to the which my duties
your highness' part
"Is to receive our duty, and our duties
"Are to your throne and state children and servants.”
Again, in Antony and Cleopatra :
"To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts
"With an unslipping knot."
Again, in Othello: "I have profess'd myself thy friend, and I confess me knit to thy deserving with cables of perdurable toughness." MALone.
9 Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy MERIT hath my DUTY strongly KNIT;
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness DUTY, NOT TO SHOW MY WIT:] So, in the Dedication of The Rape of Lucrece: "The warrant I have of your