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When rank Thersites opes his mastiff jaws,
Ulyss. Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
Hector's sword had lack'd a master,] So, in Cymbeline :
gains, or loses, “ Your sword, or mine; or masterless leaves both—".
STEEVENS. . The specialty of rule-] The particular rights of supreme authority. Johnson. Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.]
The word hollow, at the beginning of the line, injures the metre, without improving the sense, and should probably be struck out.
M. Mason. I would rather omit the word in the second instance. To stand empty, (hollow, as Shakspeare calls it,) is 'a provincial phrase applied to houses which have no tenants. These factions, however, were avowed, not hollow, or insidious. Remove the word hollow, at the beginning of the verse, and every tent in sight would become chargeable as the quondam residence of a factious chief; for the plain sense must then be there are as many hollow factions as there are tents. STEEVENS.
8 When that the general is not like the hive, ] The meaning is,-When the general is not to the army like the hive to the bees, the repository of the stock of every individual, that to which each particular resorts with whatever he has collected for the good of the whole, what honey is expected? what hope of advantage? The sense is clear, the expression is confused.
The heavens themselves, the planets, and this
center, Observe degree, priority, and place, Insisture, course, proportion, season, form, Office, and custom, in all line of order: And therefore is the glorious planet, Sol, In noble eminence enthron'd and spher'd Amidst the other; whose med'cinable eye Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil, And posts, like the commandment of a king, Sans check, to good and bad: But, when the planets, In evil mixture, to disorder wander,3
9 The heavens themselves,] This illustration was probably derived from a passage in Hooker: “ If celestial spheres should forget their wonted motion ; if the prince of the lights of heaven should begin to stand ; if the moon should wander from her beaten way; and the seasons of the year blend themselves; what would become of man?” WARBURTON.
'—the planets, and this center,] i. e. the center of the earth, which, according to the Ptolemaic system, then in vogue, is the center of the solar system. WARBURTON.
By this center, Ulysses means the earth itself, not the center of the earth. According to the system of Ptolemy, the earth is the center round which the planets move. M. Mason.
* Corrects the ill aspécts of planets evil,] So, the folio. The Quarto reads:
Corrects th' influence of evil planets. MALONE.
But, when the planets, In evil mixture, to disorder wander, &c.] I believe the poet, according to astrological opinions, means, when the planets form malignant configurations, when their aspects are evil towards one another. This he terms evil mixture. Johnson.
The poet's meaning may be somewhat explained by Spenser, to whom he seems to be indebted for his present allusion:
“ For who so liste into the heavens looke,
What plagues, and what portents? what mutiny?
“ For that same golden fleecy ram, which bore
“ Hath now forgot where he was plast of yore,
And eke the bull hath with his bow-bent horne “ So hardly butted those two twins of Jove, “ That they have crush'd the crab, and quite him borne “ Into the great Nemæan lion's grove. “ So now all range, and do at random rove “ Out of their proper places far away, “ And all this world with them amisse doe move,
« And all his creatures from their course astray, « Till they arrive at their last ruinous decay.”
Fairy Queen, B. V. c. i. STEEVENS. The apparent irregular motions of the planets were supposed to portend some disasters to mankind; indeed the planets themselves were not thought formerly to be confined in any fixed orbits of their own, but to wander about ad libitum, as the etymology of their names demonstrates. ANONYMOUS.
- deracinate-] i.e. force up by the roots. So again, in King Henry V :
the coulter rusts “ That should deracinate such savag'ry." STEEVENS.
married calm of states-] The epithet-married, which is used to denote an intimate union, is employed in the same sense by Milton:
Lydian airs “ Married to immortal verse.” Again :
voice and verse 6 Wed
your divine sounds." Again, in Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas's Eden:
shady groves of noble palm-tree sprays, “ Of amorous myrtles and immortal bays; “ Never unleav'd, but evermore they're new, “ Self-arching, in a thousand arbours grew. “ Birds marrying their sweet tunès to the angels' lays, “ Sung Adam's bliss, and their great Maker's praise.”
Quite from their fixure? O, when degree is shak’d,
The subject of Milton's larger poem would naturally have led him to read this description in Sylvester. The quotation from him I owe to Dr. Farmer.
Shakspeare calls a harmony of features, married lineaments, in Romeo and Juliet, Act I. sc. iii. See note on this passage.
STEEVENSO 0, when degree is shak'd,] I would read:
So, when degree is shak'd. JOHNSON. * The enterprize-] Perhaps we should read: Then enterprize is sick !
JOHNSON. brotherhoods in cities,] Corporations, companies, confraternities. JOHNSON.
9 -dividable shores,] i. e. divided. So, in Anto and Cleopatra, our author uses corrigible for corrected. Mr. M. Mason has the same observation. STEEVENS.
mere oppugnancy :) Mere is absolute. So, in Hamlete
things rank and gross in nature “ Possess it merely." STEEVENS. And make a sop of all this solid globe:] So, in King Lear : I'll make a sop o’the moonshine of you.
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Nest. Most wisely hath Ulysses here discover'd The fever whereof all our power7 is sick.
-this neglection-] This uncommon word occurs again in Pericles, 1609 :
if neglection • Should therein make me vile,–," MALONE. • That by a pace-] That goes backward step by step.
JOHNSON. -with a purpose It hath to climb.] With a design in each man to aggrandize himself, by slighting his immediate superior. Johnson. Thus the quarto. Folio-in a purpose. MALONE.
bloodless emulation :] An emulation not vigorous and active, but malignant and sluggish. Johnson.
our power-] i. e. our army. So, in another of our author's plays: " Who leads his power ?”