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54. The old Anchises, etc. - This is a line of six feet; but it is quite different in its musical character from what is called an Alexandrine, such as rounds off the Spenserian stanza, and also frequently makes the second line in a rhymed couplet or the third in a triplet. It might perhaps be going too far to say that a proper Alexandrine is inadmissible in blank verse. There would seem to be nothing in the principle of blank verse opposed to the occasional e'mployment of the Alexandrine ; but the custom of our modern poetry excludes such a variation even from dramatic blank verse; and unquestionably by far the greater number of the lines in Shakespeare which have been assumed by some of his editors to be Alexandrines are only instances of the ordinary heroic line with the very common peculiarity of certain superfluous short syllables. That is all that we have here, — the ordinary heroic line overflowing its bounds, — which, besides that great excitement will excuse such irregularities, or even demand them, admirably pictures the emotion of Cassius, as it . were acting his feat over again as he relates it, – with the shore the two were making for seeming, in their increasing efforts, to retire before them, - and panting with his remembered toil.
54. His coward lips did from their colour fly.There can, I think, be no question that Warburton is right in holding that we have here a pointed allusion to a soldier flying from his colors. The lips would never otherwise be made to fly from their color, instead of their color from them. The figure is quite in Shakespeare's manner and spirit.
54. Did lose his lustre. — There is no personification here. His was formerly neuter as well as masculine, or the genitive of It as well as of He; and
his lustre, meaning the lustre of the eye, is the same form of expression that we have in the texts, “The fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself” (Gen. i. 11); “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. iii. 15); “ If the salt have lost his savour” (Matt. v. 13, and Luke xiv. 34); “ If the salt have lost his saltness ” (Mark ix. 50;) “ When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city, which opened to them of his own accord” (Acts xii. 10); “ His throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire” (Dan. vii. 9); and others. The word Its does not occur in the authorized translation of the Bible ; its place is always supplied either by His or by Thereof. So again, in the present Play, in 522, we have “ That every nice offence should bear his comment ;” and in Antony and Cleopatra, v. 1, " The heart where mine his thoughts did kindle.” One of the most curious and decisive examples of the neuter his occurs in Coriolanus, i. I:
it [the belly] tauntingly replied To the discontented members, the mutinous parts,
That envied his receipt. Its, however, is found in Shakespeare. There is one instance in Measure for Measure, i. 2, where Lucio's remark about coming to a composition with the King of Hungary draws the reply, “ Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary's.” The its here, it may be observed, has the emphasis. It is printed without the apostrophe both in the First and in the Second Folio. But the most remarkable of the Plays in regard to this particular is probably
The Winter's Tale. Here, in i. 2, we have so many as three instances in a single speech of Leontes :
How sometimes Nature will betray it's folly?
(As Ornaments oft do's) too dangerous. So stands the passage in the First Folio. Nor does the new pronoun here appear to be a peculiarity of expression characteristic of the excited Sicilian king; a little while after in the same scene we have the same form from the mouth of Camillo :
Be plainer with me, let me know my Trespas
By it's owne visage. And again, in iii. 3, we have Antigonus, when about to lay down the child in Bohemia, observing that he believes it to be the wish of Apollo that
it should heere be laide
Of it's right Father. Nor is this all. There are two other passages of the same Play in which the modern editors also give us its; but in these the original text has it. The first is in ii. 3, where Leontes, in directing Antigonus to carry away the “ female bastard" to some foreign land, enjoins him that he there leave it
(Without more mercy) to it owne protection. The other is in iii. 2, where Hermione's words stand in both the First and Second Folio,
The innocent milke in it most innocent mouth. It is a mistake to assume, as the modern editors do, that it in these instances is a misprint for its : Dr. Guest (Phil. Pro. i. 280) has observed that in the dialects of the North-Western Counties formerly
it was sometimes used for its; and that, accordingly, we have not only in Shakespeare's King John, ii. I, " Goe to yt grandame, child ..... and it grans dame will giue yt a plumb,” but in Ben Jonson's Silent Woman, ii. 3, “ It knighthood and it friends." So in Lear, i. 4, we have in a speech of the Fool, “ For you know, Nunckle, the Hedge-Sparrow fed the Cuckoo so long, that it's had it head bit off by it young” (that is, that it has had its head, — not that it had its head, as the modern editors give the passage, after the Second Folio, in which it stands, " that it had its head bit off by it young”). This use of it is still familiar in the popular speech of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and even in the English of some parts of Ireland. So, long before its was generally received, we have it self commonly printed in two words, evidently under the impression that it was a possessive, of the same syntactical force with the pronouns in my self, your self, her seif. And even now we do not write itsself. Formerly, too, according to Dr. Guest, they often said even “ The King wife," etc., for 66 The King's wife.” So he holds that in such modern phrases as “ The idea of a thing being abstracted,' or “ of it being abstracted,” thing and it are genitives, for thing's and its.
We have it again in Lear, iv. 2: “ that nature which contemnes it origin.” The passage is not in the Folios; but the First Quarto has ith, and the Second it, for the its of the modern text.
There is also one passage in our English Bible, Levit. xxv. 5, in which the reading of the original edition is 66 of it own accord.” The modern reprints give - its.” [In the Geneva Bible, 1579, we have " it owne accorde” in. Acts xii. 10.]
Dr. Guest asserts that its was used generally by the dramatists of the age to which the authorized version of the Bible belongs, and also by many of their contemporaries. Dr. Trench, in his English, Past and Present, doubts whether Milton has once admitted it into Paradise Lost, 66 although, when that was composed, others frequently allowed it.” The common authorities give us no help in such matters as this; no notice is taken of the word Its either in Todd's Verbal Index to Milton, or in Mrs. Clarke's elaborate Concordance to Shakespeare. But Milton does use Its occasionally; as, e. g. (P. L. i. 254), “The mind is its own place, and in itself;” and (P. L. iv. 813), “ No falsehood can endure Touch of celestial temper, but returns Of force to its own likeness.” [See also Hymn on the Nativity, 106.] Generally, however, he avoids the word, and easily manages to do so by personifying most of his substantives; it is only when this cannot be done, that he reluctantly accepts the services of the little parvenu monosyllable.
Mr. Singer, in a note to his edition of the Essays and Wisdom of the Ancients, p. 200, seems to intimate that its is nowhere used by Bacon. Like Shakespeare and other writers of the time, he has frequently his in the neuter.
Dr. Trench notices the fact of the occurrence of its in Rowley's Poems as decisive against their genuineness. He observes, also, that “ Dryden, when, in one of his fault-finding moods with the great men of the preceding generation, he is taking Ben Jonson to task for general inaccuracy in his English diction, among other counts of his indictment, quotes this line of Catiline, Though heaven should speak with all his wrath at once;' and proceeds, ' Heaven is ill syntax with his.'" This is a curious evi