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The breath is gone, and the sore eyes see clear: To stop the air would hurt them. The blind mole casts
Copp'd hills towards heaven, to tell, the earth is wrong'd
By man's oppression; and the poor worm doth die for't.'
7 The breath is gone, and the sore eyes see clear:
To stop the air would hurt them.] Malone has mistaken the meaning of this part of the speech of Pericles:-There should be no stop after the word clear, that line being necessarily connected with the following words; and the meaning is this: "The breath is gone, and the eyes, though sore, see clear enough to stop for the future the air that would annoy them."
Malone supposes the sentence to end with the first of these lines, and makes the other a general political aphorism, not perceiving that, "to stop the air would hurt them," means only to stop the air that would hurt them;" the pronoun being omitted; an ellipsis frequent not only in poetry, but in prose.
Pericles means only, by this similitude, to show the danger of revealing the crimes of princes; for as they feel themselves hurt by the publication of their shame, they will, of course, prevent a repetition of it, by destroying the person who divulged it: He pursues the same idea in the instance of the mole, and concludes with requesting that the king would
"Give his tongue like leave to love his head."
That is, that he would not force his tongue to speak what, if spoken, would prove his destruction.
In the second scene Pericles says, speaking of the King: "And what may make him blush in being known,
He'll stop the course by which it might be known." Which confirms my explanation. M. MASON.
8 Copp'd hills-] i, e. rising to a top or head. So, in P. Holland's translation of the eleventh Book of Pliny's Nat. Hist. "And few of them have cops or crested tufts upon their heads."
Copped Hall, in Essex, was so named from the lofty pavilion on the roof of the old house, which has been since pulled down. The upper tire of masonry that covers a wall is still called the copping or coping. High-crowned hats were anciently called copatain hats. STEEVENS.
the earth is wrong'd
By man's oppression;] Old copies-throng'd. For this change Lam answerable. STEEvens.
Kings are earth's gods: in vice their law's their
And if Jove stray, who dares say, Jove doth ill? It is enough you know; and it is fit,
What being more known grows worse, to smother
All love the womb that their first beings bred, Then give my tongue like leave to love my head. ANT. Heaven, that I had thy head! he has found the meaning;
But I will gloze with him.3 [Aside.] Young prince of Tyre,
Though by the tenour of our strict edíct,*
and the poor worm doth die for't.] I suppose he means to call the mole, (which suffers in its attempts to complain of man's injustice) a poor worm, as a term of commiseration. Thus, in The Tempest, Prospero speaking to Miranda, says: "Poor worm! thou art infected."
The mole remains secure till he has thrown up those hillocks, which, by pointing out the course he is pursuing, enable the vermin-hunter to catch him. STEEVENS.
* Heaven, that I had thy head!] The speaker may either mean to say, O, that I had thy ingenuity! or, O, that I had thy head, sever'd from thy body! The latter, I believe, is the meaning. MALONE.
But I will gloze with him.] So, Gower:
"The kinge was wondre sorie tho,
"With slie wordes and with felle
"He sayth: My sonne I shall thee telle,
"Though that thou be of littel witte," &c. MALONE.
our strict edict,] The old copy
Corrected in the folio.
5 Your exposition misinterpreting,] Your exposition of the riddle being a mistaken one; not interpreting it rightly.
We might proceed to cancel of your days;6
your worth. [Exeunt ANTIOCHUS, his Daughter and Attendants.
to cancel of your days;] The quarto, 1609, readsto counsel of your days; which may mean, to deliberate how long you shall be permitted to live. But I believe that counsel was merely an error of the press, which the editor of the folio, 1664, corrected by reading to cancel off your days. The substitution of off for of is unnecessary; for cancel may have been used as a substantive. We might proceed to the cancellation or destruction of your life. Shakspeare uses the participle cancell❜d in the sense required here, in his Rape of Lucrece, 1594:
"An expir'd date, cancell'd ere well begun."
The following lines in King Richard III. likewise confirm the reading that has been chosen:
"Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I pray,
"That I may live to say, the dog is dead." MALONE. To omit the article was formerly a practice not uncommon. So, in Titus Andronicus: "Ascend, fair queen, Pantheon," i. e. the Pantheon. STEEvens.
Again, in King Lear:
"Hot questrists after him, met him at gate." MALONE. Forty days longer we do respite you;] In The Gesta Romanorum, Confessio Amantis, and The History of King Appolyn, thirty days only are allowed for the solution of this question. It is difficult to account for this minute variation, but by supposing that our author copied some translation of the Gesta Romanorum hitherto undiscovered. MALONE.
It is thirty days in Twine's translation. Forty, as I have observed in a note on some other play (I forget which) was the familiar term when the number to be mentioned was not of arithmetical importance. STEEVENS.
your entertain shall be,
As doth befit our honour, and your worth.] I have no doubt
PER. How courtesy would seem to cover sin!
Then were it certain, you were not so bad,
And both like serpents are, who though they feed
but that these two lines were intended to rhyme together in our author's copy, where originally they might have stood thus: your entertain shall be,
As doth befit our honour, your degree.
As doth our honour fit and your degree.
So, in King Richard III. Act III. sc. vii:
"Best fitteth my degree, and your condition."
Where now you're both a father and a son.] Where, in this place, has the power of whereas. So, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona:
"And where I thought the remnant of mine age
"Should have been cherish'd by her childlike duty,
Where (and with the same meaning) occurs again in Act II. sc. iii. of this play:
"Where now his son's a glow-worm" &c. STEEVENS.
wisdom sees, those men
Blush not in actions blacker than the night,
Will shun no course to keep them from the light.] All the old copies read-will shew-, but shew is evidently a corruption. The word that I have ventured to insert in the text, in its place,
One sin, I know, another doth provoke;
ANT. He hath found the meaning,3 for the which
To have his head.
He must not live to trumpet forth my infamy,
In such a loathed manner:
And therefore instantly this prince must die;
was suggested by these lines in a subsequent scene, which appear to me strongly to support this emendation:
"And what may make him blush in being known,
"He'll stop the course by which it might be known." We might read 'schew for eschew, if there were any instance. of such an abbreviation being used.
The expression is here, as in many places in this play, elliptical: for wisdom sees, that those who do not blush to commit actions blacker than the night, will not shun any course in order to preserve them from being made publick. MALONE.
2- to keep you clear,] To prevent any suspicion from falling on you. So, in Macbeth:
always thought, that I
Require a clearness." MALONE.
"He hath found the meaning,] So, in Twine's book: " Apollonius prince of Tyre hath found out the solution of my question; wherefore take shipping" &c. STEEVENS.