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MESS. At your
Again, and yet more appositely, in King Henry VI. P. III : "For what doth cherish weeds, but gentle air?"? Dr. Warburton has proposed to read-minds. It is at least a conjecture that deserves to be mentioned.
Dr. Johnson, however, might, in some degree, have countenanced his explanation by a singular epithet, that occurs twice in the Iliad-aveμorpecès; literally, wind-nourished. In the first instance, L. XI. 256, it is applied to the tree of which a spear had been made; in the second, L. XV. 625, to a wave, impelled upon a ship. STEEVENs.
I suspect that quick winds is, or is a corruption of, some provincial word, signifying either arable lands, or the instruments of husbandry used in tilling them. Earing signifies plowing both here and in page 48. So, in Genesis, c. xlv: "Yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest." BLACKSTONE.
This conjecture is well founded. The ridges left in lands turned up by the plough, that they may sweeten during their fallow state, are still called wind-rows. Quick winds, I suppose to be the same as teeming fallows; for such fallows are always fruitful in weeds.
Wind-rows likewise signify heaps of manure, consisting of dung or lime mixed up with virgin earth, and distributed in long rows under hedges. If these wind-rows are suffered to lie still, in two senses, the farmer must fare the worse for his want of activity. First, if this compost be not frequently turned over, it will bring forth weeds spontaneously; secondly, if it be suffered to continue where it is made, the fields receive no benefit from it, being fit only in their turn to produce a crop of useless and obnoxious herbage. STEEVENS.
Mr. Steevens's description of wind-rows will gain him, I fear, but little reputation with the husbandman; nor, were it more accurate, does it appear to be in point, unless it can be shown that quick winds and wind-rows are synonymous; and, further, that his interpretation will suit with the context. Dr. Johnson hath considered the position as a general one, which indeed it is; but being made by Antony, and applied to himself, he, figuratively, is the idle soil; the MALICE that speaks home, the quick, or cutting winds, whose frosty blasts destroy the profusion of weeds; whilst our ILLS (that is the TRUTH faithfully) told us; a representation of our vices in their naked odiousness-is as our
ANT. From Sicyon how the news? Speak there.
EARING; serves to plough up the neglected soil, and enable it to produce a profitable crop.
When the quick winds lie still, that is, in a mild winter, those weeds which" the tyrannous breathings of the north" would have cut off, will continue to grow and seed, to the no small detriment of the crop to follow. HENLEY.
Whether my definition of winds or wind-rows be exact or erroneous, in justice to myself I must inform Mr. Henley, that I received it from an Essex farmer; observing, at the same time, that in different counties the same terms are differently applied. STEEVENS.
The words lie still are opposed to earing; quick means pregnant; and the sense of the passage is: "When our pregnant minds lie idle and untilled, they bring forth weeds; but the telling us of our faults is a kind of culture to them." The pronoun our before quick, shows that the substantive to which it refers must be something belonging to us, not merely an external object, as the wind is. To talk of quick winds lying still, is little better than nonsense. M. MASON.
The words-lie still, appear to have been technically used by those who borrow their metaphors from husbandry. Thus Ascham, in his Toxophilus, edit. 1589, p. 32: “—as a grounde which is apt for corne, &c. if a man let it lye still, &c. if it be wheate it will turne into rye." STEEVENS.
Dr. Johnson thus explains the old reading:
"The sense is, that man, not agitated by censure, like soil not ventilated by quick winds, produces more evil than good." This certainly is true of soil, but where did Dr. Johnson find the word soil in this passage? He found only winds, and was forced to substitute soil ventilated by winds in the room of the word in the old copy; as Mr. Steevens, in order to extract a meaning from it, supposes winds to mean fallows, because "the ridges left in lands turned up by the plough, are termed windrows;" though surely the obvious explication of the latter word, rows exposed to the wind, is the true one. Hence the rows of new-mown grass laid in heaps to dry, are also called wind
The emendation which I have adopted, [minds,] and which was made by Dr. Warburton, makes all perfectly clear; for if in Dr. Johnson's note we substitute, not cultivated, instead of"not ventilated by quick winds," we have a true interpretation of Antony's words as now exhibited. Our quick minds, means,
1 ATT. The man from Sicyon.-Is there such an one?
2 ATT. He stays upon your will..
ANT. Let him appear.— These strong Egyptian fetters I must break,
Enter another Messenger.
Or lose myself in dotage.-What are you?
Where died she?
our lively apprehensive minds. So, in King Henry IV. P. II: "It ascends me into the brain ;-makes it apprehensive, quick, forgetive."
Again, in this play: "The quick comedians," &c.
It is, however, proper to add Dr. Warburton's own interpretation: "While the active principle within us lies immerged in sloth and luxury, we bring forth vices instead of virtues, weeds instead of flowers and fruits; but the laying before us our ill condition plainly and honestly, is, as it were, the first culture of the mind, which gives hope of a future harvest.”
Being at all times very unwilling to depart from the old copy, I should not have done it in this instance, but that the word winds, in the only sense in which it has yet been proved to be used, affords no meaning; and I had the less scruple on the present occasion, because the same error is found in King John, Act v. sc. vii. where we have, in the only authentick copy:
"Death, having prey'd upon the outward parts,
Against the wind." MALONE.
The observations of six commentators are here exhibited. To offer an additional line on this subject, (as the Messenger says to Lady Macduff,) "were fell cruelty" to the reader.
* He stays upon your will.] We meet with a similar phrase in Macbeth:
"Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure."
2 MESS. In Sicyon:
Her length of sickness, with what else more serious Importeth thee to know, this bears.
[Gives a Letter. Forbear me.[Exit Messenger. There's a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it: What our contempts do often hurl from us, We wish it ours again; the present pleasure, By revolution lowering, does become The opposite of itself: she's good, being gone; The hand could pluck her back, that shov'd her on.
We wish it ours again;] Thus, in Sidney's Arcadia, Lib. II: "We mone that lost which had we did bemone."
the present pleasure,
The opposite of itself:] The allusion is to the sun's diurnal course; which rising in the east, and by revolution lowering, or setting in the west, becomes the opposite of itself.
This is an obscure passage. The explanation which Dr. Warburton has offered is such, that I can add nothing to it; yet, perhaps, Shakspeare, who was less learned than his commentator, meant only, that our pleasures, as they are revolved in the mind, turn to pain. JOHNSON.
I rather understand the passage thus; What we often cast from us in contempt we wish again for, and what is at present our greatest pleasure, lowers in our estimation by the revolution of time; or by a frequent return of possession becomes undesirable and disagreeable. TOLLET.
I believe revolution means change of circumstances. This sense appears to remove every difficulty from the passage.-The pleasure of to-day, by revolution of events and change of circumstances, often loses all its value to us, and becomes to-morrow a pain. STEEVENS.
The hand could pluck her back, &c.] The verb could has a peculiar signification in this place; it does not denote power, but inclination. The sense is, the hand that drove her off would now willingly pluck her back again. HEATH.
I must from this enchanting queen break off; Ten thousand harms, more than the ills I know, My idleness doth hatch.-How now! Enobarbus!
ENO. What's your pleasure, sir?
ANT. I must with haste from hence.
ENO. Why, then, we kill all our women: We see how mortal an unkindness is to them; if they suffer our departure, death's the word.
ANT. I must be gone.
ENO. Under a compelling occasion, let women die: It were pity to cast them away for nothing; though, between them and a great cause, they should be esteemed nothing. Cleopatra, catching but the least noise of this, dies instantly; I have seen her die twenty times upon far poorer moment: I do think, there is mettle in death, which commits some loving act upon her, she hath such a celerity in dying.
ANT. She is cunning past man's thought.
ENO. Alack, sir, no; her passions are made of nothing but the finest part of pure love: We cannot call her winds and waters, sighs and tears; they
Could, would, and should, are a thousand times indiscriminately used in the old plays, and yet appear to have been so employed rather by choice than by chance. STEEVENS.
-poorer moment:] For less reason; upon meaner moJOHNSON.
9 We cannot call her winds and waters, sighs and tears;] I once idly supposed that Shakspeare wrote-"We cannot call her sighs and tears, winds and waters;"-which is certainly the phraseology we should now use. I mention such idle conjec