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So holy writ in babes hath judgement shown, When judges have been babes. Great floods have
flown From simple sources; and great seas have dried, When miracles have by the greatest been denied.? Oft expectation fails, and most oft there Where most it promises; and oft it hits, Where hope is coldest, and despair most fits. 8
6 So holy writ in babes hath judgement shown,
When judges have been babes.] The allusion is to St. Matthew's Gospel, xi. 25. “ O father, lord of heaven and earth, I thank thee, because thou hast hid these things from the wife and prudent, and revealed them unto babes." See also i Cor. i. 27. “ But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty." MALONE.
1 When miracles have by the greatest been denied.] I do not see the import or connection of this line. As the next line stands without a correspondent rhyme, I suspect that something has been loft. JOHNSON.
I point the passage thus; and then I see no reason to complain of want of connection:
When judges have been babes. Great floods, &c.
When miracles have by the greatest been denied. Shakspeare, after alluding to the production of water from a rock, and the drying up of the Red Sea, fays, that miracles had been denied by the GREATEST; or in other words, that the ELDERS of Israel (who just before, in reference to another text, were styled judges) had notwithstanding these miracles, wrought for their own preservation, refused that compliance they ought to have yielded. See the Book of Exodus, and particularly Ch. xvii. 5, 6, &c.
HENLEY. So holy writ, &c. alludes to Daniel's judging, when “ a young youth," the two Elders in the story of Susannah. Great floods, i. e. when Mofes finote the rock in Horeb, Exod. xvii.
- great seas have dry'd
When miracles have by the greatest been deny'd. Dr. Johnson did not see the import or connection of this line. It certainly refers to the children of Israel passing the Red Sea, when miracles had been denied, or not hearkened to, by Pharaoh.
Holt White. 8 and despair most sits.] The old copy reads--shifts. The correction was made by Mr. Pope. MALONE.
King. I must not hear thee; fare thee well, kind
maid; Thy pains, not us’d, must by thyself be paid : Proffers, not took, reap thanks for their reward.
Hel. Inspired merit so by breath is barr’d: It is not so with him that all things knows, As 'tis with us that square our guess by shows : But most it is presumption in us, when The help of heaven we count the act of men. Dear sir, to my endeavours give consent; Of heaven, not me, make an experiment. I am not an impostor, that proclaim Myself against the level of mine aim ;' But know I think, and think I know most sure, My art is not past power, nor you past cure.
King. Art thou so confident? Within what space Hop'st thou my cure? Hel.
The greatest grace lending grace, 2 Ere twice the horses of the sun shall bring Their fiery torcher his diurnal ring; Ere twice in murk and occidental damp Moist Hesperus hath quench'd his seepy lamp;'
9 Myself againft the level of mine aim ;] i. e. pretend to greater things than befits the mediocrity of my condition.
WARBURTON. I rather think that she means fo say,--I am not an impastor that proclaim one thing and design another, that proclaim a cure and aims at a fraud; I think what I speak. Johnson.
2 The greatest grace lending grace,] I should have thought the repetition of grace to have been superfluous, if the grace of grace had not occurred in the speech with which the tragedy of Macbeth concludes. STEVENS.
The former grace in this passage, and the latter in Macbeth, evidently fignify divine grace. Henley.
3- his sleepy lamp;] Old copy-her sleepy lamp. Corrected by Mr. Rowe. MALONE.
Or four and twenty times the pilot's glass
King. Upon thy certainty and confidence,
Tax of impudence,
a divulged shame,
With vileft torture let my life be ended.] I would bear (says Mel the tax of impudence, which is the denotement of a strumpet; would endure a shame resulting from my failure in what I have undertaken, and thence become the fubje&t of odious vallads ; let my maiden reputafion be otherwise branded; and, no worse of worst extended, i. e. provided nothing worse is offered to me, (meaning violation,) let my life be ended with the worst of tortures. The poet for the sake of rhyme has obscured the sense of the passage. The worst that can befal a woman, being extended to me, seems to be the meaning of the last line. STEEVENS.
Tax of impudence, that is, to be charged with having the boldness of a strumpet:-a divulged hame; i. c. to be traduced by odious ballads :—my maiden name's feared otherwije; i. e. to be stigmatized as a prostitute :-no worse of worst extended; i. e. to be so defamed that nothing severer can be said against those who are most publickly reported to be infamous. Shakspeare has used the word fear and extended in The Winter's Tale, both in the same fense as above:
- for calumny will fear
« Virtue itself!”And “ The report of her is extended more than can be thought.”
The old copy reads, not no, but ne, probably an error for nas, or the. I would wish to read and point the latter part of the passage thus :
my maiden's name
King. Methinks, in thee some blessed spirit doth
i. e. Let me be otherwise branded ;--and (what is the worst of worst, the consummation of misery,) my body being extended on the rack by the most cruel torture, let my life pay the forfeit of my presumption. So, in Daniel's Cleopatra, 1594:
the worst of worst of ills.”
“ If she be fat, then she is swollen, say,
“ If courtly, wanton, worst of worst before.” Malone. .5 Methinks, in thee fome blessed spirit doth speak; - His powerful sound, within an organ weak:] The verb, doth peak, in the first line, should be understood to be repeated in the construction of the second, thus :
His powerful sound speaks within a weak organ. Heath. This, in my opinion, is a very just and happy explanation.
STEVENS, 6 And what impossibility would slay
In common sense, fenje faves another way.] i. e. and that which, if I trusted to my reason, I should think impossible, I yet, perceiving thee to be actuated by some blessed spirit, think thee capable of effecting. Malone.
7- in thee hath estimate;] May be counted among the gifts enjoyed by thee. Johnson.
& Youth, beauty, wisdom, courage, virtue, all-] The old copy omits vir.ue. It was supplied by Dr. Warburton, to remedy a defect in the measure. STEEVENS.
9-prime-Youth; the spring or morning of life. Johnson.
Should we not read--pride ? Dr. Johnson explains prime to mean youth; and indeed I do not see any other plausible interpre
Thou this to hazard, needs must intimate
Hel. If I break time, or flinch in property
King. Make thy demand.
But will you make it even? King. Ay, by my sceptre, and my hopes of hea
tation that can be given of it. But how does that suit with the context? “ You have all that is worth the name of life; youth, beauty, &c. all, That happiness and youth can happy call.”— Happiness and pride may signify, I think, the pride of happiness; the proudelt state of happiness. So, in The Second Part of Henry IV. Act III. sc. i. the voice and echi, is put for the voice of echo, or, the echoing voice. Tyrwhitt.
I think, with Dr. Johnson, that prime is here used as a substantive, but that it means, that sprightly vigour which usually accompanies us in the prime of life. So, in Montaigne's Esaies, translated by Florio, 1603, B. II. c. 6: “ Many things seeme greater by imagination, than by effect. I have passed over a good part of my age in sound and perfect health. I say, not only found, but blithe and wantonly-luftful. That ftate, full of luft, of prime and mirth, made me deeme the consideration of sicknesses so yrkfome, that when I came to the experience of them, I have found their fits but weak.” MALONE.
2- in property --] In property seems to be here used, with much laxity, for—in the due performance. In a subsequent passage it seems to mean either a thing poffefied, or a subject discriminated by peculiar qualities:
- The property by what it is should go,
“ Not by the title.” MALONE. 3 Ay, by my feeptre, and my hopes of heaven.] The old copy reads :
- my hopes of help. Steevens. The King could have but a very night hope of help from her, scarce enough to swear by : and therefore Helen might fufpect he