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To lead him where he would ; his roguish madness Allows itself to any thing. 2 Serv. Go thou; I'll fetch some flax, and whites
of eggs 18, To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him !
Enter EDGAR. Edg. Yet better thus, and known to be contemn’d, Than still contemn’d and flatter'd'. To be worst, The lowest, and most dejected thing of fortune, Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear: The lamentable change is from the best; The worst returns to laughter. Welcome then?,
18 Steevens asserted that this passage was ridiculed by Ben Jonson in The Case is Altered. Mr. Gifford has shown the folly and falsehood of the assertion; and that it was only a common allusion to a method of stanching blood practised in the poet's time by every barber-surgeon and old woman in the kingdom.
1. It is better to be thus and openly contemned, than to be flattered and secretly contemned. The expression in this speech,
owes nothing to thy blasts,' might seem to be copied from Virgil, Æn. xi. 51:
• Nos juvenem exanimum, et nil jam cælestibus ullis
Debentem, vano muesti comitamur honore.' The meaning of Edgar's speech seems to be this:-- Yet it is better to be thus in this fixed and acknowledged contemptible state, than living in afluence, to be flattered and despised at the same time. He who is placed in the worst and lowest state, has this advantage, he lives in bope, and not in fear, of a reverse of fortune. The lamentable change is from affluence to beggary. He laughs at the idea of changing for the worse, who is already as low as possible.'—Sir J. Reynolds.
The next two lines and a half are not in the quartos.
Thou unsubstantial air, that I embrace!
Enter GLOSTER, led by an old Man.
Old Man. O my good lord, I have been your tenant, and your father's tenant, these fourscore years.
Glo. Away, get thee away; good friend, be gone: Thy comforts can do me no good at all, Thee they may hurt.
Old Man. Alack, sir, you cannot see your way.
Glo. I have no way, and therefore want no eyes; I stumbled when I saw : Full oft ’tis seen, Our mean secures us, and our mere defects Prove our commodities.—Ah, dear son, Edgar, The food of thy abused father's wrath! Might I but live to see thee in
touch, I'd say, I had eyes again! Old Man.
How now? Who's there? Edg. [Aside.] O gods! Who is't can say, I am
at the worst? I am worse than e'er I was.
3.0 world! if reverses of fortune and changes such as I now see and feel, from ease and affluence to poverty and misery, did not show us the little value of life, we should never submit with any kind of resignation to death, the necessary consequences of old age; we should cling to life more strongly than we do.'
4 Mean is here put for our moderate or mean conditions. It was sometimes the practice of the poet's age to use a plural, when the subject spoken of related to more persons than one. To avoid the equivoque Pope changed the reading of the old copy to our mean secures us,' which is certainly more intelligible, and may have been the reading intended, as meane being spelled with a final e might easily be mistaken for means, which is the reading of the old copy.
5 So in another scene, • I see it feelingly.'
'Tis poor mad Tom. Edg. [Aside.] And worse I may be yet; The
worst is not,
Old Man. Fellow, where goest ?
Is it a beggar man?
Glo. He has some reason, else he could not beg.
How should this be?-
Ay, my lord.
Alack, sir, he's mad.
6 i. e. while we live; for while we yet continue to have a sense of feeling, something worse than the present may still happen. He recalls his former rash conclusion. • Dii nos quasi pilas homines habent.'
Plaut. Captiv. Prol. i. 22. Thus also in Sidney's Arcadia, lib. ii. :
wretched human kinde Balles to the starres,' &c.
Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure;
Old Man. I'll bring him the best ’parel that I have, Come on't what will.
[Exit. Glo. Sirrah, naked fellow. Edg. Poor Tom's a-cold.-I cannot daub 8 it further.
[Aside. Glo. Come hither, fellow. Edg. [Aside.] And yet I must.-Bless thy sweet
eyes, they bleed. Glo. Know'st thou the
to Dover? Edg. Both stile and gate, horse-way, and footpath. Poor Tom hath been scared out of his good wits: Bless the good man from the foul fiend ! [Five fiends 9 have been in poor Tom at once; of lust, as Obidicut; Hobbididance, prince of dumbness; Mahu, of stealing; Modo, of murder; and Fibbertigibbet, of mopping and mowing; who since possesses chambermaids and waitingwomen 10. So, bless thee, master!] 8 i. e. disguise it. • So smooth he daub'd his vice with show of virtue.'
King Richard III. 9 • The devil in Ma Mainy confessed his name to be Modu, and that he had besides himself seven other spirits, and all of them captaines and of great fame. • Then Edmundes (the exorcist) began againe with great earnestness, and all the company cried out, &c.- so as both that wicked prince Modu and his company might be cast out.' -Harsnet, p. 163. This passage will account for five fiends having been in poor Tom at once.'
10 • If she have a little helpe of the mother, epilepsie, or cramp, to teach her role her eyes, wrie her mouth, gnash her teeth, starte with her body, hold her armes and handes stiffe, make antike faces, grinne, mow and mop like an ape, then no doubt the young girle is owle-blasted, and possessed.?--Harsnet, p. 136. The five devils here mentioned are the names of five of those who were made to act in this farce three chambermaids, or waiting women, in Mr. Edmund Peckham's family. The reader will now perceive why a coquette is called flibergibbit or titifill by Cotgrave. See Act iii. Sc. 4, note 23. The passage in crotchets is omitted in the folio.
Glo. Here, take this purse, thou whom the hea
ven's plagues Have humbled to all strokes: that I am wretched, Makes thee the happier :—Heavens, deal so still! Let the superfluous, and lust-dieted man, That slaves your ordinance 11, that will not see Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly; So distribution should undo excess, And each man have enough.-Dost thou know Dover?
Edg. Ay, master.
Glo. There is a cliff, whose high and bending head Looks fearfully in 14 the confined deep: Bring me but to the very brim of it, And I'll repair the misery thou dost bear, With something rich about me: from that place I shall no leading need. Edg.
Give me thy arm; Poor Tom shall lead thee.
SCENE II. Before the Duke of ALBANY's Palace. Enter GONERIL and EDMUND; Steward meeting
them. Gon. Welcome, my lord : I marvel, our mild
husband Not met us on the way :-Now, where's
11 • Lear has before uttered the same sentiment, which indeed cannot be too strongly impressed, though it may be too often repeated.'—Johnson. To slave an ordinance is to treat it as a slave, to make it subject to us, instead of acting in obedience to it. So in Heywood's Brazen Age, 1613 :
Could slave him like the Lydian Omphale.' Again, in A New Way to Pay Old Debts, by Massinger :-' that slaves me to his will. The quartos read • That stands your ordinance,' which may be right, says Malone, and means withstands or abides. 12 In is here put for on, as in other places of these plays.
It must be remembered that Albany, the husband of Gone