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"Whereto the climber-upward turns his face."
The compounding thus, with a hyphen, "climber" and "upward," alters, I think, and impairs, the sense: if it be, indeed, a compound, the latter part is superfluous; for he who climbs, necessarily goes upward: but the meaning of the passage, as I conceive it, is, that young Ambition, while mounting, directs his view to the upper part of the ladder, which (as soon as he has availed himself of the entire use of it) he turns his back upon, and then looks to the clouds. The mistake arises from a supposed antithesis between "face" and "back," but the only opposition intended is in the progress of Ambition's climbing, from the bottom to the top of the ladder, from lowly complacency to exalted arrogance.
So Cæsar may ; "Then, lest he may."
This is badly expressed. That "he may," is admitted, absolutely; and it is not the hypothesis that is to be subverted, but the probable effect that is to be prevented: it should be, "then lest he do;" i. e. lest he practically accomplish what his condition indicates.
The familiarity of this false expression, for I have taken, or ta'en, should not protect it from condemnation.
291. "Sir, March is wasted fourteen days." The measure might be filled up thus: "Sir, March is wasted now, full fourteen days." “Between the acting of a dreadful thing "And the first motion, all the interim is "Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream: "The genius, and the mortal instruments, Are then in council," &c.
I do not perceive that Dr. Johnson's explanation of "the genius and the mortal instruments" is right (the power that watches for the protection of the conspirator, and the passions which excite him to a deed of honour and danger.) I rather think this is the meaning :-The imagination, the purpose, or device, and the means of effecting it, are then in consultation with each other: " a dreadful thing," though put thus, generally, implies, in the speaker's mind, the intended assassination; and hence "the mortal instruments."
296. "To mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none, conspiracy."
I would pro
This far exceeds the measure. pose, with the ejection of a word that the construction may spare,
"To mask thy monstrous visage? None conspiracy."
297. "This, Casca; this, Cinna."
The metre here falls into disorder. I would repair it in this manner:
"This valiant Casca; Cinna, this; and this, "Metellus Cimber."
They are welcome, all."
No, not an oath: If not the face of men, "The sufferance of our souls, the time's abuse,
If these be motives weak," &c.
This change in the drift of the sentence, whether careless, or studied by the poet, is natural, and frequently occurs in animated speech.
Tyranny looking aloft, ambitious.
"What need we any spur, but our own cause, "To prick us to redress?".
We find in Macbeth a similar expression:
"To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Concord requires, here, the comparative conjunction "as," instead of the pronoun
we find it properly applied in the very next line:
Unto bad causes swear
"Such creatures as men doubt," &c.
Inaccuracies of this kind should not be suffered. to disfigure the text, or be admitted as the language of the poet, or of his time.
Every drop of blood
"Is guilty of a several bastardy."
Guilty-of," seems here to stand for "branded-with the disgrace-of;" or are we to understand the expression thus: " Upon the occasion of such a breach of honour, every drop of blood contributes to cause or generate in a Roman breast a new base and illegitimate spirit.
302. "And let our hearts, as subtle masters do, "Stir up their servants to an act of rage, "And after seem to chide them.".
But the drift of Brutus's speech is to deprecate what is here recommended: and," in the first line, unquestionably should be “ nor."
"We shall be call'd purgers, not murderers.”
What sort of a line is this? We can count, indeed, just ten syllables, but not a single cadence for a verse; which, however, a slight transposition would yield:
"Purgers we shall be call'd; not murderers." Take thought, and die for Cæsar."
Notwithstanding Mr. Henley's learned argument, I believe Dr. Johnson's interpretation of "take thought," i. e. turn melancholy, is right.We find "thought" applied in the same sense in Anthony and Cleopatra; where Enobarbus says,
"If swift thought break it not, a swifter mean "Shall outstrike thought; but thought will do't."
And the context itself, in the present instance, seems to impress this meaning.
If he love Cæsar, all that he can do "Is to himself; take thought, and die for Cæsar:
"And that were much he should; for he is given
"To sports, to wildness, and much com
It is not probable, says Brutus, that Anthony should devote himself to grief and melancholy, who is so much addicted to levity and mirth. If there be any longer a doubt remaining, that "melancholy" is meant by "thought," in these instances, it must vanish, I suppose, entirely, upon the appearance of the following lines of Enobarbus:
"O sovereign mistress of true melancholy, "The poisonous damp of night dispunge upon
"That life, a very rebel to my will,
May hang no longer on me."
This interpretation of thought, I find illustrated in Bacon's Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seuenth:
"Hawis, an alderman of London, was put in trouble, and died with thought and anguish, before his businesse came to an end."
Mr. Steevens, upon this fragment remarks:These words, as they stand, being quite unmetrical, I suppose our author to have originally written-Let me to work; i. e. go to work!" I fear this emendation will not be much commended. More probable words, I believe, would be, Leave me to work; (i. e. let me alone to manage this matter.) But who can say that the words, as they stand, are unmetrical, while we are unacquainted with what were to follow them ?—these, for instance, would make harmony: