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Wrath, envy, treason, rape, and murder's rages, Thy heinous hours wait on them as their pages.
When Truth and Virtue have to do with thee,
Guilty thou art of murder and of theft ;
To all sins past, and all that are to come,
Mis-shapen Time, copesmate of ugly night,
O hear me then, injurious, shifting Time!
against its further progress, are careless and inattentive.- Advice was formerly used for knowledge and deliberation. So, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona :
“ How shall I dote on her with more advice,
“ That thus without advice begin to love her?” MALONE. This idea was probably suggested to Shakspeare by the rapid progress of the plague in London. Steevens.
4 — and thou art well APPAY'D,] Appay'd, is pleased. The word is now obsolete. Malone. s copesmate -] i. e. companion. So, in Hubbard's Tale: “ Till that the foe his copesmate he had found.”
Why hath thy servant, Opportunity,
To eat up errors by opinion bred,"
dowry Pinion breat foes op
Time's glory is to calm contending kings,
6 Time's office is, to fine the hate of foes ;] It is the business of time to soften and refine the animosities of men ; to sooth and reconcile enemies. The modern editions read, without authority or meaning :
" to find the hate of foes." Malone. “To fine the hate of foes,” is to bring it to an end. So, in All's Well that Ends Well :
“ still the fine's the crown,
“ Whate'er the course, the end is the renown.” The same thought has already occurred in the poem before us : " When wilt thou sort an hour great strifes to end ?"
SteEVENS. 7 TO BAT UP ERRORS by opinion bred.] This likewise is represented as the office of Time in the chorus to the Winter's Tale:
" that make and unfold error,” STEEVENS. 8 TO wrong the wronger till he render right;] To punish by the compunctious visiting of conscience the person who has done an injury to another, till he has made compensation The wrong done in this instance by Time must be understood in the sense of damnum sine injuria ; and in this light serves to illustrate and support Mr. Tyrwhitt's explanation of a passage in Julius Cæsar, even supposing that it stood as Ben Jonson has maliciously represented it :-“ Know, Cæsar, doth not wrong, but with just cause," &c. See vol. xii. p. 75, n. 8. Dr. Farmer very elegantly would read :
“ To wring the wronger till he render right.” Malone.
To ruinate proud buildings with thy hours”,
To fill with worm-holes stately monuments",
9 To ruinate proud buildings with the HOURS,] As we have here no invocation to time, I suspect the two last words of this line to be corrupted, and would read : “ To ruinate proud buildings with their bowers."
Steevens. Hours is surely the true reading. In the preceding address to Opportunity the same words are employed :
“ Wrath, envy, treason, rape, and murder's rages,
“ Thy heinous hours wait on them as their pages." So, in our author's 19th Sonnet:
“ Devouring Time
“ O, carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow." Again, in Davison's Poems, 1621 :
“ Time's young howres attend her still." “ To ruinate proud buildings with thy hours "-is, to destroy buildings by thy slow and unperceived progress. It were easy to read—with his hours; but the poet having made Lucretia address Time personally in the two preceding stanzas, and again a little lower
“ Why work'st thou mischief in thy pilgrimage." probably was here inattentive, and is himself answerable for the present inaccuracy. Malone.
To fill with worm-holes stately monuments,] So, in The Induction to King Henry IV. Part II. :
“ Between the royal field of Shrewsbury,
“And this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone.” MALONE. ? To blot old books, and alter their contents,] Our author probably little thought, when he wrote this line, that his own compositions would afford a more striking example of this species of devastation than any that has appeared since the first use of types. Malone.
3 To dry the old oak's sap, and CHERISH SPRINGS ;] The last two words, if they make any sense, it is such as is directly con
To spoil antiquities of hammer'd steel",
trary to the sentiment here advanced; which is concerning the decays, and not the repairs, of time. The poet certainly wrote:
“ To dry the old oak's sap, and tarish springs; ". i. e. to dry up springs, from the French tarir, or tarissement, exarefacere, exsiccatio : these words being peculiarly applied to springs or rivers. WARBURTON. Dr. Johnson thinks Shakspeare wrote:
"— and perish springs ;" And Dr. Farmer has produced from the Maid's Tragedy a passage in which the word perish is used in an active sense.
If change were necessary, that word might perhaps have as good a claim to admission as any other ; but I know not why the text has been suspected of corruption. The operations of time, here described, are not all uniform ; nor has the poet confined himself solely to its destructive qualities. In some of the instances mentioned, its progress only is adverted to. Thus we are told, his glory is
“ To wake the morn, and sentinel the night
“ And turn the giddy round of fortune's wheel." . In others, its salutary effects are pointed out:
“ To cheer the ploughman with increaseful crops, -
“ To wrong the wronger till he render right." Where then is the difficulty of the present line, even supposing that we understand the word springs in its common acceptation ?, It is the office of Time (says Lucretia) to cry up the sap of the oak, and to furnish springs with a perpetual supply; to deprive the one of that moisture which she liberally bestows upon the other. In the next stanza the employment of Time is equally rarious and discordant :
“ To make the child a man, the man a child" to advance the infant to the maturity of man, and to reduce the aged to the imbecility of childhood.
By springs however may be understood (as has been observed by Mr. Tollett) the shoots or buds of young trees; and then the meaning will be,- It is the office of Time, on the one hand, to destroy the ancient oak, by drying up its sap ; on the other, to cherish young plants, and to bring them to maturity. So, in our author's 15th Sonnet :
“When I perceive that men, as plants, increase,
“ Cheered and check'd even by the self-same sky-" I believe this to be the true sense of the passage. Springs has this signification in many ancient English books; and the word is again used in the same sense in The Comedy of Errors : VOL. XX.
To shew the beldame daughters of her daughter,
To cheer the ploughman with increaseful crops,
Why work’st thou mischief in thy pilgrimage,
back, I could prevent this storm, and shun thy wrack!
Thou ceaseless lackey to eternity,
“Even in the spring of love thy love-springs rot." Again, in Venus and Adonis : “ This canker, that eats up love's tender spring."
Malone, In Holinshed's Description of England, both the contested words in the latter part of the verse, occur. “We have manie woods, forrests, and parks, which cherish trees abundantlie, beside infinit numbers of hedge-rowes, groves, and springs, that are mainteined,” &c. TOLLET.
4 To spoil antiquities of hammer'd steel,] The poet was here, I believe, thinking of the costly monuments erected in honour of our ancient kings and some of the nobility, which were frequently made of iron, or copper, wrought with great nicety; many of which had probably even in his time begun to decay. There are some of these monuments yet to be seen in Westminster-abbey, and other old cathedrals. Malone.
s One poor ReTIRING minute in an age,] Retiring here sig. nifies returning, coming back again. Malone. 6 - extremes BEYOND EXTREMITY,] So, in King Lear:
“ to make much more,