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Boyet. Madam, and pretty mistresses, give ear:
Prin. Will they return?
They will, they will, God knows; And leap for joy, though they are lame with blows: Therefore, change favours; and, when they repair, Blow like sweet roses in this summer air.
Prin. How blow? how blow? speak to be understood.
Boyet. Fair ladies, mask'd, are roses in their bud : Dismask'd, their damask sweet commixture shown, Are angels vailing clouds, or roses blown."
The statute mentioned by Dr. Grey was repealed in the year 1597. The epithet by which these statute caps are described, "plain statute caps,” induces me to believe the interpretation given in the preceding note by Mr. Steevens, the true one. The king and his lords probably wore hats adorned with feathers. So they are represented in the print prefixed to this play in Mr. Rowe's edition, probably from some stage tradition. Malone. 1 Fair ladies, mask'd, are roses in their bud;
Dismask'd, their damask sweet commixture shown,
Are angels vailing clouds or roses blown.] This strange nonsense, made worse by the jumbling together and transposing the lines, I directed Mr. Theohald to read thus:
Fair ladies mask'd are roses in their bud:
Dismask'd their damask sweet commixture shown. But he, willing to show how well he could improve a thought, would print it:
Or angel-veiling clouds i.e. clouds which veil angels: and by this means gave us, as the old proverb says, a cloud for a Juno. It was Shakspeare's purpose to compare a fine lady to an angel; it was Mr. Theobald's chance to compare her to a cloud: and perhaps the ill-bred reader will say a lucky one. However, I supposed the poet could never be so nonsensical as to compare a masked lady to a cloud, though he might compare her mask to one. The Oxford editor, who had the advantage both of this emendation and criticism, is a great deal more subtile and refined, and says it should not be
-angels veil'd in clouds. but
-angels vailing clouds. i. e. capping the sun as they go by him, just as a man vails his bonnet. Warburton.
I know not why Sir T. Hanmer's explanation should be treated with so much contempt, or why vailing clouds should be capping
Prin. Avaunt, perplexity! What shall we do,
Ros. Good madam, if by me you 'll be advis’d,
Boyet. Ladies, withdraw; the gallants are at hand.
[Exeunt Princess,3 Ros. Kath. and Mar. Enter the King, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and Dumain, in
their proper habits. King. Fair sir, God save you! Where is the princess?
Boyet. Gone to her tent: Please it your majesty, Command me any service to her thither?
King. That she vouchsafe me audience for one word. Boyet. I will; and so will she, I know, my lord. (Exit.
Biron. This fellow pecks up wit, as pigeons peas;* And utters it again when God doth please.
the sun. Ladies unmask'd, says Boyet, are like angels vailing clouds, or letting those clouds which obscured their brightness, sink from before them. What is there in this absurd or contemptible?
Johnson. Holinshed's History of Scotland, p. 91, says: “The Britains began to avale the hills where they had lodged." i. e. they began to descend the hills, or come down from them to meet their enemies. If Shakspeare uses the word vailing in this sense, the meaning is- Angels descending from clouds which concealed their beauties; but Dr. Johnson's exposition may be better. Tollet.
To avale comes from the Fr. aval [Terme de batelier] Down, downward, down the stream. So, in the French Romant de la Rose, v. 1415:
6 Leaue aloit aval enfaisant
“ Son melodieux et plaisant." Again, in Laneham's Narrative of Queen Elizabeth's Entertainment at Kenelworth Castle, 1575: “- as on a sea-shore when the waterås availd.” Steevens.
-shapeless gear ;] Shapeless, for uncouth, or what Shakspeare elsewhere calls diffused. Warburton. 3 Exeunt Princess, &c.] Mr. Theobald ends the fourth Act here.
He is wit's pedler; and retails his wares
-pecks up wit, as pigeons peas ;] This expression is proverbial :
“ Children pick up words as pigeons peas,
“ And utter them again as God shall please.” See Ray's Collection. Steevens.
Pecks is the reading of the first quarto. The folio has-picks. That pecks is the true reading, is ascertained by one of Nashe's tracts; Christ's Tears over Jerusalem, 1594: “The sower scat, tered some seede by the highway side, which the foules of the ayre peck'd up." Malone.
- wassels,] Wassels were meetings of rustic mirth and intemperance. So, in Antony and Cleopatra:
Antony, “ Leave thy lascivious wassels”. See note on Macbeth, Act I, sc. vii. Steevens.
Waes heal, that is, be of health, was a salutation first used by the Lady Rowena to King Vortiger. Afterwards it became a custom in villages, on new year's eve and twelfth-night, to carry a wassel or waissail bowl from house to house, which was presented with the Saxon words above mentioned. Hence in process of time wassel signified intemperance in drinking, and also a meeting for the purpose of festivity. Malone.
6 He can carve too, and lisp:] The character of Boyet, as drawn by Biron, represents an accomplished squire of the days of chi. valry, particularly in the instances here noted.--" Le Jeune Ecuyer apprenoit long-temps dans le silence cet art de bien parler, lorsqu'en qualité d'Ecuyer TRANCHĄNT, il étoit debout dans les repas & dans les festins, occupé à couper les viandes avec la propreté, l'addresse & l'elegance convenables, et à les faire distri. buer aux nobles convives dont il étoit environné. Joinville, dans sa jeunesse, avoit rempli à la cour de Saint Louis cet office, qui, dans les maisons des Souverains, étoit quelquefois exercé par leurs propres enfans.” Memoires sur l'ancienne Chevalerie, Tom. I, p. 16. Henley.
"I cannot cog, (says Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor) and say, thou art this and that, like a many of these lisping hawthorn buds, that come like women in men's apparel —," Malone,
In honourable terms; nay, he can sing
King. A blister on his sweet tongue, with my heart, That put Armado's page out of his part!
? A mean most meanly; &c.] The mean in musick, is the tenor. So, Bacon: “ The treble cutteth the air so sharp, as it returneth too swift to make the sound equal; and therefore a mean or tenor is the sweetest.' Again, in Herod and Antipater, 1622:
“Thus sing we descant on one plain-song, kill:
“Four parts in one; the mean excluded quite.” Again, in Drayton's Barons' Wars. Cant. iii.
66 The base and treble married to the mean.” Steevens.
as white as whales bone : ] As white as whales bone is a proverbial comparison in the old poets. In The Fairy Queen, B. III, c.i, st. 15:
“ Whose face did seem as clear as crystal stone,
“ And eke, through feare, as white as whales bone." Again in L. Surrey, fol. 14, edit. 1567:
“ I might perceive a wolf, as white as whales bone,
" A fairer beast of fresher hue, beheld I never none." Skelton joins the whales bone with the brightest precious stones, in describing the position of Pallas:
“ A hundred steppes mounting to the halle,
“ One of jasper, another of whales bone ;
Crowne of Lawrell, p. 24, edit. 1736. T. Warton. as whales bone:] The Saxon genitive case. So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream:
“ Swifter than the moones sphere." It should be remember'd that some of our ancient writers sup. posed ivory to be part of the bones of a whale. The same simile occurs in the old black letter romance of Syr Eglamoure of Artoys,
- The erle had no chylde but one,
“ A mayden as white as whales bone.” Steevens. This white whale his bone, now superseded by ivory, was the tooth of the Horse-whale, Morse, or Walrus, as appears by King Alfred's preface to his Saxon translation of Orosius. H. White.
no date :
Enter the Princess, usher'd by Boyet; ROSALINE, MA
RIA, KATHARINE, and Attendants. Biron. See where it comes !-Behaviour, what wert
King. All hail, sweet madam, and fair time of day!
To lead you to our court: vouchsafe it then.
Nor God, nor I, delight in perjur'd men.
The virtue of your eye must break my oath.1
As the unsullied lily, I protest,
I would not yield to be your house's guest:
Behaviour, what wert thou, Till this man show'd thee? and what art thou now?] These are two wonderfully fine lines, intimating that what courts call manners, and value themselves so much upon teaching, as a thing no where else to be learnt, is a modest silent accomplishment under the direction of nature and common sense, which does its office in promoting social life without being taken notice of. But that when it degenerates into show and parade, it becomes an unmanly contemptible quality. Warburton.
What is told in this note is undoubtedly true, but is not com. prized in the quotation. Fohnson.
Till this man show'd thee.?] The old copies read—“Till this mad man,” &c. Steevens. An error of the press. The word mad must be struck out.
M. Mason. i The virtue of your eye must break my oath.] I believe our au. thor means that the virtue, in which word goodness and power are both comprised, must dissolve the obligation of the oath. The Princess, in her answer, takes the most invidious part of the ambiguity. Johnson.