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King. Take thy fair hour, Laertes, time be
[ Afide. King. How is it that the clouds still hang on you? Ham. Not so, my Lord, I am too much i thi
Ham. Ay, Madam, it is common.
Queen. If it be,
(3) Take thy fair hour, Laertes, time be thine,
And thy fair graces; spend it at thy will.] This is the pointing in both Mr Pope's editions; but the Poet's meana ing is lost by it, and the close of the sentence miserably flattened. "The pointing I have restored, is that, of che best copies, and the sense this; “You have my leave to go, Laertes; make the faireft use you please of your time, and spend it at your will with the fairelt graces you are mafter of."
But I have that within which passeth shew:
you must know, your father loft a father; (4) That father loft, lost his; and the surviver bound In filial obligation, for fome term, To do oblequious forrow. But to persevere In obstinate condolement, is a course Of impious stubbornness, unmanly grief. It shews a will most uncorrect to Heaven, A heart unfortified, a mind impatient, An understanding simple and unschooled For what we know must be, and is as common: As any the most vulgar thing to sense, Why should we, in our peevilh oppofition, Take it to heart? fy! 'tis a fault to Heaven, A fault against the dead, a fault to Nature, To Reason moit absurd; whose common theme Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried, From the first corse till he. that died to-day, " This must be fo.” We pray you, throw to earth This unprevailing woe, and think of us As of a father : for let the world take note, You are the most immediate to our throne; (4) But you must k:10w, your friher lost a father ;
That father his.-} This supposed refinement is from Mr Pope; but all the editions else, that I have met wiid, old: and modero, read;
That father loft, loflis. The reduplication of which word here gives an energy and elegance, which is much easier to be conceived shiny explained in terms. And eväsy judicious reader of this: Poet must have observed how frequent it is with him to" make this reduplication, where he intends either to allert of deny, augment or diminish, or add a degree of vehemens 20 his exprellon.
King. Why, 'tis a loving and a fair reply;
Than that which deareft father bears his fon,
Do limpart towards you.] But what does the King im-. part? We want the substantive governed of the verb. The King had declared Hamlec lis immediate successor, and with that declaration, he must mean, le imparts to him as noblea love, as ever fond father tendered to his own son. I have ventured to make the text conform with this sense. (6)
- For your interit In going back to school to Wittenberg ;] The Poet uses. a: prolepfis here; for the university at Wittenberg was opened by Frederick 111..elector of Saxony, in the year 1502, feve. ral ages later in time than the date of Hamlet. But I defign this remark for another purpole. I would take notice, that a considerable space of years is spent in this tragedy; or Hamlet, as a Prince, thould be too old to go to an university. We here find him a scholar refident at that univerficy; but, in act fifth, we find him plainly thirty years old; for the gravedigger had taken up that occupation the very day on which young Hamlet was born, and had followed it, as he says, thirty years.
And the King's rowse the heaven shall bruit again,
Ham. Oh, that this too-too-folid flesh would melt,
(7) Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His cannon 'gainst fell-Naughter!) The generality of the edition: read thus, as if the Poet's thoughts were, Or that the Almighty had not planted his artillery, his resentment, or arms of vengeance against felf-murder. But the word which I have restored to the text, (and which was espoused by the accurate Mr Hughes, who gave an edition of this play) is the Poct's true reading. 1. e. That he had not restrained suicide by his express law, and peremptory prohibition. Misa takes are perpetually made in the old editions of our Poet, betwixt thofe two words, cannen and canon. I shall now fubjoin my reasons why I think the Poet intended to say Heaven bad fixed its injun&tion rather than its artillery. In the first place, I much doubt the propriety of the phrase, fixing cannon, in the meaning here supposed. The military expression, which imporis what would be neecfsary to the sense of the Poet's thought, is mounting or planting cannon; and whenever Cannon is said to be fixed, it is when the enemy become masters of it and nail it down. In the next place, to fix a, Canon, or law, is the term of the civilians' peculiar to this business. This Virgil had in his mind when he wrote;
-Leges fixit pretio, atque refixit. Æneid. VI. So Cicero, in his Philippic orations; Num figentur rur jus ha Tabulæ, quas vos decretis veftris refixi;iis ? And it was the constant cuftom of the Romans to say, upon this occasion, figere legem, as the Greeks before them used the synonymous term vówow muparñžus, and called their statues thence 7o.plπήγματα.
But my last reafun, and which fways most with me, is from the Poet's own turn and cast of thought. For, as he has done in a great many more inltances, it is the very feriment which he falls into in another of his plays, though hc has clothed it in different expreífion;
'gainst self-Naughter There is a prohibition fo divine, That cravens my weak hand,
His canon 'gainst self-flaughter! O God! oh God!
(8) So loving to my mother,
That he permitted not the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly.! This is a sophisticated reading, copied from the players in fome of the modern editions, for want of understanding the Poet, whose text is corrupt in the old impressions; all of which that I have had the furtune to fee, concur in readings
-fo loving to my mother,
Visit her face too roughly.
Frailty, thy rame is womand] But that it would displease Mr Pope to have it supposed that satire can have any place in tragedy, (of which I Mall have occasion to speak farther anon) I should make no feruple to pronounce this reflection a fine laconic sarcasin. It is as concife in the terms, and, perhaps, more spriglitly in the thought and image, than that fling of Virgil upon the lex, in his fourth Æneid;
- varium et mutabile fempcm Famina,