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(f)-Rope of onions
I do not understand this. May we not, with greater propriety, read, a robe of onions? i. e. a fantastical garment ornamented with onions, in the same way as the dominos of masqueraders are sometimes studded with gingerbread-nuts-a dress such as Ophelia's phrensy might naturally suggest to her.
Rope is, undoubtedly, the true reading. A rope of onions is a certain number of onions, which, for the convenience of portability, are, by the market-women, suspended from a rope : not, as the Oxford editor ingeniously, but improperly, supposes, in a bunch at the end, but by a perpendicular arrangement.
For the hints afforded me in the formation of this note, and for those contained in the note upon pickled mutton, I am indebted to a lady celebrated at once for her literary acquirements and her culinary accomplishments.
To bring a rope of onions, &c.
Let us suppose that Ophelia addresses this to the king, and we shall discover a peculiar propriety in its application. The king is represented as an intemperate drinker
-Ophelia, who, doubtless has some skill in uroscopy, applies this speech to the king, with reference to the diuertic quality of onions.—Verbum sapienti.
Should the concise manner in which I treat this subject expose me to the charge either of fastidious brevity or of delicacy of expression squeamishly refined, I trust that my celebrated note upon potatoes* (wherein I have so clearly and so minutely explained the various qualities of that invaluable plant) will be received in refutation, and that it will convince the world that I want neither talent nor inclination to indulge in prurient description.
To mill is to whack, or to thump. See the Slang Dictionary, St. Giles's Edition.
The Billingsgate edition of the Slang Dictionary, which, in point of accuracy, I conceive to be the least exceptionable, explains it, to knuckle, or, to lather.
* See note upon “ potatoes," and the useful and entertaining extract from Gerard's Herbal. TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, Act IV.
(b)-We're bewitch'd, 'tis plain.
Hamlet's meaning appears to me to be this : 'I know not how to account for the succession of calamities which has befallen us, otherwise than by supposing that we labour under the malevolent influence of witchcraft.'
· Probably the name of the royal watch-dog.
Anon he's patient as a hungry mouser.
This passage is incorrect. I cannot believe that patience is characteristic of a hungry animal.
The difficulty of this passage will be solved by supplying an apostrophe, which, doubtless, was intended to mark the elision of the a in hungry; and by substituting a capital H for a small one.
We must understand a Hungary (for Hungarian) mouser.
This emendation is so ingenious that I am sorry it is not just : for the passage, in its present state is not only correct, but eminently beautiful. The Queen compares the patience of Hamlet to that which, after a long privation from food, is exhibited by a mouser whilst watching for its prey.
There is yet a beauty which Dr. Johnson has passed without notice. The Queen not only compares Hamlet's occasional patience to that of a hungry mouser, but, at the same time, contrasts it with his paroxysms of ferocity, resembling the growlings of a watch-dog : whence it is common to say of two persons who live discordantly, that “they agree like cat and dog."
It may not be altogether uninteresting to the curious reader, to know that a mouser is a cat which is trained up for the purpose of killing Rats as well as mice. So in Chaucer's Romaunt de la rose, ver. 6204:
-Gibbe, our cat,
The trumpet's tantarara, post, shall set off
Either this passage is in itself a nonsensical rhapsody, or, partly through the caprice and partly through the negligence of successive editors, it has been corrupted. By substituting a hyphen for the comma, between tantarara and post, we obtain a faint glimmering of its meaning; and even then it remains to discover what is meant by a tantarara-post.
The punctuation of this passage requires no alteration. Tantarara is a word imitative of the note of the trumpet, as tattoo is of the beat of the drum. The trumpet's tantarara, post, shall set off, means the tantarara of the trumpet shall set off after (post) the loud tattoo of the drum.
Dr. Warburton has very far exceeded Mr. Theobald in his approaches towards the sense of this difficult passage ; yet he has not quite hit the mark. Our poet, doubtless, intended, the trumpet's tantarara, post (i. e. post-haste), shall set off, which is more poetical and much finer than it is rendered by Dr. Warburton's common-place explanation of post.