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(e) As one may meet with in a summer's day.
This is surely no flattering compliment to Horatio : it is branding him, in unequivocal language, with the opprobrious appellation of a fair-weather friend. Our author meant, and I have no doubt wrote, “in a sombre day;" a dark, dreary day.
I cannot assent to Mr. Theobald's emendation. A summer's day is correct, and is here opposed to a day in winter, not as it is fairer, but as it is longer. The poet's meaning is, 'You are as tight a lad as one may meet with, amongst the vast number of men that it is likely one may encounter, in the course of a summer-day's journey, when the days are at their extreme length, and reckoning from sun-rise to sun-set.'
(F)- That's all gammon.
It is probable that the author intended game, man! By game may be understood fudge, or blarney. When we recollect that many of our author's plays were taken down in writing during the performance, and consider that the copyists may have been misled by the indistinct articulation of the actors, the error may be easily accounted for.
The passage, as it stands, is correct, and, to me, appears perfectly intelligible: that's all gammon is equivalent to that's all my eye.'
Mr. Pope, not readily understanding the passage, seems willing to plunge it still deeper into an abyss of unintelligibility: like him who, deprived of the organs of vision, excludes the light from his chamber, and immerses it in impenetrable tenebrosity, in order that his visitors may partake of, and be involved in, that obscurity, under which he himself is doomed to suffer.
(g) Since I could tell a dray-horse from a poney.
By this passage we are enabled to form a tolerably accurate idea of the time of the commencement of Hamlet's intimacy with Horatio. Children of a very early age are acquainted with objects only in the general: to them, the stallion, the gelding, and the mare, the racer, the dray-horse, and the hack, are known only by the general term of horse ; it is through the medium of experience that they learn to distinguish and arrange particulars. Hence it appears, that Hamlet chose Horatio as his friend, when about six years of age—when experience had taught him to “tell a dray-horse from a poney."
(b) We beg you'll give us grace and time.
For us, grace, or indulgence; for our pantomime, the time requisite for its performance.
This exquisite prologue stands unrivalled. Unlike similar compositions of our own times, it neither fatigues by a dull and formal prolixity, nor disgusts by a reiteration of hopes, and doubts, and fears, frivolous and unavailing: laconic and forcible, it demands nothing but that which it is entitled to claim,-time and attention; wisely considering that a good play can have no foundation more secure than its own merit, and that a whining prologue cannot prejudice a judicious audience in favour of a bad one, whatever is servile or impertinent it properly rejects. Like the Apollo of the Vatican, let this prologue be revered as the master-piece of its art; whose beauties the meanest artist may imitate, but the most exalted dare not hope to equal.
This prologue is a very close imitation of the celebrated prologue to Gonzago and Baptista, which, even in the hands of our author, has been improved in no respect but in brevity :
“For us, and for our Tragedie,
Some of the later editions have it, “ The MeloDrama ;” but it is evidently an alteration of some modern editor, emanating from incogitancy. The melodrama, which was neither tragedy, nor comedy, nor opera, nor farce, nor pantomime, but a barbarous and an unnatural combination of all, was unknown in the time of our poet: the climax of theatrical licentiousness, it remained to be introduced in the reign of when our stage had arrived at a state the most abject and degraded. We, who live in an age when the theatre is dignified and adorned by a K—and a S- with a copious range of drama for the display of their exalted talents, have but little cause to fear the re-admission of this monstrous abortion of dramatic libertinism :
that it would be tolerated by an audience, sensible and judicious, it were absurd to suppose.
I find this word used, in the same sense, in an old ballad, (which, no doubt, was within our author's knowledge,) called Molle in ya Wadde. bl. let. 1564:
“Molle in ye Wadde and I felle outte,
thinke it was aboutte?
(1) Jump o'er a broomstick
We might, with more propriety, read mop-stick; but, as I do not approve of alterations unsupported by authority, or of emendations, captious and arbitrary, I leave the text as I found it.