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But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Jes. I am never merry, when I hear sweet musick.
Lor. The reason is, your spirits are attentive: For do but note a wild and wanton herd, Or race of youthful and unhandled colts 9, Fetching mad bounds, bellowing, and neighing loud, Which is the hot condition of their blood; If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
8 The folio editions, and the quarto printed by Roberts, read :
Such harmony is in immortal souls ;
Doth grossly close in it, we cannot hear it.' Johnson thought the third line corrupt, and proposed to read, it in; which proves to be the reading of the quarto printed by Heyes, though he did not know it, this reading has been adopted in all the modern editions. But as he observes the sentence is still imperfect, and no attempt at explanation yet offered is to me satisfactory. From the discrepancy in the early copies we cannot doubt that there is an error somewhere. No very material change is necessary to make the passage perfectly intelligible, the simple substitution of the word us for it, which I have ventured upon in the text, is I am persuaded the true reading.
Milton's imitation of the passage, in his Arcades, supports my conjecture:
Such sweet compulsion doth in music lye,
Of human mould, with gross unpuryed ear.' 9 We find the same thought in the Tempest:
- Then I beat my tabor,
air of musick touch their ears, You shall perceive them make a mutual stand, Their savage eyes turn’d to a modest gaze, By the sweet power of musick: Therefore, the poet Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones, and floods; Since nought so stockish, hard, and full of rage, But musick for the time doth change his nature: The man that hath no musick in himself, Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils 10; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus : Let no such man be trusted.-Mark the musick.
Enter PORTIA and NERISSA at a distance.
Por. That light we see, is burning in my hall. How far that little candle throws his beams ! So shines a good deed in a naughty world. Ner. When the moon shone, we did not see the
10 Steevens, in one of his splenetic moods, censures this passage as neither pregnant with physical and moral truth, nor poetically beautiful; and, with the assistance of Lord Chesterfield's tirade against music, levels a blow at the lovers and professors of it.
Mr. Douce has defended music from this disingenuous attack, with all the eloquence of a lover, in a passage which should never be separated from the beautiful though somewhat extravagant encomium in the text. • It is a science which, from its intimate and natural connexion with poetry and painting, deserves the highest attention and respect. He that is happily qualified to appreciate the better parts of music, will never seek them in the society so emphatically reprobated by the noble lord, nor altogether in the way that he recommends. He will not lend an ear to the vulgarity and tumultuous roar of the tavern catch, or the delusive sounds of martial clangour; but he will enjoy this heavenly gift, this exquisite and soul-delighting sensation in the temples of his God, or in the peaceful circles of domestic happiness: he will pursue the blessing and advantages of it with ardour, and turn aside from its abuses.'
Por. So doth the greater glory dim the less :
Ner. It is your musick, madam, of the house.
Por. Nothing is good, I see, without respect 11; Methinks, it sounds much sweeter than by day.
Ner. Silence bestows that virtue on it, madam.
Por. The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark, When neither is attended; and, I think, The nightingale, if she should sing by day, When every goose is cackling, would be thought No better a musician than the wren. How many things by season season'd are To their right praise, and true perfection! Peace, hoa! the moon sleeps with Endymion, And would not be awak'd! [Musick ceases. Lor.
That is the voice, Or I am much deceiv'd, of Portia. Por. He knows me, as the blind man knows the
cuckoo, By the bad voice. Lor.
Dear lady, welcome home.
Madam, they are not yet;
Go in, Nerissa,
11 Not absolutely good, but relatively good, as it is modified by circumstances.
No note at all of our being absent hence;
[A tucket 12 sounds. Lor. Your husband is at hand, I hear his trumpet; We are no tell-tales, madam; fear you not.
Por. This night, methinks, is but the daylight sick, It looks a little paler; 'tis a day, Such as a day is when the sun is hid. Enter BASSANIO, ANTONIO, GRATIANO, and
their Followers. Bass. We should hold day with the Antipodes, If you would walk in absence of the sun.
Por. Let me give light, but let me not be light13 ; For a light wife doth make a heavy husband, And never be Bassanio so for me; But God sort all!—You are welcome home, my lord. Bass. I thank you, madam: give welcome to my
friend. This is the man, this is Antonio, To whom I am so infinitely bound.
Por. You should in all sense be much bound to him, For, as I hear, he was much bound for
you. Ant. No more than I am well acquitted of. Por. Sir, you are very welcome to our house:
than words, Therefore, I scant this breathing courtesy 14.
12 Toccata, Ital. a flourish on a trumpet.
13 Shakspeare delights to trifle with this word. It was also a frequent practice with his cotemporaries, take one instance out of many; from Marston's Insatiate Countess :
By this bright light that is derived from thee
So, sir, you make me a light creature.' 14 This verbal complimentary form, made up only of breath, i. e. words. So in Timon of Athens, a senator replies to Alcibiades who had made a long speech, “You breathe in vain.' Again in Macbeth :
It must appear
GRATIANO and NERISSA seem to talk apart. Gra. By yonder moon, I swear, you do me wrong; In faith, I gave it to the judge's clerk: Would he were gelt that had it, for my part, Since
you do take it, love, so much at heart. Por. A quarrel, ho, already? what's the matter?
Gra. About a hoop of gold, a paltry ring
Ner. What talk you of the posy, or the value ?
you would wear it till your hour of death; And that it should lie with you in your grave: Though not for me, your
Gra. He will, an if he live to be a man.
Gra. Now, by this hand, I gave it to a youth, —
like cutler's poetry
Upon a knife.' Knives were formerly inscribed, by means of aqua fortis, with short sentences in distich.
16 Respective, that is considerative, regardful; not respectful or respectable as Steevens supposed. Thus in King John, Act i. Sc. 1.
• For new made honour doth forget men's names,
'Tis too respective and too sociable.'
· What should it be that he respects in her