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pathetic ballad of the “ Two Louers theyr melancolie Partynge”-Dr. Humbug's Reliques, Vol. 94 :
“ To leve thee here, mie Alys dere,
“ Fulle sone ye tyme arryveth ;
“ Needs must when the Devil dryveth.”
Rosencrantz means thus: “We (Guildenstern and myself) have no alternative; were we to refuse attendance upon your mere invitation, you could then compel it by the interposition of the royal authority.'
ACT THE SECOND.
(a)—Non compos mentis.
The scraps of Latin, which we find scattered throughout our author's works, do not, in my opinion, furnish us with any substantial proof of his acquaintance with the learned languages: for it is certain that Ben Jonson, with whom he was once upon terms of the closest intimacy, not only furnished him with all the Latin he required, but even translated into English such Latin passages as accidentally came in his way. This is incontrovertibly proved by the following anecdote :
“ Our poet was god-father to one of Ben Jonson's “ children ; and, after the christening, being in deep “ study, Jonson came to cheer him up, and asked him
“ why he was so melancholy – No 'faith, Ben,' “ says he, 'not I ; but I have been considering a great “ while what should be the fittest gift for me to bestow “ upon my god-child, and I have resolved at last,'—'I “ pr’ythee what ?' says he. “ l'faith, Ben, I'll give him är some Latin spondees, AND THOUSHALT TRANS“ LATE THEM.”
The circumstance of his desiring Jonson to translate the Latin spondees is conclusive as to his want of learning, and requires no comment. ,
In support of his favorite hypothesis, Dr. Farmer has produced an anecdote, but (no doubt unintentionally) with an egregious mistake. The fact is, that the gift was not some Latin spondees, but a dozen goud latten spoons ; it being the custom for sponsors at christenings to present spoons to the child: whence the appellation. Nothing more was intended than a quibble, or pun: 'I cannot,' says our poet, give them of silver; but I will give him a dozen spoons of good latten (tinned iron so called); and (alluding to Jonson's latinity) thou shalt translate them, i, e. thou shalt turn them into silver.' So much for Dr. Farmer's “ incontrovertible proof.”
(6)-He's up to snuff.
To snuff up is to scent
This is highly figurative. Guildenstern says,
- he knows well enough “ The game we're after : 'Zooks, he's up to snuff:” that is, he has got scent of the game we are in pursuit of. The metaphor, which is striking and apposite, is borrowed from the Chase.
Without having recourse to a far-fetched explanation, I choose to understand the passage in its common acceptation: The game we're after means nothing more than the trick by which we are endeavouring to worm from him his secret ; but which, as he is up to snuf, i. e. as he is a knowing.one, he will, assuredly, render inefficacious. :
(c)—I fear he'll bite..
The late abrupt visit of Hamlet to Ophelia was certainly sufficient to impress her with an idea of his madness, powerful and terrific; but whether there was any physical cause for her apprehension of a dentifrical.