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Sweetest nut hath sowrest rind,
Must find love's prick, and Rosalind. This is the very false gallop of verses;2 Why do you infect yourself with them?
Ros. Peace, you dull fool; I found them on a tree.
Ros. I'll graff it with you, and then I shall graff it with a medlar: then it will be the earliest fruit3 in the country: for you 'll be rotten e'er you be half ripe, and that 's the right virtue of the medlar.
Touch. You have said; but whether wisely or no, let the forest judge.
Enter Celia, reading a paper.
For is it unpeopled? No;
That shall civil sayings show.5
2 This is the very false gallop of verses;] So, in Nashe's Apologie of Pierce Pennilesse, 4to, 1593: “ I would trot a false gallop through the rest of his ragged verses, but that if I should retort the rime doggrell aright, I must make my verses (as he doth his) run hobbling, like a brewer's cart upon the stones, and observe no measure in their feet.” Malone.
the earliest fruit - ] Shakspeare seems to have had little knowledge in gardening. The medlar is one of the latest fruits, being uneatable till the end of November. Steevens. 4 Why should this desert silent be?] This is commonly printed:
Why should this a desert be? But although the metre may be assisted by this correction, the sense still is defective; for how will the hanging of tongues on every tree, make it less a desert? I am persuaded we ought to read:
Why should this desert silent be? Tyrwhitt. The notice which this emendation deserves, I have paid to it, by inserting it in the text. Steevens.
5 That shall civil sayings show.] Civil is here used in the same sense as when we say civil wisdom or civil life, in opposition to a solitary state, or to the state of nature. This desert shall not appear unpeopled, for every tree shall teach the maxims or incidents of social life. Fohnson.
Some, how brief the life of man
Runs his erring pilgrimage ;
Buckles in his sum of age.
'Twixt the souls of friend and friend:
Or at every sentence' end,
Teaching all that read, to know
Heaven would in little show.6
That one body should be fill'd
Nature presently distill’d
Sado Lucretia's modesty.
Civil, I believe, is not designedly opposed to solitary. It means only grave, or solemn. So, in Twelfth Night, Act Ill, sc. iv:
" Where is Malvolio? he is sad and civil.” i. e. grave
“That fourteen yards of satin give my woman;
in little show.] The allusion is to a miniature-portrait. The current phrase in our author's time was “painted in little."
Malone. So, in Hamlet: 66 - a hundred ducats a-piece, for his picture in little." Steevens.
7 Therefore heaven nature charg'd-] From the picture of Apelles, or the accomplishments of Pandora.
Πανδωρην οτι κανει 'Ολυμπια δωματ’ εχονίες
“ Of every creature's best.”. Tempest. Perhaps from this passage Swift had his hint of Biddy Floyd.
Fohnson. 8 Atalanta's better part;] I know not well what could be the better part of Atalanta here ascribed to Rosalind. Of the Ata
Thus Rosalind of many parts
By heavenly synod was devis'd;
To have the touches' dearest priz’d.
lanta most celebrated, and who therefore must be intended here where she has no epithet of discrimination, the better part seems to have been her heels, and the worse part was so bad that Ro. salind would not thank her lover for the comparison. There is a more obscure Atalanta, a huntress and a heroine, but of her nothing bad is recorded, and therefore I know not which was her better part. Shakspeare was no despicable mythologist, yet he seems here to have mistaken some other character for that of Atalanta. Johnson.
Perhaps the poet means her beauty and graceful elegance of shape, which he would prefer to her swiftness. Thus Ovid:
nec dicere posses,
Obstupuit But cannot Atalanta's better part mean her virtue or virgin chastity, with which nature had graced Rosalind, together with Helen's beauty without her heart or lewdness, with Cleopatra's dignity of behaviour, and with Lucretia's modesty, that scorned to survive the loss of honour? Pliny's Natural History, B. XXXV, c. iii, mentions the portraits of Atalanta and Helen, utraque excellentissima forma, sed altera ut virgo; that is, “ both of them for beauty, incomparable, and yet a man may discern the one [Atalanta] of them to be a maiden, for her modest and chaste countenance,” as Dr. P. Holland translated the passage; of which probably our poet had taken notice, for surely he had judgment in painting. Tollet.
I suppose Atalanta's better part is her wit, i. e. the swiftness of her mind. Farmer.
Shakspeare might have taken part of this enumeration of distinguished females from John Grange's Golden Aphroditis, 1577:
- who seemest in my sight faire Helen of Troy, Polixene, Calliope, yea Atalanta hir selfe in beauty to surpasse, Pandora in qualities, Penelope and Lucretia in chastenesse to deface.” Again, ibid:
“ Polisene fayre, Calliop, and
“ Penelop may give place;
- She doth them both deface.” Again, ibid: “ Atalanta who sometyme bore the bell of beauties price in that hyr native soyle.”
It may be observed, that Statius also, in his sixth Thebaid, has confounded Atalanta the wife of Hippomenes, and daughter of Siconeus, with Atalanta the daughter of Enomaus, and wife of Pelops. See y. 564. Steevens.
Heaven would that she these gifts should have,
Dr. Farmer's explanation may derive some support from a subsequent passage : “ – as swift a wit as Atalanta's heels.”
Malone. I think this stanza was formed on an old tetrastick epitaph, which, as I have done, Mr. Steevens may possibly have read in a country church-yard:
“She who is dead and sleepeth in this tomb,
“ And Martha's care, and Mary's better part.” Whalley. The following passage in Marston's Insatiate Countess, 1613, might lead one to suppose that Atalanta's better part was her lips :
That eye was Juno's;
“That virgin blush Diana's.” Be this as it may, these lines show that Atalanta was considered as uncommonly beautiful, and therefore may serve to support Mr. Tollet's first interpretation.
It is observable that the story of Atalanta in the tenth Book of Ovid's Metamorphoses is interwoven with that of Venus and Adonis, which our author had undoubtedly read. The lines most material to the present point run thus in Golding's translation, 1567 :
“ She overcame them out of doubt; and hard it is to tell
And though that she “ Did flie as swift as arrow from a Turkie bow, yet hee “ More wondered at her beautie, then at swiftnesse of her
pace; “Her running greatly did augment her beautie and her
grace. Malone. The passage quoted by Mr. Malone from Marston's Insatiate Countess, has no reference to the ball of Atalanta, but to the golden apple which was adjudged to Venus by Paris, on Mount Ida.
After all, I believe, that “ Atalanta's better part” means onlythe best part about her, such as was most commended. Steevens.
9 Sad - ] Is grave, sober, not light. Johnson.
So, in Much Ado about Nothing: “She is never sad but when she sleeps.” Steevens.
the touches – ] The features; les traits. Fohnson.
Ros. O most gentle Jupiter what tedious homily of love have you wearied your parishioners withal, and never cry'd, Have patience, good peonle!
Cel. How now! back friends;-Shepherd, go off a little:-Go with him, sirrah.
Touch. Come, shepherd, let us make an honourable retreat; though not with bag and baggage, yet with scrip and scrippage.
[Exeunt Cor. and Touch. Cel. Didst thou hear these verses?
Ros. O, yes, I heard them all, and more too: for some of them had in them more feet than the verses would bear.
Cel. That's no matter; the feet might bear the verses.
Ros. Ay, but the feet were lame, and could not bear themselves without the verse, and therefore stood lamely in the verse.
Cel. But didst thou hear, without wondering, how thy name should be hang’d and carved upon these trees?
Ros. I was seven of the nine days out of the wonder, before you came; for look here what I found on a palmtree:2 I was never so be-rhymed since Pythagoras' time, that I was an Irish rat, 3 which I can hardly remember.
So, in King Richard III:
“Madam, I have a touch of your condition.” Steevens. 2- a palm-tree:] A palm-tree, in the forest of Arden, is as much out of its place, as the lioness in a subsequent scene.
Steevens. I was never so be-rhymed since Pythagoras' time that I was an Irish rat,] Rosalind is a very learned lady. She alludes to the Pythagorean doctrine, which teaches that souls transmigrate from one animal to another, and relates that in his time she was an Irish rat, and by some metrical charm was rhymed to death. The power of killing rats with rhymes Donne mentions in his Satires, and Temple in his Treatises. Dr. Grey has produced a similar passage from Randolph:
Johnson. So, in an address to the reader at the conclusion of Ben Jonson's Poetaster:
“Rhime them to death, as they do Irish rats
“In drumming tunes.” Steevens. So, in The Defence of Poesie, by our author's contemporary, Sir Philip Sidney: “ Though I will not wish unto you—to be driven