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What great creation, and what dole of honour,
Take her by the hand,
I take her hand.
8 — whose ceremony
Shall seem EXPEDIENT on the now-BORN BRIEF,
And be perform'd to-night:7 Several of the modern editors read-new-born brief. STEEVENS.
This, if it be at all intelligible, is at least obscure and inaccurate. Perhaps it was written thus :
• Shall more attend The brief is the contract of espousal, or the licence of the church. The King means, What ceremony is necessary to make this contract a marriage, shall be immediately performed ; the rest may be delayed. Johnson.
The only authentick copy reads—“ now-born.” I do not perceive that any change is necessary. MALONE.
The whole speech is unnaturally expressed; yet I think it intelligible as it stands, and should therefore reject Johnson's amendment and explanation.
The word brief does not here denote either a contract or a. licence, but is an adjective, and means short or contracted : and the words “on the now-born,” signify “ for the present,” in opposition to “ upon the coming space," which means hereafter. The sense of the whole passage seems to be this:-" The king and fortune smile on this contract; the ceremony of which it seems expedient to abridge for the present; the solemn feast shall be performed at a future time, when we shall be able to assemble friends." M. Mason. VOL. X.
Shall more attend upon the coming space,
[Exeunt King, BERTRAM, HELENA, Lords,
and Attendants'. LAF. Do you hear, monsieur ? a word with you. Par. Your pleasure, sir ?
LAF. Your lord and master did well to make his recantation.
PAR. Recantation ?- My lord ? my master ?
Though I have inserted the foregoing note, I do not profess to comprehend its meaning fully. Shakspeare used the words expedience, expedient, and expediently, in the sense of haste, quick, expeditiously. A brief, in ancient language, means any short and summary writing or proceeding. The “now-born brief” is only another phrase for “ the contract recently and suddenly made. The ceremony of it (says the king) shall seem to hasten after its short preliminary, and be performed to-night,” &c. Steevens.
Now-born, the epithet in the old copy, prefixed to brief, unquestionably ought to be restored. The « now-born brief,” is the breve originale of the feudal times, which, in this instance, formally notified the king's consent to the marriage of Bertram, his ward. Henley.
Our author often uses brief in the sense of a short note, or intimation concerning any business ; and sometimes without the idea of writing. So, in the last Act of this play:
" she told me
“ In a sweet verbal brief,' &c. Again, in the Prologue to Sir John Oldcastle, 1600 :
“ To stop which scruple, let this brief suffice:
“ It is no pamper'd glutton we present,” &c. The meaning therefore of the present passage, I believe, is : . Good fortune, and the king's favour, smile on this short contract ; the ceremonial part of which shall immediately pass, shall follow close on the troth now briefly plighted between the parties, and be performed this night; the solemn feast shall be delayed to a future time.' Malone.
9 The old copy has the following singular continuation : “ Parolles and Lafeu stay behind, commenting of this wedding." This could have been only the marginal note of a prompter, and was never designed to appear in print. STEEVENS.
To comment means, seeming to make remarks. MALONE.
Par. A most harsh one; and not to be understood without bloody succeeding. My master ?
LAF. Are you companion to the count Rousillon ?
man. LAF. To what is count's man; count's master is of another style.
Par. You are too old, sir; let it satisfy you, you are too old. · LAF. I must tell thee, sirrah, I write man ; to which title age cannot bring thee.
Par. What I dare too well do, I dare not do.
LAF. I did think thee, for two ordinaries, to be a pretty wise fellow ; thou didst make tolerable vent of thy travel ; it might pass : yet the scarfs, and the bannerets, about thee, did manifoldly dissuade me from believing thee a vessel of too great a burden. I have now found thee; when I lose thee again, I care not : yet art thou good for nothing but taking up?; and that thou art scarce worth.
Par. Hadst thou not the privilege of antiquity upon thee,
LAF. Do not plunge thyself too far in anger, lest thou hasten thy trial; which if-Lord have mercy on thee for a hen! So, my good window of lattice, fare thee well; thy casement I need not open, for I look through thee. Give me thy hand.
Par. My lord, you give me most egregious indignity.
LAF. Ay, with all my heart ; and thou art worthy of it.
Par. I have not, my lord, deserved it.
1- for two ordinaries,] While I sat twice with thee at table.
JOHNSON 2-taking up ;] To take up is to contradict, to call to account ; as well as to pick off the ground. Johnson.
· Lar. Yes, good faith, 'every dram of it; and I will not bate thee a scruple.
Par. Well, I shall be wiser.
LAF. E'en as soon as thou canst, for thou hast to pull at a smack o' the contrary. If ever thou be'st bound in thy scarf, and beaten, thou shalt find what it is to be proud of thy bondage. I have a desire to hold my acquaintance with thee, or rather my knowledge; that I may say, in the default", he is a man I know.
Par. My lord, you do me most insupportable vexation.
LAF. I would it were hell-pains for thy sake, and my poor doing eternal : for doing I am past; as I will by thee, in what motion age will give me leave 4.
[Exit. PAR. Well, thou hast a son shall take this disgrace off me; scurvy, old, filthy, scurvy lord !
3 — in the default,] That is, at a need. Johnson.
4 — for doing I am past; as I will by thee, in what motion age will give me leave.] The conceit, which is so thin that it might well escape a hasty reader, is in the word past—“I am past, as I will be past by thee.” Johnson. · Lafeu means to say, “ for doing I am past, as I will pass by thee, in what motion age will permit.” Lafeu says, that he will pass by Parolles, not that he will be passed by him ; and Lafeu is actually the person who goes out. M. MASON.
Dr. Johnson is, I believe, mistaken. Mr. Edwards has, I think, given the true reading of Lafeu's words. “I cannot do much, says Lafeu ; doing I am past, as I will by thee in what motion age will give me leave; i. e, as I will pass by thee as fast as I am able :"-and he immediately goes out. It is a play on the word past : the conceit indeed is poor, but Shakspeare plainly meant it.” MALONE.
Doing is here used obscenely. So, in Ben Jonson's translation of a passage in an Epigram of Petronius :
Brevis est, &c. et fæda voluptas.
“ Doing a filthy pleasure is, and short.” Collins. :5 Well, thou hast a son shall take this disgrace off me;] This the poet makes Parolles speak alone; and this is nature. A Well, I must be patient; there is no fettering of authority. I'll beat him, by my life, if I can meet him with any convenience, an he were double and double a lord. I'll have no more pity of his age, than I would have of—I'll beat him, an if I could but meet him again.
Re-enter LAFEU. LAF. Sirrah, your lord and master's married, there's news for you ; you have a new mistress.
Par. I most unfeignedly beseech your lordship to make some reservation of your wrongs : He is my good lord : whom I serve above, is my master.
LAF. Who? God ?
LAF. The devil it is, that's thy master. Why dost thou garter up thy arms o' this fashion ? dost make hose of thy sleeves ? do other servants so ? Thou wert best set thy lower part where thy nose stands. By mine honour, if I were but two hours younger, I'd beat thee: methinks, thou art a general offence, and every man should beat thee. I think, thou wast created for men to breathe themselves upon thee.
Par. This is hard and undeserved measure, my lord.
LAF. Go to, sir; you were beaten in Italy for picking a kernel out of a pomegranate; you are a vagabond, and no true traveller: you are more saucy with lords, and honourable personages, than the heraldry of your birth and virtue gives you commission. You are not worth another word, else I'd call you knave. I leave you.
coward should try to hide his poltroonery even from himself. An ordinary writer would have been glad of such an opportunity to bring him to confession. WARBURTON.
6 — than the heraldry of your birth, &c.] In former copies :“ than the commission of your birth and virtue gives you heraldry.” Sir Thomas Hanmer restored it. Johnson.