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Kent. How fares your grace?
Enter GLOSTER, with a Torch.
Lear. What 's he?
Kent. Who's there? What is 't you
Edg. Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt, and the water; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat and the ditchdog; drinks the green mantle of the standing pool; who is whipped from tything to tything, and stocked, punished, and imprisoned;6 who hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to his body, horse to ride, and weapon to
But mice, and rats, and such small deer,
Have been Tom's food for seven long year.7
"Swithin footed thrice the world.”
The ancient reading is the olds: which is pompously corrected by Mr. Theobald, with the help of his friend Mr. Bishop, to the wolds: in fact it is the same word. Spelman writes, Burton upon olds: the provincial pronunciation is still the oles: and that probably was the vulgar orthography. Let us read then,
St. Withold footed thrice the oles,
He met the night-mare, and her nine foles, &c. Farmer.
the wall-newt, and the water;] i. e. the water-newt. This was the phraseology of Shakspeare's time. "He was a wise man and a merry," was the common language. So Falstaff says to Shallow, "he is your serving-man, and your husband," i. e. husband-man. Malone.
5 whipped from tything to tything,] A tything is a division of a place, a district; the same in the country, as a ward in the city. In the Saxon times every hundred was divided into tythings. Edgar alludes to the acts of Queen Elizabeth and James I, against rogues, vagabonds, &c. In the stat. 39 Eliz. ch. 4, it is enacted, that every vagabond, &c. shall be publickly whipped and sent from parish to parish. Steevens.
and stocked, punished, and imprisoned;] So the folio. The quartos read, perhaps rightly—and stock-punished, and imprisoned.
7 But mice, and rats, and such small deer,
Have been Tom's food for seven long year.] This distich is part of a description given in the old metrical romance of Sir Bevis, of the hardships suffered by Bevis, when confined for seven years in a dun
"Rattes and myce and such smal dere
"Was his meate that seven yere." Sig. F.iij. Percy.
Beware my follower :-Peace, Smolkin; peace, thou
Glo. What, hath your grace no better company? Edg. The prince of darkness is a gentleman;9 Modo he 's call'd, and Mahu.1
Glo. Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so vile, That it doth hate what gets it.
Edg. Poor Tom's a cold.
Glo. Go in with me; my duty cannot suffer
Kent. Good my lord, take his offer;
Go into the house.
Lear. I'll talk a word with this same learned Theban :3
8- · Peace, Smolkin; peace,] “The names of other punie spirits cast out of Trayford were these: Hilco, Smolkin, Hillio," &c. Harsenet, p. 49. Percy.
9 The prince of darkness is a gentleman;] This is spoken in resentment of what Gloster had just said "Has your grace no better comSteevens. pany?"
1 The prince of darkness is a gentleman;
Modo he's call'd, and Mahu.] So, in Harsenet's Declaration, Maho was the chief devil that had possession of Sarah Williams; but another of the possessed, named Richard Mainy, was molested by a still more considerable fiend called Modu. See the book already mentioned, p. 268, where the said Richard Mainy deposes: "Furthermore it is pretended, . . . that there remaineth still in mee the prince of all other devils, whose name should be Modu." He is elsewhere called, "the prince Modu." So, p. 269: "When the said priests had dispatched theire business at Hackney (where they had been exor. cising Sarah Williams) they then returned towards mee, uppon pretence to cast the great prince Modu... out me." Steevens.
In The Goblins, by Sir John Suckling, a catch is introduced which concludes with these two lines:
“The prince of darkness is a gentleman :
I am inclined to think this catch not to be the production of Suck; ling, but the original referred to by Edgar's speech. Reed.
·cannot suffer -] i. e. My duty will not suffer me, &c.
What is your study?
Edg. How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.
Kent. Impórtune him once more to go, my lord,
Glo. Canst thou blame him? His daughters seek his death:-Ah, that good Kent!He said it would be thus :-Poor banish'd man!
Thou say'st, the king grows mad; I'll tell thee, friend,
Now outlaw'd from my blood; he sought my life,
No father his son dearer: true to tell thee,
[Storm continues.. The grief hath craz'd my wits. What a night's this! I do beseech your grace,
O, cry you mercy,
Glo. In, fellow, there, to the hovel: keep thee warm.
This way, my lord.
I will keep still with my philosopher.
Kent. Good my lord, sooth him; let him take the
Glo. Take him you on.
learned Theban:] Ben Jonson, in his Masque of Pan's Anniversary, has introduced a Tinker whom he calls a learned Theban, perhaps in ridicule of this passage. Steevens.
4 His wits begin to unsettle.] On this occasion, I cannot prevail on myself to omit the following excellent remark of Mr. Horace Walpole, [now Lord Orford] inserted in the postscript to his Mysterious Mother. He observes, that when "Belvidera talks of
"Lutes, laurels, seas of milk, and ships of Amber,— she is not mad, but light-headed. When madness has taken posses. sion of a person, such character ceases to be fit for the stage, or at least should appear there but for a short time; it being the business of the theatre to exhibit passions, not distempers. The finest picture ever drawn, of a head discomposed by misfortune, is that of K Lear. His thoughts dwell on the ingratitude of his daughters, ana every sentence that falls from his wildness excites reflection and pity. Had frenzy entirely seized him, our compassion would abate: we should conclude that he no longer felt unhappiness. Shakspeare wrote as a philosopher, Otway as a poet." Steevens.
Kent. Sirrah, come on; go along with us.
No words, no words:
Edg. Child Rowland to the dark tower came,5
A Room in Gloster's Castle.
Enter CORNWALL and EDMUND.
Corn. I will have my revenge, ere I depart his house.
5 Child Rowland to the dark tower came,] The word child (however it came to have this sense) is often applied to Knights, &c. in old historical songs and romances; of this, innumerable instances occur in The Reliques of ancient English Poetry. See particularly in Vol. I, s. iv, v. 97, where, in a description of a battle between two knights, we find these lines:
"The Eldridge knighte, he prick'd his steed;
"Then either shook his trusty spear,
"And the timber these two children bare
"So soon in sunder slode."
See in the same volumes the ballads concerning the child of Elle, child waters, child Maurice, (Vol. III, s. xx,) &c. The same idiom occurs in Spenser's Fairy Queen, where the famous knight sir Tristram is frequently called Child Tristram. See B. V, c. ii, st. 8, 13, B. VI, c. ii, st. 36, ibid. c. viii, st. 15. Percy.
Child is a common term in our old metrical romances and ballads; and is generally, if not always, applied to the hero or principal personage, who is sometimes a knight, and sometimes a thief. Syr Tryamoure is repeatedly so called both before and after his knighthood. I think, however, that this line is part of a translation of some Spanish, or perhaps. French, ballad. But the two following lines evidently belong to a different subject: I find them in the Second part of Jack and the Giants, which, if not as old as Shakspeare's time, may have been compiled from something that was so: They are uttered by a giant:
Fee, faw, fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman; "Be he alive, or be he dead,
"I'll grind his bones to make me bread."
English is here judiciously changed to British, because the characters are Britons, and the scene is laid long before the English had any thing to do with this country. Our author is not so attentive to propriety on every occasion. Ritson
Edm. How, my lord, I may be censured, that nature thus gives way to loyalty, something fears me to think of.
Corn. I now perceive, it was not altogether your brother's evil disposition made him seek his death; but a provoking merit, set a-work by a reprovable badness in himself.
Edm. How malicious is my fortune, that I must repent to be just! This is the letter he spoke of, which approves him an intelligent party to the advantages of France. O heavens! that this treason were not, or not I the detector.
Corn. Go with me to the duchess.
Edm. If the matter of this paper be certain, you have mighty business in hand.
Corn. True, or false, it hath made thee earl of Gloster. Seek out where thy father is, that he may be ready .for our apprehension.
Edm. [aside] If I find him comforting" the king, it will stuff his suspicion more fully.-I will persevere in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my blood.
Corn. I will lay trust upon thee; and thou shalt find a dearer father in my love.
A Chamber in a Farm-House, adjoining the Castle.
but a provoking merit,] Provoking, here means stimulating; a merit he felt in himself, which irritated him against a father that had none. M. Mason.
Cornwall, I suppose, means the merit of Edmund, which, being noticed by Gloster, provoked or instigated Edgar to seek his father's death. Dr Warburton conceived that the merit spoken of was that of Edgar. But how is this consistent with the rest of the sentence?
7 comforting] He uses the word in the juridical sense for supporting, helping according to its derivation; salvia confortat nervos Schol. Sal. Johnson.
Johnson refines too much on this passage; comforting means merely giving comfort or assistance. So Gloster says, in the beginning of the next scene:"" - I will piece out the comfort with what addition