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Then it is thus: the passions of the mind,
And what was first but fear what might be done,
If he suspect I may dishonour him:
And what may make him blush in being known,
(Who am no more but as the tops of trees,
Which fence the roots they grow by, and defend them,) Makes both my body pine, and soul to languish,
4 But fear what might be done,] But fear of what might happen. Malone.
5 and cares it be not done,] And makes provision that it may not be done. Malone.
6 Since he's so great,] Perhaps we should read:
Since he, so great, &c.
otherwise the latter part of the line will be elliptical. Steevens.
to say, I honour him,] Him was supplied by Mr. Rowe for the sake of the metre. Malone.
8 And with the ostent &c.] Old copies
And with the stent of war will look so huge.
Should not this be:
And with th' ostent of war &c.? Tyrwhitt.
The emendation made by Mr. Tyrwhitt is confirmed by a passage in The Merchant of Venice:
"Like one well studied in a sad ostent,
"To please his grandam." Malone.
9 Which care of them, &c.] Old copy
Which care of them, not pity of myself,
(Who once no more but as the tops of trees,
Which fence the roots they grow by, and defend them,)
And punish that before, that he would punish.
1 Lord. Joy and all comfort in your sacred breast! 2 Lord. And keep your mind, till you return to us, Peaceful and comfortable!
Hel. Peace, peace, my lords, and give experience tongue.
They do abuse the king, that flatter him:
For flattery is the bellows blows up sin;
The thing the which is flatter'd, but a spark,
To which that breath gives heat and stronger glowing;1
Fits kings, as they are men, for they may err.
Prince, pardon me, or strike me, if you please;
I cannot be much lower than my knees.
Per. All leave us else; but let your cares o'erlook
And then return to us. [Exeunt Lords.] Helicanus, thou
Hel. An angry brow, dread lord.
Per. If there be such a dart in princes' frowns.
I would read-Who am no more &c.
Pericles means to compare the head of a kingdom to the upper branches of a tree. As it is the office of the latter to screen the roots they grow by, so it is the duty of the former to protect his subjects, who are no less the supporters of his dignity. So, in King Henry VI, P. III:
"Thus yields the cedar &c.
"Whose top branch over-peer'd Jove's spreading tree, "And kept low shrubs from winter's powerful wind.”
1 To which that breath &c.] i. e. the breath of flattery. The old copy reads that spark; the word, (as Mr. Steevens has observed) being accidentally repeated by the compositor. He would read that wind. Malone.
This passage seems to be corrupt, as it stands, and the sense requires that we should read:
To which that blast gives heat and stronger glowing. Steevens agrees with me in the necessity of some amendment, but proposes to read wind, which I think not so proper a word as blast. M. Mason.
2 When signier Sooth -] A near kinsman of this gentleman is mentioned in The Winter's Tale: " and his pond fish'd by his next neighbour, by sir Smile, his neighbour."" Malone.
How durst thy tongue move anger to our face?
They have their nourishment?3
To take thy life.
Thou know'st I have power
Hel. [kneeling] I have ground the axe myself; Do you but strike the blow.
Rise, pr'ythee rise;
Sit down, sit down; thou art no flatterer:
I thank thee for it; and high heaven forbid,
That kings should let their ears hear their faults hid!4
Who by thy wisdom mak'st a prince thy servant,
With patience bear
Such griefs as you do lay upon yourself.
Per. Thou speak'st like a physician, Helicanus;
Who minister'st a potion unto me,
That thou would'st tremble to receive thyself.
Where, as thou know'st, against the face of death,
3 How dare the plants look up to heaven, from whence They have their nourishment?] Thus the quarto 1609. Mr. Rowe &c. read:
How dare the planets look up unto heaven
From whence they have their nourishment ?
It would puzzle a philosopher to ascertain the quality of planetary nourishment, or to discover how planets, which are already in heaven, can be said to look up to it. Steevens.
That kings should let their ears hear their faults hid!] Heaven forbid, that kings should stop their ears, and so prevent them from hearing their secret faults!-To let formerly signified to hinder.
So, in Hamlet:
By heaven I'll make a ghost of him that lets me." Again, in Tancred and Gismund, 1592:
"Nor base suspect of aught to let his suit." Malone. I am not clear, but that let is here used in its ordinary sense; "Forbid it heaven, (says Pericles) that kings should suffer their ears to hear their failings palliated!" H. White.
5 Where, as thou know'st, &c.] Malone observes that whereas is frequently used by the old dramatick writers, instead of where, and he is certainly right; but the observation is not to the purpose on the present occasion; for the word whereas does
I sought the purchase of a glorious beauty,
Which fear so grew in me, I hither fled,
not really occur in this passage, which should be printed and pointed thus:
I went to Antioch,
Where, as thou know'st, against the face of death,
I sought the purchase of a glorious beauty.
Where is more frequently used for whereas, but not in this place. M. Mason.
6 From whence an issue-] From whence I might propagate an issue, that are arms, &c. Malone.
7 From whence an issue I might propagate,
Bring arms to princes, and to subjects joys.] Old copy:
Are arms to princes, and bring joys to subjects.
I once imagined that a line was wanting to complete the sense of this passage, and that the deficiency might be supplied as follows:
a glorious beauty
From whence an issue I might propagate;
Influenced, however, by the subsequent remark of Mr. M. Mason, I have recovered the sense for which he contends, by omitting one word in the corrupted line, and transposing others.
The meaning of this passage is clearly this: "From whence I might propagate such issue, as bring additional strength to princes, and joy to their subjects." The expression is certainly faulty; but it seems to be the fault of the author, not the printer. I believe it was written as it stands. M. Mason.
8 Seem'd not to strike, but smooth :] To smooth formerly signified to flatter. See note on smooth every passion," in King Lear, Act II, sc. ii. Malone.
In the same sense
To smooth in this place means to stroke. we should understand the word in Milton's Comus, v. 251:
"Of darkness, till it smil'd."
They say in some counties smooth-instead of stroke, the cat.
Under the covering of a careful night,
Who seem'd my good protector; and being here,
Per. Drew sleep out of mine eyes, blood from my
Musings into my mind, a thousand doubts
9 than their years:] Old copy-the years. Their suspicions outgrow their years; a circumstance sufficiently natural to veteran tyrants. The correction is mine. Steevens.
1 And should he doubt it, (as no doubt he doth)] The quarto, 1609, reads:
And should he doo 't, as no doubt he doth
from which the reading of the text has been formed. The repetition is much in our author's manner, and the following words, to lop that doubt, render this emendation almost certain. Malone.
Here is an apparent corruption. I should not hesitate to read -doubt on 't-or,-doubt it. To doubt is to remain in suspense or uncertainty.Should he be in doubt that I shall keep this seeret, (as there is no doubt but he is) why, to lop that doubt,” i. e. to get rid of that painful uncertainty, he will strive to make me appear the aggressor, by attacking me first as the author of some supposed injury to himself. Steevens.
2 who spares not innocence:] Thus the eldest quarto. All the other copies read corruptly:
who fears not innocence. Malone.
3 I thought it princely charity to grieve them.] That is to lament their fate. The eldest quarto reads-to grieve for them.