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Mal. Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for a boy; as a squash is before 'tis a peascod, or a codling when 'tis almost an apple: 'tis with him e'en standing water, between boy and man. He is very well-favoured, and he speaks very shrewishly: one would think, his mother's milk were scarce out of him.
Oli. Let him approach. Call in my gentlewoman. Mal. Gentlewoman, my lady calls.
Oli. Give me my veil: come, throw it o'er my face.
We'll once more hear Orsino's embassy.
Vio. The honourable lady of the house, which is she?
Oli. Speak to me; I shall answer for her. Your will?
Vio. Most radiant, exquisite, and unmatchable beauty. I pray you, tell me, if this be the lady of the house, for I never saw her: I would be loath to cast away my speech; for, besides that it is excellently well penned, I have taken great pains to con it. Good beauties, let me sustain no scorn; I am very comptible' even to the least sinister usage.
Oli. Whence came you, sir?
Vio. I can say little more than I have studied, and that question's out of my part. Good gentle one, give me modest assurance if you be the lady of the house, that I may proceed in my speech.
-as a SQUASH is before 'tis a peascod,] See " Midsummer-Night's Dream," Vol. ii. p. 425. Farther on, "e'en standing water," is printed in the old copies
"in standing water." This error is not unfrequent.
I am very COMPTIBLE,] "Comptible" is accountable; and here seems to mcan subject to, or sensitive of," the least sinister usage.",
Oli. Are you a comedian?
Vio. No, my profound heart; and yet, by the very fangs of malice I swear, I am not that I play. Are you the lady of the house?
Oli. If I do not usurp myself, I am.
Vio. Most certain, if you are she, you do usurp yourself; for what is yours to bestow, is not yours to reserve. But this is from my commission. I will on with my speech in your praise, and then show you the heart of my message.
Oli. Come to what is important in't: I forgive you the praise.
Vio. Alas! I took great pains to study it, and 'tis poetical.
Oli. It is the more like to be feigned: I pray you, keep it in. I heard, you were saucy at my gates, and allowed your approach, rather to wonder at you than to hear you. If you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief: 'tis not that time of moon with me to make one in so skipping a dialogue.
Mar. Will you hoist sail, sir? here lies your way.
Vio. No, good swabber; I am to hull here a little longer9. Some mollification for your giant, sweet
lady. Tell me your mind: I am a messenger 1o.
Oli. Sure, you have some hideous matter to deliver, when the courtesy of it is so fearful. Speak your office.
8 If you be NOT mad, be gone ;] Monck Mason would omit the negative, but surely the old reading is very intelligible.
9 — I am to HULL here a little longer.] Viola follows up Maria's sea-phrase, and tells her that she is to lie there a little longer. To hull is to remain, "driven to and fro by the waves," as it is expressed in a passage, quoted by Steevens, from Philemon Holland's Translation of Pliny, fo. 1601. Other instances are unnecessary.
10 Tell me your mind: I am a messenger.] Since the time of Warburton, "Tell me your mind" has been given to Olivia, and "I am a messenger made a very inconsequential observation by Viola. All the old copies have the passage as it stands in our text, Viola asking Olivia to tell her her mind, because she is a messenger, and wishes to take back an answer. Olivia could hardly say to Viola, "Tell me your mind," when she knew that Viola only brought a message from the duke.
Vio. It alone concerns your ear. I bring no overture of war, no taxation of homage. I hold the olive in my hand: my words are as full of peace as matter.
Oli. Yet you began rudely. What are you? what would you?
Vio. The rudeness that hath appear'd in me, have I learn'd from my entertainment. What I am, and what I would, are as secret as maidenhead: to your ears, divinity; to any other's, profanation.
Oli. Give us the place alone. We will hear this divinity. [Exit MARIA.] Now, sir; what is your text?
Vio. Most sweet lady,
Oli. A comfortable doctrine, and much may be said of it. Where lies your text? Vio. In Orsino's bosom.
Oli. In his bosom! In what chapter of his bosom? Vio. To answer by the method, in the first of his heart.
Oli. O! I have read it: it is heresy. Have you no more to say?
Vio. Good madam, let me see your face.
Oli. Have you any commission from your lord to negociate with my face? you are now out of your text: but we will draw the curtain, and show you the picture. Look you, sir; such a one I was this present: is't not well done1? [Unveiling.
Vio. Excellently done, if God did all.
Oli. 'Tis in grain, sir: 'twill endure wind and weather.
1 Look you, sir; such a one I was this present: is't not well done ?] This is the old and true reading; but some modern editors have inserted as before “I was this present," and thus confused the plain meaning. The notes of the commentators, including Warburton, Steevens, Monck Mason, and Malone, are curious specimens of reasoning upon false premises: the foundation of their argument is not in the old text. Olivia removes her veil, as if it were the curtain before a picture, and telling Viola “such a one I was this present," asks, in addition, if the picture were not well painted? Viola follows up the notion of painting, and hints that Olivia's colour might be artificial.
Vio. 'Tis beauty truly blent', whose red and white
If you will lead these graces to the grave,
Oli. O sir, I will not be so hard-hearted. I will give out divers schedules of my beauty: it shall be inventoried, and every particle, and utensil, labelled to my will; as, item, two lips indifferent red; item, two grey eyes with lids to them; item, one neck, one chin, and so forth. Were you sent hither to praise me1?
Vio. I see you what you are: you are too proud; But, if you were the devil, you are fair.
My lord and master loves you: O! such love
Oli. Your lord does know my mind; I cannot love him:
Yet I suppose him virtuous, know him noble,
Of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth;
2 'Tis beauty truly BLENT,] i. e. blended. So in "The Merchant of Venice," Vol. ii. p. 525, we have had,
"Where every something, being blent together,
3 And leave the world no copy.] Shakespeare has expressed the same thought in his 9th, 11th, and 13th Sonnets.
Were you sent hither to PRAISE me?] Malone would read 'praise, or appraise; but the old word was apprise, as in Bishop Hall's “Specialties of Life,” p. 57, as quoted by Todd in his edition of Johnson's Dictionary :-" The sequestrators sent certain men, appointed by them to apprise all the goods that were in the house." Again, "They would have apprised our very wearing clothes," &c. Monck Mason's objection, that the inventory had been drawn up by Olivia herself, seems to deserve little weight, because, though Olivia prepared it, Viola might be called upon to put a price on the various "items." There is no apostrophe before "praise" in the old copies, and as the speech is only prose, the word (if Shakespeare had intended to use it and had it been the word in use) might have been printed at length. Olivia refers to the manner in which Viola had extolled her beauty in the preceding speech.
In voices well divulg'd, free, learn'd, and valiant,
Vio. If I did love you in my master's flame,
Oli. Why, what would you? Vio. Make me a willow cabin at your gate, And call upon my soul within the house; Write loyal cantons of contemned love3, And sing them loud even in the dead of night; Halloo your name to the reverberate hills, And make the babbling gossip of the air Cry out, Olivia! O! you should not rest Between the elements of air and earth, But you should pity me.
Oli. You might do much. What is your parentage? Vio. Above my fortunes, yet my state is well:
I am a gentleman.
Get you to your lord:
Fare you well:
I thank you for your pains.
Vio. I am no fee'd post, lady; keep your purse :
5 Write loyal CANTONS of contemned love,] "Cantons was the old English word for canto. Heywood, in his "Great Britain's Troy," 1609, calls the seventeen divisions of his poem "cantons;" but on the other hand, Spenser divides his "books" of the "Faerie Queene," 1590, into cantos, in imitation of the Italian poets. Sir John Harrington, in his translation of the Orlando Furioso, 1591, called the cantos of Ariosto "books."