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but could have kept them close to their Sides. And that they were earnest to help them, is confirmed by what follows immediately :
But vainly stretching out their Fingers grey,
They whisp'ring call, and beckon him away. What a fad Fright muft they be in? They not only stretch out their Arms, but their Fingers. Fingers grey, is an elegant and just Expression; though it requires a little Circumlocution to explain it. Hoary fignifies grey (as Canus in Latin, and Hoary Hairs are the same as grey Hairs) and hoary likewise means frosty, from Hoar-frost Now as the Fingers of the Trees were covered with the Frost, they were hoary, and if hoary, grey. How judiciously does our Poet employ his Epithets! W-RB-RT-N.
Zoilus, Jun. impertinently cavils at this truly grand Passage, in the following Words: What Occasion (says he) had the Poet to say, that the Trees stretched out their Fingers, when he had told us before, that they extended their Arms. This is Tautology. And why (says the Critic) did they only whispering call him? They should have hollaed out as loud as they could bawl, or elfe they could not be heard.' So far Zoilus : But in the first Place, Fingers here is not Tautology; for could not the Trees stretch out their Arms, and yet double their Fifts? Besides, it was necessary, you fee, for the Trees to stretch out their Fingers, as well as their Arms, to beckon him away. As to the Second Remark, would he have the poor Trees do more than they could ? A whole Forest, when heartily thumped by furious Blatts, could but mew at most, as we find some Lines above; then surely the simple Trees could but whisper. And as they grew very near the Bank, Whispering was enough, and could very well be heard. Nay, if they could not, somebody else might: For
The Ice with crackling Voice bids him retreat,
Darts to the Banks his shining Character. The older MSS. have it, cackling Voice; but, as Scaliger observes, this Expression can only be applied to a Goose: wherefore he rightly alters it to crackling, which is the Tone of Voice Ice always speaks in.
The Sun beholds the Silver-beaming Star,
The Winter-Monarch shivers at the Sight.
King January, newly in his Reign.' who, though Cold is as natural to him as his Skin, yet could not help shivering at this lamentable Spec. tacle.
While from his Icicle-fring'd Seat of Snow,
roll’d, He breath'd from Marble Lungs increasing Cold. We have here a particular Description of his Majesty's State Coach. The Cushion was made of the fineft blanched Snow, and edged round with a beau tiful Fringe of Icicles, a-la-mode de Paris. And when his Majesty chose to taste (or take) the freezing Air,' he always went in a frozen Equipage, which, instead of being dragged by Horses, was pushed along by half a Dozen chubby-faced Winds with Lips of Ice, and rattled over the Ways which were paved with huge Hail-ftones. How suitable is this to the Grandeur of a Winter-Monarch! And how much does it exceed the famous Description of Neptune in Homer's Iliad, Book the 13th,
And breath'd from Marble Lungs.] How judiciously does our Poet furnith his Monarch with Lungs adapted to every Thing about him. For had they been of mere Flesh and Blood, they must have thawed his Throne, his Coach, and his very Dominions, and forced the poor Prince to paddle in warm Water of his own making.
Swift from the Puff descends a faline Shower,
The knitting Winds exert their utnioft Power. Why is the Shower faline? Because all Salts are cold, and as the Breath that proceeds from Marble Lungs must of Consequence be cold, it may therefore be called faline. We are also to suppose the Monarch puffed away as fast as he could, so that he may be said to shower out his Breath. · The knitting Winds.] Some other Copies have it knotting, which Burman prefers, as being a more genteel Employment than that of Knitting. But the Context will not bear it. The Allusion is to a Hole in a Stocking, to which the Hole in the Ice is compared ; and therefore 'twas necessary that the Winds should be Masters of the Knitting-Needle to be able to repair the Breach.
In vain,-- in vain--the lucid Footing gone,
Reader, didst thou ever see a long ghastly Figure of nothing but Bones with an Hour-glass and Scythe in his Hands, on a Country Tomb.stone, or before an old Ballad of Death and the Lady? If thou haft, then wilt thou easily perceive the Propriety of this Image, and conclude that March has Reason to have his Eyes frighted at the grinning, bony Form, Who
is meant by March, see my Note above on this Line,
March views his venit'rous Feet, &c. and you will find that the Eye-brows were tortured then by Fear, as much as the Eyes are frighted here:
Yet from his Reach to reach his Brother flies. ] How elegant is the Repetition of Reach ? 'Tis true, this is not so agreeable to the common Way of Speaking; for though I can say, Reach me híther fuch a Thing, yet you cannot say, No, I will reach it from your Reach. But such sublime Poets, as our Author, are above being confined within the narrow Limits of Senfe.
The fractur'd Cover bursts beneath his Weight,
Rofe up to kiss the Passages of Life.
desirous of kissing him, and fought with itself about it; whence arose a liquid Strife.
Passages of Life.] As Food is the Staff of Life, and passes in at the Mouth through the Throat, &c. they are elegantly called Passages of Life. Janus Dousa will have it, that by this Expression is meant the Paffage behind, through which, says he, the Food paffes out; and 'tis not expressly determined by the Author whether he meant the Fore or the Back Door of Life. But it is scarce probable that the Water rose up no higher : nor would it be quite so decent to say that the Water wanted to kiss his
Long in the muffled Firmament, the Rain
Belly'd Belly’d is certainly corrupt.
We should read, belyed; for the cloudy Spunges seemed to say, we should have Rain; but the Rain would not come down, and therefore gave the Spunges the Lie. Or perhaps our Author, who is fond of Metaphors, wrote the Line thus :
Jelly’d i'th' cloudy Spunges, &c. that is, the Rain turned to a stiff Jelly, and consequently, could not flow in Drops. Either Reading is extremely just and elegant.
WRB-RT-N. Cloudy Spunges of the Main.] This is agreeable to Philosophy; which teaches, that the Clouds fpunge upon the Sea, till they have sucked their Belly-full of Liquor, and then they are squeezed 'till they are dry again, which forms Rain. This Squeezing is Fove's Office, as is told by two Lines subsequent to these, in the Cotton MS. and which are certainly our Author's, who gives us in them another Source of Rain. [Which fove refus’d through fine-ey'd Sieves to
Lest falling, running to the Pool beneath,
Too high't should hold the Silver Snare of Death, But why Šilver? Would not a Copper or Brass one do as well? But I never heard that Fishing-nets were ever made of Metal. They are generally made of Packthread; but as Death was a Gentleman Fisher, he might use one made of Silk Twist, and therefore I'm inclined to think our Poet wrote, filken Snare ; which I have accordingly restored. TH-B-ID.
What would the blockheadly Restorer be at? Hę is caught in a Leaden Snare, I am sure. By Silver Snare the Poet means, pale or white; Silver being always an Emblem of that Colour. W-RB-RT-N.