Page images

(Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross
We are impressed and engag'd to fight,)
Forthwith a power of English shall we levy;6
Whose arms were moulded in their mothers' womb
To chase these pagans, in those holy fields,
Over whose acres walk'd those blessed feet,
Which, fourteen hundred years ago, were nail'd
For our advantage, on the bitter cross.
But this our purpose is a twelve-month old,
And bootless 'tis to tell you—we will go ;
Therefore we meet not now: Then let me hear
Of you, my gentle cousin Westmoreland,
What yesternight our council did decree,
In forwarding this dear expedience.8

West. My liege, this hafte was hot in question,
And many limits of the charge set down
But yesternight: when, all athwart, there came


to make war upon Mahometans, fimply as Mahometans, as men obliged by their own principles to make war upon Chriftians, and only lying in wait till opportunity shall promise them success.

JOHNSON, -shall we levy;] To levy a power of English as far as to the sepulcher of Christ, is an expression quite unexampled, if not corrupt. We might propose lead, without violence to the sense, or too wide a deviation from the traces of the letters. In Pericles, however, the same verb is used in a mode as uncommon :

". Never did thought of mine levy offence." STEVENS. The expression—" As far as to the sepulcher" &c. does not, as I conceive, fignify-to the distance of &c. but--far only as regards the sepulcher &c. Douce.

7 Therefore we meet not now:] i. e. not on that account do we now meet ;-we are not now assembled, to acquaint you with our intended expedition. MALONE.

this dear expedience.] For expedition. WARBURTON, So, in Antony and Cleopatra:

I shall break The cause of our expedience to the queen.” Stevens, 9 And many limits-] Limits for estimates, WAR BURTON,


A poft from Wales, loaden with heavy news;
Whose worst was,--that the noble Mortimer,
Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight
Against the irregular and wild Glendower,
Was by the rude hands of that Welshman taken,
And a thousand of his people butchered:
Upon whose dead corps there was such misuse,
Such beastly, shameless transformation,
By those Welshwomen done,” as may not be,
Without much shame, retold or spoken of.
K. Hen. It seems then, that the tidings of this

Brake off our business for the Holy land.

West. This, match'd with other, did, my gracious


For more uneven and unwelcome news
Came from the north, and thus it did import.
On Holy-rood day, the gallant Hotspur there,
Young Harry Percy,' and brave Archibald,

Limits, as Mr. Heath observes, may mean, outlines, rough sketches or calculations. Steevens.

Limits may mean the regulated and appointed times for the conduct of the business in hand. So, in Measure for Measure:-“ between the time of the contract and limit of the folemnity, her brother Frederick was wreck'd at sea.” Again, in Macbeth:

-I'll make so bold to call, For 'tis my limited service.” MALONE. 2 By those Welfbwomen done,] Thus Holinshed, p. 528:“-fuch shameful villanie executed upon the carcasses of the dead men by the Welshwomen; as the like (I doo beleeve) hath never or fildomc beene practised." STEVENS.

the gallant Hotspur there, Young Harry Percy,] Holinshed's Hiftory of Scotland, p. 240, says: “ This Harry Percy was surnamed, for his often pricking, Henry Hotspur, as one that seldom times refted, if there were anie service to be done abroad.” TOLLET. --- Archibald,] Archibald Douglas, earl Douglas.



That ever-valiant and approved Scot,
At Holmedon met,
Where they did spend a fad and bloody hour;
As by discharge of their artillery,
And shape of likelihood, the news was told;
For he that brought them, in the very heat
And pride of their contention did take horse,
Uncertain of the issue any way.
K. Hen. Here is a dear and true-industrious

Sir Walter Blunt, new lighted from his horse,
Stain'd with the variation of each soil 5
Betwixt that Holmedon and this feat of ours;
And he hath brought us smooth and welcome news.
The earl of Douglas is discomfited;
Ten thousand bold Scots, two and twenty knights,
Balk'd in their own blood, did fir Walter see

5 Stain'd with the variation of each foilm] No circumstance could have been better chosen to mark the expedition of Sir Walter. It is used by Falstaff in a similar manner, “'As it were to ride day and night, and not to deliberate, not to remember, not to have patience to shift me, but to fand fained with travel.Henley.

6 Balk'd in their own blood,] I should suppose, that the author might have written either bath'd, or bak’d, i. e. encrusted over with blood dried upon them. A passage in Heywood's Iron Age, 1632, may countenance the latter of these conjectures :

“ 'Troilus lies embak'd

" In his cold blood.. Again, in Hamlet :

horribly trick a
“ With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, fons,

Bak'd and impafted,” &c. Again, in Heywood's Iron Age :

bak'd in blood and duft." Again, ibid:

as bak'd in blood.Stevens. Balk is a ridge; and particularly, a ridge of land : here is therefore a metaphor; and perhaps the poet means, in his bold and careless manner of expression : • Ten thousand bloody carcasses piled up together in a long heap."-"A ridge of dead bodies


On Holmedon's plains: Of prisoners, Hotspur took
Mordake the earl of Fife, and eldest son
To beaten Douglas ;' and the earl of Athol
Of Murray, Angus, and Menteith.8

piled up in blood."

If this be the meaning of balked, for the greater exactness of construction, we might add to the pointing, viz.

Balk’d, in their own blood, &c. “ Piled up in a ridge, and in their own blood,” &c. But without this punctuation, as at present, the context is more poetical, and presents a stronger image.

A balk, in the sense here mentioned, is a common expression in Warwickshire, and the northern counties. It is used in the same signification in Chaucer's Plowman's Tale, p. 182, edit. Urr. v. 2428. WARTON.

Balk'd in their own blood, I believe, means, lay'd in heaps or hillocks, in their own blood. Blithe’s England's Improvement, p. 118, observes : “ The mole raiseth balks in meads and pastures." In Leland's Itinerary, Vol. V. p. 16 and 118, Vol. VII. p. 10, a balk signifies a bank or hill. Mr. Pope in the Iliad, has the same thought:

“ On heaps the Greeks, on heaps the Trojans bled,
And thick’ning round them rise the hills of dead."

TOLLET. - Mordake the earl of Fife, and eldes fon

To beaten Douglas ;] The article—the, which is wanting in the old copies, was supplied by Mr. Pope. Mr. Malone, however, thinks it needless, and says " the word carl is here used as a difsyllable.”

Mordake earl of Fife, who was son to the duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, is here called the son of earl Douglas, through a mistake into which the poet was led by the omission of a comma in the passage of Holinshed from whence he took this account of the Scottish prisoners. It stands thus in the historian : “ — and of prisoners, Mordacke earl of Fife, son to the gouvernour Archembald earle Dowglas, &c.” The want of a comma after gouvernour, makes these words appear to be the description of one and the same person, and so the poet understood them; but by putting the stop in the proper place, it will then be manifeft that in this list Mordake who was son to the governor of Scotland, was the first prifoner, and that Archibald earl of Douglas was the second, and


and Menteith.] This is a mistake of Holinshed in his English History, for in that of Scotland, p. 259, 262, and 419, he speaks of the earl of Fife and Mexteith as one and the fame person.


so on.


And is not this an honourable spoil?
A gallant prize? ha, cousin, is it not?

West. In faith,
It is a conquest for a prince to boast of.
K. Hen. Yea, there thou mak'st me sad, and

mak’ft me sin In envy that my lord Northumberland Should be the father of so bleft a fon : A son, who is the theme of honour's tongue; Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant; Who is sweet fortune's minion, and her pride : Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him, See riot and dishonour stain the brow Of my young Harry. O, that it could be prov'd, That some night-tripping fairy had exchang’d In cradle-clothes our children where they lay, And callid mine-Percy, his—Plantagenet ! Then would I have his Harry, and he mine. But let him from my thoughts -What think you

coz', Of this young Percy's pride? the prisoners,


In faith,

It is-) These words are in the first quarto, 1598, by the inaccuracy of the transcriber, placed at the end of the preceding speech, but at a considerable distance from the last word of it. Mr. Pope and the subsequent editors read—'Faith 'tis &c. Malone.

2 the prisoners,] Percy had an exclusive right to these prisoners, except the earl of Fife. By the law of arms, every man who had taken any captive, whose redemption did not exceed ten thousand crowns, had him clearly for himself, either to acquit or ransom, at his pleasure. It seems from Camden's Britannia, that Pounouny castle in Scotland was built out of the ransom of this very Henry Percy, when taken prisoner at the battle of Otterbourne by an ancestor of the present earl of Eglington. Toller.

Percy could not refuse the Earl of Fife to the King; for being a prince of the blood royal, (son to the Duke of Albany, brother to King Robert III.) Henry might juftly claim him by his acknowledged military prerogative. STEVENS.

« PreviousContinue »