Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 9.djvu/231

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0*8. IX. MARCH 22, 1902.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


Steevens would leave one solitary overworked

"gentlewoman" to mind the helm, pull the ropes, and lay on to the tackle with her "flower-soft hands," while her lazy com- panions, intent on mere eye-service, kept bowing to Cleopatra, with no other end in view, it would seem, than to make the scene more attractive to a beholder. Hardly a fair division of labour. Observe, too, that Cleo- patra is already waited on by pretty dimpled boys, and yet Steevens wants to add "sweets to the sweet."

But suppose we look at the question in a more practical way. In those "spacious times" of wild sea-roving and adventure, when every morning brought home a Drake or a Raleigh with his crew of hardy mariners, and every evening closed with its sailor's yarn spun to an eager group around the inn fire, seamen's terms and seamen's lan- guage were familiar in the mouth as house- hold words, and that Shakspere was not ignorant of them the first scene of the 'Tempest' amply shows. In the play before us he is also dealing with a ship and her crew. The ship is Cleopatra's barge, and the crew are Cleopatra's gentlewomen (vide North's * Plutarch '). Let us be on the look- out for nautical terms then ; and I say that here we have them in plenty " the eyes," "bends," "helm," "steers," "tackle"; and even "hands" seems to fit not unnaturally into the sense of the passage.

If we ask any seaman what he means by "the ej^es," he will tell us that they are the " hawse holes " i.e., the holes or eyes in the bow through which the anchor cables are run. Again, any good dictionary informs us that in olden days ships were adorned with painted eyes on the bows a supposed pro- tection against " the evil eye." This custom is still extant in the Mediterranean, arid, I believe, in Chinese waters. "The eyes," then, signify "the bow."

Now, if we ask our A.B. what " bends " are, he will tell us that a bend is a knot, that there are various kinds of bends e.g., the carrick-bend, the sheet- bend, &c. If He is of an instructive mind he will add that " bends " is a term applied also to the small ropes used to "clinch" the anchor cables. But let me give chapter and verse. In Falconer's 'Dictionary of Marine Terms' (1769) I find the following :

"Bend, the knot by which one rope is fastened to another, or to the anchor.

" To bend, to fasten one rope to another.

" Bends are of various denominations, such as the carrick-bend, the fisherman's bend, the sheet- bend."

I take Enobarbus's words to mean that the

crew were busily engaged "i 1 the eyes" (i.e.^ in the bow) attending to the various bends or the rigging (North, " ropes ") ; and by throw- ing over the whole process the indescribable charm that is all a woman's, especially when she is occupied with a work that we are accustomed to see performed by an ordinary rude ship's hand, these gentlewomen actually made the object of their work an additional ornament to the scene.

But the * New English Dictionary ' steps in to throw an obstacle in our path. That indisputable authority says that ' bends " does not appear in print previous to 1769 (the date of Falconer's * Dictionary '). But " eyes " here comes to our help. The * New English Dictionary 1 says that "eyes" first appears in print, with the meaning attached to it by our intelligent A.B., in the year 1840. Now, if so well-known a term as " the eyes of a ship" does not appear till 1840, may not "bends" have been equally well known in olden times, in speech if not in print ?

But I have another assistant. From the verb to bend (meaning to incline the body) we make the noun bend, and so Steevens has understood the word here. Similarly, I presume, so great a lord of language as Shakspere could make the noun bend from the verb to bend (meaning to tie ropes together), provided that such a word was at that time in the English vocabulary. To return to our dictionaries. I find in Sir Henry Man way ring's * The Seaman's Dic- tionary ' (published in 1644) the following remark : " To bend two Cabells or Roapes together, that is, to tye them together with a knot, and so to make their own ends fast upon themselves." Is it too much to con- clude that a marine term, known to a lexi- cographer in the year 1644, was in common use among seamen in 1607-8 ?

I may add that Dr. Ingleby ('Shakespeare Hermeneutics ') has already adopted the explanation of " eyes " given above, and had, indeed, come halfway to the conclusion that we have reached ; but he stopped by the wayside to pluck at the tempting fruit of textual emendation.


Trinity College, Dublin.

[This passage was discussed at much length in 7 th S. x., xi., xii.]

'CYMBELINE,' I. iii. 8-10 (9 th S. ii. 524). Dr. Johnson's note on this passage is as fol- lows : " Sir T. Hanmer alters it thus :

for so long

As he could mark me with hie eye, or I Distinguish. The reason of Sir T. Hanmer's reading was,