Sunday, March 13, 2011

Parallel - Sea of air

First, Shake-Speare:

One of Timon's servants says of the ruin of his house:

"Yet do our hearts wear Timon's livery.
That see I by  our faces; we are fellows still
Serving alike in sorrow. Leak'd is our bark,
And we, poor mates, stand on the dying deck,
Hearing the surges threat; we must all part
Into this sea of air".
Timon of Athens 4.2.17-22

and now Bacon:  "Who taught the bee to sail through such a vast sea of air and to find the way from a field in flower a great way off to her hive"?

Comment:  "Sea of air" seems a surprising metaphor in both contexts. A different phrase considered odd by commentators is Hamlet's "Or to take arms against a sea of troubles" (in his "To be or not to be" speech 3.1.59). To "take arms" against a sea has been thought to be an inappropriate metaphor. But in his Apothegms Bacon said of the large army with which Charles VIII invaded Italy: "Caius Marius was general of the Romans against the Cimbers who came with such a sea of multitude upon Italy". So Bacon would presumably have thought it proper to say (if it had been historically true) that the people of Italy "took arms" against the sea. "Sea of multitude" reminds one incidentally of Shake-Speare's "multitudinous seas incarnadine" (Macbeth 2.2.61).

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