And I, of ladies, most deject and wretched, That sucked the honey of his music vows, Now see that noble and most sovereign reason Like sweet bells jangled, out of time and harsh, That unmatched form and feature of blown youth Blasted with ecstasy.

I’m copying down these words, as I do when I’m writing these little bits of whatever they are. And as I’m copying them, I’m sort of nodding along, going, “yeah, yeah, this line’s so good,” singing along to it. Its music is so familiar to me. I can almost hear the Ophelias I’ve known speaking the text.

I’m tapping along to the ladies most deject and wretched, humming to the honey of his music vows (so sexy this line and exactly what love language feels like) and I’m jammin’ on the old tune – the noble and most sovereign reason like sweet bells jangled –
And then suddenly the needle on this familiar record scratches.
Because I know this line, I could sing along to it and I know it as “Sweet bells jangled out of tune” No comma. Out of tune, not time. What?!
Now, “out of time and harsh” makes a great deal of sense and I see why an editor would make that choice – but because this is a song I could only sing along with when its playing, not one I could conjure unaccompanied, I’m not sure where the speech in my memory went after the jangled sweet bells. Is the speech always like this? Did I simply learn it wrong? Hear it wrong? Or is this an editorial leap? A particularly radical new reading of this line? Have I misremembered this line? Is it one of those that is always misquoted? The way people think “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.” is “O Yorick, I knew him well.” Or the way they think “Lay on, Macduff.” is “Lead on, Macduff.”
And it’s funny that this happens on this sweet bells bit – because the effect of it is a bit like a melody, either out of tune or out of time, depending on how you see it.


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