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PARTICIPLES AND VERBALS: Participles active, confusion in

Participles, Active. Our termination -ing does duty for (1) the old infinitive in -an; (2) the old imperfect participle in end, ende, ande; and (3) a verbal noun in -ung. Hence arises great confusion. It would sometimes appear that Shakespeare fancied that -ing was equivalent to -en, the old affix of the Passive Participle. Thus--

“From his all-obeying breath
I hear the doom of Egypt.

i.e. "obeyed by all."

“Many a dry drop seemed a weeping tear.

So "His unrecalling crime" (R. of L.) for "unrecalled." (In “Many excesses which are owing a man till his age,” B. E. 122. i.e. "own, or, belonging to a man," owing is not a participle at all, but an adjective, "agen," "âwen," "ôwen," "owenne," "owing;" which was mistaken for a participle.

“There is more owing her than is paid.

"Wanting," as in Coriol. ii. 1. 217, "One thing is wanting," can be explained from the use of the verb wanteth in the following passage:

“There wanteth now our brother Gloucester here
To make the period of this perfect peace.

The same explanation may apply to "I am much beholding to you," which is sometimes found for "beholden," Rich. III. ii. 1. 129, J. C. iii. 2. 70-3, and even to

“Relish your nimble notes to pleasing ears.

In the following, -ing might be supplanted, without altering the sense, by the infinitive or the verbal preceded by a-:1

“Women are angels, wooing:
Things won are done.

i.e. "women are considered angels to woo, or a-wooing," where wooing, if treated as an ordinary present participle, would give the opposite to the intended meaning. Probably in the above, as in the following, a- is omitted.

“Be brief, lest that the process of thy kindness
Last longer (a-, or in) telling than thy kindness date.

The "in" is inserted in

“Pause a day or two
Before you hazard; for in choosing wrong I lose your company.

i.e. "in the event of your choosing wrong, I lose your company." The two constructions occur together in

“Come, come, in wooing sorrow let's be brief,
Since, (a-)wedding it, there is such length in grief.

It is perhaps a result of this confusion between the verbal and the infinitive that, just as the infinitive with "to" is used independently at the beginning of a sentence (357) in a gerundive signification, so is the infinitive represented by -ing: “Why, were thy education ne'er so mean,
Having thy limbs, a thousand fairer courses
Offer themselves to thy election.” B. J. E. in &c. ii. 1. i.e. "since thou hast thy limbs." This explains the many instances in which present participles appear to be found agreeing with no noun or pronoun.

Part of this confusion may arise from the use of the verbal in -ing as a noun in compounds. We understand at once that a "knedyng trowh" (CHAUCER, C. T. 3548) means "a trough for kneading;" but "spending silver" (Ib. 12946) is not quite so obviously "money for spending." Still less could we say

“Sixth part of each! A trembling contribution.

Somewhat different is

“Known and feeling sorrows,

where "feeling" seems to be used like "known," passively, "known and realized sorrows."

So "loading" is used for "laden," BACON, Essays, p. 49 (Wright).

“Your discontenting father,

may perhaps be explained by the use of the verb "content you;" "I discontent (me)" meaning "I am discontented."

1 Comp.

“Returning were as tedious as (to) go o'er,

in which the ing perhaps qualifies "go" as well as "return," and might be supplanted by "to."

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