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PREPOSITIONS. Of after verbals

Of naturally followed a verbal noun. In many cases we should call the verbal noun a participle, and the of has become unintelligible to us. Thus we cannot now easily see why Shakespeare should write--

“Dick the shepherd blows his nail.

and on the other hand--

“The shepherd blowing of his nails.

But in the latter sentence blowing was regarded as a noun, the prepositional "a," "in," or "on" being omitted.
The shepherd was a-blowing of his nails.

In the following instances we should now be inclined to treat the verbal as a present participle because there is no preposition before it:

“Here stood he (a-)mumbling of wicked charms.

“We took him (a-)setting of boys' copies.

“And then I swore thee, (a-)saving of thy life.

“Here was he merry (a-)hearing of a song.

where "hear of" does not mean, as with us, "hear about." So Lear, v. 3. 204. In all the above cases the verbal means "in the act of."

In most cases, however, a preposition is inserted, and thus the substantival use of the verbal is made evident. Thus:

“So find we profit by losing of our prayers.

“Your voice for crowning of the king.

; Hamlet, i. 5. 175; Lear, i. 3. 1.

“With halloing and singing of anthems.

“What, threat you me with telling of the king?

“About relieving of the sentinels.

; iii. 4. 29.

If it be asked why "the" is not inserted before the verbal,--e.g. "about the relieving of the sentinels,"--the answer is that relieving is already defined, and in such cases the article is generally omitted by Shakespeare. (See 89.)

When the object comes before the verbal, of must be omitted:

Ophelia. Hamlet . . . shaking of mine arm
And thrice his head thus waving.

The reason is obvious. We can say "in shaking of mine arm," but not "in his head thus waving."

Compare C. of E. v. 1. 153; A. Y. L. ii. 4. 44, iv. 3. 10; W. T. iii. 3. 69; 1 Hen. IV. ii. 4. 166; R. and J. v. 1. 40. “Yet the mother, if the house hold of our lady.” ASCH. 40.

"Hold," by itself, would mean "actually hold" (capiat). "Hold of" means "be of such a nature as to hold" (capax sit), "holding of."

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