but the great cannon to the clouds shall tell

Gabriel Aparta

Senior Member
Español - Venezuela
Hello everyone, please, from Hamlet:

This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart, in grace whereof
No jocund health that Denmark drinks today
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
And the king’s rouse the heavens shall bruit again,
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.

I really don't get the meaning of those parts in bold, nor the idea that King Claudius is trying to convey, the firs phrase in bold doesn't have grammatical sense in my humble opinion. He is happy that Hamlet (junior) is staying with him instead of going to college, and he is talking with several people. Could you please help me out?

Thanks!
 
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    No jocund health that Denmark drinks today
    But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
    Literally: there will be no toast that the King of Denmark drinks today but that the firing of the great cannon will report it to the sky.
    This is a traditional construction with the conjunction 'but', meaning 'except'.
    In other words: 'every time I drink a toast to celebrate this decision, the biggest cannon I possess will be fired'.

    This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
    Sits smiling to my heart, in grace whereof
    No jocund health that Denmark drinks today
    But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
    And the king’s rouse the heavens shall bruit again,
    Re-speaking earthly thunder.

    In paraphrase, line by line:

    This worthy and voluntary agreement by Hamlet
    comes very agreeably to my deepest feelings; and in gratitude for this
    every merry toast that I, King of Denmark, drink today
    will be matched by the firing of the great gun which will sound as far as the clouds
    and then the sky will echo back the King's toast
    repeating the thunder we make down here.
     
    Last edited:
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