"[v. 4 of omitted stanza:] Whistful sic in Fraser MS. It is possible that this spelling represents some vague etymological notion on Gray's part (though he could scarcely have connected the word with 'whist' in the sense of silent), and shows at any rate that he did not derive it from 'wist' in the sense either of 'knew' or 'known' - which derivation, says Skeat, 'is stark nonsense.' Skeat believes that wistful stands for wishful, the change in form being due to confusion with wistly, which was itself a corruption of the Middle-English wisly, certainly, verily, exactly. The sense which 'wistly' bears in two passages of Shakespeare (in whom alone and in the Passionate Pilgrim the word has been found) is 'attentively,' 'with scrutiny,' and this sense Skeat thinks may have arisen out of that of wisly. But in Richard II. V. 4. 7:
...speaking it, he wistly [Q. 2, wishtly] looked on me
As who should say 'I would thou wert the man' &c.;
and in Passionate Pilgrim vi. 12 the sense is more probably wishfully, longingly."


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