Imatges de pÓgina



Navarre. A Park, with a Palace in it.

Enter the King, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and DUMAIN.

King. Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register'd upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring time,
The endeavour of this present breath may buy
That honour, which shall bate his scythe's keen edge,
And make us heirs of all eternity.

Therefore, brave conquerors!-for so you are,
That war against your own affections,

And the huge army of the world's desires,—
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.

You three, Birón, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years' term to live with me,
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes,
That are recorded in this schedule here:

Your oaths are past, and now subscribe your names;
That his own hand may strike his honour down,
That violates the smallest branch herein:

If you are arm'd to do, as sworn to do,
Subscribe to your deep oath,2 and keep it too.
Long. I am resolv'd: 'tis but a three years' fast;
The mind shall banquet, though the body pine:
Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits
Make rich the ribs, but bank'rout quite the wits.

1 I suspect that there is an error in the title of this play, which I believe, should be-" Love's Labours Lost." M. Mason.

2 ―

your deep oath,] The old copies have-oaths. Corrected by Mr. Steevens.


Dum. My loving lord, Dumain is mortified;
The grosser manner of these world's delights
He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves:
To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die;
With all these living in philosophy.3

Biron. I can but say their protestation over,
So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,
That is, To live and study here three years.
But there are other strict observances:
As, not to see a woman in that term;
Which, I hope well, is not enrolled there:
And, one day in a week to touch no food;
And but one meal on every day beside;
The which, I hope, is not enrolled there:
And then, to sleep but three hours in the night,
And not be seen to wink of all the day;
(When I was wont to think no harm all night,
And make a dark night too of half the day;)
Which, I hope well, is not enrolled there:
Oh, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep;
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep,

King. Your oath is pass'd to pass away from these. Biron. Let me say no, my liege, an if you please; I only swore, to study with your grace,

And stay here in your court for three years' space. Long. You swore to that, Biron, and to the rest. Biron. By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest.—

3 With all these living in philosophy.] The style of the rhyming scenes in this play is often entangled and obscure. I know not certainly to what all these is to be referred; I suppose he means, that he finds love, pomp, and wealth, in philosophy. Johnson.

By all these, Dumain means the King, Biron, &c. to whom he may be supposed to point, and with whom he is going to live in philosophical retirement. A. C.

4 Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep.] The words as they stand, will express the meaning intended, if pointed thus:

Not to see ladies-study-fast—not sleep.

Biron is recapitulating the several tasks imposed upon him, viz. not to see ladies, to study, to fast, and not to sleep; but Shakspeare, by a common poetical licence, though in this passage injudiciously exercised, omits the article to, before the three last verbs, and from hence the obscurity arises.

M. Mason.

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What is the end of study? let me know.

King. Why, that to know, which else we should not


Biron. Things hid and barr'd, you mean, from com-
mon sense?

King. Ay, that is study's god-like recompense.
Biron. Come on then, I will swear to study so,
To know the thing I am forbid to know:
As thus, to study where I well may dine,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;5
Or, study where to meet some mistress fine,
When mistresses from common sense are hid:
Or, having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath,
Study to break it, and not break my troth.

If study's gain be thus, and this be so,

Study knows that, which yet it doth not know:
Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say, no.


King. These be the stops that hinder study quite, And train our intellects to vain delight.

Biron. Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain, Which, with pain purchas'd, doth inherit pain: As, painfully to pore upon a book,

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To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind' the eyesight of his look:

Light seeking light, doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.

When I to feast expressly am forbid;] The copies all have: "When I to fast expressly am forbid;"

But if Biron studied where to get a good dinner, at a time when he was forbid to fast, how was this studying to know what he was forbid to know? Common sense, and the whole tenour of the context, require us to read-feast, or to make a change in the last word of the verse:-"When I to fast expressly am fore-bid;" i. e. when I am enjoined before-hand to fast. Theobald.

6 If study's gain be thus, and this be so,] Read:


If study's gain be this

while truth the while

- Ritson.

Doth falsely blind-] Falsely is here, and in many other places, the same as dishonestly or treacherously. The whole sense of this gingling declamation is only this, that a man by too close study may read himself blind; which might have been told with less obscurity in fewer words. Johnson.

Study me how to please the eye indeed,

By fixing it upon a fairer eye;

Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
And give him light that was it blinded by.
Study is like the heaven's glorious sun,


That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks;
Small have continual plodders ever won,
Save base authority from others' books.
These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights,
That give a name to every fixed star,

Have no more profit of their shining nights,

Than those that walk, and wot not what they are. Too much to know, is, to know nought but fame; And every godfather can give a name.9

King. How well he's read, to reason against reading! Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!1 Long. He weeds the corn, and still lets grow the weeding.

Biron. The spring is near, when green geese are a breeding.

8 Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,

And give him light that was it blinded by.] This is another passage unnecessarily obscure; the meaning is: that when he dazzles, that is, has his eye made weak, by fixing his eye upon a fairer eye, that fairer eye shall be his heed, his direction or lode-star, (See Midsummer Night's Dream,) and give him light that was blinded by it. Johnson.

The old copies read-it was.

Corrected by Mr. Steevens.


9 Too much to know, is, to know nought but fame; And every godfather can give a name.] The consequence, says Biron, of too much knowledge, is not any real solution of doubts, but mere empty reputation. That is, too much knowledge gives only fame, a name which every godfather can give likewise. Johnson.

1 Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!] To proceed is an academical term, meaning, to take a degree, as he proceeded bachelor in physick. The sense is, he has taken his degrees in the art of hindering the degrees of others. Johnson.

So, in a quotation by Dr. Farmer: "such as practise to proceed in all evil wise, till from Batchelors in Newgate, by degrees they proceed to be Maisters, and by desert be preferred at Ty borne." I cannot ascertain the book from which this passage was transcribed. Steevens.

I don't suspect that Shakspeare had any academical term in contemplation, when he wrote this line. He has proceeded well, means only, he has gone on well. M. Mason.

Fit in his place and time.

Dum. How follows that?


Dum. In reason nothing.

Something then in rhyme.


Long. Biron is like an envious sneaping frost,
That bites the first-born infants of the spring.
Biron. Well, say I am; why should proud summer

Before the birds have any cause to sing?

Why should I joy in an abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose,

Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows;
But like of each thing, that in season grows.3


2 sneaping frost,] So, sneaping winds in The Winter's Tale: To sneap is to check, to rebuke. Thus also, Falstaff, in King Henry IV, P. II: “I will not undergo this sneap, without reply."

3 Why should I joy in an abortive birth? At Christmas I no more desire a rose,

Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows;


But like of each thing, that in season grows.] As the greatest part of this scene (both what precedes and follows) is strictly in rhymes, either successive, alternate, or triple, I am persuaded, that the copyists have made a slip here. For by making a triplet of the three last lines quoted, birth in the close of the first line is quite destitute of any rhyme to it. Besides, what a displeasing identity of sound recurs in the middle and close of this verse!

"Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows,"

Again, new-fangled shows seems to have very little propriety. The flowers are not new-fangled, but the earth is new-fangled by the profusion and variety of the flowers, that spring on its bosom in May. I have therefore ventured to substitute earth, in the close of the third line, which restores the alternate measure. It was very easy for a negligent transcriber to be deceived by the rhyme immediately preceding; so mistake the concluding word in the sequent line, and corrupt it into one that would chime with the other. Theobald.

I rather suspect a line to have been lost after "an abortive birth." For an in that line the old copies have any. Corrected by Mr. Pope. Malone.

By these shows the poet means Maygames, at which a snow would be very unwelcome and unexpected. It is only a periphrasis for May. T. Warton.

I have no doubt that the more obvious interpretation is the true So, in Chaucer's Knightes Tale:


"And fresher than May with floures new —.”

So also, in our poet's King Richard II:

"She came adorned hither, like sweet May."

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