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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 common sense?
King. Ay, that is study's god-like recompense.
Study knows that, which yet it doth not know:
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,
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Light seeking light, doth light of light beguile:
5 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
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,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks;
Than those that walk, and wot not what they are.
King. How well he's read, to reason against reading! Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!' Long. He weeds the corn, and still lets grow the weeding.
Biron. The spring is near, when green geese are a breeding.
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.
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 Tyborne." 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.
Dum. How follows that?
Dum. In reason nothing.
Fit in his place and time.
Something then in rhyme.
Long. Biron is like an envious sneaping frost,2
Biron. Well, say I am; why should proud summer boast,
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in an abortive birth?
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows;
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. w-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 one. 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."
So you to study now it is too late,
Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate.
King. Well, sit you out:5 go home, Biron; adieu! Biron. No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay with
And though I have for barbarism spoke more,
And bide the penance of each three years' day.
Biron. [Reads.] Item, That no woman shall come within a mile of my court.
And hath this been proclaim'd?
Biron. Let's see the penalty.
Four days ago.
Who devis'd this?
[Reads.]-On pain of losing her tongue.
Long. Marry, that did I.
i. e. as the ground is in that month enamelled by the gay diversity of flowers which the spring produces.
Again, in The Destruction of Troy, 1619: "At the entry of the month of May, when the earth is attired and adorned with divers flowers," &c. Malone.
I concur with Mr. Warton; for with what propriety can the flowers which every year produces with the same identical shape and colours, be called-new-fangled? The sports of May might be annually diversified, but its natural productions would be invariably the same. Steevens.
4 Climb o'er the house &c.] This is the reading of the quarto, 1598, and much preferable to that of the folio:
"That were to climb o'er the house to unlock the gate.”
5 sit you out:] This may mean, hold you out, continue refractory. But I suspect, we should read-set you out. Malone. To sit out, is a term from the card-table. Thus, Bishop Sanderson:
They are glad, rather than sit out, to play very small game." The person who cuts out at a rubber of whist, is still said to sit out; i. e. to be no longer engaged in the party. Steevens.
6 Who devis'd this?] The old copies read-this penalty. I have omitted this needless repetition of the word penalty, because it destroys the measure. Steevens.
Biron. Sweet lord, and why?
Long. To fright them hence with that dread penalty. Biron. A dangerous law against gentility."
[Reads.] Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such publick shame as the rest of the court can possibly devise.This article, my liege, yourself must break;
For, well you know, here comes in embassy The French king's daughter, with yourself to speak, A maid of grace, and cómplete majesty,
About surrender-up of Aquitain
To her decrepit, sick, and bed-rid father:
Or vainly comes the admired princess hither.
While it doth study to have what it would,
King. We must, of force, dispense with this decree; She must lie here3 on mere necessity.
7 A dangerous law against gentility!] I have ventured to prefix the name of Biron to this line, it being evident, for two reasons, that it, by some accident or other, slipt out of the printed books. In the first place, Longaville confesses he had devised the penalty: and why he should immediately arraign it as a dangerous law, seems to be very inconsistent. In the next place, it is much more natural for Biron to make this reflection, who is cavilling at every thing; and then for him to pursue his reading over the remaining articles.-As to the word gentility, here, it does not signify that rank of people called gentry; but what the French express by gentilesse, i. e. elegantia, urbanitas. And then the meaning is this: Such a law for banishing women from the court, is dangerous, or injurious, to politeness, urbanity, and the more refined pleasures of life. For men without women would turn brutal, and savage, in their natures and behaviour. Theobald.
-lie here-] Means reside here, in the same sense as an ambassador is said to lie leiger. See Beaumont and Fletcher's Love's Cure, or the Martial Maid, Act II, sc. ii:
"Or did the cold Muscovite beget thee,
"That lay here leiger, in the last great frost?"
Again, in Sir Henry Wotton's Definition: "An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie (i. e. reside) abroad for the good of his country."