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LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST.'
ACT I.....SCENE I.
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 ent 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 edíct 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.
- your deep oath,] The old copies have-oaths. Corrected by Mr. Steevens. Malone.
Dum. My loving lord, Dumain is mortified;
Biron. I can but say their protestation over,
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.
What is the end of study? let me know.
Biron. Come on then, I will swear to study so,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;5
When mistresses from common sense are hid:
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:
King. These be the stops that hinder study quite,
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:
s 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. Ritson.
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. Fohnson.
Study me how to please the eye indeed,
By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
And give him light that was it blinded by.8
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.'
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
8 Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
And give him light that was it blinded by.) This is another pas. sage 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.
Malone. 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. Fohnson.
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. Fohnson.
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.
Dum. How follows that?
Fit in his place and time.'
Something then in rhyme. Long. Biron is like an envious sneaping frost,
That bites the first-born infants of the spring.
- 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."
Steevens. 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 periphra. sis 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."