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SCENE I. Navarre. A Park with a Palace in it.
Enter the King, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and
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,
Long. I am resolv’d: 'tis but a three years' fast;
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, Birón, and to the rest. Biron. By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest.What is the end of study? let me know.
1 i. e. with all these companions. He may be supposed to point to the king, Biron, &c.
King. Why, that to know, which else we should
not know. Biron. Things hid and barr’d, you mean, from
common sense? King. Ay, that is study's god-like recompense.
Biron. Come on then, I will swear to study so,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;
When mistresses from common sense are hid:
King. These be the stops that hinder study quite,
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 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 3. Study me how to please the eye indeed,
By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
shall be his heed, And give him light that it was blinded by 4. 2 Dishonestly, treacherously.
3 The whole sense of this gingling declamation is only this, that a man by too close study may read himself blind.
4 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 or guide, his lode-star, and give him light that was blinded by it.
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 5. 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 Dum. How follows that? Biron.
Fit in his place and time. Dum. In reason nothing. Biron.
Something then in rhyme. Long. Birón is like an envious sneaping frost,
That bites the first-born infants of the spring. Biron. Well, say I am; why should proud sum
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.
5 That is, too much knowledge gives no real solution of doubts, but merely fame, or a name, a thing which every godfather can give.
6 i. e. nipping. In The Winter's Tale, Act i. Sc. 1. we have sneaping winds. To sneap is also to check, to rebuke. See Note on King Henry IV. Part II. Act ii. Sc. 1.
? By these shows the poet means May-games, at which a snow would be very unwelcome and unexpected. It is only a periphrasis for May.
you, to study now it is too late, Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate.
King. Well, sit you out: go home, Birón; adieu ! Biron. No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay
And, though I have for barbarism spoke more,
Than for that angel knowledge you can say, Yet confident I'll keep what I have swore,
And bide the penance of each three years' day. Give me
let me read the same; And to the strict'st decrees I'll write my name. King. How well this yielding rescues thee from
shame! Biron. [Reads.] Item, That no woman shall come within a mile of my court.-Hath this been proclaim’d?
Long. Four days ago.
Biron. Let's see the penalty. [Reads.] On pain of losing her tongue.--Who devis’d this penalty?
Long. Marry, that did I.
[Reads.] Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such public 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 complete majesty,
8 The word gentility here does not signify that rank of people called gentry; but what the French express by gentilesse, i. e. elegantia, urbanitas.