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LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST.
SCENE I. Navarre. A Park with a Palace in it.
Enter the King, Biron, LONGAVILLE, and DUMAÎN.
King. Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live registered upon our brazen tombs, And then grace us in the disgrace of death; When, spite of cormorant, devouring time, The endeavor of this present breath may buy That honor, 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 honor down, That violates the smallest branch herein. If you are armed to do, as sworn to do, Subscribe to your deep oath, and keep it too.
Long. I am resolved. 'Tis but a three years' fast; The mind shall banquet, though the body pine.
Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits
Dum. My loving lord, Dumain is mortified;
Biron. I can but say their protestation over,
Long. You swore to that, Birón, and to the rest.
Biron. By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest.
Biron. Come on then; I will swear to study so,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;
Or, study where to meet some mistress fine,
When mistresses from common sense are hid;
King. These be the stops that hinder study quite,
vain, Which, with pain purchased, 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;
By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
And give him light that it was blinded by.
That will not be deep-searched 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.3 King. How well he's read, to reason
reason against reading! Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!
- 1 Dishonestly, treacherously.
2 The sense of this declamation is only this, that a man by too close study may read himself blind.
3 That is, too much knowledge gives no real solution of doubts, but merely fame, or a name, a thing which every godfather can give.
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 summer
King. Well, sit you out. Go home, Birón, adieu !
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 the paper; 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 proclaimed?
Long. Four days ago.
Biron. Let's see the penalty. [Reads.] On pain of losing her tongue.-Who devised this penalty?
Long. Marry, that did I.
1 i. e. nipping.
2 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.
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 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, About surrender-up of Aquitain
To her decrepit, sick, and bed-rid father.
Or vainly comes the admired princess hither.
King. We must, of force, dispense with this decree; She must lie ? here on mere necessity. Biron. Necessity will make us all forsworn Three thousand times within this three years'
space. For every man with his affects is born ;
Not by might mastered, but by special grace. If I break faith, this word shall speak for me, I am forsworn on mere necessity.So to the laws at large I write my name. [Subscribes.
And he that breaks them in the least degree, Stands in attainder of eternal shame.
Suggestions are to others as to me; But, I believe, although I seem so loath,
1 The word gentility here does not signify that rank of people called gentry; but what the French express by gentilesse, i. e. elegantia, urbanitas. 2 That is, reside here.
3 Temptations. 11