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King. Your oath is pass'd to pass away from
these. Biron. Let me say no, my liege, an if you
Long. You swore to that, Birón, and to the rest.
not know. Biron. Things hid and barr’d, you mean, from
common sense ?
Biron. Come on then, I will swear to study so,
When I to feast expressly am forbido;
When mistresses from common sense are hid:
5 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 in judiciously exercised, omits the article to, before the three last verbs, and from hence the obscurity arises. M. Mason. 6 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.
If study's gain be thus, and this be so?,
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:
By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
And give him light that it was blinded byo.
That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks; Small have continual plodders ever won,
Save base authority from others' books.
7 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. Johnson. 9 Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heen,
And give him light that it was 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 lodestar, (See Midsummer-Night's Dream,) and give him light that was blinded by it. Johnson.
Mr. Steevens proposes to read was it, but unnecessarily; it reto the first eye mentioned. Boswell.
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
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 proceed
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.
1 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.
2 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 Newgage, 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 ell. M. MASON.
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
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. 4 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 May-games, 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 :
So you, to study now it is too late,
adieu! Biron. No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay
with you: 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
let me read the same; And to the strict'st op decrees I'll write my name. King. How well this yielding rescues thee from
* Folio and 4to. sworne. + Folio and 4to. strictest. So also, in our poet's King Richard II. :
“ She came adorned hither, like sweet May." 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 diverse 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. --5 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.”
MALONE. - 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.
The first folio reads fit you out, which may mean—prepare for your journey. Boswell.