Enter Ferdinand king of Navarre, Biron, Longaville and Dumain
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 endeavor 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, Biron, 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 pass'd; 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 oaths, and keep it too.
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 Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.
My loving lord, Dumain is mortified: The grosser manner of these world's delights He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves: To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die; With all these living in philosophy.
I can but say their protestation over; So much, dear liege, I have already sworn, That is, to live and study here three years. But there are other strict observances; As, not to see a woman in that term, Which I hope well is not enrolled there; And one day in a week to touch no food And but one meal on every day beside, The which I hope is not enrolled there; And then, to sleep but three hours in the night, And not be seen to wink of all the day— When I was wont to think no harm all night And make a dark night too of half the day— Which I hope well is not enrolled there: O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep, Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep!
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.
Come on, then; I will swear to study so, To know the thing I am forbid to know: As thus,—to study where I well may dine, When I to feast expressly am forbid; Or study where to meet some mistress fine, When mistresses from common sense are hid; Or, having sworn too hard a keeping oath, 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: Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say no.
Why, all delights are vain; but that most 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: So, ere you find where light in darkness lies, Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes. Study me how to please the eye indeed By fixing it upon a fairer eye, Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed And give him light that it was blinded by. 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.
Well, say I am; why should proud summer boast Before the birds have any cause to sing? Why should I joy in any abortive birth? At Christmas I no more desire a rose Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth; But like of each thing that in season grows. So you, to study now it is too late, Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate.
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 paper; let me read the same; And to the strict'st decrees I'll write my name.
A dangerous law against gentility!
“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 Aquitaine To her decrepit, sick and bedrid father: Therefore this article is made in vain, Or vainly comes the admired princess hither.
So study evermore is overshot: While it doth study to have what it would It doth forget to do the thing it should, And when it hath the thing it hunteth most, 'Tis won as towns with fire, so won, so lost.
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 master'd 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:
And he that breaks them in the least degree Stands in attainder of eternal shame: Suggestions are to other as to me; But I believe, although I seem so loath, I am the last that will last keep his oath. But is there no quick recreation granted?
Ay, that there is. Our court, you know, is haunted With a refined traveller of Spain; A man in all the world's new fashion planted, That hath a mint of phrases in his brain; One whom the music of his own vain tongue Doth ravish like enchanting harmony; A man of complements, whom right and wrong Have chose as umpire of their mutiny: This child of fancy, that Armado hight, For interim to our studies shall relate In high-born words the worth of many a knight From tawny Spain lost in the world's debate. How you delight, my lords, I know not, I; But, I protest, I love to hear him lie And I will use him for my minstrelsy.
Enter Dull with a letter, and Costard
I myself reprehend his own person, for I am his grace's tharborough: but I would see his own person in flesh and blood.
The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta. The manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.
In manner and form following, sir; all those three: I was seen with her in the manor-house, sitting with her upon the form, and taken following her into the park; which, put together, is in manner and form following. Now, sir, for the manner,—it is the manner of a man to speak to a woman: for the form,— in some form.
[Reads] 'sorted and consorted, contrary to thy established proclaimed edict and continent canon, which with,—O, with—but with this I passion to say wherewith,—
And Don Armado shall be your keeper. My Lord Biron, see him deliver'd o'er: And go we, lords, to put in practise that Which each to other hath so strongly sworn.
Exeunt Ferdinand, Longaville, and Dumain
I'll lay my head to any good man's hat, These oaths and laws will prove an idle scorn. Sirrah, come on.
I suffer for the truth, sir; for true it is, I was taken with Jaquenetta, and Jaquenetta is a true girl; and therefore welcome the sour cup of prosperity! Affliction may one day smile again; and till then, sit thee down, sorrow!