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From Oberon, in fairye land,
The king of ghosts and shadowes there,
Mad Robin I, at his command,
Am sent to viewe the night-sports here.
What ravell rout is kept about,
In every corner where I go,
I will o'ersee, and merry bee,
And make good sport, with ho, ho, ho!
More swift than lightening can I flye
About this aery welkin soone,
And, in a minute's space, descrye
Each thing that's done belowe the moone:
There's not a hag or ghost shall wag,
Or cry, 'ware goblins! where I go;
But Robin I their feates will spy,
And send them home, with ho, ho, ho!
Whene'er such wanderers I meete,
As from their night-sports they trudge home :
With counterfeiting voice I greete,
And call them on, with me to roame
Thro' woods, thro’ lakes, thro' bogs, thro' brakes;
Or else, unseen, with them I go,
All in the nicke to play some tricke
And frolicke it, with ho, ho, ho!
Sometimes I meete them like a man;
Sometimes, an ox, sometimes, a hound;
And to a horse I turn me can;
To trip and trot about them round.
But if, to ride, my backe they stride,

More swift than wind away I go; I This title is given by Bishop Percy from an old black-letter copy in the British Museum.


O’er hedge and lands, thro' pools and ponds,
I whirry, laughing, ho, ho, ho!
When lads and lasses merry be,
With possets and with juncates fine;
Unseene of all the company,
I eat their cakes and sip their wine;
And, to make sport, I fart and snort,
And out the candles I do blow :
The maids I kiss; they shrieke, — Who's this?
I answer nought, but ho, ho, ho !
Yet now and then, the maids to please,
At midnight I card up their wooll ;
And while they sleepe and take their ease,
With wheel to threads their flax I pull
I grind at mill their malt up still;
I dress their hemp, I spin their tow
If any wake, and would me take,
I wend me, laughing, ho, ho, ho !
When house or harth doth sluttish lye,
I pinch the maidens black and blue;
The bed-clothes from the bed pull I,
And lay them naked all to view :
'Twixt sleepe and wake, I do them take,
And on the key-cold floor them throw:
If out they cry, then forth I fly,
And loudly laugh out, ho, ho, ho!
When any need to borrowe ought,
We lend them what they do require;
And for the use demand we nought :
Our owne is all we do desire.
If, to repay, they do delay,
Abroad amongst them then I go,
And night by night I them affright
With pinchings, dreames, and ho, ho, ho!
When lazie queans have nought to do,
But study how to cog and lye;
To make debate and mischief too,
'Twixt one another secretlye:

I marke their gloze, and it disclose
To them whom they have wronged so;
When I have done, I get me gone,
And leave them scolding, ho, ho, ho!
When men do traps and engins set
In loope-holes, where the vermine creepe,
Who, from their foldes and houses, get
Their duckes and geese, and lambes and sheepe ;
I spy the gin, and enter in,
And seeme a vermine taken so;
But when they there approach me neare,
I leap out laughing, ho, ho, ho!
By wells and rills, in meadowes greene,
We nightly dance our hey-dey guise ;
And to our fairye king and queene
We chant our moonlight minstrelsies :
When larks 'gin sing, away we fling ;
And babes new-borne steal as we go,
And elfe in bed we leave instead,
And wend us laughing, ho, ho, ho!
From hay-bred Merlin's time have I
Thus nightly revell’d to and fro;
And for my pranks men call me by
The name of Robin Goodfellów.
Fiends, ghosts, and sprites, who haunt the nightes,
The hags and goblins, do me know;
And beldames old my feates have told;

So, Vale, Vale! ho, ho, ho !? 2 This ballad has been generally attributed to Ben Jonson and Mr. Collier has a version in a manuscript of the time, with the initials B. J. at the end. This copy, he says, varies somewbat from that given above, and has an additional stanza, which we subjoin :

“ When as my fellow elfes and I
In circled ring do trip around,
If that our sports by any eye
Do happen to be seene or found;
If that they no words do say,
But mum continue as they go,
Each night I do put groat in shoe,
And wind out laughing, ho, ho, ho !

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Love's LABOUR's Lost was first published in a quarto pam. phlet of thirty-eight leaves in 1598, the title-page reading as follows : “A pleasant-conceited Comedy called Love's Labour's Lost : As it was presented before her Highness this last Christ. mas : Newly corrected and augmented : By W. Shakespeare. Imprinted at London by W. W. for Cuthbert Burby : 1598.” There was no other known edition of the play till the folio of 1623, where it is the seventh in the division of Comedies. From the repetition of certain errors of the press, it is quite probable that the second copy was reprinted from the first; while, on the other hand, there are certain differences that look as if another authority had in some points been consulted : the editors of the folio probably taking the quarto as their standard, and occasionally having recourse to a play-house manuscript. In the quarto neither scenes nor acts are distinguished ; in the folio only the latter; and even here, as may easily be seen, the division into acis is very unequal and inartificial : yet no modern edition has ventured upon any change in this respect.

In the Accounts of the Revels at Court, under the date of January, 1605, occurs the following entry :“ Between New-years Day and Twelfth Day, a play of Love's Labour's Lost.” As success on the public stage was generally at that time the main reason of a play's being selected for performance at court, we may infer that this play continued popular after many better ones had been written. The play was also entered in the Stationers' Books, January 22, 1607, the right of it being passed over from Burby to Ling, probably because the latter contemplated a new edition. The design, however, if any such there were, seems to have been given up, as no impression of that date has come down to us.

Love's Labour's Lost is mentioned in the list of Shakespeare's plays given by Francis Meres in 1598. The same year one Robert

Tofte put forth a poem entitled “ Alba the Months Minde of a Melancholy Lover,” wherein the play is thus referred to :

« Love's Labour Lost! I once did see a play

Ycleped so, so called to my paine,
Which I to heare to my small joy did stay,

Giving attendance on my froward dame:
My misgiving mind presaging to me ill,
Yet was I drawn to see it 'gainst my will.

This play no play, but plague, was unto me,

For there I lost the love I liked most;
And what to others seemde a jest to be,

I that in earnest found unto my cost.
To every one, save me, 'twas comicall,
While tragic-like to me it did befall.

Each actor plaid in cunning wise his part,

But chiefly those entrapt in Cupid's snare;
Yet all was fained, 'twas not from the hart,

They seeme to grieve, but yet they felt no care ;
'Twas I that grief indeed did beare in brest;
The others did but make a shew in jest.”

These are all the contemporary notices of the play that have reached us. In our Introduction to The Two Gentlemen of Verona we have stated our main reasons for assigning an earlier date to the Poet's first dramatic efforts than has been generally supposed. That this play was among the earliest scarce admits of question, from the character of the thing itself. Though it be apparently designed as a satire upon book-men in general, yet it displays in almost every part, and a good deal more than any other of the Poet's dramas, just such a preponderance of book-knowl. edge as were to be looked for in one fresh from school. Moreover, after the first writing a considerable time must naturally have passed before it was “newly corrected and augmented,” as stated in the title-page of the quarto. There may be some question as to what year “it was presented before her Highness ;” but as the year was then reckoned from the twenty-fifth of March, it seems quite likely that “this last Christmas” refers to the Christmas of 1598. Though we need not suppose so many as ten years to have elapsed between the writing and the revising, yet there is nothing that apparently makes against such a supposal. And Tofte's expression, “ I once did see a play,” may well enough infer that it was some years since he saw it.

The fact of the play's having been “corrected and argmented," of course invalidates whatsoever of evidence on this score might else be drawn from allusions to contemporary matters.


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