David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 3

— 5.3 —

In another part of the forest, Touchstone said, “Tomorrow is the joyful day, Audrey. Tomorrow we will be married.”

“I want to marry you with all my heart,” Audrey said, “and I hope it is not an unchaste desire to really want to be a married woman.”

She looked up and said, “Look, here come two of the banished Duke’s pages.”

One of the pages said to Touchstone, “Hello, honorable gentleman.”

“Hello,” Touchstone replied. “Come, sit down, and sing a song.”

“We will sing,” the other page said. He joked, “Sit in the middle,” referring to a song with a lyric about “the fool in the middle.”

The first page asked, “Shall we begin singing at once, without hawking or spitting or saying we are hoarse, which are the prologues before the singing of a bad voice?”

“Yes, let us begin singing immediately,” the other page said, “and let us both sing in unison. We shall sing like two gypsies riding on one horse.”

They sang this song:

It was a lover and his lass,

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,

That over the green wheat field did pass

In the springtime, the only pretty marriage- and ring-time,

When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:

Sweet lovers love the spring.

Between the rows of the rye,

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino

These pretty country folks would lie,

In the springtime, the only pretty marriage- and ring-time,

When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:

Sweet lovers love the spring.

This carol they began that hour,

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,

How that a life was as brief as the life of a flower

In the springtime, the only pretty marriage- and ring-time,

When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:

Sweet lovers love the spring.

And therefore seize the present time,

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino;

For love is crowned with the spring — the prime —

In the springtime, the only pretty marriage- and ring-time,

When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:

Sweet lovers love the spring.”

Touchstone said, “Truly, young gentlemen, though there was no great content in the ditty, yet the song was sung out of tune.”

“You are deceived, sir,” a page said. “We kept time, we lost not our time. We kept the rhythm.”

“You did lose the time,” Touchstone replied. “I consider it but time lost to hear such a foolish song. May God be with you, and may God mend your voices! Come, Audrey. Let’s go.”

Touchstone thought, The song had content. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. What are the young lovers doing between the rows of the rye? The he is giving the she a green gown. Their activity results in the girl getting grass stains on the back of her gown. I was overly critical. Why? People expect me to be overly critical. Being overly critical is a way to be funny and make puns about time.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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