Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
Under the Greenwood Tree
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
From “As You Like It,” Act II. Scene 5

Amiens sings:
            UNDER the greenwood tree,
            Who loves to lie with me,
            And turn his merry note 1
            Unto the sweet bird’s throat,
        Come hither, come hither, come hither:        5
              Here shall he see
              No enemy
        But winter and rough weather.
            Who doth ambition shun,
            And loves to live i’ the sun, 2        10
            Seeking the food he eats,
            And pleased with what he gets,
        Come hither, come hither, come hither;
              Here shall he see
              No enemy        15
        But winter and rough weather.
Jaques replies:
            If it do come to pass
            That any man turn ass,
            Leaving his wealth and ease
            A stubborn will to please,        20
        Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame: 3
              Here shall he see
              Gross fools as he,
        An if he will come to me.
Note 1. And turn his merry note: There has been much controversy among Shakespearian editors over the reading of turn instead of tune in this one of the best of the great poet’s lyrics. Malone supports tune, citing The Two Gentlemen of Verona, act v. sc. 4, “And to the nightingale’s complaining note tune my distresses.” “To turn a tune or note,” says Steevens, “is still a current phrase among vulgar musicians,” and White corroborates him from observation in the counties of York and Durham, where he says the phrase is appropriate and familiar. “To ‘turn a note’ means only to ‘change a note;’ compare Locrine, 1595: ‘When he sees that needs he must be prest, Heele turne his note and sing another tune.’ Wright, after quoting this last note of Dyce’s, adds: ‘Even granting this, there appears to be no absolute necessity for change in the present passage, for turn his merry note may mean adapt or modulate his note to the sweet bird’s song, following its changes.’” (Furness, Variorum ed. Shak., vol. viii., p. 94.) [back]
Note 2. And loves to live i’ the sun: to “live i’ the sun,” is to labour and “sweat in the eye of Phœbus,” or vitam agere sub dio; for by lying in the sun how could they get the food they eat? (Tollet.) [back]
Note 3. Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame: duc ad me, that is, bring him to me. (Hanmer.) “If duc ad me were right, Amiens would not have asked its meaning, and been put off with a ‘Greek invocation.’ It is evidently a word coined for the nonce. We have here, as Butler says, ‘One for sense, and one for rhyme.’ Indeed, we must have a double rhyme, or the stanza cannot well be sung to the same tune with the former. I read, Ducdamè, Ducdamè, Here he shall see Gross fools as he, An’ if he will come to Ami. That is, to Amiens. (Ami—me. B.) Jacques did not mean to ridicule himself.” (Farmer.) “I have recently met with a passage in an uncollated MS. of the Vision of Piers Plowman in the Bodleian Library, which goes far to prove that Ducdamè is the burden of an old song, an explanation which exactly agrees with its position in the song of Jacques. The passage is as follows: ‘Thomee Set ther some, And sunge at the ale, And helpen to erye that half akre with Dusadam-me-me.’—MS. Rawl. Poet, 137, f. 6. To show that this is evidently intended for the burden of a song, we need only compare it with the corresponding passage in the printed edition: ‘And holpen ere this half acre with How, trolly lolly.’ Piers Ploughman, ed. Wright, p. 124. Making allowances for two centuries which elapsed between the appearance of Piers Ploughman and As You Like It, is there too great a difference between Dusadam-me-me and Duc-da-me to warrant my belief that the latter is a legitimate descendant of the more ancient refrain? At all events, it must be borne in mind that the commentators have not produced any old word equally near it in their dissertations on its meaning.” (Halliwell, in Shakespeare Society Papers, 1844, vol. i., p. 109.) For these opinions I am indebted to Dr. Furness, Variorum Shakespeare, vol. viii., pp. 97–98. [back]

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