Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile
Why! all delights are vain, but that most 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;
So ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Berowne's speech has hardly been embraced in everyday English,
but it should be better remembered. "Light, seeking light, doth
light of light beguile" has all the makings of a proverb. The very
absurdity of the alliteration and the self-conscious sophistry of
Berowne's "proof" only make the line more charming.
The occasion for Berowne's remarks is a pact drawn up by the
King of Navarre, requiring its signatories to forsake for three
years the company of women and all other "trivial" pleasures, such
as regular meals. The King's object is to establish a "little
academe" (he invents the word "academe," by way of Plato); in it,
he and his fellows will pursue wisdom with such dedication that
their fame will spread across space and time. Berowne's objection,
as contrived as it sounds, has an essential grain of wisdom.
Staring too long at books, he argues, is painful; why should anyone
give up pleasures in order to pursue pain? Reading is blinding:
"Light" (the eye), by "seeking light" (in seeking truth), "doth
light of light beguile" (deprives itself of vision). If you think
you're going to find "truth" in the dark recesses of books, pretty
soon you'll be plunged in despair, because blindness will bar you