I do live by food, I met a fool,
him down and basked him in the sun,
on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set
terms, and yet a motley fool.
fool,’ quoth I. ‘No, sir,’ quoth he,
me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune.’
then he drew a dial from his poke,
on it with lack-lustre eye
Says very wisely
‘It is ten o’clock.’
’Thus we may see’, quoth
he, ‘how the world wags.
’Tis but an hour
ago since it was nine,
And after one hour
more ‘twill be eleven.
And so from hour to
hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour
to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs
In Act II, scene vii, melancholy Jaques
displays an uncharacteristic burst of delight. While wandering through
the forest, he relates, he met a fool, who entertained him with
rather nihilistic musings on the passage of time and man’s life.
According to Touchstone, time ensures nothing other than man’s own
decay: “from hour to hour we rot and rot” (II.vii.27).
That this speech appeals to Jaques says much about his character:
he delights not only in the depressing, but also in the rancid.
Practically all of Touchstone’s lines contain some bawdy innuendo,
and these are no exception. Here, by punning the word “hour” with
“whore,” he transforms the general notion of man’s decay into the
unpleasant specifics of a man dying from venereal disease. Touchstone
appropriately, if distastefully, confirms this hidden meaning by
ending his speech with the words “thereby hangs a tale,” for tale
was Elizabethan slang for penis (II.vii.28).