Lightfooted as it is, this song from the comedy Twelfht-Night is not only a reproach, it is also a revenge. The story it tells is identical to this removed part of TWS, but in OMM we hear things from his point of view. This is her’s:
Let nobody blame him, his scorn I approve.
I call’d my Love false love, but what said he then?
Sing, willow, willow, willow,
If I court moe women, you’ll couch with moe men.
“If she is unfaithfull to me, why should I be any better?” is all the justification he needs for his own betrayal. Well, who should blame him? Not his heartbroken mistress anyway. But rewritten in OMM-terms the same confession appears to state things rather directly: “To be honest; the sweet-and-twenty that must kiss me without delay, is not that mistress mine.”
Don’t tell me this comes as a surprise. You have been told by the fool’s very first line; the mistress is not there! And doubling the number of the ‘True Love’s’ lovers is only the first in a host of brilliant moves that makes Twelfth-Night marvellous lecture. Take for instance these three or four innocent looking lines from act II; iii
Clown : Would you have a love-song, or a song
of good (read: virtuous) life?
Sir Toby : A love-song, a love song.
Sir Andrew : Ay, ay, I care not for good life.
On which request the clown, at the spur of the moment, performs a song on that special kind of love that cares not for good life. Meanwhile his songtext’s architectural beauty is of the class that forces heads to turn. O! just stay a while with this love(ly) poem, and see how gracious she is: without exception all triplets feature a close-knit and passionate couple(t), followed at a short intake of breath’s distance by a single (line). These singles are making pairs as well, nevertheless, being separated their passion is obviously on the back burner: they are all unromantic observations.
O mistress mine! where are you roaming?
O! stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low. etc.
And this first sample of the architecture is enough to betray the love story to be nothing but a fairy tale. Compared to the remarkable precise rhyme in the other lines – unlike to many other languages, English rhyme is not obliged to match both phonetically and visually – the couple(t) of the mistress and her true love ends up in sharp disagreement. A fact linking the song subtly but firmly to TWS (the willow being a symbol for forsaken or betrayed love); the poor soul is apparently not spilling tears by the stream for nothing.
Because TWS is also attached to SD, this centre piece connects the Herbert with OMM. This relation is superficial yet, but a more direct intercourse is to be derived from the similarity between the musical lines. Still the outer pair will only meet through mediation of its go-between: