Page images
PDF
EPUB

'I have debated, even in my soul,

What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed;
But nothing can affection's course control,
Or stop the headlong fury of his speed.
I know repentant tears ensue the deed,
Reproach, disdain, and deadly enmity;
Yet strive I to embrace mine infamy.'

This said, he shakes aloft his Roman blade,
Which, like a falcon towering in the skies,
Coucheth the fowl below with his wings' shade,
Whose crooked beak threats if he mount he dies:
So under his insulting falchion lies

Harmless Lucretia, marking what he tells
With trembling fear, as fowl hear falcon's bells.

'Lucrece,' quoth he, 'this night I must enjoy thee:
If thou deny, then force must work my way,
For in thy bed I purpose to destroy thee:
That done, some worthless slave of thine I'll slay,
To kill thine honour with thy life's decay;

And in thy dead arms do I mean to place him,
Swearing I slew him, seeing thee embrace him.

'So thy surviving husband shall remain
The scornful mark of every open eye;
Thy kinsmen hang their heads at this disdain,
Thy issue blurr'd with nameless bastardy:
And thou, the author of their obloquy,

Shalt have thy trespass cited up in rhymes,
And sung by children in succeeding times.

'But if thou yield, I rest thy secret friend : The fault unknown is as a thought unacted; A little harm done to a great good end

502. ensue, follow upon,

507. Coucheth, makes cower.

500

510

520

For lawful policy remains enacted.
The poisonous simple sometimes is compacted
In a pure compound; being so applied,
His venom in effect is purified.

'Then, for thy husband and thy children's sake,
Tender my suit: bequeath not to their lot
The shame that from them no device can take,
The blemish that will never be forgot;
Worse than a slavish wipe or birth-hour's blot :
For marks descried in men's nativity

Are nature's faults, not their own infamy.'

Here with a cockatrice' dead-killing eye
He rouseth up himself and makes a pause;
While she, the picture of pure piety,
Like a white hind under the gripe's sharp claws,
Pleads, in a wilderness where are no laws,

To the rough beast that knows no gentle right,
Nor aught obeys but his foul appetite.

530

540

But when a black-faced cloud the world doth threat,
In his dim mist the aspiring mountains hiding,
From earth's dark womb some gentle gust doth get,
Which blows these pitchy vapours from their biding, 550
Hindering their present fall by this dividing;

So his unhallow'd haste her words delays,
And moody Pluto winks while Orpheus plays.

Yet, foul night-waking cat, he doth but dally,
While in his hold-fast foot the weak mouse panteth:
Her sad behaviour feeds his vulture folly,

534. Tender, regard. 537. wipe, brand.

543. gripe, griffin (cf. Ger. 'Greif'). It was conceived as 'a mixed and dubious animal, in

the forepart resembling an eagle, and behind the shape of a lion' (Sir T. Browne). The term was also applied to the vul

ture.

A swallowing gulf that even in plenty wanteth;
His ear her prayers admits, but his heart granteth
No penetrable entrance to her plaining:

Tears harden lust, though marble wear with
raining.

Her pity-pleading eyes are sadly fixed
In the remorseless wrinkles of his face;
Her modest eloquence with sighs is mixed,
Which to her oratory adds more grace.
She puts the period often from his place;

And midst the sentence so her accent breaks,
That twice she doth begin ere once she speaks.

She conjures him by high almighty Jove,
By knighthood, gentry, and sweet friendship's oath,
By her untimely tears, her husband's love,
By holy human law, and common troth,

By heaven and earth, and all the power of both,
That to his borrow'd bed he make retire,
And stoop to honour, not to foul desire.

Quoth she: 'Reward not hospitality
With such black payment as thou hast pretended;
Mud not the fountain that gave drink to thee;
Mar not the thing that cannot be amended;
End thy ill aim before thy shoot be ended;

He is no woodman that doth bend his bow
To strike a poor unseasonable doe.

'My husband is thy friend; for his sake spare me:
Thyself art mighty; for thine own sake leave me:
Myself a weakling; do not then ensnare me :
Thou look'st not like deceit; do not deceive me.
My sighs, like whirlwinds, labour hence to heave

560

570

580

thee:
574. stoop, yield.

576. pretended, proffered.

If ever man were moved with woman's moans,
Be moved with my tears, my sighs, my groans:

'All which together, like a troubled ocean,
Beat at thy rocky and wreck-threatening heart,
To soften it with their continual motion;
For stones dissolved to water do convert.
O, if no harder than a stone thou art,
Melt at my tears, and be compassionate!
Soft pity enters at an iron gate.

'In Tarquin's likeness I did entertain thee: Hast thou put on his shape to do him shame ? To all the host of heaven I complain me,

Thou wrong'st his honour, wound'st his princely

name.

590

Thou art not what thou seem'st; and if the same, 600 Thou art not what thou seem'st, a god, a king; For kings like gods should govern every thing.

'How will thy shame be seeded in thine age,
When thus thy vices bud before thy spring!
If in thy hope thou darest do such outrage,
What darest thou not when once thou art a king?
O, be remember'd, no outrageous thing
From vassal actors can be wiped away;
Then kings' misdeeds cannot be hid in clay.

'This deed will make thee only loved for fear;
But happy monarchs still are fear'd for love:
With foul offenders thou perforce must bear,
When they in thee the like offences prove:
If but for fear of this, thy will remove;

For princes are the glass, the school, the book,
Where subjects' eyes do learn, do read, do look.

610

'And wilt thou be the school where Lust shall

learn?

Must he in thee read lectures of such shame?
Wilt thou be glass wherein it shall discern
Authority for sin, warrant for blame,
To privilege dishonour in thy name?

Thou back'st reproach against long-living laud,
And makest fair reputation but a bawd.

'Hast thou command? by him that gave it thee,
From a pure heart command thy rebel will:
Draw not thy sword to guard iniquity,

For it was lent thee all that brood to kill.

Thy princely office how canst thou fulfil,

620

When, pattern'd by thy fault, foul sin may say,
He learn'd to sin, and thou didst teach the way? 630

'Think but how vile a spectacle it were,

To view thy present trespass in another.
Men's faults do seldom to themselves appear;
Their own transgressions partially they smother :
This guilt would seem death-worthy in thy brother.
O, how are they wrapp'd in with infamies
That from their own misdeeds askance their eyes!
'To thee, to thee, my heaved-up hands appeal,
Not to seducing lust, thy rash relier :
I sue for exiled majesty's repeal;
Let him return, and flattering thoughts retire:
His true respect will prison false desire,

And wipe the dim mist from thy doting eyne,
That thou shalt see thy state and pity mine.'

'Have done,' quoth he: 'my uncontrolled tide
Turns not, but swells the higher by this let.
Small lights are soon blown out, huge fires abide,

640

637. askance, turn away. 'which confides too rashly in thy 639. thyrash relier, i. e. (Lust), present disposition' (Schmidt).

« PreviousContinue »