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“O what excuse can my invention make,
When thou shalt charge me with so black a deed?
Will not my tongue be mute, my frail joints shake,
Mine eyes forgo their light, my false heart bleed ?
The guilt being great, the fear doth still exceed;

And extreme fear can neither fight nor fly,
But coward-like with trembling terror die.


“Had Collatinus kill'd my son or sire,
Or lain in ambush to betray my life,
Or were he not my dear friend, this desire
Might have excuse to work upon his wife,
As in revenge or quittal of such strife:

But as he is my kinsman, my dear friend,
The shame and fault finds no excuse nor end.


“Shameful it is; ay, if the fact be known:
Hateful it is; there is no hate in loving:
I'll beg her love; but she is not her own:
The worst is but denial and reproving:
My will is strong, past reason's weak removing.

Who fears a sentence or an old man's saw
Shall by a painted cloth be kept in awe.”

229 doth still exceed] is still in excess. 236 quittal] requital. 239 fact] crime. Cf. line 349, infra. The usage is common. 244 sentence] maxim, proverb. 245 a painted cloth] rough tapestry which ordinarily covered the wall of

middle-class houses; on them were painted moral sentences together with illustrations of scriptural scenes or popular secular tales.

Thus graceless holds he disputation
'Tween frozen conscience and hot-burning will,
And with good thoughts makes dispensation,
Urging the worser sense for vantage still;
Which in a moment doth confound and kill

pure effects, and doth so far proceed
That what is vile shows like a virtuous deed.


Quoth he, “She took me kindly by the hand,
And gazed for tidings in my eager eyes,
Fearing some hard news from the warlike band,
Where her beloved Collatinus lies.
O, how her fear did make her colour rise !

First red as roses that on lawn we lay,
Then white as lawn, the roses took away.


“And how her hand, in my hand being lock’d,
Forced it to tremble with her loyal fear!
Which struck her sad, and then it faster rock'd,
Until her husband's welfare she did hear;
Whereat she smiled with so sweet a cheer

That had Narcissus seen her as she stood
Self-love had never drown'd him in the flood.

247 will] lust; a common usage. 248 makes dispensation] dispenses. 256 Where . . . lies] Among whom ... resides or abides. 258–259 First red ... took away] Cf. Venus and Adonis, 689–590: "a

sudden pale Like lawn being spread upon the blushing rose.” 259 the roses took away] the roses being taken away. 264 cheer) countenance. 265–266 had Narcissus ... in the flood] Cf. Venus and Adonis, 161162: “Narcissus so himself himself forsook, And died to kiss his


“Why hunt I then for colour or excuses ?
All orators are dumb when beauty pleadeth;
Poor wretches have remorse in poor abuses;
Love thrives not in the heart that shadows dreadeth: 270
Affection is my captain, and he leadeth;

And when his gaudy banner is display'd,

The coward fights, and will not be dismay'd.
“Then, childish fear avaunt! debating die !
Respect and reason wait on wrinkled age !
My heart shall never countermand mine eye:
Sad pause and deep regard beseems the sage;
My part is youth, and beats these from the stage:

Desire my pilot is, beauty my prize;

Then who fears sinking where such treasure lies ?” 280
As corn o'ergrown by weeds, so heedful fear
Is almost choked by unresisted lust.
Away he steals with open listening ear,
Full of foul hope and full of fond mistrust;
Both which, as servitors to the unjust,

shadow in the brook"; and Marlowe's Hero and Leander, Sestiad I,

lines 74-76. 275 Respect] Thought, cautious prudence; like "regard" in line 277. 277 Sad pause) Pause for serious thought. 278 My part is youth ... stage) An allusion to the performance of moral

ity plays, in which the personification of youth often figured in the dramatis persona. Cf. the extant morality plays called respectively The Interlude of Youth and Lusty Juventus. In many of these pieces there is much horse-play, chiefly on the part of a character called the “Vice,” the servitor of the Devil, who at the close is wont to drive his master from the stage with blows. Cf. Tw. Night, IV, ii, 120-122, and Hen. V, IV, 70–71.

So cross him with their opposite persuasion,
That now he vows a league, and now invasion.


Within his thought her heavenly image sits,
And in the self-same seat sits Collatine:
That eye which looks on her confounds his wits;
That eye which him beholds, as more divine,
Unto a view so false will not incline;

But with a pure appeal seeks to the heart,
Which once corrupted takes the worser part;

And therein heartens up his servile powers,
Who, flatter'd by their leader's jocund show,
Stuff up his lust, as minutes fill


And as their captain, so their pride doth grow,
Paying more slavish tribute than they owe.

By reprobate desire thus madly led,
The Roman lord marcheth to Lucrece' bed.


The locks between her chamber and his will,
Each one by him enforced, retires his ward;
But, as they open, they all rate his ill,
Which drives the creeping thief to some regard:
The threshold grates the door to have him heard;

Night-wandering weasels shriek to see him there;
They fright him, yet he still pursues his fear.

286 cross him] work on him at cross-purposes. 303 retires his ward] draws back its bolt. “Retires" is used like the French

“retirer.” Cf. line 641, infra. 308 his fear] the cause of his fear, his peril.


As each unwilling portal yields him way,
Through little vents and crannies of the place
The wind wars with his torch to make him stay,
And blows the smoke of it into his face,
Extinguishing his conduct in this case;

But his hot heart, which fond desire doth scorch,
Puffs forth another wind that fires the torch:

And being lighted, by the light he spies
Lucretia's glove, wherein her needle sticks:
He takes it from the rushes where it lies,
And griping it, the needle his finger pricks;
As who should say “This glove to wanton tricks

Is not inured; return again in haste;
Thou see'st our mistress' ornaments are chaste."


But all these poor forbiddings could not stay him;
He in the worst sense construes their denial :
The doors, the wind, the glove, that did delay him,
He takes for accidental things of trial;
Or as those bars which stop the hourly dial,

Who with a lingering stay his course doth let,
Till every minute pays the hour his debt.



313 his conduct in this case] his conductor or guide in this business. Cf.

Rom, and Jul., V, iii, 116: “Come bitter conduct, come unsavoury

guide.” 318 the rushes) the rushes, which strewed the floors of the chief rooms in

Elizabethan houses. Cf. Cymb., II, ii, 12-13: “Our Tarquin thus

Did softly press the rushes.' 319 needle] The word must be pronounced monosyllabically. The alter

native form neeld is substituted by Malone. 328 let) hinder. So line 10, supra. Cf. line 330: “lets” (i. e., hindrances).

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