Page images
PDF
EPUB

That he may vow, in that sad hour of mine,
Revenge on him that made me stop my breath.
My stained blood to Tarquin I 'll bequeath,

Which by him tainted shall for him be spent,
And as his due writ in

my testament.

My honour I'll bequeath unto the knife
That wounds my body so dishonoured.
’T is honour to deprive dishonour'd life;
The one will live, the other being dead:
So of shame's ashes shall my fame be bred ;
For in

my

death I murther shameful scorn: My shame so dead, mine honour is new-born.

Dear lord of that dear jewel I have lost,
What legacy shall I bequeath to thee?
My resolution, Love, shall be thy boast,
By whose example thou reveng'd mayst be.
How Tarquin must be used, read it in me:

Myself, thy friend, will kill myself, thy foe,
And, for my sakc, serve thou false Tarquin so.

“ This brief abridgment of my will I make:
My soul and body to the skies and ground;
My resolution, husband, do thou take;
Mine honour be the knife's that makes my wound;
My shame be his that did my fame confound;

And all my fame that lives disbursed be
To those that live, and think no shame of me,

Thou, Collatine, shalt oversee this will ;*
How was I overseen that thou shalt see it!
My blood shall wash the slander of mine ill;
My life's foul deed my life's fair end shall free it.
Faint not faint heart, but stoutly say, 'so be it.'

Yield to my hand; my hand shall conquer thee;
Thou dead, both die, and both shall victors be."

. The executor of a will was sometimes called the overseer ; but our ancestors often appointed overseers as well as executors. Shakspere's own will contains such an appointment.

This plot of death when sadly she had laid,
And wip'd the brinish pearl from her bright eyes,
With untun'd tongue she hoarsely call’d her maid,
Whose swift obedience to her mistress hies;
For fleet-wing'd duty with thought's feathers flies.

Poor Lucrece cheeks unto her maid seem so
As winter meads when sun doth melt their snow.

Her mistress she doth give demure good-morrow,
With soft-slow tongue, true mark of modesty,
And sorts a sad look to her lady's sorrow,
(For why? her face wore sorrow's livery,)
But durst not ask of her audaciously

Why her two suns were cloud-eclipsed so,
Nor why her fair cheeks over-wash'd with woe.

But as the earth doth weep, the sun being set,a
Each flower moistened like a melting eye;
Even so the maid with swelling drops 'gan wet
Her circled eyne, enforc'd by sympathy
Of those fair suns, set in her mistress' sky,

Who in a salt-wav'd ocean quench their light,
Which makes the maid weep like the dewy night.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

A pretty while these pretty creatures stand,
Like ivory conduits coral cisterns filling:
One justly weeps; the other takes in hand
No cause, but company, of her drops spilling:
Their gentle sex to weep are often willing;

Grieving themselves to guess at others' smarts,
And then they drown their eyes, or break their hearts.

1

a In the folio edition of Romeo and Juliet,' as well as in the quarto of 1597, we find the line

“ When the sun sets, the earth doth drizzle dew." Here the image completely agrees with that in the text before us. But in the undated quarto, which the modern editors follow, we have “ the air doth drizzle dew.” Science was long puzzled to decide whether the earth or the air produced dew; but it was reserved for the accurate experiments of modern times to show that the earth and the air must unite to produce this effect under particular circumstances of temperature and radiation. The correction of the undated editiou of " Romeo and Juliet' was certainly unnecessary.

[ocr errors]

For men have marble, women waxen minds,
And therefore are they form’d as marble will; a
The weak oppress’d, the impression of strange kinds
Is form'd in them by force, by fraud or skill:
Then call them not the authors of their ill,

No more than wax shall be accounted evil,
Wherein is stamp'd the semblance of a devil.

Their smoothness, like a goodly champaign plain,
Lays open all the little worms that creep;
In men, as in a rough-grown grove, remain
Cave-keeping evils that obscurely sleep:
Through crystal walls each little mote will peep:

Though men can cover crimes with bold stern looks,
Poor women's faces are their own faults' books.

No man inveigh against the wither'd flower,
But chide rough winter that the flower hath kill'd!
Not that devour'd, but that which doth devour
Is worthy blame. O, let it not be hild
Poor women's faults that they are so fulfill'de

With men's abuses! those proud lords, to blame,
Make weak-made women tenants to their shame.

The precedent whereof in Lucrece view,
Assail'd by night with circumstances strong
Of present death, and shame that might ensue
By that her death, to do her husband wrong:
Such danger to resistance did belong,

That dying fear through all her body spread;
And who cannot abuse a body dead ?

By this, mild patience bid fair Lucrece speak
To the poor counterfeit of her complaining:
“My girl," quoth she, “on what occasion break

* Marble here stands for men, whose minds have just been compared to marble. b Hild-held. Such a change for the sake of rhyme is frequent in Spenser.

Fulfill'dcompletely filled. d Counterfeita likeness or copy.

Those tears from thee, that down thy cheeks are raining ?
If thou dost weep for grief of my sustaining,

Know, gentle wench, it small avails my mood :
If tears could help, mine own would do me good.

“ But tell me, girl, when went”—and there she stay'd
Till after a deep groan) “ Tarquin from hence ?"
“Madam, ere I was up,” replied the maid,
“ The more to blame my sluggard negligence :
Yet with the fault I thus far can dispense;

Myself was stirring ere the break of day,
And, ere I rose, was Tarquin gone away.

[ocr errors]

" But, lady, if your maid may be so bold,
She would request to know your heaviness”
"O peace !" quoth Lucrece; “if it should be told,
The repetition cannot make it less;
For more it is than I

express :
And that deep torture may be call’d a hell,
When more is felt than one hath power to tell.

can well

“Go, get me hither paper, ink, and pen-
Yet save that labour, for I have them here.
What should I say?-One of my husband's men
Bid thou be ready, by and by, to bear
A letter to my lord, my love, my dear;

Bid him with speed prepare to carry it:
The cause craves haste, and it will soon be writ.”

Her maid is gone, and she prepares to write, ,
First hovering o'er the paper with her quill:
Conceit and grief an eager combat fight;
What wit sets down is blotted straight with will;
This is too curious-good, this blunt and ill :

Much like a press of people at a door,
Throng her inventions, which shall be before.

At last she thus begins :—“Thou worthy lord
Of that unworthy wife that greeteth thee,

Health to thy person! next vouchsafe to afford
(If ever, love, thy Lucrece thou wilt see)
Some present speed to come and visit me:

So I commend me from our house in grief;*
My woes are tedious, though my words are brief.”

Here folds she

up

the tenor of her woe,
Her certain sorrow writ uncertainly.
By this short schedule Collatine may know
Her grief, but not her grief's true quality;
She dares not thereof make discovery,

Lest he should hold it her own gross abuse,
Ere she with blood had stain'd her stain'd excuse.

Besides, the life and feeling of her passion
She hoards, to spend when he is by to hear her;
When sighs, and groans, and tears may grace the fashion
Of her disgrace, the better so to clear her
From that suspicion which the world might bear her.

To shun this blot, she would not blot the letter
With words, till action might become them better.

[ocr errors]

To see sad sights moves more than hear them told;
For then the eye interprets to the ear
The heavy motion that it doth behold,
When

every part a part of woe doth bear. ’T is but a part of sorrow that we hear:

Deep soundso make lesser noise than shallow fords,
And sorrow ebbs, being blown with wind of words.

The simplicity of this letter is exquisitely beautiful; and its pathos is deeper from the circumstance that it is scarcely raised above the tone of ordinary correspondence.

“ So I commend me from our house in grief" is such a formula as we constantly find in ancient correspondence. In the · Paston Letters' we have such conclusions as this : “ Written at when I was not well at ease."

6 Motion-dumb show.

c Sounds. Malone proposes to read floods. This Steevens resists, and says that sound is such a part of the sea as may be sounded. To this Malone replies that a sound cannot be deep, and therefore sounds is not here intended. A sound is a bay or frith; and Dampier, who is better authority than the commentators on nau.

« PreviousContinue »