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To praise the clear unmatched red and white
Which triumph'd in that sky of his delight,

Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beauties,
With pure aspects did him peculiar duties.

For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
Unlock'd the treasure of his happy state;
What priceless wealth the heavens had him lent
In the possession of his beauteous mate;
Reckoning his fortune at such high-proud rate,

That kings might be espoused to more fame,
But king nor peer to such a peerless dame.

O happiness enjoy'd but of a few!
And, if possess'd, as soon decay'd and done
As is the morning's silver-melting dew
Against the golden splendour of the sun!
An expired date, cancell'd ere well begun.

4 Collatium] The correct name of the town is Collatia. The name is repeated at line 50 in the correct form in all editions, save in a single of the First Quarto which gives Cola


the Bodleian copy

tium. That exceptional reading is admitted to the present text of line 50.

lightless] smouldering.

9 bateless] not to be blunted.

10 let] forbear. Cf. line 328, infra.

11 red and white] Cf. Venus and Adonis, 346: "conflict of her hue,” and line 56 seq., infra.

14 aspects] an astrological term; applied to the influences of the stars. Shakespeare invariably accents the word on the second syllable.

21 peer] Thus the 1594 Quarto. The later editions read prince.

26 An expired date . . . begun] Cf. Daniel's Rosamond, 249: "Cancell'd with Time, will have their date expired."


Honour and beauty, in the owner's arms,
Are weakly fortress'd from a world of harms.
Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
The eyes of men without an orator;
What needeth then apologies be made,
To set forth that which is so singular?
Or why is Collatine the publisher

Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
From thievish ears, because it is his own?
Perchance his boast of Lucrece' sovereignty
Suggested this proud issue of a king;
For by our ears our hearts oft tainted be:
Perchance that envy of so rich a thing,
Braving compare, disdainfully did sting

His high-pitch'd thoughts, that meaner men should


That golden hap which their superiors want.

But some untimely thought did instigate
His all-too-timeless speed, if none of those:
His honour, his affairs, his friends, his state,
Neglected all, with swift intent he goes
To quench the coal which in his liver glows.

O rash-false heat, wrapp'd in repentant cold,
Thy hasty spring still blasts, and ne'er grows old!

37 Suggested] Tempted.

40 Braving compare] Challenging comparison.

44 all-too-timeless] quite unseasonable.

49 Thy hasty spring still blasts] Cf. line 869, infra: "Unruly blasts wait

on the tender spring."



When at Collatium this false lord arrived,
Well was he welcomed by the Roman dame,
Within whose face beauty and virtue strived
Which of them both should underprop her fame:
When virtue bragg'd, beauty would blush for shame;
When beauty boasted blushes, in despite

Virtue would stain that o'er with silver white.

But beauty, in that white intituled,

From Venus' doves doth challenge that fair field:
Then virtue claims from beauty beauty's red,

50 Collatium] See note on line 4, supra.

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56 Virtue would stain .. white] Virtue stains the red of beauty's blush ("beauty's red," line 59) with silver white. The reading that o'er is questionable. In this line Shakespeare seems to introduce heraldic imagery which is continued somewhat confusedly through the next two stanzas. For that o'er the earliest three editions read preferably that ore (i. e., that red gold), "ore" being doubtless used in the sense of "or" the heraldic term for gold, as in Hamlet, IV, i, 25–27: “like some ore Among a mineral of metals base, Shows itself pure." "Or," gold, is constantly credited with the colour of red. Cf. Macb., II, iii, 111: “His silver skin laced with his golden blood."

i. e.,

57 in that white intituled] properly blazoned or adorned with that whiteness. Cf. Sonnet xxxvii, 7: "Entitled in thy parts." The language has a heraldic significance (cf. also lines 205 and 535, infra). The whiteness, the colour in which beauty is blazoned, challenges the silvery hue of Venus' doves.

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58 that fair field] The word "field" has an equivocal significance, meaning "the field of battle" for the white and red (the "lilies" and " roses, line 71) and also the "surface" of the heraldic shield, to which Lucrece's countenance is likened. Cf. line 72, infra: “her fair face's field.” 59-61 Then virtue claims . . . their shield] These very obscure lines seem to mean that virtue, whose heraldic colour is properly white, finding that her proper colour is assumed by beauty, whose heraldic colour is prop


Which virtue gave the golden age to gild
Their silver cheeks, and call'd it then their shield;
Teaching them thus to use it in the fight,

When shame assail'd, the red should fence the

This heraldry in Lucrece' face was seen,
Argued by beauty's red and virtue's white:
Of either's colour was the other queen,
Proving from world's minority their right:
Yet their ambition makes them still to fight;
The sovereignty of either being so great,
That oft they interchange each other's seat.

This silent war of lilies and of roses,
Which Tarquin view'd in her fair face's field,

erly red, takes for itself "beauty's red." Virtue formerly gave away to the golden age of purity the heraldic colour of red for its heraldic shield (so that the people of that age might gild or redden their silver or white cheeks with that ruddy hue when shame assailed them). The antecedent of the possessive pronoun "their" both in "Their silver cheeks" and in "their shield," as well as of the pro


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noun them" (line 62), — is “the golden age,' 62 them... it] the pure beings of the golden age

a noun of multitude.


"beauty's red." 63 the red should fence the white] so that the red (of virtue) should defend the white (of beauty). The context makes it clear that "fence" is used in its common sense of "defend."

65 Argued by] Indicated by.

67 from world's minority] from the childhood of the world; from the era

of the "golden age" (line 60).

71 This silent war of lilies and of roses] Cf. T. of Shrew, IV, v, 30: “Such war of white and red within her cheeks."

72 fair face's field] Cf. line 58, supra, and note.



In their pure ranks his traitor eye encloses;
Where, lest between them both it should be kill'd,
The coward captive vanquished doth yield

To those two armies, that would let him go
Rather than triumph in so false a foe.

Now thinks he that her husband's shallow tongue,
The niggard prodigal that praised her so,
In that high task hath done her beauty wrong,
Which far exceeds his barren skill to show:
Therefore that praise which Collatine doth owe
Enchanted Tarquin answers with surmise,
In silent wonder of still-gazing eyes.

This earthly saint, adored by this devil,
Little suspecteth the false worshipper;

For unstain'd thoughts do seldom dream on evil;
Birds never limed no secret bushes fear:

So guiltless she securely gives good cheer

And reverend welcome to her princely guest,
Whose inward ill no outward harm express'd:

For that he colour'd with his high estate,
Hiding base sin in plaits of majesty;

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82-83 that praise answers] that praise (of Lucrece) which is due from Collatine, her husband, bewitched Tarquin makes up or pays.

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88 Birds never limed. fear] Cf. the converse sentiment, 3 Hen. VI, V, vi, 13-14: "The bird that hath been limed in a bush, With trembling wings misdoubteth every bush." "Limed" means "snared by birdlime.'

89 securely] with confidence, without suspicion.

93 plaits of majesty] the cunning folds or concealment of dignified demeanour. Cf. Lear, I, i, 280: "plaited cunning."

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