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FROM the besieged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
Lust-breathéd Tarquin leaves the Roman host,
And to Collatium bears the lightless fire
Which, in pale embers hid, lurks to aspire,
And girdle with embracing flames the waist
Of Collatine's fair love, Lucrece the chaste.
Haply that name of chaste unhapp❜ly set
This bateless edge on his keen appetite;
When Collatine unwisely did not let'
To praise the clear unmatched red and white
Which triumphed in that sky of his delight,
Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beau•
With pure aspects did him peculiar duties.
For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
Unlocked 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 espouséd to more fame,
But king nor peer to such a peerless dame.
O, happiness enjoyed but of a few!
And, if possessed, as soon decayed and done1
As is the morning's silver-melting dew
Against the golden splendor of the sun!
An expired date, cancelled ere well begun :
Honor and beauty, in the owner's arms,
Are weakly fortressed 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-pitched thoughts, that meaner men should
That golden hap which their superiors want.
1 Done. The word is here used as in a previous passage of the Venus and Adonis:
"Wasted, thawed, and done,
As mountain snow melts with the midday sun."
But some untimely thought did instigate
His all-too-timeless speed, if none of those.
His honor, 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, wrapped in repented cold,
Thy hasty spring still blasts,' and ne'er
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 bragged, beauty would blush for shame,
When beauty boasted blushes, in despite
Virtue would stain that or 2 with silver white.
But beauty, in that white intituled,3
From Venus' doves doth challenge that fair field ·
Then virtue claims from beauty beauty's red.
1 Blasts is here used as a verb neuter. It is so used in the poem ascribed to Raleigh, entitled "The Farewell:
"Tell age, it daily wasteth;
Tell honor, how it alters;
Tell beauty that it blasteth."
2 Or. The line usually stands thus:
"Virtue would stain that o'er with silver white."
The original has ore. Malone has suggested, but he does not act upon the suggestion, that "the word intended was perhaps or, i. e. gold, to which the poet compares the deep color of a blush." have no doubt whatever of the matter. The lines in the subse quent stanza complete the heraldic allusion
"Then virtue claims from beauty beauty's red,
Which virtue gave the golden age, to gild
Their silver cheeks, and called it then their shield."
9 Intituled, having a title to, or in.
Which virtue gave the golden age to gild
Their silver cheeks, and called it then their shield,
Teaching them thus to use it in the fight,-
When shame assailed, the red should fence the
This heraldry in Lucrece's face was seen,
Argued by beauty's red, and virtue's white
Of either's color 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 viewed in her fair face's field,
In their pure ranks his traitor eye encloses;
Where, lest between them both it should be killed,
The coward captive vanquishéd 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.
'T'his earthly saint, adored by this devil, Little suspecteth the false worshipper;
1 The object of praise which Collatine doth possess.
For unstained 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 expressed:
For that he colored with his high cstate,
Hiding base sin in plaits of majesty ;
That nothing in him seemed inordinate,
Save sometime too much wonder of his eye,
Which, having all, all could not satisfy;
But poorly rich, so wanteth in his store
That cloyed with much he pineth still for more.
But she, that never coped with stranger eyes,
Could pick no meaning from their parling1 looks,
Nor read the subtle-shining secrecies
Writ in the glassy margents of such books;2
She touched no unknown baits, nor feared
Nor could she moralize his wanton sight,
More than his eyes were opened to the light.
He stories to her ears her husband's fame,
Won in the fields of fruitful Italy;
And decks with praises Collatine's high name,
Made glorious by his manly chivalry,
With bruised arms and wreaths of victory;
Her joy with heaved-up hand she doth ex
And, wordless, so greets Heaven for his success.
2 See Romeo and Juliet. Illustrations of Act 1.