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"The nurse to still her child will tell my story, And fright her crying babe with Tarquin's name; The orator to deck his oratory
Will couple my reproach to Tarquin's shame:
Feast-finding minstrels, tuning my defame,
Will tie the hearers to attend each line,
How Tarquin wrongéd me, I Collatine.
"Let my good name, that senseless reputation,
For Collatine's dear love be kept unspotted:
If that be made a theme for disputation,
The branches of another root are rotted;
And undeserved reproach to him allotted
That is as clear from this attaint of mine
As I, ere this, was pure to Collatine.
"O unseen shame! invisible disgrace!
O unfelt sore; crest-wounding, private scar!
Reproach is stamped in Collatinus' face,
And Tarquin's eye may read the mot afar,
'How he in peace is wounded, not in war.'
Alas, how many bear such shameful blows,
Which not themselves, but he that gives them, knows!
"If, Collatine, thine honour lay in me,
From me by strong assault it is bereft.
My honey lost, and I, a drone-like bee,
Have no perfection of my summer left,
But robbed and ransacked by injurious theft:
In thy weak hive a wandering wasp hath crept,
And sucked the honey which thy chaste bee kept.
"Yet am I guiltless of thy honour's wreck;
Yet for thy honour did I entertain him;
Coming from thee, I could not put him back,
For it had been dishonour to disdain him:
Besides, of weariness he did complain him,
And talked of virtue :-O, unlooked-for evil,
When virtue is profaned in such a devil!
"Why should the worm intrude the maiden bud?
Or hateful cuckoos hatch in sparrows' nests?
Or toads infect fair founts with venom mud?
Or tyrant folly lurk in gentle breasts?
Or kings be breakers of their own behests?
But no perfection is so absolute,
That some impurity doth not pollute.
"The aged man that coffers up his gold,
Is plagued with cramps, and gouts, and painful fits;
And scarce hath eyes his treasure to behold,
But like still-pining Tantalus he sits,
And useless barns the harvest of his wits;
Having no other pleasure of his gain,
But torment that it cannot cure his pain.
"So then he hath it when he cannot use it,
And leaves it to be mastered by his young;
Who in their pride do presently abuse it:
Their father was too weak and they too strong
To hold their curséd-blesséd fortune long.
The sweets we wish for turn to loathéd sours,
Even in the moment that we call them ours.
Unruly blasts wait on the tender spring; Unwholesome weeds take root with precious flowers; The adder hisses where the sweet birds sing; What virtue breeds, iniquity devours: We have no good that we can say is ours, But ill annexéd Opportunity
Or kills his life or else his quality.
"O, Opportunity! thy guilt is great: 'Tis thou that execut'st the traitor's treason; Thou set'st the wolf where he the lamb may get; Whoever plots the sin, thou point'st the season; 'Tis thou that spurn'st at right, at law, at reason; And in thy shady cell, where none may spy him, Sits Sin to seize the souls that wander by him. "Thou mak'st the vestal violate her oath : Thou blow'st the fire when temperance is thawed; Thou smother'st honesty, thou murder'st troth; Thou foul abettor! thou notorious bawd! Thou plantest scandal and displacest laud: Thou ravisher, thou traitor, thou false thief,
Thy honey turns to gall, thy joy to grief!
Thy secret pleasure turns to open shame, Thy private feasting to a public fast;
Thy smoothing titles to a ragged name;
Thy sugared tongue to bitter wormwood taste:
Thy violent vanities can never last.
How comes it, then, vile Opportunity,
Being so bad, such numbers seek for thee?
"When wilt thou be the humble suppliant's friend,
And bring him where his suit may be obtained?
When wilt thou sort an hour great strifes to end?
Or free that soul which wretchedness hath chained?
Give physic to the sick, ease to the pained?
The poor, lame, blind, halt-creep, cry out for thee,
But they ne'er meet with Opportunity.
"The patient dies while the physician sleeps;
The orphan pines while the oppressor feeds;
Justice is feasting while the widow weeps;
Advice is sporting while infection breeds;
Thou grant'st no time for charitable deeds:
Wrath, envy, treason, rape, and murder's rages,
Thy heinous hours wait on them as their pages.
"When Truth and Virtue have to do with thee,
A thousand crosses keep them from thy aid;
They buy thy help; but Sin ne'er gives a fee;
He gratis comes; and thou art well appayed,
As well to hear as grant what he hath said.
My Collatine would else have come to me
When Tarquin did, but he was stayed by thee.
"Guilty thou art of murder and of theft ;
Guilty of perjury and subornation;
Guilty of treason, forgery, and shift;
Guilty of incest, that abomination :
An accessary by thine inclination
To all sins past and all that are to come,
From the Creation to the general doom.
"Misshapen Time, copesmate of ugly night,
Swift subtle post, carrier of grisly care;
Eater of youth, false slave to false delight,
Base watch of woes, sin's pack-horse, virtue's snare ;
Thou nursest all, and murderest all that are.
O hear me, then, injurious, shifting Time!
Be guilty of my death, since of my crime.
"Why hath thy servant, Opportunity,
Betrayed the hours thou gav'st me to repose?
Cancelled my fortunes, and enchainéd me
To endless date of never-ending woes?
Time's office is to fine the hate of foes;
To eat up errors by opinion bred,
Not spend the dowry of a lawful bed.
"Time's glory is to calm contending kings,
To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light,
To stamp the seal of time in agéd things,
To wake the morn and sentinel the night,
To wrong the wronger till he render right;
To ruinate proud buildings with thy hours,
And smear with dust their glittering golden towers:
"To fill with worm-holes stately monuments,
To feed oblivion with decay of things,
To blot old books and alter their contents,
To pluck the quills from ancient ravens' wings;
To dry the old oak's sap, and cherish springs;
To spoil antiquities of hammered steel,
And turn the giddy round of fortune's wheel:
"To shew the beldame daughters of her daughter,
To make the child a man, the man a child,
To slay the tiger that doth live by slaughter,
To tame the unicorn and lion wild;
To mock the subtle, in themselves beguiled;
To cheer the ploughman with increaseful crops,
And waste huge stones with little water-drops.
"Why work'st thou mischief in thy pilgrimage,
Unless thou couldst return to make amends?
One poor retiring minute in an age
Would purchase thee a thousand thousand friends,
Lending him wit that to bad debtors lends :
O, this dread night, wouldst thou one hour come back,
I could prevent this storm and shun thy wrack!
"Thou ceaseless lackey to eternity,
With some mischance cross Tarquin in his flight:
Devise extremes beyond extremity,
To make him curse this curséd crimeful night:
Let ghastly shadows his lewd eyes affright;
And the dire thought of his committed evil
Shape every bush a hideous shapeless devil.
"Disturb his hours of rest with restless trances,
Afflict him in his bed with bedrid groans;
Let there bechance him pitiful mischances
To make him moan, but pity not his moans;
Stone him with hardened hearts, harder than stones;
And let mild women to him lose their mildness,
Wilder to him than tigers in their wildness.
"Let him have time to tear his curléd hair,
Let him have time against himself to rave,
Let him have time of Time's help to despair,
Let him have time to live a loathéd slave,
Let him have time a beggar's orts to crave;
And time to see one that by alms doth live,
Disdain to him disdainéd scraps to give.
"Let him have time to see his friends his foes,
And merry fools to mock at him resort:
Let him have time to mark how slow time goes
In time of sorrow, and how swift and short
His time of folly and his time of sport:
And ever let his unrecalling crime
Have time to wail the abusing of his time.
"O Time, thou tutor both to good and bad,
Teach me to curse him that thou taught'st this ill!
At his own shadow let the thief run mad,
Himself himself seek every hour to kill!
Such wretched hands such wretched blood should spill!
For who so base would such an office have
As slanderous death's-man to so base a slave?
"The baser is he, coming from a king,
To shame his hope with deeds degenerate.
The mightier man, the mightier is the thing
That makes him honoured or begets him hate;
For greatest scandal waits on greatest state.
The moon being clouded presently is missed,
But little stars may hide them when they list.
"The crow may bathe his coal-black wings in mire,
And unperceived fly with the filth away;
But if the like the snow-white swan desire,
The stain upon his silver down will stay.
Poor grooms are sightless night, kings glorious day.
Gnats are unnoted wheresoe'er they fly,
But eagles gazed upon with every eye.
"Out, idle words, servants to shallow fools!
Unprofitable sounds, weak arbitrators!
Busy yourselves in skill-contending schools;
Debate where leisure serves with dull debaters;
To trembling clients be you mediators:
For me, I force not argument a straw,
Since that my case is past the help of law.
"In vain I rail at opportunity,
At time, at Tarquin, and uncheerful night;
In vain I cavil with mine infamy,
In vain I spurn at my confirmed despite :
This helpless smoke of words doth me no right.
The remedy indeed to do me good,
Is to let forth my foul, defiléd blood.
"Poor hand, why quiver'st thou at this decree?
Honour thyself to rid me of this shame;
For if I die my honour lives in thee,
But if I live, thou liv'st in my defame;
Since thou couldst not defend thy loyal dame,
And wast afeared to scratch her wicked foe,
Kill both thyself and her for yielding so."—
This said, from her be-tumbled couch she starteth,
To find some desperate instrument of death:
But this, no slaughter-house, no tool imparteth,
To make more vent for passage of her breath;
Which, thronging through her lips, so vanisheth
As smoke from Etna, that in air consumes,
Or that which from dischargéd cannon fumes.
"In vain," quoth she, "I live, and seek in vain
Some happy mean to end a hapless life.
I feared by Tarquin's falchion to be slain,
Yet for the self-same purpose seek a knife:
But when I feared I was a loyal wife;
So am I now :-O no! that cannot be;
Of that true type hath Tarquin rifled me.
"O! that is gone, for which I sought to live,
And therefore now I need not fear to die.
To clear this spot by death at least I give
A badge of fame to slander's livery;
A dying life to living infamy:
Poor helpless help, the treasure stol'n away,
To burn the guiltless casket where it lay!
"Well, well, dear Collatine, thou shalt not know
The stained taste of violated troth;
I will not wrong thy true affection so,
To flatter thee with an infringéd oath;
This bastard graff shall never come to growth:
He shall not boast, who did thy stock pollute,
That thou art doating father of his fruit.
"Nor shall he smile at thee in secret thought,
Nor laugh with his companions at thy state;
But thou shalt know thy interest was not bought
Basely with gold, but stol'n from forth thy gate.
For me, I am the mistress of my fate;
And with my trespass never will dispense,
Till life to death acquit my forced offence.
"I will not poison thee with my attaint,
Nor fold my fault in cleanly-coined excuses;
My sable ground of sin I will not paint,
To hide the truth of this false night's abuses:
My tongue shall utter all; mine eyes, like sluices,
As from a mountain-spring that feeds a dale,
Shall gush pure streams to purge my impure tale."
By this, lamenting Philomel had ended
The well-tuned warble of her nightly sorrow,
And solemn night with slow-sad gait descended
To ugly hell; when, lo! the blushing morrow
Lends light to all fair eyes that light will borrow:
But cloudy Lucrece shames herself to see,
And therefore still in night would cloistered be.
Revealing day through every cranny spies,
And seems to point her out where she sits weeping;
To whom she sobbing speaks: “O! eye of eyes,
Why pry'st thou thro' my window? Leave thy peeping;
Mock with thy tickling beams eyes that are sleeping:
Brand not my forehead with thy piercing light,
For day hath nought to do what's done by night."
As the poor frighted deer that stands at gaze,
Wildly determining which way to fly;
Or one incompassed with a winding maze,
That cannot tread the way out readily;
So with herself is she in mutiny,
To live or die which of the twain were better,
When life is shamed and death reproaches debtor.
"To kill myself," quoth she, "alack! what were it,
But with my body my poor soul's pollution?
They that lose half with greater patience bear it,
Than they whose whole is swallowed in confusion.
That mother tries a merciless conclusion,
Who having two sweet babes, when death takes one,
Will slay the other and be nurse to none.
"My body or my soul, which was the dearer?
When the one pure the other made divine.
Whose love of either to myself was nearer?
When both were kept for heaven and Collatine.
Ah me! the bark peeled from the lofty pine
His leaves will wither and his sap decay;
So must my soul, her bark being peeled away.
"Her house is sacked, her quiet interrupted,
Her mansion battered by the enemy;
Her sacred table spotted, spoiled, corrupted,
Grossly engirt with daring infamy:
Then let it not be called impiety,
If in this blemished fort I make some hole,
Through which I may convey this troubled soul.
"Yet die I will not till my Collatine
Have heard the cause of my untimely death;
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.
'Tis honour to deprive dishonoured life;
The one will live, the other being dead:
So of shame's ashes shall my fame be bred;
For in my death I murder 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 revenged may'st be.
How Tarquin must be used, read it in me:
Myself, thy friend, will kill myself, thy foe,
And for my sake 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."
This plot of death when sadly she had laid,
And wiped the brinish pearl from her bright eyes,
With untuned tongue she hoarsely called her maid,
Whose swift obedience to her mistress hies;
For fleet-winged 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-washed with woe.
But as the earth doth weep, the sun being set,
Each flower moistened like a melting eye;
Even so the maid with swelling drops 'gan wet
Her circled eyne, enforced by sympathy
Of those fair suns set in her mistress' sky,
Who in a salt-waved ocean quench their light,
Which makes the maid weep like the dewy night.
A petty 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:
For men have marble, women waxen, minds,
And therefore are they formed as marble will;
The weak oppressed, the impression of strange kinds
Is formed 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 stamped 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 withered flower,
But chide rough winter that the flower hath killed!
Not that devoured, but that which doth devour,
Is worthy blame. O, let it not be hild
Poor women's faults, that they are so fulfilled
With men's abuses: those proud lords, to blame,
Make weak-made women tenants to their shame.
The precedent whereof in Lucrece' view,
Assailed 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
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 stayed
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.
"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 can well express:
And that deep torture may be called a hell,
When more is felt than one hath power to tell.
"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 go before.
At last she thus begins: "Thou worthy lord
Of that unworthy wife that greeteth thee,
Health to thy person! next vouchsafe t' 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 stained her stained 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.
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,
'Tis but a part of sorrow that we hear:
Deep sounds make lesser noise than shallow fords,
And sorrow ebbs being blown with wind of words.
Her letter now is sealed, and on it writ,
"At Ardea to my lord, with more than haste:"
The post attends and she delivers it,
Charging the sour-faced groom to hie as fast
As lagging fowls before the northern blast.
Speed more than speed but dull and slow she deems:
Extremity still urgeth such extremes.
The homely villain court'sies to her low;
And blushing on her, with a stedfast eye
Receives the scroll without or yea or no,
And forth with bashful innocence doth hie,
But they whose guilt within their bosoms lie,
Imagine every eye beholds their blame;
For Lucrece thought he blushed to see her shame.
When, silly groom! God wot, it was defect
Of spirit, life, and bold audacity.
Such harmless creatures have a true respect
To talk in deeds, while others saucily
Promise more speed but do it leisurely :
Even so, this pattern of the worn-out age
Pawned honest looks but layed no words to gage.
His kindled duty kindled her mistrust,
That two red fires in both their faces blazed;
She thought he blushed as knowing Tarquin's lust,
And, blushing with him, wistly on him gazed;
Her earnest eye did make him more amazed:
The more she saw the blood his cheeks replenish,
The more she thought he spied in her some blemish.
But long she thinks till he return again,
And yet the duteous vassal scarce is gone.
The weary time she cannot entertain,
For now 't is stale to sigh, to weep, and groan:
So woe hath wearied woe, moan tired moan,
That she her plaints a little while doth stay,
Pausing for means to mourn some newer way.
At last she calls to mind where hangs a piece
Of skilful painting, made for Priam's Troy;
Before the which is drawn the power of Greece,
For Helen's rape the city to destroy,
Threatening cloud-kissing Ilion with annoy;
Which the conceited painter drew so proud,
As heaven (it seemed) to kiss the turrets bowed.