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First, like a trumpet, doth his tongue begin
To sound a parley to his heartless foe ;
Who o'er the white sheet peers her whiter chin,
The reason of this rash alarm to know,
Which he by dumb demeanour seeks to shew;
But she with vehement prayers urgeth still,
Under what colour he commits this ill.
Thus he replies : “ The colour in thy face
That even for anger makes the lily pale,
And the red rose blush at her own disgrace,
Shall plead for me, and tell my loving tale ;
Under that colour am I come to scale
Thy never conquer'd fort: the fault is thine,
For those thine eyes betray thee unto mine.
“ Thus I forestall thee, if thou mean to chide :
Thy beauty hath ensnar'd thee to this night,
Where thou with patience must my will abide,
My will that marks thee for my earth's delight,
Which I to conquer sought with all my might;
But as reproof and reason beat it dead,
By thy bright beauty was it newly bred.
“I see what crosses my attempt will bring,
I know what thorns the growing rose defends,
I think the honey guarded with a sting;
All this beforehand counsel comprehends,
But will is deaf, and hears no heedful friends :
Only he hath an eye to gaze on beauty,
And dotes on what he looks, 'gainst law or duty.
“I have debated, even in my soul,
What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed;
But nothing can affection's course control,
Or stop the headlong fury of his speed.
I know repentant tears ensue the deed,
Reproach, disdain, and deadly enmity,
Yet strive I to embrace mine infamy."
This said, he shakes aloft his Roman blade,
Which, like a falcon towering in the skies,
Coucheth the fowl below with his wings' shade,
Whose crooked beak threats if he mount he dies :
So under his insulting falchion lies
Harmless Lucretia, marking what he tells,
With trembling fear, as fowl hear falcon's bells.
“Lucrece," quoth he, “this night I must enjoy thee :
If thou deny, then force must work my way,
For in thy bed I purpose to destroy thee.
That done, some worthless slave of thine I'll slay,
To kill thine honour with thy life's decay ;
And in thy dead arms do I mean to place him,
Swearing I slew him, seeing thee embrace him.
“So thy surviving husband shall remain
The scornful mark of every open eye ;
Thy kinsmen hang their heads at this disdain,
Thy issue blurr'd with nameless bastardy:
And thou, the author of their obloquy,
Shalt have thy trespass cited up in rhymes,
And sung by children in succeeding times.
“But if thou yield, I rest thy secret friend :
The fault unknown is as a thought unacted ;
A little harm, done to a great good end,
For lawful policy remains enacted.
The poisonous simple sometimes is compacted
In a pure compound; being so applied,
His venom in effect is purified.
Then, for thy husband and thy children's sake,
Tender my suit : bequeath not to their lot
The shame that from them no device can take,
The blemish that will never be forgot ;
Worse than a slavish wipe, or birth-hour's blot;
For marks descried in men's nativity
Are nature's faults, not their own infamy."
Here, with a cockatrice' dead-killing eye,
He rouseth up himself, and makes a pause ;
While she, the picture of pure piety,
Like a white hind under the gripe's sharp claws,
Pleads in a wilderness, where are no laws,
To the rough beast that knows no gentle right,
Nor aught obeys but his foul appetite.
But when a black-fac'd cloud the world doth threat,
In his dim mist th' aspiring mountains hiding,
From Earth's dark womb some gentle gust doth get,
Which blows these pitchy vapours from their biding,
Hindering their present fall by this dividing:
So his unhallowed haste her words delays,
And moody Pluto winks, while Orpheus plays.
Yet, foul night-waking cat, he doth but dally,
While in his hold-fast foot the weak mouse panteth :
Her sad behaviour feeds his vulture folly,
A swallowing gulf that even in plenty wanteth.
His ear her prayers admits, but his heart granteth
No penetrable entrance to her plaining :
Tears harden lust, though marble wear with raining.
Her pity-pleading eyes are sadly fixed
In the remorseless wrinkles of his face ;
Her modest eloquence with sighs is mixed,
Which to her oratory adds more grace.
She puts the period often from his place ;
And 'midst the sentence so her accent breaks,
That twice she doth begin, ere once she speaks.
She conjures him by high almighty Jove,
By knighthood, gentry, and sweet friendship's oath,
By her untimely tears, her husband's love,
By holy human law, and common troth,
By Heaven and Earth, and all the power of both,
That to his borrow'd bed he make retire,
And stoop to honour, not to foul desire.
Quoth she, “ Reward not hospitality
With such black payment as thou hast pretended ;
Mud not the fountain that gave drink to thee;
Mar not the thing that cannot be amended ;
Mend thy ill aim before thy shoot be ended :
He is no wood-man that doth bend his bow
To strike a poor unseasonable doe.
• My husband is thy friend, for his sake spare me ;
Thyself art mighty, for thine own sake leave me;
Myself a weakling, do not then ensnare me;
Thou look'st not like deceit, do not deceive me:
My sighs, like whirlwinds, labour hence to heave thee.
If ever man were mov'd with woman's moans,
Be moved with my tears, my sighs, my groans.
“ All which together, like a troubled ocean,
Beat at thy rocky and wreck-threatening heart,
To soften it with their continual motion ;
For stones dissolv'd to water do convert.
O, if no harder than a stone thou art,
Melt at my tears and be compassionate !
Soft pity enters at an iron gate.
“In Tarquin's likeness I did entertain thee;
Hast thou put on his shape to do him shame?
To all the host of heaven I complain me,
Thou wrong'st his honour, wound'st his princely name :
Thou art not what thou seem'st; and if the same,
Thou seem'st not what thou art, a god, a king;
For kings like gods should govern every thing.
“How will thy shame be seeded in thine age,
When thus thy vices bud before thy spring ?
If in thy hope thou dar’st do such outrage,
What dar’st thou not, when once thou art a king?
0, be remember'd, no outrageous thing
From vassal actors can be wip'd away;
Then, kings' misdeeds cannot be hid in clay.