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But she, that never cop'd with stranger eyes,
Could pick no meaning from their parling* looks,
Nor read the subtle-shining secrecies
Writ in the glassy margents of such books ;'
She touch'd no unknown baits, nor fear'd no hooks;
Nor could she moralize his wanton sight,
More than his eyes were open’d 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 heav'd-up hand she doth express,
And, wordless, so greets heaven for his success.
Far from the purpose of his coming thither,
He makes excuses for his being there.
No cloudy show of stormy blustering weather
Doth yet in his fair welkin once appear;
Till sable Night; mother of Dread and Fear,
Upon the world dim darkness doth display,
And in her vaulty prison stows the day.
For then is Tarquin brought unto his bed,
Intendingd weariness with heavy spright;
For, after supper, long he questioned e
With modest Lucrece, and wore out the night:
Now leaden slumber with life's strength doth fight;
And every one to rest himself betakes,
Save thieves, and cares, and troubled minds, that wakes.
As one of which doth Tarquin lie revolving
The sundry dangers of his will's obtaining;
Yet ever to obtain his will resolving,
Though weak-built hopes persuade him to abstaining;
Despair to gain doth traffic oft for gaining;
And when great treasure is the meed propos’d,
Though death be adjunct, there's no death suppos'd.
Those that much covet are with gain so fond,
That what they have not, that which they possess
They scatter and unloose it from their bond,
And so, by hoping more, they have but less;
Or, gaining more, the profit of excess
Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain,
That they prove bankrupt in this poor-rich gain.
The aim of all is but to nurse the life
With honour, wealth, and ease, in waning age;
And in this aim there is such thwarting strife,
That one for all, or all for one we gage;
As life for honour in fell battles' rage;
Honour for wealth; and oft that wealth doth cost
The death of all, and all together lost.
So that in vent'ring ill we leave to be
The things we are, for that which we expect;
And this ambitious foul infirmity,
In having much, torments us with defect
Of that we have: so then we do neglect
The thing we have, and, all for want of wit,
Make something nothing, by augmenting it.
a This is the reading of the original edition of 1594. That of 1616 reads
are with gain so fond,
That oft they have not that which they possess ;
They scatter and unloose it.” Malone adopts the reading of the original, and he thus explains it: “ Poetically speaking, they may be said to scatter what they have not, i. e. what they cannot be truly said to have; what they do not enjoy, though possessed of it." This is clearly a misinterpretation. The reasoning of the two following stanzas is directed against the folly of venturing a certainty for an expectation, by which we“ make someth nothing.” The meaning then, though obscurely expressed, is that the covetous are so fond of gaining what they have not, that they scatter and unloose from their bond (safe hold) that which they possess.
Such hazard now must doting Tarquin make,
Pawning his honour to obtain his lust;
And for himself himself he must forsake :
Then where is truth if there be no self-trust?
When shall he think to find a stranger just,
When he himself himself confounds,a betrays
To slanderous tongues, and wretched hateful days?
Now stole upon the time the dead of night,
When heavy sleep had clos’d up mortal eyes ;
No comfortable star did lend his light,
No noise but owls' and wolves' death-boding cries;
Now serves the season that they may surprise
The silly lambs; pure thoughts are dead and still,
While lust and murder wake to stain and kill.
And now this lustful lord leap'd from his bed,
Throwing his mantle rudely o'er his arm;
Is madly toss'd between desire and dread;
Th' one sweetly flatters, th' other feareth harm;
But honest Fear, bewitch'd with lust's foul charm,
Doth too too oft betake him to retire,
Beaten away by brain-sick rude Desire.
His falchion on a flint he softly smiteth,
That from the cold stone sparks of fire do fly,
Whereat a waxen torch forthwith he lighteth,
Which must be lode-star to his lustful eye;
And to the flame thus speaks advisedly:
“As from this cold flint I enforc'd this fire,
So Lucrece must I force to my desire.”
Here pale with fear he doth premeditate
The dangers of his loathsome enterprise,
And in his inward mind he doth debate
What following sorrow may on this arise ;
Then looking scornfully, he doth despise
Confounds. Malone interprets this as destroys; but the meaning is sufficiently clear if we accept confounds in its usual sense.
His naked armour of still-slaughter'd lust,
And justly thus controls his thoughts unjust:
Fair torch, burn out thy light, and lend it not
To darken her whose light excelleth thine !
And die unhallow'd thoughts, before you blot
With your uncleanness that which is divine !
pure incense to so pure a shrine:
Let fair humanity abhor the deed
That spots and stains love's modest snow-white weed.
“ O shame to knighthood and to shining arms!
O foul dishonour to my household's grave!
O impious act, including all foul harms !
A martial man to be soft fancy's slave ;)
True valour still a true respect should have;
Then my digression is so vile, so base,
That it will live
“ Yea, though I die, the scandal will survive,
And be an eyesore in my golden coat;
Some loathsome dash the herald will contrive,"
To cipher me how fondly I did dote;
That my posterity, sham'd with the note,
Weed-garment. The word is more commonly used in the plural, as in Milton's · Paradise Regained :
“ But now an aged man in rural weeds." But in the same scene of · Coriolanus' (Act II., Scene 3) we have both weed and weeds. + Fancy's slave-love's slave.
Digression is here used in the sense of transgression. d Here is one of the frequent examples with which the works of Shakspere and his contemporaries abound, of applying the usages of chivalry to the more remote antiquity of Greece and Rome. The poem of ‘Lucrece' contains many such allu. sions. In particular, towards the close we have this line :
' Knights by their oaths should right poor ladies' harms." This was indeed an anticipation of chivalry; but the poet could in no way so forci. bly express the spirit which animated the avengers of Lucrece, and which the jured larly here invokes, as by employing the language of chivalry. The use of the word ladies in this line is as much an anachronisin as that of knights; but what other words will express the meaning intended ?
Shall curse my bones, and hold it for no sin
To wish that I their father had not been.
“What win I if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy:
Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy ?
Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown,
Would with the sceptre straight be strucken down?
“ If Collatinus dream of my intent,
Will he not wake, and in a desperate rage
Post hither, this vile purpose to prevent?
This siege that hath engirt his marriage,
This blur to youth, this sorrow to the sage,
This dying virtue, this surviving shame,
Whose crime will bear an ever-during blame?
“O what excuse can my invention make,
When thou shalt charge me with so black a deed?
Will not my tongue be mute, my frail joints shake?
Mine eyes forego their light, my false heart bleed?
The guilt being great the fear doth still exceed;
And extreme fear can neither fight nor fly,
But, coward-like, with trembling terror die.
“ Had Collatinus kill'd my son or sire,
Or lain in ambush to betray my life,
Or were he not my dear friend, this desire
Might have excuse to work upon his wife;
As in revenge or quittal of such strife:
But as he is my kinsman, my dear friend,
The shame and fault finds no excuse nor end.
“Shameful it is ;-ay, if the fact be known: Hateful it is :—there is no hate in loving: I'll beg her love ;-but she is not her own;a
* Malone says the words such as shameful it is are “supposed to be spoken by