But all these poor forbiddings could not stay him; He in the worst sense construes their denial: The doors, the wind, the glove, that did delay him, He takes for accidental things of trial; Or as those bars which stop the hourly dial, Who with a lingering stay his course doth let, Till every minute pays the hour his debt.

'So, so,' quoth he, 'these lets attend the time, Like little frosts that sometime threat the spring. To add a more rejoicing to the prime, And give the sneaped birds more cause to sing. Pain pays the income of each precious thing; Huge rocks, high winds, strong pirates, shelves and sands, The merchant fears, ere rich at home he lands.'

Now is he come unto the chamber door, That shuts him from the heaven of his thought, Which with a yielding latch, and with no more, Hath barr'd him from the blessed thing he sought. So from himself impiety hath wrought, That for his prey to pray he doth begin, As if the heavens should countenance his sin.

But in the midst of his unfruitful prayer, Having solicited th' eternal power That his foul thoughts might compass his fair fair And they would stand auspicious to the hour, Even there he starts: quoth he, 'I must de-flower: The powers to whom I pray abhor this fact, How can they then assist me in the act?

'Then Love and Fortune be my gods, my guide! My will is back'd with resolution: Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried; The blackest sin is clear'd with absolution; Against love's fire fear's frost hath dissolution. The eye of heaven is out, and misty night Covers the shame that follows sweet delight.'

This said, his guilty hand pluck'd up the latch, And with his knee the door he opens wide. The dove sleeps fast that this night-owl will catch: Thus treason works ere traitors be espied. Who sees the lurking serpent steps aside; But she, sound sleeping, fearing no such thing, Lies at the mercy of his mortal sting.

Into the chamber wickedly he stalks, And gazeth on her yet unstained bed. The curtains being close, about he walks, Rolling his greedy eyeballs in his head: By their high treason is his heart misled; Which gives the watch-word to his hand full soon To draw the cloud that hides the silver moon.

Look, as the fair and fiery-pointed sun, Rushing from forth a cloud, bereaves our sight; Even so, the curtain drawn, his eyes begun To wink, being blinded with a greater light: Whether it is that she reflects so bright, That dazzleth them, or else some shame supposed; But blind they are, and keep themselves enclosed.

O, had they in that darksome prison died! Then had they seen the period of their ill; Then Collatine again, by Lucrece' side, In his clear bed might have reposed still: But they must ope, this blessed league to kill; And holy-thoughted Lucrece to their sight Must sell her joy, her life, her world's delight.

Her lily hand her rosy cheek lies under, Cozening the pillow of a lawful kiss; Who, therefore angry, seems to part in sunder, Swelling on either side to want his bliss; Between whose hills her head entombed is: Where, like a virtuous monument, she lies, To be admired of lewd unhallow'd eyes.

Without the bed her other fair hand was, On the green coverlet; whose perfect white Show'd like an April daisy on the grass, With pearly sweat, resembling dew of night, Her eyes, like marigolds, had sheathed their light, And canopied in darkness sweetly lay, Till they might open to adorn the day.

Her hair, like golden threads, play'd with her breath; O modest wantons! wanton modesty! Showing life's triumph in the map of death, And death's dim look in life's mortality: Each in her sleep themselves so beautify, As if between them twain there were no strife, But that life lived in death, and death in life.

Her breasts, like ivory globes circled with blue, A pair of maiden worlds unconquered, Save of their lord no bearing yoke they knew, And him by oath they truly honoured. These worlds in Tarquin new ambition bred; Who, like a foul usurper, went about From this fair throne to heave the owner out.

What could he see but mightily he noted? What did he note but strongly he desired? What he beheld, on that he firmly doted, And in his will his wilful eye he tired. With more than admiration he admired Her azure veins, her alabaster skin, Her coral lips, her snow-white dimpled chin.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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