As the grim lion fawneth o'er his prey, Sharp hunger by the conquest satisfied, So o'er this sleeping soul doth Tarquin stay, His rage of lust by grazing qualified; Slack'd, not suppress'd; for standing by her side, His eye, which late this mutiny restrains, Unto a greater uproar tempts his veins:

And they, like straggling slaves for pillage fighting, Obdurate vassals fell exploits effecting, In bloody death and ravishment delighting, Nor children's tears nor mothers' groans respecting, Swell in their pride, the onset still expecting: Anon his beating heart, alarum striking, Gives the hot charge and bids them do their liking.

His drumming heart cheers up his burning eye, His eye commends the leading to his hand; His hand, as proud of such a dignity, Smoking with pride, march'd on to make his stand On her bare breast, the heart of all her land; Whose ranks of blue veins, as his hand did scale, Left their round turrets destitute and pale.

They, mustering to the quiet cabinet Where their dear governess and lady lies, Do tell her she is dreadfully beset, And fright her with confusion of their cries: She, much amazed, breaks ope her lock'd-up eyes, Who, peeping forth this tumult to behold, Are by his flaming torch dimm'd and controll'd.

Imagine her as one in dead of night From forth dull sleep by dreadful fancy waking, That thinks she hath beheld some ghastly sprite, Whose grim aspect sets every joint a-shaking: What terror 'tis! but she, in worser taking, From sleep disturbed, heedfully doth view The sight which makes supposed terror true.

Wrapp'd and confounded in a thousand fears, Like to a new-kill'd bird she trembling lies; She dares not look; yet, winking, there appears Quick-shifting antics, ugly in her eyes: Such shadows are the weak brain's forgeries; Who, angry that the eyes fly from their lights, In darkness daunts them with more dreadful sights.

His hand, that yet remains upon her breast, -- Rude ram, to batter such an ivory wall! -- May feel her heart --poor citizen! -- distress'd, Wounding itself to death, rise up and fall, Beating her bulk, that his hand shakes withal. This moves in him more rage and lesser pity, To make the breach and enter this sweet city.

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 show; 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 ensnared 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 strike 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.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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