'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's 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-faced cloud the world doth threat, In his dim mist the 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 unhallow'd haste her words delays, And moody Pluto winks while Orpheus plays.

Yet, foul night-working 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; End thy ill aim before the shoot be ended; He is no woodman 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 moved 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 dissolved 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 darest do such outrage, What darest thou not when once thou art a king? O, be remember'd, no outrageous thing From vassal actors can he wiped away; Then kings' misdeeds cannot be hid in clay.

'This deed will make thee only loved for fear; But happy monarchs still are fear'd for love: With foul offenders thou perforce must bear, When they in thee the like offences prove: If but for fear of this, thy will remove; For princes are the glass, the school, the book, Where subjects eyes do learn, do read, do look.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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