'And wilt thou be the school where Lust shall learn? Must he in thee read lectures of such shame? Wilt thou be glass wherein it shall discern Authority for sin, warrant for blame, To privilege dishonour in thy name? Thou back'st reproach against long-living laud, And makest fair reputation but a bawd.

'Hast thou command? by him that gave it thee, From a pure heart command thy rebel will: Draw not thy sword to guard iniquity, For it was lent thee all that brood to kill. Thy princely office how canst thou fulfill, When, pattern'd by thy fault, foul sin may say He learn'd to sin, and thou didst teach the way?

'Think but how vile a spectacle it were, To view thy present trespass in another. Men's faults do seldom to themselves appear; Their own transgressions partially they smother: This guilt would seem death-worthy in thy brother. O, how are they wrapp'd in with infamies That from their own misdeeds askance their eyes!

'To thee, to thee, my heaved-up hands appeal, Not to seducing lust, thy rash relier: I sue for exiled majesty's repeal; Let him return, and flattering thoughts retire: His true respect will prison false desire, And wipe the dim mist from thy doting eyne, That thou shalt see thy state and pity mine.'

'Have done,' quoth he: 'my uncontrolled tide Turns not, but swells the higher by this let. Small lights are soon blown out, huge fires abide, And with the wind in greater fury fret: The petty streams that pay a daily debt To their salt sovereign, with their fresh falls' haste Add to his flow, but alter not his taste.'

'Thou art,' quoth she, 'a sea, a sovereign king; And, lo, there falls into thy boundless flood Black lust, dishonour, shame, misgoverning, Who seek to stain the ocean of thy blood. If all these petty ills shall change thy good, Thy sea within a puddle's womb is hearsed, And not the puddle in thy sea dispersed.

'So shall these slaves be king, and thou their slave; Thou nobly base, they basely dignified; Thou their fair life, and they thy fouler grave: Thou loathed in their shame, they in thy pride: The lesser thing should not the greater hide; The cedar stoops not to the base shrub's foot, But low shrubs whither at the cedar's root.

'So let thy thoughts, low vassals to thy state' -- 'No more,' quoth he; 'by heaven, I will not hear thee: Yield to my love; if not, enforced hate, Instead of love's coy touch, shall rudely tear thee; That done, despitefully I mean to bear thee Unto the base bed of some rascal groom, To be thy partner in this shameful doom.'

This said, he sets his foot upon the light, For light and lust are deadly enemies: Shame folded up in blind concealing night, When most unseen, then most doth tyrannize. The wolf hath seized his prey, the poor lamb cries; Till with her own white fleece her voice controll'd Entombs her outcry in her lips' sweet fold:

For with the nightly linen that she wears He pens her piteous clamours in her head; Cooling his hot face in the chastest tears That ever modest eyes with sorrow shed. O, that prone lust should stain so pure a bed! The spots whereof could weeping purify, Her tears should drop on them perpetually.

But she hath lost a dearer thing than life, And he hath won what he would lose again: This forced league doth force a further strife; This momentary joy breeds months of pain; This hot desire converts to cold disdain: Pure Chastity is rifled of her store, And Lust, the thief, far poorer than before.

Look, as the full-fed hound or gorged hawk, Unapt for tender smell or speedy flight, Make slow pursuit, or altogether balk The prey wherein by nature they delight; So surfeit-taking Tarquin fares this night: His taste delicious, in digestion souring, Devours his will, that lived by foul devouring.

O, deeper sin than bottomless conceit Can comprehend in still imagination! Drunken Desire must vomit his receipt, Ere he can see his own abomination. While Lust is in his pride, no exclamation Can curb his heat or rein his rash desire, Till like a jade Self-will himself doth tire.

And then with lank and lean discolour'd cheek, With heavy eye, knit brow, and strengthless pace, Feebly Desire, all recreant, poor, and meek, Like to a bankrupt beggar wails his case: The flesh being proud, Desire doth fight with Grace, For there it revels; and when that decays, The guilty rebel for remission prays.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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