So fares it with this faultful lord of Rome, Who this accomplishment so hotly chased; For now against himself he sounds this doom, That through the length of times he stands disgraced: Besides, his soul's fair temple is defaced; To whose weak ruins muster troops of cares, To ask the spotted princess how she fares.

She says, her subjects with foul insurrection Have batter'd down her consecrated wall, And by their mortal fault brought in subjection Her immortality, and made her thrall To living death and pain perpetual: Which in her prescience she controlled still, But her foresight could not forestall their will.

Even in this thought through the dark night he stealeth, A captive victor that hath lost in gain; Bearing away the wound that nothing healeth, The scar that will, despite of cure, remain; Leaving his spoil perplex'd in greater pain. She hears the load of lust he left behind, And he the burden of a guilty mind.

He like a thievish dog creeps sadly thence; She like a wearied lamb lies panting there; He scowls and hates himself for his offence; She, desperate, with her nails her flesh doth tear; He faintly flies, sweating with guilty fear; She stays, exclaiming on the direful night; He runs, and chides his vanish'd, loathed delight.

He thence departs a heavy convertite; She there remains a hopeless castaway; He in his speed looks for the morning light; She prays she never may behold the day, 'For day,' quoth she, 'night's scapes doth open lay, And my true eyes have never practised how To cloak offences with a cunning brow.

'They think not but that every eye can see The same disgrace which they themselves behold; And therefore would they still in darkness be, To have their unseen sin remain untold; For they their guilt with weeping will unfold, And grave, like water that doth eat in steel, Upon my cheeks what helpless shame I feel.'

Here she exclaims against repose and rest, And bids her eyes hereafter still be blind. She wakes her heart by beating on her breast, And bids it leap from thence, where it may find Some purer chest to close so pure a mind. Frantic with grief thus breathes she forth her spite Against the unseen secrecy of night:

'O comfort-killing Night, image of hell! Dim register and notary of shame! Black stage for tragedies and murders fell! Vast sin-concealing chaos! nurse of blame! Blind muffled bawd! dark harbour for defame! Grim cave of death! whispering conspirator With close-tongued treason and the ravisher!

'O hateful, vaporous, and foggy Night! Since thou art guilty of my cureless crime, Muster thy mists to meet the eastern light, Make war against proportion'd course of time; Or if thou wilt permit the sun to climb His wonted height, yet ere he go to bed, Knit poisonous clouds about his golden head.

'With rotten damps ravish the morning air; Let their exhaled unwholesome breaths make sick The life of purity, the supreme fair, Ere he arrive his weary noon-tide prick; And let thy misty vapours march so thick, That in their smoky ranks his smother'd light May set at noon and make perpetual night.

'Were Tarquin Night, as he is but Night's child, The silver-shining queen he would distain; Her twinkling handmaids too, by him defiled, Through Night's black bosom should not peep again: So should I have co-partners in my pain; And fellowship in woe doth woe assuage, As palmers' chat makes short their pilgrimage.

'Where now I have no one to blush with me, To cross their arms and hang their heads with mine, To mask their brows and hide their infamy; But I alone alone must sit and pine, Seasoning the earth with showers of silver brine, Mingling my talk with tears, my grief with groans, Poor wasting monuments of lasting moans.

'O Night, thou furnace of foul-reeking smoke, Let not the jealous Day behold that face Which underneath thy black all-hiding cloak Immodesty lies martyr'd with disgrace! Keep still possession of thy gloomy place, That all the faults which in thy reign are made May likewise be sepulchred in thy shade!

'Make me not object to the tell-tale Day! The light will show, character'd in my brow, The story of sweet chastity's decay, The impious breach of holy wedlock vow: Yea, the illiterate, that know not how To cipher what is writ in learned books, Will quote my loathsome trespass in my looks.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book