'The nurse, to still her child, will tell my story And fright her crying babe with Tarquin's name; The orator, to deck his oratory, Will couple my reproach to Tarquin's shame; Feast-finding minstrels, tuning my defame, Will tie the hearers to attend each line, How Tarquin wronged me, I Collatine.

'Let my good name, that senseless reputation, For Collatine's dear love be kept unspotted: If that be made a theme for disputation, The branches of another root are rotted And undeserved reproach to him allotted That is as clear from this attaint of mine As I, ere this, was pure to Collatine.

'O unseen shame! invisible disgrace! O unfelt sore crest-wounding, private scar! Reproach is stamp'd in Collatinus' face, And Tarquin's eye may read the mot afar, How he in peace is wounded, not in war. Alas, how many bear such shameful blows, Which not themselves, but he that gives them knows!

'If, Collatine, thine honour lay in me, From me by strong assault it is bereft. My honey lost, and I, a drone-like bee, Have no perfection of my summer left, But robb'd and ransack'd by injurious theft: In thy weak hive a wandering wasp hath crept, And suck'd the honey which thy chaste bee kept.

'Yet am I guilty of thy honour's wrack; Yet for thy honour did I entertain him; Coming from thee, I could not put him back, For it had been dishonour to disdain him: Besides, of weariness he did complain him, And talk'd of virtue: O unlook'd-for evil, When virtue is profaned in such a devil!

'Why should the worm intrude the maiden bud? Or hateful cuckoos hatch in sparrows' nests? Or toads infect fair founts with venom mud? Or tyrant folly lurk in gentle breasts? Or kings be breakers of their own behests? But no perfection is so absolute, That some impurity doth not pollute.

'The aged man that coffers-up his gold Is plagued with cramps and gouts and painful fits; And scarce hath eyes his treasure to behold, But like still-pining Tantalus he sits, And useless barns the harvest of his wits; Having no other pleasure of his gain But torment that it cannot cure his pain.

'So then he hath it when he cannot use it, And leaves it to be master'd by his young; Who in their pride do presently abuse it: Their father was too weak, and they too strong, To hold their cursed-blessed fortune long. The sweets we wish for turn to loathed sours Even in the moment that we call them ours.

'Unruly blasts wait on the tender spring; Unwholesome weeds take root with precious flowers; The adder hisses where the sweet birds sing; What virtue breeds iniquity devours: We have no good that we can say is ours, But ill-annexed Opportunity Or kills his life or else his quality.

'O Opportunity, thy guilt is great! 'Tis thou that executest the traitor's treason: Thou set'st the wolf where he the lamb may get; Whoever plots the sin, thou point'st the season; 'Tis thou that spurn'st at right, at law, at reason; And in thy shady cell, where none may spy him, Sits Sin, to seize the souls that wander by him.

'Thou makest the vestal violate her oath; Thou blow'st the fire when temperance is thaw'd; Thou smother'st honesty, thou murder'st troth; Thou foul abettor! thou notorious bawd! Thou plantest scandal and displacest laud: Thou ravisher, thou traitor, thou false thief, Thy honey turns to gall, thy joy to grief!

'Thy secret pleasure turns to open shame, Thy private feasting to a public fast, Thy smoothing titles to a ragged name, Thy sugar'd tongue to bitter wormwood taste: Thy violent vanities can never last. How comes it then, vile Opportunity, Being so bad, such numbers seek for thee?

'When wilt thou be the humble suppliant's friend, And bring him where his suit may be obtain'd? When wilt thou sort an hour great strifes to end? Or free that soul which wretchedness hath chain'd? Give physic to the sick, ease to the pain'd? The poor, lame, blind, halt, creep, cry out for thee; But they ne'er meet with Opportunity.

'The patient dies while the physician sleeps; The orphan pines while the oppressor feeds; Justice is feasting while the widow weeps; Advice is sporting while infection breeds: Thou grant'st no time for charitable deeds: Wrath, envy, treason, rape, and murder's rages, Thy heinous hours wait on them as their pages.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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