At last she thus begins: 'Thou worthy lord Of that unworthy wife that greeteth thee, Health to thy person! next vouchsafe t' afford -- Of ever, love, thy Lucrece thou wilt see -- Some present speed to come and visit me. So, I commend me from our house in grief: My woes are tedious, though my words are brief.'

Here folds she up the tenour of her woe, Her certain sorrow writ uncertainly. By this short schedule Collatine may know Her grief, but not her grief's true quality: She dares not thereof make discovery, Lest he should hold it her own gross abuse, Ere she with blood had stain'd her stain'd excuse.

Besides, the life and feeling of her passion She hoards to spend when he is by to hear her: When sighs and groans and tears may grace the fashion Of her disgrace, the better so to clear her From that suspicion which the world my might bear her. To shun this blot, she would not blot the letter With words, till action might become them better.

To see sad sights moves more than hear them told: For then the eye interprets to the ear The heavy motion that it doth behold, When every part a part of woe doth bear. 'Tis but a part of sorrow that we hear: Deep sounds make lesser noise than shallow fords, And sorrow ebbs, being blown with wind of words.

Her letter now is seal'd, and on it writ 'At Ardea to my lord with more than haste.' The post attends, and she delivers it, Charging the sour-faced groom to hie as fast As lagging fowls before the northern blast: Speed more than speed but dull and slow she deems: Extremely still urgeth such extremes.

The homely villain court'sies to her low; And, blushing on her, with a steadfast eye Receives the scroll without or yea or no And forth with bashful innocence doth hie. But they whose guilt within their bosoms lie Imagine every eye beholds their blame, For Lucrece thought he blush'd to see her shame:

When, silly groom! God wot, it was defect Of spirit, life, and bold audacity. Such harmless creatures have a true respect To talk in deeds, while others saucily Promise more speed, but do it leisurely: Even so this pattern of the worn-out age Pawn'd honest looks, but laid no words to gage.

His kindled duty kindled her mistrust, That two red fires in both their faces blazed; She thought he blushed, as knowing Tarquin's lust, And, blushing with him, wistly on him gazed; Her earnest eye did make him more amazed: The more saw the blood his cheeks replenish, The more she thought he spied in her some blemish.

But long she thinks till he return again, And yet the duteous vassal scarce is gone. The weary time she cannot entertain, For now 'tis stale to sigh, to weep, to groan: So woe hath wearied woe, moan tired moan, That she her plaints a little while doth stay, Pausing for means to mourn some newer way.

At last she calls to mind where hangs a piece Of skilful painting, made for Priam's Troy; Before the which is drawn the power of Greece, For Helen's rape the city to destroy, Threatening cloud-kissing Ilion with annoy; Which the conceited painter drew so proud, As heaven, it seem'd, to kiss the turrets bow'd.

A thousand lamentable objects there, In scorn of nature, art gave lifeless life: Many a dry drop seem'd a weeping tear, Shed for the slaughter'd husband by the wife: The red blood reek'd, to show the painter's strife; The dying eyes gleam'd forth their ashy lights, Like dying coals burnt out in tedious nights.

There might you see the labouring pioner Begrimed with sweat, and smeared all with dust; And from the towers of Troy there would appear The very eyes of men through loop-holes thrust, Gazing upon the Greeks with little lust: Such sweet observance in this work was had, That one might see those far-off eyes look sad.

In great commanders grace and majesty You might behold, triumphing in their faces; In youth, quick bearing and dexterity; And here and there the painter interlaces Pale cowards, marching on with trembling paces; Which heartless peasants did so well resemble, That one would swear he saw them quake and tremble.

In Ajax and Ulysses, O, what art Of physiognomy might one behold! The face of either cipher'd either's heart; Their face their manners most expressly told: In Ajax' eyes blunt rage and rigour roll'd; But the mild glance that sly Ulysses lent Show'd deep regard and smiling government.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book