There pleading might you see grave Nestor stand, As 'twere encouraging the Greeks to fight; Making such sober action with his hand, That it beguiled attention, charm'd the sight: In speech, it seem'd, his beard, all silver white, Wagg'd up and down, and from his lips did fly Thin winding breath, which curl'd up to the sky.

About him were a press of gaping faces, Which seem'd to swallow up his sound advice; All jointly listening, but with several graces, As if some mermaid did their ears entice, Some high, some low, the painter was so nice; The scalps of many, almost hid behind, To jump up higher seem'd, to mock the mind.

Here one man's hand lean'd on another's head, His nose being shadow'd by his neighbour's ear, Here one being throng'd bears back, all boll'n and red; Another smother'd seems to pelt and swear; And in their rage such signs of rage they bear, As, but for loss of Nestor's golden words, It seem'd they would debate with angry swords.

For much imaginary work was there; Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind, That for Achilles' image stood his spear, Griped in an armed hand; himself, behind, Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind: A hand, a foot, a face, a leg, a head, Stood for the whole to be imagined,

And from the walls of strong-besieged Troy When their brave hope, bold Hector, march'd to field, Stood many Trojan mothers, sharing joy To see their youthful sons bright weapons wield; And to their hope they such odd action yield, That through their light joy seemed to appear, Like bright things stain'd, a kind of heavy fear,

And from the strand of Dardan, where they fought, To Simois' reedy banks the red blood ran, Whose waves to imitate the battle sought With swelling ridges; and their ranks began To break upon the galled shore, and than Retire again, till, meeting greater ranks, They join and shoot their foam at Simois' banks.

To this well-painted piece is Lucrece come, To find a face where all distress is stell'd. Many she sees where cares have carved some, But none where all distress and dolour dwell'd, Till she despairing Hecuba beheld, Staring on Priam's wounds with her old eyes, Which bleeding under Pyrrhus' proud foot lies.

In her the painter had anatomized Time's ruin, beauty's wreck, and grim cares reign: Her cheeks with chops and wrinkles were disguised; Of what she was no semblance did remain: Her blue blood changed to black in every vein, Wanting the spring that those shrunk pipes had fed, Show'd life imprison'd in a body dead.

On this sad shadow Lucrece spends her eyes, And shapes her sorrow to the bedlam's woes, Who nothing wants to answer her but cries, And bitter words to ban her cruel foes: The painter was no god to lend her those; And therefore Lucrece swears he did her wrong, To give her so much grief and not a tongue.

'Poor instrument,' quoth she, 'without a sound, I'll tune thy woes with my lamenting tongue; And drop sweet balm in Priam's painted wound, And rail on Pyrrhus that hath done him wrong; And with my tears quench Troy that burns so long; And with my knife scratch out the angry eyes Of all the Greeks that are thine enemies.

'Show me the strumpet that began this stir, That with my nails her beauty I may tear. Thy heat of lust, fond Paris, did incur This load of wrath that burning Troy doth bear: Thy eye kindled the fire that burneth here; And here in Troy, for trespass of thine eye, The sire, the son, the dame, and daughter die.

'Why should the private pleasure of some one Become the public plague of many moe? Let sin, alone committed, light alone Upon his head that hath transgressed so; Let guiltless souls be freed from guilty woe: For one's offence why should so many fall, To plague a private sin in general?

'Lo, here weeps Hecuba, here Priam dies, Here manly Hector faints, here Troilus swounds, Here friend by friend in bloody channel lies, And friend to friend gives unadvised wounds, And one man's lust these many lives confounds: Had doting Priam check'd his son's desire, Troy had been bright with fame and not with fire.'

Here feelingly she weeps Troy's painted woes: For sorrow, like a heavy-hanging bell, Once set on ringing, with his own weight goes; Then little strength rings out the doleful knell: So Lucrece, set a-work, sad tales doth tell To pencill'd pensiveness and colour'd sorrow: She lends them words, and she their looks doth borrow.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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