She throws her eyes about the painting round, And whom she finds forlorn she doth lament. At last she sees a wretched image bound, That piteous looks to Phrygian shepherds lent: His face, though full of cares, yet show'd content; Onward to Troy with the blunt swains he goes, So mild, that Patience seem'd to scorn his woes.

In him the painter labour'd with his skill To hide deceit, and give the harmless show An humble gait, calm looks, eyes wailing still, A brow unbent, that seem'd to welcome woe; Cheeks neither red nor pale, but mingled so That blushing red no guilty instance gave, Nor ashy pale the fear that false hearts have.

But, like a constant and confirmed devil, He entertain'd a show so seeming just, And therein so ensconced his secret evil, That jealousy itself cold not mistrust False-creeping craft and perjury should thrust Into so bright a day such black-faced storms, Or blot with hell-born sin such saint-like forms.

The well-skill'd workman this mild image drew For perjured Sinon, whose enchanting story The credulous Old Priam after slew; Whose words like wildfire burnt the shining glory Of rich-built Ilion, that the skies were sorry, And little stars shot from their fixed places, When their glass fell wherein they view'd their faces.

This picture she advisedly perused, And chid the painter for his wondrous skill, Saying, some shape in Sinon's was abused; So fair a form lodged not a mind so ill: And still on him she gazed; and gazing still, Such signs of truth in his plain face she spied, That she concludes the picture was belied.

'It cannot be, quoth she, 'that so much guile' -- She would have said 'can lurk in such a look;' But Tarquin's shape came in her mind the while, And from her tongue 'can lurk' from 'cannot' took: 'It cannot be' she in that sense forsook, And turn'd it thus, 'It cannot be, I find, But such a face should bear a wicked mind:

'For even as subtle Sinon here is painted, So sober-sad, so weary, and so mild, As if with grief or travail he had fainted, To me came Tarquin armed; so beguiled With outward honesty, but yet defiled With inward vice: as Priam him did cherish, So did I Tarquin; so my Troy did perish.

'Look, look, how listening Priam wets his eyes, To see those borrow'd tears that Sinon sheds! Priam, why art thou old and yet not wise? For every tear he falls a Trojan bleeds: His eye drops fire, no water thence proceeds; Those round clear pearls of his, that move thy pity, Are balls of quenchless fire to burn thy city.

'Such devils steal effects from lightless hell; For Sinon in his fire doth quake with cold, And in that cold hot-burning fire doth dwell; These contraries such unity do hold, Only to flatter fools and make them bold: So Priam's trust false Sinon's tears doth flatter, That he finds means to burn his Troy with water.'

Here, all enraged, such passion her assails, That patience is quite beaten from her breast. She tears the senseless Sinon with her nails, Comparing him to that unhappy guest Whose deed hath made herself herself detest: At last she smilingly with this gives o'er; 'Fool, fool!' quoth she, 'his wounds will not be sore.'

Thus ebbs and flows the current of her sorrow, And time doth weary time with her complaining. She looks for night, and then she longs for morrow, And both she thinks too long with her remaining: Short time seems long in sorrow's sharp sustaining: Though woe be heavy, yet it seldom sleeps; And they that watch see time how slow it creeps.

Which all this time hath overslipp'd her thought, That she with painted images hath spent; Being from the feeling of her own grief brought By deep surmise of others' detriment: Losing her woes in shows of discontent. It easeth some, though none it ever cured, To think their dolour others have endured.

But now the mindful messenger, come back, Brings home his lord and other company; Who finds his Lucrece clad in mourning black: And round about her tear-distained eye Blue circles stream'd, like rainbows in the sky: These water-galls in her dim element Foretell new storms to those already spent.

Which when her sad-beholding husband saw, Amazedly in her sad face he stares: Her eyes, though sod in tears, look'd red and raw, Her lively colour kill'd with deadly cares. He hath no power to ask her how she fares: Both stood, like old acquaintance in a trance, Met far from home, wondering each other's chance.

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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