Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Extracts from Lucrece
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
(See full text.)

BY this, lamenting Philomel had ended
The well-tuned warble of her nightly sorrow,
And solemn night with slow sad gait descended
To ugly hell; when, lo, the blushing morrow
Lends light to all fair eyes that light will borrow;        5
  But cloudly Lucrece shames herself to see,
  And therefore still in night would cloister’d be.
 
Revealing day through every cranny spies,
And seems to point her out where she sits weeping;
To whom she sobbing speaks: ‘O eye of eyes,        10
Why pry’st thou through my window? leave thy peeping:
Mock with thy tickling beams eyes that are sleeping:
  Brand not my forehead with thy piercing light,
  For day hath nought to do what ’s done by night.’
 
Thus cavils she with every thing she sees:        15
True grief is fond and testy as a child,
Who wayward once, his mood with nought agrees:
Old woes, not infant sorrows, bear them mild;
Continuance tames the one; the other wild,
  Like an unpractised swimmer plunging still,        20
  With too much labour drowns for want of skill.
 
So she, deep-drenched in a sea of care,
Holds disputation with each thing she views,
And to herself all sorrow doth compare;
No object but her passion’s strength renews;        25
And as one shifts, another straight ensues:
  Sometime her grief is dumb and hath no words;
  Sometime ’tis mad and too much talk affords.
 
The little birds that tune their morning’s joy
Make her moans mad with their sweet melody:        30
For mirth doth search the bottom of annoy;
Sad souls are slain in merry company;
Grief best is pleased with grief’s society:
  True sorrow then is feelingly sufficed
  When with like semblance it is sympathised.        35
 
’Tis double death to drown in ken of shore;
He ten times pines that pines beholding food;
To see the salve doth make the wound ache more;
Great grief grieves most at that would do it good;
Deep woes roll forward like a gentle flood,        40
  Who, being stopp’d, the bounding banks o’erflows;
  Grief dallied with nor law nor limit knows.
 
‘You mocking birds,’ quoth she, ‘your tunes entomb
Within your hollow-swelling feather’d breasts,
And in my hearing be you mute and dumb:        45
My restless discord loves no stops nor rests;
A woeful hostess brooks not merry guests:
  Relish your nimble notes to pleasing ears;
  Distress likes dumps when time is kept with tears.
 
‘Come, Philomel, that sing’st of ravishment,        50
Make thy sad grove in my dishevell’d hair:
As the dank earth weeps at thy languishment,
So I at each sad strain will strain a tear,
And with deep groans the diapason bear;
  For burden-wise I ’ll hum on Tarquin still,        55
  While thou on Tereus descant’st better skill.’
*        *        *        *        *
This plot of death when sadly she had laid,
And wiped the brinish pearl from her bright eyes,
With untuned tongue she hoarsely calls her maid,
Whose swift obedience to her mistress hies;        60
For fleet-wing’d duty with thought’s feathers flies.
  Poor Lucrece’ cheeks unto her maid seem so
  As winter meads when sun doth melt their snow.
 
Her mistress she doth give demure good-morrow,
With soft-slow tongue, true mark of modesty,        65
And sorts a sad look to her lady’s sorrow,
For why her face wore sorrow’s livery;
But durst not ask of her audaciously
  Why her two suns were cloud-eclipsed so,
  Nor why her fair cheeks over-wash’d with woe.        70
 
But as the earth doth weep, the sun being set,
Each flower moisten’d like a melting eye;
Even so the maid with swelling drops gan wet
Her circled eyne, enforced by sympathy
Of those fair suns set in her mistress’ sky,        75
  Who in a salt-waved ocean quench their light,
  Which makes the maid weep like the dewy night.
 
A pretty while these pretty creatures stand,
Like ivory conduits coral cisterns filling;
One justly weeps; the other takes in hand        80
No cause, but company, of her drops spilling:
Their gentle sex to weep are often willing;
  Grieving themselves to guess at others’ smarts,
  And then they drown their eyes or break their hearts.
 
For men have marble, women waxen, minds,        85
And therefore are they form’d as marble will;
The weak oppress’d, the impression of strange kinds
Is form’d in them by force, by fraud, or skill:
Then call them not the authors of their ill,
  No more than wax shall be accounted evil        90
  Wherein is stamp’d the semblance of a devil.
 
Their smoothness, like a goodly champaign plain,
Lays open all the little worms that creep;
In men, as in a rough-grown grove, remain
Cave-keeping evils that obscurely sleep:        95
Through crystal walls each little mote will peep:
  Though men can cover crimes with bold stern looks,
  Poor women’s faces are their own faults’ books.
 
No man inveigh against the wither’d flower,
But chide rough winter that the flower hath kill’d:        100
Not that devour’d, but that which doth devour,
Is worthy blame. O, let it not be hild
Poor women’s faults, that they are so fulfill’d
  With men’s abuses: those proud lords, to blame,
  Make weak-made women tenants to their shame.        105
 
 
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