Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: Hardy M. Cook
Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)


1From the besièged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
Lust-breathèd Tarquin leaves the Roman host
And to Collatium bears the lightless fire,
5Which, in pale embers hid, lurks to aspire
And girdle with embracing flames the waist
Of Collatine's fair love, Lucrece, the chaste.
Haply that name of "chaste" unhapp'ly set
This bateless edge on his keen appetite,
10When Collatine unwisely did not let
To praise the clear unmatchèd red and white,
Which triumphed in that sky of his delight,
Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beauties,
With pure aspects did him peculiar duties.
15For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
Unlocked the treasure of his happy state:
What priceless wealth the heavens had him lent
In the possession of his beauteous mate,
Reck'ning his fortune at such high proud rate
20That kings might be espousèd to more fame,
But king nor peer to such a peerless dame.
O happiness enjoyed but of a few,
And, if possessed, as soon decayed and done
As is the morning silver melting dew
25Against the golden splendor of the sun;
An expired date, canceled ere well begun.
Honor and beauty in the owner's arms
Are weakly fortressed from a world of harms.
Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
30The eyes of men without an orator.
What needeth then apology be made
To set forth that which is so singular?
Or why is Collatine the publisher
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
35From thievish ears, because it is his own?