Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)


This silent war of lilies and of roses,
Which Tarquin viewed in her fair face's field,
In their pure ranks his traitor eye encloses,
Where, lest between them both it should be killed,
75The coward captive vanquishèd doth yield
To those two armies that would let him go
Rather than triumph in so false a foe.
Now thinks he that her husband's shallow tongue,
The niggard prodigal that praised her so,
80In that high task hath done her beauty wrong,
Which far exceeds his barren skill to show.
Therefore that praise which Collatine doth owe
Enchanted Tarquin answers with surmise,
In silent wonder of still-gazing eyes.
85This earthly saint, adorèd by this devil,
Little suspecteth the false worshipper,
"For unstained thoughts do seldom dream on evil."
"Birds never limed no secret bushes fear."
So, guiltless, she securely gives good cheer
90And reverend welcome to her princely guest,
Whose inward ill no outward harm expressed.
For that, he colored with his high estate,
Hiding base sin in pleats of majesty,
That nothing in him seemed inordinate,
95Save sometime too much wonder of his eye,
Which, having all, all could not satisfy;
But, poorly rich, so wanteth in his store
That, cloyed with much, he pineth still for more.
But she that never coped with stranger eyes
100Could pick no meaning from their parling looks
Nor read the subtle shining secrecies
Writ in the glassy margents of such books.
She touched no unknown baits, nor feared no hooks,
Nor could she moralize his wanton sight
105More than his eyes were opened to the light.