Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)


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
1440To break upon the gallèd shore, and then
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 stelled.
1445Many she sees where cares have carvèd some,
But none where all distress and dolor dwelled
Till she despairing Hecuba beheld,
Staring on Priam's wounds with her old eyes,
Which bleeding under Pyrrhus' proud foot lies.
1450In her the painter had anatomized
Time's ruin, beauty's wrack, and grim care's 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,
1455Wanting the spring that those shrunk pipes had fed,
Showed life imprisoned in a body dead.
On this sad shadow Lucrece spends her eyes
And shapes her sorrow to the beldame's woes,
Who nothing wants to answer her but cries
1460And 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,
1465I'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
1470Of all the Greeks that are thine enemies."