Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)

In him the painter labored with his skill
To hide deceit and give the harmless show
An humble gait, calm looks, eyes wailing still,
A brow unbent that seemed to welcome woe,
1510Cheeks 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 confirmèd devil,
He entertained a show so seeming just,
1515And therein so ensconced his secret evil
That jealousy itself could 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 saintlike forms.
1520The well-skilled 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,
1525And little stars shot from their fixèd places
When their glass fell wherein they viewed their faces.
This picture she advisedly perused,
And chid the painter for his wondrous skill,
Saying some shape in Sinon's was abused,
1530So 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" --
1535She 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 turned it thus: "It cannot be, I find,
1540But such a face should bear a wicked mind.