Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)


Perchance his boast of Lucrece' sov'reignty
Suggested this proud issue of a king,
For by our ears our hearts oft tainted be.
Perchance that envy of so rich a thing,
40Braving compare, disdainfully did sting
His high-pitched thoughts, that meaner men should vaunt
That golden hap which their superiors want.
But some untimely thought did instigate
His all too timeless speed, if none of those.
45His honor, his affairs, his friends, his state,
Neglected all, with swift intent he goes
To quench the coal which in his liver glows.
O rash false heat, wrapped in repentant cold,
Thy hasty spring still blasts and ne'er grows old.
50When at Collatium this false lord arrived,
Well was he welcomed by the Roman dame,
Within whose face beauty and virtue strived
Which of them both should underprop her fame.
When virtue bragged, beauty would blush for shame;
55When beauty boasted blushes, in despite
Virtue would stain that o'er with silver white.
But beauty, in that white entitulèd
From Venus' doves, doth challenge that fair field;
Then virtue claims from beauty beauty's red,
60Which virtue gave the golden age to gild
Their silver cheeks, and called it then their shield,
Teaching them thus to use it in the fight:
When shame assailed, the red should fence the white.
This heraldry in Lucrece' face was seen,
65Argued by beauty's red and virtue's white;
Of either's color was the other queen,
Proving from world's minority their right;
Yet their ambition makes them still to fight,
The sovereignty of either being so great
70That oft they interchange each other's seat.