Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Quarto, 1594)

VVhat win I if I gaine the thing I seeke?
A dreame, a breath, a froth of fleeting ioy,
VVho buies a minutes mirth to waile a weeke?
Or sels eternitie to get a toy?
215For one sweete grape who will the vine destroy?
Or what fond begger, but to touch the crowne,
VVould with the scepter straight be strokē down?
If COLATINVS dreame of my intent,
VVill he not wake, and in a desp'rate rage
220Post hither, this vile purpose to preuent?
This siege that hath ingirt his marriage,
This blur to youth, this sorrow to the sage,
This dying vertue, this suruiuing shame,
VVhose crime will beare an euer-during blame.
225O what excuse can my inuention make
VVhen thou shalt charge me with so blacke a deed?
VVil not my tongue be mute, my fraile ioints shake?
Mine eies forgo their light, my false hart bleede?
The guilt beeing great, the feare doth still exceede;
230And extreme feare can neither fight nor flie,
But cowardlike with trembling terror die.
Had COLATINVS kild my sonne or sire,
Or laine in ambush to betray my life,
Or were he not my deare friend, this desire
235Might haue excuse to worke vppon his wife:
As in reuenge or quittall of such strife.
But as he is my kinsman, my deare friend,
The shame and fault finds no excuse nor end.
Shamefull it is: I, if the fact be knowne,
240Hatefull it is: there is no hate in louing,
Ile beg her loue: but she is not her owne:
The worst is but deniall and reproouing.
My will is strong past reasons weake remoouing:
VVho feares a sentence or an old mans saw,
245Shall by a painted cloth be kept in awe.