Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)

The precedent whereof in Lucrece view,
Assailed by night with circumstances strong
Of present death, and shame that might ensue
By that her death, to do her husband wrong.
1265Such danger to resistance did belong
That dying fear through all her body spread;
And who cannot abuse a body dead?
By this, mild patience bid fair Lucrece speak
To the poor counterfeit of her complaining.
1270"My girl," quoth she, "on what occasion break
Those tears from thee that down thy cheeks are raining?
If thou dost weep for grief of my sustaining,
Know, gentle wench, it small avails my mood.
If tears could help, mine own would do me good."
1275"But tell me, girl, when went" -- and there she stayed
Till after a deep groan -- "Tarquin from hence?"
"Madam, ere I was up," replied the maid,
"The more to blame my sluggard negligence.
Yet with the fault I thus far can dispense:
1280Myself was stirring ere the break of day,
And, ere I rose, was Tarquin gone away."
"But, lady, if your maid may be so bold,
She would request to know your heaviness."
"O, peace," quoth Lucrece. "If it should be told,
1285The repetition cannot make it less;
For more it is than I can well express,
And that deep torture may be called a hell
When more is felt then one hath power to tell."
"Go, get me hither paper, ink, and pen;
1290Yet save that labor, for I have them here.
What should I say? One of my husband's men
Bid thou be ready, by and by, to bear
A letter to my lord, my love, my dear.
Bid him with speed prepare to carry it;
1295The cause craves haste, and it will soon be writ."