Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)

"What win I if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a week
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
215For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?
Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown,
Would with the scepter straight be strucken down?"
"If Collatinus dream of my intent,
Will he not wake, and in a desp'rate rage
220Post hither, this vile purpose to prevent?
This siege that hath engirt his marriage,
This blur to youth, this sorrow to the sage,
This dying virtue, this surviving shame,
Whose crime will bear an ever-during blame."
225"O, what excuse can my invention make
When thou shalt charge me with so black a deed?
Will not my tongue be mute, my frail joints shake,
Mine eyes forgo their light, my false heart bleed?
The guilt being great, the fear doth still exceed;
230And extreme fear can neither fight nor fly,
But coward-like with trembling terror die."
"Had Collatinus killed my son or sire,
Or lain in ambush to betray my life,
Or were he not my dear friend, this desire
235Might have excuse to work upon his wife,
As in revenge or quittal of such strife;
But as he is my kinsman, my dear friend,
The shame and fault finds no excuse nor end."
"Shameful it is: ay, if the fact be known.
240Hateful it is: there is no hate in loving.
I'll beg her love, but she is not her own.
The worst is but denial and reproving.
My will is strong, past reason's weak removing.
Who fears a sentence or an old man's saw
245Shall by a painted cloth be kept in awe."