Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)

"But if thou yield, I rest thy secret friend;
The fault unknown is as a thought unacted;
A little harm done to a great good end
For lawful policy remains enacted.
530The poisonous simple sometime is compacted
In a pure compound; being so applied,
His venom in effect is purified."
"Then, for thy husband and thy children's sake,
Tender my suit; bequeath not to their lot
535The shame that from them no device can take,
The blemish that will never be forgot,
Worse than a slavish wipe or birth-hour's blot;
For marks descried in men's nativity
Are nature's faults, not their own infamy."
540Here with a cockatrice' dead-killing eye
He rouseth up himself and makes a pause,
While she, the picture of pure piety,
Like a white hind under the gripe's sharp claws,
Pleads, in a wilderness where are no laws,
545To the rough beast that knows no gentle right,
Nor aught obeys but his foul appetite.
But when a black-faced cloud the world doth threat,
In his dim mist th' aspiring mountains hiding,
From earth's dark womb, some gentle gust doth get,
550Which blow these pitchy vapors from their biding,
Hind'ring their present fall by this dividing;
So his unhallowed haste her words delays,
And moody Pluto winks while Orpheus plays.
Yet, foul night-waking cat, he doth but dally,
555While in his hold-fast foot the weak mouse panteth;
Her sad behavior feeds his vulture folly,
A swallowing gulf that even in plenty wanteth.
His ear her prayers admits, but his heart granteth
No penetrable entrance to her plaining;
560Tears harden lust, though marble wear with raining.