Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Lucrece (Modern)

"Think but how vile a spectacle it were
To view thy present trespass in another.
Men's faults do seldom to themselves appear;
Their own transgressions partially they smother.
635This guilt would seem death-worthy in thy brother.
O, how are they wrapped in with infamies
That from their own misdeeds askance their eyes!"
"To thee, to thee, my heaved-up hands appeal,
Not to seducing lust, thy rash relier.
640I sue for exiled majesty's repeal;
Let him return, and flatt'ring thoughts retire.
His true respect will prison false desire
And wipe the dim mist from thy doting eyne,
That thou shalt see thy state and pity mine."
645"Have done," quoth he. "My uncontrollèd tide
Turns not but swells the higher by this let.
Small lights are soon blown out; huge fires abide
And with the wind in greater fury fret.
The petty streams that pay a daily debt
650To their salt sovereign with their fresh falls' haste
Add to his flow but alter not his taste."
"Thou art," quoth she, "a sea, a sovereign king,
And, lo, there falls into thy boundless flood
Black lust, dishonor, shame, misgoverning,
655Who seek to stain the ocean of thy blood.
If all these petty ills shall change thy good,
Thy sea within a puddle's womb is hearsed,
And not the puddle in thy sea dispersed."
"So shall these slaves be king, and thou their slave;
660Thou nobly base, they basely dignified;
Thou their fair life, and they thy fouler grave;
Thou loathèd in their shame, they in their pride.
The lesser thing should not the greater hide;
The cedar stoops not to the base shrub's foot,
665But low shrubs wither at the cedar's root."