Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: The Mirror for Magistrates (Selection)
  • Editors: Michael Best, Sarah Milligan, Joey Takeda

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Authors: William Baldwin, John Higgins
    Editors: Michael Best, Sarah Milligan, Joey Takeda
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The Mirror for Magistrates (Selection)

    From light to dark, from wholesome air to loathsome smell,
    From odor sweet to sweat, from ease to grievous pain,
    From sight of princely wights to place where thieves do dwell,
    215From dainty beds of down to be of straw full fain:
    From bowers of heavenly hue to dens of dain;
    From greatest haps that worldly wights achieve;
    To more distress than any wretch alive.
    With that she spake "I am," quoth she, "thy friend Despair,
    220Which in distress each worldly wight with speed do aid;
    I rid them from their foes if I to them repair.
    Too long from thee by other captives was I stayed.
    Now if thou art to die no whit afraid,
    Here shalt thou choose of instruments--behold--
    225Shall rid thy restless life; of this be bold."
    And therewithal she spread her garment's lap aside,
    Under the which a thousand things I saw with eyes:
    Both knives, sharp swords, poignado all bedyed
    With blood, and poisons prest which she could well devise.
    230"There is no hope," quoth she," for thee to rise
    And get thy crown or liberty again,
    But for to live long lasting, pining pain."
    "Lo here," quoth she, the blade that Dido of Carthage hight,
    Whereby she was from thousand pangs of pain let pass;
    235With this she slew herself after Aeneas's flight
    When he to sea from Tyrian shores departed was;
    Do choose of these thou seest from woes to pass,
    Or bid the end prolong thy painful days,
    And I am pleased from thee to get my ways."
    240With that was I, poor wretch, content to take the knife
    But doubtful yet to die, and fearful, fain would bide.
    So still I lay in study with myself at bate and strife
    What thing were best of both these deep extremes untried.
    My hope all reasons of despair denied,
    245And she again replied to prove it best
    To die, for still in life my woes increas't.