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So that in venturing ill we leave to be
The things we are for that which we expect;
And this ambitious-foul infirmity,

In having much, torments us with defect
Of that we have: so then we do neglect
The thing we have; and, all for want of wit,
Make something nothing by augmenting it.
Such hazard now must doting Tarquin make,
Pawning his honour to obtain his lust;
And for himself himself he must forsake:
Then where is truth, if there be no self-trust?
When shall he think to find a stranger just,

When he himself himself confounds, betrays,
To slanderous tongues and wretched hateful
days?

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Is madly toss'd between desire and dread;
Th' one sweetly flatters, th' other feareth harm;
But honest fear, bewitch'd with lust's foul charm,
Doth too-too oft betake him to retire,
Beaten away by brain-sick rude desire,

His falchion on a flint he softly smiteth,
That from the cold stone sparks of fire do fly;
Whereat a waxen torch forthwith he lighteth,
Which must be lode-star to his lustful eye;
And to the flame thus speaks advisedly,

"As from this cold flint I enforc'd this fire, So Lucrece must I force to my desire."

Here pale with fear he doth premeditate
The dangers of his loathsome enterprise,
And in his inward mind he doth debate
What following sorrow may on this arise:
Then looking scornfully, he doth despise

His naked armour of still-slaughter'd lust,
And justly thus controls his thoughts unjust:
"Fair torch, burn out thy light, and lend it not
To darken her whose light excelleth thine:
And die, unhallow'd thoughts, before you blot
With your uncleanness that which is divine;
Offer pure incense to so pure a shrine:
Let fair humanity abhor the deed

191

That spots and stains love's modest snow-white weed.

"O shame to knighthood and to shining arms!
O foul dishonour to my household's grave!
O impious act, including all foul harms!
A martial man to be soft2 fancy's slave!
True valour still a true respect should have;
Then my digression is so vile, so base,
That it will live engraven in my face.

180

"Yea, though I die, the scandal will survive,
And be an eye-sore in my golden coat;
Some loathsome dash the herald will contrive,
To cipher me how fondly I did dote;
That my posterity, sham'd with the note,
Shall curse my bones, and hold it for no sin
To wish that I their father had not bin.

200

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"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?

For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?

Soft, effeminate.

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1 Lawn, fine linen.

240

Thus, graceless, holds he disputation
'Tween frozen conscience and hot-burning will,
And with good thoughts makes dispensation,
Urging the worser sense for vantage still;
Which in a moment doth confound and kill
All pure effects, and doth so far proceed
That what is vile shows like a virtuous deed.
Quoth he, "She took me kindly by the hand,
And gaz'd for tidings in my eager eyes,
Fearing some hard news from the warlike band,
Where her beloved Collatinus lies.
O, how her fear did make her colour rise!
First red as roses that on lawn1 we lay,
Then white as lawn, the roses took away.

250

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2 Colour, pretexts.

289

Within his thought her heavenly image sits,
And in the self-same seat sits Collatine:
That eye which looks on her confounds his wits;
That eye which him beholds, as more divine,
Unto a view so false will not incline;

But with a pure appeal seeks to the heart,
Which once corrupted takes the worser part;
And therein heartens up his servile powers,
Who, flatter'd by their leader's jocund show,
Stuff up his lust, as minutes fill up hours;
And as their captain, so their pride doth grow,
Paying more slavish tribute than they owe.
By reprobate desire thus madly led,
The Roman lord marcheth to Lucrece' bed.
The locks between her chamber and his will,
Each one by him enforc'd, retires his ward;

300

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That his foul thoughts might compass his fair fair, And they would stand auspicious to the hour, Even there he starts:-quoth he, "I must deflower:

The powers to whom I pray abhor this fact, How can they, then, assist me in the act? 350 "Then Love and Fortune be my gods, my guide! My will is back'd with resolution: Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried; The blackest sin is clear'd with absolution; Against love's fire fear's frost hath dissolution. The eye of heaven is out, and misty night Covers the shame that follows sweet delight."

This said, his guilty hand pluck'd up the latch,
And with his knee the door he opens wide.
The dove sleeps fast that this night-owl will catch:
Thus treason works ere traitors be espied.
Who sees the lurking serpent steps aside;

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But she, sound sleeping, fearing no such thing, Lies at the mercy of his mortal sting.

Into the chamber wickedly he stalks,
And gazeth on her yet-unstained bed.
The curtains being close, about he walks,
Rolling his greedy eyeballs in his head:
By their high treason is his heart misled;
Which gives the watch-word to his hand full soon
To draw the cloud that hides the silver moon.

369

Look, as the fair and fiery-pointed sun,
Rushing from forth a cloud, bereaves our sight;
Even so, the curtain drawn, his eyes begun
To wink, being blinded with a greater light:
Whether it is that she reflects so bright,

That dazzleth them, or else some shame sup. pos'd;

But blind they are, and keep themselves enclos'd. O, had they in that darksome prison died! Then had they seen the period of their ill; Then Collatine again, by Lucrece' side, In his clear bed might have reposed still: But they must ope, this blessed league to kill; And holy-thoughted Lucrece to their sight Must sell her joy, her life, her world's delight.

Her lily hand her rosy cheek lies under, Cozening the pillow of a lawful kiss;

380

Who, therefore angry, seems to part in sunder,
Swelling on either side to want his bliss;

Between whose hills her head entombed is: 390

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