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But, lady, if your maid may be so bold,
She would request to know your heaviness.
O peace (quoth Lucrecz) if it should be told,
The repetition cannot make it less;
For more it is than I can well express;
And that deep torture may be call'd a hell,
When more is felt than one hath power to tell.
Go, get me hither paper, ink, and pen;
Yet save that labour for I have them here.
(What should I say ?) One of my husband's men
Bid thou be ready, by and by to bear
A letter to my lord, my love, my dear;
Bid him with speed prepare to carry it,
The cause craves haste, and it will soon be writ.
Her maid is gone, and she prepares to write,
First hovering o'er the paper with her quill;
Conceit and grief an eager combat fight,
What wits sets down, is blotted still with will,
This is too curious good, this blunt and ill:
Much like a press of people at a door,
Throng her inventions, which shall go before.
At last she thus begins: Thou worthy lord
Of that unworthy wife, that greetelh thee,
Health to thy person ; next vouchsafe t'alford
(If ever, love, thy Lucrece thou wilt see)
Some present speed to come and visit me:
So I commend me from our house in grief,
My woes are tedious, tho' my words are brief.
Here folds she up the tenor of her woe,
Her certain sorrow writ uncertainly:
By this short schedule Colatine may know
Her grief, but not her griefs true quality:
She dares not therefore make discovery,
Lest he should hold it her own gross abuse,
Ere she with blood had stain'd her strain'd excuse:
Besides the life and feeling of her passion,
She hoards to spend, when he is by to hear her;
When sighs, and groans, and tears may grace the fashion
Of her disgrace, the better so to clear her
From that suspicion which the world might bear her:
To shun this blot, she wou'd not blot the letter
With words, till action might become them better.
To see sad sights moves more than hear them told;
For then the eye interprets to the ear,
The heavy motion that it doth behold:
When every part a part of woe doth bear,
'Tis but a part of sorrow that we hear.
Deep sounds make lesser noise than shallow fords,
And sorrow ebbs, being blown with wind of words.
Her letter now is seal'd, and on it writ,
At Ardea to my lord with more than haste;
The post attends, and she delivers it,
Charging the sour-fac'd groom to hie as fast,
As lagging souls before the northern blast.
Speed, more than speed, but dull and slow she deems,
Extremity still urgeth such extremes.
The homely villain curtsies to her low,
And blushing on her with a stedfast eye,
Receives the scroll without or yea or no;
For outward bashful innocence doth fly.
But they whose guilt within their bosoms lie,
Imagine every eye beholds their blame,
For Lucbece thought he blush'd to see her shame.
When silly groom (God wot) is was defect
Of spirit, life, and bold audacity;
Such harmless creatures have a true respect
To talk in deeds, while others saucily
Promise more speed, but do it leisurely.
Even so this pattern of the worn-out age
Pawn'd honest looks, but laid no words to gage.
His kindled duty kindled her mistrust;
That two red fires in both their faces blaz'd;
She thought he blush'd as knowing Tarquin's lust,
And blushing with him, wistly on him gaz'd:
Her earnest eye did make him more amaz'd:
The more she saw the blood his cheeks replenish,
The more she thought he spy'd in her some blemish.
But long she thinks till he return again,
And yet the duteous vassal scarce is gone:
The weary time she cannot entertain,
For now 'tis stale to sigh, to weep, and groan.
So woe hath wearied woe, moan tired moan,
That she her plaints a little while doth stay,
Pausing for means to mourn some newer way.
At last she calls to mind where hangs a piece
Of skilful painting made for Priam's Troy;
-Before the which is drawn the power of Greece,
For Helen's rape the city to destroy.
Threatening cloud-kissing Ilion with annoy;
Which the conceited painter drew so proud,
As heaven (it seeni'd) to kiss the turrets bow'd.
A thousand lamentable objects there,
In scorn of nature, art gave lifeless life;
Many a dire drop seemed a weeping tear,
Shed for the slaughter'd husband by the wife;
The red blood reek'd to shew the painter's strife;
And dying eyes gleam'd forth their ashy lights,
Like dying coals burnt out in tedious nights.
There might you see the labouring pioneer
Begrim'd with sweat, and smeared all with dust;
And from the towers of Troy, there wou'd appear
The very eyes of men thro' loop-holes thrust,
Gazing upon the Greeks with little lust:
Such sweet observance in the work was had,
That one might see those far-off eyes look sad.
In great commanders, grace and majesty
You might behold triumphing in their faces:
In youth quick-bearing and dexterity:
And here and there the painter interlaces
Pale cowards marching on with trembling paces:
Which heartless peasants did so well resemble,
That one would swear he saw them quake and tremble.
In Ajax and Ulysses, O what art
Of physiognomy might one behold!
The face of either cypher'd either's heart;
Their face, their manners most expressly told.
In Ajax's eyes blunt rage and rigour roll'd;
But the mild glance that she Ulysses lent,
Shew'd deep regard and smiling government.
There pleading might you see grave Nestor stand,
As 'twere encouraging the Greeks to fight,
Making such sober actions with his hand,
That it beguil'd attention, charm'd the sight:
In speech it seem'd his beard, all silver white,
Wagg'd up and down, and from his lips did fly
Thin winding breath, which purl'd up to the sky.
About him were a press of gaping faces,
Which seem'd to swallow up his sound advice;
All jointly list'ning, but with several graces,
As if some mermaid did their ears entice;
Some high, some low, the painter was so nice.
The scalps of many almost hid behind,
To jump up higher seem'd to mock the mind,
Here one man's hand lean'd on another's head,
His nose being shadow'd by his neighbour's ear;
Here one being throng'd, bears back all swoln and red;
Another smother'd seems to pelt and swear,
And in their rage, (such signs of rage they bear,)
As but for loss of Nestor's golden words,
It seems they would debate with angry swords.