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FROM the besieged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
Lust-breathed Tarquin leaves the Roman host,
And to Collatium bears the lightless fire
Which, in pale embers hid lurks to aspire,
And girdle with embracing flames the waist
Of Collatine's fair love, Lucrece the chaste.
Haply that name of chaste unhapp'ly set
This bateless edge on his keen appetite;
When Collatine unwisely did not let 1
To praise the clear unmatched red and white
Which triumph'd in that sky of his delight,
Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's
With pure aspects did him peculiar duties,
For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
Unlock’d the treasure of his happy state ;
What priceless wealth the heavens had him lent
In the possession of his beauteous mate:
Reckoning his fortune at such high proud rate,
That kings might be espoused to more fame,
But king nor peer to such a peerless dame.
O happiness enjoy'd but of a few !
And, if possess'd, as soon decay'd and done
As is the morning's silver-melting dew
Against the golden splendour of the sun!
An expir'd date, cancelld ere well begun:
Honour and beauty, in the owner's arms,
Are weakly fortress'd from a world of harms
Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
of men without an orator ;
What needeth then apologies be made
To set forth that which is so singular ?
Or why is Collatine the publisher
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown From thievish ears, because it is his own?
Perchance his boast of Lucrece sovereignty
Suggested ? this proud issue of a king;
For by our ears our hearts oft tainted be:
Perchance that envy of so rich a thing,
Braving compare, disdainfully did sting
His high-pitch'd thoughts, that meaner men
should vaunt That golden hap which their superiors want.
But some untimely thought did instigate
His all-too-timeless speed, if none of those :
His honour, his affairs, his friends, his state,
> suggested] i. c. tempted.
Neglected all, with swift intent he goes
To quench the coal which in his liver glows.
O rash false heat, wrapt in repentant cold,
Thy hasty spring still blasts, and ne'er grows old !
When at Collatium this false lord arriv'd,
Well was he welcom’d by the Roman dame,
Within whose face beauty and virtue striv'd
Which of them both should underprop her fame:
When virtue bragg’d, beauty would blush for shame
When beauty boasted blushes, in despite
Virtue would stain that o'er with silver white.
But beauty, in that white intituled,
From Venus' doves doth challenge that fair field;
Then virtue claims from beauty beauty's red,
Which virtue gave the golden age, to guild
Their silver cheeks, and call'd it then their shield;
Teaching them thus to use it in the fight,-
When shame assail'd, the red should fence the
This heraldry in Lucrece’ face was seen,
Argued by beauty's red, and virtue's white.
Of either's colour was the other queen,
Proving from world's minority their right:
Yet their ambition makes them still to fight ;
The sovereignty of either being so great,
That oft they interchange each other's seat.
3 intituled) i. e. having a title in.
This silent war of lilies and of roses
Which Tarquin view'd in her fair face's field,
In their pure ranks his traitor eye encloses ;
Where, lest between them both it shoulâ be kill'd,
The coward captive vanquished doth yield
To those two armies that would let him go,
Rather than triumph in so false a foe.
Now thinks he that her husband's shallow tongue
(The niggard prodigal that prais'd her so)
In that high task hath done her beauty wrong,
Which far exceeds his barren skill to show:
Therefore that praise 4 which, Collatine doth owe,
Enchanted Tarquin answers with surmise,
In silent wonder of still-gazing eyes.
This earthly saint, adored by this devil,
Little suspecteth the false worshipper;
For unstain'd thoughts do seldom dream on evil ;
Birds never lim'd no secret blushes fear:
So guiltless she securely gives good cheer
And reverend welcome to her princely guest,
Whose inward ill no outward harm express'd:
For that he colour'd with his high estate,
Hiding base sin in plaits of majesty ;
That nothing in him seem'd inordinate,
4 praise) i. e. object of praise.
6 owe) i. e. own, possess.
Save sometime too much wonder of his eye,
Which, baving al, all could not satisfy;
But, poorly rich, so wanteth in his store,
That cloy'd with much, he pineth still for more
But she that never cop'd with stranger eyes,
Could pick no meaning from their parling looks,
Nor read the subtle-shining secrecies
Writ in the glassy margents of such books ;
She touch'd no unknown baits, nor fear'd no hooks ;
Nor could she moralize 6 his wanton sight,
More than his eyes were open'd to the light.
He stories to her ears her husband's fame,
Won in the fields of fruitful Italy;
And decks with praises Collatine's high name,
Made glorious by his manly chivalry,
With bruised arms and wreaths of victory;
Her joy with heav'd-up hand she doth express
And, wordless, so greets heaven for his success.
Far from the purpose of his coming thither,
He makes excuses for his being there.
No cloudy show of stormy blustering weather
Doth yet in his fair welkin once appear;
Till sable Night, mother of Dread and Fear,
Upon the world dim darkness doth display,
And in her vaulty prison stows the day.
o moralize] i. e. interpret.