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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
THE love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater: mean time, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness.
Your Lordship's, in all duty,
LUCIUS TARQUINIUS (for his excessive pride surnamed Superbus), after he had caused his own father-in-law, Servius Tullius, to be cruelly murdered, and, contrary to the Roman laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the people's suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom, went, accompanied with his sons and other noblemen of Rome, to besiege Ardea. During which siege, the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the king's son, in their discourses after supper every one commended the virtues of his own wife; among whom, Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that pleasant humour they all posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which every one had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife (though it were late in the night) spinning amongst her maids: the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports. Whereupon the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame. At that time Sextus Tarquinius being inflamed with Lucrece' beauty, yet smothering his passions for the present, departed with the rest back to the camp; from whence he shortly after privily withdrew himself, and was (according to his estate) royally entertained and lodged by Lucrece at Collatium. The same night, he treacherously stealeth into her chamber, violently ravished her, and early in the morning speedeth away. Lucrece, in this lamentable plight, hastily dispatcheth messengers, one to Rome for her father, another to the camp for Collatine. They came, the one accompanied with Junius Brutus, the other with Publius Valerius; and finding Lucrece attired in mourning habit, demanded the cause of her sorrow. She, first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor, and whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself. Which done, with one consent they all vowed to root out the whole hated family of the Tarquins; and bearing the dead body to Rome, Brutus acquainted the people with the doer and manner of the vile deed, with a bitter invective against the tyranny of the king: wherewith the people were so moved, that with one consent and a general acclamation the Tarquins were all exiled, and the state government changed from kings to consuls.
* This argument appears to have been written by Shakspeare, being prefixed to the original edition in 1594, and is a curiosity; being, with the two dedications to the Earl of Southampton, the only prose compositions of our great poet (not in a dramatic form) now remaining.
THE RAPE OF LUCRECE.
["A BOOK entitled the 'Ravishment of Lucrece' was entered on the Stationers' register, by Mr. Harrison, sen., May 9, 1594, and the poem was first printed in 4to. in the same year. It was again published in 16mo. in 1598, 1600, and 1607. There were also editions in 1596 and 1602. There was an edition published in 1616, purporting to be newly revised and correct, but it is of all the editions the most inaccurate and corrupt. The story of Lucrece is given in the first volume of Painter's 'Palace of Pleasure,' whence our author probably borrowed the argument of his poem."]
FROM the besieged Ardea all in post,
Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beauties,
For he, the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
+ Not to be abated.
O happiness enjoy'd but of a few!
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
Perchance his boast of Lucrece's sovereignty
His high-pitch'd thoughts, that meaner men should vaunt
But some untimely thought did instigate
To quench the coal which in his liver glows.§
Thy hasty || spring still blasts, and ne'er grows old!
When at Collatium this false lord arrived,
Well was he welcomed by the Roman dame,
Which of them both should underprop her fame;
When virtue bragg'd, beauty would blush for shame;
But beauty, in that white intituled,
From Venus' doves doth challenge that fair field;
Their silver cheeks, and call'd it then their shield;
When shame assail'd, the red should fence the white.
† Prompted, instigated.
§ The liver was formerly supposed to be the seat of love.
**Or, i. e. gold, to which the poet compares the deep colour of a blush. ++ Taking its title from that whiteness.
This heraldry in Lucrece' face was seen,
Which Tarquin view'd in her fair face's field,
To those two armies, that would let him go,
Now thinks he that her husband's shallow tongue
This earthly saint, adored by this devil,
For that he colour'd with his high estate,
But, poorly rich, so wanteth in his store,
But she that never coped with stranger eyes,
Writ in the glassy margents of such books ;§
She touch'd no unknown baits, nor fear'd no hooks;
* Praise here signifies the object of praise, i. e. Lucretia. To owe, in old language, means to possess.
In all our ancient English books, the comment is printed in the margin. Interpret.