« AnteriorContinua »
ing 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.
FROM the besieg'd Ardea all in post2,
And girdle with embracing flames the waist
1 "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 quarto, in the same year. It was again published in sexto-decimo in 1598, 1600, and 1607. I have heard of editions of this piece likewise in 1596 and 1602, but I have not seen either of them. In 1616 another edition appeared, which in the title-page is said to be newly revised and corrected. When this copy first came to my hands, it occurred to me, that our author had perhaps an intention of revising and publishing all his works, (which his fellow-comedians in their preface to his plays seem to hint he would have done, if he had lived,) and that he began with this early production of his muse, but was prevented by death from completing his scheme; for he died in the same year in which this corrected copy of Lucrece (as it is called) was printed. But on an attentive examination of this edition, I have not the least doubt that the piece was revised by some other hand. It is so far from being correct, that it is certainly the most inaccurate and corrupt of all the ancient copies. In some passages emendations are attempted merely for the sake of harmony; in others, a word of an ancient cast is changed for one somewhat more modern; but most of the alterations seem to have been made, because the reviser did not understand the poet's meaning, and imagined he saw errours of the press, where in fact there were
Haply that name of chaste unhapp❜ly set
With pure aspécts did him peculiar duties.
Of this the reader will find instances in the course of the following notes; for the variations of the editions are constantly set down. I may also add, that this copy (which all the modern editions have followed) appears manifestly to have been printed from the edition in 1607, the most incorrect of all those that preceded, as being the most distant from the original, which there is reason to suppose was published under the author's immediate inspection. Had he undertaken the task of revising and correcting any part of his works, he would surely have made his own edition, and not a very inaccurate re-impression of it, the basis of his improvements.
The story on which this poem is formed, is related by Dion. Halicarnassensis, lib. iv. c. 72; by Livy, lib. i. c. 57, 58; and by Ovid, Fast. lib. ii, Diodorus Siculus and Dio Cassius have also related it. The historians differ in some minute particulars.
The Legend of Lucretia is found in Chaucer. In 1558 was entered on the Stationers' books, "A ballet called The grevious complaint of Lucrece," licensed to John Alde: and in 1569 was licensed to James Roberts, "A ballad of the death of Lucryssia." There was also a ballad of the legend of Lucrece, printed in 1576. Some of these, Mr. Warton thinks, probably suggested this story to our author. "Lucretia (he adds,) was the grand example of conjugal fidelity throughout the gothick ages."
Since the former edition, I have observed that Painter has inserted the story of Lucrece in the first volume of his Palace of Pleasure, 1567, on which I make no doubt our author formed his poem. This story is likewise told in Lydgate's Fall of Princes, book iii. ch. 5. MALONE.
all IN POST,] So, in Painter's Novel :-" Let us take our horse to prove which of oure wives doth surmount. Whereupon they roode to Rome in post." MALONE.
3- did not LET- -] Did not forbear. MALONE.
4 Where mortal STARS,] i. e. eyes. same allusion in A Midsummer-Night's Dream: who more engilds the night,
Than all yon firy o's and eyes of light."
Our author has the
For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
That kings, might be espoused to more fame,
O happiness enjoy'd but of a few!
Again, in Romeo and Juliet:
"At my poor house look to behold this night
5 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.] Thus the quarto 1594, and three subsequent editions. The octavo 1616 reads:
"But king nor prince to such a peerless dame."
The alteration in the first line was probably made in consequence of the editor's not being sufficiently conversant with Shakspeare's compounded words; (thus, in All's Well that Ends Well, we find high-repented blames; and in Twelfth-Night, highfantastical;) in the last, to avoid that jingle which the author seems to have considered as a beauty, or received as a fashion. MALONE.
6 - as soon decay'd and DONE-] Done is frequently used by our ancient writers in the sense of consumed. So, in Venus and Adonis, p. 56:
wasted, thaw'd, and done,
"As mountain snow melts with the mid-day sun."
7 As is the morning's silver-melting dew -] The octavo 1616, and the modern editions, read corruptedly :
As if the morning silver-melting dew." MALONE.
8 An expir'd date, cancel'd ere well begun :] Thus the quarto
Honour and beauty, in the owner's arms,
Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
1594, the editions of 1598, 1600, and 1607. That of 1616 reads, apparently for the sake of smoother versification:
"A date expir'd, and cancel'd ere begun."
Our author seems to have remembered Daniel's Complaint of Rosamond, 1592:
"Thou must not thinke thy flowre can always florish,
"But that those rayes which all these flames do nourish, "Cancell'd with time, will have their date expir'd." Again, in Pericles, Prince of Tyre:
"Diana's temple is not distant far,
"Where you may 'bide untill your date expire." MALONE. So, in Romeo and Juliet:
and expire the term
"Of a despised life." STEEVENS.
9 Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
The eyes of men without an orator;] So, Daniel, in his Rosamond, 1594.
whose power doth move the blood "More than the words or wisdom of the wise." Again, in The Martial Maid, by B. and Fletcher: silent orators, to move beyond
"The honey-tongued rhetorician." STEEVENS. 1 -why is Collatine the publisher
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
From thievish EARS, because it is his own?] Thus the old copy. The modern editions read:
"From thievish cares-." MALONE.
The conduct of Lucretia's husband is here made to resemble that of Posthumus in Cymbeline. The present sentiment occurs likewise in Much Ado About Nothing: The flat transgression of a school-boy; who being over-joyed with finding a bird's nest, shows it his companion, and he steals it." STEEVENS,