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A Lover's Complaint   By: (1564-1616)

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A LOVER'S COMPLAINT

by William Shakespeare

From off a hill whose concave womb re worded A plaintful story from a sistering vale, My spirits to attend this double voice accorded, And down I laid to list the sad tun'd tale; Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale, Tearing of papers, breaking rings a twain, Storming her world with sorrow's wind and rain.

Upon her head a platted hive of straw, Which fortified her visage from the sun, Whereon the thought might think sometime it saw The carcase of a beauty spent and done. Time had not scythed all that youth begun, Nor youth all quit; but, spite of Heaven's fell rage Some beauty peeped through lattice of sear'd age.

Oft did she heave her napkin to her eyne, Which on it had conceited characters, Laund'ring the silken figures in the brine That season'd woe had pelleted in tears, And often reading what contents it bears; As often shrieking undistinguish'd woe, In clamours of all size, both high and low.

Sometimes her levell'd eyes their carriage ride; As they did battery to the spheres intend; Sometime diverted their poor balls are tied To th' orbed earth; sometimes they do extend Their view right on; anon their gazes lend To every place at once, and nowhere fix'd, The mind and sight distractedly commix'd.

Her hair, nor loose nor tied in formal plat, Proclaim'd in her a careless hand of pride; For some, untuck'd, descended her sheav'd hat, Hanging her pale and pined cheek beside; Some in her threaden fillet still did bide, And, true to bondage, would not break from thence, Though slackly braided in loose negligence.

A thousand favours from a maund she drew Of amber, crystal, and of beaded jet, Which one by one she in a river threw, Upon whose weeping margent she was set; Like usury applying wet to wet, Or monarchs' hands, that lets not bounty fall Where want cries 'some,' but where excess begs all.

Of folded schedules had she many a one, Which she perus'd, sigh'd, tore, and gave the flood; Crack'd many a ring of posied gold and bone, Bidding them find their sepulchres in mud; Found yet mo letters sadly penn'd in blood, With sleided silk feat and affectedly Enswath'd, and seal'd to curious secrecy.

These often bath'd she in her fluxive eyes, And often kiss'd, and often 'gan to tear; Cried, 'O false blood, thou register of lies, What unapproved witness dost thou bear! Ink would have seem'd more black and damned here!' This said, in top of rage the lines she rents, Big discontent so breaking their contents.

A reverend man that grazed his cattle nigh, Sometime a blusterer, that the ruffle knew Of court, of city, and had let go by The swiftest hours, observed as they flew, Towards this afflicted fancy fastly drew; And, privileg'd by age, desires to know In brief, the grounds and motives of her woe.

So slides he down upon his grained bat, And comely distant sits he by her side; When he again desires her, being sat, Her grievance with his hearing to divide: If that from him there may be aught applied Which may her suffering ecstasy assuage, 'Tis promised in the charity of age.

'Father,' she says, 'though in me you behold The injury of many a blasting hour, Let it not tell your judgement I am old; Not age, but sorrow, over me hath power: I might as yet have been a spreading flower, Fresh to myself, if I had self applied Love to myself, and to no love beside.

'But woe is me! too early I attended A youthful suit (it was to gain my grace) Of one by nature's outwards so commended, That maiden's eyes stuck over all his face: Love lack'd a dwelling and made him her place; And when in his fair parts she did abide, She was new lodg'd and newly deified.

'His browny locks did hang in crooked curls; And every light occasion of the wind Upon his lips their silken parcels hurls. What's sweet to do, to do will aptly find: Each eye that saw him did enchant the mind; For on his visage was in little drawn, What largeness thinks in paradise was sawn.

'Small show of man was yet upon his chin; His phoenix down began but to appear, Like unshorn velvet, on that termless skin, Whose bare out bragg'd the web it seemed to wear: Yet show'd his visage by that cost more dear; And nice affections wavering stood in doubt If best were as it was, or best without... Continue reading book >>




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