But first I beg my pardon, the young lord
Did to his majesty, his mother and his lady
Offence of mighty note; but to himself
The greatest wrong of all. He lost a wife
Whose beauty did astonish the survey
Of richest eyes, whose words all ears took captive,
Whose dear perfection hearts that scorn’d to serve
Humbly call’d mistress.
Makes the remembrance dear. Well, call him hither;
We are reconciled, and the first view shall kill
All repetition: let him not ask our pardon;
The nature of his great offence is dead,
And deeper than oblivion we do bury
The incensing relics of it: let him approach,
A stranger, no offender; and inform him
So ‘tis our will he should.
I stuck my choice upon her, ere my heart
Durst make too bold a herald of my tongue
Where the impression of mine eye infixing,
Contempt his scornful perspective did lend me,
Which warp’d the line of every other favour;
Scorn’d a fair colour, or express’d it stolen;
Extended or contracted all proportions
To a most hideous object: thence it came
That she whom all men praised and whom myself,
Since I have lost, have loved, was in mine eye
The dust that did offend it.
That thou didst love her, strikes some scores away
From the great compt: but love that comes too late,
Like a remorseful pardon slowly carried,
To the great sender turns a sour offence,
Crying, “That’s good that’s gone.” Our rash faults
Make trivial price of serious things we have,
Not knowing them until we know their grave:
Oft our displeasures, to ourselves unjust,
Destroy our friends and after weep their dust
Our own love waking cries to see what’s done,
While shame full late sleeps out the afternoon.
Be this sweet Helen’s knell, and now forget her.
Send forth your amorous token for fair Maudlin:
The main consents are had; and here we’ll stay
To see our widower’s second marriage-day.
Must be digested, give a favour from you
To sparkle in the spirits of my daughter,
And every hair that’s on’t, Helen, that’s dead,
Was a sweet creature: such a ring as this,
The last that e’er I took her at court,
I saw upon her finger.
In Florence was it from a casement thrown me,
Wrapp’d in a paper, which contain’d the name
Of her that threw it: noble she was, and thought
I stood engaged: but when I had subscribed
To mine own fortune and inform’d her fully
I could not answer in that course of honour
As she had made the overture, she ceased
In heavy satisfaction and would never
Receive the ring again.
That knows the tinct and multiplying medicine,
Hath not in nature’s mystery more science
Than I have in this ring: ‘twas mine, ‘twas Helen’s,
Whoever gave it you. Then, if you know
That you are well acquainted with yourself,
Confess ‘twas hers, and by what rough enforcement
You got it from her: she call’d the saints to surety
That she would never put it from her finger,
Unless she gave it to yourself in bed,
Where you have never come, or sent it us
Upon her great disaster.
And makest conjectural fears to come into me
Which I would fain shut out. If it should prove
That thou art so inhuman,—’twill not prove so;—
And yet I know not: thou didst hate her deadly,
And she is dead; which nothing, but to close
Her eyes myself, could win me to believe,
More than to see this ring. Take him away.
My fore-past proofs, howe’er the matter fall,
Shall tax my fears of little vanity,
Having vainly fear’d too little. Away with him!
We’ll sift this matter further.
Whether I have been to blame or no, I know not:
Here’s a petition from a Florentine,
Who hath for four or five removes come short
To tender it herself. I undertook it,
Vanquish’d thereto by the fair grace and speech
Of the poor suppliant, who by this I know
Is here attending: her business looks in her
With an importing visage; and she told me,
In a sweet verbal brief, it did concern
Your highness with herself.
when his wife was dead, I blush to say it, he won
me. Now is the Count Rousillon a widower: his vows
are forfeited to me, and my honour’s paid to him. He
stole from Florence, taking no leave, and I follow
him to his country for justice: grant it me, O
king! in you it best lies; otherwise a seducer
flourishes, and a poor maid is undone.
He might have bought me at a common price:
Do not believe him. O, behold this ring,
Whose high respect and rich validity
Did lack a parallel; yet for all that
He gave it to a commoner o’ the camp,
And boarded her i’ the wanton way of youth:
She knew her distance and did angle for me,
Madding my eagerness with her restraint,
As all impediments in fancy’s course
Are motives of more fancy; and, in fine,
Her infinite cunning, with her modern grace,
Subdued me to her rate: she got the ring;
And I had that which any inferior might
At market-price have bought.
as I said; but more than that, he loved her: for
indeed he was mad for her, and talked of Satan and
of Limbo and of Furies and I know not what: yet I
was in that credit with them at that time that I
knew of their going to bed, and of other motions,
as promising her marriage, and things which would
derive me ill will to speak of; therefore I will not
speak what I know.
And he shall surety me. But for this lord,
Who hath abused me, as he knows himself,
Though yet he never harm’d me, here I quit him:
He knows himself my bed he hath defiled;
And at that time he got his wife with child:
Dead though she be, she feels her young one kick:
So there’s my riddle: one that’s dead is quick:
And now behold the meaning.
To make the even truth in pleasure flow.
If thou be’st yet a fresh uncropped flower,
Choose thou thy husband, and I’ll pay thy dower;
For I can guess that by thy honest aid
Thou keep’st a wife herself, thyself a maid.
Of that and all the progress, more or less,
Resolvedly more leisure shall express:
All yet seems well; and if it end so meet,
The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet.