Romeus and Juliet: Lines 2809-2914

  The news was by and by throughout the town dispread,
Both of the taking of the friar, and of the two found dead.
Thither might you have seen whole households forth to run,
For to the tomb where they did hear this wonder strange was done,
The great, the small, the rich, the poor, the young, the old,
With hasty pace do run to see, but rue when they behold.
And that the murtherers to all men might be known,
Like as the murder's bruit abroad through all the town was blown,
The prince did straight ordain, the corses that were found
Should be set forth upon a stage high raiséd from the ground,
Right in the selfsame form, showed forth to all men's sight,
That in the hollow vault they had been found that other night;
And eke that Romeus' man and Friar Laurence should
Be openly examinéd; for else the people would
Have murmuréd, or feigned there were some weighty cause
Why openly they were not called, and so convict by laws.
  The holy friar now, and reverent by his age,
In great reproach set to the show upon the open stage, --
A thing that ill beseemed a man of silver hairs, --
His beard as white as milk he bathes with great fast-falling tears:
Whom straight the dreadful judge commandeth to declare
Both, how this murther had been done, and who the murth'rers are;
For that he near the tomb was found at hours unfit,
And had with him those iron tools for such a purpose fit.
The friar was of lively sprite and free of speech,
The judge's words appalled him not, ne were his wits to seech,
But with advised heed a while first did he stay,
And then with bold assuréd voice aloud thus 'gan he say:
"My lords, there is not one among you, set together,
So that, affection set aside, by wisdom he consider
My former passéd life, and this my extreme age,
And eke this heavy sight, the wreak of frantic Fortune's rage,
But that, amazéd much, doth wonder at this change,
So great, so suddenly befall'n, unlooked for, and strange.
For I, that in the space of sixty years and ten,
Since first I did begin, too soon, to lead my life with men,
And with the world's vain things, myself I did acquaint,
Was never yet, in open place, at any time attaint
With any crime, in weight as heavy as a rush,
Ne is there any stander-by can make me guilty blush,
Although before the face of God, I do confess
Myself to be the sinfull'st wretch of all this mighty press.
When readiest I am and likeliest to make
My great accompt, which no man else for me shall undertake;
When worms, the earth, and death, do cite me every hour,
T'appear before the judgment seat of everlasting power,
And falling ripe, I step upon my grave's brink,
Even then, am I, most wretched wight, as each of you doth think,
Through my most heinous deed, with headlong sway thrown down,
In greatest danger of my life, and domage of renown.
The spring, whence in your head this new conceit doth rise,
And in your heart increaseth still your vain and wrong surmise,
May be the hugeness of these tears of mine, percase,
That so abundantly down fall by either side my face;
As though the memory in Scriptures were not kept
That Christ our Saviour himself for ruth and pity wept;
And more, whoso will read, y-written shall he find,
That tears are as true messengers of man's unguilty mind.
Or else, a liker proof, that I am in the crime,
You say these present irons are, and the suspected time;
As though all hours alike had not been made above!
Did Christ not say, the day had twelve -- whereby he sought to prove,
That no respect of hours ought justly to be had,
But at all times men have the choice of doing good or bad;
Even as the sprite of God the hearts of men doth guide,
Or as it leaveth them to stray from virtue's path aside.
As for the irons that were taken in my hand,
As now I deem, I need not seek to make ye understand
To what use iron first was made, when it began;
How of itself it helpeth not, ne yet can help a man.
The thing that hurteth is the malice of his will,
That such indifferent things is wont to use and order ill.
Thus much I thought to say, to cause you so to know
That neither these my piteous tears, though ne'er so fast they flow,
Ne yet these iron tools, nor the suspected time,
Can justly prove the murther done, or damn me of the crime:
No one of these hath power, ne power have all the three,
To make me other than I am, how so I seem to be.
But sure my conscience, if so my guilt deserve,
For an appeacher, witness, and a hangman, eke should serve;
For through mine age, whose hairs of long time since were hoar,
And credit great that I was in, with you, in time tofore,
And eke the sojourn short that I on earth must make,
That every day and hour do look my journey hence to take,
My conscience inwardly should more torment me thrice,
Than all the outward deadly pain that all you could devise.
But, God I praise, I feel no worm that gnaweth me,
And from remorse's pricking sting I joy that I am free:
I mean, as touching this, wherewith you troubled are,
Wherewith you should be troubled still, if I my speech should spare.
But to the end I may set all your hearts at rest,
And pluck out all the scruples that are rooted in your breast,
Which might perhaps henceforth, increasing more and more,
Within your conscience also increase your cureless sore,
I swear by yonder heavens, whither I hope to climb,
And for a witness of my words my heart attesteth Him,
Whose mighty hand doth wield them in their violent sway,
And on the rolling stormy seas the heavy earth doth stay,
That I will make a short and eke a true discourse
Of this most woeful tragedy, and show both th'end and source
Of their unhappy death, which you perchance no less
Will wonder at than they, alas, poor lovers in distress,
Tormented much in mind, not forcing lively breath,
With strong and patient heart did yield themself to cruel death:
Such was the mutual love wherein they burnéd both,
And of their promised friendship's faith so steady was the troth."

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