-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.
Romeus and Juliet: Lines 155-308
The weary winter nights restore the Christmas games,
And now the season doth invite to banquet townish dames.
And first in Capel's house, the chief of all the kin
Spar'th for no cost, the wonted use of banquets to begin.
No lady fair or foul was in Verona town,
But Capulet himself hath bid unto his feast,
Or by his name in paper sent, appointed as a geast.
Young damsels thither flock, of bachelors a rout,
Not so much for the banquet's sake, as beauties to search out.
But not a Montague would enter at his gate,
(For as you heard, the Capulets and they were at debate)
Save Romeus, and he, in mask with hidden face,
The supper done, with other five did press into the place.
When they had masked awhile, with dames in courtly wise,
But bashful Romeus with shamefast face forsook,
The open press, and him withdrew into the chamber's nook.
But brighter than the sun, the waxen torches shone,
That maugre what he could, he was espied of everyone.
But of the women chief, their gazing eyes that threw,
To wonder at his sightly shape and beauty's spotless hue,
With which the heavens him had and nature so bedecked,
That ladies thought the fairest dames were foul in his respect.
And in their head beside, another wonder rose,
Of courage stout they thought his coming to proceed:
And women love an hardy heart, as I in stories read.
The Capulets disdain the presence of their foe,
Yet they suppress their stirréd ire, the cause I do not know:
Perhaps t'offend their guests the courteous knights are loth,
Perhaps they stay from sharp revenge, dreading the Prince's wroth.
Perhaps for that they shamed to exercise their rage
Within their house, 'gainst one alone, and him of tender age.
They use no taunting talk, ne harm him by their deed;
So that he freely might the ladies view at ease;
And they also beholding him, their change of fancies please;
Which Nature had him taught to do with such a grace,
That there was none but joyéd at his being there in place.
With upright beam he weighed the beauty of each dame,
And judged who best, and who next her, was wrought in Nature's frame.
At length he saw a maid, right fair, of perfect shape,
Which Theseus or Paris would have chosen to their rape.
Whom erst he never saw; of all she pleased him most;
Of perfect shape's renown, and beauty's sounding praise,
Whose like ne hath, ne shall be seen, ne liveth in our days."
And whilst he fixed on her his partial piercéd eye,
His former love, for which of late he ready was to die,
Is now as quite forgot, as it had never been:
The proverb saith, "Unminded oft are they that are unseen."
And as out of a plank a nail a nail doth drive,
So novel love out of the mind the ancient love doth rive.
This sudden kindled fire in time is wox so great,
When Romeus saw himself in this new tempest tossed,
Where both was hope of pleasant port, and danger to be lost,
He doubtful, scarcely knew what countenance to keep;
In Lethe's flood his wonted flames were quenched and drenchéd deep.
Yea, he forgets himself, ne is the wretch so bold
To ask her name, that without force hath him in bondage fold.
Ne how t'unloose his bonds doth the poor fool devise,
But only seeketh by her sight to feed his hungry eyes:
Through them he swalloweth down love's sweet impoisoned bait:
So is the poison spread throughout his bones and veins,
That in a while, alas, the while, it hasteth deadly pains.
Whilst Juliet, for so this gentle damsel hight,
From side to side on every one did cast about her sight:
At last her floating eyes were anchored fast on him,
Who for her sake did banish health and freedom from each limb.
He in her sight did seem to pass the rest as far
As Phoebus' shining beams do pass the brightness of a star.
In wait lay warlike Love with golden bow and shaft,
Till now she had escaped his sharp inflaming dart,
Till now he listed not assault her young and tender heart.
His whetted arrow loosed, so touched her to the quick,
That through the eye it strake the heart, and there the head did stick.
It booted not to strive, for why, she wanted strength;
The weaker aye unto the strong of force must yield, at length.
The pomps now of the feast her heart 'gins to despise;
And only joyeth when her eyne meet with her lover's eyes.
When their new smitten hearts had fed on loving gleams,
Each of these lovers 'gan by other's looks to know,
That friendship in their breast had root, and both would have it grow.
When thus in both their hearts had Cupid made his breach
And each of them had sought the mean to end the war by speech,
Dame Fortune did assent their purpose to advance,
With torch in hand a comely knight did fetch her forth to dance;
She quit herself so well, and with so trim a grace,
That she the chief praise won that night from all Verona race,
The whilst our Romeus a place had warely won,
Fair Juliet turned to her chair with pleasant cheer,
And glad she was her Romeus approachéd was so near.
At th' one side of her chair her lover Romeo,
And on the other side there sat one called Mercutio;
A courtier that each where was highly had in price,
For he was courteous of his speech, and pleasant of device.
Even as a lion would among the lambs be bold,
Such was among the bashful maids Mercutio to behold.
With friendly gripe he seized fair Juliet's snowish hand:
That frozen mountain ice was never half so cold,
As were his hands, though ne'er so near the fire he did them hold.
As soon as had the knight the virgin's right hand raught,
Within his trembling hand her left hath loving Romeus caught.
For he wist well himself for her abode most pain,
And well he wist she loved him best, unless she list to feign.
Then she with tender hand his tender palm hath pressed;
What joy, trow you, was grafféd so in Romeus' cloven breast
The sudden sweet delight hath stoppéd quite his tongue,
But she espied straightway, by changing of his hue
From pale to red, from red to pale, and so from pale anew,
That veh'ment love was cause, why so his tongue did stay,
And so much more she longed to hear what Love could teach him say.
When she had longéd long, and he long held his peace,
And her desire of hearing him, by silence did increase,
At last, with trembling voice and shamefast cheer, the maid
Unto her Romeus turned herself, and thus to him she said:
"O blessed be the time of thy arrival here":
And so within her mouth, her tongue he gluéd fast,
That no one word could 'scape her more than what already passed.
In great contented ease the young man straight is rapt:
"What chance," quoth he, "un'ware to me, O lady mine, is hapt,
That gives you worthy cause my coming here to bliss?"
Fair Juliet was come again unto herself by this:
First ruthfully she looked, then said with smiling cheer:
"Marvel no whit, my heart's delight, my only knight and fere,
Mercutio's icy hand had all-to frozen mine,
Whereto with stayéd brow, 'gan Romeus to reply:
"If so the gods have granted me such favour from the sky,
That by my being here some service I have done
That pleaseth you, I am as glad, as I a realm had won.
O well-bestowed time, that hath the happy hire,
Which I would wish, if I might have, my wished heart's desire.
For I of God would crave, as price of pains forepast,
To serve, obey, and honour you, so long as life shall last;
As proof shall teach you plain, if that you like to try
But if my touched hand have warmed yours some deal,
Assure yourself the heat is cold, which in your hand you feel,
Compared to such quick sparks and glowing furious glead,
As from your beauty's pleasant eyne, Love causéd to proceed;
Which have so set on fire each feeling part of mine,
That lo, my mind doth melt away, my outward parts do pine.
And but you help, all whole, to ashes shall I turn;
Wherefore, alas, have ruth on him, whom you do force to burn."