Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A LETTER SENT FROM OCTAVIA TO HER HUSBAND MARCUS ANTONIUS INTO EGYPT, by SAMUEL DANIEL



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A LETTER SENT FROM OCTAVIA TO HER HUSBAND MARCUS ANTONIUS INTO EGYPT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: To thee, yet dear though most disloyal lord
Last Line: To thee the heart that's thine, and so I end.
Subject(s): Egypt; Letters; Love; Marriage; Roman Empire; Women; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


1

To thee, yet dear though most disloyal lord,
Whom impious love keeps in a barb'rous land,
Thy wronged wife Octavia sendeth word
Of th' unkind wounds received by thy hand.
Great Antony, O let thine eyes afford
But to permit thy heart to understand
The hurt thou dost, and do but read her tears,
That still is thine, though thou wilt not be hers.

2

Although perhaps these my complaints may come
Whilst thou in th' arms of that incestuous queen,
The stain of Egypt and the shame of Rome,
Shalt dallying sit, and blush to have them seen;
Whilst proud disdainful she, guessing from whom
The message came, and what the cause hath been,
Will scorning say, "Faith, this comes from your dear;
Now, sir, you must be shent for staying here."

3

From her indeed it comes, delicious dame,
(Thou royal concubine and queen of lust)
Whose arms yet pure, whose breasts are void of blame,
And whose most lawful flame proves thine unjust;
'Tis she that sends the message of thy shame,
And his untruth that hath betrayed her trust.
Pardon, dear lord, from her these sorrows are
Whose bed brings neither infamy nor war.

4

And therefore hear her words, that too too much
Hath heard the wrongs committed by thy shame,
Although at first my trust in thee was such
As it held out against the strongest fame.
My heart would never let in once a touch
Of least belief till all confirmed the same;
That I was almost last that would believe,
Because I knew me first that most must grieve.

5

How oft have poor abused I took part
With falsehood only for to make thee true!
How oft have I argued against my heart,
Not suff'ring it to know that which it knew!
And for I would not have thee what thou art,
I made myself unto myself untrue:
So much my love labored against thy sin
To shut out fear, which yet kept fear within.

6

For I could never think th' aspiring mind
Of worthy and victorious Antony
Could be by such a siren so declined
As to be trained a prey to luxury;
I could not think my lord would be so'unkind
As to despise his children, Rome, and me.
But oh, how soon are they deceived that trust!
And more their shame, that will be so unjust.

7

But now that certain fame hath open laid
Thy new relapse and strange revolt from me,
Truth hath quite beaten all my hopes away,
And made the passage of my sorrows free;
For now, poor heart, there's nothing in the way
Remains to stand betwixt despair and thee;
All is thrown down, there comes no succors new:
It is most true my lord is most untrue.

8

And now I may with shame enough pull in
The colors I advanced in his grace,
For that subduing power that him did win
Hath lost me too the honor of my face.
Yet why should I, bearing no part of sin,
Bear such a mighty part of his disgrace?
Yes, though it be not mine, it is of mine,
And his renown being 'clipsed, mine cannot shine.

9

Which makes me (as I do) hide from the eye
Of the misjudging vulgar, that will deem
That sure there was in me some reason why
Which made thee thus my bed to disesteem;
So that, alas, poor undeserving I
A cause of thy unclean deserts shall seem,
Though lust takes never joy in what is due,
But still leaves known delights to seek out new.

10

And yet my brother Caesar labored
To have me leave thy house and live more free;
But God forbid Octavia should be led
To leave to live in thine, though left by thee.
The pledges here of thy forsaken bed
Are still the objects that remember me
What Antony was once, although false now,
And is my lord, though he neglect his vow.

11

These walls that here do keep me out of sight
Shall keep me all unspotted unto thee,
And testify that I will do thee right;
I'll never stain thy house, though thou shame me.
The now sad chamber of my once delight
Shall be the temple of my piety,
Sacred unto the faith I reverence,
Where I will pay my tears for thy offense.

12

Although my youth, thy absence, and this wrong
Might draw my blood to forfeit unto shame,
Nor need I frustrate my delights so long,
That have such means to carry so the same;
Since that the face of greatness is so strong
As it dissolves suspect and bears out blame,
Having all secret helps that long thereto,
That seldom wants there ought but will to do;

13

Which yet to do, ere lust this heart shall frame,
Earth swallow me alive, hell rap me hence;
Shall I, because despised, contemn my shame,
And add disgrace to others' impudence?
What can my power but give more power to fame?
Greatness must make it great incontinence.
Chambers are false, the bed and all will tell;
No door keeps in their shame that do not well.

14

Hath greatness ought peculiar else alone
But to stand fair and bright above the base?
What doth divide the cottage from the throne
If vice shall lay both level with disgrace?
For if uncleanness make them but all one,
What privilege hath honor by his place?
What though our sins go brave and better clad,
They are as those in rags, as base, as bad.

15

I know not how, but wrongfully I know,
Hath undiscerning custom placed our kind
Under desert, and set us far below
The reputation to our sex assigned,
Charging our wrong-reputed weakness, how
We are unconstant, fickle, false, unkind;
And though our life with thousand proofs shows no,
Yet since strength says it, weakness must be so.

16

Unequal partage, to be'allowed no share
Of power to do of life's best benefit,
But stand as if we interdicted were
Of virtue, action, liberty, and might!
Must you have all, and not vouchsafe to spare
Our weakness any int'rest of delight?
Is there no portion left for us at all,
But suff'rance, sorrow, ignorance, and thrall?

17

Thrice happy you, in whom it is no fault
To know, to speak, to do, and to be wise;
Whose words have credit, and whose deeds, though naught,
Must yet be made to seem far otherwise.
You can be only heard, whilst we are taught
To hold our peace, and not to exercise
The powers of our best parts, because your parts
Have with our freedom robbed us of our hearts.

18

We, in this prison of ourselves confined,
Must here shut up with our own passions live
Turned in upon us, and denied to find
The vent of outward means that might relieve;
That they alone must take up all our mind,
And no room left us but to think and grieve.
Yet oft our narrowed thoughts look more direct
Than your loose wisdoms borne with wild neglect.

19

For should we to (as God forbid we should)
Carry no better hand on our desires
Than your strength doth, what int'rest could
Our wronged patience pay you for your hires?
What mixture of strange generations would
Succeed the fortunes of uncertain sires?
What foul confusion in your blood and race,
To your immortal shame and our disgrace?

20

What, are there bars for us, no bounds for you?
Must levity stand sure, though firmness fall?
And are you privileged to be untrue,
And we no grant to be dispensed withal?
Must we inviolable keep your due,
Both to your love and to your falsehood thrall,
Whilst you have stretched your lust unto your will,
As if your strength were licensed to do ill?

21

Oh, if you be more strong, then be more just,
Clear this suspicion, make not the world to doubt
Whether in strong or weak be better trust,
If frailty or else valor be more stout.
And if we have shut in our hearts from lust,
Let not your bad example let them out;
Think that there is like feeling in our blood;
If you will have us good, be you then good.

22

Is it that love doth take no true delight
In what it hath, but still in what it would,
Which draws you on to do us this unright,
Whilst fear in us of losing what we hold
Keeps us in still to you that set us light,
So that what you unties doth us enfold?
Then love, 'tis thou that dost confound us so,
To make our truth th' occasion of our woe.

23

Distressed womankind! that either must
For loving lose your loves, or get neglect;
Whilst wantons are more cared for than the just,
And falsehood cherished, faith without respect.
Better she fares in whom is lesser trust,
And more is loved that is in more suspect.
Which (pardon me) shows no great strength of mind,
To be most theirs that use you most unkind.

24

Yet well it fits, for that sin ever must
Be tortured with the rack of his own frame;
For he that holds no faith shall find no trust,
But sowing wrong is sure to reap the same.
How can he look to have his measure just,
That fills deceit and reckons not of shame,
And being not pleased with what he hath in lot,
Shall ever pine for that which he hath not?

25

Yet if thou couldst not love, thou mightst have seemed,
Though to have seemed had likewise been unjust;
Yet so much are lean shows of us esteemed
That oft they feed, though not suffice, our trust,
Because our nature grieveth to be deemed
To be so wronged, although we be, and must;
And it's some ease yet to be kindly used
In outward show, though secretly abused.

26

But woe to her that both in show despised
And in effect disgraced and left forlorn,
For whom no comforts are to be devised,
Nor no new hopes can evermore be borne.
O Antony! could it not have sufficed
That I was thine, but must be made her scorn
That envies all our blood, and doth divide
Thee from thyself, only to serve her pride?

27

What fault have I committed that should make
So great dislike of me and of my love?
Or doth thy fault but an occasion take
For to dislike what most doth it reprove?
Because the conscience gladly would mistake
Her own misdeeds, which she would fain remove;
And they that are unwilling to amend
Will take offense because they will offend;

28

Or having run beyond all pardon quite,
They fly and join with sin as wholly his,
Making it now their side, their part, their right,
And to turn back would show t' have done amiss;
For now they think, not to be opposite
To what upbraids their fault were wickedness;
So much doth folly thrust them into blame,
That ev'n to leave off shame they count it shame.

29

Which do not thou, dear lord, for I do not
Pursue thy fault but sue for thy return
Back to thyself, whom thou hast both forgot
With me, poor me, that doth not spite but mourn.
And if thou couldst as well amend thy blot
As I forgive, these plaints had been forborne;
And thou shouldst be the same unto my heart
Which once thou were, not that which now thou art;

30

Though deep doth sit the hard-recov'ring smart
Of that last wound (which God grant be the last),
And more doth touch that tender feeling part
Of my sad soul than all th' unkindness past.
And, Antony, I'appeal to thine own heart
(If th' heart which once was thine thou yet still hast)
To judge if ever woman that did live
Had juster cause than wretched I to grieve.

31

For coming unto Athens, as I did,
Weary and weak with toil, and all distressed,
After I had with sorrow compassed
A hard consent to grant me that request;
And how my travail was considered,
And all my care and cost, thyself knows best,
That wouldst not move one foot from lust for me,
That had left all was dear to come to thee.

32

For first what great ado had I to win
My'offended brother Caesar's backward will!
And prayed, and wept, and cried, to stay the sin
Of civil rancor rising 'twixt you still.
For in what case shall wretched I be in,
Set betwixt both, to share with both your ill?
"My blood," said I, "with either of you goes;
Whoever win, I shall be sure to lose.

33

"For what shame should such mighty persons get,
For two weak women's cause to disagree?
Nay, what shall I that shall be deemed to set
Th' enkindled fire, seeming inflamed for me?
Oh, if I be the motive of this heat,
Let these unguilty hands the quenchers be;
And let me trudge to mediate an accord,
The agent 'twixt my brother and my lord."

34

With prayers, vows, and tears, with urging hard,
I wrung from him a slender grant at last,
And with the rich provisions I prepared
For thy intended Parthian war, made haste,
Weighing not how my poor weak body fared,
And all the tedious difficulties past;
And came to Athens, whence I Niger sent
To show thee of my coming and intent.

35

Whereof when he had made relation,
I was commanded to approach no near;
Then sent I back to know what should be done
With th' horse, and men, and money I had there.
Whereat, perhaps when some remorse begun
To touch thy soul to think yet what we were,
Th' enchantress straight steps 'twixt thy heart and thee,
And intercepts all thoughts that came of me.

36

She arms her tears -- the engines of deceit --
And all her batt'ry to oppose my love,
And bring thy coming grace to a retreat,
The power of all her subtlety to prove.
Now pale and faint she languishes, and straight
Seems in a sound, unable more to move;
Whilst her instructed followers ply thine ears
With forged passions, mixed with feigned tears.

37

"Hard-hearted lord," say they, "how canst thou see
This mighty queen, a creature so divine,
Lie thus distressed and languishing for thee,
And only wretched but for being thine,
Whilst base Octavia must entitled be
Thy wife, and she esteemed thy concubine?
Advance thy heart, raise it unto his right,
And let a scepter baser passions quite."

38

Thus they assail thy nature's weakest side,
And work upon th' advantage of thy mind,
Knowing where judgment stood least fortified,
And how t' encounter folly in her kind.
But yet the while, oh, what dost thou abide,
Who in thyself such wrestling thoughts dost find?
In what confused case is thy soul in,
Racked betwixt pity, sorrow, shame, and sin?

39

I cannot tell, but sure I dare believe
My travails needs must some compassion move;
For no such lock to blood could nature give
To shut out pity, though it shut out love.
Conscience must leave a little way to grieve,
To let in horror coming to reprove
The guilt of thy offense that caused the same;
For deepest wounds the hand of our own shame.

40

Never have unjust pleasures been complete
In joys entire, but still fear kept the door,
And held back something from that full of sweet
To intersour unsure delights the more;
For never did all circumstances meet
With those desires which were conceived before;
Something must still be left to check our sin,
And give a touch of what should not have been.

41

Wretched mankind, wherefore hath nature made
The lawful undelightful, th' unjust shame?
As if our pleasure only were forbade
But to give fire to lust, t' add greater flame;
Or else but as ordained more to lade
Our heart with passions to confound the same.
Which though it be, yet add not worse to ill,
Do, as the best men do, bound thine own will.

42

Redeem thyself, and now at length make peace
With thy divided heart oppressed with toil;
Break up this war, this breast-dissension cease,
Thy passions to thy passions reconcile.
I do not only seek my good t' increase,
But thine own ease and liberty the while.
Thee in the circuit of thyself confine,
And be thine own, and then thou wilt be mine.

43

I know my pitied love doth aggravate
Envy and wrath for these wrongs offered;
And that my suff'rings add with my estate
Coals in thy bosom, hatred on thy head.
Yet is not that my fault, but my hard fate,
Who rather wish t' have been unpitied
Of all but thee, than that my love should be
Hurtful to him that is so dear to me.

44

Cannot the busy world let me alone
To bear alone the burden of my grief,
But they must intermeddle with my moan,
And seek t' offend me with unsought relief?
Whilst my afflictions labored to move none
But only thee, must pity play the thief,
To steal so many hearts to hurt my heart,
And move a part against my dearest part?

45

Yet all this shall not prejudice my lord,
If yet he will but make return at last;
His sight shall raze out of the sad record
Of my enrolled grief all that is past;
And I will not so much as once afford
Place for a thought to think I was disgraced;
And pity shall bring back again with me
Th' offended hearts that have forsaken thee.

46

And therefore come, dear lord, lest longer stay
Do arm against thee all the powers of spite,
And thou be made at last the woeful prey
Of full-enkindled wrath, and ruined quite.
But what presaging thought of blood doth stay
My trembling hand, and doth my soul affright?
What horror do I see, prepared t' attend
Th' event of this? what end unless thou end?

47

With what strange forms and shadows ominous
Did my last sleep my grieved soul entertain!
I dreamed -- yet, oh, dreams are but frivolous,
And yet I'll tell it, and God grant it vain.
Methought a mighty hippopotamus,
From Nilus floating, thrusts into the main,
Upon whose back a wanton mermaid sat,
As if she ruled his course, and steered his fate.

48

With whom t' encounter forth another makes,
Alike in kind, of strength and power as good;
At whose engrappling, Neptune's mantle takes
A purple color, dyed with streams of blood;
Whereat this looker-on, amazed, forsakes
Her champion there, who yet the better stood;
But seeing her gone, straight after her he hies,
As if his heart and strength lay in her eyes.

49

On follows wrath upon disgrace and fear,
Whereof th' event forsook me with the night;
But my waked cares gave me these shadows were
Drawn but from darkness to instruct the light;
These secret figures nature's message bear
Of coming woes, were they deciphered right.
But if as clouds of sleep thou shalt them take,
Yet credit wrath and spite that are awake.

50

Prevent, great spirit, the tempests that begin,
If lust and thy ambition have left way
But to look out, and have not shut all in,
To stop thy judgment from a true survey
Of thy estate; and let thy heart within
Consider in what danger thou dost lay
Thy life and mine, to leave the good thou hast
To follow hopes with shadows overcast.

51

Come, come away from wrong, from craft, from toil;
Possess thine own with right, with truth, with peace;
Break from these snares, thy judgment unbeguile,
Free thine own torment, and my grief release.
But whither am I carried all this while,
Beyond my scope, and know not when to cease?
Words still with my increasing sorrows grow;
I know t' have said too much, but not enow.
Wherefore no more, but only I commend
To thee the heart that's thine, and so I end.





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