A Letter sent from Octavia to her husband Marcus Antonius into AEgypt


Go thee (yet deere) though most disloyall Lord,
Whom impious loue keeps in a barbarous land,
Thy wronged wife Octauia sendeth word
Of th'vnkind wounds receiued by thy hand:
Great Antony , O let thine eyes afford
But to permit thy heart to vnderstand
The hurt thou dost, and doe but reade her teares,
That still is thine though thou wilt not be hers.


 Although perhaps, these my complaints may come
Whilst thou in th'armes of that incestuous Queene,
The staine of Ægypt, and the shame of Rome
Shalt dallying sit, and blush to haue them seene:
Whilst proud disdainfull she, gessing from whome
The message came, and what the cause hath beene,
Will scorning say, Faith this comes from your Deere,
Now Sir you must be shent for staying heere.


 From her indeede it comes, delitious Dame,
(Thou royall Concubine and Queene of lust)
Whose armes yet pure, whose breasts are voyde of blame,
And whose most lawfull flame proues thine vniust:
Tis she that sends the message of thy shame,
And his vntruth that hath betraid her trust:
Pardon, deare Lord, from her these sorrowes are,
Whose bed brings neither infamie nor warre.


 And therefore heare 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 neuer let in once a touch
Of least beleefe, till all confirm'd the fame:
That I was almost last that would belieue,
Because I knew me first that most must grieue.


 How oft haue poore abused I tooke part
With Falshood, onely for to make thee true?
How oft haue I argued against my heart,
Not suffering it to know that which it knew?
And for I would not haue thee what thou art,
I made my selfe, vnto my selfe vntrue:
So much my loue labour'd against my sinne,
To shut out feare which yet kept feare within.


 For I could neuer thinke th'aspiring mind
Of worthy and victorious Anthonie ,
Could be by such a Syren so declind,
As to be traind a prey to Luxury:
I could not thinke my Lord would be s'vnkind,
As to despise his Children, Rome and me:
But O how soone are they deceiu'd that trust,
And more their shame that will be so vniust.


 But now that certaine fame hath open laid
Thy new relapse, and strange reuolt from me,
Truth hath quite beaten all my hopes away,
And made the passage of my sorrowes free;
For now poore heart, there's nothing in the way
Remaines to stand betwixt Despaire and thee:
All is throwne downe, there comes no succours new,
It is most true, my Lord is most vntrue.


 And now I may with shame inough pull in
The colours I aduanced in his grace,
For that subduing powre, that him did win,
Hath lost me too, the honour of my face:
Yet why should I, bearing no part of sinne,
Beare such a mighty part of his disgrace?
Yet, though it be not mine, it is of mine:
And his renowne being clips'd, mine cannot shine.


 Which makes me, as I doe, hide from the eye
Of the misiudging vulgar that will deeme,
That sure there was in me some reason why
Which made thee thus, my bed to disesteeme:
So that alas, poore vndeseruing I,
A cause of thy vncleane deserts shall seeme,
Though lust takes neuer ioy in what is due,
But still leaues knowne delights to seeke out new.


 And yet my brother Cæsar laboured,
To haue me leaue thy house, and liue more free:
But God forbid Octauia should be led,
To leaue to liue in thine, though left by thee.
The pledges here of thy forsaken bed,
Are still the obiects that remember me
What Antony was once, although false now,
And is my Lord, though he neglect his vow.


 These walles that here doe keepe me out of sight,
Shall keepe me all vnspotted vnto thee,
And testifie that I will doe thee right;
Ile neuer staine thy house, though thou shame me:
The now sad Chamber of my once delight,
Shall be the Temple of my pietie,
Sacred vnto the faith I reuerence,
Where I will pay my teares for thy offence.


 Although my youth, thy absence, and this wrong
Might draw my bloud to forfeit vnto shame;
Nor neede I frustrate my delights so long,
That haue such meanes to carry so the same,
Since that the face of greatnesse is so strong,
As it dissolues suspect, and beares out blame;
Hauing all secret helpes that long thereto,
That seldome wants there aught, but will to do


 Which yet to doe, ere lust this heart shall frame,
Earth swallow me aliue, Hell rap me hence:
Shall I, because dispis'd, contemne my shame,
And adde disgrace to others impudence?
What can my powre, but giue more powre to fame?
Greatnesse must make it great incontinence:
Chambers are false, the bed and all will tell,
No doore keepes in their shame that doe not well.


 Hath greatnesse aught peculiar else alone,
But to stand faire and bright aboue the base?
What doth diuide the Cottage from the Throne,
If vice shall ioy both leuell with disgrace?
For if vncleannesse make them but all one,
What priuiledge hath Honour by his place?
What though our sinnes goe braue and better clad
They are as those in ragges, as base, as bad.


 I know not how, but wrongfully I know
Hath vndiscerning custome plac'd our kind
Vnder desert, and set vs farre below
The reputation to our sexe assign'd:
Charging our wrong reputed weaknesse, how
We are vnconstant, fickle, false, vnkinde:
And though our life with thousand proofes shewes no,
Yet since strength saies it, weakenesse must be so.


 Vnequall partage to b'allow'd no share
Of power to doe of lifes best benefit:
But stand, as if we interdicted were
Of vertue, action, liberty and might:
Must you haue all, and not vouchsafe to spare
Our weaknesse any int'rest of delight?
Is there no portion left for vs at all,
But sufferance, sorrow, ignorance and thrall?


 Thrice happy you, in whom it is no fault,
To know, to speake, to doe, and to be wise:
Whose words haue credit, and whose deedes, though naught,
Must yet be made to seeme farre otherwise:
You can be onely heard, whilst we are taught
To hold our peace, and not to exercise
The powers of our best parts, because your parts
Haue with our freedome robb'd vs of our harts.


 We, in this prison of our selues confin'd,
Must here shut vp with our owne passions liue,
Turn'd in vpon vs, and denied to find
The vent of outward meanes that might relieue:
That they alone must take vp all our mind,
And no room left vs, but to thinke and grieue:
Yet oft our narrowed thoughts looke more direct
Then your loose wisdomes born with wild neglect.


 For, should we to (as God forbid we should)
Carry no better hand on our desires
Then your strength doth, what int'rest could
Our wronged patience pay you for your hires?
What mixture of strange generations would
Succeede the fortunes of vncertaine Sires?
What soule confusion in your bloud and race
To your immortall shame and our disgrace?


 What? are there barres for vs, no bounds for you?
Must Leuitie stand sure, though Firmenesse fall?
And are you priuiledg'd to be vntrue,
And we no grant to be dispens'd withall?
Must we inuiolable keepe your due,
Both to your loue, and to your falshood thrall?
Whilst you haue stretch't your lust vpon your will,
As if your strength were licenc'd to doe ill.


 O if you be more strong, then be more iust,
Cleere this suspition, make not the world to doubt,
Whether in strong or weake be better trust,
If frailty or else valour be more stout:
And if we haue shut in our hearts from lust,
Let not your bad example let them out,
Thinke that there is like feeling in our bloud:
If you will haue vs good, be you then good.


 Is it, that loue doth take no true delight
In what it hath, but still in what it would,
Which drawes you on to doe vs this vnright,
Whilst feare in vs, of loosing what we hold,
Keepes vs in still to you, that set vs light,
So that, what you vnties, doth vs infolde?
Then Loue, tis thou that dost confound vs so,
To make our truth the occasion of our wo.


 Distressed woman kind, that either must
For louing loose your loues, or get neglect:
Whilst wantons are more car'd for then the iust,
And falshood cherisht, Faith without respect:
Better she fares in whom is lesse trust,
And more is lou'd that is in more suspect.
Which (pardon me) shewes no great strength of mind
To be most theirs, that vse you most vnkind


 Yet well it fits, for that sinne euer must
Be tortur'd with the racke of his owne frame;
For he that holdes no faith, shall find no trust,
But sowing wrong, is sure to reape the same:
How can he looke to haue his measure iust,
That fils deceit, and reckons not of shame,
And being not pleas'd with what he hath in lot,
Shall euer pine for that which he hath not?


 Yet if thou couldst not loue, thou mightst haue sem'd
Though to haue seem'd, had likewise beene vniust:
Yet so much are leane shewes of vs esteem'd,
That oft they seede, though not suffice our trust:
Because our nature grieueth to be deem'd
To be so wrong'd, although we be, and must,
And it's some ease yet to be kindly vs'd
In outward shew, though secretly abus'd.


 But woe to her that both in shew despis'd
And in effect disgrac'd, and left forlorne,
For whom no comforts are to be deuis'd,
Nor no new hopes can euermore be borne:
O Antony , could it not haue suffiz'd
That I was thine, but must be made her scorne
That enuies all her bloud, and doth deuide
Thee from thy selfe, onely to serue her pride?


 What fault haue I committed that should make
So great dislike of me and of my loue?
Or doth thy fault but an occasion take
For to dislike what most doth it reproue?
Because the conscience gladly would mistake
Her owne misdeeds which she would faine remoue;
And they that are vnwilling to amend,
Will take offence, because they will offend.


 Or hauing runne beyond all pardon quite,
They flie and ioyne with sinne as wholly his,
Making it now their side, their part, their right,
And to turne backe, would shew t'haue done amisse:
For now they thinke, not to be opposite
To what obraides their fault, were wickednesse:
So much doth folly thrust them into blame,
That euen to leaue off shame, they count it shame.


 Which doe not thou, deere Lord, for I doe not
Pursue thy fault, but sue for thy returne
Backe to thy selfe, whom thou hast both forgot
With me, poore me, that doth not spight, but mourne:
And if thou couldst as well amend thy blot
As I forgiue, these plaints had beene forborne:
And thou shouldst be the same vnto my hart
Which once thou were, not that which now thou art.


 Though deepe doth sit the hard recouering smart
Of that last wound (which God grant be the last)
And more doth touch that tender feeling part
Of my sad soule, then all th'vnkindnesse past:
And Antony , I appeale to thine owne hart,
(If th'heart which once was thine thou yet still hast)
To iudge if euer woman that did liue
Had iuster cause, then wretched I, to grieue.


 For comming vnto Athens , as I did,
Weary and weake with toyle, and all distrest,
After I had with sorrow compassed
A hard consent, to grant me that request:
And how my trauell was considered,
And all my care and cost, thy selfe knowes best:
That wouldst not moue one foote from lust for me,
That had left all was deere to come to thee.


 For first what great adoe had I to win
M'offended brother Cæsars backward will?
And praid, and wept, and cride to stay the sinne
Of ciuill rancor rising twixt you still:
For in what case shall wretched I be in,
Set twixt both, to share with both your ill?
My bloud said I with either of you goes,
Who euer win, I shall be sure to lose.


 For what shame should such mighty persons get,
For two weake womens cause to disagree?
Nay, what shall I that shall be deem'd to set
Th'inkindled fire, seeming inflam'd for me?
O if I be the motiue of this heate,
Let these vnguilty hands the quenchers be,
And let me trudge to mediate an accord,
The agent twixt my brother and my Lord.


 With prayers, vowes and teares, with vrging hard
I wrung from him a slender grant at last,
And with the rich prouisions I prepar'd
For thy (intended Parthian warre) made haste,
Weighing not how my poore weake body far'd,
But all the tedious difficulties past:
And came to Athens ; whence I Niger sent,
To shew thee of my comming and intent.


 Whereof, when he had made relation,
I was commanded to approach no neare;
Then sent I backe, 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 soule, to thinke yet what we were,
Th'inchantresse strait stept twixt thy heart and thee,
And intercepts all thoughts that came of mee.


 She armes her teares, the ingins of deceit
And all her batterie, to oppose my loue,
And bring thy comming grace to a retreit,
The powre of all her subtilty to proue:
Now pale and faint she languishes, and strait
Seemes in a sound, vnable more to moue:
Whilst her instructed fellowes ply thine eares
With forged passions, mixt with fained teares.


 Hard-hearted Lord, say they, how canst thou see
This mighty Queene, a creature so diuine
Lie thus distrest, and languishing for thee,
And onely wretched, but for being thine?
Whilst base Octauia must intitled be
Thy wise, and she esteem'd thy Concubine:
Aduance thy heart, raise it vnto his right,
And let a Scepter baser passions quit.


 Thus they assaile thy natures weakest side,
And worke vpon th'aduantage of thy minde,
Knowing where iudgement stood least fortified,
And how t'incounter folly in her kinde:
But yet the while, O what dost thou abide,
Who in thy selfe such wrastling thoughts dost finde?
In what confused case is thy soule in,
Rackt betwixt pitty, sorrow, shame and sin?


 I cannot tell, but sure I dare beleeue
My trauels needs must some compassion moue:
For no such locke to bloud could Nature giue
To shut out Pitty, though it shut out Loue:
Conscience must leaue a little way to grieue
To let in horror comming to reproue
The guilt of thine offence that caus'd the same,
For deepest wounds the hand of our owne shame.


 Neuer haue vniust pleasures beene compleete,
In ioyes intire, but still feare kept the dore,
And held backe something from that full of sweete,
To intersowre vnsure delights the more:
For neuer did all circumstances meete
With those desires which were conceiu'd before:
Some thing must still be left to checke our sinne,
And giue a touch of what should not haue bin.


 Wretched Mankinde, wherfore hath nature made
The lawfull vndelightfull, th'vniust shame?
As if our pleasure onely were forbade,
But to giue fire to lust, t'adde greater flame;
Or else, but as ordained more to lade
Our heart with passions to confound the same;
Which though it be, yet adde not worse to ill,
Do, as the best men do, bound thine owne will.


 Redeeme thy selfe, and now at length make peace
With thy diuided heart opprest with toile:
Breake vp this warre, this brest-dissention cease,
Thy passions to thy passions reconcile:
I do not onely seeke my good t'increase,
But thine owne ease, and liberty: the while
Thee in the circuit of thy selfe confine,
And be thine owne, and then thou wilt be mine.


 I know my pittied loue, doth aggrauate
Enuy and Wrath for these wrongs offered:
And that my suffrings adde with my estate,
Coales in thy bosome, hatred on thy head:
Yet is not that, my fault, but, my hard fate,
Who rather wish to haue beene vnpitied
Of all but thee, then that my loue should be
Hurtfull to him that is so deere to me.


 Cannot the busie world let me alone,
To beare alone the burthen of my griefe,
But they must intermeddle with my mone,
And seeke t'offend me with vnsought reliefe?
Whilst my afflictions labour to moue none
But onely thee, must Pitty play the thiefe,
To steale so many hearts to hurt my hart,
And moue a part against my deerest part?


 Yet all this shall not preiudice my Lord,
If yet he will but make returne at last;
His sight shall raze out of the sad record
Of my inrowled griefe all that is past:
And I will not so much as once afford
Place for a thought to thinke I was disgrac'd:
And pitty shall bring backe againe with me
Th'offended harts that haue forsaken thee.


 And therefore come deere Lord, left longer stay
Do arme against thee all the powres of spight,
And thou be made at last the wofull pray
Of full inkindled wrath, and ruin'd quite:
But what presaging thought of bloud doth stay
My trembling hand, and doth my soule affright?
What horror do I see, prepar'd t'attend
Th'euent of this? what end vnlesse thou end?


 With what strange formes and shadowes ominous
Did my last sleepe, my grieu'd soule intertaine?
I dreamt, yee O dreames are but friuolous,
And yet Ile tell it, and God grant it vaine.
Me thought a mighty Hippopotamus
From Nilus floating, thrusts into the maine,
Vpon whose backe, a wanton Mermaide sate,
As if she rul'd his course, and steer'd his fate.


 With whom t'incounter, forth another makes,
Alike in kind, of strength and powre as good:
At whose ingrappling, Neptunes mantle takes
A purple colour, dyde with streames of bloud;
Whereat this looker on amaz'd, forsakes
Her Champion there, who yet the better stood:
But se'ing her gone, strait after her he hies,
As if his heart and strength lay in her eyes.


 On followes Wrath vpon Disgrace and Feare,
Whereof th'euent forsooke me with the night
But my wak'd cares, gaue me: these shadowes were
Drawne but from darkenesse to instruct the light
These secret figures, natures message beare
Of comming woes, were they desciphered right;
But if as cloudes of sleepe thou shalt them take,
Yet credite Wrath and Spight that are awake.


Preuent, great spirit, the tempests that begin,
If Lust and thy Ambition haue left way
But to looke out, and haue not shut all in,
To stop thy iudgement from a true suruay
Of thy estate, and let my hart within
Consider in what danger thou dost lay
Thy life and mine, to leaue the good thou hast,
To follow hopes with shadowes ouercast.


 Come, come away from wrong, from craft, from toile,
Possesse thine owne with right, with trueth, with peace:
Breake from these snares, thy iudgment vnbeguile,
Free thine owne torment, and my griefe release.
But whither am I carried all this while
Beyond my scope, and know not when to cease?
Words still with my increasing sorrowes grow:
I know t'haue said too much, but not enow.
 Wherefore no more, but onely I commend
 To thee the hart that's thine, and so I end.
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