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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

Beauty’s Epitome

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

From “As You Like It,” Act III. Scene 2

WHY should this a desert be?

For it is unpeopled? No;

Tongues I’ll hang on every tree,

That shall civil sayings show.

Some, how brief the life of man

Runs his erring pilgrimage;

That the stretching of a span

Buckles in his sum of age.

Some, of violated vows

’Twixt the souls of friend and friend:

But upon the fairest boughs,

Or at every sentence’ end,

Will I Rosalinda write,

Teaching all that read to know

The quintessence of every sprite

Heaven would in little show.

Therefore heaven nature charged

That one body should be filled

With all graces wide-enlarged:

Nature presently distilled

Helen’s cheek, but not her heart,

Cleopatra’s majesty,

Atalanta’s better part,

Sad Lucretia’s modesty.

Thus Rosalind of many parts

By heavenly synod was devised;

Of many faces, eyes, and hearts,

To have the touches dearest prized.

Heaven would that she these gifts should have,

And I to live and die her slave.