Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Othello’s Defence
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
(See full text.)

MOST potent, grave, and reverend signiors,
My very noble and approved good masters,
That I have ta’en away this old man’s daughter,
It is most true; true, I have married her;
The very head and front of my offending        5
Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech,
And little bless’d with the set phrase of peace.
For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith,
Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used
Their dearest action in the tented field:        10
And little of this great world can I speak,
More than pertains to feats of broil and battle;
And therefore little shall I grace my cause
In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,
I will a round unvarnished tale deliver        15
Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,
What conjuration, and what mighty magic,
(For such proceeding I am charged withal,)
I won his daughter with.
 
Her father loved me, oft invited me;        20
Still questioned me the story of my life,
From year to year; the battles, sieges, fortunes,
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days,
To the very moment that he bade me tell it:        25
Wherein I spoke of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents, by flood and field;
Of hairbreadth scapes in the imminent deadly breach;
Of being taken by the insolent foe,
And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence,        30
And portance in my travel’s history:
Wherein of antres vast, and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven,
It was my hint to speak, such was the process:
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,        35
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. These things to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline:
But still the house affairs would draw her thence;
Which ever as she could with haste despatch,        40
She’d come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse: which, I observing,
Took once a pliant hour, and found good means
To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart,
That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,        45
Whereof by parcels she had something heard,
But not intentively: I did consent;
And often did beguile her of her tears,
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffer’d. My story being done,        50
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore,—in faith, ’twas strange, ’twas passing strange;
’Twas pitiful, ’twas wondrous pitiful:
She wished she had not heard it; yet she wished
That heaven had made her such a man; she thank’d me;        55
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story,
And that would woo her. Upon this hint, I spake:
She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.        60
This only is the witchcraft I have used:
Here comes the lady, let her witness it.
 
 
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