Examining the gold casket.
So may the outward shows be least themselves ,
The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damnèd error but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no voice so simple, but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts.
How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false
As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins
The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars,
Who, inward searched , have livers white as milk?
And these assume but Valour’s excrement
To render them redoubted. Look on beauty,
And you shall see ’tis purchased by the weight,
Which therein works a miracle in nature,
Making them lightest that wear most of it.
So are those crisped snaky golden locks
Which make such wanton gambols with the wind
Upon supposed fairness, often known
To be the dowry of a second head,
The skull that bred them in the sepulchre.
Thus ornament is but the guilèd shore
To a most dangerous sea, the beauteous scarf
Veiling an Indian beauty. In a word,
The seeming truth which cunning times put on
To entrap the wisest. Therefore then thou gaudy gold,
Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee.
Turning to the silver casket.
Nor none of thee thou pale and common drudge
’Tween man and man.
Picking up the lead casket.
But thou, thou meagre lead,
Which rather threat’nest than dost promise aught,
Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence,
And here choose I. Joy be the consequence!