O, what a tangled web we weave

For whatever reason this line has been going through my mind this morning so I looked its provenance up. The main character is trying to manipulate someone into his bed.

This is extracted from the Project Gutenberg eBook

Marmion Canto Sixth

By Sir Walter Scott.




‘In brief, my lord, we both descried

(For then I stood by Henry’s side)

The Palmer mount, and outwards ride,

  Upon the Earl’s own favourite steed:

All sheathed he was in armour bright,                    

And much resembled that same knight,

Subdued by you in Cotswold fight:

  Lord Angus wish’d him speed.’–

The instant that Fitz-Eustace spoke,

A sudden light on Marmion broke;–                       

‘Ah! dastard fool, to reason lost!’

He mutter’d; ‘Twas nor fay nor ghost

I met upon the moonlight wold,

But living man of earthly mould.–

  O dotage blind and gross!                              

Had I but fought as wont, one thrust

Had laid De Wilton in the dust,

  My path no more to cross.–

How stand we now?–he told his tale

To Douglas; and with some avail;                        

  ‘Twas therefore gloom’d his rugged brow.–

Will Surrey dare to entertain,

‘Gainst Marmion, charge disproved and vain?

Small risk of that, I trow.

Yet Clare’s sharp questions must I shun;                 

Must separate Constance from the Nun–

O, what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practise to deceive!

A Palmer too!–no wonder why

I felt rebuked beneath his eye:                           

I might have known there was but one,

Whose look could quell Lord Marmion.’