Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
Fowre Hymnes
An Hymne in Honour of Beautie
 
AH! whither, Love, wilt thou now carrie mee?
What wontlesse fury dost thou now inspire
Into my feeble breast, too full of thee?
Whylest seeking to aslake thy raging fyre,
Thou in me kindlest much more great desyre,        5
And up aloft above my strength doest rayse
The wondrous matter of my fyre to prayse.
 
That as I earst in praise of thine owne name,
So now in honour of thy mother deare,
An honourable hymne I eke should frame,        10
And with the brightnesse of her beautie cleare,
The ravisht harts of gazefull men might reare
To admiration of that heavenly light,
From whence proceeds such soule enchaunting might.
 
Therto do thou, great goddesse, Queene of Beauty,        15
Mother of Love, and of all worlds delight,
Without whose soverayne grace and kindly dewty
Nothing on earth seemes fayre to fleshly sight,
Doe thou vouchsafe with thy love-kindling light
T’ illuminate my dim and dulled eyne,        20
And beautifie this sacred hymne of thyne.
 
That both to thee, to whom I meane it most,
And eke to her, whose faire immortall beame
Hath darted fyre into my feeble ghost,
That now it wasted is with woes extreame,        25
It may so please that she at length will streame
Some deaw of grace into my withered hart,
After long sorrow and consuming smart.
 
WHAT time this worlds great workmaister did cast
To make al things such as we now behold,        30
It seemes that he before his eyes had plast
A goodly paterne, to whose perfect mould
He fashiond them as comely as he could,
That now so faire and seemely they appeare
As nought may be amended any wheare.        35
 
That wondrous paterne, wheresoere it bee,
Whether in earth layd up in secret store,
Or else in heaven, that no man may it see
With sinfull eyes, for feare it to deflore,
Is perfect Beautie, which all men adore;        40
Whose face and feature doth so much excell
All mortall sence, that none the same may tell.
 
Thereof as every earthly thing partakes
Or more or lesse, by influence divine,
So it more faire accordingly it makes,        45
And the grosse matter of this earthly myne,
Which clotheth it, thereafter doth refyne,
Doing away the drosse which dims the light
Of that faire beame which therein is empight.
 
For through infusion of celestiall powre        50
The duller earth it quickneth with delight,
And life-full spirits privily doth powre
Through all the parts, that to the lookers sight
They seeme to please. That is thy soveraine might,
O Cyprian queene, which, flowing from the beame        55
Of thy bright starre, thou into them doest streame.
 
That is the thing which giveth pleasant grace
To all things faire, that kindleth lively fyre,
Light of thy lampe, which, shyning in the face,
Thence to the soule darts amorous desyre,        60
And robs the harts of those which it admyre;
Therewith thou pointest thy sons poysned arrow,
That wounds the life, and wastes the inmost marrow.
 
How vainely then doe ydle wits invent
That Beautie is nought else but mixture made        65
Of colours faire, and goodly temp’rament
Of pure complexions, that shall quickly fade
And passe away, like to a sommers shade,
Or that it is but comely composition
Of parts well measurd, with meet disposition!        70
 
Hath white and red in it such wondrous powre,
That it can pierce through th’ eyes unto the hart,
And therein stirre such rage and restlesse stowre,
As nought but death can stint his dolours smart?
Or can proportion of the outward part        75
Move such affection in the inward mynd,
That it can rob both sense, and reason blynd?
 
Why doe not then the blossomes of the field,
Which are arayd with much more orient hew,
And to the sense most daintie odours yield,        80
Worke like impression in the lookers vew?
Or why doe not faire pictures like powre shew,
In which oftimes we Nature see of Art
Exceld, in perfect limming every part?
 
But ah! beleeve me, there is more then so,        85
That workes such wonders in the minds of men.
I, that have often prov’d, too well it know;
And who so list the like assayes to ken
Shall find by tryall, and confesse it then,
That Beautie is not, as fond men misdeeme,        90
An outward shew of things that onely seeme.
 
For that same goodly hew of white and red,
With which the cheekes are sprinckled, shal decay,
And those sweete rosy leaves, so fairely spred
Upon the lips, shall fade and fall away        95
To that they were, even to corrupted clay.
That golden wyre, those sparckling stars so bright
Shall turne to dust, and loose their goodly light.
 
But that faire lampe, from whose celestiall ray
That light proceedes which kindleth lovers fire,        100
Shall never be extinguisht nor decay;
But when the vitall spirits doe expyre,
Unto her native planet shall retyre;
For it is heavenly borne, and can not die,
Being a parcell of the purest skie.        105
 
For when the soule, the which derived was,
At first, out of that great immortall Spright,
By whom all live to love, whilome did pas
Downe from the top of purest heavens hight,
To be embodied here, it then tooke light        110
And lively spirits from that fayrest starre,
Which lights the world forth from his firie carre.
 
Which powre retayning still, or more or lesse,
When she in fleshly seede is eft enraced,
Through every part she doth the same impresse,        115
According as the heavens have her graced,
And frames her house, in which she will be placed,
Fit for her selfe, adorning it with spoyle
Of th’ heavenly riches which she robd erewhyle.
 
Thereof it comes that these faire soules, which have        120
The most resemblance of that heavenly light,
Frame to themselves most beautifull and brave
Their fleshly bowre, most fit for their delight,
And the grosse matter by a soveraine might
Tempers so trim, that it may well be seene        125
A pallace fit for such a virgin queene.
 
So every spirit, as it is most pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
So it the fairer bodie doth procure
To habit in, and it more fairely dight        130
With chearefull grace and amiable sight.
For of the soule the bodie forme doth take:
For soule is forme, and doth the bodie make.
 
Therefore, where ever that thou doest behold
A comely corpse, with beautie faire endewed,        135
Know this for certaine, that the same doth hold
A beauteous soule, with faire conditions thewed,
Fit to receive the seede of vertue strewed.
For all that faire is, is by nature good;
That is a signe to know the gentle blood.        140
 
Yet oft it falles that many a gentle mynde
Dwels in deformed tabernacle drownd,
Either by chaunce, against the course of kynd,
Or through unaptnesse in the substance fownd,
Which it assumed of some stubborne grownd,        145
That will not yield unto her formes direction,
But is deform’d with some foule imperfection.
 
And oft it falles (ay me, the more to rew!)
That goodly Beautie, albe heavenly borne,
Is foule abusd, and that celestiall hew,        150
Which doth the world with her delight adorne,
Made but the bait of sinne, and sinners scorne;
Whilest every one doth seeke and sew to have it,
But every one doth seeke but to deprave it.
 
Yet nathemore is that faire Beauties blame,        155
But theirs that do abuse it unto ill:
Nothing so good, but that through guilty shame
May be corrupt, and wrested unto will.
Nathelesse the soule is faire and beauteous still,
How ever fleshes fault it filthy make:        160
For things immortall no corruption take.
 
But ye, faire dames, the worlds deare ornaments,
And lively images of heavens light,
Let not your beames with such disparagements
Be dimd, and your bright glorie darkned quight,        165
But mindfull still of your first countries sight,
Doe still preserve your first informed grace,
Whose shadow yet shynes in your beauteous face.
 
Loath that foule blot, that hellish fierbrand,
Disloiall lust, faire Beauties foulest blame,        170
That base affections, which your eares would bland,
Commend to you by loves abused name;
But is indeede the bondslave of defame;
Which will the garland of your glorie marre,
And quench the light of your bright shyning starre.        175
 
But gentle love, that loiall is and trew,
Will more illumine your resplendent ray,
And adde more brightnesse to your goodly hew,
From light of his pure fire, which, by like way
Kindled of yours, your likenesse doth display,        180
Like as two mirrours, by opposd reflexion,
Doe both expresse the faces first impression.
 
Therefore, to make your beautie more appeare,
It you behoves to love, and forth to lay
That heavenly riches which in you ye beare,        185
That men the more admyre their fountaine may;
For else what booteth that celestiall ray,
If it in darknesse be enshrined ever,
That it of loving eyes be vewed never?
 
But in your choice of loves, this well advize,        190
That likest to your selves ye them select,
The which your forms first sourse may sympathize,
And with like beauties parts be inly deckt:
For if you loosely love without respect,
It is no love, but a discordant warre,        195
Whose unlike parts amongst themselves do jarre.
 
For love is a celestiall harmonie
Of likely harts composd of starres concent,
Which joyne together in sweete sympathie,
To worke ech others joy and true content,        200
Which they have harbourd since their first descent
Out of their heavenly bowres, where they did see
And know ech other here belov’d to bee.
 
Then wrong it were that any other twaine
Should in loves gentle band combyned bee,        205
But those whom Heaven did at first ordaine,
And made out of one mould the more t’ agree:
For all that like the beautie which they see
Streight do not love: for love is not so light,
As streight to burne at first beholders sight.        210
 
But they which love indeede looke otherwise,
With pure regard and spotlesse true intent,
Drawing out of the object of their eyes
A more refyned forme, which they present
Unto their mind, voide of all blemishment;        215
Which it reducing to her first perfection,
Beholdeth free from fleshes frayle infection.
 
And then conforming it unto the light,
Which in it selfe it hath remaining still,
Of that first sunne, yet sparckling in his sight,        220
Thereof he fashions in his higher skill
An heavenly beautie to his fancies will,
And it embracing in his mind entyre,
The mirrour of his owne thought doth admyre.
 
Which seeing now so mly faire to be,        225
As outward it appeareth to the eye,
And with his spirits proportion to agree,
He thereon fixeth all his fantasie,
And fully setteth his felicitie,
Counting it fairer then it is indeede,        230
And yet indeede her fairenesse doth exceede.
 
For lovers eyes more sharply sighted bee
Then other mens, and in deare loves delight
See more then any other eyes can see,
Through mutuall receipt of beames bright,        235
Which carrie privie message to the spright
And to their eyes that inmost faire display
As plaine as light discovers dawning day.
 
Therein they see, through amorous eye-glaunces,
Armies of Loves still flying too and fro,        240
Which dart at them their litle fierie launces:
Whom having wounded, backe againe they go,
Carrying compassion to their lovely foe;
Who, seeing her faire eyes so sharpe effect,
Cures all their sorrowes with one sweete aspect.        245
 
In which how many wonders doe they reede
To their conceipt, that others never see!
Now of her smiles, with which their soules they feede,
Like gods with nectar in their bankets free,
Now of her lookes, which like to cordials bee;        250
But when her words embassade forth she sends,
Lord, how sweete musicke that unto them lends!
 
Sometimes upon her forhead they behold
A thousand graces masking in delight;
Sometimes within her eye-lids they unfold        255
Ten thousand sweet belgards, which to their sight
Doe seeme like twinckling starres in frostie night;
But on her lips, like rosy buds in May,
So many millions of chaste pleasures play.
 
All those, O Cytherea, and thousands more        260
Thy handmaides be, which do on thee attend,
To decke thy beautie with their dainties store,
That may it more to mortall eyes commend,
And make it more admyr’d of foe and frend;
That in mens harts thou mayst thy throne enstall,        265
And spred thy lovely kingdome over all.
 
Then Iö, tryumph! O great Beauties Queene,
Advance the banner of thy conquest hie,
That all this world, the which thy vassals beene,
May draw to thee, and with dew fealtie        270
Adore the powre of thy great majestie,
Singing this hymne in honour of thy name,
Compyld by me, which thy poore liegeman am.
 
In lieu whereof graunt, O great soveraine,
That she, whose conquering beautie doth captive        275
My trembling hart in her eternall chaine,
One drop of grace at length will to me give,
That I her bounden thrall by her may live,
And this same life, which first fro me she reaved,
May owe to her, of whom I it receaved.        280
 
And you, faire Venus dearling, my deare dread,
Fresh flowre of grace, great goddesse of my life,
When your faire eyes these fearefull lines shal read,
Deigne to let fall one drop of dew reliefe,
That may recure my harts long pyning griefe,        285
And shew what wondrous powre your beauty hath,
That can restore adamned wight from death.
 
 
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