Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
The Faerie Queene
Book I. The Legend of the Knight of the Red Crosse
Canto IV
 
        To sinfull House of Pryde Duessa
  Guydes the falthfull kinght,
Where, brothers death to wreak, Sansjoy
  Doth chaleng him to fight

I
YOUNG knight what ever, that dost armes professe,
And through long labours huntest after fame,
Beware of fraud, beware of ficklenesse,
In choice, and chaunge, of thy deare loved dame,
Least thou of her believe too lightly blame,        5
And rash misweening doe thy hart remove:
For unto knight there is no greater shame,
Then lightnesse and inconstancie in love:
That doth this Redcrosse Knights ensample plainly prove.
 
II
Who, after that he had faire Una lorne,
        10
Through light misdeeming of her loialtie,
And false Duessa in her sted had borne,
Called Fidess’, and so supposd to be,
Long with her traveild, till at last they see
A goodly building, bravely garnished;        15
The house of mightie prince it seemd to be;
And towards it a broad high way that led,
All bare through peoples feet, which thether traveiled.
 
III
Great troupes of people traveild thetherward
Both day and night, of each degree and place;        20
But few returned, having scaped hard,
With balefull beggery, or foule disgrace;
Which ever after in most wretched case,
Like loathsome lazars, by the hedges lay.
Thether Duessa badd him bend his pace:        25
For she is wearie of the toilsom way,
And also nigh consumed is the lingring day.
 
IV
A stately pallace built of squared bricke,
Which cunningly was without morter laid,
Whose wals were high, but nothing strong nor thick,        30
And golden foile all over them displaid,
That purest skye with brightnesse they dismaid:
High lifted up were many loftie towres,
And goodly galleries far over laid,
Full of faire windowes and delightful bowres;        35
And on the top a diall told the timely howres.
 
V
It was a goodly heape for to behould,
And spake the praises of the workmans witt;
But full great pittie, that so faire a mould
Did on so weake foundation ever sitt:        40
For on a sandie hill, that still did flitt
And fall away, it mounted was full hie,
That every breath of heaven shaked itt;
And all the hinder partes, that few could spie,
Were ruinous and old, but painted cunningly.        45
 
VI
Arrived there, they passed in forth right;
For still to all the gates stood open wide:
Yet charge of them was to a porter hight,
Cald Malvenö, who entrance none denide:
Thence to the hall, which was on every side        50
With rich array and costly arras dight:
Infinite sortes of people did abide
There waiting long, to win the wished sight
Of her, that was the lady of that pallace bright.
 
VII
By them they passe, all gazing on them round,
        55
And to the presence mount; whose glorious vew
Their frayle amazed senses did confound:
In living princes court none ever knew
Such endlesse richesse, and so sumpteous shew;
Ne Persia selfe, the nourse of pompous pride,        60
Like ever saw. And there a noble crew
Of lords and ladies stood on every side,
Which, with their presence fayre the place much beautifide.
 
VIII
High above all a cloth of state was spred,
And a rich throne, as bright as sunny day,        65
On which there sate, most brave embellished
With royall robes and gorgeous array,
A mayden queene, that shone as Titans ray,
In glistring gold and perelesse pretious stone;
Yet her bright blazing beautie did assay        70
To dim the brightnesse of her glorious throne,
As envying her selfe, that too exceeding shone:
 
IX
Exceeding shone, like Phœbus fayrest childe,
That did presume his fathers fyrie wayne,
And flaming mouthes of steedes unwonted wilde,        75
Through highest heaven with weaker hand to rayne:
Proud of such glory and advancement vayne,
While flashing beames do daze his feeble eyen,
He leaves the welkin way most beaten playne,
And, rapt with whirling wheeles, inflames the skyen        80
With fire not made to burne, but fayrely for to shyne.
 
X
So proud she shyned in her princely state,
Looking to heaven, for earth she did disdayne,
And sitting high, for lowly she did hate:
Lo! underneath her scornefull feete, was layne        85
A dreadfull dragon with an hideous trayne,
And in her hand she held a mirrhour bright,
Wherein her face she often vewed fayne,
And in her selfe-lov’d semblance tooke delight;
For she was wondrous faire, as any living wight.        90
 
XI
Of griesly Pluto she the daughter was,
And sad Proserpina, the queene of hell;
Yet did she thinke her pearelesse worth to pas
That parentage, with pride so did she swell,
And thundring Jove, that high in heaven doth dwell,        95
And wield the world, she claymed for her syre,
Or if that any else did Jove excell:
For to the highest she did still aspyre,
Or, if ought higher were then that, did it desyre.
 
XII
And proud Lucifera men did her call,
        100
That made her selfe a queene, and crownd to be;
Yet rightfull kingdome she had none at all,
Ne heritage of native soveraintie,
But did usurpe with wrong and tyrannie
Upon the scepter, which she now did hold:        105
Ne ruld her realme with lawes, but policie,
And strong advizement of six wisards old,
That with their counsels bad her kingdome did uphold.
 
XIII
Soone as the Elfin knight in presence came,
And false Duessa, seeming lady fayre,        110
A gentle husher, Vanitie by name,
Made rowme, and passage for them did prepaire:
So goodly brought them to the lowest stayre
Of her high throne, where they, on humble knee
Making obeysaunce, did the cause declare,        115
Why they were come, her roiall state to see,
To prove the wide report of her great majestee.
 
XIV
With loftie eyes, halfe loth to looke so lowe,
She thancked them in her disdainefull wise,
Ne other grace vouchsafed them to showe        120
Of princesse worthy; scarse them bad arise.
Her lordes and ladies all this while devise
Themselves to setten forth to straungers sight:
Some frounce their curled heare in courtly guise,
Some prancke their ruffes, and others trimly dight        125
Their gay attyre: each others greater pride does spight.
 
XV
Goodly they all that knight doe entertayne,
Right glad with him to have increast their crew;
But to Duess’ each one himselfe did payne
All kindnesse and faire courtesie to shew;        130
For in that court whylome her well they knew:
Yet the stout Faery mongst the middest crowd
Thought all their glorie vaine in knightly vew,
And that great princesse too exceeding prowd,
That to strange knight no better countenance allowd.        135
 
XVI
Suddein upriseth from her stately place
The roiall dame, and for her coche doth call:
All hurtlen forth, and she, with princely pace,
As faire Aurora, in her purple pall,
Out of the east the dawning day doth call,        140
So forth she comes: her brightnes brode doth blaze:
The heapes of people, thronging in the hall,
Doe ride each other, upon her to gaze:
Her glorious glitterand light doth all mens eies amaze.
 
XVII
So forth she comes, and to her coche does clyme,
        145
Adorned all with gold and girlonds gay,
That seemd as fresh as Flora in her prime,
And strove to match, in roiall rich array,
Great Junoes golden chayre, the which, they say,
The gods stand gazing on, when she does ride        150
To Joves high hous through heavens bras-paved way,
Drawne of fayre pecocks, that excell in pride,
And full of Argus eyes their tayles dispredden wide.
 
XVIII
But this was drawne of six unequall beasts,
On which her six sage counsellours did ryde,        155
Taught to obay their bestiall beheasts,
With like conditions to their kindes applyde:
Of which the first, that all the rest did guyde,
Was sluggish Idlenesse, the nourse of sin;
Upon a slouthfull asse he chose to ryde,        160
Arayd in habit blacke, and amis thin,
Like to an holy monck, the service to begin.
 
XIX
And in his hand his portesse still he bare,
That much was worne, but therein little redd;
For of devotion he had little care,        165
Still drownd in sleepe, and most of his daies dedd:
Scarse could he once uphold his heavie hedd,
To looken whether it were night or day:
May seeme the wayne was very evill ledd,
When such an one had guiding of the way,        170
That knew not whether right he went, or else astray.
 
XX
From worldly cares himselfe he did esloyne,
And greatly shunned manly exercise;
From everie worke he ehalenged essoyne,
For contemplation sake: yet otherwise        175
His life he led in lawlesse riotise;
By which he grew to grievous malady;
For in his lustlesse limbs, through evill guise,
A shaking fever raignd continually.
Such one was Idlenesse, first of this company.        180
 
XXI
And by his side rode loathsome Gluttony,
Deformed creature, on a filthie swyne:
His belly was upblowne with luxury,
And eke with fatnesse swollen were his eyne;
And like a crane his necke was long and fyne,        185
With which he swallowd up excessive feast,
For want whereof poore people oft did pyne:
And all the way, most like a brutish beast,
He spued up his gorge, that all did him deteast.
 
XXII
In greene vine leaves he was right fitly clad;
        190
For other clothes he could not weare for heat;
And on his head an yvie girland had,
From under which fast trickled downe the sweat:
Still as he rode, he somewhat still did eat,
And in his hand did beare a bouzing can,        195
Of which he supt so oft, that on his seat
His dronken corse he scarse upholden can:
In shape and life more like a monster then a man.
 
XXIII
Unfit he was for any worldly thing,
And eke unhable once to stirre or go;        200
Not meet to be of counsell to a king,
Whose mind in meat and drinke was drowned so,
That from his frend he seeldome knew his fo:
Full of diseases was his carcas blew,
And a dry dropsie through his flesh did flow,        205
Which by misdiet daily greater grew.
Such one was Gluttony, the second of that crew.
 
XXIV
And next to him rode lustfull Lechery
Upon a bearded gote, whose rugged heare,
And whally eies (the signe of gelosy,)        210
Was like the person selfe, whom he did beare:
Who rough, and blacke, and filthy, did appeare,
Unseemely man to please faire ladies eye;
Yet he of ladies oft was loved deare,
When fairer faces were bid standen by:        215
O who does know the bent of womens fantasy?
 
XXV
In a greene gowne he clothed was full faire,
Which underneath did hide his filthinesse;
And in his hand a burning hart he bare,
Full of vaine follies and new fanglenesse;        220
For he was false, and fraught with ficklenesse,
And learned had to love with secret lookes,
And well could daunce, and sing with ruefulnesse,
And fortunes tell, and read in loving bookes,
And thousand other waies, to bait his fleshly hookes.        225
 
XXVI
Inconstant man, that loved all he saw,
And lusted after all that he did love;
Ne would his looser life be tide to law,
But joyd weake wemens hearts to tempt, and prove
If from their loyall loves he might them move;        230
Which lewdnes fild him with reprochfull pain
Of that foule evill, which all men reprove,
That rotts the marrow, and consumes the braine.
Such one was Lechery, the third of all this traine.
 
XXVII
And greedy Avarice by him did ride,
        235
Uppon a camell loaden all with gold:
Two iron coffers hong on either side,
With precious metall full as they might hold,
And in his lap an heap of coine he told;
For of his wicked pelfe his god he made,        240
And unto hell him selfe for money sold:
Accursed usury was all his trade;
And right and wrong ylike in equall ballaunce waide.
 
XXVIII
His life was nigh unto deaths dore yplaste;
And thred-bare cote, and cobled shoes, hee ware,        245
Ne scarse good morsell all his life did taste,
But both from backe and belly still did spare,
To fill his bags, and richesse to compare;
Yet childe ne kinsman living had he none
To leave them to; but thorough daily care        250
To get, and nightly feare to lose his owne,
He led a wretched life, unto him selfe unknowne.
 
XXIX
Most wretched wight, whom nothing might suffise,
Whose greedy lust did lacke in greatest store,
Whose need had end, but no end covetise,        255
Whose welth was want, whose plenty made him pore,
Who had enough, yett wished ever more,
A vile disease; and eke in foote and hand
A grievous gout tormented him full sore,
That well he could not touch, nor goe, nor stand.        260
Such one was Avarice, the forth of this faire band.
 
XXX
And next to him malicious Envy rode
Upon a ravenous wolfe, and still did chaw
Betweene his cankred teeth a venemous tode,
That all the poison ran about his chaw;        265
But inwardly he chawed his owne maw
At neibors welth, that made him ever sad;
For death it was, when any good he saw;
And wept, that cause of weeping none he had;
But when he heard of harme, he wexed wondrous glad.        270
 
XXXI
All in a kirtle of discolourd say
He clothed was, ypaynted full of eies;
And in his bosome secretly there lay
An hatefull snake, the which his taile uptyes
In many folds, and mortall sting implyes.        275
Still as he rode, he gnasht his teeth, to see
Those heapes of gold with griple Covetyse;
And grudged at the great felicitee
Of proud Lucifera, and his owne companee.
 
XXXII
He hated all good workes and vertuous deeds,
        280
And him no lesse, that any like did use;
And who with gratious bread the hungry feeds,
His almes for want of faith he doth accuse;
So every good to bad he doth abuse:
And eke the verse of famous poets witt        285
He does backebite, and spightfull poison spues
From leprous mouth on all that ever writt.
Such one vile Envy was, that fifte in row did sitt.
 
XXXIII
And him beside rides fierce revenging Wrath,
Upon a lion, loth for to be led;        290
And in his hand a burning brond he hath,
The which he brandisheth about his hed:
His eies did hurle forth sparcles fiery red,
And stared sterne on all that him beheld:
As ashes pale of hew, and seeming ded;        295
And on his dagger still his hand he held,
Trembling through hasty rage, when choler in him sweld.
 
XXXIV
His ruffin raiment all was staind with blood,
Which he had spilt, and all to rags yrent,
Through unadvized rashnes woxen wood;        300
For of his hands he had no governement,
Ne car’d for blood in his avengement:
But when the furious fitt was overpast,
His cruell facts he often would repent;
Yet, wilfull man, he never would repent;        305
How many mischieves should ensue his heedlesse hast.
 
XXXV
Full many mischiefes follow cruell Wrath;
Abhorred bloodshed, and tumultuous strife,
Unmanly murder, and unthrifty scath,
Bitter despight, with rancours rusty knife,        310
And fretting griefe, the enemy of life:
All these, and many evils moe haunt Ire;
The swelling splene, and frenzy raging rife,
The shaking palsey, and Saint Fraunces fire.
Such one was Wrath, the last of this ungodly tire.        315
 
XXXVI
And after all, upon the wagon beame,
Rode Sathan, with a smarting whip in hand,
With which he forward lasht the laesy teme,
So oft as Slowth still in the mire did stand.
Huge routs of people did about them band,        320
Showting for joy; and still before their way
A foggy mist had covered all the land;
And underneath their feet, all scattered lay
Dead sculls and bones of men, whose life had gone astray.
 
XXXVII
So forth they marchen in this goodly sort,
        325
To take the solace of the open aire,
And in fresh flowring fields themselves to sport.
Emongst the rest rode that false lady faire,
The foule Duessa, next unto the chaire
Of proud Lucifer’, as one of the traine:        330
But that good knight would not so nigh repaire,
Him selfe estraunging from their joyaunce vaine,
Whose fellowship seemd far unfitt for warlike swaine.
 
XXXVIII
So having solaced themselves a space,
With pleasaunce of the breathing fields yfed,        335
They backe retourned to the princely place;
Whereas an errant knight, in armes ycled,
And heathnish shield, wherein with letters red
Was writt Sans joy, they new arrived find:
Enflam’d with fury and fiers hardyhed,        340
He seemd in hart to harbour thoughts unkind,
And nourish bloody vengeaunce in his bitter mind.
 
XXXIX
Who, when the shamed shield of slaine Sansfoy
He spide with that same Fary champions page,
Bewraying him that did of late destroy        345
His eldest brother, burning all with rage,
He to him lept, and that same envious gage
Of victors glory from him snacht away:
But th’ Elfin knight, which ought that warlike wage,
Disdaind to loose the meed he wonne in fray,        350
And him rencountring fierce, reskewd the noble pray.
 
XL
Therewith they gan to hurtlen greedily,
Redoubted battaile ready to darrayne,
And clash their shields, and shake their swerds on hy,
That with their sturre they troubled all the traine;        355
Till that great queene, upon eternall paine
Of high displeasure, that ensewen might,
Commaunded them their fury to refraine,
And if that either to that shield had right,
In equall lists they should the morrow next it fight.        360
 
XLI
‘Ah! dearest dame,’ quoth then the Paynim bold,
‘Pardon the error of enraged wight,
Whome great griefe made forgett the raines to hold
Of reasons rule, to see this recreaunt knight,
No knight, but treachour full of false despight        365
And shameful treason, who through guile hath slayn
The prowest knight that ever field did fight,
Even stout Sansfoy, (O who can then refrayn?)
Whose shield he beares renverst, the more to heap disdayn.
 
XLII
‘And to augment the glorie of his guile,
        370
His dearest love, the faire Fidessa, loe!
Is there possessed of the traytour vile,
Who reapes the harvest sowen by his foe,
Sowen in bloodie field, and bought with woe:
That brothers hand shall dearely well requight,        375
So be, O Queene, you equall favour showe.’
Him litle answerd th’ angry Elfin knight;
He never meant with words, but swords, to plead his right:
 
XLIII
But threw his gauntlet as a sacred pledg,
His cause in combat the next day to try:        380
So been they parted both, with harts on edg
To be aveng’d each on his enimy.
That night they pas in joy and jollity,
Feasting and courting both in bowre and hall;
For steward was excessive Gluttony,        385
That of his plenty poured forth to all;
Which doen, the chamberlain Slowth did to rest them call.
 
XLIV
Now whenas darkesome Night had all displayd
Her coleblacke curtein over brightest skye,
The warlike youthes, on dayntie couches layd,        390
Did chace away sweet sleepe from sluggish eye,
To muse on meanes of hoped victory.
But whenas Morpheus had with leaden mace
Arrested all that courtly company,
Uprose Duessa from her resting place,        395
And to the Paynims lodging comes with silent pace.
 
XLV
Whom broad awake she findes, in troublous fitt,
Forecasting, how his foe he might annoy,
And him amoves with speaches seeming fitt:
‘Ah deare Sansjoy, next dearest to Sansfoy,        400
Cause of my new griefe, cause of my new joy,
Joyous, to see his ymage in mine eye,
And greevd, to thinke how foe did him destroy,
That was the flowre of grace and chevalrye;
Lo! his Fidessa, to thy secret faith I flye.’        405
 
XLVI
With gentle wordes he can her fayrely greet,
And bad say on the secrete of her hart.
Then, sighing soft, ‘I learne that litle sweet
Oft tempred is,’ quoth she, ‘with muchell smart:
For since my brest was launcht with lovely dart        410
Of deare Sansfoy, I never joyed howre,
But in eternall woes my weaker hart
Have wasted, loving him with all my powre,
And for his sake have felt full many an heavie stowre.
 
XLVII
‘At last, when perils all I weened past,
        415
And hop’d to reape the crop of all my care,
Into new woes unweeting I was cast
By this false faytor, who unworthie ware
His worthie shield, whom he with guilefull snare
Entrapped slew, and brought to shamefull grave.        420
Me, silly maid, away with him he bare,
And ever since hath kept in darksom cave,
For that I would not yeeld that to Sansfoy I gave.
 
XLVIII
‘But since faire sunne hath sperst that lowring clowd,
And to my loathed life now shewes some light,        425
Under your beames I will me safely shrowd
From dreaded storme of his disdainfull spight:
To you th’inheritance belonges by right
Of brothers prayse, to you eke longes his love.
Let not his love, let not his restlesse spright,        430
Be unreveng’d, that calles to you above
From wandring Stygian shores, where it doth endlesse move.’
 
XLIX
Thereto said he, ‘Faire dame, be nought dismaid
For sorrowes past; their griefe is with them gone:
Ne yet of present perill be affraid:        435
For needlesse feare did never vantage none,
And helplesse hap it booteth not to mone.
Dead is Sansfoy, his vitall paines are past,
Though greeved ghost for vengeance deep do grone:
He lives, that shall him pay his dewties last,        440
And guiltie Elfin blood shall sacrifice in hast.’
 
L
‘O! but I feare the fickle freakes,’ quoth shee,
‘Of Fortune false, and oddes of armes in field.’
‘Why, dame,’ quoth he, ‘what oddes can ever bee,
Where both doe fight alike, to win or yield?’        445
‘Yea, but,’ quoth she, ‘he beares a charmed shield,
And eke enchaunted armes, that none can perce,
Ne none can wound the man, that does them wield.’
‘Charmd or enchaunted,’ answerd he then ferce,
‘I no whitt reck, ne you the like need to reherce.        450
 
LI
‘But, faire Fidessa, sithens Fortunes guile,
Or enimies powre, hath now captived you,
Returne from whence ye came, and rest a while,
Till morrow next, that I the Elfe subdew,
And with Sansfoyes dead dowry you endew.’        455
‘Ay me! that is a double death,’ she said,
‘With proud foes sight my sorrow to renew:
Where ever yet I be, my secrete aide
Shall follow you.’ So, passing forth, she him obaid.
 
 
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