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 VII
 
        The Redcrosse Knight is captive made,
  By gyaunt proud opprest:
Prince Arthure meets with Una great-
  ly with those newes distrest.

I
WHAT man so wise, what earthly witt so ware,
As to discry the crafty cunning traine,
By which Deceipt doth maske in visour faire,
And cast her coulours died deepe in graine,
To seeme like Truth, whose shape she well can faine,        5
And fitting gestures to her purpose frame,
The guiltlesse man with guile to entertaine?
Great maistresse of her art was that false dame,
The false Duessa, cloked with Fidessaes name.
 
II
Who when, returning from the drery Night,
        10
She fownd not in that perilous Hous of Pryde,
Where she had left, the noble Redcross Knight,
Her hoped pray, she would no lenger byde,
But forth she went to seeke him far and wide.
Ere long she fownd, whereas he wearie sate        15
To rest him selfe, foreby a fountaine syde,
Disarmed all of yron-coted plate,
And by his side his steed the grassy forage ate.
 
III
Hee feedes upon the cooling shade, and bayes
His sweatie forehead in the breathing wynd,        20
Which through the trembling leaves full gently playes,
Wherein the chearefull birds of sundry kynd
Doe chaunt sweet musick, to delight his mynd.
The witch approching gan him fayrely greet,
And with reproch of carelesnes unkynd        25
Upbrayd, for leaving her in place unmeet,
With fowle words tempring faire, soure gall with hony sweet.
 
IV
Unkindnesse past, they gan of solace treat,
And bathe in pleasaunce of the joyous shade,
Which shielded them against the boyling heat,        30
And, with greene boughes decking a gloomy glade,
About the fountaine like a girlond made;
Whose bubbling wave did ever freshly well,
Ne ever would through fervent sommer fade:
The sacred nymph, which therein wont to dwell,        35
Was out of Dianes favor, as it then befell.
 
V
The cause was this: one day when Phœbe fayre
With all her band was following the chace,
This nymph, quite tyr’d with heat of scorching ayre,
Satt downe to rest in middest of the race:        40
The goddesse wroth gan fowly her disgrace,
And badd the waters, which from her did flow,
Be such as she her selfe was then in place.
Thenceforth her waters wexed dull and slow,
And all that drunke thereof did faint and feeble grow.        45
 
VI
Hereof this gentle knight unweeting was,
And lying downe upon the sandie graile,
Dronke of the streame, as cleare as christall glas:
Eftsoones his manly forces gan to fayle,
And mightie strong was turnd to feeble frayle:        50
His chaunged powres at first them selves not felt,
Till crudled cold his corage gan assayle,
And chearefull blood in fayntnes chill did melt,
Which, like a fever fit, through all his body swelt.
 
VII
Yet goodly court he made still to his dame,
        55
Pourd out in loosnesse on the grassy grownd,
Both carelesse of his health, and of his fame:
Till at the last he heard a dreadfull sownd,
Which through the wood loud bellowing did rebownd,
That all the earth for terror seemd to shake,        60
And trees did tremble. Th’ Elfe, therewith astownd,
Upstarted lightly from his looser make,
And his unready weapons gan in hand to take.
 
VIII
But ere he could his armour on him dight,
Or gett his shield, his monstrous enimy        65
With sturdie steps came stalking in his sight,
An hideous geaunt, horrible and hye,
That with his tallnesse seemd to threat the skye;
The ground eke groned under him for dreed:
His living like saw never living eye,        70
Ne durst behold: his stature did exceed
The hight of three the tallest sonnes of mortall seed.
 
IX
The greatest Earth his uncouth mother was,
And blustring Æolus his boasted syre;
Who with his breath, which through the world doth pas,        75
Her hollow womb did secretly inspyre,
And fild her hidden caves with stormie yre,
That she conceiv’d; and trebling the dew time,
In which the wombes of wemen doe expyre,
Brought forth this monstrous masse of earthly slyme,        80
Puft up with emptie wynd, and fild with sinfull cryme.
 
X
So growen great, through arrogant delight
Of th’ high descent whereof he was yborne,
And through presumption of his matchlesse might,
All other powres and knighthood he did scorne.        85
Such now he marcheth to this man forlorne,
And left to losse: his stalking steps are stayde
Upon a snaggy oke, which he had torne
Out of his mothers bowelles, and it made
His mortall mace, wherewith his foemen he dismayde.        90
 
XI
That when the knight he spyde, he gan advaunce
With huge force and insupportable mayne,
And towardes him with dreadfull fury praunce;
Who haplesse, and eke hopelesse, all in vaine
Did to him pace, sad battaile to darrayne,        95
Disarmd, disgraste, and inwardly dismayde,
And eke so faint in every joynt and vayne,
Through that fraile fountain, which him feeble made,
That scarsely could he weeld his bootlesse single blade.
 
XII
The geaunt strooke so maynly mercilesse,
        100
That could have overthrowne a stony towre,
And were not hevenly grace, that him did blesse,
He had beene pouldred all, as thin as flowre:
But he was wary of that deadly stowre,
And lightly lept from underneath the blow:        105
Yet so exceeding was the villeins powre
That with the winde it did him overthrow,
And all his sences stoond, that still he lay full low.
 
XIII
As when that divelish yron engin, wrought
In deepest hell, and framd by furies skill,        110
With windy nitre and quick sulphur fraught,
And ramd with bollet rownd, ordaind to kill,
Conceiveth fyre, the heavens it doth fill
With thundring noyse, and all the ayre doth choke,
That none can breath, nor see, nor heare at will,        115
Through smouldry cloud of duskish stincking smok,
That th’ onely breath him daunts, who hath escapt the stroke.
 
XIV
So daunted when the geaunt saw the knight,
His heavie hand he heaved up on hye,
And him to dust thought to have battred quight,        120
Untill Duessa loud to him gan crye,
‘O great Orgoglio, greatest under skye,
O hold thy mortall hand for ladies sake!
Hold for my sake, and doe him not to dye,
But vanquisht thine eternall bondslave make,        125
And me, thy worthy meed, unto thy leman take.’
 
XV
He hearkned, and did stay from further harmes,
To gayne so goodly guerdon as she spake:
So willingly she came into his armes,
Who her as willingly to grace did take,        130
And was possessed of his newfound make.
Then up he tooke the slombred sencelesse corse,
And ere he could out of his swowne awake,
Him to his castle brought with hastie forse,
And in a dongeon deep him threw without remorse.        135
 
XVI
From that day forth Duessa was his deare,
And highly honourd in his haughtie eye;
He gave her gold and purple pall to weare,
And triple crowne set on her head full hye,
And her endowd with royall majestye:        140
Then, for to make her dreaded more of men,
And peoples hartes with awfull terror tye,
A monstrous beast ybredd in filthy fen
He chose, which he had kept long time in darksom den.
 
XVII
Such one it was, as that renowmed snake
        145
Which great Alcides in Stremona slew,
Long fostred in the filth of Lerna lake,
Whose many heades out budding ever new
Did breed him endlesse labor to subdew:
But this same monster much more ugly was;        150
For seven great heads out of his body grew,
An yron brest, and back of scaly bras,
And all embrewd in blood, his eyes did shine as glas.
 
XVIII
His tayle was stretched out in wondrous length,
That to the hous of hevenly gods it raught,        155
And with extorted powre, and borrow’d strength,
The everburning lamps from thence it braught,
And prowdly threw to ground, as things of naught;
And underneath his filthy feet did tread
The sacred thinges, and holy heastes foretaught.        160
Upon this dreadfull beast with sevenfold head
He sett the false Duessa, for more aw and dread.
 
XIX
The wofull dwarfe, which saw his maisters fall,
Whiles he had keeping of his grasing steed,
And valiant knight become a caytive thrall,        165
When all was past, tooke up his forlorne weed;
His mightie armour, missing most at need;
His silver shield, now idle maisterlesse;
His poynant speare, that many made to bleed;
The ruefull moniments of heavinesse;        170
And with them all departes, to tell his great distresse.
 
XX
He had not travalid long, when on the way
He wofull lady, wofull Una, met,
Fast flying from the Paynims greedy pray,
Whilest Satyrane him from pursuit did let:        175
Who when her eyes she on the dwarf had set,
And saw the signes, that deadly tydinges spake,
She fell to ground for sorrowfull regret,
And lively breath her sad brest did forsake,
Yet might her pitteous hart be seene to pant and quake.        180
 
XXI
The messenger of so unhappie newes
Would faine have dyde; dead was his hart within;
Yet outwardly some little comfort shewes:
At last recovering hart, he does begin
To rubb her temples, and to chaufe her chin,        185
And everie tender part does tosse and turne:
So hardly he the flitted life does win,
Unto her native prison to retourne:
Then gins her grieved ghost thus to lament and mourne:
 
XXII
‘Ye dreary instruments of dolefull sight,
        190
That doe this deadly spectacle behold,
Why do ye lenger feed on loathed light,
Or liking find to gaze on earthly mould,
Sith cruell fates the carefull threds unfould,
The which my life and love together tyde?        195
Now let the stony dart of sencelesse cold
Perce to my hart, and pas through everie side,
And let eternall night so sad sight fro me hyde.
 
XXIII
‘O lightsome day, the lampe of highest Jove,
First made by him, mens wandring wayes to guyde,        200
When darknesse he in deepest dongeon drove,
Henceforth thy hated face for ever hyde,
And shut up heavens windowes shyning wyde:
For earthly sight can nought but sorow breed,
And late repentance, which shall long abyde.        205
Mine eyes no more on vanitie shall feed,
But, seeled up with death, shall have their deadly meed.’
 
XXIV
Then downe againe she fell unto the ground;
But he her quickly reared up againe:
Thrise did she sinke adowne in deadly swownd,        210
And thrise he her reviv’d with busie paine:
At last, when life recover’d had the raine,
And over-wrestled his strong enimy,
With foltring tong, and trembling everie vaine,
‘Tell on,’ quoth she, ‘the wofull tragedy,        215
The which these reliques sad present unto mine eye.
 
XXV
‘Tempestuous Fortune hath spent all her spight,
And thrilling Sorrow throwne his utmost dart;
Thy sad tong cannot tell more heavy plight
Then that I feele, and harbour in mine hart:        220
Who hath endur’d the whole, can beare ech part.
If death it be, it is not the first wound,
That launched hath my brest with bleeding smart.
Begin, and end the bitter balefull stound;
If lesse then that I feare, more favour I have found.’        225
 
XXVI
Then gan the dwarfe the whole discourse declare:
The subtile traines of Archimago old;
The wanton loves of false Fidessa fayre,
Bought with the blood of vanquisht Paynim bold;
The wretched payre transformd to treen mould;        230
The House of Pryde, and perilles round about;
The combat, which he with Sansjoy did hould;
The lucklesse conflict with the gyaunt stout,
Wherein captiv’d, of life or death he stood in doubt.
 
XXVII
She heard with patience all unto the end,
        235
And strove to maister sorrowfull assay,
Which greater grew, the more she did contend,
And almost rent her tender hart in tway;
And love fresh coles unto her fire did lay:
For greater love, the greater is the losse.        240
Was never lady loved dearer day,
Then she did love the Knight of the Redcrosse;
For whose deare sake so many troubles her did tosse.
 
XXVIII
At last, when fervent sorrow slaked was,
She up arose, resolving him to find,        245
Alive or dead; and forward forth doth pas,
All as the dwarfe the way to her assynd;
And ever more, in constant carefull mind,
She fedd her wound with fresh renewed bale:
Long tost with stormes, and bet with bitter wind,        250
High over hills, and lowe adowne the dale,
She wandred many a wood, and measurd many a vale.
 
XXIX
At last she channced by good hap to meet
A goodly knight, faire marching by the way,
Together with his squyre, arayed meet:        255
His glitterand armour shined far away,
Like glauncing light of Phœbus brightest ray;
From top to toe no place appeared bare,
That deadly dint of steele endanger may:
Athwart his brest a bauldrick brave he ware,        260
That shind, like twinkling stars, with stones most pretious rare.
 
XXX
And in the midst thereof, one pretious stone
Of wondrous worth, and eke of wondrous mights,
Shapt like a ladies head, exceeding shone,
Like Hesperus emongst the lesser lights,        265
And strove for to amaze the weaker sights:
Thereby his mortall blade full comely hong
In yvory sheath, ycarv’d with curious slights;
Whose hilts were burnisht gold, and handle strong
Of mother perle, and buckled with a golden tong.        270
 
XXXI
His haughtie helmet, horrid all with gold,
Both glorious brightnesse and great terrour bredd;
For all the crest a dragon did enfold
With greedie pawes, and over all did spredd
His golden winges: his dreadfull hideous hedd,        275
Close couched on the bever, seemd to throw
From flaming mouth bright sparckles fiery redd,
That suddeine horrour to faint hartes did show;
And scaly tayle was stretcht adowne his back full low.
 
XXXII
Upon the top of all his loftie crest,
        280
A bounch of heares discolourd diversly,
With sprincled pearle and gold full richly drest,
Did shake, and seemd to daunce for jollity;
Like to an almond tree ymounted hye
On top of greene Selinis all alone,        285
With blossoms brave bedecked daintily;
Whose tender locks do tremble every one
At everie little breath, that under heaven is blowne.
 
XXXIII
His warlike shield all closely cover’d was,
Ne might of mortall eye be ever seene;        290
Not made of steele, nor of enduring bras;
Such earthly mettals soone consumed beene;
But all of diamond perfect pure and cleene
It framed was, one massy entire mould,
Hewen out of adamant rocke with engines keene,        295
That point of speare it never percen could,
Ne dint of direfull sword divide the substance would.
 
XXXIV
The same to wight he never wont disclose,
But when as monsters huge he would dismay,
Or daunt unequall armies of his foes,        300
Or when the flying heavens he would affray:
For so exceeding shone his glistring ray,
That Phœbus golden face it did attaint,
As when a cloud his beames doth over-lay;
And silver Cynthia wexed pale and faynt,        305
As when her face is staynd with magicke arts constraint.
 
XXXV
No magicke arts hereof had any might,
Nor bloody wordes of bold enchaunters call,
But all that was not such as seemd in sight
Before that shield did fade, and suddeine fall:        310
And when him list the raskall routes appall,
Men into stones therewith he could transmew,
And stones to dust, and dust to nought at all;
And when him list the prouder lookes subdew,
He would them gazing blind, or turne to other hew.        315
 
XXXVI
Ne let it seeme that credence this exceedes;
For he that made the same was knowne right well
To have done much more admirable deedes.
It Merlin was, which whylome did excell
All living wightes in might of magicke spell:        320
Both shield, and sword, and armour all he wrought
For this young Prince, when first to armes he fell;
But when he dyde, the Faery Queene it brought
To Faerie Lond, where yet it may be seene, if sought.
 
XXXVII
A gentle youth, his dearely loved squire,
        325
His speare of heben wood behind him bare,
Whose harmeful head, thrise heated in the fire,
Had riven many a brest with pikehead square;
A goodly person, and could menage faire
His stubborne steed with curbed canon bitt,        330
Who under him did trample as the aire,
And chauft, that any on his backe should sitt;
The yron rowels into frothy fome he bitt.
 
XXXVIII
Whenas this knight night to the lady drew,
With lovely court he gan her entertaine;        335
But when he heard her aunswers loth, he knew
Some secret sorrow did her heart distraine:
Which to allay, and calme her storming paine,
Faire feeling words he wisely gan display,
And for her humor fitting purpose faine,        340
To tempt the cause it selfe for to bewray;
Wherewith enmovd, these bleeding words she gan to say:
 
XXXIX
‘What worlds delight, or joy of living speach,
Can hart, so plungd in sea of sorrowes deep,
And heaped with so huge misfortunes, reach?        345
The carefull cold beginneth for to creep,
And in my heart his yron arrow steep,
Soone as I thinke upon my bitter bale:
Such helplesse harmes yts better hidden keep,
Then rip up griefe, where it may not availe;        350
My last left comfort is, my woes to weepe and waile.’
 
XL
‘Ah! lady deare,’ quoth then the gentle knight,
‘Well may I ween your grief is wondrous great;
For wondrous great griefe groneth in my spright,
Whiles thus I heare you of your sorrowes treat.        355
But, woefull lady, let me you intrete
For to unfold the anguish of your hart:
Mishaps are maistred by advice discrete,
And counsell mitigates the greatest smart;
Found never help, who never would his hurts impart.’        360
 
XLI
‘O but,’ quoth she, ‘great griefe will not be tould,
And can more easily be thought then said.’
‘Right so,’ quoth he; ‘but he, that never would,
Could never: will to might gives greatest aid.’
‘But griefe,’ quoth she, ‘does greater grow displaid,        365
If then it find not helpe, and breeds despaire.’
‘Despaire breeds not,’ quoth he, ‘where faith is staid.’
‘No faith so fast,’ quoth she, ‘but flesh does paire.’
‘Flesh may empaire,’ quoth he, ‘but reason can repaire.’
 
XLII
His goodly reason and well guided speach
        370
So deepe did settle in her gracious thought,
That her perswaded to disclose the breach,
Which love and fortune in her heart had wrought,
And said: ‘Faire sir, I hope good hap hath brought
You to inquere the secrets of my griefe,        375
Or that your wisedome will direct my thought,
Or that your prowesse can me yield reliefe:
Then heare the story sad, which I shall tell you briefe.
 
XLIII
‘The forlorne maiden, whom your eies have seene
The laughing stocke of Fortunes mockeries,        380
Am th’ onely daughter of a king and queene;
Whose parents deare, whiles equal destinies
Did ronne about, and their felicities
The favourable heavens did not envy,
Did spred their rule through all the territories,        385
Which Phison and Euphrates floweth by,
And Gehons golden waves doe wash continually.
 
XLIV
‘Till that their cruell cursed enemy,
An huge great dragon, horrible in sight,
Bred in the loathly lakes of Tartary,        390
With murdrous ravine, and devouring might,
Their kingdome spoild, and countrey wasted quight:
Themselves, for feare into his jawes to fall,
He forst to castle strong to take their flight,
Where, fast embard in mighty brasen wall,        395
He has them now fowr years besiegd, to make them thrall.
 
XLV
‘Full many knights, adventurous and stout,
Have enterprizd that monster to subdew;
From every coast, that heaven walks about,
Have thither come the noble martial crew,        400
That famous harde atchievements still pursew;
Yet never any could that girlond win,
But all still shronke, and still he greater grew:
All they for want of faith, or guilt of sin,
The pitteous pray of his fiers cruelty have bin.        405
 
XLVI
‘At last, yled with far reported praise,
Which flying fame throughout the world had spred,
Of doughty knights, whom Fary Land did raise,
That noble order hight of Maidenhed,
Forthwith to court of Gloriane I sped,        410
Of Gloriane, great queene of glory bright,
Whose kingdomes seat Cleopolis is red,
There to obtaine some such redoubted kinght,
That parents deare from tyrants powre deliver might.
 
XLVII
‘Yt was my chaunce (my chaunce was faire and good)
        415
There for to find a fresh unproved knight,
Whose manly hands imbrewd in guilty blood
Had never beene, ne ever by his might
Had throwne to ground the unregarded right:
Yet of his prowesse proofe he since hath made        420
(I witnes am) in many a cruell fight;
The groning ghosts of many one dismaide
Have felt the bitter dint of his avenging blade.
 
XLVIII
‘And ye, the forlorne reliques of his powre,
His biting sword, and his devouring speare,        425
Which have endured many a dreadfull stowre,
Can speake his prowesse, that did earst you beare,
And well could rule: now he hath left you heare,
To be the record of his ruefull losse,
And of my dolefull disaventurous deare:        430
O heavie record of the good Redcrosse,
Where have yee left your lord, that could so well you tosse?
 
XLIX
‘Well hoped I, and faire beginnings had,
That he my captive languor should redeeme;
Till, all unweeting, an enchaunter bad        435
His sence abusd, and made him to misdeeme
My loyalty, not such as it did seeme,
That rather death desire then such despight.
Be judge, ye heavens, that all things right esteeme,
How I him lov’d, and love with all my might!        440
So thought I eke of him, and think I thought aright.
 
L
‘Thenceforth me desolate he quite forsooke,
To wander where wilde fortune would me lead,
And other by waies he himselfe betooke,
Where never foote of living wight did tread,        445
That brought not backe the balefull body dead;
In which him chaunced false Duessa meete,
Mine onely foe, mine onely deadly dread,
Who with her witchcraft, and misseeming sweete,
Inveigled him to follow her desires unmeete.        450
 
LI
‘At last, by subtile sleights she him betraid
Unto his foe, a gyaunt huge and tall;
Who him disarmed, dissolute, dismaid,
Unwares surprised, and with mighty mall
The monster mercilesse him made to fall,        455
Whose fall did never foe before behold;
And now in darkesome dungeon, wretched thrall,
Remedilesse, for aie he doth him hold;
This is my cause of griefe, more great then may be told.’
 
LII
Ere she had ended all, she gan to faint;
        460
But he her comforted, and faire bespake:
‘Certes, madame, ye have great cause of plaint,
That stoutest heart, I weene, could cause to quake.
But be of cheare, and comfort to you take:
For till I have acquitt your captive knight,        465
Assure your selfe, I will you not forsake.’
His chearefull words reviv’d her chearelesse spright:
So forth they went, the dwarfe them guiding ever right.
 
 
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