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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
The Faerie Queene
Book III. The Legend of Britomartis
Canto I
 
THE THIRDE BOOKE
OF THE FAERIE QUEENE
CONTAYNING
THE LEGEND OF BRITOMARTIS
OR
OF CHASTITY

I
IT falls me here to write of Chastity,
That fayrest vertue, far above the rest;
For which what needes me fetch from Faery
Forreine ensamples, it to have exprest?
Sith it is shrined in my Soveraines brest,        5
And formd so lively in each perfect part,
That to all ladies, which have it profest,
Neede but behold the pourtraict of her hart,
If pourtrayd it might bee by any living art.
 
II
But living art may not least part expresse,
        10
Nor life-resembling pencill it can paynt,
All were it Zeuxis or Praxiteles:
His dædale hand would faile, and greatly faynt,
And her perfections with his error taynt:
Ne poets witt, that passeth painter farre        15
In picturing the parts of beauty daynt,
So hard a workemanship adventure darre,
For fear through want of words her excellence to marre.
 
III
How then shall I, apprentice of the skill
That whilome in divinest wits did rayne,        20
Presume so high to stretch mine humble quill?
Yet now my luckelesse lott doth me constrayne
Hereto perforce. But, O dredd Soverayne,
Thus far forth pardon, sith that choicest witt
Cannot your glorious pourtraict figure playne,        25
That I in colourd showes may shadow itt,
And antique praises unto present persons fitt.
 
IV
But if in living colours, and right hew,
Your selfe you covet to see pictured,
Who can it doe more lively, or more trew,        30
Then that sweete verse, with nectar sprinckeled,
In which a gracious servaunt pictured
His Cynthia, his heavens fayrest light?
That with his melting sweetnes ravished,
And with the wonder of her beames bright,        35
My sences lulled are in slomber of delight.
 
V
But let that same delitious poet lend
A little leave unto a rusticke Muse
To sing his mistresse prayse, and let him mend,
If ought amis her liking may abuse:        40
Ne let his fayrest Cynthia refuse,
In mirrours more then one her selfe to see,
But either Gloriana let her chuse,
Or in Belphœbe fashioned to bee:
In th’ one her rule, in th’ other her rare chastitee.        45
 
CANTO I

        Guyon encountreth Britomart:
  Fayre Florimell is chaced:
Duessaes traines and Malecastaes
  champions are defaced.

I
THE FAMOUS Briton Prince and Faery knight,
After long wayes and perilous paines endur’d,
Having their weary limbes to perfect plight
Restord, and sory wounds right well recur’d,
Of the faire Alma greatly were procur’d        50
To make there lenger sojourne and abode;
But when thereto they might not be allur’d
From seeking praise and deeds of armes abrode,
They courteous conge tooke, and forth together yode.
 
II
But the captiv’d Acrasia he sent,
        55
Because of traveill long, a nigher way,
With a strong gard, all reskew to prevent,
And her to Faery court safe to convay,
That her for witnes of his hard assay
Unto his Faery Queene he might present:        60
But he him selfe betooke another way,
To make more triall of his hardiment,
And seeke adventures, as he with Prince Arthure went.
 
III
Long so they traveiled through wastefull wayes,
Where daungers dwelt, and perils most did wonne,        65
To hunt for glory and renowmed prayse:
Full many countreyes they did overronne,
From the uprising to the setting sunne,
And many hard adventures did atchieve;
Of all the which they honour ever wonne,        70
Seeking the weake oppressed to relieve,
And to recover right for such as wrong did grieve.
 
IV
At last, as through an open plaine they yode,
They spide a knight, that towards pricked fayre;
And him beside an aged squire there rode,        75
That seemd to couch under his shield three-square,
As if that age badd him that burden spare,
And yield it those that stouter could it wield:
He them espying, gan him selfe prepare,
And on his arme addresse his goodly shield,        80
That bore a lion passant in a golden field.
 
V
Which seeing good Sir Guyon, deare besought
The Prince, of grace, to let him ronne that turne.
He graunted: then the Faery quickly raught
His poynant speare, and sharply gan to spurne        85
His fomy steed, whose fiery feete did burne
The verdant gras, as he thereon did tread;
Ne did the other backe his foote returne,
But fiercely forward came withouten dread,
And bent his dreadful speare against the others head.        90
 
VI
They beene ymett, and both theyr points arriv’d;
But Guyon drove so furious and fell,
That seemd both shield and plate it would have riv’d:
Nathelesse it bore his foe not from his sell,
But made him stagger, as he were not well:        95
But Guyon selfe, ere well he was aware,
Nigh a speares length behind his crouper fell;
Yet in his fall so well him selfe he bare,
That mischievous mischaunce his life and limbs did spare.
 
VII
Great shame and sorrow of that fall he tooke;
        100
For never yet, sith warlike armes he bore,
And shivering speare in bloody field first shooke,
He fownd him selfe dishonored so sore.
Ah! gentlest knight that ever armor bore,
Let not thee grieve dismounted to have beene,        105
And brought to grownd, that never wast before;
For not thy fault, but secret powre unseene:
That speare enchaunted was, which layd thee on the greene.
 
VIII
But weenedst thou what wight thee overthrew,
Much greater griefe and shamefuller regrett        110
For thy hard fortune then thou wouldst renew,
That of a single damzell thou wert mett
On equall plaine, and there so hard besett:
Even the famous Britomart it was,
Whom straunge adventure did from Britayne fett,        115
To seeke her lover, (love far sought, alas!)
Whose image shee had seene in Venus looking glas.
 
IX
Full of disdainefull wrath, he fierce uprose,
For to revenge that fowle reprochefull shame,
And snatching his bright sword, began to close        120
With her on foot, and stoutly forward came;
Dye rather would he then endure that same.
Which when his palmer saw, he gan to feare
His toward perill and untoward blame,
Which by that new rencounter he should reare:        125
For death sate on the point of that enchaunted speare.
 
X
And hasting towards him gan fayre perswade,
Not to provoke misfortune, nor to weene
His speares default to mend with cruell blade:
For by his mightie science he had seene        130
The secrete vertue of that weapon keene,
That mortall puissaunce mote not withstond:
Nothing on earth mote alwaies happy beene.
Great hazard were it, and adventure fond,
To loose long gotten honour with one evill hond.        135
 
XI
By such good meanes he him discounselled
From prosecuting his revenging rage;
And eke the Prince like treaty handeled,
His wrathfull will with reason to aswage,
And laid the blame, not to his carriage,        140
But to his starting steed, that swarv’d asyde,
And to the ill purveyaunce of his page,
That had his furnitures not firmely tyde:
So is his angry corage fayrly pacifyde.
 
XII
Thus reconcilement was betweene them knitt,
        145
Through goodly temperaunce and affection chaste;
And either vowd with all their power and witt,
To let not others honour be defaste
Of friend or foe, who ever it embaste,
Ne armes to beare against the others syde:        150
In which accord the Prince was also plaste,
And with that golden chaine of concord tyde.
So goodly all agreed, they forth yfere did ryde.
 
XIII
O goodly usage of those antique tymes,
In which the sword was servaunt unto right!        155
When not for malice and contentious crymes,
But all for prayse, and proofe of manly might,
The martiall brood accustomed to fight:
Then honour was the meed of victory,
And yet the vanquished had no despight:        160
Let later age that noble use envy,
Vyle rancor to avoid, and cruel surquedry.
 
XIV
Long they thus traveiled in friendly wise,
Through countreyes waste and eke well edifyde,
Seeking adventures hard, to exercise        165
Their puissaunce, whylome full dernly tryde:
At length they came into a forest wyde,
Whose hideous horror and sad trembling sownd
Full griesly seemd: therein they long did ryde,
Yet tract of living creature none they fownd,        170
Save beares, lyons, and buls, which romed them arownd.
 
XV
All suddenly out of the thickest brush,
Upon a milkwhite palfrey all alone,
A goodly lady did foreby them rush,
Whose face did seeme as cleare as christall stone,        175
And eke through feare as white as whales bone:
Her garments all were wrought of beaten gold,
And all her steed with tinsell trappings shone,
Which fledd so fast that nothing mote him hold,
And scarse them leasure gave, her passing to behold.        180
 
XVI
Still as she fledd her eye she backward threw,
As fearing evill that poursewd her fast;
And her faire yellow locks behind her flew,
Loosely disperst with puff of every blast:
All as a blazing starre doth farre outcast        185
His hearie beames, and flaming lockes dispredd,
At sight whereof the people stand aghast:
But the sage wisard telles, as he has redd,
That it importunes death and dolefull dreryhedd.
 
XVII
So as they gazed after her a whyle,
        190
Lo! where a griesly foster forth did rush,
Breathing out beastly lust her to defyle:
His tyreling jade he fiersly forth did push,
Through thicke and thin, both over banck and bush,
In hope her to attaine by hooke or crooke,        195
That from his gory sydes the blood did gush:
Large were his limbes, and terrible his looke,
And in his clownish hand a sharp bore speare he shooke.
 
XVIII
Which outrage when those gentle knights did see,
Full of great envy and fell gealosy,        200
They stayd not to avise who first should bee,
But all spurd after fast as they mote fly,
To reskew her from shamefull villany.
The Prince and Guyon equally bylive
Her selfe pursewd, in hope to win thereby        205
Most goodly meede, the fairest dame alive:
But after the foule foster Timias did strive.
 
XIX
The whiles faire Britomart, whose constant mind
Would not so lightly follow beauties chace,
Ne reckt of ladies love, did stay behynd,        210
And them awayted there a certaine space,
To weet if they would turne backe to that place:
But when she saw them gone, she forward went,
As lay her journey, through that perlous pace,
With stedfast corage and stout hardiment;        215
Ne evil thing she feard, ne evill thing she ment.
 
XX
At last, as nigh out of the wood she came,
A stately castle far away she spyde,
To which her steps directly she did frame.
That castle was most goodly edifyde,        220
And plaste for pleasure nigh that forrest syde:
But faire before the gate a spatious playne,
Mantled with greene, it selfe did spredden wyde,
On which she saw six knights, that did darrayne
Fiers battaill against one, with cruel might and mayne.        225
 
XXI
Mainely they all attonce upon him laid,
And sore beset on every side arownd,
That nigh he breathlesse grew, yet nought dismaid,
Ne ever to them yielded foot of grownd,
All had he lost much blood through many a wownd,        230
But stoutly dealt his blowes, and every way,
To which he turned in his wrathfull stownd,
Made them recoile, and fly from dredd decay,
That none of all the six before him durst assay.
 
XXII
Like dastard curres, that, having at a bay
        235
The salvage beast embost in wearie chace,
Dare not adventure on the stubborne pray,
Ne byte before, but rome from place to place,
To get a snatch, when turned is his face.
In such distresse and doubtfull jeopardy        240
When Britomart him saw, she ran apace
Unto his reskew, and with earnest cry
Badd those same sixe forbeare that single enimy.
 
XXIII
But to her cry they list not lenden eare,
Ne ought the more their mightie strokes surceasse,        245
But gathering him rownd about more neare,
Their direfull rancour rather did encreasse;
Till that she, rushing through the thickest preasse,
Perforce disparted their compacted gyre,
And soone compeld to hearken unto peace:        250
Tho gan she myldly of them to inquyre
The cause of their dissention and outrageous yre.
 
XXIV
Whereto that single knight did answere frame:
‘These six would me enforce by oddes of might,
To chaunge my liefe, and love another dame,        255
That death me liefer were then such despight,
So unto wrong to yield my wrested right:
For I love one, the truest one on grownd,
Ne list me chaunge; she th’ Errant Damzell hight;
For whose deare sake full many a bitter stownd        260
I have endurd, and tasted many a bloody wownd.’
 
XXV
‘Certes,’ said she, ‘then beene ye sixe to blame,
To weene your wrong by force to justify:
For knight to leave his lady were great shame,
That faithfull is, and better were to dy.        265
All losse is lesse, and lesse the infamy,
Then losse of love to him that loves but one:
Ne may love be compeld by maistery;
For soone as maistery comes, sweet Love anone
Taketh his nimble winges, and soone away is gone.’        270
 
XXVI
Then spake one of those six: ‘There dwelleth here,
Within this castle wall, a lady fayre,
Whose soveraine beautie hath no living pere;
Thereto so bounteous and so debonayre,
That never any mote with her compayre.        275
She hath ordaind this law, which we approve,
That every knight, which doth this way repayre,
In case he have no lady nor no love,
Shall doe unto her service, never to remove.
 
XXVII
‘But if he have a lady or a love,
        280
Then must he her forgoe with fowle defame,
Or els with us by dint of sword approve,
That she is fairer then our fairest dame;
As did this knight, before ye hether came.’
‘Perdy,’ said Britomart, ‘the choise is hard:        285
But what reward had he that overcame?’
‘He should advaunced bee to high regard,’
Said they, ‘and have our ladies love for his reward.
 
XXVIII
‘Therefore aread, sir, if thou have a love.’
‘Love have I sure,’ quoth she, ‘but lady none;        290
Yet will I not fro mine owne love remove,
Ne to your lady will I service done,
But wreake your wronges wrought to this knight alone,
And prove his cause.’ With that, her mortall speare
She mightily aventred towards one,        295
And downe him smot ere well aware he weare;
Then to the next she rode, and downe the next did beare.
 
XXIX
Ne did she stay, till three on ground she layd,
That none of them himselfe could reare againe;
The fourth was by that other knight dismayd,        300
All were he wearie of his former paine,
That now there do but two of six remaine;
Which two did yield before she did them smight.
‘Ah!’ sayd she then, ‘now may ye all see plaine,
That truth is strong, and trew love most of might,        305
That for his trusty servaunts doth so strongly fight.’
 
XXX
‘Too well we see,’ saide they, ‘and prove too well
Our faulty weakenes, and your matchlesse might:
Forthy, faire sir, yours be the damozell,
Which by her owne law to your lot doth light,        310
And we your liege men faith unto you plight.’
So underneath her feet their swords they mard,
And after, her besought, well as they might,
To enter in and reape the dew reward:
She graunted, and then in they all together far’d.        315
 
XXXI
Long were it to describe the goodly frame
And stately port of Castle Joyeous,
(For so that castle hight by commun name)
Where they were entertaynd with courteous
And comely glee of many gratious        320
Faire ladies, and of many a gentle knight,
Who through a chamber long and spacious,
Eftsoones them brought unto their ladies sight,
That of them cleeped was the Lady of Delight.
 
XXXII
But for to tell the sumptuous aray
        325
Of that great chamber should be labour lost:
For living wit, I weene, cannot display
The roiall riches and exceeding cost
Of every pillous and of every post;
Which all of purest bullion framed were,        330
And with great perles and pretious stones embost,
That the bright glister of their beames cleare
Did sparckle forth great light, and glorious did appeare.
 
XXXIII
These stranger knights, through passing, forth were led
Into an inner rowme, whose royaltee        335
And rich purveyance might uneath be red;
Mote princes place beseeme so deckt to bee.
Which stately manner when as they did see,
The image of superfluous riotize,
Exceeding much the state of meane degree,        340
They greatly wondred whence so sumpteous guize
Might be maintaynd, and each gan diversely devize.
 
XXXIV
The wals were round about appareiled
With costly clothes of Arras and of Toure,
In which with cunning hand was pourtrahed        345
The love of Venus and her paramoure,
The fayre Adonis, turned to a flowre,
A worke of rare device and wondrous wit.
First did it shew the bitter balefull stowre,
Which her assayd with many a fervent fit,        350
When first her tender hart was with his beautie smit:
 
XXXV
Then with what sleights and sweet allurements she
Entyst the boy, as well that art she knew,
And wooed him her paramoure to bee;
Now making girlonds of each flowre that grew,        355
To crowne his golden lockes with honour dew;
Now leading him into a secret shade
From his beauperes, and from bright heavens vew,
Where him to sleepe she gently would perswade,
Or bathe him in a fountaine by some covert glade.        360
 
XXXVI
And whilst he slept, she over him would spred
Her mantle, colour’d like the starry skyes,
And her soft arme lay underneath his hed,
And with ambrosiall kisses bathe his eyes;
And whilst he bath’d, with her two crafty spyes        365
She secretly would search each daintie lim,
And throw into the well sweet rosemaryes,
And fragrant violets, and paunces trim,
And ever with sweet nectar she did sprinkle him.
 
XXXVII
So did she steale his heedelesse hart away,
        370
And joyd his love in secret unespyde.
But for she saw him bent to cruell play,
To hunt the salvage beast in forrest wyde,
Dreadfull of daunger, that mote him betyde,
She oft and oft adviz’d him to refraine        375
From chase of greater beastes, whose brutish pryde
Mote breede him scath unwares: but all in vaine;
For who can shun the chance that dest’ny doth ordaine?
 
XXXVIII
Lo! where beyond he lyeth languishing,
Deadly engored of a great wilde bore,        380
And by his side the goddesse groveling
Makes for him endlesse mone, and evermore
With her soft garment wipes away the gore,
Which staynes his snowy skin with hatefull hew:
But when she saw no helpe might him restore,        385
Him to a dainty flowre she did transmew,
Which in that cloth was wrought, as if it lively grew.
 
XXXIX
So was that chamber clad in goodly wize:
And rownd about it many beds were dight,
As whylome was the antique worldes guize,        390
Some for untimely ease, some for delight,
As pleased them to use, that use it might:
And all was full of damzels and of squyres,
Dauncing and reveling both day and night,
And swimming deepe in sensuall desyres;        395
And Cupid still emongest them kindled lustfull fyres.
 
XL
And all the while sweet musicke did divide
Her looser notes with Lydian harmony;
And all the while sweet birdes thereto applide
Their daintie layes and dulcet melody,        400
Ay caroling of love and jollity,
That wonder was to heare their trim consort.
Which when those knights beheld, with scornefull eye,
They sdeigned such lascivious disport,
And loath’d the loose demeanure of that wanton sort.        405
 
XLI
Thence they were brought to that great ladies vew,
Whom they found sitting on a sumptuous bed,
That glistred all with gold and glorious shew,
As the proud Persian queenes accustomed:
She seemed a woman of great bountihed        410
And of rare beautie, saving that askaunce
Her wanton eyes, ill signes of womanhed,
Did roll too lightly, and too often glaunce,
Without regard of grace or comely amenaunce.
 
XLII
Long worke it were, and needlesse, to devize
        415
Their goodly entertainement and great glee:
She caused them be led in courteous wize
Into a bowre, disarmed for to be,
And cheared well with wine and spiceree:
The Redcrosse Knight was soone disarmed there,        420
But the brave mayd would not disarmed bee,
But onely vented up her umbriere.
And so did let her goodly visage to appere.
 
XLIII
As when fayre Cynthia, in darkesome night,
Is in a noyous cloud enveloped,        425
Where she may finde the substance thin and light
Breakes forth her silver beames, and her bright hed
Discovers to the world discomfited;
Of the poore traveiler, that went astray,
With thousand blessings she is heried;        430
Such was the beautie and the shining ray,
With which fayre Britomart gave light unto the day.
 
XLIV
And eke those six, which lately with her fought,
Now were disarmd, and did them selves present
Unto her vew, and company unsought;        435
For they all seemed courteous and gent,
And all sixe brethren, borne of one parent,
Which had them traynd in all civilitee,
And goodly taught to tilt and turnament;
Now were they liegmen to this ladie free,        440
And her knights service ought, to hold of her in fee.
 
XLV
The first of them by name Gardante hight,
A jolly person, and of comely vew;
The second was Parlante, a bold knight,
And next to him Jocante did ensew;        445
Basciante did him selfe most courteous shew;
But fierce Bacchante seemd too fell and keene;
And yett in armes Noctante greater grew:
All were faire knights, and goodly well beseene,
But to faire Britomart they all but shadowes beene.        450
 
XLVI
For shee was full of amiable grace,
And manly terror mixed therewithall,
That as the one stird up affections bace,
So th’ other did mens rash desires apall,
And hold them backe, that would in error fall;        455
As hee that hath espide a vermeill rose,
To which sharpe thornes and breres the way forstall,
Dare not for dread his hardy hand expose,
But wishing it far off, his ydle wish doth lose.
 
XLVII
Whom when the lady saw so faire a wight,
        460
All ignorant of her contrary sex,
(For shee her weend a fresh and lusty knight)
Shee greatly gan enamoured to wex,
And with vaine thoughts her falsed fancy vex:
Her fickle hart conceived hasty fyre,        465
Like sparkes of fire which fall in sclender flex,
That shortly brent into extreme desyre,
And ransackt all her veines with passion entyre.
 
XLVIII
Eftsoones shee grew to great impatience,
And into termes of open outrage brust,        470
That plaine discovered her incontinence,
Ne reckt shee who her meaning did mistrust;
For she was given all to fleshly lust,
And poured forth in sensuall delight,
That all regard of shame she had discust,        475
And meet respect of honor putt to flight:
So shamelesse beauty soone becomes a loathly sight.
 
XLIX
Faire ladies, that to love captived arre,
And chaste desires doe nourish in your mind,
Let not her fault your sweete affections marre,        480
Ne blott the bounty of all womankind,
’Mongst thousands good one wanton dame to find:
Emongst the roses grow some wicked weeds:
For this was not to love, but lust, inclind;
For love does alwaies bring forth bounteous deeds,        485
And in each gentle hart desire of honor breeds.
 
L
Nought so of love this looser dame did skill,
But as a cole to kindle fleshly flame,
Giving the bridle to her wanton will,
And treading under foote her honest name:        490
Such love is hate, and such desire is shame.
Still did she rove at her with crafty glaunce
Of her false eies, that at her hart did ayme,
And told her meaning in her countenaunce;
But Britomart dissembled it with ignoraunce.        495
 
LI
Supper was shortly dight, and downe they satt;
Where they were served with all sumptuous fare,
Whiles fruitfull Ceres and Lyæus fatt
Pourd out their plenty, without spight or spare:
Nought wanted there that dainty was and rare;        500
And aye the cups their bancks did overflow,
And aye, betweene the cups, she did prepare
Way to her love, and secret darts did throw;
But Britomart would not such guilfull message know.
 
LII
So when they slaked had the fervent heat
        505
Of appetite with meates of every sort,
The lady did faire Britomart entreat,
Her to disarme, and with delightfull sport
To loose her warlike limbs and strong effort:
But when shee mote not thereunto be wonne,        510
(For shee her sexe under that straunge purport
Did use to hide, and plaine apparaunce shonne,)
In playner wise to tell her grievaunce she begonne.
 
LIII
And all attonce discovered her desire
With sighes, and sobs, and plaints, and piteous griefe,        515
The outward sparkes of her inburning fire;
Which spent in vaine, at last she told her briefe,
That, but if she did lend her short reliefe,
And doe her comfort, she mote algates dye.
But the chaste damzell, that had never priefe        520
Of such malengine and fine forgerye,
Did easely beleeve her strong extremitye.
 
LIV
Full easy was for her to have beliefe,
Who by self-feeling of her feeble sexe,
And by long triall of the inward griefe,        525
Wherewith imperious love her hart did vexe,
Could judge what paines doe loving harts perplexe.
Who meanes no guile, be guiled soonest shall,
And to faire semblaunce doth light faith annexe:
The bird, that knowes not the false fowlers call,        530
Into his hidden nett full easely doth fall.
 
LV
Forthy she would not in discourteise wise
Scorne the faire offer of good will profest;
For great rebuke it is, love to despise,
Or rudely sdeigne a gentle harts request;        535
But with faire countenaunce, as beseemed best,
Her entertaynd; nath’lesse shee inly deemd
Her love too light, to wooe a wandring guest:
Which she misconstruing, thereby esteemd
That from like inward fire that outward smoke had steemd.        540
 
LVI
Therewith a while she her flit fancy fedd,
Till she mote winne fit time for her desire,
But yet her wound still inward freshly bledd,
And through her bones the false instilled fire
Did spred it selfe, and venime close inspire.        545
Tho were the tables taken all away,
And every knight, and every gentle squire
Gan choose his dame with basciomani gay,
With whom he ment to make his sport and courtly play.
 
LVII
Some fell to daunce, some fel to hazardry,
        550
Some to make love, some to make meryment,
As diverse witts to diverse things apply;
And all the while faire Malecasta bent
Her crafty engins to her close intent.
By this th’ eternall lampes, wherewith high Jove        555
Doth light the lower world, were halfe yspent,
And the moist daughters of huge Atlas strove
Into the ocean deepe to drive their weary drove.
 
LVIII
High time it seemed then for everie wight
Them to betake unto their kindly rest:        560
Eftesoones long waxen torches weren light,
Unto their bowres to guyden every guest:
Tho, when the Britonesse saw all the rest
Avoided quite, she gan her selfe despoile,
And safe committ to her soft fethered nest,        565
Wher through long watch, and late daies weary toile,
She soundly slept, and carefull thoughts did quite assoile.
 
LIX
Now whenas all the world in silence deepe
Yshrowded was, and every mortall wight
Was drowned in the depth of deadly sleepe,        570
Faire Malecasta, whose engrieved spright
Could find no rest in such perplexed plight,
Lightly arose out of her wearie bed,
And, under the blacke vele of guilty night,
Her with a scarlott mantle covered,        575
That was with gold and ermines faire enveloped.
 
LX
Then panting softe, and trembling every joynt,
Her fearfull feete towards the bowre she mov’d,
Where she for secret purpose did appoynt
To lodge the warlike maide, unwisely loov’d;        580
And to her bed approching, first she proov’d
Whether she slept or wakte; with her softe hand
She softely felt if any member moov’d,
And lent her wary eare to understand
If any puffe of breath or signe of sence shee fond.        585
 
LXI
Which whenas none she fond, with easy shifte,
For feare least her unwares she should abrayd,
Th’ embroderd quilt she lightly up did lifte,
And by her side her selfe she softly layd,
Of every finest fingers touch affrayd;        590
Ne any noise she made, ne word she spake,
But inly sigh’d. At last the royall mayd
Out of her quiet slomber did awake,
And chaungd her weary side, the better ease to take.
 
LXII
Where feeling one close couched by her side,
        595
She lightly lept out of her filed bedd,
And to her weapon ran, in minde to gride
The loathed leachour. But the dame, halfe dedd
Through suddein feare and ghastly drerihedd,
Did shrieke alowd, that through the hous it rong,        600
And the whole family, therewith adredd,
Rashly out of their rouzed couches sprong,
And to the troubled chamber all in armes did throng.
 
LXIII
And those sixe knights, that ladies champions,
And eke the Redcrosse Knight ran to the stownd,        605
Halfe armd and halfe unarmd, with them attons:
Where when confusedly they came, they fownd
Their lady lying on the sencelesse grownd;
On thother side, they saw the warlike mayd
Al in her snow-white smocke, with locks unbownd,        610
Threatning the point of her avenging blaed;
That with so troublous terror they were all dismayd.
 
LXIV
About their ladye first they flockt arownd;
Whom having laid in comfortable couch,
Shortly they reard out of her frosen swownd;        615
And afterwardes they gan with fowle reproch
To stirre up strife, and troublous contecke broch:
But, by ensample of the last dayes losse,
None of them rashly durst to her approch,
Ne in so glorious spoile themselves embosse:        620
Her succourd eke the champion of the bloody crosse.
 
LXV
But one of those sixe knights, Gardante hight,
Drew out a deadly bow and arrow keene,
Which forth he sent with felonous despight,
And fell intent, against the virgin sheene:        625
The mortall steele stayd not till it was seene
To gore her side; yet was the wound not deepe,
But lightly rased her soft silken skin,
That drops of purple blood thereout did weepe,
Which did her lilly smock with staines of vermeil steep.        630
 
LXVI
Wherewith enrag’d, she fiercely at them flew,
And with her flaming sword about her layd,
That none of them foule mischiefe could eschew,
But with her dreadful strokes were all dismayd:
Here, there, and every where about her swayd        635
Her wrathfull steele, that none mote it abyde;
And eke the Redcrosse Knight gave her good ayd,
Ay joyning foot to foot, and syde to syde,
That in short space their foes they have quite terrifyde.
 
LXVII
Tho whenas all were put to shamefull flight,
        640
The noble Britomartis her arayd,
And her bright armes about her body dight:
For nothing would she lenger there be stayd,
Where so loose life, and so ungentle trade,
Was usd of knights and ladies seeming gent:        645
So, earely, ere the grosse earthes gryesy shade
Was all disperst out of the firmament,
They tooke their steeds, and forth upon their journey went.
 
 
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