Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
The Faerie Queene
Book III. The Legend of Britomartis
Canto V
 
        Prince Arthur heares of Florimell:
  Three fosters Timias wound;
Belphebe findes him almost dead,
  And reareth out of sownd.

I
WONDER it is to see in diverse mindes
How diversly Love doth his pageaunts play,
And shewes his powre in variable kindes:
The baser wit, whose ydle thoughts alway
Are wont to cleave unto the lowly clay,        5
It stirreth up to sensuall desire,
And in lewd slouth to wast his carelesse day:
But in brave sprite it kindles goodly fire,
That to all high desert and honour doth aspire.
 
II
Ne suffereth it uncomely idlenesse
        10
In his free thought to build her sluggish nest;
Ne suffereth it thought of ungentlenesse
Ever to creepe into his noble brest;
But to the highest and the worthiest
Lifteth it up, that els would lowly fall:        15
It lettes not fall, it lettes it not to rest:
It lettes not scarse this Prince to breath at all,
But to his first poursuit him forward still doth call.
 
III
Who long time wandred through the forest wyde,
To finde some issue thence, till that at last        20
He met a dwarfe, that seemed terrifyde
With some late perill, which he hardly past,
Or other accident which him aghast;
Of whom he asked, whence he lately came,
And whether now he traveiled so fast:        25
For sore he swat, and ronning through that same
Thicke forest, was bescracht, and both his feet nigh lame.
 
IV
Panting for breath, and almost out of hart,
The dwarfe him answerd: ‘Sir, ill mote I stay
To tell the same. I lately did depart        30
From Faery court, where I have many a day
Served a gentle lady of great sway
And high accompt through out all Elfin Land,
Who lately left the same, and tooke this way:
Her now I seeke, and if ye understand        35
Which way she fared hath, good sir, tell out of hand.’
 
V
‘What mister wight,’ saide he, ‘and how arayd?’
‘Royally clad,’ quoth he, ‘in cloth of gold,
As meetest may beseeme a noble mayd;
Her faire lockes in rich circlet be enrold,        40
A fayrer wight did never sunne behold;
And on a palfrey rydes more white then snow,
Yet she her selfe is whiter manifold:
The surest signe, whereby ye may her know,
Is, that she is the fairest wight alive, I trow.’        45
 
VI
‘Now certes, swaine,’ saide he, ‘such one, I weene,
Fast flying through this forest from her fo,
A foule ill favoured foster, I have seene;
Her selfe, well as I might, I reskewd tho,
But could not stay, so fast she did foregoe,        50
Carried away with wings of speedy feare.’
‘Ah, dearest God!’ quoth he, ‘that is great woe,
And wondrous ruth to all that shall it heare.
But can ye read, sir, how I may her finde, or where?’
 
VII
‘Perdy, me lever were to weeten that,’
        55
Saide he, ‘then ransome of the richest knight,
Or all the good that ever yet I gat:
But froward Fortune, and too forward Night,
Such happinesse did, maulgre, to me spight,
And fro me reft both life and light attone.        60
But, dwarfe, aread what is that lady bright,
That through this forrest wandreth thus alone;
For of her errour straunge I have great ruth and mone.’
 
VIII
‘That ladie is,’ quoth he, ‘where so she bee,
The bountiest virgin and most debonaire        65
That ever living eye, I weene, did see;
Lives none this day that may with her compare
In stedfast chastitie and vertue rare,
The goodly ornaments of beautie bright;
And is ycleped Florimell the Fayre,        70
Faire Florimell, belov’d of many a knight,
Yet she loves none but one, that Marinell is hight.
 
IX
‘A sea-nymphes sonne, that Marinell is hight,
Of my deare dame is loved dearely well;
In other none, but him, she sets delight,        75
All her delight is set on Marinell;
But he sets nought at all by Florimell:
For ladies love his mother long ygoe
Did him, they say, forwarne through sacred spell.
But fame now flies, that of a forreine foe        80
He is yslaine, which is the ground of all our woe.
 
X
‘Five daies there be since he (they say) was slaine,
And fowre, since Florimell the court forwent,
And vowed never to returne againe,
Till him alive or dead she did invent.        85
Therefore, faire sir, for love of knighthood gent
And honour of trew ladies, if ye may
By your good counsell, or bold hardiment,
Or succour her, or me direct the way,
Do one or other good, I you most humbly pray.        90
 
XI
‘So may ye gaine to you full great renowme
Of all good ladies through the world so wide,
And haply in her hart finde highest rowme,
Of whom ye seeke to be most magnifide:
At least eternall meede shall you abide.’        95
To whom the Prince: ‘Dwarfe, comfort to thee take;
For till thou tidings learne, what her betide,
I here avow thee never to forsake.
Ill weares he armes, that nill them use for ladies sake.’
 
XII
So with the dwarfe he backe retourn’d againe,
        100
To seeke his lady, where he mote her finde;
But by the way he greatly gan complaine
The want of his good squire, late left behinde,
For whom he wondrous pensive grew in minde,
For doubt of daunger, which mote him betide;        105
For him he loved above all mankinde,
Having him trew and faithfull ever tride,
And bold, as ever squyre that waited by knights side.
 
XIII
Who all this while full hardly was assayd
Of deadly daunger, which to him betidd;        110
For whiles his lord pursewd that noble mayd,
After that foster fowle he fiercely ridd,
To bene avenged of the shame he did
To that faire damzell. Him he chaced long
Through the thicke woods, wherein he would have hid        115
His shamefull head from his avengement strong,
And oft him threatned death for his outrageous wrong.
 
XIV
Nathlesse the villein sped himselfe so well,
Whether through swiftnesse of his speedie beast,
Or knowledge of those woods, where he did dwell,        120
That shortly he from daunger was releast,
And out of sight escaped at the least;
Yet not escaped from the dew reward
Of his bad deedes, which daily he increast,
Ne ceased not, till him oppressed hard        125
The heavie plague that for such leachours is prepard.
 
XV
For soone as he was vanisht out of sight,
His coward courage gan emboldned bee,
And cast t’ avenge him of that fowle despight,
Which he had borne of his bold enimee.        130
Tho to his brethren came; for they were three
Ungratious children of one gracelesse syre;
And unto them complayned how that he
Had used beene of that foolehardie squyre:
So them with bitter words he stird to bloodie yre.        135
 
XVI
Forthwith themselves with their sad instruments
Of spoyle and murder they gan arme bylive,
And with him foorth into the forrest went,
To wreake the wrath, which he did earst revive
In their sterne brests, on him which late did drive        140
Their brother to reproch and shamefull flight:
For they had vow’d, that never he alive
Out of that forest should escape their might;
Vile rancour their rude harts had fild with such despight.
 
XVII
Within that wood there was a covert glade,
        145
Foreby a narrow foord, to them well knowne,
Through which it was uneath for wight to wade,
And now by fortune it was overflowne:
By that same way they knew that squyre unknowne
Mote algates passe; forthy themselves they set        150
There in await, with thicke woods over growne,
And all the while their malice they did whet
With cruell threats, his passage through the ford to let.
 
XVIII
It fortuned, as they devized had,
The gentle squyre came ryding that same way,        155
Unweeting of their wile and treason bad,
And through the ford to passen did assay;
But that fierce foster, which late fled away,
Stoutly foorth stepping on the further shore,
Him boldly bad his passage there to stay,        160
Till he had made amends, and full restore
For all the damage which he had him doen afore.
 
XIX
With that, at him a quiv’ring dart he threw,
With so fell force and villeinous despite,
That through his haberjeon the forkehead flew,        165
And through the linked mayles empierced quite,
But had no powre in his soft flesh to bite:
That stroke the hardy squire did sore displease,
But more that him he could not come to smite;
For by no meanes the high banke he could sease,        170
But labour’d long in that deepe ford with vaine disease.
 
XX
And still the foster with his long borespeare
Him kept from landing at his wished will.
Anone one sent out of the thicket neare
A cruell shaft, headed with deadly ill,        175
And fethered with an unlucky quill:
The wicked steele stayd not, till it did light
In his left thigh, and deepely did it thrill:
Exceeding griefe that wound in him empight,
But more that with his foes he could not come to fight.        180
 
XXI
At last, through wrath and vengeaunce making way,
He on the bancke arryvd with mickle payne,
Where the third brother him did sore assay,
And drove at him with all his might and mayne
A forest bill, which both his hands did strayne;        185
But warily he did avoide the blow,
And with his speare requited him agayne,
That both his sides were thrilled with the throw,
And a large streame of blood out of the wound did flow.
 
XXII
He, tombling downe, with gnashing teeth did bite
        190
The bitter earth, and bad to lett him in
Into the balefull house of endlesse night,
Where wicked ghosts doe waile their former sin.
Tho gan the battaile freshly to begin;
For nathemore for that spectacle bad        195
Did th’ other two their cruell vengeaunce blin,
But both attonce on both sides him bestad,
And load upon him layd, his life for to have had.
 
XXIII
Tho when that villayn he aviz’d, which late
Affrighted had the fairest Florimell,        200
Full of fiers fury and indignant hate,
To him he turned, and with rigor fell
Smote him so rudely on the pannikell,
That to the chin he clefte his head in twaine:
Downe on the ground his carkas groveling fell;        205
His sinfull sowle, with desperate disdaine,
Out of her fleshly ferme fled to the place of paine.
 
XXIV
That seeing now the only last of three,
Who with that wicked shafte him wounded had,
Trembling with horror, as that did foresee        210
The fearefull end of his avengement sad,
Through which he follow should his brethren bad,
His bootelesse bow in feeble hand upcaught,
And therewith shott an arrow at the lad;
Which, fayntly fluttring, scarce his helmet raught,        215
And glauncing fel to ground, but him annoyed naught.
 
XXV
With that he would have fled into the wood;
But Timias him lightly overhent,
Right as he entring was into the flood,
And strooke at him with force so violent,        220
That headlesse him into the foord he sent;
The carcas with the streame was carried downe,
But th’ head fell backeward on the continent.
So mischief fel upon the meaners crowne;
They three be dead with shame, the squire lives with renowne.        225
 
XXVI
He lives, but takes small joy of his renowne;
For of that cruell wound he bled so sore,
That from his steed he fell in deadly swowne;
Yet still the blood forth gusht in so great store,
That he lay wallowd all in his owne gore.        230
Now God thee keepe, thou gentlest squire alive,
Els shall thy loving lord thee see no more,
But both of comfort him thou shalt deprive,
And eke thy selfe of honor, which thou didst atchive.
 
XXVII
Providence hevenly passeth living thought,
        235
And doth for wretched mens reliefe make way;
For loe! great grace or fortune thether brought
Comfort to him that comfortlesse now lay.
In those same woods, ye well remember may
How that a noble hunteresse did wonne,        240
Shee that base Braggadochio did affray,
And made him fast out of the forest ronne;
Belphœbe was her name, as faire as Phæbus sunne.
 
XXVIII
She on a day, as shee pursewd the chace
Of some wilde beast, which with her arrowes keene        245
She wounded had, the same along did trace
By tract of blood, which she had freshly seene
To have besprinckled all the grassy greene;
By the great persue, which she there perceav’d,
Well hoped shee the beast engor’d had beene,        250
And made more haste, the life to have bereav’d:
But ah! her expectation greatly was deceav’d.
 
XXIX
Shortly she came whereas that woefull squire,
With blood deformed, lay in deadly swownd:
In whose faire eyes, like lamps of quenched fire,        255
The christall humor stood congealed rownd;
His locks, like faded leaves fallen to grownd,
Knotted with blood in bounches rudely ran;
And his sweete lips, on which before that stownd
The bud of youth to blossome faire began,        260
Spoild of their rosy red, were woxen pale and wan.
 
XXX
Saw never living eie more heavy sight,
That could have made a rocke of stone to rew,
Or rive in twaine: which when that lady bright,
Besides all hope, with melting eies did vew,        265
All suddeinly abasht shee chaunged hew,
And with sterne horror backward gan to start:
But when shee better him beheld, shee grew
Full of soft passion and unwonted smart:
The point of pitty perced through her tender hart.        270
 
XXXI
Meekely shee bowed downe, to weete if life
Yett in his frosen members did remaine;
And feeling by his pulses beating rife
That the weake sowle her seat did yett retaine,
She cast to comfort him with busy paine:        275
His double folded necke she reard upright,
And rubd his temples and each trembling vaine;
His mayled haberjeon she did undight,
And from his head his heavy burganet did light.
 
XXXII
Into the woods thenceforth in haste shee went,
        280
To seeke for hearbes that mote him remedy;
For shee of herbes had great intendiment,
Taught of the nymphe, which from her infancy
Her nourced had in trew nobility:
There, whether yt divine tobacco were,        285
Or panachæa, or polygony,
Shee fownd, and brought it to her patient deare,
Who al this while lay bleding out his hart-blood neare.
 
XXXIII
The soveraine weede betwixt two marbles plaine
Shee pownded small, and did in peeces bruze,        290
And then atweene her lilly handes twaine
Into his wound the juice thereof did scruze,
And round about, as she could well it uze,
The flesh therewith shee suppled and did steepe,
T’ abate all spasme and soke the swelling bruze,        295
And after having searcht the intuse deepe,
She with her scarf did bind the wound from cold to keepe.
 
XXXIV
By this he had sweet life recur’d agayne,
And, groning inly deepe, at last his eies,
His watry eies, drizling like deawy rayne,        300
He up gan lifte toward the azure skies,
From whence descend all hopelesse remedies:
Therewith he sigh’d, and turning him aside,
The goodly maide ful of divinities
And gifts of heavenly grace he by him spide,        305
Her bow and gilden quiver lying him beside.
 
XXXV
‘Mercy! deare Lord,’ said he, ‘what grace is this,
That thou hast shewed to me, sinfull wight,
To send thine angell from her bowre of blis,
To comfort me in my distressed plight?        310
Angell, or goddesse doe I call thee right?
What service may I doe unto thee meete,
That hast from darkenes me returnd to light,
And with thy hevenly salves and med’cines sweete
Hast drest my sinfull wounds? I kisse thy blessed feete.        315
 
XXXVI
Thereat she blushing said: ‘Ah! gentle squire,
Nor goddesse I, nor angell, but the mayd
And daughter of a woody nymphe, desire
No service but thy safety and ayd;
Which if thou gaine, I shalbe well apayd.        320
Wee mortall wights, whose lives and fortunes bee
To commun accidents stil open layd,
Are bownd with commun bond of frailtee,
To succor wretched wights, whom we captived see.’
 
XXXVII
By this her damzells, which the former chace
        325
Had undertaken after her, arryv’d,
As did Belphœbe, in the bloody place,
And thereby deemd the beast had bene depriv’d
Of life, whom late their ladies arrow ryv’d:
Forthy the bloody tract they followd fast,        330
And every one to ronne the swiftest stryv’d;
But two of them the rest far overpast,
And where their lady was arrived at the last.
 
XXXVIII
Where when they saw that goodly boy, with blood
Defowled, and their lady dresse his wownd,        335
They wondred much, and shortly understood
How him in deadly case theyr lady fownd,
And reskewed out of the heavy stownd.
Eftsoones his warlike courser, which was strayd
Farre in the woodes, whiles that he lay in swownd,        340
She made those damzels search, which being stayd,
They did him set theron, and forth with them convayd.
 
XXXIX
Into that forest farre they thence him led,
Where was their dwelling, in a pleasant glade
With mountaines rownd about environed,        345
And mightie woodes, which did the valley shade,
And like a stately theatre it made,
Spreading it selfe into a spatious plaine;
And in the midst a little river plaide
Emongst the pumy stones, which seemd to plaine        350
With gentle murmure that his cours they did restraine.
 
XL
Beside the same a dainty place there lay,
Planted with mirtle trees and laurells greene,
In which the birds song many a lovely lay
Of Gods high praise, and of their loves sweet teene,        355
As it an earthly paradize had beene:
In whose enclosed shadow there was pight
A faire pavilion, scarcely to be seene,
The which was al within most richly dight,
That greatest princes living it mote well delight.        360
 
XLI
Thether they brought that wounded squyre, and layd
In easie couch his feeble limbes to rest.
He rested him a while, and then the mayd
His readie wound with better salves new drest:
Daily she dressed him, and did the best,        365
His grievous hurt to guarish, that she might,
That shortly she his dolour hath redrest,
And his foule sore reduced to faire plight:
It she reduced, but himselfe destroyed quight.
 
XLII
O foolish physick, and unfruitfull paine,
        370
That heales up one and makes another wound!
She his hurt thigh to him recurd againe,
But hurt his hart, the which before was sound,
Through an unwary dart, which did rebownd
From her faire eyes and gratious countenaunce.        375
What bootes it him from death to be unbownd,
To be captived in endlesse duraunce
Of sorrow and despeyre without aleggeaunce?
 
XLIII
Still as his wound did gather, and grow hole,
So still his hart woxe sore, and health decayd:        380
Madnesse to save a part, and lose the whole!
Still whenas he beheld the heavenly mayd,
Whiles dayly playsters to his wownd she layd,
So still his malady the more increast,
The whiles her matchlesse beautie him dismayd.        385
Ah God! what other could he doe at least,
But love so fayre a lady, that his life releast?
 
XLIV
Long while he strove in his corageous brest,
With reason dew the passion to subdew,
And love for to dislodge out of his nest:        390
Still when her excellencies he did vew,
Her soveraine bountie and celestiall hew,
The same to love he strongly was constraynd:
But when his meane estate he did revew,
He from such hardy boldnesse was restraynd,        395
And of his lucklesse lott and cruell love thus playnd.
 
XLV
‘Unthankfull wretch,’ said he, ‘is this the meed,
With which her soverain mercy thou doest quight?
Thy life she saved by her gratious deed,
But thou doest weene with villeinous despight        400
To blott her honour and her heavenly light.
Dye rather, dye, then so disloyally
Deeme of her high desert, or seeme so light:
Fayre death it is, to shonne more shame, to dy:
Dye rather, dy, then ever love disloyally.        405
 
XLVI
‘But if to love disloyalty it bee,
Shall I then hate her, that from deathes dore
Me brought? ah! farre be such reproch fro mee!
What can I lesse doe, then her love therefore,
Sith I her dew reward cannot restore?        410
Dye rather, dye, and dying doe her serve,
Dying her serve, and living her adore;
Thy life she gave, thy life she doth deserve:
Dye rather, dye, then ever from her service swerve.
 
XLVII
‘But, foolish boy, what bootes thy service bace
        415
To her, to whom the hevens doe serve and sew?
Thou a meane squyre, of meeke and lowly place,
She hevenly borne, and of celestiall hew.
How then? of all Love taketh equall vew:
And doth not Highest God vouchsafe to take        420
The love and service of the basest crew?
If she will not, dye meekly for her sake:
Dye rather, dye, then ever so faire love forsake.’
 
XLVIII
Thus warreid he long time against his will,
Till that through weaknesse he was forst at last        425
To yield himselfe unto the mightie ill:
Which, as a victour proud, gan ransack fast
His inward partes, and all his entrayles wast,
That neither blood in face nor life in hart
It left, but both did quite drye up and blast;        430
As percing levin, which the inner part
Of every thing consumes and calcineth by art.
 
XLIX
Which seeing fayre Belphoebe, gan to feare
Least that his wound were inly well not heald,
Or that the wicked steele empoysned were:        435
Litle shee weend that love he close conceald:
Yet still he wasted, as the snow congeald,
When the bright sunne his beams theron doth beat;
Yet never he his hart to her reveald,
But rather chose to dye for sorow great,        440
Then with dishonorable termes her to entreat.
 
L
She, gracious lady, yet no paines did spare,
To doe him ease, or doe him remedy:
Many restoratives of vertues rare
And costly cordialles she did apply,        445
To mitigate his stubborne malady:
But that sweet cordiall, which can restore
A love-sick hart, she did to him envy;
To him, and to all th’ unworthy world forlore,
She did envy that soveraine salve, in secret store.        450
 
LI
That daintie rose, the daughter of her morne,
More deare then life she tendered, whose flowre
The girlond of her honour did adorne:
Ne suffred she the middayes scorching powre,
Ne the sharp northerne wind thereon to showre,        455
But lapped up her silken leaves most chayre,
When so the froward skye began to lowre;
But soone as calmed was the christall ayre,
She did it fayre dispred, and let to florish fayre.
 
LII
Eternall God, in his almightie powre,
        460
To make ensample of his heavenly grace,
In paradize whylome did plant this flowre;
Whence he it fetcht out of her native place,
And did in stocke of earthly flesh enrace,
That mortall men her glory should admyre.        465
In gentle ladies breste and bounteous race
Of woman kind it fayrest flowre doth spyre,
And beareth fruit of honour and all chast desyre.
 
LIII
Fayre ympes of beautie, whose bright shining beames
Adorne the world with like to heavenly light,        470
And to your willes both royalties and reames
Subdew, through conquest of your wondrous might,
With this fayre flowre your goodly girlonds dight
Of chastity and vertue virginall,
That shall embellish more your beautie bright,        475
And crowne your heades with heavenly coronall,
Such as the angels weare before Gods tribunall.
 
LIV
To youre faire selves a faire ensample frame
Of this faire virgin, this Belphebe fayre,
To whom, in perfect love and spotlesse fame        480
Of chastitie, none living may compayre:
Ne poysnous envy justly can empayre
The prayse of her fresh flowring maydenhead;
Forthy she standeth on the highest stayre
Of th’ honorable stage of womanhead,        485
That ladies all may follow her ensample dead.
 
LV
In so great prayse of stedfast chastity
Nathlesse she was so courteous and kynde,
Tempred with grace and goodly modesty,
That seemed those two vertues strove to fynd        490
The higher place in her heroick mynd:
So striving each did other more augment,
And both encreast the prayse of woman kynde,
And both encreast her beautie excellent;
So all did make in her a perfect complement.        495
 
 
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