Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Faerie Queene
Book V. The Legend of Artegall
Canto I


SO oft as I with state of present time
The image of the antique world compare,
When as mans age was in his freshest prime,
And the first blossome of faire vertue bare,
Such oddes I finde twixt those, and these which are,        5
As that, through long continuance of his course,
Me seemes the world is runne quite out of square
From the first point of his appointed sourse,
And being once amisse, growes daily wourse and wourse.
For from the golden age, that first was named,
It ’s now at earst become a stonie one;
And men themselves, the which at first were framed
Of earthly mould, and form’d of flesh and bone,
Are now transformed into hardest stone:
Such as behind their backs (so backward bred)        15
Were throwne by Pyrrha and Deucalione:
And if then those may any worse be red,
They into that ere long will be degendered.
Let none then blame me, if in discipline
Of vertue and of civill uses lore,        20
I doe not forme them to the common line
Of present dayes, which are corrupted sore,
But to the antique use which was of yore,
When good was onely for it selfe desyred,
And all men sought their owne, and none no more;        25
When Justice was not for most meed outhyred,
But simple Truth did rayne, and was of all admyred.
For that which all men then did vertue call
Is now cald vice; and that which vice was hight,
Is now hight vertue, and so us’d of all:        30
Right now is wrong, and wrong that was is right,
As all things else in time are chaunged quight.
Ne wonder; for the heavens revolution
Is wandred farre from where it first was pight,
And so doe make contrarie constitution        35
Of all this lower world, toward his dissolution.
For who so list into the heavens looke,
And search the courses of the rowling spheares,
Shall find that from the point where they first tooke
Their setting forth, in these few thousand yeares        40
They all are wandred much; that plaine appeares.
For that same golden fleecy Ram, which bore
Phrixus and Helle from their stepdames feares,
Hath now forgot where he was plast of yore,
And shouldred hath the Bull, which fayre Europa bore.        45
And eke the Bull hath with his bow-bent horne
So hardly butted those two Twinnes of Jove,
That they have crusht the Crab, and quite him borne
Into the great Nemœan Lions grove.
So now all range, and doe at randon rove        50
Out of their proper places farre away,
And all this world with them amisse doe move,
And all his creatures from their course astray,
Till they arrive at their last ruinous decay.
Ne is that same great glorious lampe of light,
That doth enlumine all these lesser fyres,
In better case, ne keepes his course more right,
But is miscaried with the other spheres.
For since the terme of fourteene hundred yeres,
That learned Ptolomæe his hight did take,        60
He is declyned from that marke of theirs
Nigh thirtie minutes to the southerne lake;
That makes me feare in time he will us quite forsake.
And if to those Ægyptian wisards old,
Which in star-read were wont have best insight,        65
Faith may be given, it is by them told,
That since the time they first tooke the sunnes hight,
Foure times his place he shifted hath in sight,
And twice hath risen where he now doth west,
And wested twice where he ought rise aright.        70
But most is Mars amisse of all the rest,
And next to him old Saturne, that was wont be best.
For during Saturnes ancient raigne it’s sayd
That all the world with goodnesse did abound:
All loved vertue, no man was affrayd        75
Of force, ne fraud in wight was to be found:
No warre was knowne, no dreadfull trompets sound,
Peace universall rayn’d mongst men and beasts,
And all things freely grew out of the ground:
Justice sate high ador’d with solemne feasts,        80
And to all people did divide her dred beheasts.
Most sacred vertue she of all the rest,
Resembling God in his imperiall might;
Whose soveraine powre is herein most exprest,
That both to good and bad he dealeth right,        85
And all his workes with justice hath bedight.
That powre he also doth to princes lend,
And makes them like himselfe in glorious sight,
To sit in his owne seate, his cause to end,
And rule his people right, as he doth recommend.        90
Dread soverayne goddesse, that doest highest sit
In seate of judgement, in th’ Almighties stead,
And with magnificke might and wondrous wit
Doest to thy people righteous doome aread,
That furthest nations filles with awfull dread,        95
Pardon the boldnesse of thy basest thrall,
That dare discourse of so divine a read,
As thy great justice praysed over all:
The instrument whereof, loe! here thy Artegall.

        Artegall trayn’d in Justice lore
  Irenaes quest pursewed;
He doeth avenge on Sanglier
  His ladies bloud embrewed.

THOUGH vertue then were held in highest price,
In those old times of which I doe intreat,
Yet then likewise the wicked seede of vice
Began to spring; which shortly grew full great,
And with their boughes the gentle plants did beat.
But evermore some of the vertuous race        105
Rose up, inspired with heroicke heat,
That cropt the branches of the sient base,
And with strong hand their fruitfull rancknes did deface.
Such first was Bacchus, that with furious might
All th’ East, before untam’d, did overronne,        110
And wrong repressed, and establisht right,
Which lawlesse men had formerly fordonne:
There Justice first her princely rule begonne.
Next Hercules his like ensample shewed,
Who all the West with equall conquest wonne,        115
And monstrous tyrants with his club subdewed;
The club of Justice dread, with kingly powre endewed.
And such was he of whom I have to tell,
The champion of true Justice, Artegall:
Whom (as ye lately mote remember well)        120
An hard adventure, which did then befall,
Into redoubted perill forth did call;
That was to succour a distressed dame,
Whom a strong tyrant did unjustly thrall,
And from the heritage which she did clame        125
Did with strong hand withhold: Grantorto was his name.
Wherefore the lady, which Eirena hight,
Did to the Faery Queene her way addresse,
To whom complayning her afflicted plight,
She her besought of gratious redresse.        130
That soveraine queene, that mightie emperesse,
Whose glorie is to aide all suppliants pore,
And of weake princes to be patronesse,
Chose Artegall to right her to restore;
For that to her he seem’d best skild in righteous lore.        135
For Artegall in justice was upbrought
Even from the cradle of his infancie,
And all the depth of rightfull doome was taught
By faire Astræa, with great industrie,
Whilest here on earth she lived mortallie.        140
For till the world from his perfection fell
Into all filth and foule iniquitie,
Astræa here mongst earthly men did dwell,
And in the rules of justice them instructed well.
Whiles through the world she walked in this sort,
Upon a day she found this gentle childe,
Amongst his peres playing his childish sport:
Whom seeing fit, and with no crime defilde,
She did allure with gifts and speaches milde
To wend with her. So thence him farre she brought        150
Into a cave from companie exilde,
In which she noursled him, till yeares he raught,
And all the discipline of justice there him taught.
There she him taught to weigh both right and wrong
In equall ballance with due recompence,        155
And equitie to measure out along,
According to the line of conscience,
When so it needs with rigour to dispence.
Of all the which, for want there of mankind,
She caused him to make experience        160
Upon wyld beasts, which she in woods did find,
With wrongfull powre oppressing others of their kind.
Thus she him trayned, and thus she him taught,
In all the skill of deeming wrong and right,
Untill the ripenesse of mans yeares he raught;        165
That even wilde beasts did feare his awfull sight,
And men admyr’d his overruling might;
Ne any liv’d on ground, that durst withstand
His dreadfull heast, much lesse him match in fight,
Or bide the horror of his wreakfull hand,        170
When so he list in wrath lift up his steely brand.
Which steely brand, to make him dreaded more,
She gave unto him, gotten by her slight
And earnest search, where it was kept in store
In Joves eternall house, unwist of wight,        175
Since he himselfe it us’d in that great fight
Against the Titans, that whylome rebelled
Gainst highest heaven; Chrysaor it was hight;
Chrysaor that all other swords excelled,
Well prov’d in that same day, when Jove those gyants quelled.        180
For of most perfect metall it was made,
Tempred with adamant amongst the same,
And garnisht all with gold upon the blade
In goodly wise, whereof it tooke his name,
And was of no lesse vertue then of fame:        185
For there no substance was so firme and hard,
But it would pierce or cleave, where so it came;
Ne any armour could his dint out ward;
But wheresoever it did light, it throughly shard.
Now when the world with sinne gan to abound,
Astræa loathing lenger here to space
Mongst wicked men, in whom no truth she found,
Return’d to heaven, whence she deriv’d her race;
Where she hath now an everlasting place,
Mongst those twelve signes which nightly we doe see        195
The heavens bright-shining baudricke to enchace;
And is the Virgin, sixt in her degree,
And next her selfe her righteous ballance hanging bee.
But when she parted hence, she left her groome,
An yron man, which did on her attend        200
Alwayes, to execute her stedfast doome,
And willed him with Artegall to wend,
And doe what ever thing he did intend.
His name was Talus, made of yron mould,
Immoveable, resistlesse, without end;        205
Who in his hand an yron flale did hould,
With which he thresht out falshood, and did truth unfould.
He now went with him in this new inquest,
Him for to aide, if aide he chaunst to neede,
Against that cruell tyrant, which opprest        210
The faire Irena with his foule misdeede,
And kept the crowne in which she should succeed.
And now together on their way they bin,
When as they saw a squire in squallid weed,
Lamenting sore his sorowfull sad tyne,        215
With many bitter teares shed from his blubbred eyne.
To whom as they approched, they espide
A sorie sight, as ever seene with eye;
An headlesse ladie lying him beside,
In her owne blood all wallow’d wofully,        220
That her gay clothes did in discolour die.
Much was he moved at that ruefull sight;
And flam’d with zeale of vengeance inwardly,
He askt who had that dame so fouly dight;
Or whether his owne hand, or whether other wight?        225
‘Ah, woe is me, and well away!’ quoth hee,
Bursting forth teares, like springs out of a banke,
‘That ever I this dismall day did see!
Full farre was I from thinking such a pranke;
Yet litle losse it were, and mickle thanke,        230
If I should graunt that I have doen the same,
That I mote drinke the cup whereof she dranke:
But that I should die guiltie of the blame,
The which another did, who now is fled with shame.’
‘Who was it then,’ sayd Artegall, ‘that wrought?
And why? doe it declare unto me trew.’
‘A knight,’ said he, ‘if knight he may be thought,
That did his hand in ladies bloud embrew,
And for no cause, but as I shall you shew.
This day as I in solace sate hereby        240
With a fayre love, whose losse I now do rew,
There came this knight, having in companie
This lucklesse ladie, which now here doth headlesse lie.
‘He, whether mine seem’d fayrer in his eye,
Or that he wexed weary of his owne,        245
Would change with me; but I did it denye;
So did the ladies both, as may be knowne:
But he, whose spirit was with pride upblowne,
Would not so rest contented with his right,
But having from his courser her downe throwne,        250
Fro me reft mine away by lawlesse might,
And on his steed her set, to beare her out of sight.
‘Which when his ladie saw, she follow’d fast,
And on him catching hold, gan loud to crie
Not so to leave her, nor away to cast,        255
But rather of his hand besought to die.
With that his sword he drew all wrathfully,
And at one stroke cropt off her head with scorne,
In that same place whereas it now doth lie.
So he my love away with him hath borne,        260
And left me here, both his and mine owne love to morne.’
‘Aread,’ sayd he, ‘which way then did he make?
And by what markes may he be knowne againe?’
‘To hope,’ quoth he, ‘him soone to overtake,
That hence so long departed, is but vaine:        265
But yet he pricked over yonder plaine,
And as I marked, bore upon his shield,
By which it’s easie him to know againe,
A broken sword within a bloodie field;
Expressing well his nature, which the same did wield.’        270
No sooner sayd, but streight he after sent
His yron page, who him pursew’d so light,
As that it seem’d above the ground he went:
For he was swift as swallow in her flight,
And strong as lyon in his lordly might.        275
It was not long before he overtooke
Sir Sanglier (so cleeped was that knight);
Whom at the first he ghessed by his looke,
And by the other markes which of his shield he tooke.
He bad him stay, and backe with him retire;
Who, full of scorne to be commaunded so,
The lady to alight did eft require,
Whilest he reformed that uncivill fo:
And streight at him with all his force did go.
Who mov’d no more therewith, then when a rocke        285
Is lightly stricken with some stones throw;
But to him leaping, lent him such a knocke,
That on the ground he layd him like a sencelesse blocke.
But ere he could him selfe recure againe,
Him in his iron paw he seized had;        290
That when he wak’t out of his warelesse paine,
He found him selfe, unwist, so ill bestad,
That lim he could not wag. Thence he him lad,
Bound like a beast appointed to the stall:
The sight whereof the lady sore adrad,        295
And fain’d to fly for feare of being thrall;
But he her quickly stayd, and forst to wend withall.
When to the place they came, where Artegall
By that same carefull squire did then abide,
He gently gan him to demaund of all,        300
That did betwixt him and that squire betide.
Who with sterne countenance and indignant pride
Did aunswere, that of all he guiltlesse stood,
And his accuser thereuppon defide:
For neither he did shed that ladies bloud,        305
Nor tooke away his love, but his owne proper good.
Well did the squire perceive him selfe too weake,
To aunswere his defiaunce in the field,
And rather chose his challenge off to breake,
Then to approve his right with speare and shield,        310
And rather guilty chose him selfe to yield.
But Artegall by signes perceiving plaine
That he it was not which that lady kild,
But that strange knight, the fairer love to gaine,
Did cast about by sleight the truth thereout to straine;        315
And sayd: ‘Now sure this doubtfull causes right
Can hardly but by sacrament be tride,
Or else by ordele, or by blooddy fight;
That ill perhaps mote fall to either side.
But if ye please that I your cause decide,        320
Perhaps I may all further quarrell end,
So ye will sweare my judgement to abide.’
Thereto they both did franckly condiscend,
And to his doome with listfull eares did both attend.
‘Sith then,’ sayd he, ‘ye both the dead deny,
And both the living lady claime your right,
Let both the dead and living equally
Devided be betwixt you here in sight,
And each of either take his share aright.
But looke, who does dissent from this my read,        330
He for a twelve moneths day shall in despight
Beare for his penaunce that same ladies head;
To witnesse to the world that she by him is dead.’
Well pleased with that doome was Sangliere,
And offred streight the lady to be slaine.        335
But that same squire, to whom she was more dere,
When as he saw she should be cut in twaine,
Did yield, she rather should with him remaine
Alive, then to him selfe be shared dead;
And rather then his love should suffer paine,        340
He chose with shame to beare that ladies head.
True love despiseth shame, when life is cald in dread.
Whom when so willing Artegall perceaved,
‘Not so, thou squire,’ he sayd, ‘but thine I deeme
The living lady, which from thee he reaved:        345
For worthy thou of her doest rightly seeme.
And you, sir knight, that love so light esteeme,
As that ye would for little leave the same,
Take here your owne, that doth you best beseeme,
And with it beare the burden of defame;        350
Your owne dead ladies head, to tell abrode your shame.’
But Sangliere disdained much his doome,
And sternly gan repine at his beheast;
Ne would for ought obay, as did become,
To beare that ladies head before his breast:        355
Untill that Talus had his pride represt,
And forced him, maulgre, it up to reare.
Who when he saw it bootelesse to resist,
He tooke it up, and thence with him did beare,
As rated spaniell takes his burden up for feare.        360
Much did that squire Sir Artegall adore,
For his great justice, held in high regard;
And as his squire him offred evermore
To serve, for want of other meete reward,
And wend with him on his adventure hard.        365
But he thereto would by no meanes consent;
But leaving him, forth on his journey far’d:
Ne wight with him but onely Talus went;
They two enough t’ encounter an whole regiment.
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