Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
The Faerie Queene
Book VI. The Legend of Sir Calidore
Canto VIII
 
        Prince Arthure overcomes Disdaine;
  Quites Mirabell from dreed;
Serena, found of salvages,
  By Calepine is freed.

I
YE gentle ladies, in whose soveraine powre
Love hath the glory of his kingdome left,
And th’ hearts of men, as your eternall dowre,
In yron chaines, of liberty bereft,
Delivered hath into your hands by gift;        5
Be well aware, how ye the same doe use,
That pride doe not to tyranny you lift;
Least, if men you of cruelty accuse,
He from you take that chiefedome, which ye doe abuse.
 
II
And as ye soft and tender are by kynde,
        10
Adornd with goodly gifts of beauties grace,
So be ye soft and tender eeke in mynde;
But cruelty and hardnesse from you chace,
That all your other praises will deface,
And from you turne the love of men to hate.        15
Ensample take of Mirabellaes case,
Who from the high degree of happy state
Fell into wretched woes, which she repented late.
 
III
Who after thraldome of the gentle squire,
Which she beheld with lamentable eye,        20
Was touched with compassion entire,
And much lamented his calamity,
That for her sake fell into misery:
Which booted nought for prayers, nor for threat
To hope for to release or mollify;        25
For aye the more that she did them entreat,
The more they him misust, and cruelly did beat.
 
IV
So as they forward on their way did pas,
Him still reviling and afficting sore,
They met Prince Arthure with Sir Enias,        30
(That was that courteous knight, whom he before
Having subdew’d, yet did to life restore,)
To whom as they approcht, they gan augment
Their cruelty, and him to punish more,
Scourging and haling him more vehement;        35
As if it them should grieve to see his punishment.
 
V
The squire him selfe, when as he saw his lord,
The witnesse of his wretchednesse, in place,
Was much asham’d, that with an hempen cord
He like a dog was led in captive case,        40
And did his head for bashfulnesse abase,
As loth to see, or to be seene at all:
Shame would be hid. But whenas Enias
Beheld two such, of two such villaines thrall,
His manly mynde was much emmoved therewithall;        45
 
VI
And to the Prince thus sayd: ‘See you, sir knight,
The greatest shame that ever eye yet saw,
Yond lady and her squire with foule despight
Abusde, against all reason and all law,
Without regard of pitty or of awe?        50
See how they doe that squire beat and revile!
See how they doe the lady hale and draw!
But if ye please to lend me leave a while,
I will them soone acquite, and both of blame assoile.’
 
VII
The Prince assented, and then he streight way
        55
Dismounting light, his shield about him threw,
With which approching, thus he gan to say:
‘Abide, ye caytive treachetours untrew,
That have with treason thralled unto you
These two, unworthy of your wretched bands;        60
And now your crime with cruelty pursew.
Abide, and from them lay your loathly hands;
Or else abide the death that hard before you stands.’
 
VIII
The villaine stayd not aunswer to invent,
But with his yron club preparing way,        65
His mindes sad message backe unto him sent;
The which descended with such dreadfull sway,
That seemed nought the course thereof could stay,
No more then lightening from the lofty sky:
Ne list the knight the powre thereof assay,        70
Whose doome was death, but lightly slipping by,
Unwares defrauded his intended destiny.
 
IX
And to requite him with the like againe,
With his sharpe sword he fiercely at him flew,
And strooke so strongly, that the carle with paine        75
Saved him selfe, but that he there him slew:
Yet sav’d not so, but that the bloud it drew,
And gave his foe good hope of victory.
Who therewith flesht, upon him set anew,
And with the second stroke thought certainely        80
To have supplyde the first, and paide the usury.
 
X
But Fortune aunswerd not unto his call;
For as his hand was heaved up on hight,
The villaine met him in the middle fall,
And with his club bet backe his brondyron bright        85
So forcibly, that with his owne hands might
Rebeaten backe upon him selfe againe,
He driven was to ground in selfe despight;
From whence ere he recovery could gaine,
He in his necke had set his foote with fell disdaine.        90
 
XI
With that the foole, which did that end awayte,
Came running in, and whilest on ground he lay,
Laide heavy hands on him, and held so strayte,
That downe he kept him with his scornefull sway,
So as he could not weld him any way.        95
The whiles that other villaine went about
Him to have bound, and thrald without delay;
The whiles the foole did him revile and flout,
Threatning to yoke them two and tame their corage shout.
 
XII
As when a sturdy ploughman with his hynde
        100
By strength have overthrowne a stubborne steare,
They downe him hold, and fast with cords do bynde,
Till they him force the buxome yoke to beare:
So did these two this knight oft tug and teare.
Which when the Prince beheld, there standing by,        105
He left his lofty steede to aide him neare,
And buckling soone him selfe, gan fiercely fly
Uppon that carle, to save his friend from jeopardy.
 
XIII
The villaine, leaving him unto his mate,
To be captiv’d and handled as he list,        110
Himselfe addrest unto this new debate,
And with his club him all about so blist,
That he which way to turne him scarcely wist:
Sometimes aloft he layd, sometimes alow,
Now here, now there, and oft him neare he mist;        115
So doubtfully, that hardly one could know
Whether more wary were to give or ward the blow.
 
XIV
But yet the Prince so well enured was
With such huge strokes, approved oft in fight,
That way to them he gave forth right to pas;        120
Ne would endure the daunger of their might,
But wayt advantage, when they downe did light.
At last the caytive after long discourse,
When all his strokes he saw avoyded quite,
Resolved in one t’ assemble all his force,        125
And make one end of him without ruth or remorse.
 
XV
His dreadfull hand he heaved up aloft,
And with his dreadfull instrument of yre
Thought sure have pownded him to powder soft,
Or deepe emboweld in the earth entyre:        130
But Fortune did not with his will conspire;
For ere his stroke attayned his intent,
The noble childe, preventing his desire,
Under his club with wary boldnesse went,
And smote him on the knee, that never yet was bent.        135
 
XVI
It never yet was bent, ne bent it now,
Albe the stroke so strong and puissant were,
That seem’d a marble pillour it could bow;
But all that leg, which did his body beare,
It crackt throughout (yet did no bloud appeare)        140
So as it was unable to support
So huge a burden on such broken geare,
But fell to ground, like to a lumpe of durt,
Whence he assayd to rise, but could not for his hurt.
 
XVII
Eftsoones the Prince to him full nimbly stept,
        145
And least he should recover foote againe,
His head meant from his shoulders to have swept.
Which when the lady saw, she cryde amaine:
‘Stay, stay, sir knight, for love of God abstaine
From that unwares ye weetlesse doe intend;        150
Slay not that carle, though worthy to be slaine:
For more on him doth then him selfe depend;
My life will by his death have lamentable end.’
 
XVIII
He staide his hand according her desire,
Yet nathemore him suffred to arize;        155
But still suppressing, gan of her inquire,
What meaning mote those uncouth words comprize,
That in that villaines health her safety lies:
That, were no might in man, nor heart in knights,
Which durst her dreaded reskue enterprize,        160
Yet heavens them selves, that favour feeble rights,
Would for it selfe redresse, and punish such despights.
 
XIX
Then bursting forth in teares, which gushed fast
Like many water streames, a while she stayd;
Till the sharpe passion being overpast,        165
Her tongue to her restord, then thus she sayd:
‘Nor heavens, nor men can me, most wretched mayd,
Deliver from the doome of my desart,
The which the God of Love hath on me layd,
And damned to endure this direfull smart,        170
For penaunce of my proud and hard rebellious hart.
 
XX
‘In prime of youthly yeares, when first the flowre
Of beauty gan to bud, and bloosme delight,
And Nature me endu’d with plenteous dowre
Of all her gifts, that pleasde each living sight,        175
I was belov’d of many a gentle knight,
And sude and sought with all the service dew:
Full many a one for me deepe groand and sight,
And to the dore of death for sorrow drew,
Complayning out on me, that would not on them rew.        180
 
XXI
‘But let them love that list, or live or die;
Me list not die for any lovers doole:
Ne list me leave my loved libertie,
To pitty him that list to play the foole:
To love my selfe I learned had in schoole.        185
Thus I triumphed long in lovers paine,
And sitting carelesse on the scorners stoole,
Did laugh at those that did lament and plaine:
But all is now repayd with interest againe.
 
XXII
‘For loe! the winged god, that woundeth harts,
        190
Causde me be called to accompt therefore,
And for revengement of those wrongfull smarts,
Which I to others did inflict afore,
Addeem’d me to endure this penaunce sore;
That in this wize, and this unmeete array,        195
With these two lewd companions, and no more,
Disdaine and Scorne, I through the world should stray,
Till I have sav’d so many, as I earst did slay.’
 
XXIII
‘Certes,’ sayd then the Prince, ‘the god is just,
That taketh vengeaunce of his peoples spoile.        200
For were no law in love, but all that lust
Might them oppresse, and painefully turmoile,
His kingdome would continue but a while.
But tell me, lady, wherefore doe you beare
This bottle thus before you with such toile,        205
And eeke this wallet at your backe arreare,
That for these carles to carry much more comely were?’
 
XXIV
‘Here in this bottle,’ sayd the sory mayd,
‘I put the teares of my contrition,
Till to the brim I have it full defrayd:        210
And in this bag, which I behinde me don,
I put repentaunce for things past and gon.
Yet is the bottle leake, and bag so torne
That all which I put in fals out anon,
And is behinde me trodden downe of Scorne,        215
Who mocketh all my paine, and laughs the more I mourn.’
 
XXV
The infant hearkned wisely to her tale,
And wondred much at Cupids judg’ment wise,
That could so meekly make proud hearts avale,
And wreake him selfe on them that him despise.        220
Then suffred he Disdaine up to arise,
Who was not able up him selfe to reare,
By meanes his leg, through his late luckelesse prise,
Was crackt in twaine, but by his foolish feare
Was holpen up, who him supported standing neare.        225
 
XXVI
But being up, he lookt againe aloft,
As if he never had received fall;
And with sterne eye-browes stared at him oft,
As if he would have daunted him with all:
And standing on his tiptoes, to seeme tall,        230
Downe on his golden feete he often gazed,
As if such pride the other could apall;
Who was so far from being ought amazed,
That he his lookes despised,and his boast dispraized.
 
XXVII
Then turning backe unto that captive thrall,
        235
Who all this while stood there beside them bound,
Unwilling to be knowne, or seene at all,
He from those bands weend him to have unwound.
But when, approching neare, he plainely found
It was his owne thrue groome. the gentle squire,        240
He thereat wext exceedingly astound,
And him did oft embrace, and oft admire,
Ne could with seeing satisfie his great desire.
 
XXVIII
Meane while the salvage man, when he beheld
That huge great foole oppressing th’ other knight,        245
Whom with his weight unweldy downe he held,
He flew upon him, like a greedy kight
Unto some carrion offered to his sight,
And downe him plucking, with his nayles and teeth
Gan him to hale, and teare, and scratch, and bite;        250
And from him taking his owne whip, therewith
So sore him scourgeth, that the bloud downe followeth.
 
XXIX
And sure I weene, had not the ladies cry
Procur’d the Prince his cruell hand to stay,
He would with whipping him have done to dye:        255
But being checkt, he did abstaine streight way,
And let him rise. Then thus the Prince gan say:
‘Now, lady, sith your fortunes thus dispose,
That, if ye list have liberty, ye may,
Unto your selfe I freely leave to chose,        260
Whether I shall you leave, or from these villaines lose.’
 
XXX
‘Ah! nay, sir knight,’ sayd she, ‘it may not be,
But that I needes must by all meanes fulfill
This penaunce, which enjoyned is to me,
Least unto me betide a greater ill;        265
Yet no lesse thankes to you for your good will.’
So humbly taking leave, she turnd aside:
But Arthure with the rest went onward still
On his first quest, in which did him betide
A great adventure, which did him from them devide.        270
 
XXXI
But first it falleth me by course to tell
Of faire Serena, who, as earst you heard,
When first the gentle squire at variaunce fell
With those two carles, fled fast away, afeard
Of villany to be to her inferd:        275
So fresh the image of her former dread,
Yet dwelling in her eye, to her appeard,
That every foote did tremble, which did tread,
And every body two, and two she foure did read.
 
XXXII
Through hils and dales, through bushes and through breres
        280
Long thus she fled, till that at last she thought
Her selfe now past the perill of her feares.
Then looking round about, and seeing nought
Which doubt of daunger to her offer mought,
She from her palfrey lighted on the plaine,        285
And sitting downe, her selfe a while bethought
Of her long travell and turmoyling paine:
And often did of love, and oft of lucks complaine.
 
XXXIII
And evermore she blamed Calepine,
The good Sir Calepine, her owne true knight,        290
As th’ onely author of her wofull tine:
For being of his love to her so light,
As her to leave in such a piteous plight.
Yet never turtle truer to his make,
Then he was tride unto his lady bright:        295
Who all this while endured for her sake
Great perill of his life, and restlesse paines did take.
 
XXXIV
Tho when as all her plaints she had displayd,
And well disburdened her engrieved brest,
Upon the grasse her selfe adowne she layd;        300
Where, being tyrde with travell, and opprest
With sorrow, she betooke her selfe to rest.
There whilest in Morpheus bosome safe she lay,
Fearelesse of ought that mote her peace molest,
False Fortune did her safety betray        305
Unto a straunge mischaunce, that menac’d her decay.
 
XXXV
In these wylde deserts, where she now abode,
There dwelt a salvage nation, which did live
Of stealth and spoile, and making nightly rode
Into their neighbours borders; ne did give        310
Them selves to any trade, as for to drive
The painefull plough, or cattell for to breed,
Or by adventrous marchandize to thrive;
But on the labours of poore men to feed,
And serve their owne necessities with others need.        315
 
XXXVI
Thereto they usde one most accursed order,
To eate the flesh of men, whom they mote fynde,
And straungers to devoure, which on their border
Were brought by errour, or by wreckfull wynde:
A monstrous cruelty gainst course of kynde.        320
They towards evening wandring every way,
To seeke for booty, came by fortune blynde
Whereas this lady, like a sheepe astray,
Now drowned in the depth of sleepe all fearelesse lay.
 
XXXVII
Soone as they spide her, lord! what gladfull glee
        325
They made amongst them selves! but when her face
Like the faire yvory shining they did see,
Each gan his fellow solace and embrace,
For joy of such good hap by heavenly grace.
Then gan they to devize what course to take:        330
Whether to slay her there upon the place,
Or suffer her out of her sleepe to wake,
And then her eate attonce, or many meales to make.
 
XXXVIII
The best advizement was, of bad, to let her
Sleepe out her fill, without encomberment:        335
For sleepe, they sayd, would make her battill better.
Then, when she wakt, they all gave one consent,
That since by grace of God she there was sent,
Unto their god they would her sacrifize,
Whose share, her guiltlesse bloud, they would present;        340
But of her dainty flesh they did devize
To make a common feast, and feed with gurmandize.
 
XXXIX
So round about her they them selves did place
Upon the grasse, and diversely dispose,
As each thought best to spend the lingring space.        345
Some with their eyes the daintest morsels chose;
Some praise her paps, some praise her lips and nose;
Some whet their knives, and strip their elboes bare:
The priest him selfe a garland doth compose
Of finest flowres, and with full busie care        350
His bloudy vessels wash, and holy fire prepare.
 
XL
The damzell wakes; then all attonce upstart,
And round about her flocke, like many flies,
Whooping and hallowing on every part,
As if they would have rent the brasen skies.        355
Which when she sees with ghastly griefful eies,
Her heart does quake, and deadly pallid hew
Benumbes her cheekes: then out aloud she cries,
Where none is nigh to heare, that will her rew,
And rends her golden locks, and snowy brests embrew.        360
 
XLI
But all bootes not: they hands upon her lay;
And first they spoile her of her jewels deare,
And afterwards of all her rich array;
The which amongst them they in peeces teare,
And of the pray each one a part doth beare.        365
Now being naked, to their sordid eyes
The goodly threasures of Nature appeare:
Which as they view with lustfull fantasyes,
Each wisheth to him selfe, and to the rest envyes.
 
XLII
Her yvorie necke, her alablaster brest,
        370
Her paps, which like white silken pillowes were,
For Love in soft delight thereon to rest;
Her tender sides, her bellie white and clere,
Which like an altar did it selfe uprere,
To offer sacrifice divine thereon;        375
Her goodly thighes, whose glorie did appeare
Like a triumphall arch, and thereupon
The spoiles of princes hang’d, which were in battel won.
 
XLIII
Those daintie parts, the dearlings of delight,
Which mote not be prophan’d of common eyes,        380
Those villeins vew’d with loose lascivious sight,
And closely tempted with their craftie spyes;
And some of them gan mongst themselves devize,
Thereof by force to take their beastly pleasure:
But them the priest rebuking, did advize        385
To dare not to pollute so sacred threasure,
Vow’d to the gods: religion held even theeves in measure.
 
XLIV
So being stayd, they her from thence directed
Unto a litle grove not farre asyde,
In which an altar shortly they erected,        390
To slay her on. And now the eventyde
His brode black wings had through the heavens wyde
By this dispred, that was the tyme ordayned
For such a dismall deed, their guilt to hyde:
Of few greene turfes an altar soone they fayned,        395
And deckt it all with flowres, which they nigh hand obtayned.
 
XLV
Tho, when as all things readie were aright,
The damzell was before the altar set,
Being alreadie dead with fearefull fright.
To whom the priest with naked armes full net        400
Approching nigh, and murdrous knife well whet,
Gan mutter close a certaine secret charme,
With other divelish ceremonies met:
Which doen, he gan aloft t’ advance his arme,
Whereat they shouted all, and made a loud alarme.        405
 
XLVI
Then gan the bagpypes and the hornes to shrill,
And shrieke aloud, that, with the peoples voyce
Confused, did the ayre with terror fill,
And made the wood to tremble at the noyce:
The whyles she wayld, the more they did rejoyce.        410
Now mote ye understand that to this grove
Sir Calepine, by chaunce more then by choyce,
The selfe same evening fortune hether drove,
As he to seeke Serena through the woods did rove.
 
XLVII
Long had he sought her, and through many a soyle
        415
Had traveld still on foot in heavie armes,
Ne ought was tyred with his endlesse toyle,
Ne ought was feared of his certaine harmes:
And now, all weetlesse of the wretched stormes,
In which his love was lost, he slept full fast,        420
Till, being waked with these loud alarmes,
He lightly started up like one aghast,
And catching up his arms, streight to the noise forth past.
 
XLVIII
There by th’ uncertaine glims of starry night,
And by the twinkling of their sacred fire,        425
He mote perceive a litle dawning sight
Of all which there was doing in that quire:
Mongst whom a woman spoyld of all attire
He spyde, lamenting her unluckie strife,
And groning sore from grieved hart entire;        430
Eftsoones he saw one with a naked knife
Readie to launch her brest, and let out loved life.
 
XLIX
With that he thrusts into the thickest throng,
And even as his right hand adowne descends,
He him preventing, layes on earth along,        435
And sacrifizeth to th’ infernall feends.
Then to the rest his wrathfull hand he bends,
Of whom he makes such havocke and such hew,
That swarmes of damned soules to hell he sends:
The rest, that scape his sword and death eschew,        440
Fly like a flocke of doves before a faulcons vew.
 
L
From them returning to that ladie backe,
Whom by the altar he doth sitting find,
Yet fearing death, and next to death the lacke
Of clothes to cover what they ought by kind,        445
He first her hands beginneth to unbind,
And then to question of her present woe,
And afterwards to cheare with speaches kind.
But she, for nought that he could say or doe,
One word durst speake, or answere him a whit thereto.        450
 
LI
So inward shame of her uncomely case
She did conceive, through care of womanhood,
That though the night did cover her disgrace,
Yet she in so unwomanly a mood
Would not bewray the state in which she stood.        455
So all that night to him unknowen she past.
But day, that doth discover bad and good,
Ensewing, made her knowen to him at last:
The end whereof Ile keepe untill another cast.
 
 
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