Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Extracts from The Faerie Queene: Phaedria and the Idle Lake
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
 
[From Bk. ii.]

  A HARDER lesson to learne Continence
In joyous pleasure then in grievous paine;
For sweetnesse doth allure the weaker sence
So strongly, that uneathes it can refraine
From that which feeble nature covets faine:        5
But griefe and wrath, that be her enemies
And foes of life, she better can abstaine:
Yet vertue vauntes in both her victories,
And Guyon in them all shewes goodly maysteries.
 
  Whom bold Cymochles traveiling to finde,        10
With cruell purpose bent to wreake on him
The wrath which Atin kindled in his mind,
Came to a river, by whose utmost brim
Wayting to passe, he saw whereas did swim
Along the shore, as swift as glaunce of eye,        15
A litle Gondelay, bedecked trim
With boughes and arbours woven cunningly,
That like a litle forrest seemed outwardly.
 
  And therein sate a Lady fresh and fayre,
Making sweet solace to herselfe alone:        20
Sometimes she song as lowd as larke in ayre,
Sometimes she laught, as merry as Pope Jone;
Yet was there not with her else any one,
That to her might move cause of meriment:
Matter of merth enough, though there were none,        25
She could devise; and thousand waies invent
To feede her foolish humour and vaine jolliment.
 
  Which when far off Cymochles heard and saw,
He lowdly cald to such as were abord
The little barke unto the shore to draw,        30
And him to ferry over that deepe ford.
The merry mariner unto his word
Soone hearkened, and her painted bote streightway
Turnd to the shore, where that same warlike Lord
She in receiv’d; but Atin by no way        35
She would admit, albe the knight her much did pray.
 
  Eftsoones her shallow ship away did slide,
More swift then swallow sheres the liquid skye,
Withouten oare or Pilot it to guide,
Or winged canvas with the wind to fly:        40
Onely she turnd a pin, and by and by
It cut away upon the yielding wave,
Ne cared she her course for to apply;
For it was taught the way which she would have,
And both from rocks and flats it selfe could wisely save.        45
 
  And all the way the wanton Damsell found
New merth her passenger to entertaine;
For she in pleasaunt purpose did abound,
And greatly joyed merry tales to faine,
Of which a store-house did with her remaine:        50
Yet seemed, nothing well they her became;
For all her wordes she drownd with laughter vaine,
And wanted grace in utt’ring of the same,
That turned all her pleasaunce to a scoffing game.
 
  And other whiles vaine toyes she would devize,        55
As her fantasticke wit did most delight:
Sometimes her head she fondly would aguize
With gaudy girlonds, or fresh flowrets dight
About her necke, or rings of rushes plight:
Sometimes, to do him laugh, she would assay        60
To laugh at shaking of the leaves light
Or to behold the water worke and play
About her little frigot, therein making way.
 
  Her light behaviour and loose dalliaunce
Gave wondrous great contentment to the knight,        65
That of his way he had no sovenaunce,
Nor care of vow’d revenge and cruell fight,
But to weake wench did yield his martiall might:
So easie was to quench his flamed minde
With one sweete drop of sensuall delight.        70
So easie is t’ appease the stormy winde
Of malice in the calme of pleasaunt womankind.
 
  Diverse discourses in their way they spent;
Mongst which Cymochles of her questioned
Both what she was, and what that usage ment,        75
Which in her cott she daily practized?
‘Vaine man,’ (saide she) ‘that wouldest be reckoned
A straunger in thy home, and ignoraunt
Of Phaedria, (for so my name is red)
Of Phaedria, thine owne fellow servaunt;        80
For thou to serve Acrasia thy selfe doest vaunt.
 
  ‘In this wide Inland sea, that hight by name
The Idle lake, my wandring ship I row,
That knowes her port, and thither sayles by ayme,
Ne care, ne feare I how the wind do blow,        85
Or whether swift I wend, or whether slow:
Both slow and swift alike do serve my tourne;
Ne swelling Neptune ne lowd thundring Jove
Can chaunge my cheare, or make me ever mourne:
My little boat can safely passe this perilous bourne.’        90
 
  Whiles thus she talked, and whiles thus she toyd,
They were far past the passage which he spake,
And come unto an Island waste and voyd,
That floted in the midst of that great lake;
There her small Gondelay her port did make,        95
And that gay payre, issewing on the shore,
Disburdned her. Their way they forward take
Into the land that lay them faire before,
Whose pleasaunce she him shewd, and plentifull great store.
 
  It was a chosen plott of fertile land,        100
Emongst wide waves sett, like a litle nest,
As if it had by Natures cunning hand
Bene choycely picked out from all the rest,
And laid forth for ensample of the best:
No daintie flowre or herbe that growes on grownd,        105
No arborett with painted blossomes drest
And smelling sweete, but there it might be fownd
To bud out faire, and throwe her sweete smels al arownd.
 
  No tree whose braunches did not bravely spring;
No braunch whereon a fine bird did not sitt;        110
No bird but did her shrill notes sweetely sing;
No song but did containe a lovely ditt.
Trees, braunches, birds, and songs, were framed fitt
For to allure fraile mind to carelesse ease:
Carelesse the man soone woxe, and his weake witt        115
Was overcome of thing that did him please;
So pleased did his wrathfull purpose faire appease.
 
  Thus when shee had his eyes and sences fed
With false delights, and fild with pleasures vayn,
Into a shady dale she soft him led,        120
And layd him downe upon a grassy playn;
And her sweete selfe without dread or disdayn
She sett beside, laying his head disarmd
In her loose lap, it softly to sustayn,
Where soone he slumbred fearing not be harmd:        125
The whiles with a love lay she thus him sweetly charmd.
 
  ‘Behold, O man! that toilesome paines doest take,
The flowrs, the fields, and all that pleasaunt growes,
How they them selves doe thine ensample make,
Whiles nothing envious nature them forth throwes        130
Out of her fruitfull lap; how no man knowes,
They spring, they bud, they blossome fresh and faire,
And decke the world with their rich pompous showes;
Yet no man for them taketh paines or care,
Yet no man to them can his carefull paines compare.        135
 
  ‘The lilly, Lady of the flowring field,
The flowre-deluce, her lovely Paramoure,
Bid thee to them thy fruitlesse labors yield,
And soone leave off this toylsome weary stoure:
Loe, loe! how brave she decks her bounteous boure,        140
With silkin curtens and gold coverletts,
Therein to shrowd her sumptuous Belamoure;
Yet nether spinnes nor cards, ne cares nor fretts,
But to her mother Nature all her cares she letts.
 
  ‘Why then doest thou, O man! that of them all        145
Art Lord, and eke of nature Soveraine,
Wilfully make thyselfe a wretched thrall,
And waste thy joyous howres in needelesse paine,
Seeking for daunger and adventures vaine?
What bootes it al to have, and nothing use?        150
Who shall him rew that swimming in the maine
Will die for thrist, and water doth refuse?
Refuse such fruitlesse toile, and present pleasures chuse.’
 
  By this she had him lulled fast asleepe,
That of no worldly thing he care did take:        155
Then she with liquors strong his eies did steepe,
That nothing should him hastily awake.
So she him lefte, and did her selfe betake
Unto her boat again, with which she clefte
The slouthfull wave of that griesy lake:        160
Soone shee that Island far behind her lefte,
And now is come to that same place where first she wefte. 1
 
Note 1. was wafted. [back]
 
 
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