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: The Cave of Mammon
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
 
[From Bk. ii.]

  AS Pilot well expert in perilous wave,
That to a stedfast starre his course hath bent,
When foggy mistes or cloudy tempests have
The faithfull light of that faire lampe yblent,
And cover’d heaven with hideous dreriment,        5
Upon his card and compas firmes his eye,
The maysters of his long experiment,
And to them does the steddy helme apply,
Bidding his winged vessell fairely forward fly:
 
  So Guyon having lost his trustie guyde,        10
Late left beyond that Ydle lake, proceedes
Yet on his way, of none accompanyde;
And evermore himselfe with comfort feedes
Of his own vertues and praise-worthie deedes.
So, long he yode, yet no adventure found,        15
Which fame of her shrill trumpet worthy reedes;
For still he traveild through wide wastfull ground,
That nought but desert wildernesse shewed all around.
 
  At last he came unto a gloomy glade,
Cover’d with boughes and shrubs from heavens light,        20
Whereas he sitting found in secret shade
An uncouth, salvage, and uncivile wight,
Of griesly hew and fowle ill favour’d sight;
His face with smoke was tand, and eies were bleard,
His head and beard with sout were ill bedight,        25
His cole-blacke hands did seeme to have been seard
In smythes fire-spitting forge, and nayles like clawes appeard.
 
  His yron cote, all overgrowne with rust,
Was underneath enveloped with gold;
Whose glistring glosse, darkned with filthy dust,        30
Well yet appeared to have beene of old
A worke of rich entayle and curious mould,
Woven with antickes and wyld ymagery;
And in his lap a masse of coyne he told,
And turned upside downe, to feede his eye        35
And covetous desire with his huge threasury.
 
  And round about him lay on every side
Great heapes of gold that never could be spent;
Of which some were rude owre, not purifide
Of Mulcibers devouring element;        40
Some others were new driven, and distent
Into great Ingowes and to wedges square;
Some in round plates withouten moniment;
But most were stampt, and in their metal bare
The antique shapes of kings and kesars straunge and rare.        45
 
  Soone as he Guyon saw, in great affright
And haste he rose for to remove aside
Those pretious hils from straungers envious sight,
And downe them poured through an hole full wide
Into the hollow earth, them there to hide.        50
But Guyon, lightly to him leaping, stayd
His hand that trembled as one terrifyde;
And though himselfe were at the sight dismayd,
Yet him perforce restraynd, and to him doubtfull sayd:
 
  ‘What art thou, man, (if man at all thou art)        55
That here in desert hast thine habitaunce,
And these rich hils of welth doest hide apart
From the worldes eye, and from her right usaunce?’
Thereat, with staring eyes fixed askaunce,
In great disdaine he answerd: ‘Hardy Elfe,        60
That darest view my direfull countenaunce,
I read thee rash and heedlesse of thy selfe,
To trouble my still seate, and heapes of pretious pelfe.
 
  ‘God of the world and worldlings I me call,
Great Mammon, greatest god below the skye,        65
That of my plenty poure out unto all,
And unto none my graces do envye:
Riches, renowme, and principality,
Honour, estate, and all this worldes good,
For which men swinck and sweat incessantly,        70
Fro me do flow into an ample flood,
And in the hollow earth have their eternall brood.
 
  ‘Wherefore, if me thou deigne to serve and sew, 1
At thy commaund lo! all these mountaines bee:
Or if to thy great mind, or greedy vew,        75
All these may not suffise, there shall to thee
Ten times so much be nombred francke and free.’
‘Mammon,’ (said he) ‘thy godheads vaunt is vaine,
And idle offers of thy golden fee;
To them that covet such eye-glutting gaine        80
Proffer thy giftes, and fitter servaunts entertaine.
 
  ‘Me ill besits, that in der-doing 2 armes
And honours suit my vowed daies do spend,
Unto thy bounteous baytes and pleasing charmes,
With which weake men thou witchest, to attend;        85
Regard of worldly mucke doth fowly blend,
And low abase the high heroicke spright,
That joyes for crownes and kingdomes to contend:
Faire shields, gay steedes, bright armes be my delight;
Those be the riches fit for an advent’rous knight.’        90
 
  ‘Vaine glorious Elfe,’ (saide he) ‘doest not thou weet,
That money can thy wantes at will supply?
Sheilds, steeds, and armes, and all things for thee meet,
It can purvay in twinckling of an eye;
And crownes and kingdomes to thee multiply.        95
Do not I kings create, and throw the crowne
Sometimes to him that low in dust doth ly,
And him that raignd into his rowme thrust downe,
And whom I lust do heape with glory and renowne?’
 
  ‘All otherwise’ (saide he) ‘I riches read,        100
And deeme them roote of all disquietnesse;
First got with guile, and then preserv’d with dread,
And after spent with pride and lavishnesse,
Leaving behind them griefe and heavinesse:
Infinite mischiefes of them doe arize,        105
Strife and debate, bloodshed and bitternesse,
Outrageous wrong, and hellish covetize,
That noble heart as great dishonour doth despize.
 
  ‘Ne thine be kingdomes, ne the scepters thine;
But realmes and rulers thou doest both confound,        110
And loyall truth to treason doest incline:
Witnesse the guiltlesse blood pourd oft on ground,
The crowned often slaine, the slayer cround;
The sacred Diademe in peeces rent,
And purple robe gored with many a wound,        115
Castles surprizd, great cities sackt and brent;
So mak’st thou kings, and gaynest wrongfull government.
 
  ‘Long were to tell the troublous stormes that tosse
The private state, and make the life unsweet:
Who swelling sayles in Caspian sea doth crosse,        120
And in frayle wood on Adrian gulf doth fleet,
Doth not, I weene, so many evils meet.’
Then Mammon wexing wroth: ‘And why then,’ sayd,
‘Are mortall men so fond and undiscreet
So evill thing to seeke unto their ayd,        125
And having not complaine, and having it upbrayd?’
 
  ‘Indeede,’ (quoth he) ‘through fowle intemperaunce,
Frayle men are oft captiv’d to covetise;
But would they thinke with how small allowaunce
Untroubled Nature doth her selfe suffise,        130
Such superfluities they would despise,
Which with sad cares empeach our native joyes.
At the well-head the purest streames arise;
But mucky filth his braunching armes annoyes,
And with uncomely weedes the gentle wave accloyes.        135
 
  ‘The antique world, in his first flowring youth,
Fownd no defect in his Creators grace;
But with glad thankes, and unreproved truth,
The gifts of soveraine bounty did embrace:
Like Angels life was then mens happy cace;        140
But later ages pride, like corn-fed steed,
Abusd her plenty and fat swolne encreace
To all licentious lust, and gan exceed
The measure of her meane and naturall first need.
 
  ‘Then gan a cursed hand the quiet wombe        145
Of his great Grandmother with steele to wound,
And the hid treasures in her sacred tombe
With Sacriledge to dig. Therein he fownd
Fountaines of gold and silver to abownd,
Of which the matter of his huge desire        150
And pompous pride eftsoones he did compownd;
Then avarice gan through his veines inspire
His greedy flames, and kindled life-devouring fire.’
 
  ‘Sonne,’ (said he then) ‘lett be thy bitter scorne,
And leave the rudenesse of that antique age        155
To them that liv’d therin in state forlorne:
Thou, that doest live in later times, must wage
Thy workes for wealth, and life for gold engage.
If then thee list my offred grace to use,
Take what thou please of all this surplusage;        160
If thee list not, leave have thou to refuse:
But thing refused doe not afterward accuse.’
 
  ‘Me list not’ (said the Elfin knight) ‘receave
Thing offred, till I know it well be gott;
Ne wote I but thou didst these goods bereave        165
From rightfull owner by unrighteous lott,
Or that bloodguiltinesse or guile them blott.’
‘Perdy,’ (quoth he) ‘yet never eie did vew,
Ne tong did tell, ne hand these handled not;
But safe I have them kept in secret mew        170
From hevens sight, and powre of al which them poursew.’
 
  ‘What secret place’ (quoth he) ‘can safely hold
So huge a masse, and hide from heaven’s eie?
Or where hast thou thy wonne, that so much gold
Thou canst preserve from wrong and robbery?’        175
‘Come thou,’ (quoth he) ‘and see.’ So by and by
Through that thick covert he him led, and fownd
A darkesome way, which no man could descry,
That deep descended through the hollow grownd,
And was with dread and horror compassed arownd.        180
 
  At length they came into a larger space,
That stretcht itselfe into an ample playne;
Through which a beaten broad high way did trace,
That streight did lead to Plutoes griesly rayne.
By that wayes side there sate internall Payne,        185
And fast beside him sat tumultuous Strife:
The one in hand an yron whip did strayne,
The other brandished a bloody knife;
And both did gnash their teeth, and both did threten life.
 
  On thother side in one consort there sate        190
Cruell Revenge, and rancorous Despight,
Disloyall Treason, and hart-burning Hate;
But gnawing Gealosy, out of their sight
Sitting alone, his bitter lips did bight;
And trembling Feare still to and fro did fly,        195
And found no place wher safe he shroud him might:
Lamenting Sorrow did in darknes lye,
And Shame his ugly face did hide from living eye.
 
  And over them sad Horror with grim hew
Did alwaies sore, beating his yron wings;        200
And after him Owles and Night-ravens flew,
The hatefull messengers of heavy things,
Of death and dolor telling sad tidings,
Whiles sad Celeno, sitting on a clifte,
A song of bale and bitter sorrow sings,        205
That hart of flint asonder could have rifte;
Which having ended after him she flyeth swifte.
 
  All these before the gates of Pluto lay,
By whom they passing spake unto them nought;
But th’ Elfin knight with wonder all the way        210
Did feed his eyes, and fild his inner thought.
At last him to a litle dore he brought,
That to the gate of Hell, which gaped wide,
Was next adjoyning, ne them parted ought:
Betwixt them both was but a little stride,        215
That did the house of Richesse from hell-mouth divide.
 
  Before the dore sat selfe-consuming Care,
Day and night keeping wary watch and ward,
For feare least Force or Fraud should unaware
Breake in, and spoile the treasure there in gard:        220
Ne would he suffer Sleepe once thither-ward
Approch, albe his drowsy den were next;
For next to death is Sleepe to be compard;
Therefore his house is unto his annext:
Here Sleep, ther Richesse, and Hel-gate them both betwext.        225
 
  So soon as Mammon there arrivd, the dore
To him did open and affoorded way:
Him followed eke Sir Guyon evermore,
Ne darkenesse him, ne daunger might dismay.
Soone as he entred was, the dore streight way        230
Did shutt, and from behind it forth there lept
An ugly feend, more fowle then dismall day,
The which with monstrous stalke behind him stept,
And ever as he went dew watch upon him kept.
 
  Well hoped hee, ere long that hardy guest,        235
If ever covetous hand, or lustfull eye,
Or lips he layd on thing that likte him best,
Or ever sleepe his eie-strings did untye,
Should be his pray. And therefore still on hye
He over him did hold his cruell clawes,        240
Threatning with greedy gripe to doe him dye,
And rend in peeces with his ravenous pawes,
If ever he transgrest the fatall Stygian lawes.
 
  That houses forme within was rude and strong,
Lyke an huge cave hewne out of rocky clifte,        245
From whose rough vaut the ragged breaches hong
Embost with massy gold of glorious guifte,
And with rich metall loaded every rifte,
That heavy ruine they did seeme to threatt;
And over them Arachne high did lifte        250
Her cunning web, and spred her subtile nett,
Enwrapped in fowle smoke and clouds more black than Jett.
 
  Both roofe, and floore, and walls, were all of gold,
But overgrowne with dust and old decay,
And hid in darkenes, that none could behold        255
The hew thereof; for vew of cherefull day
Did never in that house it selfe display,
But a faint shadow of uncertein light:
Such as a lamp, whose life does fade away,
Or as the Moone, cloathed with clowdy night,        260
Does show to him that walkes in feare and sad affright.
 
  In all that rowme was nothing to be seene
But huge great yron chests, and coffers strong,
All bard with double bends, that none could weene
Them to efforce by violence or wrong:        265
On every side they placed were along;
But all the grownd with sculs was scattered,
And dead mens bones, which round about were flong;
Whose lives, it seemed, whilome there were shed,
And their vile carcases now left unburied.        270
 
Note 1. follow. [back]
Note 2. of derring-do. [back]
 
 
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