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: Claims of Mutability Pleaded before Nature
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
 
[From Bk. vii. (posthumous).]

  ‘YET mauger Jove, and all his gods beside,
I do possesse the worlds most regiment;
As if ye please it into parts divide,
And every parts inholders to convent,
Shall to your eyes appeare incontinent.        5
And, first, the Earth (great mother of us all)
That only seemes unmov’d and permanent,
And unto Mutabilitie not thrall,
Yet is she chang’d in part, and eeke in generall:
 
  ‘For all that from her springs, and is ybredde,        10
How-ever faire it flourish for a time,
Yet see we soone decay; and, being dead,
To turne againe unto their earthly slime:
Yet, out of their decay and mortall crime,
We daily see new creatures to arize,        15
And of their Winter spring another Prime,
Unlike in forme, and chang’d by strange disguise:
So turne they still about, and change in restlesse wise.
 
  ‘As for her tenants, that is, man and beasts,
The beasts we daily see massacred dy        20
As thralls and vassals unto mens beheasts;
And men themselves do change continually,
From youth to eld, from wealth to poverty,
From good to bad, from bad to worst of all:
Ne doe their bodies only flit and fly,        25
But eeke their minds (which they immortall call)
Still change and vary thought, as new occasions fall.’
*        *        *        *        *
[The Seasons and the Months pass by, and after them the Hours.]

  And after these there came the Day and Night,
Riding together both with equall pase,
Th’ one on a Palfrey blacke, the other white;        30
But Night had covered her uncomely face
With a blacke veile, and held in hand a mace,
On top whereof the moon and stars were pight;
And sleep and darknesse round about did trace:
But Day did beare upon his scepters hight        35
The goodly Sun encompast all with beames bright.
 
  Then came the Howres, faire daughters of high Jove
And timely Night; the which were all endewed
With wondrous beauty fit to kindle love;
But they were virgins all, and love eschewed        40
That might forslack the charge to them foreshewed
By mighty Jove; who did them porters make
Of heavens gate (whence all the gods issued)
Which they did daily watch, and nightly wake
By even turnes, ne ever did their charge forsake.        45
 
  And after all came Life, and lastly Death;
Death with most grim and griesly visage seene,
Yet is he nought but parting of the breath;
Ne ought to see, but like a shade to weene,
Unbodied, unsoul’d, unheard, unseene:        50
But Life was like a faire young lusty boy,
Such as they faine Dan Cupid to have beene,
Full of delightfull health and lively joy,
Deckt all with flowres, and wings of gold fit to employ.
 
  When these were past, thus gan the Titanesse:        55
‘Lo! mighty mother, now be judge, and say
Whether in all thy creatures more or lesse
CHANGE doth not raign and bear the greatest sway;
For who sees not that Time on all doth pray?
But Times do change and move continually:        60
So nothing heere long standeth in one stay:
Wherefore this lower world who can deny
But to be subject still to Mutability?’
*        *        *        *        *
  ‘Then, since within this wide great Universe
Nothing doth firme and permanent appeare,        65
But all things tost and turned by transverse,
What then should let, but I aloft should reare
My Trophee, and from all the triumph beare?
Now judge then, (O thou greatest goddesse trew)
According as thy selfe doest see and heare,        70
And unto me addoom that is my dew;
That is, the rule of all, all being rul’d by you.’
 
  So having ended, silence long ensewed;
Ne Nature to or fro spake for a space,
But with firme eyes affixt the ground still viewed.        75
Meane-while all creatures, looking in her face,
Expecting th’ end of this so doubtfull case,
Did hang in long suspence what would ensew,
To whether side should fall the soveraine place:
At length she, looking up with chearefull view,        80
The silence brake, and gave her doome in speeches few.
 
  ‘I well consider all that ye have said,
And find that all things stedfastnesse do hate
And changed be; yet, being rightly wayd,
They are not changed from their first estate;        85
But by their change their being do dilate,
And turning to themselves at length againe,
Do worke their owne perfection so by fate:
Then over them Change doth not rule and raigne,
But they raigne over Change, and do their states maintaine.        90
 
  ‘Cease therefore, daughter, further to aspire,
And thee content thus to be rul’d by mee,
For thy decay thou seekst by thy desire;
But time shall come that all shall changed bee,
And from thenceforth none no more change shal see.’        95
So was the Titanesse put downe and whist, 1
And Jove confirm’d in his imperiall see.
Then was that whole assembly quite dismist,
And Natur’s selfe did vanish, whither no man wist.
 
[Fragment of the last Canto.]

  When I bethinke me on that speech whyleare
        100
Of Mutabilitie, and well it way!
Me seemes, that though she all unworthy were
Of the Heav’ns Rule: yet, very sooth to say,
In all things else she beares the greatest sway:
Which makes me loath this state of life so tickle,        105
And love of things so vaine to cast away;
Whose flowring pride, so fading and so fickle,
Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle.
 
  Then gin I thinke on that which Nature sayd,
Of that same time when no more Change shall be,        110
But stedfast rest of all things, firmely stayd
Upon the pillours of Eternity,
That is contrayr to Mutabilitie;
For all that moveth doth in Change delight:
But thence-forth all shall rest eternally        115
With Him that is the God of Sabaoth hight:
O! that great Sabaoth God, grant me that Sabaoths sight!
 
Note 1. silenced. [back]
 
 
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