Representative Poetry Online
  Poet Index   Poem Index   Random   Search  
  Introduction   Timeline   Calendar   Glossary   Criticism   Bibliography  
  RPO   Canadian Poetry   UTEL  
by Name
by Date
by Title
by First Line
by Last Line
Short poem

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

The Faerie Queene: Book I, Canto I



              1Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
              2As time her taught in lowly Shepheards weeds,
              3Am now enforst a far unfitter taske,
              4For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
              5And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
              6Whose prayses having slept in silence long,
              7Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
              8To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:
              9Fierce warres and faithful loves shall moralize my song.

            10Helpe then, O holy Virgin chiefe of nine,
            11Thy weaker Novice to performe thy will,
            12Lay forth out of thine everlasting scryne
            13The antique rolles, which there lye hidden still,
            14Of Faerie knights and fairest Tanaquill,
            15Whom that most noble Briton Prince so long
            16Sought through the world, and suffered so much ill,
            17That I must rue his undeserved wrong:
            18O helpe thou my weake wit, and sharpen my dull tong.

            19And thou most dreaded impe of highest Jove,
            20Faire Venus sonne, that with thy cruell dart
            21At that good knight so cunningly didst rove,
            22That glorious fire it kindled in his hart,
            23Lay now thy deadly Heben bow apart,
            24And with thy mother milde come to mine ayde:
            25Come both, and with you bring triumphant Mart,
            26In loves and gentle jollities arrayd,
            27After his murdrous spoiles and bloudy rage allayd.

            28And with them eke, O Goddesse heavenly bright,
            29Mirrour of grace and Majestie divine,
            30Great Lady of the greatest Isle, whose light
            31Like Phoebus lampe throughout the world doth shine,
            32Shed thy faire beames into my feeble eyne,
            33And raise my thoughts too humble and too vile,
            34To thinke of that true glorious type of thine,
            35The argument of mine afflicted stile:
            36The which to heare, vouchsafe, O dearest dred a-while.


 The Patron of true Holinesse,
 Foule Errour doth defeate:
 Hypocrisie him to entrape,
 Doth to his home entreate.

              1A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
              2Y cladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,
              3Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine,
              4The cruell markes of many a bloudy fielde;
              5Yet armes till that time did he never wield:
              6His angry steede did chide his foming bitt,
              7As much disdayning to the curbe to yield:
              8Full jolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
              9As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt.

            10But on his brest a bloudie Crosse he bore,
            11The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,
            12For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore,
            13And dead as living ever him ador'd:
            14Upon his shield the like was also scor'd,
            15For soveraine hope, which in his helpe he had:
            16Right faithfull true he was in deede and word,
            17But of his cheere did seeme too solemne sad;
            18Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

            19Upon a great adventure he was bond,
            20That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
            21That greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie lond,
            22To winne him worship, and her grace to have,
            23Which of all earthly things he most did crave;
            24And ever as he rode, his hart did earne
            25To prove his puissance in battell brave
            26Upon his foe, and his new force to learne;
            27Upon his foe, a Dragon horrible and stearne.

            28A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside,
            29Upon a lowly Asse more white then snow,
            30Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide
            31Under a vele, that wimpled was full low,
            32And over all a blacke stole she did throw,
            33As one that inly mournd: so was she sad,
            34And heavie sat upon her palfrey slow;
            35Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
            36And by her in a line a milke white lambe she lad.

            37So pure an innocent, as that same lambe,
            38She was in life and every vertuous lore,
            39And by descent from Royall lynage came
            40Of ancient Kings and Queenes, that had of yore
            41Their scepters stretcht from East to Westerne shore,
            42And all the world in their subjection held;
            43Till that infernall feend with foule uprore
            44Forwasted all their land, and them expeld:
            45Whom to avenge, she had this Knight from far compeld.

            46Behind her farre away a Dwarfe did lag,
            47That lasie seemd in being ever last,
            48Or wearied with bearing of her bag
            49Of needments at his backe. Thus as they past,
            50The day with cloudes was suddeine overcast,
            51And angry Jove an hideous storme of raine
            52Did poure into his Lemans lap so fast,
            53That every wight to shrowd it did constrain,
            54And this faire couple eke to shroud themselves were fain.

            55Enforst to seeke some covert nigh at hand,
            56A shadie grove not far away they spide,
            57That promist ayde the tempest to withstand:
            58Whose loftie trees yclad with sommers pride,
            59Did spred so broad, that heavens light did hide,
            60Not perceable with power of any starre:
            61And all within were pathes and alleies wide,
            62With footing worne, and leading inward farre:
            63Faire harbour that them seemes; so in they entred arre.

            64And foorth they passe, with pleasure forward led,
            65Joying to heare the birdes sweete harmony,
            66Which therein shrouded from the tempest dred,
            67Seemd in their song to scorne the cruell sky.
            68Much can they prayse the trees so straight and hy,
            69The sayling Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,
            70The vine-prop Elme, the Poplar never dry,
            71The builder Oake, sole king of forrests all,
            72The Aspine good for staves, the Cypresse funerall.

            73The Laurell, meed of mightie Conquerours
            74And Poets sage, the Firre that weepeth still,
            75The Willow worne of forlorne Paramours,
            76The Eugh obedient to the benders will,
            77The Birch for shaftes, the Sallow for the mill,
            78The Mirrhe sweete bleeding in the bitter wound,
            79The warlike Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,
            80The fruitfull Olive, and the Platane round,
            81The carver Holme, the Maple seeldom inward sound.

            82Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
            83Untill the blustring storme is overblowne;
            84When weening to returne, whence they did stray,
            85They cannot find that path, which first was showne,
            86But wander too and fro in wayes unknowne,
            87Furthest from end then, when they neerest weene,
            88That makes them doubt, their wits be not their owne:
            89So many pathes, so many turnings seene,
            90That which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.

            91At last resolving forward still to fare,
            92Till that some end they finde or in or out,
            93That path they take, that beaten seemd most bare,
            94And like to lead the labyrinth about;
            95Which when by tract they hunted had throughout,
            96At length it brought them to a hollow cave,
            97Amid the thickest woods. The Champion stout
            98Eftsoones dismounted from his courser brave,
            99And to the Dwarfe a while his needlesse spere he gave.

          100Be well aware, quoth then that Ladie milde,
          101Least suddaine mischiefe ye too rash provoke:
          102The danger hid, the place unknowne and wilde,
          103Breeds dreadfull doubts: Oft fire is without smoke,
          104And perill without show: therefore your stroke
          105Sir knight with-hold, till further triall made.
          106Ah Ladie (said he) shame were to revoke
          107The forward footing for an hidden shade:
          108Vertue gives her selfe light, through darkenesse for to wade.

          109Yea but (quoth she) the perill of this place
          110I better wot then you, though now too late
          111To wish you backe returne with foule disgrace,
          112Yet wisedome warnes, whilest foot is in the gate,
          113To stay the steppe, ere forced to retrate.
          114This is the wandring wood, this Errours den,
          115A monster vile, whom God and man does hate:
          116Therefore I read beware. Fly fly (quoth then
          117The fearefull Dwarfe:) this is no place for living men.

          118But full of fire and greedy hardiment,
          119The youthfull knight could not for ought be staide,
          120But forth unto the darksome hole he went,
          121And looked in: his glistring armor made
          122A litle glooming light, much like a shade,
          123By which he saw the ugly monster plaine,
          124Halfe like a serpent horribly displaide,
          125But th'other halfe did womans shape retaine,
          126Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine.

          127And as she lay upon the durtie ground,
          128Her huge long taile her den all overspred,
          129Yet was in knots and many boughtes upwound,
          130Pointed with mortall sting. Of her there bred
          131A thousand yong ones, which she dayly fed,
          132Sucking upon her poisonous dugs, eachone
          133Of sundry shapes, yet all ill favored:
          134Soone as that uncouth light upon them shone,
          135Into her mouth they crept, and suddain all were gone.

          136Their dam upstart, out of her den effraide,
          137And rushed forth, hurling her hideous taile
          138About her cursed head, whose folds displaid
          139Were stretcht now forth at length without entraile.
          140She lookt about, and seeing one in mayle
          141Armed to point, sought backe to turne againe;
          142For light she hated as the deadly bale,
          143Ay wont in desert darknesse to remaine,
          144Where plaine none might her see, nor she see any plaine.

          145Which when the valiant Elfe perceiv'd, he lept
          146As Lyon fierce upon the flying pray,
          147And with his trenchand blade her boldly kept
          148From turning backe, and forced her to stay:
          149Therewith enrag'd she loudly gan to bray,
          150And turning fierce, her speckled taile advaunst,
          151Threatning her angry sting, him to dismay:
          152Who nought aghast, his mightie hand enhaunst:
          153The stroke down from her head unto her shoulder glaunst.

          154Much daunted with that dint, her sence was dazd,
          155Yet kindling rage, her selfe she gathered round,
          156And all attonce her beastly body raizd
          157With doubled forces high above the ground:
          158Tho wrapping up her wrethed sterne arownd,
          159Lept fierce upon his shield, and her huge traine
          160All suddenly about his body wound,
          161That hand or foot to stirre he strove in vaine:
          162God helpe the man so wrapt in Errours endlesse traine.

          163His Lady sad to see his sore constraint,
          164Cride out, Now now Sir knight, shew what ye bee,
          165Add faith unto your force, and be not faint:
          166Strangle her, else she sure will strangle thee.
          167That when he heard, in great perplexitie,
          168His gall did grate for griefe and high disdaine,
          169And knitting all his force got one hand free,
          170Wherewith he grypt her gorge with so great paine,
          171That soone to loose her wicked bands did her constraine.

          172Therewith she spewd out of her filthy maw
          173A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,
          174Full of great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw,
          175Which stunck so vildly, that it forst him slacke
          176His grasping hold, and from her turne him backe:
          177Her vomit full of bookes and papers was,
          178With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke,
          179And creeping sought way in the weedy gras:
          180Her filthy parbreake all the place defiled has.

          181As when old father Nilus gins to swell
          182With timely pride above the Aegyptian vale,
          183His fattie waves do fertile slime outwell,
          184And overflow each plaine and lowly dale:
          185But when his later spring gins to avale,
          186Huge heapes of mudd he leaves, wherein there breed
          187Ten thousand kindes of creatures, partly male
          188And partly female of his fruitfull seed;
          189Such ugly monstrous shapes elsewhere may no man reed.

          190The same so sore annoyed has the knight,
          191That welnigh choked with the deadly stinke,
          192His forces faile, ne can no longer fight.
          193Whose corage when the feend perceiv'd to shrinke,
          194She poured forth out of her hellish sinke
          195Her fruitfull cursed spawne of serpents small,
          196Deformed monsters, fowle, and blacke as inke,
          197Which swarming all about his legs did crall,
          198And him encombred sore, but could not hurt at all.

          199As gentle Shepheard in sweete even-tide,
          200When ruddy Phoebus gins to welke in west,
          201High on an hill, his flocke to vewen wide,
          202Markes which do byte their hasty supper best;
          203A cloud of combrous gnattes do him molest,
          204All striving to infixe their feeble stings,
          205That from their noyance he no where can rest,
          206But with his clownish hands their tender wings
          207He brusheth oft, and oft doth mar their murmurings.

          208Thus ill bestedd, and fearefull more of shame,
          209Then of the certaine perill he stood in,
          210Halfe furious unto his foe he came,
          211Resolv'd in minde all suddenly to win,
          212Or soone to lose, before he once would lin;
          213And strooke at her with more then manly force,
          214That from her body full of filthie sin
          215He raft her hatefull head without remorse;
          216A streame of cole black bloud forth gushed from her corse.

          217Her scattred brood, soone as their Parent deare
          218They saw so rudely falling to the ground,
          219Groning full deadly, all with troublous feare,
          220Gathred themselves about her body round,
          221Weening their wonted entrance to have found
          222At her wide mouth: but being there withstood
          223They flocked all about her bleeding wound,
          224And sucked up their dying mothers blood,
          225Making her death their life, and eke her hurt their good.

          226That detestable sight him much amazde,
          227To see th'unkindly Impes of heaven accurst,
          228Devoure their dam; on whom while so he gazd,
          229Having all satisfide their bloudy thurst,
          230Their bellies swolne he saw with fulnesse burst,
          231And bowels gushing forth: well worthy end
          232Of such as drunke her life, the which them nurst;
          233Now needeth him no lenger labour spend,
          234His foes have slaine themselves, with whom he should contend.

          235His Ladie seeing all, that chaunst, from farre
          236Approcht in hast to greet his victorie,
          237And said, Faire knight, borne under happy starre,
          238Who see your vanquisht foes before you lye:
          239Well worthy be you of that Armorie,
          240Wherein ye have great glory wonne this day,
          241And proov'd your strength on a strong enimie,
          242Your first adventure: many such I pray,
          243And henceforth ever wish, that like succeed it may.

          244Then mounted he upon his Steede againe,
          245And with the Lady backward sought to wend;
          246That path he kept, which beaten was most plame,
          247Ne ever would to any by-way bend,
          248But still did follow one unto the end,
          249The which at last out of the wood them brought.
          250So forward on his way (with God to frend)
          251He passed forth, and new adventure sought;
          252Long way he travelled, before he heard of ought.

          253At length they chaunst to meet upon the way
          254An aged Sire, in long blacke weedes yclad,
          255His feete all bare, his beard all hoarie gray,
          256And by his belt his booke he hanging had;
          257Sober he seemde, and very sagely sad,
          258And to the ground his eyes were lowly bent,
          259Simple in shew, and voyde of malice bad,
          260And all the way he prayed, as he went,
          261And often knockt his brest, as one that did repent.

          262He faire the knight saluted, louting low,
          263Who faire him quited, as that courteous was:
          264And after asked him, if he did know
          265Of straunge adventures, which abroad did pas.
          266Ah my deare Sonne (quoth he) how should, alas,
          267Silly old man, that lives in hidden cell,
          268Bidding his beades all day for his trespas,
          269Tydings of warre and worldly trouble tell?
          270With holy father sits not with such things to mell.

          271But if of daunger which hereby doth dwell,
          272And homebred evill ye desire to heare,
          273Of a straunge man I can you tidings tell,
          274That wasteth all this countrey farre and neare.
          275Of such (said he) I chiefly do inquere,
          276And shall you well reward to shew the place,
          277In which that wicked wight his dayes doth weare:
          278For to all knighthood it is foule disgrace,
          279That such a cursed creature lives so long a space.

          280Far hence (quoth he) in wastfull wildernesse
          281His dwelling is, by which no living wight
          282May ever passe, but thorough great distresse.
          283Now (sayd the Lady) draweth toward night,
          284And well I wote, that of your later fight
          285Ye all forwearied be: for what so strong,
          286But wanting rest will also want of might?
          287The Sunne that measures heaven all day long,
          288At night doth baite his steedes the Ocean waves emong.

          289Then with the Sunne take Sir, your timely rest,
          290And with new day new worke at once begin:
          291Untroubled night they say gives counsell best.
          292Right well Sir knight ye have advised bin,
          293(Quoth then that aged man;) the way to win
          294Is wisely to advise: now day is spent;
          295Therefore with me ye may take up your In
          296For this same night. The knight was well content:
          297So with that godly father to his home they went.

          298A little lowly Hermitage it was,
          299Downe in a dale, hard by a forests side,
          300Far from resort of people, that did pas
          301In travell to and froe: a little wyde
          302There was an holy Chappell edifyde,
          303Wherein the Hermite dewly wont to say
          304His holy things each morne and eventyde:
          305Thereby a Christall streame did gently play,
          306Which from a sacred fountaine welled forth alway.

          307Arrived there, the little house they fill,
          308Ne looke for entertainement, where none was:
          309Rest is their feast, and all things at their will;
          310The noblest mind the best contentment has.
          311With faire discourse the evening so they pas:
          312For that old man of pleasing wordes had store,
          313And well could file his tongue as smooth as glas;
          314He told of Saintes and Popes, and evermore
          315He strowd an Ave-Mary after and before.

          316The drouping Night thus creepeth on them fast,
          317And the sad humour loading their eye liddes,
          318As messenger of Morpheus on them cast
          319Sweet slombring deaw, the which to sleepe them biddes.
          320Unto their lodgings then his guestes he riddes:
          321Where when all drownd in deadly sleepe he findes,
          322He to his study goes, and there amiddes
          323His Magick bookes and artes of sundry kindes,
          324He seekes out mighty charmes, to trouble sleepy mindes.

          325Then choosing out few wordes most horrible,
          326(Let none them read) thereof did verses frame,
          327With which and other spelles like terrible,
          328He bad awake blacke Plutoes griesly Dame,
          329And cursed heaven, and spake reprochfull shame
          330Of highest God, the Lord of life and light;
          331A bold bad man, that dar'd to call by name
          332Great Gorgon, Prince of darknesse and dead night,
          333At which Cocytus quakes, and Styx is put to flight.

          334And forth he cald out of deepe darknesse dred
          335Legions of Sprights, the which like little flyes
          336Fluttring about his ever damned hed,
          337A-waite whereto their service he applyes,
          338To aide his friends, or fray his enimies:
          339Of those he chose out two, the falsest twoo,
          340And fittest for to forge true-seeming lyes;
          341The one of them he gave a message too,
          342The other by him selfe staide other worke to doo.

          343He making speedy way through spersed ayre,
          344And through the world of waters wide and peepe,
          345To Morpheus house doth hastily repaire.
          346Amid the bowels of the earth full steepe,
          347And low, where dawning day doth never peepe,
          348His dwelling is; there Tethys his wet bed
          349Doth ever wash, and Cynthia still doth steepe
          350In silver deaw his ever-drouping hed,
          351Whiles sad Night over him her mantle black doth spred.

          352Whose double gates he findeth locked fast,
          353The one faire fram'd of burnisht Yvory,
          354The other all with silver overcast;
          355And wakefull dogges before them farre do lye
          356Watching to banish Care their enimy,
          357Who oft is wont to trouble gentle Sleepe.
          358By them the Sprite doth passe in quietly,
          359And unto Morpheus comes, whom drowned deepe
          360In drowsie fit he findes: of nothing he takes keepe.

          361And more, to lulle him in his slumber soft,
          362A trickling streame from high rocke tumbling downe
          363And ever-drizling raine upon the loft,
          364Mixt with a murmuring winde, much like the sowne
          365Of swarming Bees, did cast him in a swowne:
          366No other noyse, nor peoples troublous cryes,
          367As still are wont t'annoy the walled towne,
          368Might there be heard: but carelesse Quiet lyes,
          369Wrapt in eternall silence farre from enemyes.

          370The messenger approching to him spake,
          371But his wast wordes returnd to him in vaine:
          372So sound he slept, that nought mought him awake.
          373Then rudely he him thrust, and pusht with paine,
          374Whereat he gan to stretch: but he againe
          375Shooke him so hard, that forced him to speake.
          376As one then in a dreame, whose dryer braine
          377In tost with troubled sights and fancies weake,
          378He mumbled soft, but would not all his silence breake.

          379The Sprite then gan more boldly him to wake,
          380And threatned unto him the dreaded name
          381Of Hecate: whereat he gan to quake,
          382And lifting up his lumpish head, with blame
          383Halfe angry asked him, for what he came.
          384Hither (quoth he) me Archimago sent,
          385He that the stubborne Sprites can wisely tame,
          386He bids thee to him send for his intent
          387A fit false dreame, that can delude the sleepers sent.

          388The God obayde, and calling forth straight way
          389A diverse dreame out of his prison darke,
          390Delivered it to him, and downe did lay
          391His heavie head, devoide of carefull carke,
          392Whose sences all were straight benumbed and starke.
          393He backe returning by the Yvorie dore,
          394Remounted up as light as chearefull Larke,
          395And on his litle winges the dreame he bore
          396In hast unto his Lord, where he him left afore.

          397Who all this while with charmes and hidden artes,
          398Had made a Lady of that other Spright,
          399And fram'd of liquid ayre her tender partes
          400So lively, and so like in all mens sight,
          401That weaker sence it could have ravisht quight:
          402The maker selfe for all his wondrous witt,
          403Was nigh beguiled with so goodly sight:
          404Her all in white he clad, and over it
          405Cast a blacke stole, most like to seeme for Una fit.

          406Now when that ydle dreame was to him brought,
          407Unto that Elfin knight he bad him fly,
          408Where he slept soundly void of evill thought
          409And with false shewes abuse his fantasy,
          410In sort as he him schooled privily:
          411And that new creature borne without her dew,
          412Full of the makers guile, with usage sly
          413He taught to imitate that Lady trew,
          414Whose semblance she did carrie under feigned hew.

          415Thus well instructed, to their worke they hast,
          416And comming where the knight in slomber lay,
          417The one upon his hardy head him plast,
          418And made him dreame of loves and lustfull play,
          419That nigh his manly hart did melt away,
          420Bathed in wanton blis and wicked joy:
          421Then seemed him his Lady by him lay,
          422And to him playnd, how that false winged boy,
          423Her chast hart had subdewd, to learne Dame pleasures toy.

          424And she her selfe of beautie soveraigne Queene,
          425Faire Venus seemde unto his bed to bring
          426Her, whom he waking evermore did weene,
          427To be the chastest flowre, that ay did spring
          428On earthly braunch, the daughter of a king,
          429Now a loose Leman to vile service bound:
          430And eke the Graces seemed all to sing,
          431Hymen {i}{_o} Hymen, dauncing all around,
          432While freshest Flora her with Yvie girlond crownd.

          433In this great passion of unwonted lust,
          434Or wonted feare of doing ought amis,
          435He started up, as seeming to mistrust
          436Some secret ill, or hidden foe of his:
          437Lo there before his face his Lady is,
          438Under blake stole hyding her bayted hooke,
          439And as halfe blushing offred him to kis,
          440With gentle blandishment and lovely looke,
          441Most like that virgin true, which for her knight him took.

          442All cleane dismayd to see so uncouth sight,
          443And halfe enraged at her shamelesse guise,
          444He thought have slaine her in his fierce despight:
          445But hasty heat tempring with sufferance wise,
          446He stayde his hand, and gan himselfe advise
          447To prove his sense, and tempt her faigned truth.
          448Wringing her hands in wemens pitteous wise,
          449Tho can she weepe, to stirre up gentle ruth,
          450Both for her noble bloud, and for her tender youth.

          451And said, Ah Sir, my liege Lord and my love,
          452Shall I accuse the hidden cruell fate,
          453And mightie causes wrought in heaven above,
          454Or the blind God, that doth me thus amate,
          455For hoped love to winne me certaine hate?
          456Yet thus perforce he bids me do, or die.
          457Die is my dew: yet rew my wretched state
          458You, whom my hard avenging destinie
          459Hath made judge of my life or death indifferently.

          460Your owne deare sake forst me at first to leave
          461My Fathers kingdome, There she stopt with teares;
          462Her swollen hart her speach seemd to bereave,
          463And then againe begun, My weaker yeares
          464Captiv'd to fortune and frayle worldly feares,
          465Fly to your faith for succour and sure ayde:
          466Let me not dye in languor and long teares.
          467Why Dame (quoth he) what hath ye thus dismayd?
          468What frayes ye, that were wont to comfort me affrayd?

          469Love of your selfe, she said, and deare constraint
          470Lets me not sleepe, but wast the wearie night
          471In secret anguish and unpittied plaint,
          472Whiles you in carelesse sleepe are drowned quight.
          473Her doubtfull words made that redoubted knight
          474Suspect her truth: yet since no'untruth he knew,
          475Her fawning love with foule disdainefull spight
          476He would not shend, but said, Deare dame I rew,
          477That for my sake unknowne such griefe unto you grew.

          478Assure your selfe, it fell not all to ground;
          479For all so deare as life is to my hart,
          480I deeme your love, and hold me to you bound;
          481Ne let vaine feares procure your needlesse smart,
          482Where cause is none, but to your rest depart.
          483Not all content, yet seemd she to appease
          484Her mournefull plaintes, beguiled of her art,
          485And fed with words, that could not chuse but please,
          486So slyding softly forth, she turnd as to her ease.

          487Long after lay he musing at her mood,
          488Much griev'd to think that gentle Dame so light,
          489For whose defence he was to shed his blood.
          490At last dull wearinesse of former fight
          491Having yrockt a sleepe his irkesome spright,
          492That troublous dreame gan freshly tosse his braine,
          493With bowres, and beds, and Ladies deare delight:
          494But when he saw his labour all was vaine,
          495With that misformed spright he backe returnd againe.


1] Books I-III were published in 1590, with an eloquent dedication to the Queen and an explanatory "Letter of the Authors" addressed to Sir Walter Ralegh. In the edition of Books IV-VI were added, and in 1609 the "Cantos of Mutabilitie." The text here printed is based on the 1596 edition, the last edition in Spenser's lifetime. In the "Letter" of 1590, Spenser describes the purpose and plan of his poem. It is, he says, "a continued Allegory, or darke conceit," "the generall end" of which "is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline." Following what he, like his contemporaries, believed to be the didactic purpose of "the antique Poets historicall," Homer and Virgil, and the example of the Italian writers of romantic epic, Ariosto and Tasso, he sets out to portray in his hero Arthur "the image of a brave knight, perfected in the twelve private morall vertues, as Aristotle hath devised," in twelve books, in each of which another knight is to exhibit a particular virtue, while in Prince Arthur, appearing in all, is ''sette forth magnificence ... the perfection of all the rest." Prince Arthur's quest starts from his "dream or vision of the Faery Queen," who represents "glory in my generall intention," but in particular "the excellent and glorious person of our soveraine the Queene." According to "the methode of a Poet historicall," Spenser "thrusteth into the middest" of his story, proposing in the twelfth book to relate how the several adventures were entered upon at the twelve-day feast of Gloriana in her city of Cleopolis. The six completed books, their virtues and "patrones," are: 1: Holiness (the Red-crosse knight); II: Temperance (Sir Guyon); III: Chastity (Britomart, "a Lady knight''); IV: Friendship (Cambell and Triamond); V: Justice (Sir Artegall); VI: Courtesy (Sir Calidore).

On the first day of the feast, ''a tall clownishe younge man" having desired the achievement of that day's adventure, soon entered "a faire Ladye in mourning weedes, riding on a white Asse, with a dwarfe behind her leading a warlike steed, that bore the Armes of a knight.... Shee complayned that her father and mother an ancient King and Queene, had bene by an huge dragon many years shut up in a brasen Castle." The young man earnestly desired that adventure, and the Lady told him "that unlesse that armour which she brought would serve him (that is the armour of a Christian man specified by Saint Paul, Ephesians) that he could not succeed in that enterprise." Then, "eftsoones taking on him knighthood," he went forth with her, "where beginneth the first booke."

The first four lines imitate the four lines (Ille ego ... horrentia Martis) prefaced to the opening of Virgil's Æneid.

2] Shepheards weeds: a reference to Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender.

7] areeds: teaches.

10] holy Virgin chiefe of nine.

Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry, is called by Ovid (Metamorphoses, V, 662) the eldest (maxima) of the Muses, though it may be argued that, since this Muse has charge of the antique rolls, Clio, the Muse of history, is meant.

12] scryne: chest.

14] Tanaquill: Queen Elizabeth; at F.Q., II.x and lxxvi she is said to have succeeded Oberon (Henry VIII) as ruler of Fairy land. In Roman history TanaquiIl was the wife of Tarquinius Priscus. She was cited by Roger Ascham, Queen Elizabeth's tutor, as the type of the noble queen.

15] Briton Prince: Prince Arthur.

23] Heben: ebony.

25] Mart: Mars.

34] type: symbol.

35] afflicted: humble.

1] pricking: riding fast, spurring.

10] bloudie Crosse: the cross of St. George, red on a white ground, the colours of the Eucharist.

18] ydrad: feared.

24] earne: yearn.

36] in a line: drawn by a cord.

51] An allusion to the nature-myth of the marriage of Heaven and Earth, and to Jupiter's visit to Danae in a shower of gold.

68] The catalogue of trees recalls Ovid, Metamorphoses, X, 90-104, and Chaucer, Parlement of Foules, 176-82.

76] Eugh: yew used for bows.

77] Sallow: a kind of willow.

80] Platane: plane-tree.

81] Holme: holly.

106] revoke: turn back.

114] wandring wood: the wood of Error, from Lat. errare, to wander.

116] read: advise.

124] Halfe like a serpent: like the monster Echidna, described by Hesiod, Theogony, 295ff.

129] boughtes: coils.

147] trenchand: sharp.

152] enhaunst: raised.

177] bookes and papers: cf. Revelation 16:13; here Roman Catholic propaganda.

180] parbreake: vomit.

185] avale: abate.

186] An allusion to "spontaneous generation" from Nile slime, as described by Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1, 422-31.

200] welke: fade.

212] lin: cease.

262] louting: bowing.

263] who graciously returned his salute, like the courteous knight he was.

267] silly: simple.

270] mell: meddle.

288] baite: feed.

302] edifyde: built.

317] the sad humour: the dew of sleep.

318] Morpheus: god of sleep and dreams.

320] riddes: sends off.

328] blacke Plutoes griesly Dame: Persephone, consort of Pluto, ruler of Hades.

332] Gorgon: Demogorgon, a mysterious and terrible power; cf. Milton, Paradise Lost, II, 965, and Shelley, Prometheus Unbound. The name may be a mistake for "Demiurgus" (the Creator).

333] Cocytus, Styx: rivers of Hades.

348] Tethys: consort of Oceanus, used here for the ocean itself.

349] Cynthia: the moon.

352] In the Æneid (VI, 894-6), the house of Sleep has two gates, one of horn through which pass true dreams, the other of ivory, the passageway of false dreams. Cf. Odyssey, XIX, 563.

368] carelesse: free from care.

376] dryer braine. In sixteenth-century physiology, bad dreams ("troubled sights") are caused by "cold and dry" melancholy.

381] Hecate: an underworld goddess, represented with three faces, protectress of enchanters and witches.

384] Archimago. The name means `chief magician.'

389] diverse: distracting.

391] carefull carke: care-full sorrow.

403] This may be an allusion to the legend of Pygmalion, who fell in love with a beautiful statue he himself had made.

430] Graces: "three sisters, the daughters of Jupiter (whose names are Aglaia, Thalia, Euphrosyne ...), otherwise called Charites, that is thanks. Whom the Poets feyned to be the Goddesses of al bountie and comelines'' (E.K.).

431] Hymen i{_o} Hymen: the ritual chant at Roman weddings, also in Epithalamian, line 140.

432] Flora: goddess of fiowers and fertility.

449] Tho: then.

454] amate: dismay.

476] shend: reproach.

483] appease: cease.

491] irksome spright: troubled mind.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene,, 2nd edn. (R. Field for W. Ponsonbie, 1596). STC 23082. Facs. The Faerie Queene 1596, Volume 1, Introduction by Graham Hough (London: Scolar Press, 1976). PR 2358 A2H6 1976 Robarts Library 1-2.
First publication date: 1596
RPO poem editor: Millar MacLure
RP edition: 3RP 1.52.
Recent editing: 1:2002/6/28

Form: Spenserian Stanza
Rhyme: ababbcbcc

Other poems by Edmund Spenser