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Short poem

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 2


 The guilefull great Enchaunter parts
 The Redcrosse Knight from Truth;
 Into whose stead faire falshood steps,
 And workes him wofull ruth.

              1By this the Northerne wagoner had set
              2His sevenfold teme behind the stedfast starre,
              3That was in Ocean waves yet never wet,
              4But firme is fixt, and sendeth light from farre
              5To all, that in the wide deepe wandring arre:
              6And chearefull Chaunticlere with his note shrill
              7Had warned once, that Phoebus fiery carre
              8In hast was climbing up the Easterne hill,
              9Full envious that night so long his roome did fill.

            10When those accursed messengers of hell,
            11That feigning dreame, and that faire-forged Spright
            12Came to their wicked maister, and gan tell
            13Their bootelesse paines, and ill succeeding night:
            14Who all in rage to see his skilfull might
            15Deluded so, gan threaten hellish paine
            16And sad Proserpines wrath, them to affright.
            17But when he saw his threatning was but vaine,
            18He cast about, and searcht his balefull bookes againe.

            19Eftsoones he tooke that miscreated faire,
            20And that false other Spright, on whom he spred
            21A seeming body of the subtile aire,
            22Like a young Squire, in loves and lusty-hed
            23His wanton dayes that ever loosely led,
            24Without regard of armes and dreaded fight:
            25Those two he tooke, and in a secret bed,
            2630  Covered with darknesse and misdeeming night,
            27Them both together laid, to joy in vaine delight.

            28Forthwith he runnes with feigned faithfull hast
            29Unto his guest, who after troublous sights
            30And dreames, gan now to take more sound repast,
            31Whom suddenly he wakes with fearefull frights,
            32As one aghast with feends or damned sprights,
            33And to him cals, Rise rise unhappy Swaine,
            34That here wex old in sleepe, whiles wicked wights
            35Have knit themselves in Venus shamefull chaine;
            36Come see, where your false Lady doth her honour staine.

            37All in amaze he suddenly up start
            38With sword in hand, and with the old man went;
            39Who soone him brought into a secret part,
            4044  Where that false couple were full closely ment
            41In wanton lust and lewd embracement:
            42Which when he saw, he burnt with gealous fire,
            43The eye of reason was with rage yblent,
            44And would have slaine them in his furious ire,
            45But hardly was restreined of that aged sire.

            46Returning to his bed in torment great,
            47And bitter anguish of his guiltie sight,
            48He could not rest, but did his stout heart eat,
            49And wast his inward gall with deepe despight,
            50Yrkesome of life, and too long lingring night.
            51At last faire Hesperus in highest skie
            52Had spent his lampe, and brought forth dawning light,
            53Then up he rose, and clad him hastily;
            54The Dwarfe him brought his steed: so both away do fly.

            5559  Now when the rosy-fingred Morning faire,
            56Weary of aged Tithones saffron bed,
            57Had spred her purple robe through deawy aire,
            58And the high hils Titan discovered,
            59The royall virgin shooke off drowsy-hed,
            60And rising forth out of her baser bowre,
            61Lookt for her knight, who far away was fled,
            62And for her Dwarfe, that wont to wait each houre;
            63Then gan she waile and weepe, to see that woefull stowre.

            64And after him she rode with so much speede
            65As her slow beast could make; but all in vaine:
            66For him so far had borne his light-foot steede,
            67Pricked with wrath and fiery fierce disdaine,
            68That him to follow was but fruitlesse paine;
            69Yet she her weary limbes would never rest,
            70But every hill and dale, each wood and plaine
            71Did search, sore grieved in her gentle brest,
            72He so ungently left her, whom she loved best

            73But subtill Archimago, when his guests
            74He saw divided into double parts,
            75And Una wandring in woods and forrests,
            76Th'end of his drift, he praisd his divelish arts,
            77That had such might over true meaning harts;
            78Yet rests not so, but other meanes doth make,
            79How he may worke unto her further smarts:
            80For her he hated as the hissing snake,
            81And in her many troubles did most pleasure take.

            82He then devisde himselfe how to disguise;
            83For by his mightie science he could take
            84As many formes and shapes in seeming wise,
            85As ever Proteus to himselfe could make:
            86Sometime a fowle, sometime a fish in lake,
            87Now like a foxe, now like a dragon fell,
            88That of himselfe he oft for feare would quake,
            89And oft would flie away. O who can tell
            90The hidden power of herbes, and might of Magicke spell?

            91But now seemde best, the person to put on
            92Of that good knight, his late beguiled guest:
            93In mighty armes he was yclad anon,
            94And silver shield: upon his coward brest
            95A bloudy crosse, and on his craven crest
            96A bounch of haires discolourd diversly:
            97Full jolly knight he seemde, and well addrest,
            98And when he sate upon his courser free,
            99Saint George himself ye would have deemed him to be.

          100But he the knight, whose semblaunt he did beare,
          101The true Saint George was wandred far away,
          102Still flying from his thoughts and gealous feare;
          103Will was his guide, and griefe led him astray.
          104At last him chaunst to meete upon the way
          105A faithlesse Sarazin all arm'd to point,
          106In whose great shield was writ with letters gay
          107Sans foy: full large of limbe and every joint
          108He was, and cared not for God or man a point.

          109He had a faire companion of his way,
          110A goodly Lady clad in scarlet red,
          111Purfled with gold and pearle of rich assay,
          112And like a Persian mitre on her hed
          113She wore, with crownes and owches garnished,
          114The which her lavish lovers to her gave;
          115Her wanton palfrey all was overspred
          116With tinsell trappings, woven like a wave,
          117Whose bridle rung with golden bels and bosses brave.

          118With faire disport and courting dalliaunce
          119She intertainde her lover all the way:
          120But when she saw the knight his speare advaunce,
          121She soone left off her mirth and wanton play,
          122And bad her knight addresse him to the fray:
          123His foe was nigh at hand. He prickt with pride
          124And hope to winne his Ladies heart that day,
          125Forth spurred fast: adowne his coursers side
          126The red bloud trickling staind the way, as he did ride.

          127The knight of the Redcrosse when him he spide,
          128Spurring so hote with rage dispiteous,
          129Gan fairely couch his speare, and towards ride:
          130Soone meete they both, both fell and furious,
          131That daunted with their forces hideous,
          132Their steeds do stagger, and amazed stand,
          133And eke themselves too rudely rigorous,
          134Astonied with the stroke of their owne hand,
          135Do backe rebut, and each to other yeeldeth land.

          136As when two rams stird with ambitious pride,
          137Fight for the rule of the rich fleeced flocke,
          138Their horned fronts so fierce on either side
          139Do meete, that with the terrour of the shocke
          140Astonied both, stand sencelesse as a blocke,
          141Forgetfull of the hanging victory:
          142So stood these twaine, unmoved as a rocke,
          143Both staring fierce, and holding idely
          144The broken reliques of their former cruelty.

          145The Sarazin sore daunted with the buffe
          146Snatcheth his sword, and fiercely to him flies;
          147Who well it wards, and quyteth cuff with cuff:
          148Each others equall puissaunce envies,
          149And through their iron sides with cruell spies
          150Does seeke to perce: repining courage yields
          151No foote to foe. The flashing fier flies
          152As from a forge out of their burning shields,
          153And streames of purple bloud new dies the verdant fields.

          154Curse on that Crosse (quoth then the Sarazin)
          155That keepes thy body from the bitter fit;
          156Dead long ygoe I wote thou haddest bin,
          157Had not that charme from thee forwarned it:
          158But yet I warne thee now assured sitt,
          159And hide thy head. Therewith upon his crest
          160With rigour so outrageous he smitt,
          161That a large share it hewd out of the rest,
          162And glauncing downe his shield, from blame him fairely blest.

          163Who thereat wondrous wroth, the sleeping spark
          164Of native vertue gan eftsoones revive,
          165And at his haughtie helmet making mark,
          166So hugely stroke, that it the steele did rive,
          167And cleft his head. He tumbling downe alive,
          168With bloudy mouth his mother earth did kis,
          169Greeting his grave: his grudging ghost did strive
          170With the fraile flesh; at last it flitted is,
          171Whither the soules do fly of men, that live amis.

          172The Lady when she saw her champion fall,
          173Like the old ruines of a broken towre,
          174Staid not to waile his woefull funerall,
          175But from him fled away with all her powre;
          176Who after her as hastily gan scowre,
          177Bidding the Dwarfe with him to bring away
          178The Sarazins shield, signe of the conqueroure.
          179Her soone he overtooke, and bad to stay,
          180For present cause was none of dread her to dismay.

          181She turning backe with ruefull countenaunce,
          182Cride, Mercy mercy Sir vouchsafe to show
          183On silly Dame, subject to hard mischaunce,
          184And to your mighty will. Her humblesse low
          185In so ritch weedes and seeming glorious show,
          186Did much emmove his stout heroicke heart,
          187And said, Deare dame, your suddein overthrow
          188Much rueth me; but now put feare apart,
          189And tell, both who ye be, and who that tooke your part.

          190Melting in teares, then gan she thus lament;
          191The wretched woman, whom unhappy howre
          192Hath now made thrall to your commandement,
          193Before that angry heavens list to lowre,
          194And fortune false betraide me to your powre,
          195Was, (O what now availeth that I was!)
          196Borne the sole daughter of an Emperour,
          197He that the wide West under his rule has,
          198And high hath set his throne, where Tiberis doth pas.

          199He in the first flowre of my freshest age,
          200Betrothed me unto the onely haire
          201Of a most mighty king, most rich and sage;
          202Was never Prince so faithfull and so faire,
          203Was never Prince so meeke and debonaire;
          204But ere my hoped day of spousall shone,
          205My dearest Lord fell from high honours staire,
          206Into the hands of his accursed fone,
          207And cruelly was slaine, that shall I ever mone.

          208His blessed body spoild of lively breath,
          209Was afterward, I know not how, convaid
          210And fro me hid: of whose most innocent death
          211When tidings came to me unhappy maid,
          212O how great sorrow my sad soule assaid.
          213Then forth I went his woefull corse to find,
          214And many yeares throughout the world I straid,
          215A virgin widow, whose deepe wounded mind
          216With love, long time did languish as the striken hind.

          217At last it chaunced this proud Sarazin,
          218To meete me wandring, who perforce me led
          219With him away, but yet could never win
          220The Fort, that Ladies hold in soveraigne dread.
          221There lies he now with foule dishonour dead,
          222Who whiles he liv'de, was called proud Sans foy,
          223The eldest of three brethren, all three bred
          224Of one bad sire, whose youngest is Sans joy,
          225And twixt them both was borne the bloudy bold Sans loy.

          226In this sad plight, friendlesse, unfortunate,
          227Now miserable I Fidessa dwell,
          228Craving of you in pitty of my state,
          229To do none ill, if please ye not do well.
          230He in great passion all this while did dwell,
          231More busying his quicke eyes, her face to view,
          232Then his dull eares, to heare what she did tell;
          233And said, Faire Lady hart of flint would rew
          234The undeserved woes and sorrowes, which ye shew.

          235Henceforth in safe assuraunce may ye rest,
          236Having both found a new friend you to aid,
          237And lost an old foe, that did you molest:
          238Better new friend then an old foe is said.
          239With chaunge of cheare the seeming simple maid
          240Let fall her eyen, as shamefast to the earth,
          241And yeelding soft, in that she nought gain-said,
          242So forth they rode, he feining seemely merth,
          243And she coy lookes: so dainty they say maketh derth.

          244Long time they thus together traveiled,
          245Till weary of their way, they came at last,
          246Where grew two goodly trees, that faire did spred
          247Their armes abroad, with gray mosse overcast,
          248And their greene leaves trembling with every blast,
          249Made a calme shadow far in compasse round:
          250The fearefull Shepheard often there aghast
          251Under them never sat, ne wont there sound
          252His mery oaten pipe, but shund th'unlucky ground.

          253But this good knight soone as he them can spie,
          254For the coole shade him thither hastly got:
          255For golden Phoebus now ymounted hie,
          256From fiery wheeles of his faire chariot
          257Hurled his beame so scorching cruell hot,
          258That living creature mote it not abide;
          259And his new Lady it endured not.
          260There they alight, in hope themselves to hid
          261From the fierce heat, and rest their weary limbs a tide.

          262Faire seemely pleasaunce each to other makes,
          263With goodly purposes there as they sit:
          264And in his falsed fancy he her takes
          265To be the fairest wight, that lived yit;
          266Which to expresse, he bends his gentle wit,
          267And thinking of those braunches greene to frame
          268A girlond for her dainty forehead fit,
          269He pluckt a bough; out of whose rift there came
          270Small drops of gory bloud, that trickled downe the same.

          271Therewith a piteous yelling voyce was heard,
          272Crying, O spare with guilty hands to teare
          273My tender sides in this rough rynd embard,
          274But fly, ah fly far hence away, for feare
          275Least to you hap, that happened to me heare,
          276And to this wretched Lady, my deare love,
          277O too deare love, love bought with death too deare.
          278Astond he stood, and up his haire did hove,
          279And with that suddein horror could no member move.

          280At last whenas the dreadful passion
          281Was overpast, and manhood well awake,
          282Yet musing at the straunge occasion,
          283And doubting much his sence, he thus bespake;
          284What voyce of damned Ghost from Limbo lake,
          285Or guilefull spright wandring in empty aire,
          286Both which fraile men do oftentimes mistake,
          287Sends to my doubtfull eares these speaches rare,
          288And rueful plaints, me bidding guiltlesse bloud to spare?

          289Then groning deepe, Nor damned Ghost, (quoth he,)
          290Nor guilefull sprite to thee these wordes doth speake,
          291But once a man Fradubio, now a tree,
          292Wretched man, wretched tree; whose nature weake,
          293A cruell witch her cursed will to wreake,
          294Hath thus transformd, and plast in open plaines,
          295299  Where Boreas doth blow full bitter bleake,
          296And scorching Sunne does dry my secret vaines:
          297For though a tree I seeme, yet cold and heat me paines.

          298Say on Fradubio then, or man, or tree,
          299Quoth then the knight, by whose mischievous arts
          300Art thou misshaped thus, as now I see?
          301He oft finds med'cine, who his griefe imparts;
          302But double griefs afflict concealing harts,
          303As raging flames who striveth to suppresse.
          304The author then (said he) of all my smarts,
          305Is one Duessa a false sorceresse,
          306That many errant knights hath brought to wretchednesse.

          307In prime of youthly yeares, when corage hot
          308The fire of love and joy of chevalree
          309First kindled in my brest, it was my lot
          310To love this gentle Lady, whom ye see,
          311Now not a Lady, but a seeming tree;
          312With whom as once I rode accompanyde,
          313Me chaunced of a knight encountred bee,
          314That had a like faire Lady by his syde,
          315Like a faire Lady, but did fowle Duessa hyde.

          316Whose forged beauty he did take in hand,
          317All other Dames to have exceeded farre;
          318I in defence of mine did likewise stand,
          319Mine, that did then shine as the Morning starre:
          320So both to battell fierce arraunged arre,
          321In which his harder fortune was to fall
          322Under my speare: such is the dye of warre:
          323His Lady left as a prise martiall,
          324Did yield her comely person, to be at my call.

          325So doubly lov'd of Ladies unlike faire,
          326Th'one seeming such, the other such indeede,
          327One day in doubt I cast for to compare,
          328Whether in beauties glorie did exceede;
          329A Rosy girlond was the victors meede:
          330Both seemde to win, and both seemde won to bee,
          331So hard the discord was to be agreede.
          332Fraelissa was as faire, as faire mote bee,
          333And ever false Duessa seemde as faire as shee.

          334The wicked witch now seeing all this while
          335The doubtfull ballaunce equally to sway,
          336What not by right, she cast to win by guile,
          337And by her hellish science raisd streight way
          338A foggy mist, that overcast the day,
          339And a dull blast, that breathing on her face,
          340Dimmed her former beauties shining ray,
          341And with foule ugly forme did her disgrace:
          342Then was she faire alone, when none was faire in place.

          343Then cride she out, Fye, fye, deformed wight
          344Whose borrowed beautie now appeareth plaine
          345To have before bewitched all mens sight;
          346O leave her soone, or let her soone be slaine.
          347Her loathly visage viewing with disdaine,
          348Eftsoones I thought her such, as she me told,
          349And would have kild her; but with faigned paine,
          350The false witch did my wrathfull hand with-hold;
          351So left her, where she now is turnd to treen mould.

          352Thens forth I tooke Duessa for my Dame,
          353And in the witch unweeting joyd long time,
          354Ne ever wist, but that she was the same,
          355Till on a day (that day is every Prime,
          356When Witches wont do penance for their crime)
          357I chaunst to see her in her proper hew,
          358Bathing her selfe in origane and thyme:
          359A filthy foule old woman I did vew,
          360That ever to have toucht her, I did deadly rew.

          361Her neather partes misshapen, monstruous,
          362Were hidd in water, that I could not see,
          363But they did seeme more foule and hideous,
          364Then womans shape man would beleeve to bee.
          365Thens forth from her most beastly companie
          366I gan refraine, in minde to slip away,
          367Soone as appeard safe oportunitie:
          368For danger great, if not assur'd decay
          369I saw before mine eyes, if I were knowne to stray.

          370The divelish hag by chaunges of my cheare
          371Perceiv'd my thought, and drownd in sleepie night,
          372With wicked herbes and ointments did besmeare
          373My bodie all, through charmes and magicke might,
          374That all my senses were bereaved quight:
          375Then brought she me into this desert waste,
          376And by my wretched lovers side me pight,
          377Where now enclosd in wooden wals full faste,
          378Banisht from living wights, our wearie dayes we waste.

          379But how long time, said then the Elfin knight,
          380Are you in this misformed house to dwell?
          381We may not chaunge (quoth he) this evil plight,
          382Till we be bathed in a living well;
          383That is the terme prescribed by the spell.
          384O how, said he, mote I that well out find,
          385That may restore you to your wonted well?
          386Time and suffised fates to former kynd
          387Shall us restore, none else from hence may us unbynd.

          388The false Duessa, now Fidessa hight,
          389Heard how in vaine Fradubio did lament,
          390And knew well all was true. But the good knight
          391Full of sad feare and ghastly dreriment,
          392When all this speech the living tree had spent,
          393The bleeding bough did thrust into the ground,
          394That from the bloud he might be innocent,
          395And with fresh clay did close the wooden wound:
          396Then turning to his Lady, dead with feare her found.

          397Her seeming dead he found with feigned feare,
          398As all unweeting of that well she knew,
          399And paynd himselfe with busie care to reare
          400Her out of carelesse swowne. Her eylids blew
          401And dimmed sight with pale and deadly hew
          402At last she up gan lift: with trembling cheare
          403Her up he tooke, too simple and too trew,
          404And oft her kist. At length all passed feare,
          405He set her on her steede, and forward forth did beare.


1] The constellation Boötes, the Great Bear, sometimes called "Charles's Wain," has set behind the pole-star.

26] misdeeming: deceptive.

30] repast: repose.

40] ment: joined.

43] yblent: blinded.

55] Aurora, goddess of dawn, was married to Tithonus, for whom she obtained the gift of immortality, but not immortal youth.

63] stowre: trouble.

85] Proteus: the shape-changing sea-god described in the Odyssey, IV, 351 ff.

107] Sansfoy. See note on stanza xxv, below.

108] a point: a jot, the least bit.

110] See Revelation 17:4: the woman upon the beast "arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations."

112] a Persian mitre: suggesting the pagan splendour of the Roman church.

113] owches: jewels.

147] quyteth: pays back.

155] fit: attack.

162] from blame him fairely blest. His shield protected him from injury.

169] grudging: complaining, repining.

212] assaid: assailed.

222] Sans foy, Sans joy, and Sans loy, the opposites respectively of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and representatives of Antichrist (Sarazins), are called the nephewes (actually grandchildren) of Night (F.Q., I.v, xxii-xxiii) and sons of Aveugle (blindness).

243] so dainty ... maketh derth: a proverb ("fastidiousness makes scarcity"), but here, with a pun on `derth,' something like "coyness makes precious."

284] Limbo lake. Limbo in mediaeval tradition was the abode of the just who died before Christ's coming, and of unbaptized infants, but here Hell itself; the lake is Avernus.

291] Fradubio. The story of Fradubio ("the wavering one") and Fraellissa ("the weak one") seems to have been suggested by the legend of Polydorus in Virgil, Æneid, III, ff., and by the metamorphosis of Astolpho by Alcina in Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, VI.

295] Boreas: the north wind.

322] dye: hazard.

353] unweeting: unwittingly.

355] These lines apparently allude to the popular belief that witches were once a year transformed into beasts by the Devil their master; witches anointed themselves with a magical unguent in preparation for their assemblies or "Sabbaths." Prime: spring.

358] origane: wild marjoram.

370] cheare: countenance.

376] pight: placed.

385] well: state of well-being.

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. Facsimile in 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. 61.
Recent editing: 1:2002/6/28

Form: Spenserian Stanzas
Rhyme: ababbcbcc

Other poems by Edmund Spenser