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Short poem

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 2 (1596)

[Fol. B3r; p.  19] Canto 2

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

Stanza 1

              1 By this the Northerne wagoner had set
              2His seuenfold teme behind the stedfast starre,
              3 That was in Ocean waues yet neuer wet,
              4 But firme is fixt, and sendeth light from farre
              5 To all, that in the wide deepe wandring arre:
              6 And chearefull Chaunticlere with his note shrill
              7 Had warned once, that Phœbus fiery carre
              8 In hast was climbing vp the Easterne hill,
              9 Full enuious that night so long his roome did fill.

Stanza 2

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

Stanza 3

            19 Eftsoones he tooke that miscreated faire,
            20 And that false other Spright, on whom he spred
            21 A seeming body of the subtile aire,
            22 Like a young Squire, in loues and lusty-hed.
            23[Fol. B3v; p. 20] His wanton dayes that euer loosely led,
            24 Without regard of armes and dreaded fight:
            25 Those two he tooke, and in a secret bed,
            26 Couered with darknesse and misdeeming night,
            27 Them both together laid, to ioy in vaine delight.

Stanza 4

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

Stanza 5

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

Stanza 6

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

[Fol. B4r; p.  21] 7

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

Stanza 8

            64 And after him she rode with so much speede
            65 As her slow beast could make;  but all in vaine:
            66 For him so far had borne his light-foot steede,
            67 Pricked with wrath and fiery fierce disdaine,
            68 That him to follow was but fruitlesse paine;
            69 Yet she her weary limbes would neuer rest,
            70 But euery hill and dale, each wood and plaine
            71 Did search, sore grieued in her gentle brest,
            72 He so vngently left her, whom she louest best.

Stanza 9

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

Stanza 10

            82 He then deuisde himselfe how to disguise;
            83 For by his mightie science he could take
            84 As many formes and shapes in seeming wise,
            85 As euer Proteus to himselfe could make:
            86[Fol. B4v; p.  22] Sometime a fowle, sometime a fish in lake,
            87 Now like a foxe, now like a dragon fell,
            88 That of himselfe he oft for feare would quake,
            89 And oft would flie away.  O who can tell
            90 The hidden power of herbes, and might of Magicke spell?

Stanza 11

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

Stanza 12

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

Stanza 13

          109 He had a faire companion of his way,
          110 A goodly Lady clad in scarlot red,
          111 Purfled with gold and pearle of rich assay,
          112 And like a Persian mitre on her hed
          113 She wore, with crownes and owches garnished,
          114 The which her lauish louers to her gaue;
          115 Her wanton palfrey all was ouerspred
          116 With tinsell trappings, wouen like a waue,
          117 Whose bridle rung with golden bels and bosses braue.

[Fol. B5r; p. 23] 14

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

Stanza 15

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

Stanza 16

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

Stanza 17

          145 The Sarazin sore daunted with the buffe
          146 Snatcheth his sword, and fiercely to him flies;
          147 Who well it wards, and quyteth cuff with cuff:
          148 Each others equall puissaunce enuies,
          149[Fol. B5v; p.  24] And through their iron sides with cruelties
          150 Does seeke to perce:  repining courage yields
          151 No foote to foe.  The flashing fier flies
          152 As from a forge out of their burning shields,
          153 And streames of purple bloud new dies the verdant fields.

Stanza 18

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

Stanza 19

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

Stanza 20

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

[Fol. B6r; p.  25] 21

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

Stanza 22

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

Stanza 23

          199 He in the first flowre of my freshest age,
          200 Betrothed me vnto the onely haire
          201 Of a most mighty king, most rich and sage;
          202 Was neuer Prince so faithfull and so faire,
          203 Was neuer Prince so meeke and debonaire;
          204 But ere my hoped day of spousall shone,
          205 My dearest Lord fell from high honours staire,
          206 Into the hands of his accursed fone,
          207 And cruelly was slaine, that shall I euer mone.

Stanza 24

          208 His blessed body spoild of liuely breath,
          209 Was afterward, I know not how, conuaid
          210 And fro me hid:  of whose most innocent death
          211 When tidings came to me vnhappy maid,
          212[Fol. B6v; p.  26] O how great sorrow my sad soule assaid.
          213 Then forth I went his woefull corse to find,
          214 And many yeares throughout the world I straid,
          215 A virgin widow, whose deepe wounded mind
          216 With loue, long time did languish as the striken hind.

Stanza 25

          217 At last it chaunced this proud Sarazin
          218 To meete me wandring, who perforce me led
          219 With him away, but yet could neuer win
          220 The Fort, that Ladies hold in soueraigne dread.
          221 There lies he now with foule dishonour dead,
          222 Who whiles he liu'de, was called proud Sans foy,
          223 The eldest of three brethren, all three bred
          224 Of one bad sire, whose youngest is Sans ioy,
          225 And twixt them both was borne the bloudy bold Sans loy.

Stanza 26

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

Stanza 27

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

[Fol. B7r; p.  27] 28

          244 Long time they thus together traueiled,
          245 Till weary of their way, they came at last,
          246 Where grew two goodly trees, that faire did spred
          247 Their armes abroad, with gray mosse ouercast,
          248 And their greene leaues trembling with euery blast,
          249 Made a calme shadow far in compasse round:
          250 The fearefull Shepheard often there aghast
          251 Vnder them neuer sat, ne wont there sound
          252 His mery oaten pipe, but shund th'vnlucky ground.

Stanza 29

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

Stanza 30

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

Stanza 31

          271 Therewith a piteous yelling voyce was heard,
          272 Crying, O spare with guilty hands to teare
          273 My tender sides in this rough rynd embard,
          274 But fly, ah fly far hence away, for feare
          275[Fol. B7v; p.  28] Least to you hap, that happened to me heare,
          276 And to this wretched Lady, my deare loue,
          277 O too deare loue, loue bought with death too deare.
          278 Astond he stood, and vp his haire did houe,
          279 And with that suddein horror could no member moue.

Stanza 32

          280 At last whenas the dreadfull passion
          281 Was ouerpast, and manhood well awake,
          282 Yet musing at the straunge occasion,
          283 And doubting much his sence, he thus bespake;
          284 What voyce of damned Ghost from Limbo lake,
          285 Or guilefull spright wandring in empty aire,
          286 Both which fraile men do oftentimes mistake,
          287 Sends to my doubtfull eares these speaches rare,
          288 And ruefull plaints, me bidding guiltlesse bloud to spare?
Stanza 33

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

Stanza 34

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

[Fol. B8r; p.  29] 35

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

Stanza 36

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

Stanza 37

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

Stanza 38

          334 The wicked witch now seeing all this while
          335 The doubtfull ballaunce equally to sway,
          336 What not by right, she cast to win by guile,
          337 And by her hellish science raisd streight way
          338[Fol. B8v; p.  30] A foggy mist, that ouercast the day,
          339 And a dull blast, that breathing on her face,
          340 Dimmed her former beauties shining ray,
          341 And with foule vgly forme did her disgrace:
          342 Then was she faire alone, when none was faire in place.

Stanza 39

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

Stanza 40

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

Stanza 41

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

[Fol. C1r; p.  31] 42

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

Stanza 43

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

Stanza 44

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

Stanza 45

          397 Her seeming dead he found with feigned feare,
          398 As all vnweeting of that well she knew,
          399 And paynd himselfe with busie care to reare
          400 Her out of carelesse swowne.  Her eylids blew
          401[Fol. C1v; p.  32] And dimmed sight with pale and deadly hew
          402 At last she vp gan lift:  with trembling cheare
          403 Her vp he tooke, too simple and too trew,
          404 And oft her kist.  At length all passed feare,
          405 He set her on her steede, and forward forth did beare.


1] Old spelling is retained except for ligatured letters, which are normalized. Contractions and abbreviations are expanded and underlined. Italics and original lineation are retained, but not small capitals and the text of catchwords, signatures, and running titles. Irregularities in spacing are ignored. Reference citations are by signatures and page numbers, and by editorial canto, stanza, and verse line numbers. Emendations are noted. Hung words are reattached to the end of the lines to which they belong.

288] guiltlesse: "guitlesse" in original.

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: Facsimile: Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene 1596, Volume 1, Introduction by Graham Hough (London: Scolar Press, 1976). PR 2358 A2H6 1976 Robarts Library. Electronic Text from Ian Lancashire, in collaboration with John Bradley, Willard McCarty, Michael Stairs, and T. R. Wooldridge, Using TACT with Electronic Texts: A Guide to Text-Analysis Computing Tools, Version 2.1 for MS-DOS and PC DOS (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1996). CD-ROM. QA 76.9.T48 L36.
First publication date: 1596
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition:
Recent editing: 1:2002/6/28

Form: Spenserian Stanzas
Rhyme: ababbcbcc

Other poems by Edmund Spenser