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Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 4

(excerpt)


CANTO IIII

To sinfull house of Pride, Duessa
guides the faithfull knight,
Where brothers death to wreak Sansjoy
doth chalenge him to fight.

i
              1Young knight, what ever that dost armes professe,
              2And through long labours huntest after fame,
              3Beware of fraud, beware of ficklenesse,
              4In choice, and change of thy deare loved Dame,
              5Least thou of her beleeve too lightly blame,
              6And rash misweening doe thy hart remove:
              7For unto knight there is no greater shame,
              8Then lightnesse and inconstancie in love;
              9That doth this Redcrosse knights ensample plainly prove.

ii
            10Who after that he had faire Una lorne,
            11Through light misdeeming of her loialtie,
            12And false Duessa in her sted had borne,
            13Called Fidess', and so supposd to bee;
            14Long with her traveild, till at last they see
            15A goodly building, bravely garnished,
            16The house of mightie Prince it seemd to bee:
            17And towards it a broad high way that led,
            18All bare through peoples feet, which thither traveiled.

iii
            19Great troupes of people traveild thitherward
            20Both day and night, of each degree and place,
            21But few returned, having scaped hard,
            22With balefull beggerie, or foule disgrace,
            23Which ever after in most wretched case,
            24Like loathsome lazars, by the hedges lay.
            25Thither Duessa bad him bend his pace:
            26For she is wearie of the toilesome way,
            27And also nigh consumed is the lingring day.

iv
            28A stately Pallace built of squared bricke,
            29Which cunningly was without morter laid,
            30Whose wals were high, but nothing strong, nor thick,
            31And golden foile all over them displaid,
            32That purest skye with brightnesse they dismaid:
            33High lifted up were many loftie towres,
            34And goodly galleries farre over laid,
            35Full of faire windowes, and delightfull bowres;
            36And on the top a Diall told the timely howres.

v
            37It was a goodly heape for to behould,
            38And spake the praises of the workmans wit;
            39But full great pittie, that so faire a mould
            40Did on so weake foundation ever sit:
            41For on a sandie hill, that still did flit,
            42And fall away, it mounted was full hie,
            43That every breath of heaven shaked it:
            44And all the hinder parts, that few could spie,
            45Were ruinous and old, but painted cunningly.

vi
            46Arrived there they passed in forth right;
            47For still to all the gates stood open wide,
            48Yet charge of them was to a Porter hight
            49Cald Malvenù, who entrance none denide:
            50Thence to the hall, which was on every side,
            51With rich array and costly arras dight:
            52Infinite sorts of people did abide
            53There waiting long, to win the wished sight
            54Of her, that was the Lady of that Pallace bright.

vii
            55By them they passe, all gazing on them round,
            56And to the Presence mount; whose glorious vew
            57Their frayle amazed senses did confound:
            58In living Princes court none ever knew
            59Such endlesse richesse, and so sumptuous shew;
            60Ne Persia selfe, the nourse of pompous pride
            61Like ever saw. And there a noble crew
            62Of Lordes and Ladies stood on every side
            63Which with their presence faire, the place much beautifide.

viii
            64High above all a cloth of State was spred,
            65And a rich throne, as bright as sunny day,
            66On which there sate most brave embellished
            67With royall robes and gorgeous array,
            68A mayden Queene, that shone as Titans ray,
            69In glistring gold, and peerelesse pretious stone:
            70Yet her bright blazing beautie did assay
            71To dim the brightnesse of her glorious throne,
            72As envying her selfe, that too exceeding shone.

ix
            73Exceeding shone, like Phoebus fairest childe,
            74That did presume his fathers firie wayne,
            75And flaming mouthes of steedes unwonted wilde
            76Through highest heaven with weaker hand to rayne;
            77Proud of such glory and advancement vaine,
            78While flashing beames do daze his feeble eyen,
            79He leaves the welkin way most beaten plaine,
            80And rapt with whirling wheels, inflames the skyen,
            81With fire not made to burne, but fairely for to shyne.

x
            82So proud she shyned in her Princely state,
            83Looking to heaven; for earth she did disdayne,
            84And sitting high; for lowly she did hate:
            85Lo underneath her scornefull feete, was layne
            86A dreadfull Dragon with an hideous trayne,
            87And in her hand she held a mirrhour bright,
            88Wherein her face she often vewed fayne,
            89And in her selfe-lov'd semblance tooke delight;
            90For she was wondrous faire, as any living wight.

xi
            91Of griesly Pluto she the daughter was,
            92And sad Proserpina the Queene of hell;
            93Yet did she thinke her pearelesse worth to pas
            94That parentage, with pride so did she swell,
            95And thundring Jove, that high in heaven doth dwell,
            96And wield the world, she claymed for her syre,
            97Or if that any else did Jove excell:
            98For to the highest she did still aspyre,
            99Or if ought higher were then that, did it desyre.

xii
          100And proud Lucifera men did her call,
          101That made her selfe a Queene, and crownd to be,
          102Yet rightfull kingdome she had none at all,
          103Ne heritage of native soveraintie,
          104But did usurpe with wrong and tyrannie
          105Upon the scepter, which she now did hold:
          106Ne ruld her Realme with lawes, but pollicie,
          107And strong advizement of six wisards old,
          108That with their counsels bad her kingdome did uphold.

xiii
          109Soone as the Elfin knight in presence came,
          110And false Duessa seeming Lady faire,
          111A gentle Husher, Vanitie by name
          112Made rowme, and passage for them did prepaire:
          113So goodly brought them to the lowest stair
          114Of her high throne, where they on humble knee
          115Making obeyssance, did the cause declare,
          116Why they were come, her royall state to see,
          117To prove the wide report of her great Majestee.

xiv
          118With loftie eyes, halfe loth to looke so low,
          119She thanked them in her disdainefull wise,
          120Ne other grace vouchsafed them to show
          121Of Princesse worthy, scarse them bad arise.
          122Her Lordes and Ladies all this while devise
          123Themselves to setten forth to straungers sight:
          124Some frounce their curled haire in courtly guise,
          125Some prancke their ruffes, and others trimly dight
          126Their gay attire: each others greater pride does spight.

xv
          127Goodly they all that knight do entertaine,
          128Right glad with him to have increast their crew:
          129But to Duess' each one himselfe did paine
          130All kindnesse and faire courtesie to shew;
          131For in that court whylome her well they knew:
          132Yet the stout Faerie mongst the middest crowd
          133Thought all their glorie vaine in knightly vew,
          134And that great Princesse too exceeding prowd,
          135That to strange knight no better countenance allowd.

xvi
          136Suddein upriseth from her stately place
          137The royall Dame, and for her coche doth call:
          138All hurtlen forth, and she with Princely pace,
          139As faire Aurora in her purple pall,
          140Out of the East the dawning day doth call:
          141So forth she comes: her brightnesse brode doth blaze;
          142The heapes of people thronging in the hall,
          143Do ride each other, upon her to gaze:
          144Her glorious glitterand light doth all mens eyes amaze.

xvii
          145So forth she comes, and to her coche does clyme,
          146Adorned all with gold, and girlonds gay,
          147That seemd as fresh as Flora in her prime,
          148And strove to match, in royall rich array,
          149Great Junoes golden chaire, the which they say
          150The Gods stand gazing on, when she does ride
          151To Joves high house through heavens bras-paved way
          152Drawne of faire Pecocks, that excell in pride,
          153And full of Argus eyes their tailes dispredden wide.

xviii
          154But this was drawne of six unequall beasts,
          155On which her six sage Counsellours did ryde,
          156Taught to obay thelr bestiall beheasts,
          157With like conditions to their kinds applyde:
          158Of which the first, that all the rest did guyde,
          159Was sluggish Idlenesse the nourse of sin;
          160Upon a slouthfull Asse he chose to ryde,
          161Arayd in habit blacke, and amis thin,
          162Like to an holy Monck, the service to begin.

xix
          163And in his hand his Portesse still he bare,
          164That much was worne, but therein little red,
          165For of devotion he had little care,
          166Still drownd in sleepe, and most of his dayes ded;
          167Scarse could he once uphold his heavie hed,
          168To looken, whether it were night or day:
          169May seeme the wayne was very evill led,
          170When such an one had guiding of the way,
          171That knew not, whether right he went, or else astray.

xx
          172From worldly cares himselfe he did esloyne.
          173And greatly shunned manly exercise,
          174From every worke he chalenged essoyne.
          175For contemplation sake: yet otherwise,
          176His life he led in lawlesse riotise;
          177By which he grew to grievous malady;
          178For in his lustlesse limbs through evill guise
          179A shaking fever raignd continually:
          180Such one was Idlenesse, first of this company.

xxi
          181And by his side rode loathsome Gluttony,
          182Deformed creature, on a filthie swyne,
          183His belly was up-blowne with luxury,
          184And eke with fatnesse swollen were his eyne,
          185And like a Crane his necke was long and fyne,
          186With which he swallowd up excessive feast,
          187For want whereof poore people oft did pyne;
          188And all the way, most like a brutish beast,
          189He spued up his gorge, that all did him deteast.

xxii
          190In greene vine leaves he was right fitly clad;
          191For other clothes he could not weare for heat,
          192And on his head an yvie girland had,
          193From under which fast trickled downe the sweat:
          194Still as he rode, he somewhat still did eat,
          195And in his hand did beare a bouzing can,
          196Of which he supt so oft, that on his seat
          197His dronken corse he scarse upholden can,
          198In shape and life more like a monster, than man.

xxiii
          199Unfit he was for any worldly thing,
          200And eke unhable once to stirre or go,
          201Not meet to be of counsell to a king,
          202Whose mind in meat and drinke was drowned so,
          203That from his friend he seldome knew his fo:
          204Full of diseases was his carcas blew,
          205And a dry dropsie through his flesh did flow,
          206Which by misdiet daily greater grew:
          207Such one was Gluttony, the second of that crew.

xxiv
          208And next to him rode lustfull Lechery,
          209Upon a bearded Goat, whose rugged haire,
          210And whally eyes (the signe of gelosy,)
          211Was like the person selfe, whom he did beare:
          212Who rough, and blacke, and filthy did appeare,
          213Unseemely man to please faire Ladies eye;
          214Yet he of Ladies oft was loved deare,
          215When fairer faces were bid standen by:
          216O who does know the bent of womens fantasy?

xxv
          217In a greene gowne he clothed was full faire,
          218Which underneath did hide his filthinesse,
          219And in his hand a burning hart he bare,
          220Full of vaine follies, and new fanglenesse:
          221For he was false, and fraught with ficklenesse,
          222And learned had to love with secret lookes,
          223And well could daunce, and sing with ruefulnesse,
          224And fortunes tell, and read in loving bookes,
          225And thousand other wayes, to bait his fleshly hookes.

xxvi
          226Inconstant man, that loved all he saw,
          227And lusted after all, that he did love,
          228Ne would his looser life be tide to law,
          229But joyd weake wemens hearts to tempt, and prove
          230If from their loyall loves he might them move;
          231Which lewdnesse fild him with reprochfull paine
          232Of that fowle evill, which all men reprove,
          233That rots the marrow, and consumes the braine:
          234Such one was Lecherie, the third of all this traine.

xxvii
          235And greedy Avarice by him did ride,
          236Upon a Camell loaden all with gold;
          237Two iron coffers hong on either side,
          238With precious mettall full, as they might hold,
          239And in his lap an heape of coine he told;
          240For of his wicked pelfe his God he made,
          241And unto hell him selfe for money sold;
          242Accursed usurie was all his trade,
          243And right and wrong ylike in equall ballaunce waide.

xxviii
          244His life was nigh unto deaths doore yplast,
          245And thred-bare cote, and cobled shoes he ware,
          246Ne scarse good morsell all his life did tast,
          247But both from backe and belly still did spare,
          248To fill his bags, and richesse to compare;
          249Yet chylde ne kinsman living had he none
          250To leave them to; but thorough daily care
          251To get, and nightly feare to lose his owne,
          252He led a wretched life unto him selfe unknowne.

xxix
          253Most wretched wight, whom nothing might suffise,
          254Whose greedy lust did lacke in greatest store,
          255Whose need had end, but no end covetise,
          256Whose wealth was want, whose plenty made him pore,
          257Who had enough, yet wished ever more;
          258A vile disease, and eke in foote and hand
          259A grievous gout tormented him full sore,
          260That well he could not touch, nor go, nor stand:
          261Such one was Avarice, the fourth of this faire band.

xxx
          262And next to him malicious Envie rode,
          263Upon a ravenous wolfe, and still did chaw
          264Betweene his cankred teeth a venemous tode,
          265That all the poison ran about his chaw;
          266But inwardly he chawed his owne maw
          267At neighbours wealth, that made him ever sad;
          268For death it was, when any good he saw,
          269And wept, that cause of weeping none he had,
          270But when he heard of harme, he wexed wondrous glad.

xxxi
          271All in a kirtle of discolourd say
          272He clothed was, ypainted full of eyes;
          273And in his bosome secretly there lay
          274An hatefull Snake, the which his taile uptyes
          275In many folds, and mortall sting implyes.
          276Still as he rode, he gnasht his teeth, to see
          277Those heapes of gold with griple Covetyse,
          278And grudged at the great felicitie
          279Of proud Lucifera, and his owne companie.

xxxii
          280He hated all good workes and vertuous deeds,
          281And him no lesse, that any like did use,
          282And who with gracious bread the hungry feeds,
          283His almes for want of faith he doth accuse;
          284So every good to bad he doth abuse:
          285And eke the verse of famous Poets witt
          286He doth backebite, and spightfull poison spues
          287From leprous mouth on all, that ever writt:
          288Such one vile Envie was, that fifte in row did sitt.

xxxiii
          289And him beside rides fierce revenging Wrath,
          290Upon a Lion, loth for to be led;
          291And in his hand a burning brond he hath,
          292The which he brandisheth about his hed;
          293His eyes did hurle forth sparkles fiery red,
          294And stared sterne on all, that him beheld,
          295As ashes pale of hew and seeming ded;
          296And on his dagger still his hand he held,
          297Trembling through hasty rage, when choler in him sweld.

xxxiv
          298His ruffin raiment all was staind with blood,
          299Which he had spilt, and all to rags yrent,
          300Through unadvized rashnesse woxen wood;
          301For of his hands he had no governement,
          302Ne car'd for bloud in his avengement:
          303But when the furious fit was overpast,
          304His cruell facts he often would repent;
          305Yet wilfull man he never would forecast,
          306How many mischieves should ensue his heedlesse hast.

xxxv
          307Full many mischiefes follow cruell Wrath;
          308Abhorred bloudshed, and tumultuous strife,
          309Unmanly murder, and unthrifty scath,
          310Bitter despight, with rancours rusty knife,
          311And fretting griefe the enemy of life;
          312All these, and many evils moe haunt ire,
          313The swelling Splene, and Frenzy raging rife,
          314The shaking Palsey, and Saint Fraunces fire:
          315Such one was Wrath, the last of this ungodly tire.

xxxvi
          316And after all, upon the wagon beame
          317Rode Sathan, with a smarting whip in hand,
          318With which he forward lasht the laesie teme,
          319So oft as Slowth still in the mire did stand.
          320Huge routs of people did about them band,
          321Showting for joy, and still before their way
          322A foggy mist had covered all the land;
          323And underneath their feet, all scattered lay
          324Dead sculs and bones of men, whose life had gone astray.

Notes

1] Canto III tells of Una's wandering in search of her lost champion; she is protected by a Lion, deceived by Archimago in the habit of Red-crosse, and carried off by the cruel Sans loy.

24] lazars: lepers.

41] on a sandie hill. Cf. Matthew 7: 26-27.

49] Malvenù: evil welcome.

60] Persia . . nourse of pompous pride. This tradition derives from Herodotus' History and perhaps from the Book of Esther.

73] Phoebus fairest childe: Phaethon, son of Helios (the Sun), who, rashly attempting to guide the horses of the Sun, almost set the world on fire and was destroyed by Zeus' thunderbolt.

86] This is apparently the great dragon of Revelation and 17; he had an hideous trayne, for "his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven. " Cf. F.Q., I.xi, xi.

87] a mirrhour bright. Vanitas (Vanity, Sensuality) is so represented in mediaeval pictures.

100] Lucifera: literally "light-bringer'' or morning star, applied by Isaiah (14:12) to the king of Babylon, and by the Church Fathers to Satan, the "pridefull" angel.

106] pollicie: in Elizabethan English often in a bad sense, cunning, crafty devices.

107] six wisards. See stanza xviii, below.

139] Aurora. See note to Epithalamion, line 75.

147] Flora. See note to I, 1, xlviii, 9.

153] Argus eyes. See note to "October," line 32.

158] the first ... was ... Idlenesse. The Seven Deadly Sins were not always represented in poems, sermons, or pictures in the same order; e.g., in Gower's Miroir de l'Omme the order is: Pride, Envy, Wrath, Idleness, Avarice, Gluttony, Lechery.

161] amis: hood lined with fur, worn by the clergy.

163] Portesse: breviary.

169] wayne: coach, waggon.

172] esloyne: withdraw.

174] essoyne: exemption.

207] Gluttony resembles the Sileni, the elderly drunken satyrs of Greek mythology.

208] "After Glotonie cometh Lecherie, for these two sinnes ben so nigh cosins that oft time thei wol not depart'' (Chaucer, Parson's Tale).

210] whally: glaring.

271] discolourd say: a fine silk-and-wool cloth in different colours.

275] implyes: enfolds.

277] griple: greedy.

298] ruffin: ruffian.

300] wood: mad, furious.

304] facts: deeds.

314] Saint Fraunces fire. Spenser seems to mean "St. Anthony's fire" or erysipelas, an inflammation appropriate to Wrath. "St. Francis' distemper" is poverty.


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: 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. 67.
Recent editing: 1:2002/6/28

Form: Spenserian Stanzas
Rhyme: ababbcbcc


Other poems by Edmund Spenser