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Short poem

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto 5 (1596)

 [Fol. D7v; p. 60] Canto 5

 The faithfull knight in equall field
 subdewes his faithlesse foe,
 Whom false Duessa saues, and for
 his cure to hell does goe.

              1THe noble hart, that harbours vertuous thought,
              2And is with child of glorious great intent,
              3Can neuer rest, vntill it forth haue brought
              4Th'eternall brood of glorie excellent:
              5Such restlesse passion did all night torment
              6The flaming corage of that Faery knight,
              7Deuizing, how that doughtie turnament
              8With greatest honour he atchieuen might;
              9Still did wake, and still did watch for dawning light.

            10At last the golden Orientall gate
            11Of greatest heauen gan to open faire,
            12And Phœbus fresh, as bridegrome to his mate,
            13Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie haire:
            14And hurls his glistring beames through gloomy aire.
            15Which when the wakeful Elfe perceiu'd, streight way
            16He started vp, and did him selfe prepaire,
            17In sun-bright armes, and battailous array:
            18For with that Pagan proud he combat will that day.

            19And forth he comes into the commune hall,
            20Where earely waite him many a gazing eye,
            21To weet what end to straunger knights may fall.
            22There many Minstrales maken melody,
            23[Fol. D8r; p. 61] To driue away the dull melancholy,
            24And many Bardes, that to the trembling chord
            25Can tune their timely voyces cunningly,
            26And many Chroniclers, that can record
            27Old loues, and warres for Ladies doen by many a Lord.

            28Soone after comes the cruell Sarazin,
            29In wouen maile all armed warily,
            30And sternly lookes at him, who not a pin
            31Does care for looke of liuing creatures eye.
            32They bring them wines of Greece and Araby,
            33And daintie spices fetcht from furthest Ynd,
            34To kindle heat of corage priuily:
            35And in the wine a solemne oth they bynd
            36T'obserue the sacred lawes of armes, that are assynd.

            37At last forth comes that far renowmed Queene,
            38With royall pomp and Princely maiestie;
            39She is ybrought vnto a paled greene,
            40And placed vnder stately canapee,
            41The warlike feates of both those knights to see.
            42On th'other side in all mens open vew
            43Duessa placed is, and on a tree
            44Sans-foy his shield is hangd with bloudy hew:
            45Both those the lawrell girlonds to the victor dew.

            46A shrilling trompet sownded from on hye,
            47And vnto battaill bad them selues addresse:
            48Their shining shieldes about their wrestes they tye,
            49And burning blades about their heads do blesse,
            50The instruments of wrath and heauinesse:
            51With greedy force each other doth assayle,
            52And strike so fiercely, that they do impresse
            53Deepe dinted furrowes in the battred mayle;
            54The yron walles to ward their blowes are weake & fraile.

            55[Fol. D8v; p. 62] The Sarazin was stout, and wondrous strong,
            56And heaped blowes like yron hammers great:
            57For after bloud and vengeance he did long.
            58The knight was fiers, and full of youthly heat:
            59And doubled strokes, like dreaded thunders threat:
            60For all for prayse and honour he did fight.
            61Both stricken strike, and beaten both do beat,
            62That from their shields forth flyeth firie light,
            63And helmets hewen deepe, shew marks of eithers might.

            64So th'one for wrong, the other striues for right:
            65As when a Gryfon seized of his pray,
            66A Dragon fiers encountreth in his flight,
            67Through widest ayre making his ydle way,
            68That would his rightfull rauine rend away:
            69With hideous horrour both together smight,
            70And souce so sore, that they the heauens affray:
            71The wise Southsayer seeing so sad sight,
            72Th'amazed vulgar tels of warres and mortall fight.

            73So th'one for wrong, the other striues for right,
            74And each to deadly shame would driue his foe:
            75The cruell steele so greedily doth bight
            76In tender flesh, that streames of bloud down flow,
            77With which the armes, that earst so bright did show
            78Into a pure vermillion now are dyde:
            79Great ruth in all the gazers harts did grow,
            80Seeing the gored woundes to gape so wyde,
            81That victory they dare not wish to either side.

            82At last the Paynim chaunst to cast his eye,
            83His suddein eye, flaming with wrathfull fyre,
            84Vpon his brothers shield, which hong thereby:
            85Therewith redoubled was his raging yre,
            86[Fol. E1r; p. 63] And said, Ah wretched sonne of wofull syre,
            87Doest thou sit wayling by black Stygian lake,
            88Whilest here thy shield is hangd for victors hyre,
            89And sluggish german doest thy forces slake,
            90To after-send his foe, that him may ouertake?

            91Goe caytiue Elfe, him quickly ouertake,
            92And soone redeeme from his long wandring woe;
            93Goe guiltie ghost, to him my message make,
            94That I his shield haue quit from dying foe.
            95Therewith vpon his crest he stroke him so,
            96That twise he reeled, readie twise to fall;
            97End of the doubtfull battell deemed tho
            98The lookers on, and lowd to him gan call
            99The false Duessa, Thine the shield, and I, and all.

          100Soone as the Faerie heard his Ladie speake,
          101Out of his swowning dreame he gan awake,
          102And quickning faith, that earst was woxen weake,
          103The creeping deadly cold away did shake:
          104Tho mou'd with wrath, and shame, and Ladies sake,
          105Of all attonce he cast auengd to bee,
          106And with so'exceeding furie at him strake,
          107That forced him to stoupe vpon his knee
          108Had he not stouped so, he should haue clouen bee.

          109And to him said, Goe now proud Miscreant,
          110Thy selfe thy message doe to german deare,
          111Alone he wandring thee too long doth want:
          112Goe say, his foe thy shield with his doth beare.
          113Therewith his heauie hand he high gan reare,
          114Him to haue slaine;  when loe a darkesome clowd
          115Vpon him fell:  he no where doth appeare,
          116But vanisht is.  The Elfe him cals alowd,
          117But answer none receiues:  the darknes him does shrowd.

          118[Fol. E1v; p. 64] In haste Duessa from her place arose,
          119And to him running said, O prowest knight,
          120That euer Ladie to her loue did chose,
          121Let now abate the terror of your might,
          122And quench the flame of furious despight,
          123And bloudie vengeance;  lo th'infernall powres
          124Couering your foe with cloud of deadly night,
          125Haue borne him hence to Plutoes balefull bowres.
          126The conquest yours, I yours, the shield, and glory yours.

          127Not all so satisfide, with greedie eye
          128He sought all round about, his thirstie blade
          129To bath in bloud of faithlesse enemy;
          130Who all that while lay hid in secret shade:
          131He standes amazed, how he thence should fade.
          132At last the trumpets, Triumph sound on hie,
          133And running Heralds humble homage made,
          134Greeting him goodly with new victorie,
          135And to him brought the shield, the cause of enmitie.

          136Wherewith he goeth to that soueraine Queene,
          137And falling her before on lowly knee,
          138To her makes present of his seruice seene:
          139Which she accepts, with thankes, and goodly gree,
          140Greatly aduauncing his gay cheualree.
          141So marcheth home, and by her takes the knight,
          142Whom all the people follow with great glee,
          143Shouting, and clapping all their hands on hight,
          144That all the aire it fils, and flyes to heauen bright.

          145Home is he brought, and laid in sumptuous bed:
          146Where many skilfull leaches him abide,
          147To salue his hurts, that yet still freshly bled.
          148In wine and oyle they wash his woundes wide,
          149[Fol. E2r; p. 65] And softly can embalme on euery side.
          150And all the while, most heauenly melody
          151About the bed sweet musicke did diuide,
          152Him to beguile of griefe and agony:
          153And all the while Duessa wept full bitterly.

          154As when a wearie traueller that strayes
          155By muddy shore of broad seuen-mouthed Nile,
          156Vnweeting of the perillous wandring wayes,
          157Doth meet a cruell craftie Crocodile,
          158Which in false griefe hyding his harmefull guile,
          159Doth weepe full sore, and sheddeth tender teares:
          160The foolish man, that pitties all this while
          161His mournefull plight, is swallowd vp vnwares,
          162Forgetfull of his owne, that mindes anothers cares.

          163So wept Duessa vntill euentide,
          164That shyning lampes in Ioues high house were light:
          165Then forth she rose, ne lenger would abide,
          166But comes vnto the place, where th'Hethen knight
          167In slombring swownd nigh voyd of vitall spright,
          168Lay couer'd with inchaunted cloud all day:
          169Whom when she found, as she him left in plight,
          170To wayle his woefull case she would not stay,
          171But to the easterne coast of heauen makes speedy way.

          172Where griesly Night, with visage deadly sad,
          173That Phœbus chearefull face durst neuer vew,
          174And in a foule blacke pitchie mantle clad,
          175She findes forth comming from her darkesome mew,
          176Where she all day did hide her hated hew.
          177Before the dore her yron charet stood,
          178Alreadie harnessed for iourney new;
          179And coleblacke steedes yborne of hellish brood,
          180That on their rustie bits did champ, as they were wood.

          181[Fol. E2v; p. 66] Who when she saw Duessa sunny bright,
          182Adornd with gold and iewels shining cleare,
          183She greatly grew amazed at the sight,
          184And th'vnacquainted light began to feare:
          185For neuer did such brightnesse there appeare,
          186And would haue backe retyred to her caue,
          187Vntill the witches speech she gan to heare,
          188Saying, yet ô thou dreaded Dame, I craue
          189Abide, till I haue told the message, which I haue.

          190She stayd, and foorth Duessa gan proceede,
          191O thou most auncient Grandmother of all,
          192More old then Ioue, whom thou at first didst breede,
          193Or that great house of Gods cælestiall,
          194Which wast begot in Dæmogorgons hall,
          195And sawst the secrets of the world vnmade,
          196Why suffredst thou thy Nephewes deare to fall
          197With Elfin sword, most shamefully betrade?
          198Lo where the stout Sansioy doth sleepe in deadly shade.

          199And him before, I saw with bitter eyes
          200The bold Sansfoy shrinke vnderneath his speare;
          201And now the pray of fowles in field he lyes,
          202Nor wayld of friends, nor laid on groning beare,
          203That whylome was to me too dearely deare.
          204O what of Gods then boots it to be borne,
          205If old Aveugles sonnes so euill heare?
          206Or who shall not great Nightes children scorne,
          207When two or three her Nephewes are so fowle forlorne?

          208Vp then, vp dreary Dame, of darknesse Queene,
          209Go gather vp the reliques of thy race,
          210Or else goe them auenge, and let be seene,
          211That dreaded Night in brightest day hath place,
          212[Fol. E3r; p. 67] And can the children of faire light deface.
          213Her feeling speeches some compassion moued
          214In hart, and chaunge in that great mothers face:
          215Yet pittie in her hart was neuer proued
          216Till then:  for euermore she hated, neuer loued.

          217And said, Deare daughter rightly may I rew
          218The fall of famous children borne of mee,
          219And good successes, which their foes ensew:
          220But who can turne the streame of destinee,
          221Or breake the chayne of strong necessitee,
          222Which fast is tyde to Ioues eternall seat?
          223The sonnes of Day he fauoureth, I see,
          224And by my ruines thinkes to make them great:
          225To make one great by others losse, is bad excheat.

          226Yet shall they not escape so freely all;
          227For some shall pay the price of others guilt:
          228And he the man that made Sansfoy to fall,
          229Shall with his owne bloud price that he hath spilt.
          230But what art thou, that telst of Nephews kilt?
          231I that do seeme not I, Duessa am,
          232(Quoth she) how euer now in garments gilt,
          233And gorgeous gold arayd I to thee came;
          234Duessa I, the daughter of Deceipt and Shame.

          235Then bowing downe her aged backe, she kist
          236The wicked witch, saying;  In that faire face
          237The false resemblance of Deceipt, I wist
          238Did closely lurke;  yet so true-seeming grace
          239It carried, that I scarse in darkesome place
          240Could it discerne, though I the mother bee
          241Of falshood, and root of Duessaes race.
          242O welcome child, whom I haue longd to see,
          243And how haue seene vnwares.  Lo now I go with thee.

          244[Fol. E3v; p. 68] Then to her yron wagon she betakes,
          245And with her beares the fowle welfauourd witch:
          246Through mirkesome aire her readie way she makes.
          247Her twyfold Teme, of which two blacke as pitch,
          248And two were browne, yet each to each vnlich,
          249Did softly swim away, ne euer stampe,
          250Vnlesse she chaunst their stubborne mouths to twitch;
          251Then foming tarre, their bridles they would champe,
          252And trampling the fine element, would fiercely rampe.

          253So well they sped, that they be come at length
          254Vnto the place, whereas the Paynim lay,
          255Deuoid of outward sense, and natiue strength,
          256Couerd with charmed cloud from vew of day,
          257And sight of men, since his late luckelesse fray.
          258His cruell wounds with cruddy bloud congealed,
          259They binden vp so wisely, as they may,
          260And handle softly, till they can be healed:
          261So lay him in her charet, close in night concealed.

          262And all the while she stood vpon the ground,
          263The wakefull dogs did neuer cease to bay,
          264As giuing warning of th'vnwonted sound,
          265With which her yron wheeles did them affray,
          266And her darke griesly looke them much dismay;
          267The messenger of death, the ghastly Owle
          268With drearie shriekes did also her bewray;
          269And hungry Wolues continually did howle,
          270At her abhorred face, so filthy and so fowle.

          271Thence turning backe in silence soft they stole,
          272And brought the heauie corse with easie pace
          273To yawning gulfe of deepe Auernus hole.
          274By that same hole an entrance darke and bace
          275[Fol. E4r; p. 69] With smoake and sulphure hiding all the place,
          276Descends to hell:  there creature neuer past,
          277That backe returned without heauenly grace;
          278But dreadfull Furies, which their chaines haue brast,
          279And damned sprights sent forth to make ill men aghast.

          280By that same way the direfull dames doe driue
          281Their mournefull charet, fild with rusty blood,
          282And downe to Plutoes house are come biliue:
          283Which passing through, on euery side them stood
          284The trembling ghosts with sad amazed mood,
          285Chattring their yron teeth, and staring wide
          286With stonie eyes;  and all the hellish brood
          287Of feends infernall flockt on euery side,
          288To gaze on earthly wight, that with the Night durst ride.

          289They pas the bitter waues of Acheron,
          290Where many soules sit wailing woefully,
          291And come to fiery flood of Phlegeton,
          292Whereas the damned ghosts in torments fry,
          293And with sharpe shrilling shriekes doe bootlesse cry,
          294Cursing high Ioue, the which them thither sent.
          295The house of endlesse paine is built thereby,
          296In which ten thousand sorts of punishment
          297The cursed creatures doe eternally torment.

          298Before the threshold dreadfull Cerberus
          299His three deformed heads did lay along,
          300Curled with thousand adders venemous,
          301And lilled forth his bloudie flaming tong:
          302At them he gan to reare his bristles strong,
          303And felly gnarre, vntill dayes enemy
          304Did him appease;  then downe his taile he hong
          305And suffered them to passen quietly:
          306For she in hell and heauen had power equally.

          307[Fol. E4v; p. 70] There was Ixion turned on a wheele,
          308For daring tempt the Queene of heauen to sin;
          309And Sisyphus an huge round stone did reele
          310Against an hill, ne might from labour lin;
          311There thirstie Tantalus hong by the chin;
          312And Tityus fed a vulture on his maw;
          313Typhœus ioynts were stretched on a gin,
          314Theseus condemned to endlesse slouth by law,
          315And fifty sisters water in leake vessels draw.

          316They all beholding worldly wights in place,
          317Leaue off their worke, vnmindfull of their smart,
          318To gaze on them;  who forth by them doe pace,
          319Till they be come vnto the furthest part:
          320Where was a Caue ywrought by wondrous art,
          321Deepe, darke, vneasie, dolefull, comfortlesse,
          322In which sad {AE}sculapius farre a part
          323Emprisond was in chaines remedilesse,
          324For that Hippolytus rent corse he did redresse.

          325Hippolytus a iolly huntsman was,
          326That wont in charet chace the foming Bore;
          327He all his Peeres in beautie did surpas,
          328But Ladies loue as losse of time forbore:
          329His wanton stepdame loued him the more,
          330But when she saw her offred sweets refused
          331Her loue she turnd to hate, and him before
          332His father fierce of treason false accused,
          333And with her gealous termes his open eares abused.

          334Who all in rage his Sea-god syre besought,
          335Some cursed vengeance on his sonne to cast:
          336From surging gulf two monsters straight were brought,
          337With dread whereof his chasing steedes aghast,
          338[Fol. E5r; p. 71] Both charet swift and huntsman ouercast.
          339His goodly corps on ragged clifts yrent,
          340Was quite dismembred, and his members chast
          341Scattered on euery mountaine, as he went,
          342That of Hippolytus was left no moniment.

          343His cruell stepdame seeing what was donne,
          344Her wicked dayes with wretched knife did end,
          345In death auowing th'innocence of her sonne.
          346Which hearing his rash Syre, began to rend
          347His haire, and hastie tongue, that did offend:
          348Tho gathering vp the relicks of his smart
          349By Dianes meanes, who was Hippolyts frend,
          350Them brought to {AE}sculape, that by his art
          351Did heale them all againe, and ioyned euery part.

          352Such wondrous science in mans wit to raine
          353When Ioue auizd, that could the dead reuiue,
          354And fates expired could renew againe,
          355Of endlesse life he might him not depriue,
          356But vnto hell did thrust him downe aliue,
          357With flashing thunderbolt ywounded sore:
          358Where long remaining, he did alwaies striue
          359Himselfe with salues to health for to restore,
          360And slake the heauenly fire, that raged euermore.

          361There auncient Night arriuing, did alight
          362From her high wearie waine, and in her armes
          363To {AE}sculapius brought the wounded knight:
          364Whom hauing softly disarayd of armes,
          365Tho gan to him discouer all his harmes,
          366Beseeching him with prayer, and with praise,
          367If either salues, or oyles, or herbes, or charmes
          368A fordonne wight from dore of death mote raise,
          369He would at her request prolong her nephews daies.

          370[Fol. E5v; p. 72] Ah Dame (quoth he) thou temptest me in vaine,
          371To dare the thing, which daily yet I rew,
          372And the old cause of my continued paine
          373With like attempt to like end to renew.
          374Is not enough, that thrust from heauen dew
          375Here endlesse penance for one fault I pay,
          376But that redoubled crime with vengeance new
          377Thou biddest me to eeke?  Can Night defray
          378The wrath of thundring Ioue, that rules both night and day?

          379Not so (quoth she) but sith that heauens king
          380From hope of heauen hath thee excluded quight,
          381Why fearest thou, that canst not hope for thing,
          382And fearest not, that more thee hurten might,
          383Now in the powre of euerlasting Night?
          384Goe to then, ô thou farre renowmed sonne
          385Of great Apollo, shew thy famous might
          386In medicine, that else hath to thee wonne
          387Great paines, & greater praise, both neuer to be donne.

          388Her words preuaild:  And then the learned leach
          389His cunning hand gan to his wounds to lay,
          390And all things else, the which his art did teach:
          391Which hauing seene, from thence arose away
          392The mother of dread darknesse, and let stay
          393Aueugles sonne there in the leaches cure,
          394And backe returning tooke her wonted way,
          395To runne her timely race, whilst Phœbus pure
          396In westerne waues his wearie wagon did recure.

          397The false Duessa leauing noyous Night,
          398Returnd to stately pallace of dame Pride;
          399Where when she came, she found the Faery knight
          400Departed thence, albe his woundes wide
          401[Fol. E6r; p. 73] Not throughly heald, vnreadie were to ride.
          402Good cause he had to hasten thence away;
          403For on a day his wary Dwarfe had spide,
          404Where in a dongeon deepe huge numbers lay
          405Of caytiue wretched thrals, that wayled night and day.

          406A ruefull sight, as could be seene with eie;
          407Of whom he learned had in secret wise
          408The hidden cause of their captiuitie,
          409How mortgaging their liues to Couetise,
          410Through wastfull Pride, and wanton Riotise,
          411There were by law of that proud Tytannesse
          412Prouokt with {W}rath, and Enuies false surmise,
          413Condemned to that Dongeon mercilesse,
          414Where they should liue in woe, & die in wretchednesse.

          415There was that great proud king of Babylon,
          416That would compell all nations to adore,
          417And him as onely God to call vpon,
          418Till through celestiall doome throwne out of dore,
          419Into an Oxe he was transform'd of yore:
          420There also was king Cræsus, that enhaunst
          421His heart too high through his great riches store;
          422And proud Antiochus, the which aduaunst
          423His cursed hand gainst God, and on his altars daunst.

          424And them long time before, great Nimrod was,
          425That first the world with sword and fire warrayd;
          426And after him old Ninus farre did pas
          427In princely pompe, of all the world obayd;
          428There also was that mightie Monarch layd
          429Low vnder all, yet aboue all in pride,
          430That name of natiue syre did fowle vpbrayd,
          431And would as Ammons sonne be magnifide,
          432Till scornd of God and man a shamefull death he dide.

          433[Fol. E6v; p. 74] All these together in one heape were throwne,
          434Like carkases of beasts in butchers stall.
          435And in another corner wide were strowne
          436The antique ruines of the Romaines fall:
          437Great Romulus the Grandsyre of them all,
          438Proud Tarquin, and too lordly Lentulus,
          439Stout Scipio, and stubborne Hanniball,
          440Ambitious Sylla, and sterne Marius,
          441High Cæsar, great Pompey, and fierce Antonius.

          442Amongst these mighty men were wemen mixt,
          443Proud wemen, vaine, forgetfull of their yoke:
          444The bold Semiramis, whose sides transfixt
          445With sonnes owne blade, her fowle reproches spoke;
          446Faire Sthenobœa, that her selfe did choke
          447With wilfull cord, for wanting of her will;
          448High minded Cleopatra, that with stroke
          449Of Aspes sting her selfe did stoutly kill:
          450And thousands moe the like, that did that dongeon fill.

          451Besides the endlesse routs of wretched thralles,
          452Which thither were assembled day by day,
          453From all the world after their wofull falles,
          454Through wicked pride, and wasted wealthes decay.
          455But most of all, which in that Dongeon lay
          456Fell from high Princes courts, or Ladies bowres,
          457Where they in idle pompe, or wanton play,
          458Consumed had their goods, and thriftlesse howres,
          459And lastly throwne themselues into these heauy stowres.

          460Whose case when as the carefull Dwarfe had tould,
          461And made ensample of their mournefull sight
          462Vnto his maister, he no lenger would
          463There dwell in perill of like painefull plight,
          464[Fol. E7r; p. 75] But early rose, and ere that dawning light
          465Discouered had the world to heauen wyde,
          466He by a priuie Posterne tooke his flight,
          467That of no enuious eyes he mote be spyde:
          468For doubtlesse death ensewd, if any him descryde.

          469Scarse could he footing find in that fowle way,
          470For many corses, like a great Lay-stall
          471Of murdred men which therein strowed lay,
          472Without remorse, or decent funerall:
          473Which all through the great Princesse pride did fall
          474And came to shamefull end.  And them beside
          475Forth ryding vnderneath the castell wall,
          476A donghill of dead carkases he spide,
          477The dreadfull spectacle of that sad house of Pride.


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.

207] or: "of" 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 L36.1976 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1596
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition:
Recent editing: 1:2002/6/30*1:2002/6/30

Form: Spenserian Stanzas
Rhyme: ababbcbcc

Other poems by Edmund Spenser