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Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto 8 (1596)


Canto 8

Faire virgin to redeeme her deare
brings Arthur to the fight:
Who slayes that Gyant, wounds the beast,
and strips Duessa quight.

i
              1AY me, how many perils doe enfold
              2The righteous man, to make him daily fall?
              3Were not, that heauenly grace doth him vphold,
              4And stedfast truth acquite him out of all.
              5[Fol. G6r; p. 105] Her loue is firme, her care continuall,
              6So oft as he through his owne foolish pride,
              7Or weaknesse is to sinfull bands made thrall:
              8Else should this Redcrosse knight in bands haue dyde,
              9For whose deliuerance she this Prince doth thither guide.

ii
            10They sadly traueild thus, vntill they came
            11Nigh to a castle builded strong and hie:
            12Then cryde the Dwarfe, lo yonder is the same,
            13In which my Lord my liege doth lucklesse lie,
            14Thrall to that Gyants hatefull tyrannie:
            15Therefore, deare Sir, your mightie powres assay.
            16The noble knight alighted by and by
            17From loftie steede, and bad the Ladie stay,
            18To see what end of fight should him befall that day.

iii
            19So with the Squire, th'admirer of his might,
            20He marched forth towards that castle wall;
            21Whose gates he found fast shut, ne liuing wight
            22To ward the same, nor answere commers call.
            23Then tooke that Squire an horne of bugle small,
            24Which hong adowne his side in twisted gold,
            25And tassels gay.  Wyde wonders ouer all
            26Of that same hornes great vertues weren told,
            27Which had approued bene in vses manifold.

iv
            28Was neuer wight, that heard that shrilling sound,
            29But trembling feare did feele in euery vaine;
            30Three miles it might be easie heard around,
            31And Ecchoes three answerd it selfe againe:
            32No false enchauntment, nor deceiptfull traine
            33Might once abide the terror of that blast,
            34But presently was voide and wholly vaine:
            35No gate so strong, no locke so firme and fast,
            36But with that percing noise flew open quite, or brast.

v
            37[Fol. G6v; p. 106] The same before the Geants gate he blew,
            38That all the castle quaked from the ground,
            39And euery dore of freewill open flew.
            40The Gyant selfe dismaied with that sownd,
            41Where he with his Duessa dalliance fownd,
            42In hast came rushing forth from inner bowre,
            43With staring countenance sterne, as one astownd,
            44And staggering steps, to weet, what suddein stowre,
            45Had wrought that horror strange, and dar'd his dreaded powre.

vi
            46And after him the proud Duessa came,
            47High mounted on her manyheaded beast,
            48And euery head with fyrie tongue did flame,
            49And euery head was crowned on his creast,
            50And bloudie mouthed with late cruell feast.
            51That when the knight beheld, his mightie shild
            52Vpon his manly arme he soone addrest,
            53And at him fiercely flew, with courage fild,
            54And eger greedinesse through euery member thrild.

vii
            55Therewith the Gyant buckled him to fight,
            56Inflam'd with scornefull wrath and high disdaine,
            57And lifting vp his dreadfull club on hight,
            58All arm'd with ragged snubbes and knottie graine,
            59Him thought at first encounter to haue slaine.
            60But wise and warie was that noble Pere,
            61And lightly leaping from so monstrous maine,
            62Did faire auoide the violence him nere;
            63It booted nought, to thinke, such thunderbolts to beare.

viii
            64Ne shame he thought to shunne so hideous might:
            65The idle stroke, enforcing furious way,
            66Missing the marke of his misaymed sight
            67Did fall to ground, and with his heauie sway
            68[Fol. G7r; p. 107] So deepely dinted in the driuen clay,
            69That three yardes deepe a furrow vp did throw:
            70The sad earth wounded with so sore assay,
            71Did grone full grieuous vnderneath the blow,
            72And trembling with strange feare, did like an earthquake show.

ix
            73As when almightie Ioue in wrathfull mood,
            74To wreake the guilt of mortall sins is bent,
            75Hurles forth his thundering dart with deadly food,
            76Enrold in flames, and smouldring dreriment,
            77Through riuen cloudes and molten firmament;
            78The fierce threeforked engin making way,
            79Both loftie towres and highest trees hath rent,
            80And all that might his angrie passage stay,
            81And shooting in the earth, casts vp a mount of clay.

x
            82His boystrous club, so buried in the ground,
            83He could not rearen vp againe so light,
            84But that the knight him at auantage found,
            85And whiles he stroue his combred clubbe to quight
            86Out of the earth, with blade all burning bright
            87He smote off his left arme, which like a blocke
            88Did fall to ground, depriu'd of natiue might;
            89Large streames of bloud out of the truncked stocke
            90Forth gushed, like fresh water streame from riuen rocke.

xi
            91Dismaied with so desperate deadly wound,
            92And eke impatient of vnwonted paine,
            93He loudly brayd with beastly yelling sound,
            94That all the fields rebellowed againe;
            95As great a noyse, as when in Cymbrian plaine
            96An heard of Bulles, whom kindly rage doth sting,
            97Do for the milkie mothers want complaine,
            98And fill the fields with troublous bellowing,
            99The neighbour woods around with hollow murmur ring.

xii
          100[Fol. G7v; p. 108] That when his deare Duessa heard, and saw
          101The euill stownd, that daungerd her estate,
          102Vnto his aide she hastily did draw
          103Her dreadfull beast, who swolne with bloud of late
          104Came ramping forth with proud presumpteous gate,
          105And threatned all his heads like flaming brands.
          106But him the Squire made quickly to retrate,
          107Encountring fierce with single sword in hand,
          108And twixt him and his Lord did like a bulwarke stand.

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          109The proud Duessa full of wrathfull spight,
          110And fierce disdaine, to be affronted so,
          111Enforst her purple beast with all her might
          112That stop out of the way to ouerthroe,
          113Scorning the let of so vnequall foe:
          114But nathemore would that courageous swayne
          115To her yeeld passage, gainst his Lord to goe,
          116But with outrageous strokes did him restraine,
          117And with his bodie bard the way atwixt them twaine.

xiv
          118Then tooke the angrie witch her golden cup,
          119Which still she bore, replete with magick artes;
          120Death and despeyre did many thereof sup,
          121And secret poyson through their inner parts,
          122Th'eternall bale of heauie wounded harts;
          123Which after charmes and some enchauntments said,
          124She lightly sprinkled on his weaker parts;
          125Therewith his sturdie courage soone was quayd,
          126And all his senses were with suddeine dread dismayd.

xv
          127So downe he fell before the cruell beast,
          128Who on his necke his bloudie clawes did seize,
          129That life nigh crusht out of his panting brest:
          130No powre he had to stirre, nor will to rize.
          131[Fol. G8r; p. 109] That when the carefull knight gan well auise,
          132He lightly left the foe, with whom he fought,
          133And to the beast gan turne his enterprise;
          134For wondrous anguish in his hart it wrought,
          135To see his loued Squire into such thraldome brought.

xvi
          136And high aduauncing his bloud-thirstie blade,
          137Stroke one of those deformed heads so sore,
          138That of his puissance proud ensample made;
          139His monstrous scalpe downe to his teeth it tore,
          140And that misformed shape mis-shaped more:
          141A sea of bloud gusht from the gaping wound,
          142That her gay garments staynd with filthy gore,
          143And ouerflowed all the field around;
          144That ouer shoes in bloud he waded on the ground.

xvii
          145Thereat he roared for exceeding paine,
          146That to haue heard, great horror would haue bred,
          147And scourging th'emptie ayre with his long traine,
          148Through great impatience of his grieued hed
          149His gorgeous ryder from her loftie sted
          150Would haue cast downe, and trod in durtie myre,
          151Had not the Gyant soone her succoured;
          152Who all enrag'd with smart and franticke yre,
          153Came hurtling in full fierce, and forst the knight retyre.

xviii
          154The force, which wont in two to be disperst,
          155In one alone left hand he now vnites,
          156Which is through rage more strong then both were erst;
          157With which his hideous club aloft he dites,
          158And at his foe with furious rigour smites,
          159That strongest Oake might seeme to ouerthrow:
          160The stroke vpon his shield so heauie lites,
          161That to the ground it doubleth him full low:
          162What mortall wight could euer beare so monstrous blow?

xix
          163[Fol. G8v; p. 110] And in his fall his shield, that couered was,
          164Did loose his vele by chaunce, and open flew:
          165The light whereof, that heauens light did pas,
          166Such blazing brightnesse through the aier threw,
          167That eye mote not the same endure to vew.
          168Which when the Gyaunt spyde with staring eye,
          169He downe let fall his arme, and soft withdrew
          170His weapon huge, that heaued was on hye
          171For to haue slaine the man, that on the ground did lye.

xx
          172And eke the fruitfull-headed beast, amaz'd
          173At flashing beames of that sunshiny shield,
          174Became starke blind, and all his senses daz'd,
          175That downe he tombled on the durtie field,
          176And seem'd himselfe as conquered to yield.
          177Whom when his maistresse proud perceiu'd to fall,
          178Whiles yet his feeble feet for faintnesse reeld,
          179Vnto the Gyant loudly she gan call,
          180O helpe Orgoglio, helpe, or else we perish all.

xxi
          181At her so pitteous cry was much amoou'd
          182Her champion stout, and for to ayde his frend,
          183Againe his wonted angry weapon proou'd:
          184But all in vaine: for he has read his end
          185In that bright shield, and all their forces spend
          186Themselues in vaine: for since that glauncing sight,
          187He hath no powre to hurt, nor to defend;
          188As where th'Almighties lightning brond does light,
          189It dimmes the dazed eyen, and daunts the senses quight.

xxii
          190Whom when the Prince, to battell new addrest,
          191And threatning high his dreadfull stroke did see,
          192His sparkling blade about his head he blest,
          193And smote off quite his right leg by the knee,
          194[Fol. H1r; p. 111] That downe he tombled;  as an aged tree,
          195High growing on the top of rocky clift,
          196Whose hartstrings with keene steele nigh hewen be,
          197The mightie trunck halfe rent, with ragged rift
          198Doth roll adowne the rocks, and fall with fearefull drift.

xxiii
          199Or as a Castle reared high and round,
          200By subtile engins and malitious slight
          201Is vndermined from the lowest ground,
          202And her foundation forst, and feebled quight,
          203At last downe falles, and with her heaped hight
          204Her hastie ruine does more heauie make,
          205And yields it selfe vnto the victours might;
          206Such was this Gyaunts fall, that seemd to shake
          207The stedfast globe of earth, as it for feare did quake.

xxiv
          208The knight then lightly leaping to the pray,
          209With mortall steele him smot againe so sore,
          210That headlesse his vnweldy bodie lay,
          211All wallowd in his owne fowle bloudy gore,
          212Which flowed from his wounds in wondrous store,
          213But soone as breath out of his breast did pas,
          214That huge great body, which the Gyaunt bore,
          215Was vanisht quite, and of that monstrous mas
          216Was nothing left, but like an emptie bladder was.

xxv
          217Whose grieuous fall, when false Duessa spide,
          218Her golden cup she cast vnto the ground,
          219And crowned mitre rudely threw aside;
          220Such percing griefe her stubborne hart did wound,
          221That she could not endure that dolefull stound,
          222But leauing all behind her, fled away:
          223The light-foot Squire her quickly turnd around,
          224And by hard meanes enforcing her to stay,
          225So brought vnto his Lord, as his deserued pray.

xxvi
          226[Fol. H1v; p. 112] The royall Virgin, which beheld from farre,
          227In pensiue plight, and sad perplexitie,
          228The whole atchieuement of this doubtfull warre,
          229Came running fast to greet his victorie,
          230With sober gladnesse, and myld modestie,
          231And with sweet ioyous cheare him thus bespake;
          232Faire braunch of noblesse, flowre of cheualrie,
          233That with your worth the world amazed make,
          234How shall I quite the paines, ye suffer for my sake?

xxvii
          235And you fresh bud of vertue springing fast,
          236Whom these sad eyes saw nigh vnto deaths dore,
          237What hath poore Virgin for such perill past,
          238Wherewith you to reward?  Accept therefore
          239My simple selfe, and seruice euermore;
          240And he that high does sit, and all things see
          241With equall eyes, their merites to restore,
          242Behold what ye this day haue done for mee,
          243And what I cannot quite, requite with vsuree.

xxviii
          244But sith the heauens, and your faire handeling
          245Haue made you maister of the field this day,
          246Your fortune maister eke with gouerning,
          247And well begun end all so well, I pray,
          248Ne let that wicked woman scape away;
          249For she it is, that did my Lord bethrall,
          250My dearest Lord, and deepe in dongeon lay,
          251Where he his better dayes hath wasted all.
          252O heare, how piteous he to you for ayd does call.

xxix
          253Forthwith he gaue in charge vnto his Squire,
          254That scarlot whore to keepen carefully;
          255Whiles he himselfe with greedie great desire
          256Into the Castle entred forcibly.
          257[Fol. H2r; p. 113] Where liuing creature none he did espye;
          258Then gan he lowdly through the house to call:
          259But no man car'd to answere to his crye.
          260There raignd a solemne silence ouer all,
          261Nor voice was heard, nor wight was seene in bowre or hall.

xxx
          262At last with creeping crooked pace forth came
          263An old old man, with beard as white as snow,
          264That on a staffe his feeble steps did frame,
          265And guide his wearie gate both too and fro:
          266For his eye sight him failed long ygo,
          267And on his arme a bounch of keyes he bore,
          268The which vnused rust did ouergrow:
          269Those were the keyes of euery inner dore,
          270But he could not them vse, but kept them still in store.

xxxi
          271But very vncouth sight was to behold,
          272How he did fashion his vntoward pace,
          273For as he forward moou'd his footing old,
          274So backward still was turnd his wrincled face,
          275Vnlike to men, who euer as they trace,
          276Both feet and face one way are wont to lead.
          277This was the auncient keeper of that place,
          278And foster father of the Gyant dead;
          279His name Ignaro did his nature right aread.

xxxii
          280His reuerend haires and holy grauitie
          281The knight much honord, as beseemed well,
          282And gently askt, where all the people bee,
          283Which in that stately building wont to dwell.
          284Who answerd him full soft, he could not tell.
          285Againe he askt, where that same knight was layd,
          286Whom great Orgoglio with his puissaunce fell
          287Had made his caytiue thrall, againe he sayde,
          288He could not tell: ne euer other answere made.

xxxiii
          289[Fol. H2v; p. 114] Then asked he, which way he in might pas:
          290He could not tell, againe he answered.
          291Thereat the curteous knight displeased was,
          292And said, Old sire, it seemes thou hast not red
          293How ill it sits with that same siluer hed
          294In vaine to mocke, or mockt in vaine to bee:
          295But if thou be, as thou art pourtrahed
          296With natures pen, in ages graue degree,
          297Aread in grauer wise, what I demaund of thee.

xxxiv
          298His answere likewise was, he could not tell.
          299Whose sencelesse speach, and doted ignorance
          300When as the noble Prince had marked well,
          301He ghest his nature by his countenance,
          302And calmd his wrath with goodly temperance.
          303Then to him stepping, from his arme did reach
          304Those keyes, and made himselfe free enterance.
          305Each dore he opened without any breach;
          306There was no barre to stop, nor foe him to empeach.

xxxv
          307There all within full rich arayd he found,
          308With royall arras and resplendent gold.
          309And did with store of euery thing abound,
          310That greatest Princes presence might behold.
          311But all the floore (too filthy to be told)
          312With bloud of guiltlesse babes, and innocents trew,
          313Which there were slaine, as sheepe out of the fold,
          314Defiled was, that dreadfull was to vew,
          315And sacred ashes ouer it was strowed new.

xxxvi
          316And there beside of marble stone was built
          317An Altare, caru'd with cunning imagery,
          318On which true Christians bloud was often spilt,
          319And holy Martyrs often doen to dye,
          320[Fol. H3r; p. 115] With cruell malice and strong tyranny:
          321Whose blessed sprites from vnderneath the stone
          322To God for vengeance cryde continually,
          323And with great griefe were often heard to grone,
          324That hardest heart would bleede, to heare their piteous mone.

xxxvii
          325Through euery rowme he sought, and euery bowr,
          326But no where could he find that wofull thrall:
          327At last he came vnto an yron doore,
          328That fast was lockt, but key found not at all
          329Emongst that bounch, to open it withall;
          330But in the same a little grate was pight,
          331Through which he sent his voyce, and lowd did call
          332With all his powre, to weet, if liuing wight
          333Were housed there within, whom he enlargen might.

xxxviii
          334Therewith an hollow, dreary, murmuring voyce
          335These piteous plaints and dolours did resound;
          336O who is that, which brings me happy choyce
          337Of death, that here lye dying euery stound,
          338Yet liue perforce in balefull darkenesse bound?
          339For now three Moones haue changed thrice their hew,
          340And haue beene thrice hid vnderneath the ground,
          341Since I the heauens chearefull face did vew,
          342O welcome thou, that doest of death bring tydings trew.

xxxix
          343Which when that Champion heard, with percing point
          344Of pitty deare his hart was thrilled sore,
          345And trembling horrour ran through euery ioynt,
          346For ruth of gentle knight so fowle forlore:
          347Which shaking off, he rent that yron dore,
          348With furious force, and indignation fell;
          349Where entred in, his foot could find no flore,
          350But all a deepe descent, as darke as hell,
          351That breathed euer forth a filthie banefull smell.

xl
          352[Fol. H3v; p. 116] But neither darkenesse fowle, nor filthy bands,
          353Nor noyous smell his purpose could withhold,
          354(Entire affection hateth nicer hands)
          355But that with constant zeale, and courage bold,
          356After long paines and labours manifold,
          357He found the meanes that Prisoner vp to reare;
          358Whose feeble thighes, vnhable to vphold
          359His pined corse, him scarse to light could beare.
          360A ruefull spectacle of death and ghastly drere.

xli
          361His sad dull eyes deepe sunck in hollow pits,
          362Could not endure th'vnwonted sunne to view;
          363His bare thin cheekes for want of better bits,
          364And empty sides deceiued of their dew,
          365Could make a stony hart his hap to rew;
          366His rawbone armes, whose mighty brawned bowrs
          367Were wont to riue steele plates, helmets hew,
          368Were cleane consum'd, and all his vitall powres
          369Decayd, and all his flesh shronk vp like withered flowres.

xlii
          370Whom when his Lady saw, to him she ran
          371With hasty ioy: to see him made her glad,
          372And sad to view his visage pale and wan,
          373Who earst in flowres of freshest youth was clad.
          374Tho when her well of teares she wasted had,
          375She said, Ah dearest Lord, what euill starre
          376On you hath fround, and pourd his influence bad,
          377That of your selfe ye thus berobbed arre,
          378And this misseeming hew your manly looks doth marre?

xliii
          379But welcome now my Lord, in wele or woe,
          380Whose presence I haue lackt too long a day;
          381And fie on Fortune mine auowed foe,
          382Whose wrathfull wreakes them selues do now alay.
          383[Fol. H4r; p. 117] And for these wrongs shall treble penaunce pay
          384Of treble good: good growes of euils priefe.
          385The chearelesse man, whom sorrow did dismay,
          386Had no delight to treaten of his griefe;
          387His long endured famine needed more reliefe.

xliv
          388Faire Lady, then said that victorious knight,
          389The things, that grieuous were to do, or beare,
          390Them to renew, I wote, breeds no delight;
          391Best musicke breeds delight in loathing eare:
          392But th'onely good, that growes of passed feare,
          393Is to be wise, and ware of like agein.
          394This dayes ensample hath this lesson deare
          395Deepe written in my heart with yron pen,
          396That blisse may not abide in state of mortall men.

xlv
          397Henceforth sir knight, take to you wonted strength,
          398And maister these mishaps with patient might;
          399Loe where your foe lyes stretcht in monstrous length,
          400And loe that wicked woman in your sight,
          401The roote of all your care, and wretched plight,
          402Now in your powre, to let her liue, or dye.
          403To do her dye (quoth Vna) were despight,
          404And shame t'auenge so weake an enimy;
          405But spoile her of her scarlot robe, and let her fly.

xlvi
          406So as she bad, that witch they disaraid,
          407And robd of royall robes, and purple pall,
          408And ornaments that richly were displaid;
          409Ne spared they to strip her naked all.
          410Then when they had despoild her tire and call,
          411Such as she was, their eyes might her behold,
          412That her mishaped parts did them appall,
          413A loathly, wrinckled hag, ill fauoured, old,
          414Whose secret filth good manners biddeth not be told.

xlvii
          415[Fol. H4v; p. 118] Her craftie head was altogether bald,
          416And as in hate of honorable eld,
          417Was ouergrowne with scurfe and filthy scald;
          418Her teeth out of her rotten gummes were feld,
          419And her sowre breath abhominably smeld;
          420Her dried dugs, like bladders lacking wind,
          421Hong downe, and filthy matter from them weld;
          422Her wrizled skin as rough, as maple rind,
          423So scabby was, that would haue loathd all womankind.

xlviii
          424Her neather parts, the shame of all her kind,
          425My chaster Muse for shame doth blush to write
          426But at her rompe she growing had behind
          427A foxes taile, with dong all fowly dight;
          428And eke her feete most monstrous were in sight;
          429For one of them was like an Eagles claw,
          430With griping talaunts armd to greedy fight,
          431The other like a Beares vneuen paw:
          432More vgly shape yet neuer liuing creature saw.

xlix
          433Which when the knights beheld, amazd they were,
          434And wondred at so fowle deformed wight.
          435Such then (said Vna) as she seemeth here,
          436Such is the face of falshood, such the sight
          437Of fowle Duessa, when her borrowed light
          438Is laid away, and counterfesaunce knowne.
          439Thus when they had the witch disrobed quight,
          440And all her filthy feature open showne,
          441They let her goe at will, and wander wayes vnknowne.

l
          442She flying fast from heauens hated face,
          443And from the world that her discouered wide,
          444Fled to the wastfull wildernesse apace,
          445From liuing eyes her open shame to hide,
          446[Fol. H5r; p. 119] And lurket in rocks and caues long vnespide.
          447But that faire crew of knights, and Vna faire
          448Did in that castle afterwards abide,
          449To rest them selues, and weary powres repaire,
          450Where store they found of all, that dainty was and rare.

Notes

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.

263] An: "And" in original.

380] haue: "kaue" 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