Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)
The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 9
His loves and lignage Arthur tells:
The knights knit friendly bands:
Sir Trevisan flies from Despayre,
Whom Redcrosse knight withstands.
1O Goodly golden chaine, wherewith yfere
2The vertues linked are in lovely wize:
3And noble minds of yore allyed were,
4In brave poursuit of chevalrous emprize,
5That none did others safety despize,
6Nor aid envy to him, in need that stands,
7But friendly each did others prayse devize,
8How to advaunce with favourable hands,
9As this good Prince redeemd the Redcrosse knight from bands.
10Who when their powres empaird through labour long,
11With dew repast they had recured well,
12And that weake captive wight now wexed strong,
13From which I sprong, from me are hidden yit.
14For all so soone as life did me admit
15Into this world, and shewed heavens light,
16From mothers pap I taken was unfit:
17And streight delivered to a Faery knight,
18To be upbrought in gentle thewes and martiall might.
19Unto old Timon he me brought bylive,
20Old Timon, who in youthly yeares hath beene
21In warlike feates th'expertest man alive,
22And is the wisest now on earth I weene;
23His dwelling is low in a valley greene,
24Under the foot of Rauran mossy hore,
25From whence the river Dee as silver cleene
26His tombling billowes rolls with gentle rore:
27There all my dayes he traind me up in vertuous lore.
28Thither the great Magicien Merlin came,
29As was his use, ofttimes to visit me:
30For he had charge my discipline to frame,
31And Tutours nouriture to oversee.
32Him oft and oft I askt in privitie,
33Of what loines and what lignage I did spring:
34Whose aunswere bad me still assured bee,
35That I was sonne and heire unto a king,
36As time in her just terme the truth to light should bring.
37Well worthy impe, said then the Lady gent,
38And Pupill fit for such a Tutours hand.
39But what adventure, or what high intent
40Hath brought you hither into Faery land,
41Aread Prince Arthur, crowne of Martiall band?
42Full hard it is (quoth he) to read aright
43The course of heavenly cause, or understand
44The secret meaning of th'eternall might,
45That rules mens wayes, and rules the thoughts of living wight.
46For whither he through fatall deepe foresight
47Me hither sent, for cause to me unghest,
48Or that fresh bleeding wound, which day and night
49Whilome doth rancle in my riven brest,
50With forced fury following his behest,
51Me hither brought by wayes yet never found,
52You to have helpt I hold my selfe yet blest.
53Ah curteous knight (quoth she) what secret wound
54Could ever find, to grieve the gentlest hart on ground?
55Deare Dame (quoth he) you sleeping sparkes awake,
56Which troubled once, into huge flames will grow,
57Ne ever will their fervent fury slake,
58Till living moysture into smoke do flow,
59And wasted life do lye in ashes low.
60Yet sithens silence lesseneth not my fire,
61But told it flames, and hidden it does glow,
62I will revele, what ye so much desire:
63Ah Love, lay downe thy bow, the whiles I may respire.
64It was in freshest flowre of youthly yeares,
65When courage first does creepe in manly chest,
66Then first the coale of kindly heat appeares
67To kindle love in every living brest;
68But me had warnd old Timons wise behest,
69Those creeping flames by reason to subdew,
70Before their rage grew to so great unrest,
71As miserable lovers use to rew,
72Which still wex old in woe, whiles woe still wexeth new.
73That idle name of love, and lovers life,
74As losse of time, and vertues enimy
75I ever scornd, and joyd to stirre up strife,
76In middest of their mournfull Tragedy,
77Ay wont to laugh, when them I heard to cry,
78And blow the fire, which them to ashes brent:
79Their God himselfe, griev'd at my libertie,
80Shot many a dart at me with fiers intent,
81But I them warded all with wary government.
82But all in vaine: no fort can be so strong,
83Ne fleshly brest can armed be so sound,
84But will at last be wonne with battrie long,
85Or unawares at disavantage found;
86Nothing is sure, that growes on earthly ground:
87And who most trustes in arme of fleshly might,
88And boasts, in beauties chaine not to be bound,
89Doth soonest fall in disaventrous fight,
90And yeeldes his caytive neck to victours most despight.
91Ensample make of him your haplesse joy,
92And of my selfe now mated, as ye see;
93Whose prouder vaunt that proud avenging boy
94Did soone pluck downe, and curbed my libertie.
95For on a day prickt forth with jollitie
96Of looser life, and heat of hardiment,
97Raunging the forest wide on courser free,
98The fields, the floods, the heavens with one consent
99Did seeme to laugh on me, and favour mine intent.
100For-wearied with my sports, I did alight
101From loftie steed, and downe to sleepe me layd;
102The verdant gras my couch did goodly dight,
103And pillow was my helmet faire displayd:
104Whiles every sence the humour sweet embayd,
105And slombring soft my hart did steale away,
106Me seemed, by my side a royall Mayd
107Her daintie limbes full softly down did lay:
108So faire a creature yet saw never sunny day.
109Most goodly glee and lovely blandishment
110She to me made, and bad me love her deare,
111For dearely sure her love was to me bent,
112As when just time expired should appeare.
113But whether dreames delude, or true it were,
114Was never hart so ravisht with delight,
115Ne living man like words did ever heare,
116As she to me delivered all that night;
117And at her parting said, She Queene of Faeries hight.
118When I awoke, and found her place devoyd,
119And nought but pressed gras, where she had lyen,
120I sorrowed all so much, as earst I joyd,
121And washed all her place with watry eyen.
122From that day forth I lov'd that face divine;
123From that day forth I cast in carefull mind,
124To seeke her out with labour, and long tyne,
125And never vow to rest, till her I find,
126Nine monethes I seeke in vaine yet ni'll that vow unbind.
127Thus as he spake, his visage wexed pale,
128And chaunge of hew great passion did bewray;
129Yet still he strove to cloke his inward bale,
130And hide the smoke, that did his fire display,
131Till gentle Una thus to him gan say;
132O happy Queene of Faeries, that hast found
133Mongst many, one that with his prowesse may
134Defend thine honour, and thy foes confound:
135True Loves are often sown, but seldom grow on ground.
136Thine, O then, said the gentle Redcrosse knight,
137Next to that Ladies love, shalbe the place,
138O fairest virgin, full of heavenly light,
139Whose wondrous faith, exceeding earthly race,
140Was firmest fixt in mine extremest case.
141And you, my Lord, the Patrone of my life,
142Of that great Queene may well gaine worthy grace:
143For onely worthy you through prowes priefe
144Yf living man mote worthy be, to be her liefe.
145So diversly discoursing of their loves,
146The golden Sunne his glistring head gan shew,
147And sad remembraunce now the Prince amoves,
148With fresh desire his voyage to pursew:
149Als Una earnd her traveill to renew.
150Then those two knights, fast friendship for to bynd,
151And love establish each to other trew,
152Gave goodly gifts, the signes of gratefull mynd,
153And eke as pledges firme, right hands together joynd.
154Prince Arthur gave a boxe of Diamond sure,
155Embowd with gold and gorgeous ornament,
156Wherein were closd few drops of liquor pure,
157Of wondrous worth, and vertue excellent,
158That any wound could heale incontinent:
159Which to requite, the Redcrosse knight him gave
160A booke, wherein his Saveours testament
161Was writ with golden letters rich and brave;
162A worke of wondrous grace, and able soules to save.
163Thus beene they parted, Arthur on his way
164To seeke his love, and th'other for to fight
165With Unaes foe, that all her realme did pray.
166But she now weighing the decayed plight,
167And shrunken synewes of her chosen knight,
168Would not a while her forward course pursew,
169Ne bring him forth in face of dreadfull fight,
170Till he recovered had his former hew:
171For him to be yet weake and wearie well she knew.
172So as they traveild, lo they gan espy
173An armed knight towards them gallop fast,
174That seemed from some feared foe to fly,
175Or other griesly thing, that him agast.
176Still as he fled, his eye was backward cast,
177As if his feare still followed him behind;
178Als flew his steed, as he his bands had brast,
179And with his winged heeles did tread the wind,
180As he had been a fole of Pegasus his kind.
181Nigh as he drew, they might perceive his head
182To be unarmed, and curld uncombed heares
183Upstarting stiffe, dismayd with uncouth dread;
184Nor drop of bloud in all his face appeares
185Nor life in limbe: and to increase his feares,
186In fowle reproch of knighthoods faire degree,
187About his neck an hempen rope he weares,
188That with his glistring armes does ill agree;
189But he of rope or armes has now no memoree.
190The Redcrosse knight toward him crossed fast,
191To weet, what mister wight was so dismayd:
192There him he finds all sencelesse and aghast,
193That of him selfe he seemd to be afrayd;
194Whom hardly he from flying forward stayd,
195Till he these wordes to him deliver might;
196Sir knight, aread who hath ye thus arayd,
197And eke from whom make ye this hasty flight:
198For never knight I saw in such misseeming plight.
199He answerd nought at all, but adding new
200Feare to his first amazment, staring wide
201With stony eyes, and hartlesse hollow hew,
202Astonisht stood, as one that had aspide
203Infernall furies, with their chaines untide.
204Him yet againe, and yet againe bespake
205The gentle knight; who nought to him replide,
206But trembling every joynt did inly quake,
207And foltring tongue at last these words seemd forth to shake.
208For Gods deare love, Sir knight, do me not stay;
209For loe he comes, he comes fast after mee.
210Eft looking backe would faine have runne away;
211But he him forst to stay, and tellen free
212The secret cause of his perplexitie:
213Yet nathemore by his bold hartie speach,
214Could his bloud-frosen hart emboldned bee,
215But through his boldnesse rather feare did reach,
216Yet forst, at last he made through silence suddein breach.
217And am I now in safetie sure (quoth he)
218From him, that would have forced me to dye?
219And is the point of death now turnd fro mee,
220That I may tell this haplesse history?
221Feare nought: (quoth he) no daunger now is nye.
222Then shall I you recount a ruefull cace,
223(Said he) the which with this unlucky eye
224I late beheld, and had not greater grace
225Me reft from it, had bene partaker of the place.
226I lately chaunst (Would I had never chaunst)
227With a faire knight to keepen companee,
228Sir Terwin hight, that well himselfe advaunst
229In all affaires, and was both bold and free,
230But not so happie as mote happie bee:
231He lov'd, as was his lot, a Ladie gent,
232That him againe lov'd in the least degree:
233For she was proud, and of too high intent,
234And joyd to see her lover languish and lament.
235From whom returning sad and comfortlesse,
236As on the way together we did fare,
237We met that villen (God from him me blesse)
238That cursed wight, from whom I scapt whyleare,
239A man of hell, that cals himselfe Despaire:
240Who first us greets, and after faire areedes
241Of tydings strange, and of adventures rare:
242So creeping close, as Snake in hidden weedes,
243Inquireth of our states, and of our knightly deedes.
244Which when he knew, and felt our feeble harts
245Embost with bale, and bitter byting griefe,
246Which love had launched with his deadly darts,
247260 With wounding words and termes of foule repriefe,
248He pluckt from us all hope of due reliefe,
249That earst us held in love of lingring life;
250Then hopelesse hartlesse, gan the cunning thiefe
251Perswade us die, to stint all further strife:
252To me he lent this rope, to him a rustie knife.
253With which sad instrument of hastie death,
254That wofull lover, loathing lenger light,
255A wide way made to let forth living breath
256But I more fearefull, or more luckie wight,
257Dismayd with that deformed dismall sight,
258Fled fast away, halfe dead with dying feare:
259Ne yet assur'd of life by you, Sir knight,
260Whose like infirmitie like chaunce may beare:
261But God you never let his charmed speeches heare.
262How may a man (said he) with idle speach
263Be wonne, to spoyle the Castle of his health?
264I wote (quoth he) whom triall late did teach,
265That like would not for all this worldes wealth:
266His subtill tongue, like dropping honny, mealt'h
267Into the hart, and searcheth every vaine,
268That ere one be aware, by secret stealth
269His powre is reft, and weaknesse doth remaine.
270O never Sir desire to try his guilefull traine.
271Certes (said he) hence shall I never rest,
272Till I that treachours art have heard and tride;
273And you Sir knight, whose name mote I request,
274Of grace do me unto his cabin guide.
275I that hight Trevisan (quoth he) will ride
276Against my liking backe, to doe you grace:
277But nor for gold nor glee will I abide
278By you, when ye arrive in that same place;
279For lever had I die, then see his deadly face.
280Ere long they come, where that same wicked wight
281His dwelling has, low in an hollow cave,
282Farre underneath a craggie clift ypight,
283Darke, dolefull, drearie, like a greedie grave,
284That still for carrion carcases doth crave:
285On top whereof aye dwelt the ghastly Owle
286Shrieking his balefull note, which ever drave
287Farre from that haunt all other chearefull fowle;
288And all about it wandring ghostes did waile and howle.
289And all about old stockes and stubs of trees,
290Whereon nor fruit, nor leafe was ever seene,
291Did hang upon the ragged rocky knees;
292On which had many wretches hanged beene,
293Whose carcases were scattered on the greene,
294And throwne about the cliffs. Arrived there,
295That bare-head knight for dread and dolefull teene,
296Would faine have fled, ne durst approchen neare,
297But th'other forst him stay, and comforted in feare.
298That darkesome cave they enter, where they find
299That cursed man, low sitting on the ground,
300Musing full sadly in his sullein mind;
301His griesie lockes, long growen, and unbound,
302Disordred hong about his shoulders round,
303And hid his face; through which his hollow eyne,
304Lookt deadly dull, and stared as astound;
305His raw-bone cheekes through penurie and pine
306Were shronke into his jawes, as he did never dine.
307His garment nought but many ragged clouts,
308With thornes together pind and patched was,
309The which his naked sides he wrapt abouts;
310And him beside there lay upon the gras
311A drearie corse, whose life away did pas,
312All wallowd in his owne yet luke-warme blood,
313That from his wound yet welled fresh alas;
314In which a rustie knife fast fixed stood,
315And made an open passage for the gushing flood.
316Which piteous spectacle, approving trew
317The wofull tale that Trevisan had told,
318When as the gentle Redcrosse knight did vew,
319With firie zeale he burnt in courage bold,
320Him to avenge, before his bloud were cold,
321And to the villein said, Thou damned wight,
322The author of this fact, we here behold,
323What justice can but judge against thee right,
324With thine owne bloud to price his bloud, here shed in sight.
325What franticke fit (quoth he) hath thus distraught
326Thee, foolish man, so rash a doome to give?
327What justice ever other judgement taught,
328But he should die, who merites not to live?
329None else to death this man despayring drive,
330But his owne guiltie mind deserving death.
331Is then unjust to each his due to give?
332Or let him die, that loatheth living breath?
333Or let him die at ease, that liveth here uneath?
334Who travels by the wearie wandring way,
335To come unto his wished home in haste,
336And meetes a flood, that doth his passage stay,
337Is not great grace to helpe him over past,
338Or free his feet, that in the myre sticke fast?
339Most envious man, that grieves at neighbours good,
340And fond, that joyest in the woe thou hast,
341Why wilt not let him passe, that long hath stood
342Upon the banke, yet wilt thy selfe not passe the flood?
343He there does now enjoy eternall rest
344And happie ease, which thou doest want and crave,
345And further from it daily wanderest:
346What if some litle paine the passage have,
347That makes fraile flesh to feare the bitter wave?
348Is not short paine well borne, that brings long ease,
349And layes the soule to sleepe in quiet grave?
350Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas,
351Ease after warre, death after life does greatly please.
352The knight much wondred at his suddeine wit,
353And said, The terme of life is limited,
354Ne may a man prolong, nor shorten it;
355The souldier may not move from watchfull sted,
356Nor leave his stand, untill his Captaine bed.
357Who life did limit by almightie doome,
358(Quoth he) knowes best the termes established;
359And he, that points the Centonell his roome,
360Doth license him depart at sound of morning droome.
361Is not his deed, what ever thing is donne,
362In heaven and earth? did not he all create
363To die againe? all ends that was begonne.
364Their times in his eternall booke of fate
365Are written sure, and have their certaine date.
366Who then can strive with strong necessitie,
367That holds the world in his still chaunging state,
368Or shunne the death ordaynd by destinie?
369When houre of death is come, let none aske whence, nor why.
370The lenger life, I wote the greater sin,
371The greater sin, the greater punishment:
372All those great battels, which thou boasts to win,
373Through strife, and bloud-shed, and avengement,
374Now praysd, hereafter deare thou shalt repent:
375For life must life, and bloud must bloud repay.
376Is not enough thy evill life forespent?
377For he, that once hath missed the right way,
378The further he doth goe, the further he doth stray.
379Then do no further goe, no further stray,
380But here lie downe, and to thy rest betake,
381Th'ill to prevent, that life ensewen may.
382For what hath life, that may it loved make,
383And gives not rather cause it to forsake?
384Feare, sicknesse, age, losse, labour, sorrow, strife,
385Paine, hunger, cold, that makes the hart to quake;
386And ever fickle fortune rageth rife,
387All which, and thousands mo do make a loathsome life.
388Thou wretched man, of death hast greatest need,
389If in true ballance thou wilt weigh thy state:
390For never knight, that dared warlike deede,
391More lucklesse disaventures did amate:
392Witnesse the dongeon deepe, wherein of late
393Thy life shut up, for death so oft did call;
394And though good lucke prolonged hath thy date,
395Yet death then, would the like mishaps forestall,
396Into the which hereafter thou maiest happen fall.
397Why then doest thou, O man of sin, desire
398To draw thy dayes forth to their last degree?
399Is not the measure of thy sinfull hire
400High heaped up with huge iniquitie,
401Against the day of wrath, to burden thee?
402Is not enough, that to this Ladie milde
403Thou falsed hast thy faith with perjurie,
404And sold thy selfe to serve Duessa vilde,
405With whom in all abuse thou hast thy selfe defilde?
406Is not he just, that all this doth behold
407From highest heaven, and beares an equall eye?
408Shall he thy sins up in his knowledge fold,
409And guiltie be of thine impietie?
410Is not his law, Let every sinner die:
411Die shall all flesh? what then must needs be donne,
412Is it not better to doe willinglie,
413Then linger, till the glasse be all out ronne?
414Death is the end of woes: die soone, O faeries sonne.
415The knight was much enmoved with his speach,
416That as a swords point through his hart did perse,
417And in his conscience made a secret breach,
418Well knowing true all, that he did reherse,
419And to his fresh remembrance did reverse
420The ugly vew of his deformed crimes,
421That all his manly powres it did disperse,
422As he were charmed with inchaunted rimes,
423That oftentimes he quakt, and fainted oftentimes.
424In which amazement, when the Miscreant
425Perceived him to waver weake and fraile,
426Whiles trembling horror did his conscience dant,
427And hellish anguish did his soule assaile,
428To drive him to despaire, and quite to quaile,
429He shew'd him painted in a table plaine,
430The damned ghosts, that doe in torments waile,
431And thousand feends that doe them endlesse paine
432With fire and brimstone, which for ever shall remaine.
433The sight whereof so thoroughly him dismaid,
434That nought but death before his eyes he saw,
435And ever burning wrath before him laid,
436By righteous sentence of th'Almighties law:
437Then gan the villein him to overcraw,
438And brought unto him swords, ropes, poison, fire,
439And all that might him to perdition draw;
440And bad him choose, what death he would desire:
441For death was due to him, that had provokt Gods ire.
442But when as none of them he saw him take,
443He to him raught a dagger sharpe and keene,
444And gave it him in hand: his hand did quake,
445And tremble like a leafe of Aspin greene,
446And troubled bloud through his pale face was seene
447To come, and goe with tydings from the hart,
448As it a running messenger had beene.
449At last resolv'd to worke his finall smart,
450He lifted up his hand, that backe againe did start.
451Which when as Una saw, through every vaine
452The crudled cold ran to her well of life,
453As in a swowne: but soone reliv'd againe,
454Out of his hand she snatcht the cursed knife,
455And threw it to the ground, enraged rife,
456And to him said, Fie, fie, faint harted knight,
457What meanest thou by this reprochfull strife?
458Is this the battell, which thou vauntst to fight
459With that fire-mouthed Dragon, horrible and bright?
460Come, come away, fraile, feeble, fleshly wight,
461Ne let vaine words bewitch thy manly hart,
462Ne divelish thoughts dismay thy constant spright.
463In heavenly mercies hast thou not a part?
464Why shouldst thou then despeire, that chosen art?
465Where justice growes, there grows eke greater grace,
466The which doth quench the brond of hellish smart,
467And that accurst hand-writing doth deface.
468Arise, Sir knight arise, and leave this cursed place.
469So up he rose, and thence amounted streight.
470Which when the carle beheld, and saw his guest
471Would safe depart, for all his subtill sleight,
472He chose an halter from among the rest,
473And with it hung himselfe, unbid unblest.
474But death he could not worke himselfe thereby;
475For thousand times he so himselfe had drest,
476Yet nathelesse it could not doe him die,
477Till he should die his last, that is eternally.
1] The Redcrosse knight is challenged by Sans joy, but overcomes him, and, warned of his peril by the Dwarf, leaves the house of Pride; but Duessa finds him again; taken at disadvantage in her company, he is captured by the giant Orgoglio and cast into a dungeon. Meanwhile the forsaken Una is rescued from Sans loy by a troop of satyrs, protected by the rude knight Sir Satyrane, but separated from him by the guile of Archimago. The Dwarf meets her and tells her of Redcrosse's plight, and she "by good hap" meets Prince Arthur, who slays Orgoglio, frees Redcrosse, strips Duessa of her "royall robes" and turns her into the wilderness.
golden chaine. The image of the golden chain linking heaven and earth comes from the Iliad, VIII, 18; cf. Paradise Lost, II, 1051.
12] weake captive wight: the Redcrosse knight. Them list no lenger there at leasure dwell, But forward fare, as their adventures fell, But ere they parted, Una faire besought That straunger knight his name and nation tell; Least so great good, as he for her had wrought, Should die unknown, and buried be in thanklesse thought. Faire virgin (said the Prince) ye me require A thing without the compas of my wit: For both the lignage and the certain Sire, Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, in the guise of her husband Gorlois, enjoyed the lady Igrayne; cf. the myth of Jupiter and Alcmena, Epithalamion, lines 328-29.
19] Timon: i.e., "honour." bylive: forthwith.
24] Rauran: in Merioneth, North Wales, an ancestral home of the Tudors.
37] impe: child. gent: of gentle birth.
41] Aread: proclaimed.
63] respire: take breath.
89] disaventrous: disastrous.
92] mated: overcome.
100] Spenser's version of the well-known Celtic legend of the fairy mistress.
104] humour: the soft moist air. embayd: bathed.
109] glee: entertainment.
124] tyne: sorrow.
143] prowes priefe: the proof of prowess.
144] liefe: beloved.
149] Als: also. earnd: yearned.
156] few drops of liquor: the enchanted balsam or cordial of the romances, here the healing power of God's grace.
160] A booke: the New Testament.
165] pray: prey upon.
180] Pegasus: the winged horse of Greek myth.
191] mister wight: manner of person; cf. Chaucer, Knight's Talene 1710: "What myster men ye been" (cf. OF. mestier).
245] Embost with bale: plunged into sorrow.
247] repriefe: reproach.
263] the Castle of his health. Sir Thomas Elyot's The Castel of Helth, a popular quasi-medical treatise, went to thirteen editions between 1539 and 1587.
285] the ghastly Owle. Cf. Epithalamion, line 345.
291] knees: crags.
295] teene: affliction.
333] uneath: with difficulty.
381] that life ensewen may: that life in the future may bring.
429] table: picture.
443] raught: reached.
473] unbid: unprayed for.
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
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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:
RPO poem editor: Millar MacLure
RP edition: 3RP 1: 72.
Recent editing: 1:2002/6/28
Form: Spenserian Stanzas
Other poems by Edmund Spenser