Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
The Faerie Queene
Book III. The Legend of Britomartis
Canto XII
 
        The maske of Cupid, and th’ enchanted
  chamber are displayd,
Whence Britomart redeemes faire
  Amoret through charmes decayd.

I
THO, when as chearelesse night ycovered had
Fayre heaven with an universall clowd,
That every wight, dismayd with darkeness sad,
In silence and in sleepe themselves did shrowd,
She heard a shrilling trompet sound alowd,        5
Signe of nigh battaill, or got victory:
Nought therewith daunted was her courage prowd,
But rather stird to cruell enmity,
Expecting ever when some foe she might descry.
 
II
With that, an hideous storme of winde arose,
        10
With dreadfull thunder and lightning atwixt,
And an earthquake, as if it streight would lose
The worlds foundations from his centre fixt:
A direfull stench of smoke and sulphure mixt
Ensewd, whose noyunce fild the fearefull sted,        15
From the fourth howre of night untill the sixt;
Yet the bold Britonesse was nought ydred,
Though much emmov’d, but stedfast still persevered.
 
III
All suddeinly a stormy whirlwind blew
Throughout the house, that clapped every dore,        20
With which that yron wicket open flew,
As it with mighty levers had bene tore;
And forth yssewd, as on the readie flore
Of some theatre, a grave personage,
That in his hand a braunch of laurell bore,        25
With comely haveour and count’nance sage,
Yclad in costly garments, fit for tragicke stage.
 
IV
Proceeding to the midst, he stil did stand,
As if in minde he somewhat had to say,
And to the vulgare beckning with his hand,        30
In signe of silence, as to heare a play,
By lively actions he gan bewray
Some argument of matter passioned;
Which doen, he backe retyred soft away,
And passing by, his name discovered,        35
Ease, on his robe in golden letters cyphered.
 
V
The noble mayd, still standing, all this vewd,
And merveild at his straunge intendiment:
With that a joyous fellowship issewd
Of minstrales, making goodly meriment,        40
With wanton bardes, and rymers impudent,
All which together song full chearefully
A lay of loves delight, with sweet concent:
After whom marcht a jolly company,
In manner of a maske, enranged orderly.        45
 
VI
The whiles a most delitious harmony
In full straunge notes was sweetly heard to sound,
That the rare sweetnesse of the melody
The feeble sences wholy did confound,
And the frayle soule in deepe delight nigh drownd:        50
And when it ceast, shrill trompets lowd did bray,
That their report did far away rebound,
And when they ceast, if gan againe to play,
The whiles the maskers marched forth in trim aray.
 
VII
The first was Fansy, like a lovely boy,
        55
Of rare aspect and beautie without peare,
Matchable ether to that ympe of Troy,
Whom Jove did love and chose his cup to beare,
Or that same daintie lad, which was so deare
To great Alcides, that, when as he dyde,        60
He wailed womanlike with many a teare,
And every wood and every valley wyde
He fild with Hylas name; the nymphes eke Hylas cryde.
 
VIII
His garment nether was of silke nor say,
But paynted plumes, in goodly order dight,        65
Like as the sunburnt Indians do aray
Their tawney bodies, in their proudest plight:
As those same plumes, so seemd he vaine and light,
That by his gate might easily appeare;
For still he far’d as dauncing in delight,        70
And in his hand a windy fan did beare,
That in the ydle ayre he mov’d still here and theare.
 
IX
And him beside marcht amorous Desyre,
Who seemd of ryper yeares then th’ other swayne,
Yet was that other swayne this elders syre,        75
And gave him being, commune to them twayne:
His garment was disguysed very vayne,
And his embrodered bonet sat awry;
Twixt both his hands few sparks he close did strayne,
Which still he blew, and kindled busily,        80
That soone they life conceiv’d, and forth in flames did fly.
 
X
Next after him went Doubt, who was yclad
In a discolour’d cote of straunge disguyse,
That at his backe a brode capuccio had,
And sleeves dependaunt Albanese-wyse:        85
He lookt askew with his mistrustfull eyes,
And nycely trode, as thornes lay in his way,
Or that the flore to shrinke he did avyse,
And on a broken reed he still did stay
His feeble steps, which shrunck when hard thereon he lay.        90
 
XI
With him went Daunger, cloth’d in ragged weed,
Made of beares skin, that him more dreadfull made,
Yet his owne face was dreadfull, ne did need
Straunge horrour to deforme his griesly shade:
A net in th’ one hand, and a rusty blade        95
In th’ other was, this Mischiefe, that Mishap;
With th’ one his foes he threatned to invade,
With th’ other he his friends ment to enwrap:
For whom he could not kill he practizd to entrap.
 
XII
Next him was Feare, all arm’d from top to toe,
        100
Yet thought himselfe not safe enough thereby,
But feard each shadow moving too or froe,
And his owne armes when glittering he did spy,
Or clashing heard, he fast away did fly,
As ashes pale of hew, and wingyheeld;        105
And evermore on Daunger fixt his eye,
Gainst whom he alwayes bent a brasen shield,
Which his right hand unarmed fearefully did wield.
 
XIII
With him went Hope in rancke, a handsome mayd,
Of chearefull looke and lovely to behold;        110
In silken samite she was light arayd,
And her fayre lockes were woven up in gold;
She alway smyld, and in her hand did hold
An holy water sprinckle, dipt in deowe,
With which she sprinckled facours mainfold        115
On whom she list, and did great liking sheowe,
Great liking unto many, but true love of feowe.
 
XIV
And after them Dissemblaunce and Suspect
Marcht in one rancke, yet an unequall paire:
For she was gentle and of milde aspect,        120
Courteous to all and seeming debonaire,
Goodly adorned and exceeding faire:
Yet was that all but paynted and pourloynd,
And her bright browes were deckt with borrowed haire:
Her deeds were forged, and her words false coynd,        125
And alwaies in her hand two clewes of silke she twynd.
 
XV
But he was fowle, ill favoured, and grim,
Under his eiebrowes looking still askaunce;
And ever as Dissemblaunce laught on him,
He lowrd on her with daungerous eyeglaunce,        130
Shewing his nature in his countenaunce;
His rolling eies did never rest in place,
But walkte each where, for feare of hid mischaunce;
Holding a lattis still before his face,
Through which he stil did peep, as forward he did pace.        135
 
XVI
Next him went Griefe and Fury matcht yfere;
Griefe all in sable sorrowfully clad,
Downe hanging his dull head, with heavy chere,
Yet inly being more then seeming sad:
A paire of pincers in his hand he had,        140
With which he pincers people to the hart,
That from thenceforth a wretched life they ladd,
In wilfull langnor and consuming smart,
Dying each day with inward wounds of dolours dart.
 
XVII
But Fury was full ill appareiled
        145
In rags, that naked nigh she did appeare,
With ghastly looks and dreadfull drerihed;
For from her backe her garments she did teare,
And from her head ofte rent her snarled heare:
In her right hand a firebrand shee did tosse        150
About her head, still roming here and there;
As a dismayed deare in chace embost,
Forgetfull of his safety, hath his right way lost.
 
XVIII
After them went Displeasure and Pleasaunce,
He looking lompish and full sullein sad,        155
And hanging downe his heavy countenaunce;
She chearfull fresh and full of joyaunce glad,
As if no sorrow she ne felt ne drad;
That evill matched paire they seemd to bee:
An angry waspe th’ one in a viall had,        160
Th’ other in hers an hony-laden bee.
Thus marched these six couples forth in faire degree.
 
XIX
After all these there marcht a most faire dame,
Led of two grysie villeins, th’ one Despight,
The other cleped Cruelty by name:        165
She, dolefull lady, like a dreary spright
Cald by strong charmes out of eternall night,
Had deathes owne ymage figurd in her face,
Full of sad signes, fearfull to living sight,
Yet in that horror shewd a seemely grace,        170
And with her feeble feete did move a comely pace.
 
XX
Her brest all naked, as nett yvory,
Without adorne of gold or silver bright,
Wherewith the craftesman wonts it beautify,
Of her dew honour was despoyled quight,        175
And a wide wound therein (O ruefull sight!)
Entrenched deep with knyfe accursed keene,
Yet freshly bleeding forth her fainting spright,
(The worke of cruell hand) was to be seene,
That dyde in sanguine red her skin all snowy cleene.        180
 
XXI
At that wide orifice her trembling hart
Was drawne forth, and in silver basin layd,
Quite through transfixed with a deadly dart,
And in her blood yet steeming fresh embayd:
And those two villeins, which her steps upstayd,        185
When her weake feete could scarcely her sustaine,
And fading vitall powers gan to fade,
Her forward still with torture did constraine,
And evermore encreased her consuming paine.
 
XXII
Next after her, the Winged God him selfe
        190
Came riding on a lion ravenous,
Taught to obay the menage of that elfe,
That man and beast with powre imperious
Subdeweth to his kingdome tyrannous:
His blindfold eies he bad a while unbinde,        195
That his proud spoile of that same dolorous
Faire dame he might behold in perfect kinde,
Which seene, he much rejoyced in his cruell minde.
 
XXIII
Of which ful prowd, him selfe up rearing hye,
He looked round about with sterne disdayne,        200
And did survay his goodly company:
And marshalling the evill ordered traync,
With that the darts which his right hand did straine
Full dreadfully he shooke, that all did quake,
And clapt on hye his coulourd winges twaine,        205
That all his many it affraide did make:
Tho, blinding him againe, his way he forth did take.
 
XXIV
Behind him was Reproch, Repentaunce, Shame;
Reproch the first, Shame next, Repent behinde:
Repentaunce feeble, sorowfull, and lame;        210
Reproch despightful, carelesse, and unkinde;
Shame most ill favourd, bestiall, and blinde:
Shame lowrd, Repentaunce sigh’d, Reproch did scould;
Reproch sharpe stings, Repentaunce whips entwinde,
Shame burning brond-yrons in her hand did hold:        215
All three to each unlike, yet all made in one mould.
 
XXV
And after them a rude confused rout
Of persons flockt, whose names is hard to read:
Emongst them was sterne Strife, and Anger stout,
Unquiet Care, and fond Unthriftyhead,        220
Lewd Losse of Time, and Sorrow seeming dead,
Inconstant Chaunge, and false Disloyalty,
Consuming Riotise, and guilty Dread
Of Heavenly Vengeaunce, faint Infirmity,
Vile Poverty, and lastly Death with Infamy.        225
 
XXVI
There were full many moe like maladies,
Whose names and natures I note readen well;
So many moe, as there be phantasies
In wavering wemens witt, that none can tell,
Or paines in love, or punishments in hell;        230
All which disguized marcht in masking wise
About the chamber with that damozell,
And then returned, having marched thrise,
Into the inner rowme, from whence they first did rise.
 
XXVII
So soone as they were in, the dore streight way
        235
Fast locked, driven with that stormy blast
Which first it opened; and bore all away.
Then the brave maid, which al this while was plast
In secret shade, and saw both first and last,
Issewed forth, and went unto the dore,        240
To enter in, but fownd it locked fast:
It vaine she thought with rigorous uprore
For to efforce, when charmes had closed it afore.
 
XXVIII
Where force might not availe, there sleights and art
She cast to use, both fitt for hard emprize:        245
Forthy from that same rowme not to depart
Till morrow next shee did her selfe avize,
When that same maske againe should forth arize.
The morrowe next appeard with joyous cheare,
Calling men to their daily exercize:        250
Then she, as morrow fresh, her selfe did reare
Out of her secret stand, that day for to outweare.
 
XXIX
All that day she outwore in wandering,
And gazing on that chambers ornament,
Till that againe the second evening        255
Her covered with her sable vestiment,
Wherewith the worlds faire beautie she hath blent:
Then, when the second watch was almost past,
That brasen dore flew open, and in went
Bold Britomart, as she had late forecast,        260
Nether of ydle showes nor of false charmes aghast.
 
XXX
So soone as she was entred, rownd about
Shee cast her eies, to see what was become
Of all those persons which she saw without:
But lo! they streight were vanisht all and some,        265
Ne living wight she saw in all that roome,
Save that same woefull lady, both whose hands
Were bounden fast, that did her ill become,
And her small waste girt rownd with yron bands,
Unto a brasen pillour, by the which stands.        270
 
XXXI
And her before, the vile enchaunter sate,
Figuring straunge characters of his art:
With living blood he those characters wrate,
Dreadfully dropping from her dying hart,
Seeming transfixed with a cruell dart;        275
And all perforce to make her him to love.
Ah! who can love the worker of her smart?
A thousand charmes he formerly did prove;
Yet thousand charmes not her stedfast hart remove.
 
XXXII
Soone as that virgin knight he saw in place,
        280
His wicked bookes in hast he overthrew,
Not caring his long labours to deface;
And fiercely running to that lady trew,
A murdrous knife out of his pocket drew,
The which he thought, for villeinous despight,        285
In her tormented bodie to embre:
But the stout damzell to him leaping light,
His cursed hand withheld, and maistered his might.
 
XXXIII
From her, to whom his fury first he ment,
The wicked weapon rashly he did wrest,        290
And turning to herselfe his fell intent,
Unwares it strooke into her snowie chest,
That litle drops empurpled her faire brest.
Exceeding wroth therewith the virgin grew,
Albe the wound were nothing deepe imprest,        295
And fiercely forth her mortall blade she drew,
To give him the reward for such vile outrage dew.
 
XXXIV
So mightily she smote him, that to ground
He fell halfe dead; next stroke him should have slain,
Had not the lady, which by him stood bound,        300
Dernly unto her called to abstaine
From doing him to dy; for else her paine
Should be remedilesse, sith none but hee,
Which wrought it, could the same recure againe.
Therewith she stayd her hand, loth stayd to bee;        305
For life she him envyde, and long’d revenge to see:
 
XXXV
And to him said: ‘Thou wicked man! whose meed
For so huge mischiefe and vile villany
Is death, or if that ought doe death exceed,
Be sure that nought may save thee from to dy,        310
But if that thou this dame doe presently
Restore unto her health and former state;
This doe and live, els dye undoubtedly.’
He, glad of life, that right willing to prolong his date:
Did yield him selfe right willing to prolong his date:        315
 
XXXVI
And rising up, gan streight to overlooke
Those cursed leaves, his charmes back to reverse;
Full dreadfull thinges out of that balefull booke
He red, and measur’d many a sad verse,
That horrour gan the virgins hart to perse,        320
And her faire locks up stared stiffe on end,
Hearing him those same bloody lynes reherse;
And all the while he red, she did extend
Her sword high over him, if ought he did offend.
 
XXXVII
Anon she gan perceive the house to quake,
        325
And all the dores to rattle round about;
Yet all that did not her dismaied make,
Nor slack her threatfull hand for daungers dout,
But still with stedfast eye and courage stout
Abode, to weet what end would come of all.        330
At last that mightie chaine, which round about
Her tender waste was wound, adowne gan fall,
And that great brasen pillour broke in peeces small.
 
XXXVIII
The cruell steele, which thrild her dying hart,
Fell softly forth, as of his owne accord,        335
And the wyde wound, which lately did dispart
Her bleeding brest, and riven bowels gor’d,
Was closed up, as it had not beene bor’d,
And every part to safety full sownd,
As she were never hurt, was soone restor’d:        340
Tho, when she felt her selfe to be unbownd,
And perfect hole, prostrate she fell unto the grownd.
 
XXXIX
Before faire Britomart she fell prostrate,
Saying: ‘Ah, noble knight! What worthy meede
Can wretched lady, quitt from wofull state,        345
Yield you in lieu of this your gracious deed?
Your vertue selfe her owne reward shall breed,
Even immortall prayse and glory wyde,
Which I, your vassall, by your prowesse freed,
Shall through the world make to be notifyde,        350
And goodly well advaunce, that goodly well was tryde.’
 
XL
But Britomart, uprearing her from grownd,
Said: ‘Gentle dame, reward enough I weene,
For many labours more then I have found,
This, that in safetie now I have you seene,        355
And meane of your deliverance have beene:
Henceforth, faire lady, comfort to you take,
And put away remembraunce of late teene;
In sted thereof, know that your loving make
Hath no lesse griefe endured for your gentle sake.’        360
 
XLI
She much was cheard to heare him mentiond,
Whom of all living wightes she loved best.
Then laid the noble championesse strong hond
Upon th’ enchaunter, which had her distrest
So sore, and with foule outrages opprest:        365
With that great chaine, wherewith not long ygoe
He bound that pitteous lady prisoner, now relest,
Himselfe she bound, more worthy to be so,
And captive with her led to wretchednesse and wo.
 
XLII
Returning back, those goodly rowmes, which erst
        370
She saw so rich and royally arayd,
Now vanisht utterly and cleane subverst
She found, and all their glory quite decayd,
That sight of such a chaunge her much dismayd.
Thence forth descending to that perlous porch,        375
Those dreadfull flames she also found delayd,
And quenched quite, like a consumed torch,
That erst all entrers wont so cruelly to scorch.
 
XLIII
More easie issew now then entrance late
She found: for now that fained dreadfull flame,        380
Which chokt the porch of that enchaunted gate,
And passage bard to all that thither came,
Was vanisht quite, as it were not the same,
And gave her leave at pleasure forth to passe.
Th’ enchaunter selfe, which all that fraud did frame,        385
To have efforst the love of that faire lasse,
Seeing his worke now wasted, deepe engrieved was.
 
XLIV
But when the victoresse arrived there
Where late she left the pensife Scudamore
With her own trusty squire, both full of feare,        390
Neither of them she found where she them lore:
Thereat her noble hart was stonisht sore ;
But most faire Amoret, whose gentle spright
Now gan to feede on hope, which she before
Conceived had, to see her own deare knight,        395
Being thereof beguyld, was fild with new affright.
 
XLV
But he, sad man, when he had long in drede
Awayted there for Britomarts returne,
Yet saw her not, nor signe of her good speed,
His expectation to despaire did turne,        400
Misdeeming sure that her those flames did burne ;
And therefore gan advize with her old squire,
Who her deare nourslings losse no lesse did mourne,
Thence to depart for further aide t’ enquire:
Where let them wend at will, whilest here I doe respire.        405
 
 
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