Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
The Faerie Queene
Book VI. The Legend of Sir Calidore
Canto I
 
THE SIXTE BOOKE
OF THE FAERIE QUEENE
CONTAYNING

THE LEGEND OF SIR CALIDORE
OR
OF COURTESIE


I
THE WAIES, through which my weary steps I guyde,
In this delightfull land of Faery,
Are so exceeding spacious and wyde,
And sprinckled with such sweet variety
Of all that pleasant is to eare or eye,        5
That I, nigh ravisht with rare thoughts delight,
My tedious travell doe forget thereby;
And when I gin to feele decay of might,
It strength to me supplies, and chears my dulled spright.
 
II
Such secret comfort and such heavenly pleasures,
        10
Ye sacred imps, that on Parnasso dwell,
And there the keeping have of learnings threasures,
Which doe all worldly riches farre excell,
Into the mindes of mortall men doe well,
And goodly fury into them infuse;        15
Guyde ye my footing, and conduct me well
In these strange waies, where never foote did use,
Ne none can find, but who was taught them by the Muse.
 
III
Revele to me the sacred noursery
Of Vertue, which with you doth there remaine,        20
Where it in silver bowre does hidden ly
From view of men, and wicked worlds disdaine;
Since it at first was by the gods with paine
Planted in earth, being deriv’d at furst
From heavenly seedes of bounty soveraine,        25
And by them long with carefull labour nurst,
Till it to ripenesse grew, and forth to honour burst.
 
IV
Amongst them all growes not a fayrer flowre,
Then is the bloosme of comely Courtesie,
Which, though it on a lowly stalke doe bowre,        30
Yet brancheth forth in brave nobilitie,
And spreds it selfe through all civilitie:
Of which though present age doe plenteous seeme,
Yet, being matcht with plaine antiquitie,
Ye will them all but fayned showes esteeme,        35
Which carry colours faire, that feeble eies misdeeme.
 
V
But in the triall of true Curtesie,
Its now so farre from that which then it was,
That it indeed is nought but forgerie,
Fashion’d to please the eies of them that pas,        40
Which see not perfect things but in a glas:
Yet is that glasse so gay that it can blynd
The wisest sight, to thinke gold that is bras.
But Vertues seat is deepe within the mynd,
And not in outward shows, but inward thoughts defynd.        45
 
VI
But where shall I in all antiquity
So faire a patterne finde, where may be seene
The goodly praise of princely Curtesie,
As in your selfe, O soveraine Lady Queene?
In whose pure minde, as in a mirrour sheene,        50
It showes, and with her brightnesse doth inflame
The eyes of all which thereon fixed beene;
But meriteth indeede an higher name:
Yet so from low to high uplifted is your fame.
 
VII
Then pardon me, most dreaded Soveraine,
        55
That from your selfe I doe this vertue bring,
And to your selfe doe it returne againe:
So from the ocean all rivers spring,
And tribute backe repay as to their king:
Right so from you all goodly vertues well        60
Into the rest which round about you ring,
Faire lords and ladies, which about you dwell,
And doe adorne your court, where courtesies excell.
 
CANTO I

        Calidore saves from Maleffort
  A damzell used vylde:
Doth vanquish Crudor, and doth make
  Briana wexe more mylde.

I
OF Court, it seemes, men Courtesie doe call,
For that it there most useth to abound;        65
And well beseemeth that in princes hall
That vertue should be plentifully found,
Which of all goodly manners is the ground,
And roote of civill conversation.
Right so in Faery court it did redound,        70
Where curteous knights and ladies most did won
Of all on earth, and made a matchlesse paragon.
 
II
But mongst them all was none more courteous knight
Then Calidore, beloved over all:
In whom it seemes that gentlenesse of spright        75
And manners mylde were planted naturall;
To which he adding comely guize withall,
And gracious speach, did steale mens hearts away.
Nathlesse thereto he was full stout and tall,
And well approv’d in batteilous affray,        80
That him did much renowme, and far his fame display.
 
III
Ne was there knight, ne was there lady found
In Faery court, but him did deare embrace
For his faire usage and conditions sound,
The which in all mens liking gayned place,        85
And with the greatest purchast greatest grace:
Which he could wisely use, and well apply,
To please the best, and th’ evill to embase:
For he loathd leasing and base flattery,
And loved simple truth and stedfast honesty.        90
 
IV
And now he was in travell on his way,
Uppon an hard adventure sore bestad,
Whenas by chaunce he met uppon a day
With Artegall, returning yet halfe sad
From his late conquest which he gotten had.        95
Who whenas each of other had a sight,
They knew them selves, and both their persons rad:
When Calidore thus first: ‘Haile, noblest knight
Of all this day on ground that breathen living spright!
 
V
‘Now tell, if please you, of the good successe
        100
Which ye have had in your late enterprize.’
To whom Sir Artegall gan to expresse
His whole exploite and valorous emprize,
In order as it did to him arize.
‘Now, happy man!’ sayd then Sir Calidore,        105
‘Which have, so goodly as ye can devize,
Atchiev’d so hard a quest as few before;
That shall you most renowmed make for evermore.
 
VI
  ‘But where ye ended have, now I begin
To tread an endlesse trace, withouten guyde,        110
Or good direction how to enter in,
Or how to issue forth in waies untryde,
In perils strange, in labours long and wide,
In which although good fortune me befall,
Yet shall it not by none be testifyde.’        115
‘What is that quest,’ quoth then Sir Artegall,
‘That you into such perils presently doth call?’
 
VII
‘The Blattant Beast,’ quoth he, ‘I doe pursew,
And through the world incessantly doe chase,
Till I him overtake, or else subdew:        120
Yet know I not or how or in what place
To find him out, yet still I forward trace.’
‘What is that Blattant Beast?’ then he replide.
‘It is a monster bred of hellishe race,’
Then answerd he, ‘which often hath annoyd        125
Good knights and ladies true, and many else destroyd.
 
VIII
‘Of Cerberus whilome he was begot,
And fell Chimæra in her darkesome den,
Through fowle commixture of his filthy blot;
Where he was fostred long in Stygian fen,        130
Till he to perfect ripenesse grew, and then
Into this wicked world he forth was sent,
To be the plague and scourge of wretched men:
Whom with vile tongue and venemous intent
He sore doth wound, and bite, and cruelly torment.’        135
 
IX
‘Then, since the Salvage Island I did leave,’
Sayd Artegall, ‘I such a beast did see,
The which did seeme a thousand tongues to have,
That all in spight and malice did agree,
With which he bayd and loudly barkt at mee,        140
As if that he attonce would me devoure.
But I, that knew my selfe from perill free,
Did nought regard his malice nor his powre,
But he the more his wicked poyson forth did poure.’
 
X
‘That surely is that beast,’ saide Calidore,
        145
‘Which I pursue, of whom I am right glad
To heare these tidings, which of none afore
Through all my weary travell I have had:
Yet now some hope your words unto me add.’
‘Now God you speed,’ quoth then Sir Artegall,        150
‘And keepe your body from the daunger drad:
For ye have much adoe to deale withall.’
So both tooke goodly leave, and parted severall.
 
XI
Sir Calidore thence travelled not long,
When as by chaunce a comely squire he found,        155
That thorough some more mighty enemies wrong
Both hand and foote unto a tree was bound:
Who, seeing him from farre, with piteous sound
Of his shrill cries him called to his aide.
To whom approching, in that painefull stound        160
When he him saw, for no demaunds he staide,
But first him losde, and afterwards thus to him saide:
 
XII
‘Unhappy squire! what hard mishap thee brought
Into this bay of perill and disgrace?
What cruell hand thy wretched thraldome wrought,        165
And thee captyved in this shamefull place?’
To whom he answerd thus: ‘My haplesse case
Is not occasiond through my misdesert,
But through misfortune, which did me abase
Unto this shame, and my young hope subvert,        170
Ere that I in her guilefull traines was well expert.
 
XIII
‘Not farre from hence, uppon yond rocky hill,
Hard by a streight there stands a castle strong,
Which doth observe a custome lewd and ill,
And it hath long mayntaind with mighty wrong:        175
For may no knight nor lady passe along
That way, (and yet they needs must passe that way,
By reason of the streight, and rocks among,)
But they that ladies lockes doe shave away,
And that knights berd for toll, which they for passage pay.’        180
 
XIV
‘A shamefull use as ever I did heare,’
Sayd Calidore, ‘and to be overthrowne.
But by what meanes did they at first it reare,
And for what cause? tell, if thou have it knowne.’
Sayd then that squire: ‘The lady which doth owne        185
This castle is by name Briana hight;
Then which a prouder lady liveth none:
She long time hath deare lov’d a doughty knight,
And sought to win his love by all the meanes she might.
 
XV
‘His name is Crudor; who, through high disdaine
        190
And proud despight of his selfe pleasing mynd,
Refused hath to yeeld her love againe,
Untill a mantle she for him doe fynd,
With beards of knights and locks of ladies lynd.
Which to provide, she hath this castle dight,        195
And therein hath a seneschall assynd,
Cald Maleffort, a man of mickle might,
Who executes her wicked will, with worse despight.
 
XVI
‘He this same day, as I that way did come
With a faire damzell, my beloved deare,        200
In execution of her lawlesse doome,
Did set uppon us flying both for feare:
For little bootes against him hand to reare.
Me first he tooke, unhable to withstond,
And whiles he her pursued every where,        205
Till his returne unto this tree he bond:
Ne wote I surely, whether her he yet have fond.’
 
XVII
Thus whiles they spake, they heard a ruefull shrieke
Of one loud crying, which they streight way ghest
That it was she, the which for helpe did seeke.        210
Tho looking up unto the cry to lest,
They saw that carle from farre, with hand unblest
Hayling that mayden by the yellow heare,
That all her garments from her snowy brest,
And from her head her lockes he nigh did teare,        215
Ne would he spare for pitty, nor refraine for feare.
 
XVIII
Which Laynous sight when Calidore beheld,
Eftsoones he loosd that squire, and so him left,
With hearts dismay and inward dolour queld,
For to pursue that villaine, which had reft        220
That piteous spoile by so injurious theft.
Whom overtaking, loude to him he cryde:
‘Leave, faytor, quickely that misgotten weft
To him that hath it better justifyde,
And turne thee soone to him of whom thou art defyde.’        225
 
XIX
Who hearkning to that voice, him selfe upreard,
And seeing him so fiercely towardes make,
Against him stoutly ran, as nought afeard,
But rather more enrag’d for those words sake;
And with sterne count’naunce thus unto him spake:        230
‘Art thou the caytive that defyest me,
And for this mayd, whose party thou doest take,
Wilt give thy beard, though it but little bee?
Yet shall it not her lockes for raunsome fro me free.’
 
XX
With that he fiercely at him flew, and layd
        235
On hideous strokes with most importune might,
That oft he made him stagger as unstayd,
And oft recuile to shunne his sharpe despight.
But Calidore, that was well skild in fight,
Him long forbore, and still his spirite spar’d,        240
Lying in waite, how him he damadge might.
But when he felt him shrinke, and come to ward,
He greater grew, and gan to drive at him more hard.
 
XXI
Like as a water streame, whose swelling sourse
Shall drive a mill, within strong bancks is pent,        245
And long restrayned of his ready course;
So soone as passage is unto him lent,
Breakes forth, and makes his way more violent:
Such was the fury of Sir Calidore,
When once he felt his foeman to relent;        250
He fiercely him pursu’d, and pressed sore,
Who as he still decayd, so he encreased more.
 
XXII
The heavy burden of whose dreadfull might
When as the carle no longer could sustaine,
His heart gan faint, and streight he tooke his flight        255
Toward the castle, where, if need constraine,
His hope of refuge used to remaine.
Whom Calidore perceiving fast to flie,
He him pursu’d and chaced through the plaine,
That he for dread of death gan loude to crie        260
Unto the ward, to open to him hastilie.
 
XXIII
They from the wall him seeing so aghast,
The gate soone opened to receive him in,
But Calidore did follow him so fast,
That even in the porch he him did win,        265
And cleft his head asunder to his chin.
The carkasse, tumbling downe within the dore,
Did choke the entraunce with a lumpe of sin,
That it could not be shut, whilest Calidore
Did enter in, and slew the porter on the flore.        270
 
XXIV
With that the rest, the which the castle kept,
About him flockt, and hard at him did lay;
But he them all from him full lightly swept,
As doth a steare, in heat of sommers day,
With his long taile the bryzes brush away.        275
Thence passing forth, into the hall he came,
Where of the lady selfe in sad dismay
He was ymett, who with uncomely shame
Gan him salute, and fowle upbrayd with faulty blame.
 
XXV
‘False traytor knight,’ sayd she, ‘no knight at all,
        280
But scorne of armes, that hast with guilty hand
Murdred my men, and slaine my seneschall;
Now comest thou to rob my house unmand,
And spoile my selfe, that can not thee withstand?
Yet doubt thou not, but that some better knight        285
Then thou, that shall thy treason understand,
Will it avenge, and pay thee with thy right:
And if none do, yet shame shal thee with shame requight.’
 
XXVI
Much was the knight abashed at that word;
Yet answerd thus: ‘Not unto me the shame,        290
But to the shamefull doer it afford.
Bloud is no blemish; for it is no blame
To punish those that doe deserve the same;
But they that breake bands of civilitie,
And wicked customes make, those doe defame        295
Both noble armes and gentle curtesie.
No greater shame to man then inhumanitie.
 
XXVII
‘Then doe your selfe, for dread of shame, forgoe
This evill manner which ye here maintaine,
And doe in stead thereof mild curt’sie showe        300
To all that passe. That shall you glory gaine
More then his love, which thus ye seeke t’ obtaine.’
Wherewith all full of wrath, she thus replyde:
‘Vile recreant! know that I doe much disdaine
Thy courteous lore, that doest my love deride,        305
Who scornes thy ydle scoffe, and bids thee be defyde.’
 
XXVIII
‘To take defiaunce at a ladies word,’
Quoth he, ‘I hold it no indignity;
But were he here, that would it with his sword
Abett, perhaps he mote it deare aby.’        310
‘Cowherd,’ quoth she, ‘were not that thou wouldst fly
Ere he doe come, he should be soone in place.’
‘If I doe so,’ sayd he, ‘then liberty
I leave to you, for aye me to disgrace
With all those shames that erst ye spake me to deface.’        315
 
XXIX
With that a dwarfe she cald to her in hast,
And taking from her hand a ring of gould,
A privy token which betweene them past,
Bad him to flie with all the speed he could
To Crudor, and desire him that he would        320
Vouchsafe to reskue her against a knight,
Who through strong powre had now her self in hould,
Having late slaine her seneschall in fight,
And all her people murdred with outragious might.
 
XXX
The dwarfe his way did hast, and went all night;
        325
But Calidore did with her there abyde
The comming of that so much threatned knight;
Where that discourteous dame with scornfull pryde
And fowle entreaty him indignifyde,
That yron heart it hardly could sustaine:        330
Yet he, that could his wrath full wisely guyde,
Did well endure her womanish disdaine,
And did him selfe from fraile impatience refraine.
 
XXXI
The morrow next, before the lampe of light
Above the earth upreard his flaming head,        335
The dwarfe, which bore that message to her knight,
Brought aunswere backe, that ere he tasted bread
He would her succour, and alive or dead
Her foe deliver up into her hand:
Therefore he wild her doe away all dread;        340
And that of him she mote assured stand,
He sent to her his basenet, as a faithfull band.
 
XXXII
Thereof full blyth the lady streight became,
And gan t’ augment her bitternesse much more:
Yet no whit more appalled for the same,        345
Ne ought dismayed was Sir Calidore,
But rather did more chearefull seeme therefore;
And having soone his armes about him dight,
Did issue forth, to meete his foe afore;
Where long he stayed not, when as a knight        350
He spide come pricking on with al his powre and might.
 
XXXIII
Well weend he streight, that he should be the same
Which tooke in hand her quarrell to maintaine;
Ne stayd to aske if it were he by name,
But coucht his speare, and ran at him amaine.        355
They bene ymett in middest of the plaine,
With so fell fury and dispiteous forse,
That neither could the others stroke sustaine,
But rudely rowld to ground both man and horse,
Neither of other taking pitty nor remorse.        360
 
XXXIV
But Calidore uprose againe full light,
Whiles yet his foe lay fast in sencelesse sound;
Yet would he not him hurt, although he might:
For shame he weend a sleeping wight to wound.
But when Briana saw that drery stound,        365
There where she stood uppon the castle wall,
She deem’d him sure to have bene dead on ground,
And made such piteous mourning therewithall,
That from the battlements she ready seem’d to fall.
 
XXXV
Nathlesse at length him selfe he did upreare
        370
In lustlesse wise, as if against his will,
Ere he had slept his fill, he wakened were,
And gan to stretch his limbs; which feeling ill
Of his late fall, a while he rested still:
But when he saw his foe before in vew,        375
He shooke off luskishnesse, and courage chill
Kindling a fresh, gan battell to renew,
To prove if better foote then horsebacke would ensew.
 
XXXVI
There then began a fearefull cruell fray
Betwixt them two, for maystery of might:        380
For both were wondrous practicke in that play,
And passing well expert in single fight,
And both inflam’d with furious despight:
Which as it still encreast, so still increast
Their cruell strokes and terrible affright;        385
Ne once for ruth their rigour they releast,
Ne once to breath a while their angers tempest ceast.
 
XXXVII
Thus long they trac’d and traverst to and fro,
And tryde all waies, how each mote entrance make
Into the life of his malignant foe;        390
They hew’d their helmes, and plates asunder brake,
As they had potshares bene; for nought mote slake
Their greedy vengeaunces, but goary blood;
That at the last like to a purple lake
Of bloudy gore congeal’d about them stood,        395
Which from their riven sides forth gushed like a flood.
 
XXXVIII
At length it chaunst that both their hands on hie
At once did heave, with all their powre and might,
Thinking the utmost of their force to trie,
And prove the finall fortune of the fight:        400
But Calidore, that was more quicke of sight,
And nimbler handed then his enemie,
Prevented him before his stroke could light,
And on the helmet smote him formerlie,
That made him stoupe to ground with meeke humilitie.        405
 
XXXIX
And ere he could recover foot againe,
He following that faire advantage fast,
His stroke redoubled with such might and maine,
That him upon the ground he groveling cast;
And leaping to him light, would have unlast        410
His helme, to make unto his vengeance way.
Who, seeing in what daunger he was plast,
Cryde out: ‘Ah mercie, sir! doe me not slay,
But save my life, which lot before your foot doth lay.’
 
XL
With that his mortall hand a while he stayd,
        415
And having somewhat calm’d his wrathfull heat
With goodly patience, thus he to him sayd:
‘And is the boast of that proud ladies threat,
That menaced me from the field to beat,
Now brought to this? By this now may ye learne,        420
Strangers no more so rudely to intreat,
But put away proud looke, and usage sterne,
The which shal nought to you but foule dishonor yearne.
 
XLI
‘For nothing is more blamefull to a knight,
That court’sie doth as well as armes professe,        425
How ever strong and fortunate in fight,
Then the reproch of pride and cruelnesse.
In vaine he seeketh others to suppresse,
Who hath not learnd him selfe first to subdew:
All flesh is frayle, and full of ficklenesse,        430
Subject to fortunes chance, still chaunging new;
What haps to day to me to morrow may to you.
 
XLII
‘Who will not mercie unto others shew,
How can he mercy ever hope to have?
To pay each with his owne is right and dew.        435
Yet since ye mercie now doe need to crave,
I will it graunt, your hopelesse life to save;
With these conditions, which I will propound:
First, that ye better shall your selfe behave
Unto all errant knights, whereso on ground;        440
Next, that ye ladies ayde in every stead and stound.’
 
XLIII
The wretched man, that all this while did dwell
In dread of death, his heasts did gladly heare,
And promist to performe his precept well,
And whatsoever else he would requere.        445
So suffring him to rise, he made him sweare
By his owne sword, and by the crosse thereon,
To take Briana for his loving fere,
Withouten dowre or composition;
But to release his former foule condition.        450
 
XLIV
All which accepting, and with faithfull oth
Bynding himselfe most firmely to obay,
He up arose, how ever liefe or loth,
And swore to him true fealtie for aye.
Then forth he cald from sorrowfull dismay        455
The sad Briana, which all this beheld:
Who comming forth yet full of late affray,
Sir Calidore upcheard, and to her teld
All this accord, to which he Crudor had compeld.
 
XLV
Whereof she now more glad then sory earst,
        460
All overcome with infinite affect
For his exceeding courtesie, that pearst
Her stubborne hart with inward deepe effect,
Before his feet her selfe she did project,
And him adoring as her lives deare lord,        465
With all due thankes and dutifull respect,
Her selfe acknowledg’d bound for that accord,
By which he had to her both life and love restord.
 
XLVI
So all returning to the castle glad,
Most joyfully she them did entertaine,        470
Where goodly glee and feast to them she made,
To shew her thankefull mind and meaning faine,
By all the meanes she mote it best explaine:
And after all, unto Sir Calidore
She freely gave that castle for his paine,        475
And her selfe bound to him for evermore;
So wondrously now chaung’d from that she was afore.
 
XLVII
But Calidore himselfe would not retaine
Nor land nor fee, for hyre of his good deede,
But gave them streight unto that squire againe,        480
Whom from her seneschall he lately freed,
And to his damzell, as their rightfull meed,
For recompence of all their former wrong:
There he remaind with them right well agreed,
Till of his wounds he wexed hole and strong,        485
And then to his first quest he passed forth along.
 
 
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