Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
The Faerie Queene
Book V. The Legend of Artegall
Canto VI
 
        Talus brings newes to Britomart
  Of Artegals mishap:
She goes to seeke him, Dolon meetes,
  Who seekes her to entrap.

I
SOME men, I wote, will deeme in Artegall
Great weaknesse, and report of him much ill,
For yeelding so himselfe a wretched thrall
To th’ insolent commaund of womens will;
That all his former praise doth fowly spill.        5
But he the man, that say or doe so dare,
Be well adviz’d that he stand stedfast still:
For never yet was wight so well aware,
But he at first or last was trapt in womens snare.
 
II
Yet in the streightnesse of that captive state,
        10
This gentle knight himselfe so well behaved,
That notwithstanding all the subtill bait,
With which those Amazons his love still craved,
To his owne love his loialtie he saved:
Whose character in th’ adamantine mould        15
Of his true hart so firmely was engraved,
That no new loves impression ever could
Bereave it thence: such blot his honour blemish should.
 
III
Yet his owne love, the noble Britomart,
Scarse so conceived in her jealous thought,        20
What time sad tydings of his balefull smart
In womans bondage Talus to her brought
Brought in untimely houre, ere it was sought.
For after that the utmost date, assynde
For his returne, she waited had for nought,        25
She gan to cast in her misdoubtfull mynde
A thousand feares, that love-sicke fancies faine to fynde.
 
IV
Sometime she feared, least some hard mishap
Had him misfalne in his adventurous quest;
Sometime least his false foe did him entrap        30
In traytrous traine, or had unwares opprest:
But most she did her troubled mynd molest,
And secretly afflict with jealous feare,
Least some new love had him from her possest;
Yet loth she was, since she no ill did heare,        35
To thinke of him so ill: yet could she not forbeare.
 
V
One while she blam’d her selfe; another whyle
She him condemn’d, as trustlesse and untrew:
And then, her griefe with errour to beguyle,
She fayn’d to count the time againe anew,        40
As if before she had not counted trew.
For houres but dayes; for weekes, that passed were,
She told but moneths, to make them seeme more few:
Yet when she reckned them, still drawing neare,
Each hour did seeme a moneth, and every moneth a yeare.        45
 
VI
But when as yet she saw him not returne,
She thought to send some one to seeke him out;
But none she found so fit to serve that turne,
As her owne selfe, to ease her selfe of dout.
Now she deviz’d, amongst the warlike rout        50
Of errant knights, to seeke her errant knight;
And then againe resolv’d to hunt him out
Amongst loose ladies, lapped in delight:
And then both knights envide, and ladies eke did spight.
 
VII
One day, when as she long had sought for ease
        55
In every place, and every place thought best,
Yet found no place that could her liking please,
She to a window came, that opened west,
Towards which coast her love his way addrest.
There looking forth, shee in her heart did find        60
Many vaine fancies, working her unrest;
And sent her winged thoughts, more swift then wind,
To beare unto her love the message of her mind.
 
VIII
There as she looked long, at last she spide
One comming towards her with hasty speede:        65
Well weend she then, ere him she plaine descride,
That it was one sent from her love indeede.
Who when he nigh approcht, shee mote arede
That it was Talus, Artegall his groome;
Whereat her heart was fild with hope and drede;        70
Ne would she stay till he in place could come,
But ran to meete him forth, to know his tidings somme.
 
IX
Even in the dore him meeting, she begun:
‘And where is he thy lord, and how far hence?
Declare at once; and hath he lost or wun?’        75
The yron man, albe he wanted sence
And sorrowes feelings, yet with conscience
Of his ill newes, did inly chill and quake,
And stood still mute, as one in great suspence,
As if that by his silence he would make        80
Her rather reade his meaning, then him selfe it spake.
 
X
Till she againe thus sayd: ‘Talus, be bold,
And tell what ever it be, good or bad,
That from thy tongue thy hearts intent doth hold.’
To whom he thus at length: ‘The tidings sad,        85
That I would hide, will needs, I see, be rad.
My lord, your love, by hard mishap doth lie
In wretched bondage, wofully bestad.’
‘Ay me,’ quoth she, ‘what wicked destinie!
And is he vanquisht by his tyrant enemy?’        90
 
XI
‘Not by that tyrant, his intended foe;
But by a tyrannesse,’ he then replide,
‘That him captived hath in haplesse woe.’
‘Cease, thou bad newes-man; badly doest thou hide
Thy maisters shame, in harlots bondage tide.        95
The rest my selfe too readily can spell.’
With that in rage she turn’d from him aside,
Forcing in vaine the rest to her to tell,
And to her chamber went like solitary cell.
 
XII
There she began to make her monefull plaint
        100
Against her knight, for being so untrew;
And him to touch with falshoods fowle at-taint,
That all his other honour overthrew.
Oft did she blame her selfe, and often rew,
For yeelding to a straungers love so light,        105
Whose life and manners straunge she never knew;
And evermore she did him sharpely twight
For breach of faith to her, which he had firmely plight.
 
XIII
And then she in her wrathfull will did cast,
How to revenge that blot of honour blent;        110
To fight with him, and goodly die her last:
And then againe she did her selfe torment,
Inflicting on her selfe his punishment.
A while she walkt, and chauft; a while she threw
Her selfe uppon her bed, and did lament:        115
Yet did she not lament with loude alew,
As women wont, but with deepe sighes, and singulfs few.
 
XIV
Like as a wayward childe, whose sounder sleepe
Is broken with some fearefull dreames affright,
With froward will doth set him selfe to weepe;        120
Ne can be stild for all his nurses might,
But kicks, and squals, and shriekes for fell despight;
Now scratching her, and her loose locks misusing;
Now seeking darkenesse, and now seeking light;
Then craving sucke, and then the sucke refusing:        125
Such was this ladies, fit, in her loves fond accusing.
 
XV
But when she had with such unquiet fits
Her selfe there close afflicted long in vaine,
Yet found no easement in her troubled wits,
She unto Talus forth return’d againe,        130
By change of place seeking to ease her paine;
And gan enquire of him, with mylder, mood,
The certaine cause of Artegals detaine;
And what he did, and in what state he stood,
And whether he did woo, or whether he were woo’d.        135
 
XVI
‘Ah wellaway!’ sayd then the yron man,
‘That he is not the while in state to woo;
But lies in wretched thraldome, weake and wan,
Not by strong hand compelled thereunto,
But his owne doome, that none can now undoo.’        140
‘Sayd I not then,’ quoth shee, ‘erwhile aright,
That this is thinge compacte betwixt you two,
Me to deceive of faith unto me plight,
Since that he was not forst, nor overcome in fight?’
 
XVII
With that he gan at large to her dilate
        145
The whole discourse of his captivance sad,
In sort as ye have heard the same of late.
All which when she with hard enduraunce had
Heard to the end, she was right sore bestad,
With sodaine stounds of wrath and griefe attone:        150
Ne would abide, till she had aunswere made,
But streight her selfe did dight, and armor don;
And mounting to her steede, bad Talus guide her on.
 
XVIII
So forth she rode uppon her ready way,
To seeke her knight, as Talus her did guide:        155
Sadly she rode, and never word did say,
Nor good nor bad, ne ever lookt aside,
But still right downe, and in her thought did hide
The felnesse of her heart, right fully bent
To fierce avengement of that womans pride,        160
Which had her lord in her base prison pent,
And so great honour with so fowle reproch had blent.
 
XIX
So as she thus melancholicke did ride,
Chawing the cud of griefe and inward paine,
She chaunst to meete toward the even-tide        165
A knight, that softly paced on the plaine,
As if him selfe to solace he were faine.
Well shot in yeares he seem’d, and rather bent
To peace, then needlesse trouble to constraine;
As well by view of that his vestiment,        170
As by his modest semblant, that no evill ment.
 
XX
He, comming neare, gan gently her salute
With curteous words, in the most comely wize;
Who though desirous rather to rest mute,
Then termes to entertaine of common guize,        175
Yet rather then she kindnesse would despize,
She would her selfe displease, so him requite.
Then gan the other further to devize
Of things abrode, as next to hand did light,
And many things demaund, to which she answer’d light.        180
 
XXI
For little lust had she to talke of ought,
Or ought to heare, that mote delightfull bee;
Her minde was whole possessed of one thought,
That gave none other place. Which when as hee
By outward signes (as well he might) did see,        185
He list no lenger to use lothfull speach,
But her besought to take it well in gree,
Sith shady dampe had dimd the heavens reach,
To lodge with him that night, unles good cause empeach.
 
XXII
The championesse, now seeing night at dore,
        190
Was glad to yeeld unto his good request:
And with him went without gaine-saying more.
Not farre away, but little wide by west,
His dwelling was, to which he him addrest;
Where soone arriving, they received were        195
In seemely wise, as them beseemed best:
For he their host them goodly well did cheare,
And talk’t of pleasant things, the night away to weare.
 
XXIII
Thus passing th’ evening well, till time of rest,
Then Britomart unto a bowre was brought;        200
Where groomes awayted her to have undrest.
But she ne would undressed be for ought,
Ne doffe her armes, though he her much besought.
For she had vow’d, she sayd, not to forgo
Those warlike weedes, till she revenge had wrought        205
Of a late wrong uppon a mortall foe;
Which she would sure performe, betide her wele or wo.
 
XXIV
Which when their host perceiv’d, right discontent
In minde he grew, for feare least by that art
He should his purpose misse, which close he ment:        210
Yet taking leave of her, he did depart.
There all that night remained Britomart,
Restlesse, recomfortlesse, with heart deepe grieved,
Not suffering the least twinckling sleepe to start
Into her eye, which th’ heart mote have relieved,        215
But if the least appear’d, her eyes she streight reprieved.
 
XXV
‘Ye guilty eyes,’ sayd she, ‘the which with guyle
My heart at first betrayd, will ye betray
My life now to, for which a little whyle
Ye will not watch? False watches, well-away!        220
I wote when ye did watch both night and day
Unto your losse: and now needes will ye sleepe?
Now ye have made my heart to wake alway,
Now will ye sleepe? ah! wake, and rather weepe,
To thinke of your nights want, that should yee waking keepe.’        225
 
XXVI
Thus did she watch, and weare the weary night
In waylfull plaints, that none was to appease;
Now walking soft, now sitting still upright,
As sundry chaunge her seemed best to ease.
Ne lesse did Talus suffer sleepe to seaze        230
His eye-lids sad, but watcht continually,
Lying without her dore in great disease;
Like to a spaniell wayting carefully,
Least any should betray his lady treacherously.
 
XXVII
What time the native belman of the night,
        235
The bird that warned Peter of his fall,
First rings his silver bell t’ each sleepy wight,
That should their mindes up to devotion call,
She heard a wondrous noise below the hall.
All sodainely the bed, where she should lie,        240
By a false trap was let adowne to fall
Into a lower roome, and by and by
The loft was raysd againe, that no man could it spie.
 
XXVIII
With sight whereof she was dismayd right sore,
Perceiving well the treason which was ment:        245
Yet stirred not at all for doubt of more,
But kept her place with courage confident,
Wayting what would ensue of that event.
It was not long before she heard the sound
Of armed men, comming with close intent        250
Towards her chamber; at which dreadfull stound
She quickly caught her sword, and shield about her bound.
 
XXIX
With that there came unto her chamber dore
Two knights, all armed ready for to fight,
And after them full many other more,        255
A raskall rout, with weapons rudely dight.
Whom soone as Talus spide by glims of night,
He started up, there where on ground he lay,
And in his hand his thresher ready keight.
They seeing that, let drive at him streight way,        260
And round about him preace in riotous aray.
 
XXX
But soone as he began to lay about
With his rude yron flaile, they gan to flie,
Both armed knights and eke unarmed rout:
Yet Talus after them apace did plie,        265
Where ever in the darke he could them spie;
That here and there like scattred sheepe they lay.
Then backe returning, where his dame did lie,
He to her told the story of that fray,
And all that treason there intended did bewray.        270
 
XXXI
Wherewith though wondrous wroth, and inly burning
To be avenged for so fowle a deede,
Yet being forst to abide the daies returning,
She there remain’d, but with right wary heede,
Least any more such practise should proceede.        275
Now mote ye know (that which to Britomart
Unknowen was) whence all this did proceede,
And for what cause so great mischievous smart
Was ment to her, that never evill ment in hart.
 
XXXII
The goodman of this house was Dolon hight,
        280
A man of subtill wit and wicked minde,
That whilome in his youth had bene a knight,
And armes had borne, but little good could finde,
And much lesse honour by that warlike kinde
Of life: for he was nothing valorous,        285
But with slie shiftes and wiles did underminde
All noble knights which were adventurous,
And many brought to shame by treason treacherous.
 
XXXIII
He had three sonnes, all three like fathers sonnes,
Like treacherous, like full of fraud and guile,        290
Of all that on this earthly compasse wonnes:
The eldest of the which was slaine erewhile
By Artegall, through his owne guilty wile;
His name was Guizor; whose untimely fate
For to avenge, full many treasons vile        295
His father Dolon had deviz’d of late
With these his wicked sons, and shewd his cankred hate.
 
XXXIV
For sure he weend that this his present guest
Was Artegall, by many tokens plaine;
But chiefly by that yron page he ghest,        300
Which still was wont with Artegall remaine;
And therefore ment him surely to have slaine.
But by Gods grace, and her good heedinesse,
She was preserved from their traytrous traine.
Thus she all night wore out in watchfulnesse,        305
Ne suffred slothfull sleepe her eyelids to oppresse.
 
XXXV
The morrow next, so soone as dawning houre
Discovered had the light to living eye,
She forth yssew’d out of her loathed bowre,
With full intent t’ avenge that villany        310
On that vilde man and all his family:
And comming down to seeke them where they wond,
Nor sire, nor sonnes, nor any could she spie:
Each rowme she sought, but them all empty fond:
They all were fled for feare, but whether, nether kond.        315
 
XXXVI
She saw it vaine to make there lenger stay,
But tooke her steede, and thereon mounting light,
Gan her addresse unto her former way.
She had not rid the mountenance of a flight,
But that she saw there present in her sight        320
Those two false brethren, on that perillous bridge
On which Pollente with Artegall did fight.
Streight was the passage like a ploughed ridge,
That, if two met, the one mote needes fall over the lidge.
 
XXXVII
There they did thinke them selves on her to wreake:
        325
Who as she nigh unto them drew, the one
These vile reproches gan unto her speake:
‘Thou recreant false traytor, that with lone
Of armes hast knighthood stolne, yet knight art none,
No more shall now the darkenesse of the night        330
Defend thee from the vengeance of thy fone,
But with thy bloud thou shalt appease the spright
Of Guizor, by thee slaine, and murdred by thy slight.’
 
XXXVIII
Strange were the words in Britomartis eare;
Yet stayd she not for them, but forward fared,        335
Till to the perillous bridge she came, and there
Talus desir’d that he might have prepared
The way to her, and those two losels scared.
But she thereat was wroth, that for despight
The glauncing sparkles through her bever glared,        340
And from her eies did flash out fiery light,
Like coles that through a silver censer sparkle bright.
 
XXXIX
She stayd not to advise which way to take;
But putting spurres unto her fiery beast,
Thorough the midst of them she way did make.        345
The one of them, which most her wrath increast,
Uppon her speare she bore before her breast,
Till to the bridges further end she past,
Where falling downe, his challenge he releast:
The other over side the bridge she cast        350
Into the river, where he drunke his deadly last.
 
XL
As when the flashing levin haps to light
Uppon two stubborne oakes, which stand so neare
That way betwixt them none appeares in sight;
The engin fiercely flying forth, doth teare        355
Th’ one from the earth, and through the aire doth beare;
The other it with force doth overthrow
Uppon one side, and from his rootes doth reare:
So did the Championesse those two there strow,
And to their sire their carcasses left to bestow.        360
 
 
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