Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
Extracts from The Faerie Queene: The Gardens of Venus
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
[From Book iv. 1595–6.]

  ‘THUS having past all perill, I was come
Within the compasse of that Islands space;
The which did seeme, unto my simple doome,
The onely pleasant and delightfull place
That ever troden was of footings trace:        5
For all that nature by her mother-wit
Could frame in earth, and forme of substance base,
Was there; and all that nature did omit,
Art, playing second natures part, supplyed it.
  ‘No tree, that is of count, in greenewood growes,        10
From lowest Juniper to Ceder tall,
No flowre in field, that daintie odour throwes,
And deckes his branch with blossomes over all,
But there was planted, or grew naturall:
Nor sense of man so coy and curious nice,        15
But there mote find to please it selfe withall;
Nor hart could wish for any queint device,
But there it present was, and did fraile sense entice.
  ‘In such luxurious plentie of all pleasure,
It seem’d a second paradise to ghesse,        20
So lavishly enricht with Natures threasure,
That if the happie soules, which doe possesse
Th’ Elysian fields and live in lasting blesse,
Should happen this with living eye to see,
They soone would loath their lesser happinesse,        25
And wish to life return’d againe to bee,
That in this joyous place they mote have joyance free.
  ‘Fresh shadowes, fit to shroud from sunny ray;
Faire lawnds, to take the sunne in season dew;
Sweet springs, in which a thousand Nymphs did play;        30
Soft rombling brookes, that gentle slomber drew;
High reared mounts, the lands about to view;
Low looking dales, disloignd from common gaze;
Delightfull bowres, to solace lovers trew;
False Labyrinthes, fond runners eyes to daze;        35
All which by nature made did nature selfe amaze.
  ‘And all without were walkes and alleyes dight
With divers trees enrang’d in even rankes;
And here and there were pleasant arbors pight,
And shadie seates, and sundry flowring bankes,        40
To sit and rest the walkers wearie shankes:
And therein thousand payres of lovers walkt,
Praysing their god, and yeelding him great thankes,
Ne ever ought but of their true loves talkt,
Ne ever for rebuke or blame of any balkt.        45
  ‘All these together by themselves did sport
Their spotlesse pleasures and sweet loves content.
But, farre away from these, another sort
Of lovers lincked in true harts consent,
Which loved not as these for like intent,        50
But on chast vertue grounded their desire,
Farre from all fraud or fayned blandishment;
Which, in their spirits kindling zealous fire,
Brave thoughts and noble deedes did evermore aspire.
  ‘Such were great Hercules and Hyllus deare        55
Trew Jonathan and David trustie tryde
Stout Theseus and Pirithous his feare 1
Pylades and Orestes by his syde;
Myld Titus and Gesippus without pryde;
Damon and Pythias, whom death could not sever:        60
All these, and all that ever had bene tyde
In bands of friendship, there did live for ever;
Whose lives although decay’d, yet loves decayed never.
  ‘Which when as I, that never tasted blis
Nor happie howre, beheld with gazefull eye,        65
I thought there was none other heaven then this;
And gan their endlesse happinesse envye,
That being free from feare and gealosye
Might frankely there their loves desire possesse;
Whilest I, through paines and perlous jeopardie,        70
Was forst to seeke my lifes deare patronnesse:
Much dearer be the things which come through hard distresse.
  ‘Yet all those sights, and all that else I saw,
Might not my steps withhold, but that forthright
Unto that purposd place I did me draw,        75
Where as my love was lodged day and night,
The temple of great Venus, that is hight
The Queene of beautie, and of love the mother,
There worshipped of every living wight;
Whose goodly workmanship farre past all other        80
That ever were on earth, all were they set together.’
Note 1. companion. [back]

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