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: Wooing of Amoret
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
[From Book iv.]

  ‘INTO the inmost Temple thus I came,
Which fuming all with frankensence I found
And odours rising from the altars flame.
Upon an hundred marble pillors round
The roofe up high was reared from the ground,        5
All deckt with crownes, and chaynes, and girlands gay,
And thousand pretious gifts worth many a pound,
The which sad lovers for their vowes did pay;
And all the ground was strow’d with flowres as fresh as May.
  ‘An hundred Altars round about were set,        10
All flaming with their sacrifices fire,
That with the steme thereof the Temple swet,
Which rould in clouds to heaven did aspire,
And in them bore true lovers vowes entire:
And eke an hundred brasen caudrons bright,        15
To bath in joy and amorous desire,
Every of which was to a damzell hight;
For all the Priests were damzels in soft linnen dight.
  ‘Right in the midst the Goddesse selfe did stand
Upon an altar of some costly masse,        20
Whose substance was uneath to understand:
For neither pretious stone, nor durefull brasse,
Nor shining gold, nor mouldring clay it was;
But much more rare and pretious to esteeme,
Pure in aspect, and like to christall glasse,        25
Yet glasse was not, if one did rightly deeme;
But, being faire and brickle, likest glasse did seeme.
*        *        *        *        *
  ‘And all about her necke and shoulders flew
A flocke of litle loves, and sports, and joyes,
With nimble wings of gold and purple hew;        30
Whose shapes seem’d not like to terrestriall boyes,
But like to Angels playing heavenly toyes,
The whilest their eldest brother was away,
Cupid their eldest brother; he enjoyes
The wide kingdome of love with lordly sway,        35
And to his law compels all creatures to obay.
  ‘And all about her altar scattered lay
Great sorts of lovers piteously complayning,
Some of their losse, some of their loves delay,
Some of their pride, some paragons disdayning,        40
Some fearing fraud, some fraudulently fayning,
As every one had cause of good or ill.
Amongst the rest some one, through Loves constrayning
Tormented sore, could not containe it still,
But thus brake forth, that all the temple it did fill.        45
  ‘“Great Venus! Queene of beautie and of grace,
The joy of Gods and men, that under skie
Doest fayrest shine, and most adorne thy place;
That with thy smyling looke doest pacifie
The raging seas, and makst the stormes to flie;        50
Thee, goddesse, thee the winds, the clouds doe feare,
And, when thou spredst thy mantle forth on hie,
The waters play, and pleasant lands appeare,
And heavens laugh, and al the world shews joyous cheare.
*        *        *        *        *
  ‘“So all the world by thee at first was made,        55
And dayly yet thou doest the same repayre;
Ne ought on earth that merry is and glad,
Ne ought on earth that lovely is and fayre,
But thou the same for pleasure didst prepayre:
Thou art the root of all that joyous is:        60
Great God of men and women, queene of th’ ayre,
Mother of laughter, and welspring of blisse,
O graunt that of my love at last I may not misse!”
  ‘So did he say: but I with murmure soft,
That none might heare the sorrow of my hart,        65
Yet inly groning deepe and sighing oft,
Besought her to graunt ease unto my smart,
And to my wound her gratious help impart.
Whilest thus I spake, behold! with happy eye
I spyde where at the Idoles feet apart        70
A bevie of fayre damzels close did lye,
Wayting when as the Antheme should be sung on hye.
  ‘The first of them did seeme of ryper yeares
And graver countenance then all the rest:
Yet all the rest were eke her equall peares,        75
Yet unto her obayed all the best.
Her name was Womanhood; that she exprest
By her sad semblant and demeanure wyse:
For stedfast still her eyes did fixed rest,
Ne rov’d at random, after gazers guyse,        80
Whose luring baytes oftimes doe heedlesse harts entyse.
  ‘And next to her sate goodly Shamefastnesse,
Ne ever durst her eyes from ground upreare,
Ne ever once did looke up from her desse, 1
As if some blame of evill she did feare,        85
That in her cheekes made roses oft appeare:
And her against sweet Cherefulnesse was placed,
Whose eyes, like twinkling stars in evening cleare,
Were deckt with smyles that all sad humors chaced,
And darted forth delights the which her goodly graced.        90
  ‘And next to her sate sober Modestie,
Holding her hand upon her gentle hart;
And her against sate comely Curtesie,
That unto every person knew her part;
And her before was seated overthwart        95
Soft Silence, and submisse Obedience,
Both linckt together never to dispart;
Both gifts of God, not gotten but from thence,
Both girlonds of his Saints against their foes offence.
  ‘Thus sate they all around in seemely rate:        100
And in the midst of them a goodly mayd
Even in the lap of Womanhood there sate,
The which was all in lilly white arayd,
With silver streames amongst the linnen stray’d;
Like to the Morne, when first her shyning face        105
Hath to the gloomy world itselfe bewray’d:
That same was fayrest Amoret in place,
Shyning with beauties light and heavenly vertues grace.
  ‘Whom soone as I beheld, my hart gan throb
And wade in doubt what best were to be donne;        110
For sacrilege me seem’d the Church to rob,
And folly seem’d to leave the thing undonne
Which with so strong attempt I had begonne.
Tho, shaking off all doubt and shamefast feare
Which Ladies love, I heard, had never wonne        115
Mongst men of worth, I to her stepped neare,
And by the lilly hand her labour’d up to reare.
  ‘Thereat that formost matrone me did blame,
And sharpe rebuke for being over bold;
Saying, it was to Knight unseemely shame        120
Upon a recluse Virgin to lay hold,
That unto Venus services was sold.
To whom I thus: “Nay, but it fitteth best
For Cupids man with Venus mayd to hold,
For ill your goddesse services are drest        125
By virgins, and her sacrifices let to rest.”
  ‘With that my shield I forth to her did show,
Which all that while I closely had conceld
On which when Cupid, with his killing bow
And cruell shafts, emblazond she beheld,        130
At sight thereof she was with terror queld,
And said no more: but I, which all that while
The pledge of faith, her hand, engaged held,
Like warie Hynd within the weedie soyle,
For no intreatie would forgoe so glorious spoyle.        135
  ‘And evermore upon the Goddesse face
Mine eye was fixt, for feare of her offence;
Whom when I saw with amiable grace
To laugh at me, and favour my pretence,
I was emboldned with more confidence;        140
And nought for nicenesse nor for envy sparing,
In presence of them all forth led her thence
All looking on, and like astonisht staring,
Yet to lay hand on her not one of all them daring.
  ‘She often prayd, and often me besought,        145
Sometime with tender teares to let her goe,
Sometime with witching smyles; but yet, for nought
That ever she to me could say or doe,
Could she her wished freedome fro me wooe:
But forth I led her through the Temple gate,        150
By which I hardly past with much adoe:
But that same Ladie, which me friended late
In entrance, did me also friend in my retrate.
  ‘No lesse did Daunger threaten me with dread,
Whenas he saw me, maugre all his powre,        155
That glorious spoyle of beautie with me lead,
Then 2 Cerberus, when Orpheus did recoure
His Leman from the Stygian Princes boure:
But evermore my shield did me defend
Against the storme of every dreadfull stoure:        160
Thus safely with my love I thence did wend.’
So ended he his tale, where I this Canto end.
Note 1. dais. [back]
Note 2. Than. [back]

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