Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
House of Busyrane
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
 
(See full text.)

KINGS, queens, lords, ladies, knights, and damsels great
Were heaped together with the vulgar sort,
And mingled with the rascal rabblement
Without respect of person or of port,
To show Dan Cupid’s power and great effort:        5
And round about a border was entrailed
Of broken bows and arrows shivered short,
And a long bloody river through them rayled
So lively and so like that living scene it failed.
 
And at the upper end of that fair room        10
There was an altar built of precious stone
Of passing value and of great renown,
On which there stood an image all alone,
Of massy gold, which with his own light shone;
And wings it had with sundry colors dight,—        15
More sundry colors than the proud pavone
Bears in his boasted fan, or Iris bright
When her discolored bow she spreads through heaven bright.
 
Blindfold he was; and in his cruel fist
A mortal bow of arrows keen did hold,        20
With which he shot at random when him list;
Some headed with sad lead, some with pure gold;
(Ah! man, beware how thou those darts behold!)
A wounded dragon under him did lie,
Whose hideous tail did his left foot infold,        25
And with a shaft was shot through either eye
That no man forth might draw, nor no man remedy.
 
And underneath his feet was written thus:
“Unto the Victor of the gods this be;”
And all the people in that ample house        30
Did to that image bow their humble knee,
And oft committed foul idolatry.
That wondrous sight fair Britomart amazed,
Nor seeing could her wonder satisfy,
But evermore and more upon it gazed        35
The while the passing brightness her frail senses dazed.
 
Though as she backward cast her busy eye,
To search each secret of that goodly stead,
Over the door thus written she did spy,
“Be bold:” she oft and oft it over-read,        40
Yet could not find what sense it figured;
But whatso were therein, or writ, or meant,
She was thereby no whit discouraged
From prosecuting of her first intent,
But forward with bold steps into the next room went.        45
 
Much fairer than the former was that room,
And richlier by many parts arrayed;
For not with arras, made in painful loom,
But with pure gold, it all was overlaid,
Wrought with wild antics, which their follies played        50
In the rich metal as they living were:
A thousand monstrous forms therein were made,
Such as false Love doth oft upon him wear;
For love in thousand monstrous forms doth oft appear.
 
And all about the glistering walls were hung        55
With warlike spoils and with victorious prayes
Of mighty conquerors and captains strong,
Which were whilom captived in their days
To cruel love, and wrought their own decays.
Their swords and spears were broke, and hauberks rent,        60
And their proud garlands of triumphant bays
Trodden to dust with fury insolent,
To show the victor’s might and merciless intent.
 
The warlike maid, beholding earnestly
The goodly ordinance of this rich place,        65
Did greatly wonder, nor did satisfy
Her greedy eyes by gazing a long space.
But more she marvelled that no footing’s trace
Nor wight appeared, but wasteful emptiness
And solemn silence over all that space:        70
Strange thing it seemed that none was to possess
So rich purveyance, nor them keep with carefulness.
 
And as she looked about, she did behold
How over that same door was likewise writ,
“Be bold, be bold,” and everywhere, “Be bold;”        75
That much she mused, yet could not construe it
By any riddling skill, nor common wit.
At last she spied at that room’s upper end
Another iron door, on which was writ,
“Be not too bold;” whereto though she did bend        80
Her earnest mind, yet wist not what it might intend.
 
 
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