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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Prothalamion
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
 
Or, A Spousall Verse

CALME was the day, and through the trembling ayre
  Sweete-breathing Zephyrus did softly play
  A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay
Hot Titans beames, which then did glyster fayre;
      When I (whom sullein care,        5
  Through discontent of my long fruitlesse stay
In princes court, and expectation vayne
  Of idle hopes, which still doe fly away
Like empty shadows, did afflict my brayne)
      Walkt forth to ease my payne        10
Along the shoare of silver-streaming Themmes;
Whose rutty bank, the which his river hemmes,
  Was paynted all with variable flowers,
And all the meades adorn’d with dainty gemmes,
      Fit to decke maydens bowres,        15
      And crowne their paramours,
Against the brydale day, which is not long:
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.
 
There, in a meadow, by the rivers side,
  A flocke of Nymphes I chauncèd to espy,        20
  All lovely daughters of the flood thereby,
With goodly greenish locks, all loose untyde,
      As each had bene a bryde;
And each one had a little wicker basket,
  Made of fine twigs, entraylèd curiously,        25
In which they gathered flowers to fill their flasket,
  And with fine fingers cropt full feateously
      The tender stalkes on hye.
Of every sort which in that meadow grew
They gathered some: the violet, pallid blew,        30
  The little dazie, that at evening closes,
The virgin lillie, and the primrose trew,
      With store of vermeil roses,
      To deck their bridegroomes posies
Against the brydale day, which was not long:        35
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.
 
With that I saw two Swannes of goodly hewe
  Come softly swimming downe along the lee;
  Two fairer birds I yet did never see;
The snow, which doth the top of Pindus strew,        40
      Did never whiter shew,
Nor Jove himselfe, when he a swan would be
  For love of Leda, whiter did appeare;
Yet Leda was (they say) as white as he,
  Yet not so white as these, nor nothing neare;        45
      So purely white they were,
That even the gentle stream, the which them bare,
Seem’d foule to them, and bad his billowes spare
  To wet their silken feathers, least they might
Soyle their fayre plumes with water not so fayre,        50
      And marre their beauties bright,
      That shone as heavens light,
Against their brydale day, which was not long:
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.
 
Eftsoones, the Nymphes, which now had flowers their fill,        55
  Ran all in haste to see that silver brood,
  As they came floating on the cristal flood;
Whom when they sawe, they stood amazèd still,
      Their wondring eyes to fill:
Them seem’d they never saw a sight so fayre,        60
  Of fowles so lovely that they sure did deeme
Them heavenly borne, or to be that same payre
  Which through the skie draw Venus silver teeme;
      For sure they did not seeme
To be begot of any earthly seede,        65
But rather angels, or of angels breede:
  Yet were they bred of Somers heat, they say,
In sweetest season, when each flower and weede
      The earth did fresh aray;
      So fresh they seem’d as day,        70
Even as their brydale day, which was not long:
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.
 
Then forth they all out of their baskets drew
  Great store of flowers, the honour of the field,
  That to the sense did fragrant odours yeild,        75
All which upon those goodly birds they threw,
      And all the waves did strew,
That like old Peneus waters they did seeme,
  When downe along by pleasant Tempes shore,
Scattred with flowres, through Thessaly they streeme,        80
  That they appeare, through lillies plenteous store,
      Like a brydes chamber flore.
Two of those Nymphes, meane while, two garlands bound
Of freshest flowres which in that mead they found,
  The which presenting all in trim array,        85
Their snowie foreheads therewithall they crown’d,
      Whilst one did sing this lay,
      Prepar’d against that day,—
Against their brydale day, which was not long:
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.        90
 
“Ye gentle Birdes! the worlds faire ornament,
  And heavens glorie, whom this happie hower
  Doth leade unto your lovers blissfull bower,
Joy may you have, and gentle hearts content
      Of your loves couplement!        95
And let faire Venus, that is Queene of Love,
  With her heart-quelling Sonne upon you smile,
Whose smile, they say, hath vertue to remove
  All loves dislike, and friendships faultie guile
      For ever to assoile.        100
Let endlesse peace your steadfast hearts accord,
And blessed plentie wait upon your bord;
  And let your bed with pleasures chast abound,
That fruitfull issue may to you afford,
      Which may your foes confound,        105
      And make your joyes redound
Upon your brydale day, which is not long:
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.”
 
So ended she; and all the rest around
  To her redoubled that her undersong,        110
  Which said, their brydale daye should not be long:
And gentle Eccho from the neighbour ground
      Their accents did resound.
So forth those joyous Birdes did passe along
  Adowne the lee, that to them murmurde low,        115
As he would speake, but that he lackt a tong,
  Yet did by signes his glad affection show,
      Making his streame run slow.
And all the foule which in his flood did dwell
’Gan flock about these twaine, that did excell        120
  The rest, so far as Cynthia doth shend
The lesser stars. So they, enrangèd well,
      Did on those two attend,
      And their best service lend
Against their wedding day, which was not long:        125
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.
 
At length they all to mery London came,—
  To mery London, my most kyndly nurse,
  That to me gave this lifes first native sourse,
Though from another place I take my name,        130
      An house of auncient fame:
There when they came whereas those bricky towres
  The which on Themmes brode aged backe doe ryde,
Where now the studious lawyers have their bowers,
  There whylome wont the Templer Knights to byde,        135
      Till they decay’d through pride;
Next whereunto there standes a stately place,
Where oft I gaynèd giftes and goodly grace
  Of that great lord which therein wont to dwell,
Whose want too well now feels my freendles case;        140
      But ah! here fits not well
      Olde woes, but joyes, to tell
Against the brydale daye, which is not long:
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.
 
Yet therein now doth lodge a noble peer,        145
  Great Englands glory, and the worlds wide wonder,
  Whose dreadfull name late through all Spaine did thunder,
And Hercules two pillors standing neere
      Did make to quake and feare:
Faire branch of honor, flower of chevalrie!        150
  That fillest England with thy triumphs fame,
Joy have thou of thy noble victorie,
  And endlesse happinesse of thine owne name
      That promiseth the same;
That through thy prowesse, and victorious armes,        155
Thy country may be freed from forraine harmes,
  And great Elisaes glorious name may ring
Through all the world, fil’d with thy wide alarmes,
      Which some brave Muse may sing
      To ages following,        160
Upon the brydale day, which is not long:
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.
 
From those high towers this noble lord issuing,
  Like radiant Hesper, when his golden hayre
  In th’ ocean billowes he hath bathèd fayre,        165
Descended to the rivers open vewing,
      With a great traine ensuing.
Above the rest were goodly to bee seene
  Two gentle Knights of lovely face and feature,
Beseeming well the bower of any queene,        170
  With gifts of wit, and ornaments of nature,
      Fit for so goodly stature,
That like the Twins of Jove they seem’d in sight,
Which decke the bauldricke of the heavens bright;
  They two, forth pacing to the rivers side,        175
Receiv’d those two faire Brides, their loves delight;
      (Which, at th’ appointed tyde,
      Each one did make his Bryde,)
Against their brydale day, which is not long:
  Sweet Themmes! runne softly, till I end my song.        180
 
 
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