Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Sir Guyon and the Palmer Visit and Destroy the Bower of Bliss
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)
From the ‘Faery Queene

  THUS being ent’red they behold around
    A large and spacious plain on every side
  Strowèd with pleasaunce; whose fair grassy ground
    Mantled with green, and goodly beautified
    With all the ornaments of Floras pride,        5
  Wherewith her mother Art, as half in scorn
    Of niggard Nature, like a pompous bride
  Did deck her, and too lavishly adorn,
When forth from virgin bow’r she comes in th’ early morn.
  Thereto the heavens always jovial        10
    Look’d on them lovely, still in steadfast state,
  Ne suff’red storm nor frost on them to fall,
    Their tender buds or leaves to violate;
    Nor scorching heat, nor cold intemperate,
  T’ afflict the creatures which therein did dwell;        15
    But the mild air with season moderate
  Gently attemp’red and disposed so well,
That still it breath’d forth sweet spirit and wholesome smell.
  More sweet and wholesome than the pleasant hill
    Of Rhodope, on which the nymph that bore        20
  A giant babe, herself for grief did kill;
    Or the Thessalian Tempe, where of yore
    Fair Daphne Phœbus’s heart with love did gore;
  Or Ida, where the gods loved to repair,
    Whenever they their heavenly bow’rs forlore;        25
  Or sweet Parnasse, the haunt of Muses fair;
Or Eden self, if ought with Eden mote compare.
  Much wond’red Guyon at the fair aspéct
    Of that sweet place, yet suff’red no delight
  To sink into his sense, nor mind affect;        30
    But passèd forth, and look’d still forward right,
    Bridling his will and mastering his might:
  Till that he came unto another gate;
    No gate, but like one, being goodly dight
  With boughs and branches, which did broad dilate        35
Their clasping arms in wanton wreathings intricate.
  So fashionèd a porch with rare device,
    Arch’d overhead with an embracing vine,
  Whose bunches hanging down seem’d to entice
    All passers-by to taste their luscious wine,        40
    And did themselves into their hands incline,
  As freely offering to be gatherèd;
    Some deep empurplèd as the hyacine,
  Some as the ruby laughing sweetly red,
Some like fair emeralds, not yet well ripenèd.        45
  And them amongst some were of burnish’d gold,
    So made by art to beautify the rest,
  Which did themselves amongst the leaves enfold,
    As lurking from the view of covetous guest,
    That the weak boughs with so rich load opprest        50
  Did bow adown as overburdenèd.
    Under that porch a comely dame did rest,
  Clad in fair weeds but foul disorderèd,
And garments loose that seem’d unmeet for womanhead.
  In her left hand a cup of gold she held,        55
    And with her right the riper fruit did reach,
  Whose sappy liquor, that with fullness swell’d,
    Into her cup she scruzed with dainty breach
    Of her fine fingers, without foul empeach,
  That so fair wine-press made the wine more sweet:        60
    Thereof she used to give to drink to each
  Whom passing by she happenèd to meet;
It was her guise all strangers goodly so to greet.
  So she to Guyon off’red it to taste,
    Who, taking it out of her tender hond,        65
  The cup to ground did violently cast,
    That all in pieces it was broken fond,
    And with the liquor stainèd all the lond:
  Whereat Excess exceedingly was wroth,
    Yet no’te the same amend, ne yet withstond,        70
  But suffer’d him to pass, all were she loth:
Who, nought regarding her displeasure, forward go’th.
  There the most dainty paradise on ground
    Itself doth offer to his sober eye,
  In which all pleasures plenteously abound,        75
    And none does others happiness envy:
    The painted flow’rs; the trees upshooting high;
  The dales for shade; the hills for breathing space;
    The trembling groves; the crystal running by;
  And that which all fair works doth most aggrace—        80
The art which all that wrought—appearèd in no place.
  One would have thought (so cunningly the rude
    And scornèd parts were mingled with the fine)
  That Nature had for wantonness ensued
    Art, and that Art at Nature did repine;        85
    So striving each th’ other to undermine,
  Each did the others work more beautify;
    So diff’ring both in wills agreed in fine:
  So all agreed, through sweet diversity,
This garden to adorn with all variety.        90
  And in the midst of all a fountain stood,
    Of richest substance that on earth might be,
  So pure and shiny that the silver flood
    Through every channel running one might see;
    Most goodly it with curious imagery        95
  Was over-wrought, and shapes of naked boys,
    Of which some seem’d of lively jollity
  To fly about, playing their wanton toys,
Whilst others did themselves embay in liquid joys.
  And over all of purest gold was spread        100
    A trail of ivy in his native hue;
  For the rich metal was so colorèd,
    That wight, who did not well avised it view,
    Would surely deem it to be ivy true.
  Low his lascivious arms adown did creep,        105
    That themselves dipping in the silver dew
  Their fleecy flow’rs they fearfully did steep,
Which drops of crystal seem’d for wantonness to weep.
  Infinite streams continually did well
    Out of this fountain, sweet and fair to see,        110
  The which into an ample laver fell,
    And shortly grew to so great quantity,
    That like a little lake it seem’d to be;
  Whose depth exceeded not three cubits height,
    That through the waves one might the bottom see,        115
  All paved beneath with jasper shining bright,
That seem’d the fountain in that sea did sail upright.
  Eftsoones they heard a most melodious sound,
    Of all that mote delight a dainty ear,
  Such as at once might not on living ground,        120
    Save in this paradise, be heard elsewhere:
    Right hard it was for wight which did it hear,
  To read what manner music that mote be;
    For all that pleasing is to living ear
  Was there consorted in one harmony:        125
Birds, voices, instruments, winds, waters, all agree;
  The joyous birds shrouded in cheerful shade,
    Their notes unto the voice attemp’red sweet;
  Th’ angelical soft trembling voices made
    To th’ instruments divine respondence meet;        130
    The silver-sounding instruments did meet
  With the base murmur of the waters’ fall;
    The waters’ fall with difference discreet,
  Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call;
The gentle warbling wind low answerèd to all.        135
  The whiles some one did chant this lovely lay:—
    “Ah! see, whoso fair thing dost fain to see,
  In springing flow’r the image of thy day!
    Ah! see the virgin rose, how sweetly she
    Doth first peep forth with bashful modesty;        140
  That fairer seems the less ye see her may!
    Lo! see soon after how more bold and free
  Her barèd bosom she doth broad display;
Lo! see soon after how she fades and falls away!
  “So passeth, in the passing of a day,        145
    Of mortal life the leaf, the bud, the flow’r;
  Ne more doth flourish after first decay,
    That erst was sought to deck both bed and bow’r
    Of many a lady and many a paramour.
  Gather therefore the rose whilest yet is prime,        150
    For soon comes age that will her pride deflow’r;
  Gather the rose of love whilest yet is time,
Whilst loving thou mayst loved be with equal crime.”
  He ceased; and then ’gan all the quire of birds
    Their diverse notes t’attune unto his lay,        155
  As in approvance of his pleasing words.
    The constant pair heard all that he did say,
    Yet swervèd not, but kept their forward way
  Through many covert groves and thickets close,
    In which they creeping did at last display        160
  That wanton lady, with her lover loose,
Whose sleepy head she in her lap did soft dispose….
  The noble elf and careful palmer drew
    So nigh them, minding naught but lustful game,
  That sudden forth they on them rush’d and threw        165
    A subtle net, which only for that same
    The skillful palmer formally did frame;
  So held them under fast; the whiles the rest
    Fled all away for fear of fouler shame.
  The fair enchantress, so unwares opprest,        170
Tried all her arts and all her sleights thence out to wrest.
  And eke her lover strove: but all in vain;
    For that same net so cunningly was wound,
  That neither guile nor force might it distrain.
    They took them both, and both them strongly bound        175
    In captive bands, which there they ready found:
  But her in chains of adamant he tied,
    For nothing else might keep her safe and sound;
  But Verdant (so he hight) he soon untied,
And counsel sage instead thereof to him applied.        180
  But all those pleasant bow’rs, and palace brave,
    Guyon broke down with rigor pitiless;
  Ne ought their goodly workmanship might save
    Them from the tempest of his wrathfulness,
    But that their bliss he turn’d to balefulness:        185
  Their groves he fell’d; their gardens did deface;
    Their arbors spoil; their cabinets suppress;
  Their banquet-houses burn; their buildings raze;
And of the fairest late, now made the foulest place.
  Then led they her away, and eke that knight        190
    They with them led, both sorrowful and sad:
  The way they came, the same return’d they right,
    Till they arrivèd where they lately had
    Charm’d those wild beasts that raged with fury mad;
  Which, now awaking, fierce at them ’gan fly,        195
    As in their mistress’ rescue, whom they lad:
  But them the palmer soon did pacify.
Then Guyon ask’d, what meant those beasts which there did lie?
  Said he: “These seeming beasts are men indeed,
    Whom this enchantress hath transformèd thus;        200
  Whylome her lovers, which her lusts did feed,
    Now turnèd into figures hideous,
    According to their minds like monstruous.
  Sad end,” quoth he, “of life intemperate,
    And mournful meed of joys delicious!        205
  But, palmer, if it mote thee so aggrate,
Let them returnèd be unto their former state.”
  Straightway he with his virtuous staff them strook,
    And straight of beasts they comely men became:
  Yet being men, they did unmanly look        210
    And starèd ghastly; some for inward shame,
    And some for wrath to see their captive dame:
  But one above the rest in special
    That had an hog been late, hight Grylle by name,
  Repinèd greatly, and did him miscall        215
That had from hoggish form him brought to natural.
  Said Guyon: “See the mind of beastly man,
    That hath so soon forgot the excellence
  Of his creation, when he life began,
    That now he chooseth with vile difference        220
    To be a beast, and lack intelligence!”
  To whom the palmer thus: “The dunghill kind
    Delights in filth and foul incontinence:
  Let Gryll be Gryll, and have his hoggish mind;
But let us hence depart whilest weather serves and wind.”        225

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