Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Faerie Queene
Book VII. Two Cantos of Mutabilitie
Canto VII
        Pealing from Jove to Natur’s bar,
  Bold Alteration pleades
Large evidence: but Nature soone
  Her righteous doome areads.

AH! whither doost thou now, thou greater Muse,
Me from these woods and pleasing forrests bring?
And my fraile spirit (that dooth oft refuse
This too high flight, unfit for her weake wing)
Lift up aloft, to tell of heavens king        5
(Thy soveraine sire) his fortunate successe,
And victory in bigger noates to sing,
Which he obtain’d against that Titanesse,
That him of heavens empire sought to dispossesse?
Yet sith I needs must follow thy behest,
Doe thou my weaker wit with skill inspire,
Fit for this turne; and in my feeble brest
Kindle fresh sparks of that immortall fire
Which learned minds inflameth with desire
Of heavenly things: for who but thou alone,        15
That art yborne of heaven and heavenly sire,
Can tell things doen in heaven so long ygone,
So farre past memory of man that may be knowne?
Now, at the time that was before agreed,
The gods assembled all on Arlo hill;        20
As well those that are sprung of heavenly seed,
As those that all the other world doe fill,
And rule both sea and land unto their will:
Onely th’ infernall powers might not appeare;
Aswell for horror of their count’naunce ill,        25
As for th’ unruly fiends which they did feare;
Yet Pluto and Proserpina were present there.
And thither also came all other creatures,
What-ever life or motion doe retaine,
According to their sundry kinds of features;        30
That Arlo scarsly could them all containe;
So full they filled every hill and plaine:
And had not Natures sergeant (that is Order)
Them well disposed by his busie paine,
And raunged farre abroad in every border,        35
They would have caused much confusion and disorder.
Then forth issewed (great goddesse) great Dame Nature,
With goodly port and gracious majesty,
Being far greater and more tall of stature
Then any of the gods or powers on hie:        40
Yet certes by her face and physnomy,
Whether she man or woman inly were,
That could not any creature well descry:
For, with a veile that wimpled every where,
Her head and face was hid, that mote to none appeare.        45
That, some doe say, was so by skill devized,
To hide the terror of her uncouth hew
From mortall eyes, that should be sore agrized;
For that her face did like a lion shew,
That eye of wight could not indure to view:        50
But others tell that it so beautious was,
And round about such beames of splendor threw,
That it the sunne a thousand times did pass,
Ne could be seene, but like an image in a glass.
That well may seemen true: for well I weene
That this same day, when she on Arlo sat,
Her garment was so bright and wondrous sheene,
That my fraile wit cannot devize to what
It to compare, nor finde like stuffe to that:
As those three sacred saints, though else most wise,        60
Yet on Mount Thabor quite their wits forgat,
When they their glorious Lord in strange disguise
Transfigur’d sawe; his garments so did daze their eyes.
In a fayre plaine upon an equall hill
She placed was in a pavilion;        65
Not such as craftes-men by their idle skill
Are wont for princes states to fashion:
But th’ Earth her self, of her owne motion,
Out of her fruitfull bosome made to growe
Most dainty trees, that, shooting up anon,        70
Did seeme to bow their bloosming heads full lowe,
For homage unto her, and like a throne did shew.
So hard it is for any living wight
All her array and vestiments to tell,
That old Dan Geffrey (in whose gentle spright,        75
The pure well head of poesie did dwell)
In his Foules Parley durst not with it mel,
But it transferd to Alane, who he thought
Had in his Plaint of Kinde describ’d it well:
Which who will read set forth so as it ought,        80
Go seek he out that Alane where he may be sought.
And all the earth far underneath her feete
Was dight with flowres, that voluntary grew
Out of the ground, and sent forth odours sweet;
Tenne thousand mores of sundry sent and hew,        85
That might delight the smell, or please the view;
The which the nymphes from all the brooks thereby
Had gathered, which they at her foot-stoole threw;
That richer seem’d then any tapestry,
That princes bowres adorne with painted imagery.        90
And Mole himselfe, to honour her the more,
Did deck himself in freshest faire attire,
And his high head, that seemeth alwaies hore
With hardned frosts of former winters ire,
He with an oaken girlond now did tire,        95
As if the love of some new nymph late seene
Had in him kindled youthfull fresh desire,
And made him change his gray attire to greene:
Ah, gentle Mole! such joyance hath thee well beseene.
Was never so great joyance since the day
That all the gods whylome assembled were
On Hæmus hill in their divine array,
To celebrate the solemne bridall cheare
Twixt Peleus and Dame Thetis pointed there;
Where Phœbus self, that god of poets hight,        105
They say did sing the spousall hymne full cleere,
That all the gods were ravisht with delight
Of his celestiall song, and musicks wondrous might.
This great grandmother of all creatures bred,
Great Nature, ever young yet full of eld,        110
Still mooving, yet unmoved from her sted,
Unseene of any, yet of all beheld,
Thus sitting in her throne, as I have teld,
Before her came Dame Mutabilitie;
And being lowe before her presence feld,        115
With meek obaysance and humilitie,
Thus gan her plaintif plea, with words to amplifie:
‘To thee, O greatest goddesse, onely great,
An humble suppliant loe! I lowely fly,
Seeking for right, which I of thee entreat,        120
Who right to all dost deale indifferently,
Damning all wrong and tortious injurie,
Which any of thy creatures doe to other
(Oppressing them with power, unequally)
Sith of them all thou art the equall mother,        125
And knittest each to each, as brother unto brother.
‘To thee therefore of this same Jove I plaine,
And of his fellow gods that faine to be,
That challenge to themselves the whole worlds raign;
Of which the greatest part is due to me,        130
And heaven it selfe by heritage in fee:
For heaven and earth I both alike to deeme,
Sith heaven and earth are both alike to thee;
And gods no more then men thou doest esteeme:
For even the gods to thee, as men to gods, do seeme.        135
‘Then weigh, O soveraigne goddesse, by what right
These gods do claime the worlds whole soverainty,
And that is onely dew unto thy might
Arrogate to themselves ambitiously:
As for the gods owne principality,        140
Which Jove usurpes unjustly, that to be
My heritage, Jove’s self cannot deny,
From my great grandsire Titan unto mee
Deriv’d by dew descent; as is well knowen to thee.
‘Yet mauger Jove, and all his gods beside,
I doe possesse the worlds most regiment;
As, if ye please it into parts divide,
And every parts inholders to convent,
Shall to your eyes appeare incontinent.
And first, the Earth (great mother of us all)        150
That only seems unmov’d and permanent,
And unto Mutability not thrall,
Yet is she chang’d in part, and eeke in generall.
‘For all that from her springs, and is ybredde,
How-ever fayre it flourish for a time,        155
Yet see we soone decay; and, being dead,
To turne again unto their earthly slime:
Yet, out of their decay and mortall crime,
We daily see new creatures to arize,
And of their winter spring another prime,        160
Unlike in forme, and chang’d by strange disguise;
So turne they still about, and change in restlesse wise.
‘As for her tenants, that is, man and beasts,
The beasts we daily see massacred dy,
As thralls and vassals unto mens beheasts:        165
And men themselves doe change continually,
From youth to eld, from wealth to poverty,
From good to bad, from bad to worst of all:
Ne doe their bodies only flit and fly;
But eeke their minds (which they immortall call)        170
Still change and vary thoughts, as new occasions fall.
‘Ne is the water in more constant case;
Whether those same on high, or these belowe.
Forth’ ocean moveth stil from place to place;
And every river still doth ebbe and flowe:        175
Ne any lake, that seems most still and slowe,
Ne poole so small, that can his smoothnesse holde,
When any winde doth under heaven blowe;
With which the clouds are also tost and roll’d;
Now like great hills; and streight, like sluces, them unfold.        180
‘So likewise are all watry living wights
Still tost and turned with continuall change,
Never abyding in their stedfast plights.
The fish, still floting, doe at randon range,
And never rest, but evermore exchange        185
Their dwelling places, as the streames them carrie:
Ne have the watry foules a certaine grange
Wherein to rest, ne in one stead do tarry;
But flitting still doe flie, and still their places vary.
‘Next is the ayre: which who feeles not by sense
(For of all sense it is the middle meane)
To flit still? and, with subtill influence
Of his thin spirit, all creatures to maintaine
In state of life? O weake life! that does leane
On thing so tickle as th’ unsteady ayre;        195
Which every howre is chang’d, and altred cleane
With every blast that bloweth fowle or faire:
The faire doth it prolong; the fowle doth it impaire.
‘Therein the changes infinite beholde,
Which to her creatures every minute chaunce:        200
Now, boyling hot: streight, friezing deadly cold:
Now, faire sun-shine, that makes all skip and daunce:
Streight, bitter storms and balefull countenance,
That makes them all to shiver and to shake:
Rayne, hayle, and snowe do pay them sad penance,        205
And dreadfull thunder-claps (that make them quake)
With flames and flashing lights that thousand changes make.
‘Last is the fire: which, though it live for ever,
Ne can be quenched quite, yet, every day,
Wee see his parts, so soone as they do sever,        210
To lose their heat, and shortly to decay;
So makes himself his owne consuming pray.
Ne any living creatures doth he breed:
But all that are of others bredd doth slay,
And with their death his cruell life dooth feed;        215
Nought leaving, but their barren ashes, without seed.
‘Thus all these fower (the which the ground-work bee
Of all the world, and of all living wights)
To thousand sorts of change we subject see:
Yet are they chang’d (by other wondrous slights)        220
Into themselves, and lose their native mights:
The fire to aire, and th’ ayre to water sheere,
And water into earth: yet water fights
With fire, and aire with earth, approaching neere:
Yet all are in one body, and as one appeare.        225
‘So in them all raignes Mutabilitie;
How-ever these, that gods themselves do call,
Of them doe claime the rule and soverainty:
As Vesta, of the fire æthereall;
Vulcan, of this, with us so usuall;        230
Ops, of the earth; and Juno, of the ayre;
Neptune, of seas; and nymphes, of rivers all:
For all those rivers to me subject are;
And all the rest, which they usurp, be all my share.
‘Which to approven true, as I have told,
Vouchsafe, O goddesse, to thy presence call
The rest which doe the world in being hold:
As times and seasons of the yeare that fall:
Of all the which demand in generall,
Or judge thy selfe, by verdit of thine eye,        240
Whether to me they are not subject all.’
Nature did yeeld thereto; and by-and-by,
Bade Order call them all before her majesty.
So forth issew’d the seasons of the yeare:
First, lusty Spring, all dight in leaves of flowres        245
That freshly budded and new bloosmes did beare
(In which a thousand birds had built their bowres,
That sweetly sung, to call forth paramours):
And in his hand a javelin he did beare,
And on his head (as fit for warlike stoures)        250
A guilt engraven morion he did weare;
That, as some did him love, so others did him feare.
Then came the jolly Sommer, being dight
In a thin silken cassock coloured greene,
That was unlyned all, to be more light:        255
And on his head a girlond well beseene
He wore, from which, as he had chauffed been,
The sweat did drop; and in his hand he bore
A boawe and shaftes, as he in forrest greene
Had hunted late the libbard or the bore,        260
And now would bathe his limbes, with labor heated sore.
Then came the Autumne, all in yellow cald,
As though he joyed in his plentious store,
Laden with fruits that made him laugh, full glad
That he had banisht hunger, which to-fore        265
Had by the belly oft him pinched sore.
Upon his head a wreath, that was enrold
With eares of corne of every sort, he bore:
And in his hand a sickle he did holde,
To reape the ripened fruits the which the earth had yold.        270
Lastly came Winter, cloathed all in frize,
Chattering his teeth for cold that did him chill,
Whil’st on his hoary beard his breath did freese,
And the dull drops, that from his purpled bill
As from a limbeck did adown distill.        275
In his right hand a tipped staffe he held,
With which his feeble steps he stayed still:
For he was faint with cold, and weak with eld;
That scarse his loosed limbes he hable was to weld.
These, marching softly, thus in order went,
And after them the monthes all riding came:
First, sturdy March, with brows full sternly bent,
And armed strongly, rode upon a ram,
The same which over Hellespontus swam:
Yet in his hand a spade he also hent,        285
And in a bag all sorts of seeds ysame,
Which on the earth he strowed as he went,
And fild her womb with fruitfull hope of nourishment.
Next came fresh Aprill, full of lustyhed,
And wanton as a kid whose horne new buds:        290
Upon a bull he rode, the same which led
Europa floting through th’ Argolick fluds:
His hornes were gilden all with golden studs,
And garnished with garlonds goodly dight
Of all the fairest flowres and freshest buds        295
Which th’ earth brings forth, and wet he seem’d in sight
With waves, through which he waded for his loves delight.
Then came faire May, the fayrest mayd on ground,
Deckt all with dainties of her seasons pryde,
And throwing flowres out of her lap around:        300
Upon two brethrens shoulders she did ride,
The twinnes of Leda; which on eyther side
Supported her like to their soveraine queene.
Lord! how all creatures laught, when her they spide,
And leapt and daunc’t as they had ravisht beene!        305
And Cupid selfe about her fluttred all in greene.
And after her came jolly June, arrayd
All in greene leaves, as he a player were;
Yet in his time he wrought as well as playd,
That by his plough-yrons mote right well appeare:        310
Upon a crab he rode, that him did beare
With crooked crawling steps an uncouth pase,
And backward yode, as bargemen wont to fare
Bending their force contrary to their face,
Like that ungracious crew which faines demurest grace.        315
Then came hot July boyling like to fire,
That all his garments he had cast away:
Upon a lyon raging yet with ire
He boldly rode, and made him to obay:
It was the beast that whylome did forray        320
The Nemæan forrest, till th’ Amphytrionide
Him slew, and with his hide did him array:
Behinde his back a sithe, and by his side
Under his belt he bore a sickle circling wide.
The sixt was August, being rich arrayd
In garment all of gold downe to the ground:
Yet rode he not, but led a lovely mayd
Forth by the lilly hand, the which was cround
With eares of corne, and full her hand was found:
That was the righteous virgin which of old        330
Liv’d here on earth, and plenty made abound;
But, after wrong was lov’d and justice solde,
She left th’ unrighteous world and was to heaven extold.
Next him September marched eeke on foote;
Yet was he heavy laden with the spoyle        335
Of harvests riches, which he made his boot,
And him enricht with bounty of the soyle:
In his one hand, as fit for harvests toyle.
He held a knife-hook; and in th’ other hand
A paire of waights, with which he did assoyle        340
Both more and lesse, where it in doubt did stand,
And equall gave to each as justice duly scann’d.
Then came October full of merry glee:
For yet his noule was totty of the must,
Which he was treading in the wine-fats see,        345
And of the joyous oyle, whose gentle gust
Made him so frollick and so full of lust:
Upon a dreadfull scorpion he did ride,
The same which by Dianaes doom unjust
Slew great Orion: and eeke by his side        350
He had his ploughing-share and coulter ready tyde.
Next was November; he full grosse and fat,
As fed with lard, and that right well might seeme;
For he had been a fatting hogs of late,
That yet his browes with sweat did reek and steem,        355
And yet the season was full sharp and breem;
In planting eeke he took no small delight.
Whereon he rode, not easie was to deeme;
For it a dreadfull centaure was in sight,
The seed of Saturne and faire Nais, Chiron hight.        360
And after him came next the chill December:
Yet he, through merry feasting which he made,
And great bonfires, did not the cold remember;
His Saviours birth his mind so much did glad:
Upon a shaggy-bearded goat he rade,        365
The same wherewith Dan Jove in tender yeares,
They say, was nourisht by th’ Idæan mayd;
And in his hand a broad deepe boawle he beares,
Of which he freely drinks an health to all his peeres.
Then came old January, wrapped well
In many weeds to keep the cold away;
Yet did he quake and quiver like to quell,
And blowe his nayles to warme them if he may:
For they were numbd with holding all the day
An hatchet keene, with which he felled wood,        375
And from the trees did lop the needlesse spray:
Upon an huge great earth-pot steane he stood,
From whose wide mouth there flowed forth the Romane floud.
And lastly came cold February, sitting
In an old wagon, for he could not ride;        380
Drawne of two fishes for the season fitting,
Which through the flood before did softly slyde
And swim away: yet had he by his side
His plough and harnesse fit to till the ground,
And tooles to prune the trees, before the pride        385
Of hasting Prime did make them burgein round.
So past the twelve months forth, and their dew places found.
And after these there came the Day and Night,
Riding together both with equall pase,
Th’ one on a palfrey blacke, the other white:        390
But Night had covered her uncomely face
With a blacke veile, and held in hand a mace,
On top whereof the moon and stars were pight,
And Sleep and Darknesse round about did trace:
But Day did beare, upon his scepters hight,        395
The goodly sun, encompast all with beames bright.
Then came the Howres, faire daughters of high Jove
And timely Night, the which were all endewed
With wondrous beauty fit to kindle love;
But they were virgins all, and love eschewed,        400
That might forslack the charge to them fore-shewed
By mighty Jove; who did them porters make
Of heavens gate (whence all the gods issued)
Which they did dayly watch, and nightly wake
By even turnes, ne ever did their charge forsake.        405
And after all came Life, and lastly Death:
Death with most grim and griesly visage seene,
Yet is he nought but parting of the breath;
Ne ought to see, but like a shade to weene,
Unbodied, unsoul’d, unheard, unseene:        410
But Life was like a faire young lusty boy,
Such as they faine Dan Cupid to have beene,
Full of delightfull health and lively joy,
Deckt all with flowres, and wings of gold fit to employ.
When these were past, thus gan the Titanesse:
‘Lo! mighty mother, now be judge, and say
Whether in all thy creatures more or lesse
Change doth not raign and beare the greatest sway:
For who sees not that Time on all doth pray?
But times do change and move continually:        420
So nothing here long standeth in one stay:
Wherefore, this lower world who can deny
But to be subject still to Mutabilitie?’
Then thus gan Jove: ‘Right true it is, that these,
And all things else that under heaven dwell,        425
Are chaung’d of Time, who doth them all disseise
Of being: but who is it (to me tell)
That Time himselfe doth move and still compell
To keepe his course? Is not that namely wee,
Which poure that vertue from our heavenly cell        430
That moves them all, and makes them changed be?
So them we gods doe rule, and in them also thee.’
To whom thus Mutability: ‘The things
Which we see not how they are mov’d and swayd
Ye may attribute to your selves as kings,        435
And say they by your secret powre are made:
But what we see not, who shall us perswade?
But were they so, as ye them faine to be,
Mov’d by your might, and ordred by your ayde;
Yet what if I can prove, that even yee        440
Your selves are likewise chang’d, and subject unto mee?
‘And first, concerning her that is the first,
Even you, faire Cynthia, whom so much ye make
Joves dearest darling; she was bred and nurst
On Cynthus hill, whence she her name did take:        445
Then is she mortall borne, how-so ye crake;
Besides, her face and countenance every day
We changed see, and sundry forms partake,
Now hornd, now round, now bright, now brown and gray;
So that as changefull as the moone men use to say.        450
‘Next Mercury, who though he lesse appeare
To change his hew, and alwayes seeme as one,
Yet he his course doth alter every yeare,
And is of late far out of order gone:
So Venus eeke, that goodly paragone,        455
Though faire all night, yet is she darke all day;
And Phœbus self, who lightsome is alone,
Yet is he oft eclipsed by the way,
And fills the darkned world with terror and dismay.
‘Now Mars, that valiant man, is changed most:
For he some times so far runs out of square,
That he his way doth seem quite to have lost,
And cleane without his usuall sphere to fare;
That even these star-gazers stonisht are
At sight thereof, and damne their lying bookes:        465
So likewise grim Sir Saturne oft doth spare
His sterne aspect, and calme his crabbed lookes:
So many turning cranks these have, so many crookes.
‘But you, Dan Jove, that only constant are,
And king of all the rest, as ye do clame,        470
Are you not subject eeke to this misfare?
Then let me aske you this withouten blame:
Where were ye borne? Some say in Crete by name,
Others in Thebes, and others other-where;
But wheresoever they comment the same,        475
They all consent that ye begotten were
And borne here in this world, ne other can appeare.
‘Then are ye mortall borne, and thrall to me,
Unlesse the kingdome of the sky yee make
Immortall and unchangeable to be:        480
Besides, that power and vertue which ye spake,
That ye here worke, doth many changes take,
And your owne natures change: for each of you,
That vertue have, or this or that to make,
Is checkt and changed from his nature trew,        485
By others opposition or obliquid view.
‘Besides, the sundry motions of your spheares,
So sundry waies and fashions as clerkes faine,
Some in short space, and some in longer yeares;
What is the same but alteration plaine?        490
Onely the starrie skie doth still remaine:
Yet do the starres and signes therein still move,
And even it self is mov’d, as wizards saine.
But all that moveth doth mutation love:
Therefore both you and them to me I subject prove.        495
‘Then since within this wide great universe
Nothing doth firme and permanent appeare,
But all things tost and turned by transverse:
What then should let, but I aloft should reare
My trophee, and from all the triumph beare?        500
Now judge then (O thou greatest goddesse trew!)
According as thy selfe doest see and heare,
And unto me addoom that is my dew;
That is the rule of all, all being rul’d by you.’
So having ended, silence long ensewed;
Ne Nature to or fro spake for a space,
But, with firme eyes affixt, the ground still viewed.
Meane while, all creatures, looking in her face,
Expecting th’ end of this so doubtfull case,
Did hang in long suspence what would ensew,        510
To whether side should fall the soveraigne place:
At length, she, looking up with chearefull view,
The silence brake, and gave her doome in speeches few:
‘I well consider all that ye have sayd,
And find that all things stedfastnes doe hate        515
And changed be: yet being rightly wayd,
They are not changed from their first estate;
But by their change their being doe dilate:
And turning to themselves at length againe,
Doe worke their owne perfection so by fate:        520
Then over them Change doth not rule and raigne;
But they raigne over Change, and doe their states maintaine.
‘Cease therefore, daughter, further to aspire,
And thee content thus to be rul’d by me:
For thy decay thou seekst by thy desire:        525
But time shall come that all shall changed bee,
And from thenceforth none no more change shall see.’
So was the Titaness put downe and whist,
And Jove confirm’d in his imperiall see.
Then was that whole assembly quite dismist,        530
And Natur’s selfe did vanish, whither no man wist.

WHEN I bethinke me on that speech whyleare
Of Mutability, and well it way,
Me seemes, that though she all unworthy were
Of the heav’ns rule, yet, very sooth to say,        535
In all things else she beares the greatest sway:
Which makes me loath this state of life so tickle,
And love of things so vaine to cast away;
Whose flowring pride, so fading and so fickle,
Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle.        540
Then gin I thinke on that which Nature sayd,
Of that same time when no more change shall be,
But stedfast rest of all things, firmely stayd
Upon the pillours of eternity,
That is contrayr to Mutabilitie:        545
For all that moveth doth in change delight:
But thence-forth all shall rest eternally
With Him that is the God of Sabbaoth hight:
O that great Sabbaoth God graunt me that Sabaoths sight!

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