Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Ruines of Time

  MOST honourable and bountifull Ladie, there bee long sithens deepe sowed in my brest the seede of most entire love and humble affection unto that most brave knight, your noble brother deceased; which taking roote began in his life time some-what to bud forth, and to shew themselves to him, as then in the weakenes of their first spring: and would in their riper strength (had it pleased High God till then to drawe out his daies) spired forth fruit of more perfection. But since God hath disdeigned the world of that most noble spirit, which was the hope of all learned men, and the patron of my young Muses; togeather with him both their hope of anie further fruit was cut off, and also the tender delight of those their first blossoms nipped and quite dead. Yet sithens my late cumming into England, some frends of mine (which might much prevaile with me, and indeede commaund me) knowing with howe straight bandes of duetie I was tied to him, as also bound unto that noble house, (of which the chiefe hope then rested in him) have sought to revive them by upbraiding me, for that I have not shewed anie thankefull remembrance towards him or any of them, but suffer their names to sleep in silence and forgetfulnesse. Whome chieflie to satisfie, or els to avoide that fowle blot of unthankefulnesse, I have conceived this small poeme, intituled by a generall name of The Worlds Ruines: yet speciallie intended to the renowming of that noble race, from which both you and he sprong, and to the eternizing of some of the chiefe of them late deceased. The which I dedicate unto your Ladiship as whome it most speciallie concerneth, and to whome I acknowledge my selfe bounden, by manie singular favours and great graces. I pray for your honourable happinesse: and so humblie kisse your handes.
Your Ladiships ever
        humblie at commaund,
E. S.    

  [‘The Ruins of Time’ is mainly official verse, melodious and uninspired. It is the one poem of the volume confessedly written to order—confessedly, in the frank and dignified letter of dedication. Had Sidney alone been Spenser’s theme, or Sidney and Leicester, both his early patrons, this poem might perhaps have been comparable with Daphnaïda, but the great house to which they belonged having recently lost other distinguished members besides, Spenser saw fit to undertake a sort of necrology of the Dudleys, and the issue was perfunctoriness. Perhaps he was busy with other matters. Perhaps, too, as some have inferred, he built his poem up in good part of earlier material. It certainly is composite and ill-digested, and the device of the ‘visions’ clearly harks back to the days of his artistic apprenticeship. If he did take recourse to his early manuscripts, he may possibly have helped himself with Stemmata Dudleiana, mentioned in the postscript of the second letter to Harvey. On these points, however, we have ground for nothing more definite than surmise.]


IT chaunced me on day beside the shore
Of silver streaming Thamesis to bee,
Nigh where the goodly Verlame stood of yore,
Of which there now remaines no memorie,
Nor anie little moniment to see,        5
By which the travailer that fares that way
This once was she may warned be to say.
There on the other side, I did behold
A woman sitting sorrowfullie wailing,
Rending her yeolow locks, like wyrie golde        10
About her shoulders careleslie downe trailing,
And streames of teares from her faire eyes forth railing.
In her right hand a broken rod she held,
Which towards heaven shee seemd on high to weld.
Whether she were one of that rivers nymphes,        15
Which did the losse of some dere love lament,
I doubt; or one of those three fatall impes
Which draw the dayes of men forth in extent;
Or th’ auncient genius of that citie brent;
But seeing her so piteouslie perplexed,        20
I (to her calling) askt what her so vexed.
‘Ah! what delight,’ quoth she, ‘in earthlie thing,
Or comfort can I, wretched creature, have?
Whose happines the heavens envying,
From highest staire to lowest step me drave,        25
And have in mine owne bowels made my grave,
That of all nations now I am forlorne,
The worlds sad spectacle, and Fortunes scorne.’
Much was I mooved at her piteous plaint,
And felt my heart nigh riven in my brest        30
With tender ruth to see her sore constraint;
That shedding teares a while I still did rest,
And after did her name of her request.
‘Name have I none,’ quoth she, ‘nor anie being,
Bereft of both by Fates unjust decreeing.        35
‘I was that citie which the garland wore
Of Britaines pride, delivered unto me
By Romane victors, which it wonne of yore;
Though nought at all but ruines now I bee,
And lye in mine owne ashes, as ye see:        40
Verlame I was; what bootes it that I was,
Sith now I am but weedes and wastfull gras?
‘O vaine worlds glorie, and unstedfast state
Of all that lives on face of sinfull earth!
Which from their first untill their utmost date        45
Tast no one hower of happines or merth,
But like as at the ingate of their berth
They crying creep out of their mothers woomb,
So wailing backe go to their wofull toomb.
‘Why then dooth flesh, a bubble glas of breath,        50
Hunt after honour and advauncement vaine,
And reare a trophee for devouring death
With so great labour and long lasting paine,
As if his daies for ever should remaine?
Sith all that in this world is great or gaie        55
Doth as a vapour vanish, and decaie.
‘Looke backe, who list, unto the former ages,
And call to count, what is of them become:
Where be those learned wits and antique sages,
Which of all wisedome knew the perfect somme?        60
Where those great warriors, which did overcomme
The world with conquest of their might and maine,
And made one meare of th’ earth and of their raine?
‘What nowe is of th’ Assyrian Lyonesse,
Of whome no footing now on earth appeares?        65
What of the Persian Beares outragiousnesse,
Whose memorie is quite worne out with yeares?
Who of the Grecian Libbard now ought heares,
That overran the East with greedie powre,
And left his whelps their kingdomes to devoure?        70
‘And where is that same great seven headded beast,
That made all nations vassals of her pride,
To fall before her feete at her beheast,
And in the necke of all the world did ride?
Where doth she all that wondrous welth nowe hide?        75
With her own weight down pressed now shee lies,
And by her heaps her hugenesse testifies.
‘O Rome, thy ruine I lament and rue,
And in thy fall my fatall overthrowe,
That whilom was, whilst heavens with equall vewe        80
Deignd to behold me, and their gifts bestowe,
The picture of thy pride in pompous shew:
And of the whole world as thou wast the empresse,
So I of this small Northerne world was princesse.
‘To tell the beawtie of my buildings fayre,        85
Adornd with purest golde and precious stone,
To tell my riches, and endowments rare,
That by my foes are now all spent and gone,
To tell my forces, matchable to none,
Were but lost labour, that few would beleeve,        90
And with rehearsing would me more agreeve.
‘High towers, faire temples, goodly theaters,
Strong walls, rich porches, princelie pallaces,
Large streetes, brave houses, sacred sepulchers,
Sure gates, sweete gardens, stately galleries        95
Wrought with faire pillours, and fine imageries,
All those (O pitie!) now are turnd to dust,
And overgrowen with blacke oblivions rust.
‘Theretoo, for warlike power and peoples store,
In Britannie was none to match with mee,        100
That manie often did abie full sore:
Ne Troynovant, though elder sister shee,
With my great forces might compared bee;
That stout Pendragon to his perill felt,
Who in a siege seaven yeres about me dwelt.        105
‘But long ere this, Bunduca Britonnesse
Her mightie hoast against my bulwarkes brought,
Bunduca, that victorious conqueresse,
That, lifting up her brave heroïck thought
Bove womens weaknes, with the Romanes fought,        110
Fought, and in field against them thrice prevailed:
Yet was she foyld, when as she me assailed.
‘And though at last by force I conquered were
Of hardie Saxons, and became their thrall,
Yet was I with much bloodshed bought full deere,        115
And prizde with slaughter of their generall:
The moniment of whose sad funerall,
For wonder of the world, long in me lasted;
But now to nought, through spoyle of time, is wasted.
‘Wasted it is, as if it never were,        120
And all the rest that me so honord made,
And of the world admired ev’rie where,
Is turnd to smoake, that doth to nothing fade;
And of that brightnes now appeares no shade,
But greislie shades, such as doo haunt in hell        125
With fearfull fiends, that in deep darknes dwell.
‘Where my high steeples whilom usde to stand,
On which the lordly faulcon wont to towre,
There now is but an heap of lyme and sand,
For the shriche-owle to build her balefull bowre:        130
And where the nightingale wont forth to powre
Her restles plaints, to comfort wakefull lovers,
There now haunt yelling mewes and whining plovers.
‘And where the christall Thamis wont to slide
In silver channell, downe along the lee,        135
About whose flowrie bankes on either side
A thousand nymphes, with mirthfull jollitee,
Were wont to play, from all annoyance free,
There now no rivers course is to be seene,
But moorish fennes, and marshes ever greene.        140
‘Seemes that that gentle river, for great griefe
Of my mishaps, which oft I to him plained,
Or for to shunne the horrible mischiefe,
With which he saw my cruell foes me pained,
And his pure streames with guiltles blood oft stained,        145
From my unhappie neighborhood farre fled,
And his sweete waters away with him led.
‘There also where the winged ships were seene
In liquid waves to cut their fomie waie,
And thousand fishers numbred to have been,        150
In that wide lake looking for plenteous praie
Of fish, which they with baits usde to betraie,
Is now no lake, nor anie fishers store,
Nor ever ship shall saile there anie more.
‘They all are gone, and all with them is gone:        155
Ne ought to me remaines, but to lament
My long decay, which no man els doth mone,
And mourne my fall with dolefull dreriment.
Yet it is comfort in great languishment,
To be bemoned with compassion kinde,        160
And mitigates the anguish of the minde.
‘But me no man bewaileth, but in game,
Ne sheddeth teares from lamentable eie:
Nor anie lives that mentioneth my name
To be remembred of posteritie,        165
Save one, that maugre Fortunes injurie,
And Times decay, and Envies cruell tort,
Hath writ my record in true-seeming sort.
‘Cambden, the nourice of antiquitie,
And lanterne unto late succeeding age,        170
To see the light of simple veritie
Buried in ruines, through the great outrage
Of her owne people, led with warlike rage,
Cambden, though Time all moniments obscure,
Yet thy just labours ever shall endure.        175
‘But whie (unhappie wight) doo I thus crie,
And grieve that my remembrance quite is raced
Out of the knowledge of posteritie,
And all my antique moniments defaced?
Sith I doo dailie see things highest placed,        180
So soone as Fates their vitall thred have shorne,
Forgotten quite as they were never borne.
‘It is not long, since these two eyes beheld
A mightie Prince, of most renowmed race,
Whom England high in count of honour held,        185
And greatest ones did sue to gaine his grace;
Of greatest ones he greatest in his place,
Sate in the bosome of his Soveraine,
And Right and loyall did his word maintaine.
‘I saw him die, I saw him die, as one        190
Of the meane people, and brought foorth on beare;
I saw him die, and no man left to mone
His dolefull fate that late him loved deare:
Scarse anie left to close his eylids neare;
Scarse anie left upon his lips to laie        195
The sacred sod, or requiem to saie.
‘O trustlesse state of miserable men,
That builde your blis on hope of earthly thing,
And vainly thinke your selves halfe happie then,
When painted faces with smooth flattering        200
Doo fawne on you, and your wide praises sing,
And when the courting masker louteth lowe,
Him true in heart and trustie to you trow!
‘All is but fained, and with oaker dide,
That everie shower will wash and wipe away,        205
All things doo change that under heaven abide,
And after death all friendship doth decaie.
Therefore, what ever man bearst worldlie sway,
Living, on God and on thy selfe relie;
For when thou diest, all shall with thee die.        210
‘He now is dead, and all is with him dead,
Save what in heavens storehouse he uplaid:
His hope is faild, and come to passe his dread,
And evill men (now dead) his deeds upbraid:
Spite bites the dead, that living never baid.        215
He now is gone, the whiles the foxe is crept
Into the hole the which the badger swept.
‘He now is dead, and all his glorie gone,
And all his greatnes vapoured to nought,
That as a glasse upon the water shone,        220
Which vanisht quite, so soone as it was sought:
His name is worne alreadie out of thought,
Ne anie poet seekes him to revive;
Yet manie poets honourd him alive.
‘Ne doth his Colin, carelesse Colin Cloute,        225
Care now his idle bagpipe up to raise,
Ne tell his sorrow to the listning rout
Of shepherd groomes, which wont his songs to praise:
Praise who so list, yet I will him dispraise,
Untill he quite him of this guiltie blame:        230
Wake, shepheards boy, at length awake for shame!
‘And who so els did goodnes by him gaine,
And who so els his bounteous minde did trie,
Whether he shepheard be, or shepheards swaine,
(For manie did, which doo it now denie)        235
Awake, and to his song a part applie:
And I, the whilest you mourne for his decease,
Will with my mourning plaints your plaint increase.
‘He dyde, and after him his brother dyde,
His brother prince, his brother noble peere,        240
That whilste he lived was of none envyde,
And dead is now, as living, counted deare,
Deare unto all that true affection beare,
But unto thee most deare, O dearest dame,
His noble spouse and paragon of fame.        245
‘He, whilest he lived, happie was through thee,
And, being dead, is happie now much more;
Living, that lincked chaunst with thee to bee,
And dead, because him dead thou dost adore
As living, and thy lost deare love deplore.        250
So whilst that thou, faire flower of chastitie,
Dost live, by thee thy lord shall never die.
‘Thy lord shall never die, the whiles this verse
Shall live, and surely it shall live for ever:
For ever it shall live, and shall rehearse        255
His worthie praise, and vertues dying never,
Though death his soule doo from his bodie sever.
And thou thy selfe herein shalt also live;
Such grace the heavens doo to my verses give.
‘Ne shall his sister, ne thy father die,        260
Thy father, that good earle of rare renowne,
And noble patrone of weake povertie;
Whose great good deeds, in countrey and in towne,
Have purchast him in heaven an happie crowne;
Where he now liveth in eternall blis,        265
And left his sonne t’ ensue those steps of his.
‘He, noble bud, his grandsires livelie hayre,
Under the shadow of thy countenaunce
Now ginnes to shoote up fast, and flourish fayre
In learned artes and goodlie governaunce,        270
That him to highest honour shall advaunce.
Brave impe of Bedford, grow apace in bountie,
And count of wisedome more than of thy countie.
‘Ne may I let thy husbands sister die,
That goodly ladie, sith she eke did spring        275
Out of this stocke and famous familie,
Whose praises I to future age doo sing,
And foorth out of her happie womb did bring
The sacred brood of learning and all honour,
In whom the heavens powrde all their gifts upon her.        280
‘Most gentle spirite breathed from above,
Out of the bosome of the Makers blis,
In whom all bountie and all vertuous love
Appeared in their native propertis,
And did enrich that noble breast of his        285
With treasure passing all this worldes worth,
Worthie of heaven it selfe, which brought it forth.
‘His blessed spirite, full of power divine
And influence of all celestiall grace,
Loathing this sinfull earth and earthlie slime,        290
Fled backe too soone unto his native place,
Too soone for all that did his love embrace,
Too soone for all this wretched world, whom he
Robd of all right and true nobilitie.
‘Yet ere his happie soule to heaven went        295
Out of this fleshlie goale, he did devise
Unto his heavenlie Maker to present
His bodie, as a spotles sacrifise;
And chose, that guiltie hands of enemies
Should powre forth th’ offring of his guiltles blood:        300
So life exchanging for his countries good.
‘O noble spirite, live there ever blessed,
The worlds late wonder, and the heavens new joy,
Live ever there, and leave me here distressed
With mortall cares, and cumbrous worlds anoy.        305
But where thou dost that happines enjoy,
Bid me, O bid me quicklie come to thee,
That happie there I maie thee alwaies see.
‘Yet, whilest the Fates affoord me vitall breath,
I will it spend in speaking of thy praise,        310
And sing to thee, untill that timelie death
By heavens doome doo ende my earthlie daies:
Thereto doo thou my humble spirite raise,
And into me that sacred breath inspire,
Which thou there breathest perfect and entire.        315
‘Then will I sing; but who can better sing
Than thine owne sister, peerles ladie bright,
Which to thee sings with deep harts sorrowing,
Sorrowing tempered with deare delight,
That her to heare I feele my feeble spright        320
Robbed of sense, and ravished with joy:
O sad joy, made of mourning and anoy!
‘Yet will I sing; but who can better sing,
Than thou thy selfe, thine owne selfes valiance,
That, whilest thou livedst, madest the forrests ring,        325
And fields resownd, and flockes to leap and daunce,
And shepheards leave their lambs unto mischaunce,
To runne thy shrill Arcadian pipe to heare:
O happie were those dayes, thrice happie were!
‘But now more happie thou, and wretched wee,        330
Which want the wonted sweetnes of thy voice,
Whiles thou now in Elisian fields so free,
With Orpheus, and with Linus, and the choice
Of all that ever did in rimes rejoyce,
Conversest, and doost heare their heavenlie layes,        335
And they heare thine, and thine doo better praise.
‘So there thou livest, singing evermore,
And here thou livest, being ever song
Of us, which living loved thee afore,
And now thee worship, mongst that blessed throng        340
Of heavenlie poets and heroes strong.
So thou both here and there immortall art,
And everie where through excellent desart.
‘But such as neither of themselves can sing,
Nor yet are sung of others for reward,        345
Die in obscure oblivion, as the thing
Which never was, ne ever with regard
Their names shall of the later age be heard,
But shall in rustie darknes ever lie,
Unles they mentiond be with infamie.        350
‘What booteth it to have been rich alive?
What to be great? what to be gracious?
When after death no token doth survive
Of former being in this mortall hous,
But sleepes in dust dead and inglorious,        355
Like beast, whose breath but in his nostrels is,
And hath no hope of happinesse or blis.
‘How manie great ones may remembred be,
Which in their daies most famouslie did florish,
Of whome no word we heare, nor signe now see,        360
But as things wipt out with a sponge to-perishe,
Because they, living, cared not to cherishe
No gentle wits, through pride or covetize,
Which might their names for ever memorize!
‘Provide therefore (ye princes) whilst ye live,        365
That of the Muses ye may friended bee,
Which unto men eternitie do give;
For they be daughters of Dame Memorie
And Jove, the father of Eternitie,
And do those men in golden thrones repose,        370
Whose merits they to glorifie do chose.
‘The seven fold yron gates of grislie Hell,
And horrid house of sad Proserpina,
They able are with power of mightie spell
To breake, and thence the soules to bring awaie        375
Out of dread darkenesse to eternall day,
And them immortall make, which els would die
In foule forgetfulnesse, and nameles lie.
‘So whilome raised they the puissant brood
Of golden girt Alcmena, for great merite,        380
Out of the dust to which the Oetæan wood
Had him consum’d, and spent his vitall spirite,
To highest heaven, where now he doth inherite
All happinesse in Hebes silver bowre,
Chosen to be her dearest paramoure.        385
‘So raisde they eke faire Ledaes warlick twinnes,
And interchanged life unto them lent,
That, when th’ one dies, th’ other then beginnes
To shew in heaven his brightnes orient;
And they, for pittie of the sad wayment,        390
Which Orpheus for Eurydice did make,
Her back againe to life sent for his sake.
‘So happie are they, and so fortunate,
Whom the Pierian sacred sisters love,
That freed from bands of impacable fate,        395
And power of death, they live for aye above,
Where mortall wreakes their blis may not remove:
But with the gods, for former vertues meede,
On nectar and ambrosia do feede.
‘For deeds doe die, how ever noblie donne,        400
And thoughts of men do as themselves decay,
But wise wordes taught in numbers for to runne,
Recorded by the Muses, live for ay,
Ne may with storming showers be washt away;
Ne bitter breathing windes with harmfull blast,        405
Nor age, nor envie, shall them ever wast.
‘In vaine doo earthly princes then, in vaine,
Seeke with pyramides, to heaven aspired,
Or huge colosses, built with costlie paine,
Or brasen pillours, never to be fired,        410
Or shrines, made of the mettall most desired,
To make their memories for ever live:
For how can mortall immortalitie give?
‘Such one Mausolus made, the worlds great wonder,
But now no remnant doth thereof remaine:        415
Such one Marcellus, but was torne with thunder:
Such one Lisippus, but is worne with raine:
Such one King Edmond, but was rent for gaine.
All such vaine moniments of earthlie masse,
Devour’d of Time, in time to nought doo passe.        420
‘But Fame with golden wings aloft doth flie,
Above the reach of ruinous decay,
And with brave plumes doth beate the azure skie,
Admir’d of base-borne men from farre away:
Then who so will with vertuous deeds assay        425
To mount to heaven, on Pegasus must ride,
And with sweete poets verse be glorifide.
‘For not to have been dipt in Lethe lake
Could save the sonne of Thetis from to die;
But that blinde bard did him immortall make        430
With verses, dipt in deaw of Castalie:
Which made the Easterne conquerour to crie,
O fortunate yong-man, whose vertue found
So brave a trompe thy noble acts to sound.
‘Therefore in this halfe happie I doo read        435
Good Melibæ, that hath a poet got
To sing his living praises being dead,
Deserving never here to be forgot,
In spight of envie, that his deeds would spot:
Since whose decease, learning lies unregarded,        440
And men of armes doo wander unrewarded.
‘Those two be those two great calamities,
That long agoe did grieve the noble spright
Of Salomon with great indignities;
Who whilome was alive the wisest wight:        445
But now his wisedome is disprooved quite:
For he that now welds all things at his will
Scorns th’ one and th’ other in his deeper skill.
‘O griefe of griefes! O gall of all good heartes!
To see that vertue should dispised bee        450
Of him that first was raisde for vertuous parts,
And now, broad spreading like an aged tree,
Lets none shoot up, that nigh him planted bee.
O let the man of whom the Muse is scorned,
Nor alive nor dead, be of the Muse adorned!        455
‘O vile worlds trust, that with such vaine illusion
Hath so wise men bewitcht and overkest,
That they see not the way of their confusion!
O vainesse to be added to the rest,
That do my soule with inward griefe infest!        460
Let them behold the piteous fall of mee,
And in my case their owne ensample see.
‘And who so els that sits in highest seate
Of this worlds glorie, worshipped of all,
Ne feareth change of time, nor fortunes threate,        465
Let him behold the horror of my fall,
And his owne end unto remembrance call;
That of like ruine he may warned bee,
And in himselfe be moov’d to pittie mee.’
Thus having ended all her piteous plaint,        470
With dolefull shrikes shee vanished away,
That I, through inward sorrowe wexen faint,
And all astonished with deepe dismay
For her departure, had no word to say;
But sate long time in sencelesse sad affright,        475
Looking still, if I might of her have sight.
Which when I missed, having looked long,
My thought returned greeved home againe,
Renewing her complaint with passion strong,
For ruth of that same womans piteous paine;        480
Whose wordes recording in my troubled braine,
I felt such anguish wound my feeble heart,
That frosen horror ran through everie part.
So inlie greeving in my groning brest,
And deepelie muzing at her doubtfull speach,        485
Whose meaning much I labored foorth to wreste,
Being above my slender reasons reach,
At length, by demonstration me to teach,
Before mine eies strange sights presented were,
Like tragicke pageants seeming to appeare.        490
I saw an image, all of massie gold,
Placed on high upon an altare faire,
That all which did the same from farre beholde
Might worship it, and fall on lowest staire.
Not that great idoll might with this compaire,        495
To which th’ Assyrian tyrant would have made
The holie brethren falslie to have praid.
But th’ altare on the which this image staid
Was (O great pitie!) built of brickle clay,
That shortly the foundation decaid,        500
With showres of heaven and tempests worne away:
Then downe it fell, and low in ashes lay,
Scorned of everie one which by it went;
That I, it seing, dearelie did lament.
Next unto this a statelie towre appeared,
Built all of richest stone that might bee found,
And nigh unto the heavens in height upreared,
But placed on a plot of sandie ground:
Not that great towre which is so much renownd
For tongues confusion in Holie Writ,        510
King Ninus worke, might be compar’d to it.
But O vaine labours of terrestriall wit,
That buildes so stronglie on so frayle a soyle,
As with each storme does fall away and flit,
And gives the fruit of all your travailes toyle,        515
To be the pray of Tyme, and Fortunes spoyle!
I saw this towre fall sodainlie to dust,
That nigh with griefe thereof my heart was brust.
Then did I see a pleasant paradize,
Full of sweete flowres and daintiest delights,        520
Such as on earth man could not more devize,
With pleasures choyce to feed his cheerefull sprights:
Not that which Merlin by his magicke slights
Made for the gentle Squire, to entertaine
His fayre Belphœbe, could this gardine staine.        525
But O short pleasure bought with lasting paine!
Why will hereafter anie flesh delight
In earthlie blis, and joy in pleasures vaine,
Since that I sawe this gardine wasted quite,
That where it was scarce seemed anie sight?        530
That I, which once that beautie did beholde,
Could not from teares my melting eyes withholde.
Soone after this a giaunt came in place,
Of wondrous power, and of exceeding stature,
That none durst vewe the horror of his face;        535
Yet was he milde of speach, and meeke of nature.
Not he, which in despight of his Creatour
With railing tearmes defied the Jewish hoast,
Might with this mightie one in hugenes boast.
For from the one he could to th’ other coast        540
Stretch his strong thighes, and th’ ocæan overstride,
And reatch his hand into his enemies hoast.
But see the end of pompe and fleshlie pride:
One of his feete unwares from him did slide,
That downe hee fell into the deepe abisse,        545
Where drownd with him is all his earthlie blisse.
Then did I see a bridge, made all of golde,
Over the sea from one to other side,
Withouten prop or pillour it t’ upholde,
But like the coulored rainbowe arched wide:        550
Not that great arche which Trajan edifide,
To be a wonder to all age ensuing,
Was matchable to this in equall vewing.
But ah! what bootes it to see earthlie thing
In glorie or in greatnes to excell,        555
Sith time doth greatest things to ruine bring?
This goodlie bridge, one foote not fastned well,
Gan faile, and all the rest downe shortlie fell,
Ne of so brave a building ought remained,
That griefe thereof my spirite greatly pained.        560
I saw two beares, as white as anie milke,
Lying together in a mightie cave,
Of milde aspect, and haire as soft as silke,
That salvage nature seemed not to have,
Nor after greedie spoyle of blood to crave:        565
Two fairer beasts might not elswhere be found,
Although the compast world were sought around.
But what can long abide above this ground
In state of blis, or stedfast happinesse?
The cave in which these beares lay sleeping sound        570
Was but earth, and with her owne weightinesse
Upon them fell, and did unwares oppresse;
That, for great sorrow of their sudden fate,
Henceforth all worlds felicitie I hate.
  ¶ Much was I troubled in my heavie spright,        575
At sight of these sad spectacles forepast,
That all my senses were bereaved quight,
And I in minde remained sore agast,
Distraught twixt feare and pitie; when at last
I heard a voyce, which loudly to me called,        580
That with the suddein shrill I was appalled.
‘Behold,’ said it, ‘and by ensample see,
That all is vanitie and griefe of minde,
Ne other comfort in this world can be,
But hope of heaven, and heart to God inclinde;        585
For all the rest must needs be left behinde.’
With that it bad me to the other side
To cast mine eye, where other sights I spide.
Upon that famous rivers further shore,
There stood a snowie swan, of heavenly hiew        590
And gentle kinde, as ever fowle afore;
A fairer one in all the goodlie criew
Of white Strimonian brood might no man view:
There he most sweetly sung the prophecie
Of his owne death in dolefull elegie.        595
At last, when all his mourning melodie
He ended had, that both the shores resounded,
Feeling the fit that him forewarnd to die,
With loftie flight above the earth he bounded,
And out of sight to highest heaven mounted,        600
Where now he is become an heavenly signe:
There now the joy is his, here sorrow mine.
Whilest thus I looked, loe! adowne the lee
I sawe an harpe, stroong all with silver twyne,
And made of golde and costlie yvorie,        605
Swimming, that whilome seemed to have been
The harpe on which Dan Orpheus was seene
Wylde beasts and forrests after him to lead,
But was th’ harpe of Philisides now dead.
At length out of the river it was reard,        610
And borne above the cloudes to be divin’d,
Whilst all the way most heavenly noyse was heard
Of the strings, stirred with the warbling wind,
That wrought both joy and sorrow in my mind:
So now in heaven a signe it doth appeare,        615
The Harpe well knowne beside the Northern Beare.
Soone after this I saw on th’ other side
A curious coffer made of heben wood,
That in it did most precious treasure hide,
Exceeding all this baser worldes good:        620
Yet through the overflowing of the flood
It almost drowned was and done to nought,
That sight thereof much griev’d my pensive thought.
At length, when most in perill it was brought,
Two angels, downe descending with swift flight,        625
Out of the swelling streame it lightly caught,
And twixt their blessed armes it carried quight
Above the reach of anie living sight:
So now it is transform’d into that starre,
In which all heavenly treasures locked are.        630
Looking aside I saw a stately bed,
Adorned all with costly cloth of gold,
That might for anie princes couche be red,
And deckt with daintie flowres, as if it shold
Be for some bride, her joyous night to hold:        635
Therein a goodly virgine sleeping lay;
A fairer wight saw never summers day.
I heard a voyce that called farre away,
And her awaking bad her quickly dight,
For lo! her bridegrome was in readie ray        640
To come to her, and seeke her loves delight:
With that she started up with cherefull sight;
When suddeinly both bed and all was gone,
And I in languour left there all alone.
Still as I gazed, I beheld where stood
A knight all arm’d, upon a winged steed,
The same that was bred of Medusaes blood,
On which Dan Perseus, borne of heavenly seed,
The faire Andromeda from perill freed:
Full mortally this knight ywounded was,        650
That streames of blood foorth flowed on the gras.
Yet was he deckt (small joy to him, alas!)
With manie garlands for his victories,
And with rich spoyles, which late he did purchas
Through brave atcheivements from his enemies:        655
Fainting at last through long infirmities,
He smote his steed, that straight to heaven him bore,
And left me here his losse for to deplore.
Lastly, I saw an arke of purest golde
Upon a brazen pillour standing hie,        660
Which th’ ashes seem’d of some great prince to hold,
Enclosde therein for endles memorie
Of him whom all the world did glorifie:
Seemed the heavens with the earth did disagree,
Whether should of those ashes keeper bee.        665
At last me seem’d wing footed Mercurie,
From heaven descending to appease their strife,
The arke did beare with him above the skie,
And to those ashes gave a second life,
To live in heaven, where happines is rife:        670
At which the earth did grieve exceedingly,
And I for dole was almost like to die.
Immortall spirite of Philisides,
Which now art made the heavens ornament,
That whilome wast the worldes chiefst riches,        675
Give leave to him that lov’de thee to lament
His losse, by lacke of thee to heaven hent,
And with last duties of this broken verse,
Broken with sighes, to decke thy sable herse.
And ye, faire ladie, th’ honor of your daies        680
And glorie of the world, your high thoughts scorne,
Vouchsafe this moniment of his last praise
With some few silver dropping teares t’ adorne:
And as ye be of heavenlie off-spring borne,
So unto heaven let your high minde aspire,        685
And loath this drosse of sinfull worlds desire.


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