Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Faerie Queene
Book I. The Legend of the Knight of the Red Crosse
Canto II
        The guilefull great enchaunter parts
  The Redcrosse Knight from Truth:
Into whose stead faire Falshood steps,
  And Workes him woefull ruth.

BY this the northerne wagoner had set
His sevenfold teme behind the stedfast starre,
That was in ocean waves yet never wet,
But firme is fixt, and sendeth light from farre
To al that in the wide deepe wandring arre:        5
And chearefull Chaunticlere with his note shrill
Had warned once, that Phoebus fiery carre
In hast was climbing up the easterne hill,
Full envious that night so long his roome did fill:
When those accursed messengers of hell,
That feigning dreame, and that faire-forged spright,
Came to their wicked maister, and gan tel
Their booteless paines, and ill succeeding night:
Who, all in rage to see his skilfull might
Deluded so, gan threaten hellish paine        15
And sad Proserpines wrath, them to affright.
But when he saw his threatning was but vaine,
He cast about, and searcht his baleful bokes againe.
Eftsoones he tooke that miscreated faire,
And that false other spright, on whom he spred        20
A seeming body of the subtile aire,
Like a young squire, in loves and lustyhed
His wanton daies that ever loosely led,
Without regard of armes and dreaded fight:
Those twoo he tooke, and in a secrete bed,        25
Covered with darkenes and misdeeming night,
Them both together laid, to joy in vaine delight.
Forthwith he runnes with feigned faithfull hast
Unto his guest, who, after troublous sights
And dreames, gan now to take more sound repast;        30
Whom suddenly he wakes with fearful frights,
As one aghast with feends or damned sprights,
And to him cals: ‘Rise, rise, unhappy swaine,
That here wex old in sleepe, whiles wicked wights
Have knit themselves in Venus shameful chaine;        35
Come see, where your false lady doth her honor staine.’
All in amaze he suddenly up start
With sword in hand, and with the old man went;
Who soone him brought into a secret part,
Where that false couple were full closely ment        40
In wanton lust and leud enbracement:
Which when he saw, he burnt with gealous fire,
The eie of reason was with rage yblent,
And would have slaine them in his furious ire,
But hardly was restreined of that aged sire.        45
Retourning to his bed in torment great,
And bitter anguish of his guilty sight,
He could not rest, but did his stout heart eat,
And wast his inward gall with deepe despight,
Yrkesome of life, and too long lingring night.        50
At last faire Hesperus in highest skie
Had spent his lampe, and brought forth dawning light;
Then up he rose, and clad him hastily;
The dwarfe him brought his steed: so both away do fly.
Now when the rosy fingred Morning faire,
Weary of aged Tithones saffron bed,
Had spred her purple robe through deawy aire,
And the high hils Titan discovered,
The royall virgin shooke of drousyhed,
And rising forth out of her baser bowre,        60
Lookt for her knight, who far away was fled,
And for her dwarfe, that wont to wait each howre:
Then gan she wail and weepe, to see that woeful stowre.
And after him she rode with so much speede,
As her slowe beast could make; but all in vaine:        65
For him so far had borne his light-foot steede,
Pricked with wrath and fiery fierce dis-daine,
That him to follow was but fruitlesse paine;
Yet she her weary limbes would never rest,
But every hil and dale, each wood and plaine,        70
Did search, sore grieved in her gentle brest,
He so ungently left her, whome she loved best.
But subtill Archimago, when his guests
He saw divided into double parts,
And Una wandring in woods and forrests,        75
Th’ end of his drift, he praisd his divelish arts,
That had such might over true meaning harts:
Yet rests not so, but other meanes doth make,
How he may worke unto her further smarts:
For her he hated as the hissing snake,        80
And in her many troubles did most pleasure take.
He then devisde himselfe how to disguise;
For by his mighty science he could take
As many formes and shapes in seeming wise,
As ever Proteus to himselfe could make:        85
Sometime a fowle, sometime a fish in lake,
Now like a foxe, now like a dragon fell,
That of himselfe he ofte for feare would quake,
And oft would flie away. O who can tell
The hidden powre of herbes, and might of magick spel?        90
But now seemde best, the person to put on
Of that good knight, his late beguiled guest:
In mighty armes he was yclad anon,
And silver shield; upon his coward brest
A bloody crosse, and on his craven crest        95
A bounch of heares discolourd diversly:
Full jolly knight he seemde, and wel addrest,
And when he sate uppon his courser free,
Saint George himselfe ye would have deemed him to be.
But he, the knight whose semblaunt he did beare,
The true Saint George, was wandred far away,
Still flying from his thoughts and gealous feare;
Will was his guide, and griefe led him astray.
At last him chaunst to meete upon the way
A faithlesse Sarazin, all armde to point,        105
In whose great shield was writ with letters gay
Sans foy: full large of limbe and every joint
He was, and cared not for God or man a point.
Hee had a faire companion of his way,
A goodly lady clad in scarlot red,        110
Purfled with gold and pearle of rich assay;
And like a Persian mitre on her hed
Shee wore, with crowns and owches garnished,
The which her lavish lovers to her gave:
Her wanton palfrey all was overspred        115
With tinsell trappings, woven like a wave,
Whose bridle rung with golden bels and bosses brave.
With faire disport and courting dalliaunce
She intertainde her lover all the way:
But when she saw the knight his speare advaunce,        120
Shee soone left of her mirth and wanton play,
And bad her knight addresse him to the fray:
His foe was nigh at hand. He, prickte with pride
And hope to winne his ladies hearte that day,
Forth spurred fast: adowne his coursers side        125
The red bloud trickling staind the way, as he did ride.
The Knight of the Redcrosse, when him he spide
Spurring so hote with rage dispiteous,
Gan fairely couch his speare, and towards ride:
Soone meete they both, both fell and furious,        130
That, daunted with theyr forces hideous,
Their steeds doe stagger, and amazed stand,
And eke themselves, too rudely rigorous,
Astonied with the stroke of their owne hand,
Doe backe rebutte, and ech to other yealdeth land.        135
As when two rams, stird with ambitious pride,
Fight for the rule of the rich fleeced flocke,
Their horned fronts so fierce on either side
Doe meete, that, with the terror of the shocke
Astonied, both stand sencelesse as a blocke,        140
Forgetfull of the hanging victory:
So stood these twaine, unmoved as a rocke,
Both staring fierce, and holding idely
The broken reliques of their former cruelty.
The Sarazin, sore daunted with the buffe,
Snatcheth his sword, and fiercely to him flies;
Who well it wards, and quyteth cuff with cuff:
Each others equall puissaunce envies,
And through their iron sides with cruell spies
Does seeke to perce: repining courage yields        150
No foote to foe. The flashing fier flies,
As from a forge, out of their burning shields,
And streams of purple bloud new dies the verdant fields.
‘Curse on that Crosse,’ quoth then the Sarazin,
‘That keepes thy body from the bitter fitt!        155
Dead long ygoe, I wote, thou haddest bin,
Had not that charme from thee forwarned itt:
But yet I warne thee now assured sitt,
And hide thy head.’ Therewith upon his crest
With rigor so outrageous he smitt,        160
That a large share it hewd out of the rest,
And glauncing downe his shield, from blame him fairely blest.
Who thereat wondrous wroth, the sleeping spark
Of native vertue gan eftsoones revive,
And at his haughty helmet making mark,        165
So hugely stroke, that it the steele did rive,
And cleft his head. He, tumbling downe alive,
With bloudy mouth his mother earth did kis,
Greeting his grave: his grudging ghost did strive
With the fraile flesh; at last it flitted is,        170
Whether the soules doe fly of men that live amis.
The lady, when she saw her champion fall,
Like the old ruines of a broken towre,
Staid not to waile his woefull funerall,
But from him fled away with all her powre;        175
Who after her as hastily gan scowre,
Bidding the dwarfe with him to bring away
The Sarazins shield, signe of the conqueroure.
Her soone he overtooke, and bad to stay,
For present cause was none of dread her to dismay.        180
Shee, turning backe with ruefull countenaunce,
Cride, ‘Mercy, mercy, sir, vouchsafe to showe
On silly dame, subject to hard mischaunce,
And to your mighty wil!’ Her humblesse low,
In so ritch weedes and seeming glorious show,        185
Did much emmove his stout heroïcke heart,
And said, ‘Deare dame, your suddein over-throw
Much rueth me; but now put feare apart,
And tel, both who ye be, and who that tooke your part.’
Melting in teares, then gan shee thus lament:
‘The wreched woman, whom unhappy howre
Hath now made thrall to your commandement,
Before that angry heavens list to lowre,
And Fortune false betraide me to your powre,
Was, (O what now availeth that I was?)        195
Borne the sole daughter of an emperour,
He that the wide west under his rule has,
And high hath set his throne where Tiberis doth pas.
‘He, in the first flowre of my freshest age,
Betrothed me unto the onely haire        200
Of a most mighty king, most rich and sage;
Was never prince so faithfull and so faire,
Was never prince so meeke and debonaire;
But ere my hoped day of spousall shone,
My dearest lord fell from high honors staire,        205
Into the hands of hys accursed fone,
And cruelly was slaine, that shall I ever mone.
‘His blessed body, spoild of lively breath,
Was afterward, I know not how, convaid
And fro me hid: of whose most innocent death        210
When tidings came to mee, unhappy maid,
O how great sorrow my sad soule assaid!
Then forth I went his woefull corse to find,
And many yeares throughout the world I straid,
A virgin widow, whose deepe wounded mind        215
With love, long time did languish as the striken hind.
‘At last it chaunced this proud Sarazin
To meete me wandring; who perforce me led
With him away, but yet could never win
The fort, that ladies hold in soveraigne dread.        220
There lies he now with foule dishonor dead,
Who, whiles he livde, was called proud Sansfoy:
The eldest of three brethren, all three bred
Of one bad sire, whose youngest is Sansjoy,
And twixt them both was born the bloudy bold Sansloy.        225
‘In this sad plight, friendlesse, unfortunate,
Now miserable I Fidessa dwell,
Craving of you, in pitty of my state,
To doe none ill, if please ye not doe well.’
He in great passion al this while did dwell,        230
More busying his quicke eies, her face to view,
Then his dull eares, to heare what shee did tell;
And said, ‘Faire lady, hart of flint would rew
The undeserved woes and sorrowes which ye shew.
‘Henceforth in safe assuraunce may ye rest,
Having both found a new friend you to aid,
And lost an old foe, that did you molest:
Better new friend then an old foe is said.’
With chaunge of chear the seeming simple maid
Let fal her eien, as shamefast, to the earth,        240
And yeelding soft, in that she nought gain-said,
So forth they rode, he feining seemely merth,
And shee coy lookes: so dainty, they say, maketh derth.
Long time they thus together traveiled,
Til, weary of their way, they came at last        245
Where grew two goodly trees, that faire did spred
Their armes abroad, with gray mosse overcast,
And their greene leaves, trembling with every blast,
Made a calme shadowe far in compasse round:
The fearefull shepheard, often there aghast,        250
Under them never sat, ne wont there sound
His mery oaten pipe, but shund th’ unlucky ground.
But this good knight, soone as he them can spie,
For the coole shade him thither hastly got:
For golden Phoebus, now ymounted hie,        255
From fiery wheeles of his faire chariot
Hurled his beame so scorching cruell hot,
That living creature mote it not abide;
And his new lady it endured not.
There they alight, in hope themselves to hide        260
From the fierce heat, and rest their weary limbs a tide.
Faire seemely pleasaunce each to other makes,
With goodly purposes, there as they sit:
And in his falsed fancy he her takes
To be the fairest wight that lived yit;        265
Which to expresse, he bends his gentle wit,
And thinking of those braunches greene to frame
A girlond for her dainty forehead fit,
He pluckt a bough; out of whose rifte there came
Smal drops of gory bloud, that trickled down the same.        270
Therewith a piteous yelling voice was heard,
Crying, ‘O spare with guilty hands to teare
My tender sides in this rough rynd embard;
But fly, ah! fly far hence away, for feare
Least to you hap that happened to me heare,        275
And to this wretched lady, my deare love;
O too deare love, love bought with death too deare!’
Astond he stood, and up his heare did hove,
And with that suddein horror could no member move.
At last, whenas the dreadfull passion
Was overpast, and manhood well awake,
Yet musing at the straunge occasion,
And doubting much his sence, he thus bespake:
‘What voice of damned ghost from Limbo lake,
Or guilefull spright wandring in empty aire,        285
Both which fraile men doe oftentimes mistake,
Sends to my doubtful eares these speaches rare,
And ruefull plaints, me bidding guiltlesse blood to spare?’
Then groning deep: ‘Nor damned ghost,’ quoth he,
‘Nor guileful sprite to thee these words doth speake,        290
But once a man, Fradubio, now a tree;
Wretched man, wretched tree! whose nature weake
A cruell witch, her cursed will to wreake,
Hath thus transformd, and plast in open plaines,
Where Boreas doth blow full bitter bleake,        295
And scorching sunne does dry my secret vaines:
For though a tree I seme, yet cold and heat me paines.’
‘Say on, Fradubio, then, or man or tree,’
Quoth then the knight; ‘by whose mischievous arts
Art thou misshaped thus, as now I see?        300
He oft finds med’cine who his griefe imparts;
But double griefs afflict concealing harts,
As raging flames who striveth to suppresse.’
‘The author then,’ said he, ‘of all my smarts,
Is one Duessa, a false sorceresse,        305
That many errant knights hath broght to wretchednesse.
‘In prime of youthly yeares, when corage hott
The fire of love and joy of chevalree
First kindled in my brest, it was my lott
To love this gentle lady, whome ye see        310
Now not a lady, but a seeming tree;
With whome as once I rode accompanyde,
Me chaunced of a knight encountred bee,
That had a like faire lady by his syde;
Lyke a faire lady, but did fowle Duessa hyde.        315
‘Whose forged beauty he did take in hand
All other dames to have exceded farre;
I in defence of mine did likewise stand,
Mine, that did then shine as the morning starre:
So both to batteill fierce arraunged arre;        320
In which his harder fortune was to fall
Under my speare: such is the dye of warre:
His lady, left as a prise martiall,
Did yield her comely person, to be at my call.
‘So doubly lov’d of ladies unlike faire,
Th’ one seeming such, the other such indeede,
One day in doubt I cast for to compare,
Whether in beauties glorie did exceede;
A rosy girlond was the victors meede.
Both seemde to win, and both seemde won to bee,        330
So hard the discord was to be agreede:
Frælissa was as faire as faire mote bee,
And ever false Duessa seemde as faire as shee.
‘The wicked witch, now seeing all this while
The doubtfull ballaunce equally to sway,        335
What not by right, she cast to win by guile;
And by her hellish science raisd streight way
A foggy mist, that overcast the day,
And a dull blast, that, breathing on her face,
Dimmed her former beauties shining ray,        340
And with foule ugly forme did her disgrace:
Then was she fayre alone, when none was faire in place.
‘Then cride she out, “Fye, fye! deformed wight,
Whose borrowed beautie now appeareth plaine
To have before bewitched all mens sight;        345
O leave her soone, or let her soone be slaine.”
Her loathly visage viewing with disdaine,
Eftsoones I thought her such as she me told,
And would have kild her; but with faigned paine
The false witch did my wrathfull hand with-hold:        350
So left her, where she now is turnd to treen mould.
‘Thensforth I tooke Duessa for my dame,
And in the witch unweeting joyd long time,
Ne ever wist but that she was the same:
Till on a day (that day is everie prime,        355
When witches wont do penance for their crime)
I chaunst to see her in her proper hew,
Bathing her selfe in origane and thyme:
A filthy foule old woman I did vew,
That ever to have toucht her I did deadly rew.        360
‘Her neather partes misshapen, monstruous,
Were hidd in water, that I could not see,
But they did seeme more foule and hideous,
Then womans shape man would beleeve to bee.
Thensforth from her most beastly companie        365
I gan refraine, in minde to slipp away,
Soone as appeard safe opportunitie:
For danger great, if not assurd decay,
I saw before mine eyes, if I were knowne to stray.
‘The divelish hag, by chaunges of my cheare,
Perceiv’d my thought; and drownd in sleepie night,
With wicked herbes and oyntments did besmeare
My body all, through charmes and magicke might,
That all my senses were bereaved quight:
Then brought she me into this desert waste,        375
And by my wretched lovers side me pight,
Where now enclosed in wooden wals full faste,
Banisht from living wights, our wearie daies we waste.’
‘But how long time,’ said then the Elfin knight,
‘Are you in this misformed hous to dwell?’        380
‘We may not chaunge,’ quoth he, ‘this evill plight
Till we be bathed in a living well;
That is the terme prescribed by the spell.’
‘O how,’ sayd he, ‘mote I that well out find,
That may restore you to your wonted well?’        385
‘Time and suffised fates to former kynd
Shall us restore; none else from hence may us unbynd.’
The false Duessa, now Fidessa hight,
Heard how in vaine Fradubio did lament,
And knew well all was true. But the good knight        390
Full of sad feare and ghastly dreriment,
When all this speech the living tree had spent,
The bleeding bough did thrust into the ground,
That from the blood he might be innocent,
And with fresh clay did close the wooden wound:        395
Then turning to his lady, dead with feare her fownd.
Her seeming dead he fownd with feigned feare,
As all unweeting of that well she knew,
And paynd himselfe with busie care to reare
Her out of carelesse swowne. Her eylids blew,        400
And dimmed sight, with pale and deadly hew,
At last she up gan lift: with trembling cheare
Her up he tooke, too simple and too trew,
And oft her kist. At length, all passed feare,
He set her on her steede, and forward forth did beare.        405

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