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 III
        Forsaken Truth long seekes her love,
  And makes the lyon mylde,
Marres Blind Devotions mart, and fals
  In hand of leachour vylde.

NOUGHT is there under heav’ns wide hollownesse,
That moves more deare compassion of mind,
Then beautie brought t’unworthie wretchednesse
Through envies snares, or fortunes freakes unkind:
I, whether lately through her brightnes blynd,        5
Or through alleageance and fast fealty,
Which I do owe unto all womankynd,
Feele my hart perst with so great agony,
When such I see, that all for pitty I could dy.
And now it is empassioned so deepe,
For fairest Unaes sake, of whom I sing,
That my frayle eies these lines with teares do steepe,
To thinke how she through guyleful handeling,
Though true as touch, though daughter of a king,
Though faire as ever living wight was fayre,        15
Though nor in word nor deede ill meriting,
Is from her knight divorced in despayre,
And her dew loves deryv’d to that vile witches shayre.
Yet she, most faithfull ladie, all this while
Forsaken, wofull, solitarie mayd,        20
Far from all peoples preace, as in exile,
In wildernesse and wastfull deserts strayd,
To seeke her knight; who, subtily betrayd
Through that late vision which th’ enchaunter wrought,
Had her abandond. She, of nought affrayd,        25
Through woods and wastnes wide him daily sought;
Yet wished tydinges none of him unto her brought.
One day, nigh wearie of the yrkesome way,
From her unhastie beast she did alight,
And on the grasse her dainty limbs did lay        30
In secrete shadow, far from all mens sight:
From her fayre head her fillet she undight,
And layd her stole aside. Her angels face
As the great eye of heaven shyned bright,
And made a sunshine in the shady place;        35
Did never mortall eye behold such heavenly grace.
It fortuned, out of the thickest wood
A ramping lyon rushed suddeinly,
Hunting full greedy after salvage blood:
Soone as the royall virgin he did spy,        40
With gaping mouth at her ran greedily,
To have attonce devourd her tender corse;
But to the pray when as he drew more ny,
His bloody rage aswaged with remorse,
And with the sight amazd, forgat his furious forse.        45
In stead thereof he kist her wearie feet,
And lickt her lilly hands with fawning tong,
As he her wronged innocence did weet.
O how can beautie maister the most strong,
And simple truth subdue avenging wrong!        50
Whose yielded pryde and proud submission,
Still dreading death, when she had marked long,
Her hart gan melt in great compassion,
And drizling teares did shed for pure affection.
‘The lyon, lord of everie beast in field,’
Quoth she, ‘his princely puissance doth abate,
And mightie proud to humble weake does yield,
Forgetfull of the hungry rage, which late
Him prickt, in pittie of my sad estate:
But he, my lyon, and my noble lord,        60
How does he find in cruell hart to hate
Her that him lov’d, and ever most adord
As the god of my life? why hath he me abhord?’
Redounding teares did choke th’ end of her plaint,
Which softly ecchoed from the neighbour wood;        65
And sad to see her sorrowfull constraint,
The kingly beast upon her gazing stood;
With pittie calmd, downe fell his angry mood.
At last, in close hart shutting up her payne,
Arose the virgin borne of heavenly brood,        70
And to her snowy palfrey got agayne,
To seeke her strayed champion if she might attayne.
The lyon would not leave her desolate,
But with her went along, as a strong gard
Of her chast person, and a faythfull mate        75
Of her sad troubles and misfortunes hard:
Still, when she slept, he kept both watch and ward,
And when she wakt, he wayted diligent,
With humble service to her will prepard:
From her fayre eyes he tooke commandement,        80
And ever by her lookes conceived her intent.
Long she thus traveiled through deserts wyde,
By which she thought her wandring knight shold pas,
Yet never shew of living wight espyde;
Till that at length she found the troden gras,        85
In which the tract of peoples footing was,
Under the steepe foot of a mountaine hore:
The same she followes, till at last she has
A damzell spyde slow footing her before,
That on her shoulders sad a pot of water bore.        90
To whom approaching, she to her gan call,
To weet if dwelling place were nigh at hand;
But the rude wench her answerd nought at all;
She could not heare, nor speake, nor understand;
Till, seeing by her side the lyon stand,        95
With suddeine feare her pitcher downe she threw,
And fled away: for never in that land
Face of fayre lady she before did vew,
And that dredd lyons looke her cast in deadly hew.
Full fast she fled, ne ever lookt behynd,
As if her life upon the wager lay,
And home she came, whereas her mother blynd
Sate in eternall night: nought could she say,
But, suddeine catching hold, did her dismay
With quaking hands, and other signes of feare:        105
Who, full of ghastly fright and cold affray,
Gan shut the dore. By this arrived there
Dame Una, weary dame, and entrance did requere.
Which when none yielded, her unruly page
With his rude clawes the wicket open rent,        110
And let her in; where, of his cruell rage
Nigh dead with feare, and faint astonishment,
Shee found them both in darkesome corner pent;
Where that old woman day and night did pray
Upon her beads, devoutly penitent:        115
Nine hundred Pater nosters every day,
And thrise nine hundred Aves, she was wont to say.
And to augment her painefull penaunce more,
Thrise every weeke in ashes shee did sitt,
And next her wrinkled skin rough sackecloth wore,        120
And thrise three times did fast from any bitt:
But now for feare her beads she did forgett.
Whose needelesse dread for to remove away,
Faire Una framed words and count’naunce fitt:
Which hardly doen, at length she gan them pray        125
That in their cotage small that night she rest her may.
The day is spent, and commeth drowsie night,
When every creature shrowded is in sleepe:
Sad Una downe her laies in weary plight,
And at her feete the lyon watch doth keepe:        130
In stead of rest, she does lament, and weepe
For the late losse of her deare loved knight,
And sighes, and grones, and evermore does steepe
Her tender brest in bitter teares all night;
All night she thinks too long, and often lookes for light.        135
Now when Aldeboran was mounted hye
Above the shinie Cassiopeias chaire,
And all in deadly sleepe did drowned lye,
One knocked at the dore, and in would fare;
He knocked fast, and often curst, and sware,        140
That ready entraunce was not at his call:
For on his backe a heavy load he bare
Of nightly stelths and pillage severall,
Which he had got abroad by purchas criminall.
He was, to weete, a stout and sturdy thiefe,
Wont to robbe churches of their ornaments,
And poore mens boxes of their due reliefe,
Which given was to them for good intents;
The holy saints of their rich vestiments
He did disrobe, when all men carelesse slept,        150
And spoild the priests of their habiliments;
Whiles none the holy things in safety kept,
Then he by conning sleights in at the window crept.
And all that he by right or wrong could find
Unto this house he brought, and did bestow        155
Upon the daughter of this woman blind,
Abessa, daughter of Corceca slow,
With whom he whoredome usd, that few did know,
And fed her fatt with feast of offerings,
And plenty, which in all the land did grow;        160
Ne spared he to give her gold and rings:
And now he to her brought part of his stolen things.
Thus, long the dore with rage and threats he bett,
Yet of those fearfull women none durst rize,
(The lyon frayed them,) him in to lett:        165
He would no lenger stay him to advize,
But open breakes the dore in furious wize,
And entring is; when that disdainfull beast,
Encountring fierce, him suddein doth surprize,
And seizing cruell clawes on trembling brest,        170
Under his lordly foot him proudly hath supprest.
Him booteth not resist, nor succour call,
His bleeding hart is in the vengers hand;
Who streight him rent in thousand peeces small,
And quite dismembred hath: the thirsty land        175
Dronke up his life; his corse left on the strand.
His fearefull freends weare out the wofull night,
Ne dare to weepe, nor seeme to understand
The heavie hap which on them is alight;
Affraid, least to themselves the like mishappen might.        180
Now when broad day the world discovered has,
Up Una rose, up rose the lyon eke,
And on their former journey forward pas,
In waies unknowne, her wandring knight to seeke,
With paines far passing that long wandring Greeke,        185
That for his love refused deitye;
Such were the labours of this lady meeke,
Still seeking him, that from her still did flye;
Then furthest from her hope, when most she weened nye.
Soone as she parted thence, the fearfull twayne,
That blind old woman and her daughter dear,
Came forth, and finding Kirkrapine there slayne,
For anguish great they gan to rend their heare,
And beat their brests, and naked flesh to teare.
And when they both had wept and wayld their fill,        195
Then forth they ran like two amazed deare,
Halfe mad through malice and revenging will,
To follow her, that was the causer of their ill.
Whome overtaking, they gan loudly bray,
With hollow houling and lamenting cry,        200
Shamefully at her rayling all the way,
And her accusing of dishonesty,
That was the flowre of faith and chastity;
And still, amidst her rayling, she did pray
That plagues, and mischiefes, and long misery        205
Might fall on her, and follow all the way,
And that in endlesse error she might ever stray.
But when she saw her prayers nought prevaile,
Shee backe retourned with some labour lost;
And in the way, as shee did weepe and waile,        210
A knight her mett in mighty armes embost,
Yet knight was not for all his bragging bost,
But subtill Archimag, that Una sought
By traynes into new troubles to have toste:
Of that old woman tidings he besought,        215
If that of such a lady shee could tellen ought.
Therewith she gan her passion to renew,
And cry, and curse, and raile, and rend her heare,
Saying, that harlott she too lately knew,
That causd her shed so many a bitter teare,        220
And so forth told the story of her feare.
Much seemed he to mone her haplesse chaunce,
And after for that lady did inquere;
Which being taught, he forward gan advaunce
His fair enchaunted steed, and eke his charmed launce.        225
Ere long he came where Una traveild slow,
And that wilde champion wayting her besyde:
Whome seeing such, for dread hee durst not show
Him selfe too nigh at hand, but turned wyde
Unto an hil; from whence when she him spyde,        230
By his like seeming shield her knight by name
Shee weend it was, and towards him gan ride:
Approching nigh, she wist it was the same,
And with faire fearefull humblesse towards him shee came;
And weeping said, ‘Ah! my long lacked lord,
Where have ye bene thus long out of my sight?
Much feared I to have bene quite abhord,
Or ought have done, that ye displeasen might,
That should as death unto my deare heart light:
For since mine eie your joyous sight did mis,        240
My chearefull day is turnd to chearelesse night,
And eke my night of death the shadow is;
But welcome now, my light, and shining lampe of blis.’
He thereto meeting said, ‘My dearest dame,
Far be it from your thought, and fro my wil,        245
To thinke that knighthood I so much should shame,
As you to leave, that have me loved stil,
And chose in Faery court, of meere goodwil,
Where noblest knights were to be found on earth:
The earth shall sooner leave her kindly skil        250
To bring forth fruit, and make eternall derth,
Then I leave you, my liefe, yborn of hevenly berth.
‘And sooth to say, why I lefte you so long,
Was for to seeke adventure in straunge place,
Where Archimago said a felon strong        255
To many knights did daily worke disgrace;
But knight he now shall never more deface:
Good cause of mine excuse, that mote ye please
Well to accept, and ever more embrace
My faithfull service, that by land and seas        260
Have vowd you to defend. Now then your plaint appease.’
His lovely words her seemd due recompence
Of all her passed paines: one loving howre
For many yeares of sorrow can dispence:
A dram of sweete is worth a pound of sowre:        265
Shee has forgott how many a woeful stowre
For him she late endurd; she speakes no more
Of past: true is, that true love hath no powre
To looken backe; his eies be fixt before.
Before her stands her knight, for whom she toyld so sore.        270
Much like as when the beaten marinere,
That long hath wandred in the ocean wide,
Ofte soust in swelling Tethys saltish teare,
And long time having tand his tawney hide
With blustring breath of heaven, that none can bide,        275
And scorching flames of fierce Orions hound,
Soone as the port from far he has espide,
His chearfull whistle merily doth sound,
And Nereus crownes with cups; his mates him pledg around.
Such joy made Una, when her knight she found;
And eke th’ enchaunter joyous seemde no lesse
Then the glad marchant, that does vew form ground
His ship far come from watrie wildernesse;
He hurles out vowes, and Neptune oft deth blesse.
So forth they past, and all the way they spent.        285
Discoursing of her dreadful late distresse,
In which he askt her, what the Iyon ment:
Who told her all that fell in journey, as she went.
They had not ridden far when they might see
One pricking towards them with hastie heat,        290
Full strongly armd, and on a courser free,
That through his fiersnesse fomed all with sweat,
And the sharpe yron did for anger eat,
When his hot ryder spurd his chauffed side;
His looke was sterne, and seemed still to threat        295
Cruell revenge, which he in hart did hyde;
And on his shield Sans loy in bloody lines was dyde.
When nigh he drew unto this gentle payre,
And saw the red-crosse, which the knight did beare,
He burnt in fire, and gan eftsoones prepare        300
Himselfe to batteill with his couched speare.
Loth was that other, and did faint through feare,
To taste th’ untryed dint of deadly steele;
But yet his lady did so well him cheare,
That hope of new good hap he gan to feele;        305
So bent his speare, and spurd his horse with yron heele.
But that proud Paynim forward came so ferce
And full of wrath, that with his sharphead speare
Through vainly crossed shield he quite did perce;
And had his staggering steed not shronke for feare,        310
Through shield and body eke he should him beare:
Yet so great was the puissance of his push,
That from his sadle quite he did him beare:
He, tombling rudely downe, to ground did rush,
And from h is gored wound a well of bloud did gush.        315
Dismounting lightly from his loftie steed,
He to him lept, in minde to reave his life,
And proudly said: ‘Lo there the worthie meed
Of him that slew Sansfoy with bloody knife!
Henceforth his ghost, freed from repining strife,        320
In peace may passen over Lethe lake,
When mourning altars, purgd with enimies life,
The black infernall Furies doen aslake:
Life from Sansfoy thou tookst, Sansloy shall from thee take.’
There with in haste his helmet gan unlace,
Till Una cride, ‘O hold that heavie hand,
Deare sir, what ever that thou be in place!
Enough is, that thy foe doth vanquisht stand
Now at thy mercy: mercy not withstand:
For he is one the truest knight alive,        330
Though conquered now he lye on lowly land,
And whilest him fortune favourd, fayre did thrive
In bludy field: therefore of life him not deprive.’
Her piteous wordes might notabate his rage,
But, rudely rending up his helmet, would        335
Have slayne him streight: but when he sees his age,
And hoarie head of Archimago old,
His hasty hand he doth amased hold,
And, halfe ashamed, wondred at the sight:
For that old man well knew he, though untold,        340
In charmes and magick to have wondrous might;
Ne ever wont in field, ne in round lists, to fight.
And said, ‘Why, Archimago, lucklesse syre,
What doe I see? what hard mishap is this,
That hath thee hether brought to taste mine yre?        345
Or thine the fault, or mine the error is,
In stead of foe to wound my friend amis?’
He answered nought, but in a traunce still lay,
And on those guilefull dazed eyes of his
The cloude of death did sit. Which doen away,        350
He left him lying so, ne would no lenger stay;
But to the virgin comes; who all this while
Amased stands, her selfe so mockt to see
By him, who has the guerdon of his guile,
For so misfeigning her true kinght to bee:        355
Yet is she now in more perplexitie,
Left in the hand of that same Paynim bold,
From whom her booteth not at all to flie;
Who, by her cleanly garment catching hold,
Her from her palfrey pluckt, her visage to behold.        360
But her fiers servant, full of kingly aw
And high disdaine, whenas his soveraine dame
So rudely handled by her foe he saw,
With gaping jawes full greedy at him came,
And, ramping on his shield, did weene the same        365
Have reft away with his sharp rending clawes:
But he was stout, and lust did now inflame
His corage more, that from his griping pawes
He hath his shield redeemd, and forth his swerd he drawes.
O then too weake and feeble was the forse
Of salvage beast, his puissance to withstand:
For he was strong, and of so mightie corse,
As ever wielded speare in warlike hand,
And feates of armes did wisely understand.
Eftsoones he perced through his chaufed chest        375
With thrilling point of deadly yron brand,
And launcht his lordly hart: with death opprest
He ror’d aloud, whiles life forsooke his stubborne brest.
Who now is left to keepe the forlorne maid
From raging spile of lawlesse victors will?        380
Her faithfull gard remov’d, her hope dismaid,
Her selfe a yielded pray to save or spill.
He now, lord of the field, his pride to fill,
With foule reproches and disdaineful spight
Her vildly entertaines, and, will or nill,        385
Beares her away upon his courser light:
Her prayers nought prevaile; his rage is more of might.
And all the way, with great lamenting paine,
And piteous plaintes, she filleth his dull eares,
That stony hart could riven have in twaine,        390
And all the way she wetts with flowing teares:
But he, enrag’d with rancor, nothing heares.
Her servile beast yet would not leave her so,
But followes her far of, ne ought he feares,
To be partaker of her wandring woe.        395
More mild, in beastly kind, then that her beastly foe.

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