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 V
        The faithfull knight in equall field
  Subdewes his faithlesse foe,
Whom false Duessa saves, and for
  His cure to hell does goe.

THE NOBLE hart, that harbours vertuous thought,
And is with childe of glorious great intent
Can never rest, untill it forth have brought
Th’ eternall brood of glorie excellent:
Such restlesse passion did all night torment        5
The flaming corage of that Faery knight,
Devizing how that doughtie turnament
With greatest honour he atchieven might:
Still did he wake, and still did watch for dawning light.
At last, the golden orientall gate
Of greatest heaven gan to open fayre,
And Phoebus, fresh as brydegrome to his mate,
Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie hayre,
And hurld his glistring beams through gloomy ayre.
Which when the wakeful Elfe perceivd, streight way        15
He started up, and did him selfe prepayre
In sunbright armes, and battailous array:
For with that Pagan proud he combatt will that day.
And forth he comes into the commune hall,
Where earely waite him many a gazing eye,        20
To weet what end to straunger knights may fall.
There many minstrales maken melody,
To drive away the dull melancholy,
And many bardes, that to the trembling chord
Can tune their timely voices cunningly,        25
And many chroniclers, that can record
Old loves, and warres for ladies doen by many a lord.
Soone after comes the cruell Sarazin,
In woven maile all armed warily,
And sternly lookes at him, who not a pin        30
Does care for looke of living creatures eye.
They bring them wines of Greece and Araby
And daintie spices fetcht from furthest Ynd,
To kindle heat of corage privily:
And in the wine a solemne oth they bynd        35
T’ observe the sacred lawes of armes, that are assynd.
At last forth comes that far renowmed queene,
With royall pomp and princely majestie:
She is ybrought unto a paled greene,
And placed under stately canapee,        40
The warlike feates of both those knights to see.
On th’ other side, in all mens open vew,
Duessa placed is, and on a tree
Sansfoy his shield is hangd with bloody hew:
Both those, the lawrell girlonds to the victor dew.        45
A shrilling trompett sownded from on hye,
And unto battaill bad them selves addresse:
Their shining shieldes about their wrestes they tye,
And burning blades about their heades doe blesse,
The instruments of wrath and heavinesse:        50
With greedy force each other doth assayle,
And strike so fiercely, that they doe impresse
Deepe dinted furrowes in the battred mayle:
The yron walles to ward their blowes are weak and fraile.
The Sarazin was stout, and wondrous strong,
And heaped blowes like yron hammers great:
For after blood and vengeance he did long.
The knight was fiers, and full of youthly heat,
And doubled strokes, like dreaded thunders threat:
For all for praise and honour he did fight.        60
Both stricken stryke, and beaten both doe beat,
That from their shields forth flyeth firie light,
And helmets, hewen deepe, shew marks of eithers might.
So th’ one for wrong, the other strives for right:
As when a gryfon, seized of his pray,        65
A dragon fiers encountreth in his flight,
Through widest ayre making his ydle way,
That would his rightfull ravine rend away:
With hideous horror both together smight,
And souce so sore, that they the heavens affray:        70
The wise southsayer, seeing so sad sight,
Th’ amazed vulgar telles of warres and mortall fight.
So th’ one for wrong, the other strives for right,
And each to deadly shame would drive his foe:
The cruell steele so greedily doth bight        75
In tender flesh, that streames of blood down flow,
With which the armes, that earst so bright did show,
Into a pure vermillion now are dyde.
Great ruth in all the gazers harts did grow,
Seeing the gored woundes to gape so wyde,        80
That victory they dare not wish to either side.
At last the Paynim chaunst to cast his eye,
His suddein eye, flaming with wrathfull fyre,
Upon his brothers shield, which hong thereby:
Therewith redoubled was his raging yre,        85
And said: ‘Ah, wretched sonne of wofull syre!
Doest thou sit wayling by blacke Stygian lake,
Whylest here thy shield is hangd for victors hyre?
And, sluggish german, doest thy forces slake
To after-send his foe, that him may overtake?        90
‘Goe, caytive Elfe, him quickly overtake,
And soone redeeme from his long wandring woe:
Goe, guiltie ghost, to him my message make,
That I his shield have quit from dying foe.’
Therewith upon his crest he stroke him so,        95
That twise he reeled, readie twise to fall:
End of the doubtfull battaile deemed tho
The lookers on, and lowd to him gan call
The false Duessa, ‘Thine the shield, and I, and all!’
Soone as the Faerie heard his ladie speake,
Out of his swowning dreame he gan awake,
And quickning faith, that earst was woxen weake,
The creeping deadly cold away did shake:
Tho, mov’d with wrath, and shame, and ladies sake,
Of all attonce he cast avengd to be,        105
And with so’ exceeding furie at him strake,
That forced him to stoupe upon his knee:
Had he not stouped so, he should have cloven bee.
And to him said: ‘Goe now, proud miscreant,
Thy selfe thy message do to german deare;        110
Alone he, wandring, thee too long doth want:
Goe say, his foe thy shield with his doth beare.’
Therewith his heavie hand he high gan reare,
Him to have slaine; when lo! a darkesome clowd
Upon him fell: he no where doth appeare,        115
But vanisht is. The Elfe him calls alowd,
But answer none receives: the darknes him does shrowd.
In haste Duessa from her place arose,
And to him running sayd: ‘O prowest knight,
That ever ladie to her love did chose,        120
Let now abate the terrour of your might,
And quench the flame of furious despight
And bloodie vengeance; lo! th’ infernall powres,
Covering your foe with cloud of deadly night,
Have borne him hence to Plutoes balefull bowres.        125
The conquest yours, I yours, the shield and glory yours!’
Not all so satisfide, with greedy eye
He sought all round about, his thristy blade
To bathe in blood of faithlesse enimy;
Who all that while lay hid in secret shade:        130
He standes amazed, how he thence should fade.
At last the trumpets triumph sound on hie,
And running heralds humble homage made
Greeting him goodly with new victorie,
And to him brought the shield, the cause of enmitie.        135
Wherewith he goeth to that soveraine queene,
And falling her before on lowly knee,
To her makes present of his service seene:
Which she accepts, with thankes and goodly gree,
Greatly advauncing his gay chevalree:        140
So marcheth home, and by her takes the knight,
Whom all the people followe with great glee,
Shouting, and clapping all their hands on hight,
That all the ayre it fils, and flyes to heaven bright.
Home is he brought, and layd in sumptuous bed:
Where many skilfull leaches him abide,
To salve his hurts, that yet still freshly bled.
In wine and oyle they wash his woundes wide,
And softly can embalme on everie side.
And all the while, most heavenly melody        150
About the bed sweet musicke did divide,
Him to beguile of griefe and agony:
And all the while Duessa wept full bitterly.
As when a wearie traveiler, that strayes
By muddy shore of broad seven-mouthed Nile,        155
Unweeting of the perillous wandring wayes,
Doth meete a cruell craftie crocodile,
Which, in false griefe hyding his harmefull guile,
Doth weepe full sore, and sheddeth tender teares:
The foolish man, that pitties all this while        160
His mournefull plight, is swallowd up unwares,
Forgetfull of his owne, that mindes an others cares.
So wept Duessa untill eventyde,
That shyning lampes in Joves high house were light:
Then forth she rose, ne lenger would abide,        165
But comes unto the place, where th’ hethen knight,
In slombring swownd, nigh voyd of vitall spright,
Lay cover’d with inchaunted cloud all day:
Whom when she found, as she him left in plight,
To wayle his wofull case she would not stay,        170
But to the easterne coast of heaven makes speedy way:
Where griesly Night, with visage deadly sad,
That Phœbus chearefull face durst never vew,
And in a foule blacke pitchy mantle clad,
She findes forth comming from her darksome mew,        175
Where she all day did hide her hated hew.
Before the dore her yron charet stood,
Already harnessed for journey new;
And coleblacke steedes yborne of hellish brood,
That on their rusty bits did champ, as they were wood.        180
Who when she saw Duessa sunny bright,
Adornd with gold and jewels shining cleare,
She greatly grew amazed at the sight,
And th’ unacquainted light began to feare;
For never did such brightnes there appeare;        185
And would have backe retyred to her cave,
Untill the witches speach she gan to heare,
Saying: ‘Yet, O thou dreaded dame, I crave
Abyde, till I have told the message which I have.’
She stayd, and foorth Duessa gan proceede:
‘O thou most auncient grandmother of all,
More old then Jove, whom thou at first didst breede,
Or that great house of gods cælestiall,
Which wast begot in Dæmogorgons hall,
And sawst the secrets of the world unmade,        195
Why suffredst thou thy nephewes deare to fall
With Elfin sword, most shamefully betrade?
Lo where the stout Sansjoy doth sleepe in deadly shade!
‘And him before, I saw with bitter eyes
The bold Sansfoy shrinck underneath his speare;        200
And now the pray of fowles in field he lyes,
Nor wayld of friends, nor layd on groning beare,
That whylome was to me too dearely deare.
O what of gods then boots it to be borne,
If old Aveugles sonnes so evill heare?        205
Or who shall not great Nightes children scorne,
When two of three her nephews are so fowle forlorne?
‘Up, then! up, dreary dame, of darknes queene!
Go gather up the reliques of thy race,
Or else goe them avenge, and let be seene        210
That dreaded Night in brightest day hath place,
And can the children of fayre Light deface.’
Her feeling speaches some compassion mov’d
In hart, and chaunge in that great mothers face:
Yet pitty in her hart was never prov’d        215
Till then: for evermore she hated, never lov’d:
And said, ‘Deare daughter, rightly may I rew
The fall of famous children borne of mee,
And good successes, which their foes ensew:
But who can turne the streame of destinee,        220
Or breake the chayne of strong necessitee,
Which fast is tyde to Joves eternall seat?
The sonnes of Day he favoureth, I see,
And by my ruines thinkes to make them great:
To make one great by others losse is bad excheat.        225
‘Yet shall they not escape so freely all;
For some shall pay the price of others guilt:
And he, the man that made Sansfoy to fall,
Shall with his owne blood price that he hath spilt.
But what art thou, that telst of nephews kilt?’        230
‘I, that do seeme not I, Duessa ame,’
Quoth she, ‘how ever now, in garments gilt
And gorgeous gold arayd, I to thee came;
Duessa I, the daughter of Deceipt and Shame.’
Then bowing downe her aged backe, she kist
The wicked witch, saying: ‘In that fayre face
The false resemblaunce of Deceipt, I wist,
Did closely lurke; yet so true-seeming grace
It carried, that I scarse in darksome place
Could it discerne, though I the mother bee        240
Of Falshood, and roote of Duessaes race.
O welcome, child, whom I have longd to see,
And now have seene unwares! Lo, now I goe with thee.’
Then to her yron wagon she betakes,
And with her beares the fowle welfavourd witch:        245
Through mirkesome aire her ready way she makes.
Her twyfold teme, of which two blacke as pitch,
And two were browne, yet each to each unlich,
Did softly swim away, ne ever stamp,
Unlesse she chaunst their stubborne mouths to twitch;        250
Then foming tarre, their bridles they would champ,
And trampling the fine element, would fiercely ramp.
So well they sped, that they be come at length
Unto the place, whereas the Paynim lay,
Devoid of outward sence and native strength,        255
Coverd with charmed cloud from vew of day
And sight of men, since his late luckelesse fray.
His cruell wounds, with cruddy bloud congeald,
They binden up so wisely as they may,
And handle softly, till they can be heald:        260
So lay him in her charett, close in night conceald.
And all the while she stood upon the ground,
The wakefull dogs did never cease to bay,
As giving warning of th’ unwonted sound,
With which her yron wheeles did them affray,        265
And her darke griesly looke them much dismay:
The messenger of death, the ghastly owle,
With drery shriekes did also her bewray;
And hungry wolves continually did howle
At her abhorred face, so filthy and so fowle.        270
Thence turning backe in silence softe they stole,
And brought the heavy corse with easy pace
To yawning gulfe of deepe Avernus hole.
By that same hole an entraunce, darke and bace,
With smoake and sulphur hiding all the place,        275
Descends to hell: there creature never past,
That backe retourned without heavenly grace;
But dreadfull Furies, which their chaines have brast,
And damned sprights sent forth to make ill men aghast.
By that same way the direfull dames doe drive
Their mournefull charett, fild with rusty blood,
And downe to Plutoes house are come bilive:
Which passing through, on every side them stood
The trembling ghosts with sad amazed mood,
Chattring their iron teeth, and staring wide        285
With stony eies; and all the hellish brood
Of feends infernall flockt on every side,
To gaze on erthly wight, that with the Night durst ride.
They pas the bitter waves of Acheron,
Where many soules sit wailing woefully,        290
And come to fiery flood of Phlegeton,
Whereas the damned ghosts in torments fry,
And with sharp shrilling shriekes doe bootlesse cry,
Cursing high Jove, the which them thither sent.
The house of endlesse paine is built thereby,        295
In which ten thousand sorts of punishment
The cursed creatures doe eternally torment.
Before the threshold dreadfull Cerberus
His three deformed heads did lay along,
Curled with thousand adders venemous,        300
And lilled forth his bloody flaming tong:
At them he gan to reare his bristles strong,
And felly gnarre, untill Dayes enemy
Did him appease; then downe his taile he hong,
And suffered them to passen quietly:        305
For she in hell and heaven had power equally.
There was Ixion turned on a wheele,
For daring tempt the queene of heaven to sin;
And Sisyphus an huge round stone did reele
Against an hill, ne might from labour lin;        310
There thristy Tantalus hong by the chin;
And Tityus fed a vultur on his maw;
Typhœus joynts were stretched on a gin;
Theseus condemned to endlesse slouth by law;
And fifty sisters water in leke vessels draw.        315
They all, beholding worldly wights in place,
Leave off their worke, unmindfull of their smart,
To gaze on them; who forth by them doe pace,
Till they be come unto the furthest part:
Where was a cave ywrought by wondrous art,        320
Deepe, darke, uneasy, dolefull, comfortlesse,
In which sad Aesculapius far apart
Emprisond was in chaines remedilesse,
For that Hippolytus rent corse he did redresse.
Hippolytus a jolly huntsman was,
That wont in charett chace the foming bore;
He all his peeres in beauty did surpas,
But ladies love, as losse of time, forbore:
His wanton stepdame loved him the more;
But when she saw her offred sweets refusd,        330
Her love she turnd to hate, and him before
His father fierce of treason false accusd,
And with her gealous termes his open eares abusd.
Who, all in rage, his sea-god syre besought,
Some cursed vengeaunce on his sonne to cast:        335
From surging gulf two monsters streight were brought,
With dread whereof his chacing steedes aghast
Both charett swifte and huntsman overcast.
His goodly corps, on ragged cliffs yrent,
Was quite dismembred, and his members chast        340
Scattered on every mountaine as he went,
That of Hippolytus was lefte no moniment.
His cruell stepdame, seeing what was donne,
Her wicked daies with wretched knife did end,
In death avowing th’ innocence of her sonne.        345
Which hearing, his rash syre began to rend
His heare, and hasty tong, that did offend:
Tho, gathering up the relicks of his smart,
By Dianes meanes, who was Hippolyts frend,
Them brought to Aesculape, that by his art        350
Did heale them all againe, and joyned every part.
Such wondrous science in mans witt to rain
When Jove avizd, that could the dead revive,
And fates expired could renew again,
Of endlesse life he might him not deprive,        355
But unto hell did thrust him downe alive,
With flashing thunderbolt ywounded sore:
Where long remaining, he did alwaies strive
Him selfe with salves to health for to restore,
And slake the heavenly fire, that raged evermore.        360
There auncient Night arriving, did alight
From her nigh weary wayne, and in her armes
To Æsculapius brought the wounded knight:
Whome having softly disaraid of armes,
Tho gan to him discover all his harmes,        365
Beseeching him with prayer, and with praise,
If either salves, or oyles, or herbes, or charmes
A fordonne wight from dore of death mote raise,
He would at her request prolong her nephews daies.
‘Ah! dame,’ quoth he, ‘thou temptest me in vaine
To dare the thing, which daily yet I rew,
And the old cause of my continued paine
With like attempt to like end to renew.
Is not enough, that, thrust from heaven dew,
Here endlesse penaunce for one fault I pay,        375
But that redoubled crime with vengeaunce new
Thou biddest me to eeke? Can Night defray
The wrath of thundring Jove, that rules both Night and Day?’
‘Not so,’ quoth she; ‘but sith that heavens king
From hope of heaven hath thee excluded quight,        380
Why fearest thou, that canst not hope for thing,
And fearest not that more thee hurten might,
Now in the powre of everlasting Night?
Goe to then, O thou far renowmed sonne
Of great Apollo, shew thy famous might        385
In medicine, that els hath to thee wonne
Great pains, and greater praise, both never to be donne.’
Her words prevaild: and then the learned leach
His cunning hand gan to his wounds to lay,
And all things els, the which his art did teach:        390
Which having seene, from thence arose away
The mother of dredd darkenesse, and let stay
Aveugles sonne there in the leaches cure,
And backe retourning, tooke her wonted way
To ronne her timely race, whilst Phoebus pure        395
In westerne waves his weary wagon did recure.
The false Duessa, leaving noyous Night,
Returnd to stately pallace of Dame Pryde;
Where when she came, she found the Faery knight
Departed thence, albee his woundes wyde,        400
Not throughly heald, unready were to ryde.
Good cause he had to hasten thence away;
For on a day his wary dwarfe had spyde
Where, in a dungeon deepe, huge nombers lay
Of caytive wretched thralls, that wayled night and day:        405
A ruefull sight as could be seene with eie:
Of whom he learned had in secret wise
To hidden cause of their captivitie;
How mortgaging their lives to Covetise,
Through wastfull pride and wanton riotise,        410
They were by law of that proud tyrannesse,
Provokt with Wrath, and Envyes false surmise,
Condemned to that dongeon mercilesse,
Where they should live in wo, and dye in wretchednesse.
There was that great proud king of Babylon,
That would compell all nations to adore,
And him as onely God to call upon,
Till, through celestiall doome thrown out of dore,
Into an oxe he was transformed of yore:
There also was King Crœsus, that enhaunst        420
His hart too high through his great richesse store;
And proud Antiochus, the which advaunst
His cursed hand gainst God, and on his altares daunst.
And, them long time before, great Nimrod was,
That first the world with sword and fire warrayd;        425
And after him old Ninus far did pas
In princely pomp, of all the world obayd;
There also was that mightie monarch layd
Low under all, yet above all in pride,
That name of native syre did fowle upbrayd,        430
And would as Ammons sonne be magnifide,
Till, scornd of God and man, a shamefull death he dide.
All these together in one heape were throwne,
Like carkases of beastes in butchers stall.
And, in another corner, wide were strowne        435
The antique ruins of the Romanes fall:
Great Romulus, the grandsyre of them all,
Proud Tarquin, and too lordly Lentulus,
Stout Scipio, and stubborne Hanniball,
Ambitious Sylla, and sterne Marius,        440
High Caesar, great Pompey, and fiers Antonius.
Amongst these mightie men were wemen mixt,
Proud wemen, vaine, forgetfull of their yoke:
The bold Semiramis, whose sides, transfixt
With sonnes own blade, her fowle reproches spoke;        445
Fayre Sthenobœa, that her selfe did choke
With wilfull chord, for wanting of her will;
High minded Cleopatra, that with stroke
Of aspes sting her selfe did stoutly kill:
And thousands moe the like, that did that dongeon fill.        450
Besides the endlesse routes of wretched thralles,
Which thether were assembled day by day,
From all the world, after their wofull falles
Through wicked pride and wasted welthes decay.
But most, of all which in that dongeon lay,        455
Fell from high princes courtes, or ladies bowres,
Where they in ydle pomp, or wanton play,
Consumed had their goods, and thriftlesse howres,
And lastly thrown themselves into these heavy stowres.
Whose case whenas the carefull dwarfe had tould,
And made ensample of their mournfull sight
Unto his maister, he no lenger would
There dwell in perill of like painefull plight,
But earely rose, and ere that dawning light
Discovered had the world to heaven wyde,        465
He by a privy posterne tooke his flight,
That of no envious eyes he mote be spyde:
For doubtlesse death ensewed, if any him descryde.
Scarse could he footing find in that fowle way,
For many corses, like a great lay-stall,        470
Of murdred men, which therein strowed lay,
Without remorse or decent funerall:
Which al through that great princesse pride did fall
And came to shamefull end. And them besyde,
Forth ryding underneath the castell wall,        475
A donghill of dead carcases he spyde,
The dreadfull spectacle of that sad House of Pryde.

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