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 VIII
        Faire virgin, to redeeme her deare,
  Brings Arthure to the fight:
Who slayes the gyaunt, wounds the beast,
  And strips Duessa quight.

AY me! how many perils doe enfold
The righteous man, to make him daily fall,
Were not that Heavenly Grace doth him uphold,
And stedfast Truth acquite him out of all!
Her love is firme, her care continuall,        5
So oft as he, through his own foolish pride
Or weaknes, is to sinfull bands made thrall:
Els should this Redcrosse knight in bands have dyde,
For whose deliverance she this Prince doth thether guyd.
They sadly traveild thus, untill they came
Nigh to a castle builded strong and hye:
Then cryde the dwarfe, ‘Lo! yonder is the same,
In which my lord, my liege, doth lucklesse ly,
Thrall to that gyaunts hatefull tyranny:
Therefore, deare sir, your mightie powres assay.’        15
The noble knight alighted by and by
From liftie steed, and badd the ladie stay,
To see what end of fight should him befall that day.
So with the squire, th’admirer of his might,
He marched forth towardes that castle wall;        20
Whose gates he fownd fast shutt, ne living wight
To warde the same, nor answere commers call.
Then tooke that squire an horne of bugle small,
Which hong adowne his side in twisted gold
And tasselles gay. Wyde wonders over all        25
Of that same hornes great vertues weren told,
Which had approved bene in uses manifold.
Was never wight that heard that shrilling sownd,
But trembling feare did feel in every vaine:
Three miles it might be easy heard arownd,        30
And ecchoes three aunswerd it selfe againe:
No false enchauntment, nor deceiptfull traine
Might once abide the terror of that blast,
But presently was void and wholly vaine:
No gate so strong, no locke so firme and fast,        35
But with that percing noise flew open quite, or brast.
The same before the geaunts gate he blew,
That all the castle quaked from the grownd,
And every dore of freewill open flew:
The gyaunt selfe dismaied with that sownd,        40
Where he with his Duessa dalliaunce fownd,
In hast came rushing forth from inner bowre,
With staring countenance sterne, as one astownd,
And staggering steps, to weet what suddein stowre
Had wrought that horror strange, and dar’d his dreaded powre.        45
And after him the proud Duessa came,
High mounted on her many headed beast;
And every head with fyrie tongue did flame,
And every head was crowned on his creast,
And bloody mouthed with late cruell feast.        50
That when the knight beheld, his mighti shild
Upon his manly arme he soone addrest,
And at him fiersly flew, with corage fild,
And eger greedinesse through every member thrild.
Therewith the gyant buckled him to fight,
Inflamd with scornefull wrath and high disdaine,
And lifting up his dreadful club on hight,
All armed with ragged snubbes and knottie graine,
Him thought at first encounter to have slaine.
But wise and wary was that noble pere,        60
And lightly leaping from so monstrous maine,
Did fayre avoide the violence him nere;
It booted nought to thinke such thunderbolts to beare.
Ne shame he thought to shonne so hideous might.
The ydle stroke, enforeing furious way,        65
Missing the marke of his misaymed sight,
Did fall to ground, and with his heavy sway
So deepely dinted in the driven clay,
That three yardes deepe a furrow up did throw;
The sad earth, wounded with so sore assay,        70
Did grone full grievous underneath the blow,
And trembling with strange feare, did like an erthquake show.
As when almightie Jove, in wrathfull mood,
To wreake the guilt of mortall sins is bent,
Hurles forth his thundring dart with deadly food,        75
Enrold in flames, and smouldring dreriment,
Through riven cloudes and molten firmament;
The fiers threeforked engin, making way,
Both loftie towres and highest trees hath rent
And all that might his angry passage stay,        80
And shooting in the earth casted up a mount of clay.
His boystrous club, so buried in the grownd,
He could not rearen up againe so light,
But that the knight him at advantage fownd,
And whiles he strove his combred clubbe to quight        85
Out of the earth, with blade all burning bright
He smott of his left arme, which like a block
Did fall to ground, depriv’d of native might:
Large streames of blood out of the truncked stock
Forth gushed, like fresh water streame from riven rocke.        90
Dismayed with so desperate deadly wound,
And eke impatient of unwonted payne,
He lowdly brayd with beastly yelling sownd,
That all the fieldes rebellowed againe:
As great a noyse, as when in Cymbrian plaine        95
An heard of bulles, whom kindly rage doth sting,
Doe for the milky mothers want complaine,
And fill the fieldes with troublous bellowing:
The neighbor woods arownd with hollow murmur ring.
That when his deare Duessa heard, and saw
The evill stownd that daungerd her estate,
Unto his aide she hastily did draw
Her dreadfull beast, who, swolne with blood of late,
Came ramping forth with proud presumpteous gate,
And threatned all his heades like flaming brandes.        105
But him the squire made quickly to retrate,
Encountring fiers with single sword in hand,
And twixt him and his lord did like a bulwarke stand.
The proud Duessa, full of wrathfull spight
And fiers disdaine, to be affronted so,        110
Enforst her purple beast with all her might,
That stop out of the way to overthroe,
Scorning the let of so unequall foe:
But nathemore would that corageous swayne
To her yeeld passage, gainst his lord to goe,        115
But with outrageous strokes did him restraine,
And with his body bard the way atwixt them twaine.
Then tooke the angrie witch her golden cup,
Which still she bore, replete with magick artes;
Death and despeyre did many thereof sup,        120
And secret poyson through their inner partes,
Th’ eternall bale of heavie wounded harts;
Which, after charmes and some enchauntments said,
She lightly sprinkled on his weaker partes;
Therewith his sturdie corage soone was quayd,        125
And all his sences were with suddein dread dismayd.
So downe he fell before the cruell beast,
Who on his neck his bloody clawes did seize,
That life nigh crusht out of his panting brest:
No powre he had to stirre, nor will to rize.        130
That when the carefull knight gan well avise,
He lightly left the foe with whom he fought,
And to the beast gan turne his enterprise;
For wondrous anguish in his hart it wrought,
To see his loved squyre into such thraldom brought.        135
And high advauncing his blood-thirstie blade,
Stroke one of those deformed heades so sore,
That of his puissaunce proud ensample made;
His monstrous scalpe downe to his teeth it tore,
And that misformed shape misshaped more:        140
A sea of blood gusht from the gaping wownd,
That her gay garments staynd with filthy gore,
And overflowed all the field arownd;
That over shoes in blood he waded on the grownd.
Thereat he rored for exceeding paine,
That, to have heard, great horror would have bred,
And scourging th’ emptie ayre with his long trayne,
Through great impatience of his grieved hed,
His gorgeous ryder from her loftie sted
Would have cast downe, and trodd in durty myre,        150
Had not the gyaunt soone her succoured;
Who, all enrag’d with smart and frantick yre,
Came hurtling in full fiers, and forst the knight retyre.
The force, which wont in two to be disperst,
In one alone left hand he now unites,        155
Which is through rage more strong then both were erst;
With which his hideous club aloft he dites,
And at his foe with furious rigor smites,
That strongest oake might seeme to overthrow:
The stroke upon his shield so heavie lites,        160
That to the ground it doubleth him full low:
What mortall wight could ever beare so monstrous blow?
And in his fall his shield, that covered was,
Did loose his vele by chaunce, and open flew:
The light whereof, that hevenes light did pas,        165
Such blazing brightnesse through the ayer threw,
That eye mote not the same endure to vew.
Which when the gyaunt spyde with staring eye,
He downe let fall his arme, and soft withdrew
His weapon huge, that heaved was on hye,        170
For to have slain the man, that on the ground did lye.
And eke the fruitfull-headed beast, amazd
At flashing beames of that sunshiny shield,
Became stark blind, and all his sences dazd,
That downe he tumbled on the durtie field,        175
And seemd himselfe as conquered to yield.
Whom when his maistresse proud perceiv’d to fall,
Whiles yet his feeble feet for faintnesse reeld,
Unto the gyaunt lowdly she gan call,
‘O helpe, Orgoglio, helpe! or els we perish all.’        180
At her so pitteous cry was much amoov’d
Her champion stout, and for to ayde his frend,
Againe his wonted angry weapon proov’d:
But all in vaine: for he has redd his end
In that bright shield, and all his forces spend        185
Them selves in vaine: for since that glauncing sight,
He hath no poure to hurt, nor to defend;
As where th’ Almighties lightning brond does light,
It dimmes the dazed eyen, and daunts the sences quight.
Whom when the Prince, to batteill new addrest
And threatning high his dreadfull stroke, did see,
His sparkling blade about his head he blest,
And smote off quite his right leg by the knee,
That downe he tombled; as an aged tree,
High growing on the top of rocky clift,        195
Whose hartstrings with keene steele nigh hewen be;
The mightie trunck halfe rent, with ragged rift
Doth roll adowne the rocks, and fall with fearefull drift.
Or as a castle, reared high and round,
By subtile engins and malitious slight        200
Is undermined from the lowest ground,
And her foundation forst, and feebled quight,
At last downe falles, and with her heaped hight
Her hastie ruine does more heavie make,
And yields it selfe unto the victours might;        205
Such was this gyaunts fall, that seemd to shake
The stedfast globe of earth, as it for feare did quake.
The knight then, lightly leaping to the pray,
With mortall steele him smot againe so sore,
That headlesse his unweldy bodie lay,        210
All wallowd in his owne fowle bloody gore,
Which flowed from his wounds in wondrous store.
But soone as breath out of his brest did pas,
That huge great body, which the gyaunt bore,
Was vanisht quite, and of that monstrous mas        215
Was nothing left, but like an emptie blader was.
Whose grievous fall when false Duessa spyde,
Her golden cup she cast unto the ground,
And crowned mitre rudely threw asyde;
Such percing griefe her stubborne hart did wound,        220
That she could not endure that dolefull stound,
But leaving all behind her, fled away:
The light-foot squyre her quickly turnd around,
And by hard meanes enforcing her to stay,
So brought unto his lord, as his deserved pray.        225
The roiall virgin, which beheld from farre,
In pensive plight and sad perlexitie,
The whole atchievement of this doubtfull warre,
Came running fast to greet his victorie,
With sober gladnesse and myld modestie,        230
And with sweet joyous cheare him thus bespake:
‘Fayre braunch of noblesse, flowre of chevalrie,
That with your worth the world amazed make,
How shall I quite the paynes, ye suffer for my sake?
‘And you, fresh budd of vertue springing fast,
Whom these sad eyes saw nigh unto deaths dore,
What hath poore virgin for such perill past
Wherewith you to reward? Accept therefore
My simple selfe, and service evermore:
And He that high does sit, and all things see        240
With equall eye, their merites to restore,
Behold what ye this day have done for mee,
And what I cannot quite, requite with usuree.
‘But sith the heavens, and your faire handeling,
Have made you master of the field this day,        245
Your fortune maister eke with governing,
And well begonne end all so well, I pray.
Ne let that wicked woman scape away;
For she it is, that did my lord bethrall,
My dearest lord, and deepe in dongeon lay,        250
Where he his better dayes hath wasted all.
O heare, how piteous he to you for ayd does call.’
Forthwith he gave in charge unto his squyre,
That scarlot whore to keepen carefully;
Whyles he himselfe with greedie great desyre        255
Into the castle entred forcibly;
Where living creature none he did espye.
Then gan he lowdly through the house to call:
But no man car’d to answere to his crye.
There raignd a solemne silence over all,        260
Nor voice was heard, nor wight was seene in bowre or hall.
At last, with creeping crooked pace forth came
An old old man, with beard as white as snow,
That on a staffe his feeble steps did frame,
And guyde his wearie gate both too and fro;        265
For his eye sight him fayled long ygo:
And on his arme a bounch of keyes he bore,
The which unused rust did overgrow:
Those were the keyes of every inner dore,
But he could not them use, but kept them still in store.        270
But very uncouth sight was to behold,
How he did fashion his untoward pace,
For as he forward moovd his footing old,
So backward still was turnd his wrincled face,
Unlike to men, who ever as they trace,        275
Both feet and face one way are wont to lead.
This was the auncient keeper of that place,
And foster father of the gyaunt dead;
His name Ignaro did his nature right aread.
His reverend heares and holy gravitee
The knight much honord, as beseemed well,
And gently askt, where all the people bee,
Which in that stately building wont to dwell:
Who answerd him full soft, He He could not tell.
Againe he askt, where that same knight was layd,        285
Whom great Orgoglio with his puissaunce fell
Had made his caytive thrall: againe he sayde,
He could not tell: ne ever other answere made.
Then asked he, which way he in might pas:
He could not tell, againe he answered.        290
Thereat the courteous knight displeased was,
And said: ‘Old syre, it seemes thou hast not red
How ill it fits with that same silver hed,
In vaine to mocke, or mockt in vaine to bee:
But if thou be, as thou art pourtrahed        295
With natures pen, in ages grave degree,
Aread in graver wise what I demaund of thee.’
His answere likewise was, He could not tell.
Whose sencelesse speach and doted ignorance
When as the noble Prince had marked well,        300
He ghest his nature by his countenance,
And calmd his wrath with goodly temperance.
Then to him stepping, from his arme did reach
Those keyes, and made himselfe free enterance.
Each dore he opened without any breach;        305
There was no barre to stop, nor foe him to empeach.
There all within full rich arayd he found,
With royall arras and resplendent gold,
And did with store of every thing abound,
That greatest princes presence might behold.        310
But all the floore (too filthy to be told)
With blood of guiltlesse babes, and innocents trew,
Which there were slaine, as sheepe out of the fold,
Defiled was, that dreadfull was to vew,
And sacred ashes over it was strowed new.        315
And there beside of marble stone was built
An altare, carv’d with cunning ymagery,
On which trew Christians blood was often spilt,
And holy martyres often doen to dye,
With cruell malice and strong tyranny:        320
Whose blessed sprites from underneath the stone
To God for vengeance cryde continually,
And with great griefe were often heard to grone,
That hardest heart would bleede to heare their piteous mone.
Through every rowme he sought, and everie bowr,
But no where could he find that wofull thrall:
At last he came unto an yron doore,
That fast was lockt, but key found not at all
Emongst that bounch to open it withall;
But in the same a little grate was pight,        330
Through which he sent his voyce, and lowd did call
With all his powre, to weet if living wight
Were housed therewithin, whom he enlargen might.
Therewith an hollow, dreary, murmuring voyce
These pitteous plaintes and dolours did resound:        335
‘O who is that, which bringes me happy choyce
Of death, that here lye dying every stound,
Yet live perforce in balefull darknesse bound?
For now three moones have changed thrice their hew,
And have beene thrice hid underneath the ground,        340
Since I the heavens chearefull face did vew.
O welcome, thou, that doest of death bring tydings trew!’
Which when that champion heard, with percing point
Of pitty deare his hart was thrilled sore,
And trembling horrour ran through every joynt,        345
For ruth of gentle knight so fowle forlore:
Which shaking off, he rent that yron dore,
With furious force and indignation fell;
Where entred in, his foot could find no flore,
But all a deepe descent, as darke as hell,        350
That breathed ever forth a filthie banefull smell.
But nether darknesse fowle, nor filthy bands,
Nor noyous smell his purpose could withhold,
(Entire affection hateth nicer hands)
But that with constant zele, and corage bold,        355
After long paines and labors manifold,
He found the meanes that prisoner up to reare;
Whose feeble thighes, unhable to uphold
His pined corse, him scarse to light could beare,
A ruefull spectacle of death and ghastly drere.        360
His sad dull eies, deepe sunck in hollow pits,
Could not endure th’ unwonted sunne to view;
His bare thin cheekes for want of better bits,
And empty sides deceived of their dew,
Could make a stony hart his hap to rew;        365
His rawbone armes, whose mighty brawned bowrs
Were wont to rive steele plates, and helmets hew,
Were clene consum’d, and all his vitall powres
Decayd, and al his flesh shronk up like withered flowres.
Whome when his lady saw, to him she ran
With hasty joy: to see him made her glad,
And sad to view his visage pale and wan,
Who earst in flowres of freshest youth was clad.
Tho, when her well of teares she wasted had,
She said: ‘Ah, dearest lord! what evill starre        375
On you hath frownd, and pourd his influence bad,
That of your selfe ye thus berobbed arre,
And this misseeming hew your manly looks doth marre?
‘But welcome now, my lord, in wele or woe,
Whose presence I have lackt too long a day;        380
And fye on Fortune, mine avowed foe,
Whose wrathful wreakes them selves doe now alay,
And for these wronges shall treble penaunce pay
Of treble good: good growes of evils priefe.’
The chearelesse man, whom sorow did dismay,        385
Had no delight to treaten of his griefe;
His long endured famine needed more reliefe.
‘Faire lady,’ then said that victorious knight,
‘The things, that grievous were to doe, or beare,
Them to renew, I wote, breeds no delight;        390
Best musicke breeds dislike in loathing eare:
But th’ only good, that growes of passed feare,
Is to be wise, and ware of like agein.
This daies ensample hath this lesson deare
Deepe written in my heart with yron pen,        395
That blisse may not abide in state of mortall men.
‘Henceforth, sir knight, take to you wonted strength,
And maister these mishaps with patient might:
Loe wher your foe lies stretcht in monstrous length,
And loe that wicked woman in your sight,        400
The roote of all your care and wretched plight,
Now in your powre, to let her live, or die.’
‘To doe her die,’ quoth Una, ‘were despight,
And shame t’ avenge so weake an enimy;
But spoile her of her scarlot robe, and let her fly.’        405
So, as she bad, that witch they disaraid,
And robd of roiall robes, and purple pall,
And ornaments that richly were displaid;
Ne spared they to strip her naked all.
Then, when they had despoyld her tire and call,        410
Such as she was, their eies might her behold,
That her misshaped parts did them appall,
A loathly, wrinckled hag, ill favoured, old,
Whose secret filth good manners biddeth not be told.
Her crafty head was altogether bald,
And, as in hate of honorable eld,
Was overgrowne with scurfe and filthy scald;
Her teeth out of her rotten gummes were feld,
And her sowre breath abhominably smeld;
Her dried dugs, lyke bladders lacking wind,        420
Hong downe, and filthy matter from them weld;
Her wrizled skin, as rough as maple rind,
So scabby, was, that would have loathd all womankind.
Her neather parts, the shame of all her kind,
My chaster Muse for shame doth blush to write:        425
But at her rompe she growing had behind
A foxes taile, with dong all fowly dight;
And eke her feete most monstrous were in sight;
For one of them was like an eagles claw,
With griping talaunts armd to greedy fight,        430
The other like a beares uneven paw:
More ugly shape yet never living creature saw.
Which when the knights beheld, amazd they were,
And wondred at so fowle deformed wight.
‘Such then,’ said Una, ‘as she seemeth here,        435
Such is the face of Falshood, such the sight
Of fowle Duessa, when her borrowed light
Is laid away, and counterfesaunce knowne.’
Thus when they had the witch disrobed quight,
And all her filthy feature open showne,        440
They let her goe at will, and wander waies unknowne.
Shee, flying fast from heavens hated face,
And from the world that her discovered wide,
Fled to the wastfull wildernesse apace,
From living eies her open shame to hide,        445
And lurkt in rocks and caves, long unespide.
But that faire crew of knights, and Una faire,
Did in that castle afterwards abide,
To rest them selves, and weary powres repaire;
Where store they fownd of al that dainty was and rare.        450

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