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 IX
        His loves and lignage Arthure tells:
  The knights knitt friendly bands:
Sir Trevisan flies from Despeyre,
  Whom Redcros Knight withstands.

O GOODLY golden chayne! wherewith yfere
The vertues linked are in lovely wize,
And noble mindes of yore allyed were,
In brave poursuitt of chevalrous emprize,
That none did others safety despize,        5
Nor aid envy to him, in need that stands,
But friendly each did others praise devize
How to advaunce with favourable hands,
As this good Prince redeemd the Redcrosse Knight from bands.
Who when their powres, empayrd through labor long,
With dew repast they had recured well,
And that weake captive wight now wexed strong,
Them list no lenger there at leasure dwell,
But forward fare, as their adventures fell:
But ere they parted, Una faire besought        15
That straunger knight his name and nation tell;
Least so great good, as he for her had wrought,
Should die unknown, and buried be in thankles thought.
‘Faire virgin,’ said the Prince, ‘yee me require
A thing without the compas of my witt:        20
For both the lignage and the certein sire,
From which I sprong, from mee are hidden yitt.
For all so soone as life did me admitt
Into this world, and shewed hevens light,
From mothers pap I taken was unfitt,        25
And streight deliver’d to a Fary knight,
To be upbrought in gentle thewes and martiall might.
‘Unto old Timon he me brought bylive,
Old Timon, who in youthly yeares hath beene
In warlike feates th’ expertest man alive,        30
And is the wisest now on earth I weene:
His dwelling is low in a valley greene,
Under the foot of Rauran mossy hore,
From whence the river Dee, as silver cleene,
His tombling billowes rolls with gentle rore:        35
There all my daies he traind mee up in vertuous lore.
‘Thether the great magicien Merlin came,
As was his use, ofttimes to visitt mee;
For he had charge my discipline to frame,
And tutors nouriture to oversee.        40
Him oft and oft I askt in privity,
Of what loines and what lignage I did spring.
Whose aunswere bad me still assured bee,
That I was sonne and heire unto a king,
As time in her just term the truth to light should bring.’        45
‘Well worthy impe,’ said then the lady gent,
‘And pupill fitt for such a tutors hand!
But what adventure, or what high intent,
Hath brought you hether into Fary Land,
Aread, Prince Arthure, crowne of martiall band?’        50
‘Full hard it is,’ quoth he, ‘to read aright
The course of heavenly cause, or unerstand
The secret meaning of th’ Eternall Might,
That rules mens waies, and rules the thoughts of living wight.
‘For whether He through fatal deepe foresight
Me hither sent, for cause to me unghest,
Or that fresh bleeding wound, which day and night
Whilome doth rancle in my riven brest,
With forced fury following his behest,
Me hether brought by wayes yet never found,        60
You to have helpt I hold my selfe yet blest.’
‘Ah! courteous knight,’ quoth she, ‘what secret wound
Could ever find to grieve the gentlest hart on ground?’
‘Deare dame,’ quoth he, ‘you sleeping sparkes awake,
Which, troubled once, into huge flames will grow,        65
Ne ever will their fervent fury slake,
Till living moysture into smoke do flow,
And wasted life doe lye in ashes low.
Yet sithens silence lesseneth not my fire,
But, told, it flames, and, hidden, it does glow,        70
I will revele what ye so much desire:
Ah Love! lay down thy bow, the whiles I may respyre.
‘It was in freshest flowre of youthly yeares,
When corage first does creepe in manly chest;
Then first the cole of kindly heat appeares,        75
To kindle love in every living brest:
But me had warnd old Timons wise behest,
Those creeping flames by reason to subdew,
Before their rage grew to so great unrest,
As miserable lovers use to rew,        80
Which still wex old in woe, whiles wo stil wexeth new.
‘That ydle name of love, and lovers life,
As losse of time, and vertues enimy,
I ever scornd, and joyd to stirre up strife
In middest of their mournfull tragedy,        85
Ay wont to laugh, when them I heard to cry,
And blow the fire, which them to ashes brent:
Their god himselfe, grievd at my libertie,
Shott many a dart at me with fiers intent,
But I them warded all with wary government.        90
‘But all in vaine: no fort can be so strong,
Ne fleshly brest can armed be so sownd,
But will at last be wonne with battrie long,
Or unawares at disadvantage fownd:
Nothing is sure that growes on earthly grownd:        95
And who most trustes in arme of fleshly might,
And boastes, in beauties chaine not to be bownd,
Doth soonest fall in disaventrous fight,
And yeeldes his caytive neck to victours most despight.
‘Ensample make of him your haplesse joy,
And of my selfe now mated, as ye see;
Whose prouder vaunt that proud avenging boy
Did soone pluck downe, and curbd my libertee.
For on a day, prickt forth with jollitee
Of looser life, and heat of hardiment,        105
Raunging the forest wide on courser free,
The fields, the floods, the heavens, with one consent,
Did seeme to laugh on me, and favour mine intent.
‘Forwearied with my sportes, I did alight
From loftie steed, and downe to sleepe me layd;        110
The verdant gras my couch did goodly dight,
And pillow was my helmett fayre displayd:
Whiles every sence the humour sweet embayd,
And slombring soft my hart did steale away,
Me seemed, by my side a royall mayd        115
Her daintie limbes full softly down did lay:
So fayre a creature yet saw never sunny day.
‘Most goodly glee and lovely blandishment
She to me made, and badd me love her deare;
For dearely sure her love was to me bent,        120
As, when just time expired, should appeare.
But whether dreames delude, or true it were,
Was never hart so ravisht with delight,
Ne living man like wordes did ever heare,
As she to me delivered all that night;        125
And at her parting said, she Queene of Faries hight.
‘When I awoke, and found her place devoyd,
And nought but pressed gras where she had lyen,
I sorrowed all so much as earst I joyd,
And washed all her place with watry eyen.        130
From that day forth I lov’d that face divyne;
From that day forth I cast in carefull mynd,
To seeke her out with labor and long tyne,
And never vow to rest, till her I fynd:
Nyne monethes I seek in vain, yet ni’ll that vow unbynd.’        135
Thus as he spake, his visage wexed pale,
And chaunge of hew great passion did bewray;
Yett still he strove to cloke his inward bale,
And hide the smoke that did his fire display;
Till gentle Una thus to him gan say:        140
‘O happy Queene of Faries, that hast fownd,
Mongst many, one that with his prowesse may
Defend thine honour, and thy foes confownd!
True loves are often sown, but seldom grow on grownd.’
‘Thine, O then,’ said the gentle Redcrosse Knight,
‘Next to that ladies love, shalbe the place,
O fayrest virgin, full of heavenly light,
Whose wondrous faith, exceeding earthly race,
Was firmest fixt in myne extremest case.
And you, my lord, the patrone of my life,        150
Of that great Queene may well gaine worthie grace:
For onely worthie you through prowes priefe,
Yf living man mote worthie be, to be her liefe.’
So diversly discoursing of their loves,
The golden sunne his glistring head gan shew,        155
And sad remembraunce now the Prince amoves
With fresh desire his voyage to pursew:
Als Una earnd her traveill to renew.
Then those two knights, fast frendship for to bynd,
And love establish each to other trew,        160
Gave goodly gifts, the signes of gratefull mynd,
And eke, as pledges firme, right hands together joynd.
Prince Arthur gave a boxe of diamond sure,
Embowd with gold and gorgeous ornament,
Wherein were closd few drops of liquor pure,        165
Of wondrous worth, and vertue excellent,
That any wownd could heale incontinent:
Which to requite, the Redcrosse Knight him gave
A booke, wherein his Saveours Testament
Was writt with golden letters rich and brave;        170
A worke of wondrous grace, and hable soules to save.
Thus beene they parted, Arthur on his way
To seeke his love, and th’ other for to fight
With Unaes foe, that all her realme did pray.
But she, now weighing the decayed plight        175
And shrunken synewes of her chosen knight,
Would not a while her forward course pursew,
Ne bring him forth in face of dreadfull fight,
Till he recovered had his former hew:
For him to be yet weake and wearie well she knew.        180
So as they traveild, lo! they gan espy
An armed knight towards them gallop fast,
That seemed from some feared foe to fly,
Or other griesly thing, that him aghast.
Still as he fledd, his eye was backward cast,        185
As if his feare still followed him behynd;
Als flew his steed, as he his bandes had brast,
And with his winged heeles did tread the wynd,
As he had beene a fole of Pegasus his kynd.
Nigh as he drew, they might perceive his head
To bee unarmd, and curld uncombed heares
Upstaring stiffe, dismaid with uncouth dread;
Nor drop of blood in all his face appeares,
Nor life in limbe: and to increase his feares,
In fowle reproch of knighthoodes fayre degree,        195
About his neck an hempen rope he weares,
That with his glistring armes does ill agree;
But he of rope, or armes, has now no memoree.
The Redcrosse Knight toward him crossed fast,
To weet what mister wight was so dismayd:        200
There him he findes all sencelesse and aghast,
That of him selfe he seemd to be afrayd;
Whom hardly he from flying forward stayd,
Till he these wordes to him deliver might:
‘Sir knight, aread who hath ye thus arayd,        205
And eke from whom make ye this hasty flight?
For never knight I saw in such misseeming plight.’
He answerd nought at all, but adding new
Feare to his first amazment, staring wyde
With stony eyes and hartlesse hollow hew,        210
Astonisht stood, as one that had aspyde
Infernall furies, with their chaines untyde.
Him yett againe, and yett againe bespake
The gentle knight; who nought to him replyde,
But, trembling every joynt, did inly quake,        215
And foltring tongue at last these words seemd forth to shake:
‘For Gods deare love, sir knight, doe me not stay;
For loe! he comes, he comes fast after mee!’
Eft looking back, would faine have runne away;
But he him forst to stay, and tellen free        220
The secrete cause of his perplexitie:
Yet nathemore by his bold hartie speach
Could his blood frosen hart emboldened bee,
But through his boldnes rather feare did reach;
Yett, forst, at last he made through silence suddein breach.        225
‘And am I now in safetie sure,’ quoth he,
‘From him that would have forced me to dye?
And is the point of death now turnd fro mee,
That I may tell this haplesse history?’
‘Feare nought,’ quoth he, ‘no daunger now is nye.’        230
‘Then shall I you recount a ruefull cace,’
Said he, ‘the which with this unlucky eye
I late beheld; and had not greater grace
Me reft from it, had bene partaker of the place.
‘I lately chaunst (would I had never chaunst!)
With a fayre knight to keepen companee,
Sir Terwin hight, that well himselfe advaunst
In all affayres, and was both bold and free,
But not so happy as mote happy bee:
He lov’d, as was his lot, a lady gent,        240
That him againe lov’d in the least degree:
For she was proud, and of too high intent,
And joyd to see her lover languish and lament.
‘From whom retourning sad and comfortlesse,
As on the way together we did fare,        245
We met that villen, (God from him me blesse!)
That cursed wight, from whom I scapt whyleare,
A man of hell, that calls himselfe Despayre:
Who first us greets, and after fayre areedes
Of tydinges straunge, and of adventures rare:        250
So creeping close, as snake in hidden weedes,
Inquireth of our states, and of our knightly deedes.
‘Which when he knew, and felt our feeble harts
Embost with bale, and bitter byting griefe,
Which love had launched with his deadly darts,        255
With wounding words, and termes of foule repriefe,
He pluckt from us all hope of dew reliefe,
That earst us held in love of lingring life:
Then hopelesse hartlesse, gan the cunning thiefe
Perswade us dye, to stint all further strife:        260
To me he lent this rope, to him a rusty knife.
‘With which sad instrument of hasty death,
That wofull lover, loathing lenger light,
A wyde way made to let forth living breath.
But I, more fearefull or more lucky wight,        265
Dismayd with that deformed dismall sight,
Fledd fast away, halfe dead with dying feare;
Ne yet assur’d of life by you, sir knight,
Whose like infirmity like chaunce may beare:
But God you never let his charmed speaches heare.’        270
‘How may a man,’ said he, ‘with idle speach
Be wonne to spoyle the castle of his health?’
‘I wote,’ quoth he, ‘whom tryall late did teach,
That like would not for all this worldes wealth:
His subtile tong, like dropping honny, mealt’h        275
Into the heart, and searcheth every vaine,
That ere one be aware, by secret stealth
His powre is reft, and weaknes doth remaine.
O never, sir, desire to try his guilefull traine.’
‘Certes,’ sayd he, ‘hence shall I never rest,
Till I that treachours art have heard and tryde;
And you, sir knight, whose name mote I request,
Of grace do me unto his cabin guyde.’
‘I that hight Trevisan,’ quoth he, ‘will ryde
Against my liking backe, to doe you grace:        285
But nor for gold nor glee will I abyde
By you, when ye arrive in that same place;
For lever had I die, then see his deadly face.’
Ere long they come, where that same wicked wight
His dwelling has, low in an hollow cave,        290
Far underneath a craggy clift ypight,
Darke, dolefull, dreary, like a greedy grave,
That still for carrion carcases doth crave:
On top whereof ay dwelt the ghastly owle,
Shrieking his balefull note, which ever drave        295
Far from that haunt all other chearefull fowle;
And all about it wandring ghostes did wayle and howle.
And all about old stockes and stubs of trees,
Whereon nor fruite nor leafe was ever seene,
Did hang upon the ragged rocky knees;        300
On which had many wretches hanged beene,
Whose carcases were scattred on the greene,
And throwne about the cliffs. Arrived there,
That bare-head knight, for dread and dolefull teene,
Would faine have fled, ne durst approchen neare,        305
But th’ other forst him staye, and comforted in feare.
That darkesome cave they enter, where they find
That cursed man, low sitting on the ground,
Musing full sadly in his sullein mind:
His griesie lockes, long growen and unbound,        310
Disordred hong about his shoulders round,
And hid his face; through which his hollow eyne
Lookt deadly dull, and stared as astound;
His raw-bone cheekes, through penurie and pine,
Were shronke into his jawes, as he did never dyne.        315
His garment nought but many ragged clouts.
With thornes together pind and patched was,
The which his naked sides he wrapt abouts;
And him beside there lay upon the gras
A dreary corse, whose life away did pas,        320
All wallowd in his own yet luke-warme blood,
That from his wound yet welled fresh, alas!
In which a rusty knife fast fixed stood,
And made an open passage for the gushing flood.
Which piteous spectacle, approving trew
The wofull tale that Trevisan had told,
When as the gentle Redcrosse Knight did vew,
With firie zeale he burnt in courage bold,
Him to avenge, before his blood were cold;
And to the villein sayd: ‘Thou damned wight,        330
The authour of this fact we here behold,
What justice can but judge against thee right,
With thine owne blood to price his blood, here shed in sight?’
‘What franticke fit,’ quoth he, ‘hath thus distraught
Thee, foolish man, so rash a doome to give?        335
What justice ever other judgement taught,
But he should dye, who merites not to live?
None els to death this man despayring drive,
But his owne guiltie mind deserving death.
Is then unjust to each his dew to give?        340
Or let him dye, that loatheth living breath?
Or let him die at ease, that liveth here uneath?
‘Who travailes by the wearie wandring way,
To come unto his wished home in haste,
And meetes a flood, that doth his passage stay,        345
Is not great grace to helpe him over past,
Or free his feet, that in the myre sticke fast?
Most envious man, that grieves at neighbours good,
And fond, that joyest in the woe thou hast!
Why wilt not let him passe, that long hath stood        350
Upon the bancke, yet wilt thy selfe not pas the flood?
‘He there does now enjoy eternall rest
And happy ease, which thou doest want and crave,
And further from it daily wanderest:
What if some little payne the passage have,        355
That makes frayle flesh to feare the bitter wave?
Is not short payne well borne, that bringes long ease,
And layes the soule to sleepe in quiet grave?
Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life does greatly please.’        360
The knight much wondred at his suddeine wit,
And sayd: ‘The terme of life is limited,
Ne may a man prolong, nor shorten it:
The souldier may not move from watchfull sted,
Nor leave his stand, untill his captaine bed.’        365
‘Who life did limit by almightie doome,’
Quoth he, ‘knowes best the termes established;
And he that points the centonell his roome,
Doth license him depart at sound of morning droome.
‘Is not His deed, what ever thing is donne
In heaven and earth? Did not He all create,
To die againe? All ends, that was begonne.
Their times in His eternall booke of fate
Are written sure, and have their certein date.
Who then can strive with strong necessite,        375
That holds the world in his still chaunging state,
Or shunne the death ordaynd by destinie?
When houre of death is come, let none aske whence, nor why.
‘The lenger life, I wote, the greater sin,
The greater sin, the greater punishment:        380
All those great battels, which thou boasts to win,
Through strife, and blood-shed, and avengement,
Now praysd, hereafter deare thou shalt repent:
For life must life, and blood must blood repay.
Is not enough thy evill life forespent?        385
For he that once hath missed the right way,
The further he doth goe, the further he doth stray.
‘Then doe no further goe, no further stray,
But here Iy downe, and to thy rest betake,
Th’ ill to prevent, that life ensewen may.        390
For what hath life, that may it loved make,
And gives not rather cause it to forsake?
Feare, sicknesse, age, losse, labour, sorrow, strife,
Payne, hunger, cold, that makes the hart to quake;
And ever fickle Fortune rageth rife;        395
All which, and thousands mo, do make a loathsome life.
‘Thou, wretched man, of death hast greatest need,
If in true ballaunce thou wilt weigh thy state:
For never knight, that dared warlike deed,
More luckless dissaventures did amate:        400
Witnes the dungeon deepe, wherein of late
Thy life shutt up for death so oft did call;
And though good lucke prolonged hath thy date,
Yet death then would the like mishaps forestall,
Into the which heareafter thou maist happen fall.        405
‘Why then doest thou, O man of sin, desire
To draw thy dayes forth to their last degree?
Is not the measure of thy sinfull hire
High heaped up with huge iniquitee,
Against the day of wrath, to burden thee?        410
Is not enough, that to this lady mild
Thou falsed hast thy faith with perjuree,
And sold thy selfe to serve Duessa vild,
With whom in al abuse thou hast thy selfe defild?
‘Is not He just, that all this doth behold
From highest heven, and beares an equall eie?
Shall He thy sins up in His knowledge fold,
And guilty be of thine impietie?
Is not His lawe, Let every sinner die:
Die shall all flesh? What then must needs be donne,        420
Is it not better to doe willinglie,
Then linger till the glas be all out ronne?
Death is the end of woes: die soone, O Faries sonne.’
The knight was much enmoved with his speach,
That as a swords poynt through his hart did perse,        425
And in his conscience made a secrete breach,
Well knowing trew all that he did reherse;
And to his fresh remembraunce did reverse
The ugly vew of his deformed crimes,
That all his manly powres it did disperse,        430
As he were charmed with inchaunted rimes,
That oftentimes he quakt, and fainted oftentimes.
In which amazement when the miscreaunt
Perceived him to waver, weake and fraile,
Whiles trembling horror did his conscience daunt,        435
And hellish anguish did his soule assaile,
To drive him to despaire, and quite to quaile,
Hee shewd him, painted in a table plaine,
The damned ghosts, that doe in torments waile,
And thousand feends, that doe them endlesse paine        440
With fire and brimstone, which for ever shall remaine.
The sight whereof so throughly him dismaid,
That nought but death before his eies he saw,
And ever burning wrath before him laid,
By righteous sentence of th’ Almighties law:        445
Then gan the villein him to overcraw,
And brought unto him swords, ropes, poison, fire,
And all that might him to perdition draw;
And bad him choose, what death he would desire:
For death was dew to him, that had provokt Gods ire.        450
But whenas none of them he saw him take,
He to him raught a dagger sharpe and keene,
And gave it him in hand: his hand did quake,
And tremble like a leafe of aspin greene,
And troubled blood through his pale face was seene        455
To come and goe, with tidings from the heart,
As it a ronning messenger had beene.
At last, resolv’d to worke his finall smart,
He lifted up his hand, that backe againe did start.
Which whenas Una saw, through every vaine
The crudled cold ran to her well of life,
As in a swowne: but soone reliv’d againe,
Out of his hand she snatcht the cursed knife,
And threw it to the ground, enraged rife,
And to him said: ‘Fie, fie, faint hearted knight!        465
What meanest thou by this reprochfull strife?
Is this the battaile, which thou vauntst to fight
With that fire-mouthed dragon, horrible and bright?
‘Come, come away, fraile, feeble, fleshly wight,
Ne let vaine words bewitch thy manly hart,        470
Ne divelish thoughts dismay thy constant spright.
In heavenly mercies hast thou not a part?
Why shouldst thou then despeire, that chosen art?
Where justice growes, there grows eke greter grace,
The which doth quench the brond of hellish smart,        475
And that accurst hand-writing doth deface.
Arise, sir knight, arise, and leave this cursed place.’
So up he rose, and thence amounted streight.
Which when the carle beheld, and saw his guest
Would safe depart, for all his subtile sleight,        480
He chose an halter from among the rest,
And with it hong him selfe, unbid unblest.
But death he could not worke himselfe thereby;
For thousand times he so him selfe had drest,
Yet nathelesse it could not doe him die,        485
Till he should die his last, that is, eternally.

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