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 XI
        The knight with that old Dragon fights
  Two dayes incessantly:
The third, him overthrowes, and gayns
  Most glorious victory.

HIGH time now gan it wex for Una fayre
To thinke of those her captive parents deare,
And their forwasted kingdom to repayre:
Whereto whenas they now approached neare,
With hartie wordes her knight she gan to cheare,        5
And in her modest maner thus bespake:
‘Deare knight, as deare as ever knight was deare,
That all these sorrowes suffer for my sake,
High heven behold the tedious toyle, ye for me take.
‘Now are we come unto my native soyle,
And to the place, where all our perilles dwell;
Here hauntes that feend, and does his dayly spoyle;
Therefore henceforth bee at your keeping well,
And ever ready for your foeman fell.
The sparke of noble corage now awake,        15
And strive your excellent selfe to excell;
That shall ye evermore renowmed make
Above all knights on earth, that batteill undertake.’
And pointing forth, ‘Lo! yonder is,’ said she,
‘The brasen towre, in which my parents deare        20
For dread of that huge feend emprisond be;
Whom I from far see on the walles appeare,
Whose sight my feeble soule doth greatly cheare:
And on the top of all I do espye
The watchman wayting tydings glad to heare;        25
That, O my parents, might I happily
Unto you bring, to ease you of your misery!’
With that they heard a roaring hideous sownd,
That all the ayre with terror filled wyde,
And seemd uneath to shake the stedfast ground.        30
Eftsoones that dreadfull dragon they espyde,
Where stretcht he lay upon the sunny side
Of a great hill, himselfe like a great hill.
But all so soone as he from far descryde
Those glistring armes, that heven with light did fill,        35
He rousd himselfe full blyth, and hastned them untill.
Then badd the knight his lady yede aloof,
And to an hill her selfe withdraw asyde,
From whence she might behold that battailles proof,
And eke be safe from daunger far descryde:        40
She him obayd, and turnd a litle wyde.
Now, O thou sacred Muse, most learned dame,
Fayre ympe of Phœbus, and his aged bryde,
The nourse of time and everlasting fame,
That warlike handes ennoblest with immortall name;        45
O gently come into my feeble brest,
Come gently, but not with that mightie rage,
Wherewith the martiall troupes thou doest infest,
And hartes of great heroës doest enrage,
That nought their kindled corage may aswage:        50
Soone as thy dreadfull trompe begins to sownd,
The god of warre with his fiers equipage
Thou doest awake, sleepe never he so sownd,
And scared nations doest with horror sterne astownd.
Fayre goddesse, lay that furious fitt asyde,
Till I of warres and bloody Mars doe sing,
And Bryton fieldes with Sarazin blood bedyde,
Twixt that great Faery Queene and Paynim King,
That with their horror heven and earth did ring,
A worke of labour long, and endlesse prayse:        60
But now a while lett downe that haughtie string,
And to my tunes thy second tenor rayse,
That I this man of God his godly armes may blaze.
By this the dreadfull beast drew nigh to hand,
Halfe flying and halfe footing in his haste,        65
That with his largenesse measured much land,
And made wide shadow under his huge waste;
As mountaine doth the valley overcaste.
Approching nigh, he reared high afore
His body monstrous, horrible, and vaste,        70
Which, to increase his wondrous greatnes more,
Was swoln with wrath, and poyson, and with bloody gore.
And over, all with brasen scales was armd,
Like plated cote of steele, so couched neare,
That nought mote perce, ne might his corse bee harmd        75
With dint of swerd, nor push of pointed speare:
Which as an eagle, seeing pray appeare,
His aery plumes doth rouze, full rudely dight,
So shaked he, that horror was to heare:
For as the clashing of an armor bright,        80
Such noyse his rouzed scales did send unto the knight.
His flaggy winges, when forth he did display,
Were like two sayles, in which the hollow wynd
Is gathered full, and worketh speedy way:
And eke the pennes, that did his pineons bynd,        85
Were like mayne-yardes, with flying canvas lynd,
With which whenas him list the ayre to beat,
And there by force unwonted passage fynd,
The clowdes before him fledd for terror great,
And all the hevens stood still, amazed with his threat.        90
His huge long tayle, wownd up in hundred foldes,
Does overspred his long bras-scaly back,
Whose wreathed boughtes when ever he unfoldes,
And thick entangled knots adown does slack,
Bespotted as with shieldes of red and blacke,        95
It sweepeth all the land behind him farre,
And of three furlongs does but litle lacke;
And at the point two stinges in fixed arre,
Both deadly sharp, that sharpest steele exceeden farr.
But stinges and sharpest steele did far exceed
The sharpnesse of his cruel rending clawes:
Dead was it sure, as sure as death in deed,
What ever thing does touch his ravenous pawes,
Or what within his reach he ever drawes.
But his most hideous head my tongue to tell        105
Does tremble; for his deepe devouring jawes
Wyde gaped, like the griesly mouth of hell,
Through which into his darke abysse all ravin fell.
And, that more wondrous was, in either jaw
Three ranckes of yron teeth enraunged were,        110
In which yett trickling blood and gobbets raw
Of late devoured bodies did appeare,
That sight thereof bredd cold congealed feare:
Which to increase, and all atonce to kill,
A cloud of smoothering smoke and sulphure seare        115
Out of his stinking gorge forth steemed still,
That all the ayre about with smoke and stench did fill.
His blazing eyes, like two bright shining shieldes,
Did burne with wrath, and sparkled living fyre;
As two broad beacons, sett in open fieldes,        120
Send forth their flames far of to every shyre,
And warning give, that enimies conspyre
With fire and sword the region to invade;
So flam’d his eyne with rage and rancorous yre:
But far within, as in a hollow glade,        125
Those glaring lampes were sett, that made a dreadfull shade.
So dreadfully he towardes him did pas,
Forelifting up a loft his speckled brest,
And often bounding on the brused gras,
As for great joyaunce of his newcome guest.        130
Eftsoones he gan advaunce his haughty crest,
As chauffed bore his bristles doth upreare,
And shoke his scales to battaile ready drest,
That made the Redcrosse Knight nigh quake for feare,
As bidding bold defyaunce to his foeman neare.        135
The knight gan fayrely couch his steady speare,
And fiersely ran at him with rigorous might:
The pointed steele, arriving rudely theare,
His harder hyde would nether perce nor bight,
But, glauncing by, foorth passed forward right:        140
Yet, sore amoved with so puissaunt push,
The wrathfull beast about him turned light,
And him so rudely, passing by, did brush
With his long tayle, that horse and man to ground did rush.
Both horse and man up lightly rose againe,
And fresh encounter towardes him addrest:
But th’ ydle stroke yet backe recoyld in vaine,
And found no place his deadly point to rest.
Exceeding rage enflam’d the furious beast,
To be avenged of so great despight;        150
For never felt his imperceable brest
So wondrous force from hand of living wight;
Yet had he prov’d the powre of many a puissant knight.
Then, with his waving wings displayed wyde,
Himselfe up high he lifted from the ground,        155
And with strong flight did forcibly divyde
The yielding ayre, which nigh too feeble found
Her flitting parts, and element unsound,
To beare so great a weight: he, cutting way
With his broad sayles, about him soared round;        160
At last, low stouping with unweldy sway,
Snatcht up both horse and man, to beare them quite away.
Long he them bore above the subject plaine,
So far as ewghen bow a shaft may send,
Till struggling strong did him at last constraine        165
To let them downe before his flightes end:
As hagard hauke, presuming to contend
With hardy fowle, above his hable might,
His wearie pounces all in vaine doth spend
To trusse the pray too heavy for his flight;        170
Which, comming down to ground, does free it selfe by fight.
He so disseized of his gryping grosse,
The knight his thrillant speare againe assayd
In his bras-plated body to embosse,
And three mens strength unto the stroake he layd;        175
Wherewith the stiffe beame quaked, as affrayd,
And glauncing from his scaly necke, did glyde
Close under his left wing, then broad displayd.
The percing steele there wrought a wound full wyde,
That with the uncouth smart the monster lowdly cryde.        180
He cryde, as raging seas are wont to rore,
When wintry storme his wrathful wreck does threat;
The rolling billowes beat the ragged shore,
As they the earth would shoulder from her seat,
And greedy gulfe does gape, as he would eat        185
His neighbour element in his revenge:
Then gin the blustring brethren boldly threat,
To move the world from off his stedfast henge,
And boystrous battaile make, each other to avenge.
The steely head stuck fast still in his flesh,
Till with his cruell clawes he snatcht the wood,
And quite a sunder broke. Forth flowed fresh
A gushing river of blacke gory blood,
That drowned all the land, whereon he stood:
The streame thereof would drive a watermill.        195
Trebly augmented was his furious mood
With bitter sence of his deepe rooted ill,
That flames of fire he threw forth from his large nosethril.
His hideous tayle then hurled he about,
And therewith all enwrapt the nimble thyes        200
Of his froth-fomy steed, whose courage stout
Striving to loose the knott, that fast him tyes,
Himselfe in streighter bandes too rash implyes,
That to the ground he is perforce constraynd
To throw his ryder: who can quickly ryse        205
From of the earth, with durty blood distaynd,
For that reprochfull fall right fowly he disdaynd.
And fercely tooke his trenchand blade in hand,
With which he stroke so furious and so fell,
That nothing seemd the puissaunce could withstand:        210
Upon his crest the hardned yron fell;
But his more hardned crest was armd so well,
That deeper dint therein it would not make;
Yet so extremely did the buffe him quell,
That from thenceforth he shund the like to take,        215
But, when he saw them come, he did them still forsake.
The knight was wroth to see his stroke beguyld,
And smot againe with more outrageous might;
But backe againe the sparcling steele recoyld,
And left not any marke where it did light,        220
As if in adamant rocke it had beene pight.
The beast, impatient of his smarting wound,
And of so fierce and forcible despight,
Thought with his winges to stye above the ground;
But his late wounded wing unserviceable found.        225
Then, full of griefe and anguish vehement,
He lowdly brayd, that like was never heard,
And from his wide devouring oven sent
A flake of fire, that, flashing in his beard,
Him all amazd, and almost made afeard:        230
The scorching flame sore swinged all his face,
And through his armour all his body seard,
That he could not endure so cruell cace,
But thought his armes to leave, and helmet to unlace.
Not that great champion of the antique world,
Whom famous poetes verse so much doth vaunt,
And hath for twelve huge labours high extold,
So many furies and sharpe fits did haunt,
When him the poysoned garment did enchaunt,
With Centaures blood and bloody verses charmd,        240
As did this knight twelve thousand dolours daunt,
Whom fyrie steele now burnt, that erst him armd,
That erst him goodly armd, now most of all him harmd.
Faynt, wearie, sore, emboyled, grieved, brent
With heat, toyle, wounds, armes, smart, and inward fire,        245
That never man such mischiefes did torment;
Death better were, death did he oft desire,
But death will never come, when needes require.
Whom so dismayd when that his foe beheld,
He cast to suffer him no more respire,        250
But gan his sturdy sterne about to weld,
And him so strongly stroke, that to the ground him feld.
It fortuned (as fayre it then befell,)
Behynd his backe, unweeting, where he stood,
Of auncient time there was a springing well,        255
From which fast trickled forth a silver flood,
Full of great vertues, and for med’cine good.
Whylome, before that cursed dragon got
That happy land, and all with innocent blood
Defyld those sacred waves, it rightly hot        260
The Well of Life, ne yet his vertues had forgot.
For unto life the dead it could restore,
And guilt of sinfull crimes cleane wash away;
Those that with sicknesse were infected sore
It could recure, and aged long decay        265
Renew, as one were borne that very day.
Both Silo this, and Jordan, did excell,
And th’ English Bath, and eke the German Spau,
Ne can Cephise, nor Hebrus match this well:
Into the same the knight back overthrowen fell.        270
Now gan the golden Phœbus for to steepe
His fierie face in billowes of the west,
And his faint steedes watred in ocean deepe,
Whiles from their journall labours they did rest,
When that infernall monster, having kest        275
His wearie foe into that living well,
Can high advaunce his broad discoloured brest
Above his wonted pitch, with countenance fell,
And clapt his yron wings, as victor he did dwell.
Which when his pensive lady saw from farre,
Great woe and sorrow did her soule assay,
As weening that the sad end of the warre,
And gan to highest God entirely pray,
That feared chaunce from her to turne away:
With folded hands, and knees full lowly bent,        285
All night shee watcht, ne once adowne would lay
Her dainty limbs in her sad dreriment,
But praying still did wake, and waking did lament.
The morrow next gan earely to appeare,
That Titan rose to runne his daily race;        290
But earely, ere the morrow next gan reare
Out of the sea faire Titans deawy face,
Up rose the gentle virgin from her place,
And looked all about, if she might spy
Her loved knight to move his manly pace:        295
For she had great doubt of his safety,
Since late she saw him fall before his enimy.
At last she saw, where he upstarted brave
Out of the well, wherein he drenched lay:
As eagle fresh out of the ocean wave,        300
Where he hath lefte his plumes all hory gray,
And deckt himselfe with fethers youthly gay,
Like eyas hauke up mounts unto the skies,
His newly budded pineons to assay,
And merveiles at him selfe, stil as he flies:        305
So new this new-borne knight to battell new did rise.
Whom when the damned feend so fresh did spy,
No wonder if he wondred at the sight,
And doubted, whether his late enimy
It were, or other new supplied knight.        310
He, now to prove his late renewed might,
High brandishing his bright deaw-burning blade,
Upon his crested scalp so sore did smite,
That to the scull a yawning wound it made:
The deadly dint his dulled sences all dismaid.        315
I wote not whether the revenging steele
Were hardned with that holy water dew,
Wherein he fell, or sharper edge did feele,
Or his baptized hands now greater grew,
Or other secret vertue did ensew;        320
Els never could the force of fleshly arme,
Ne molten mettall, in his blood embrew:
For till that stownd could never wight him harme,
By subtilty, nor slight, nor might, nor mighty charme.
The cruell wound enraged him so sore,
That loud he yelled for exceeding paine;
As hundred ramping lions seemd to rore,
Whom ravenous hunger did thereto constraine:
Then gan he tosse aloft his stretched traine,
And therewith scourge the buxome aire so sore,        330
That to his force to yielden it was faine;
Ne ought his sturdy strokes might stand afore,
That high trees overthrew, and rocks in peeces tore.
The same advauncing high above his head,
With sharpe intended sting so rude him smott,        335
That to the earth him drove, as stricken dead,
Ne living wight would have him life behott:
The mortall sting his angry needle shott
Quite through his shield, and in his shoulder seasd,
Where fast it stucke, ne would thereout be gott:        340
The griefe thereof him wondrous sore diseasd,
Ne might his rancling paine with patience be appeasd.
But yet more mindfull of his honour deare
Then of the grievous smart, which him did wring,
From loathed soile he can him lightly reare,        345
And strove to loose the far in fixed sting:
Which when in vaine he tryde with struggeling,
Inflam’d with wrath, his raging blade he hefte,
And strooke so strongly, that the knotty string
Of his huge taile he quite a sonder clefte;        350
Five joints thereof he hewd, and but the stump him lefte.
Hart cannot thinke, what outrage and what cries,
With fowle enfouldred smoake and flashing fire,
The hell-bred beast threw forth unto the skies,
That all was covered with darknesse dire:        355
Then fraught with rancour, and engorged yre,
He cast at once him to avenge for all,
And gathering up himselfe out of the mire
With his uneven wings, did fiercely fall
Upon his sunne-bright shield, and grypt it fast withall.        360
Much was the man encombred with his hold,
In feare to lose his weapon in his paw,
Ne wist yett how his talaunts to unfold;
For harder was from Cerberus greedy jaw
To plucke a bone, then from his cruell claw        365
To reave by strength the griped gage away:
Thrise he assayd it from his foote to draw,
And thrise in vaine to draw it did assay;
It booted nought to thinke to robbe him of his pray.
Tho, when he saw no power might prevaile,
His trusty sword he cald to his last aid,
Wherewith he fiersly did his foe assaile,
And double blowes about him stoutly laid,
That glauncing fire out of the yron plaid,
As sparckles from the andvile use to fly,        375
When heavy hammers on the wedg are swaid;
Therewith at last he forst him to unty
One of his grasping feete, him to defend thereby.
The other foote, fast fixed on his shield,
Whenas no strength nor stroks mote him constraine        380
To loose, ne yet the warlike pledg to yield,
He smott thereat with all his might and maine,
That nought so wondrous puissaunce might sustaine:
Upon the joint the lucky steele did light,
And made such way, that hewd it quite in twaine:        385
The paw yett missed not his minisht might,
But hong still on the shield, as it at first was pight.
For griefe thereof, and divelish despight,
From his infernall fournace forth he threw
Huge flames, that dimmed all the hevens light,        390
Enrold in duskish smoke and brimstone blew;
As burning Aetna from his boyling stew
Doth belch out flames, and rockes in peeces broke,
And ragged ribs of mountaines molten new,
Enwrapt in coleblacke clowds and filthy smoke,        395
That al the land with stench, and heven with horror choke.
The heate whereof, and harmefull pestilence,
So sore him noyd, that forst him to retire
A litle backeward for his best defence,
To save his body from the scorching fire,        400
Which he from hellish entrailes did expire.
It chaunst (Eternall God that chaunce did guide)
As he recoiled backeward, in the mire
His nigh foreweried feeble feet did slide,
And downe he fell, with dread of shame sore terrifide.        405
There grew a goodly tree him faire beside,
Loaden with fruit and apples rosy redd,
As they in pure vermilion had beene dide,
Whereof great vertues over all were redd:
For happy life to all which thereon fedd,        410
And life eke everlasting did befall:
Great God it planted in that blessed stedd
With his Almighty hand, and did it call
The Tree of Life, the crime of our first fathers fall.
In all the world like was not to be fownd,
Save in that soile, where all good things did grow,
And freely sprong out of the fruitfull grownd,
As incorrupted Nature did them sow,
Till that dredd dragon all did overthrow.
Another like faire tree eke grew thereby,        420
Whereof who so did eat, eftsoones did know
Both good and ill: O mournfull memory!
That tree through one mans fault hath doen us all to dy.
From that first tree forth flowd, as from a well,
A trickling streame of balme, most soveraine        425
And dainty deare on the ground still fell,
And overflowed all the fertile plaine,
As it had deawed bene with timely raine:
Life and long health that gracious ointment gave,
And deadly wounds could heale, and reare againe        430
The sencelesse corse appointed for the grave.
Into that same he fell: which did from death him save.
For nigh thereto the ever damned beast
Durst not approch, for he was deadly made,
And al that life preserved did detest:        435
Yet he it oft adventur’d to invade.
By this the drouping day-light gan to fade,
And yield his rowme to sad succeeding night,
Who with her sable mantle gan to shade
The face of earth, and wayes of living wight,        440
And high her burning torch set up in heaven bright.
When gentle Una saw the second fall
Of her deare knight, who, weary of long fight,
And faint through losse of blood, moov’d not at all,
But lay as in a dreame of deepe delight,        445
Besmeard with pretious balme, whose vertuous might
Did heale his woundes, and scorching heat alay,
Againe she stricken was with sore affright,
And for his safetie gan devoutly pray,
And watch the noyous night, and wait for joyous day.        450
The joyous day gan early to appeare,
And fayre Aurora from the deawy bed
Of aged Tithone gan her selfe to reare,
With rosy cheekes, for shame as blushing red;
Her golden locks for hast were loosely shed        455
About her eares, when Una her did marke
Clymbe to her charet, all with flowers spred,
From heven high to chace the chearelesse darke;
With mery note her lowd salutes the mounting larke.
Then freshly up arose the doughty knight,
All healed of his hurts and woundes wide,
And did himselfe to battaile ready dight;
Whose early foe awaiting him beside
To have devourd, so soone as day he spyde,
When now he saw himselfe so freshly reare,        465
As if late fight had nought him damnifyde,
He woxe dismaid, and gan his fate to feare;
Nathlesse with wonted rage he him advaunced neare.
And in his first encounter, gaping wyde,
He thought attonce him to have swallowd quight,        470
And rusht upon him with outragious pryde;
Who him rencountring fierce, as hauke in flight,
Perforce rebutted backe. The weapon bright,
Taking advantage of his open jaw,
Ran through his mouth with so importune might,        475
That deepe emperst his darksom hollow maw,
And, back retyrd, his life blood forth with all did draw.
So downe he fell, and forth his life did breath,
That vanisht into smoke and cloudes swift;
So downe he fell, that th’ earth him underneath        480
Did grone, as feeble so great load to life;
So downe he fell, as an huge rocky clift,
Whose false foundacion waves have washt away,
With dreadfull poyse is from the mayneland rift,
And, rolling downe, great Neptune doth dismay;        485
So downe he fell, and like an heaped mountaine lay.
The knight him selfe even trembled at his fall,
So huge and horrible a masse it seemd;
And his deare lady, that beheld it all,
Durst not approch for dread which she misdeemd;        490
But yet at last, whenas the direfull feend
She saw not stirre, of-shaking vaine affright,
She nigher drew, and saw that joyous end:
Then God she praysd, and thankt her faithfull knight,
That had atchievde so great a conquest by his might.        495

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