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 XII
        Fayre Una to the Redcrosse Knight
  Betrouthed is with joy:
Though false Duessa, it to barre,
  Her false sleightes doe imploy.

BEHOLD! I see the haven nigh at hand,
To which I meane my wearie course to bend;
Vere the maine shete, and beare up with the land,
The which afore is fayrly to be kend,
And seemeth safe from storms that may offend:        5
There this fayre virgin, wearie of her way,
Must landed bee, now at her journeyes end;
There eke my feeble barke a while may stay,
Till mery wynd and weather call her thence away.
Scarsely had Phœbus in the glooming east
Yett harnessed his fyrie-footed teeme,
Ne reard above the earth his flaming creast,
When the last deadly smoke aloft did steeme,
That signe of last outbreathed life did seeme
Unto the watchman on the castle wall;        15
Who thereby dead that balefull beast did deeme,
And to his lord and lady lowd gan call,
To tell, how he had seene the dragons fatall fall.
Uprose with hasty joy, and feeble speed,
That aged syre, the lord of all that land,        20
And looked forth, to weet if trew indeed
Those tydinges were, as he did understand:
Which whenas trew by tryall he out fond,
He badd to open wyde his brasen gate,
Which long time had beene shut, and out of hond        25
Proclaymed joy and peace through all his state;
For dead now was their foe, which them forrayed late.
Then gan triumphant trompets sownd on hye,
That sent to heven the ecchoed report
Of their new joy, and happie victory        30
Gainst him, that had them long opprest with tort,
And fast imprisoned in sieged fort.
Then all the people, as in solemne feast,
To him assembled with one full consort,
Rejoycing at the fall of that great beast,        35
From whose eternall bondage now they were releast.
Forth came that auncient lord and aged queene,
Arayd in antique robes downe to the grownd,
And sad habiliments right well beseene:
A noble crew about them waited rownd        40
Of sage and sober peres, all gravely gownd;
Whom far before did march a goodly band
Of tall young men, all hable armes to sownd;
But now they laurell braunches bore in hand,
Glad signe of victory and peace in all their land.        45
Unto that doughtie conquerour they came,
And him before themselves prostrating low,
Their lord and patrone loud did him proclame,
And at his feet their lawrell boughes did throw.
Soone after them, all dauncing on a row,        50
The comely virgins came, with girlands dight,
As fresh as flowres in medow greene doe grow,
When morning deaw upon their leaves doth light:
And in their handes sweet timbrels all upheld on hight.
And them before, the fry of children yong
Their wanton sportes and childish mirth did play,
And to the maydens sownding tymbrels song,
In well attuned notes, a joyous lay,
And made delightfull musick all the way,
Until they came where that faire virgin stood.        60
As fayre Diana, in fresh sommers day,
Beholdes her nymphes enraung’d in shady wood,
Some wrestle, some do run, some bathe in christall flood;
So she beheld those maydens meriment
With chearefull vew; who, when to her they came,        65
Themselves to ground with gracious humblesse bent,
And her ador’d by honorable name,
Lifting to heven her everlasting fame:
Then on her head they sett a girlond greene,
And crowned her twixt earnest and twixt game;        70
Who, in her self-resemblance well beseene,
Did seeme, such as she was, a goodly maiden queene.
And after all the raskall many ran,
Heaped together in rude rablement,
To see the face of that victorious man;        75
Whom all admired, as from heaven sent,
And gazd upon with gaping wonderment.
But when they came where that dead dragon lay,
Stretcht on the ground in monstrous large extent,
The sight with ydle feare did them dismay,        80
Ne durst approch him nigh, to touch, or once assay.
Some feard and fledd; some feard, and well it faynd;
One, that would wiser seeme then all the rest,
Warnd him not touch, for yet perhaps remaynd
Some lingring life within his hollow brest,        85
Or in his wombe might lurke some hidden nest
Of many dragonettes, his fruitfull seede;
Another saide, that in his eyes did rest
Yet sparckling fyre, and badd thereof take heed;
Another said, he saw him move his eyes indeed.        90
One mother, whenas her foolehardy chyld
Did come to neare, and with his talants play,
Halfe dead through feare, her litle babe revyld,
And to her gossibs gan in counsell say:
‘How can I tell, but that his talants may        95
Yet scratch my sonne, or rend his tender hand?’
So diversly them selves in vaine they fray;
Whiles some more bold, to measure him nigh stand,
To prove how many acres he did spred of land.
Thus flocked all the folke him rownd about,
The whiles that hoarie king, with all his traine,
Being arrived where that champion stout
After his foes defeasaunce did remaine,
Him goodly greetes, and fayre does entertayne
With princely gifts of yvory and gold,        105
And thousand thankes him yeeldes for all his paine:
Then when his daughter deare he does behold,
Her dearely doth imbrace, and kisseth manifold.
And after to his pallace he them bringes,
With shaumes, and trompets, and with clarions sweet;        110
And all the way the joyous people singes,
And with their garments strowes the paved street;
Whence mounting up, they fynd purveyaunce meet
Of all that royall princes court became,
And all the floore was underneath their feet        115
Bespredd with costly scarlott of great name,
On which they lowly sitt, and fitting purpose frame.
What needes me tell their feast and goodly guize,
In which was nothing riotous nor vaine?
What needes of dainty dishes to devize,        120
Of comely services, or courtly trayne?
My narrow leaves cannot in them contayne
The large discourse of roiall princes state.
Yet was their manner then but bare and playne:
For th’ antique world excesse and pryde did hate;        125
Such proud luxurious pompe is swollen up but late.
Then, when with meates and drinkes of every kinde
Their fervent appetites they quenched had,
That auncient lord gan fit occasion finde,
Of straunge adventures, and of perils sad,        130
Which in his travell him befallen had,
For to demaund of his renowmed guest:
Who then with utt’rance grave, and count’nance sad,
From poynt to poynt, as is before exprest,
Discourst his voyage long, according his request.        135
Great pleasure, mixt with pittifull regard,
That godly king and queene did passionate,
Whyles they his pittifull adventures heard,
That oft they did lament his lucklesse state,
And often blame the too importune fate,        140
That heapd on him so many wrathfull wreakes;
For never gentle knight, as he of late,
So tossed was in Fortunes cruell freakes;
And all the while salt teares bedeawd the hearers cheaks.
Then sayd the royall pere in sober wise:
‘Deare sonne, great beene the evils which ye bore
From first to last in your late enterprise,
That I note whether praise or pitty more:
For never living man, I weene, so sore
In sea of deadly daungers was distrest;        150
But since now safe ye seised have the shore,
And well arrived are, (High God be blest!)
Let us devize of ease and everlasting rest.’
‘Ah! dearest lord,’ said then that doughty knight,
‘Of ease or rest I may not yet devize;        155
For by the faith which I to armes have plight,
I bownden am streight after this emprize,
As that your daughter can ye well advize,
Backe to retourne to that great Faery Queene,
And her to serve sixe yeares in warlike wize,        160
Gainst that proud Paynim King that works her teene:
Therefore I ought crave pardon, till I there have beene.’
‘Unhappy falls that hard necessity,’
Quoth he, ‘the troubler of my happy peace,
And vowed foe of my felicity;        165
Ne I against the same can justly preace:
But since that band ye cannot now release,
Nor doen undoe, (for vowes may not be vayne)
Soone as the terme of those six yeares shall cease,
Ye then shall hether backe retourne agayne,        170
The marriage to accomplish vowd betwixt you twayn.
‘Which, for my part, I covet to performe,
In sort as through the world I did proclame,
That who so kild that monster most deforme,
And him in hardy battayle overcame,        175
Should have mine onely daughter to his dame,
And of my kingdome heyre apparaunt bee:
Therefore since now to thee perteynes the same,
By dew desert of noble chevalree,
Both daughter and eke kingdome, lo! I yield to thee.’        180
Then forth he called that his daughter fayre,
The fairest Un’, his onely daughter deare,
His onely daughter and his only hayre;
Who forth proceeding with sad sober cheare,
As bright as doth the morning starre appeare        185
Out of the east, with flaming lockes bedight,
To tell that dawning day is drawing neare,
And to the world does bring long wished light;
So faire and fresh that lady shewd her selfe in sight:
So faire and fresh, as freshest flowre in May;
For she had layd her mournefull stole aside,
And widow-like sad wimple throwne away,
Wherewith her heavenly beautie she did hide,
Whiles on her wearie journey she did ride;
And on her now a garment she did weare        195
All lilly white, withoutten spot or pride,
That seemd like silke and silver woven neare,
But neither silke nor silver therein did appeare.
The blazing brightnesse of her beauties beame,
And glorious light of her sunshyny face,        200
To tell, were as to strive against the streame:
My ragged rimes are all too rude and bace,
Her heavenly lineaments for to enchace.
Ne wonder; for her own deare loved knight,
All were she daily with himselfe in place,        205
Did wonder much at her celestiall sight:
Oft had he seene her faire, but never so faire dight.
So fairely dight, when she in presence came,
She to her syre made humble reverence,
And bowed low, that her right well became,        210
And added grace unto her excellence:
Who with great wisedome and grave eloquence
Thus gan to say— But eare he thus had sayd,
With flying speede, and seeming great pretence,
Came running in, much like a man dismayd,        215
A messenger with letters, which his message sayd.
All in the open hall amazed stood
At suddeinnesse of that unwary sight,
And wondred at his breathlesse hasty mood.
But he for nought would stay his passage right,        220
Till fast before the king he did alight;
Where falling flat, great humblesse he did make,
And kist the ground whereon his foot was pight;
Then to his handes that writt he did betake,
Which he disclosing, read thus, as the paper spake:        225
‘To thee, most mighty king of Eden fayre,
Her greeting sends in these sad lines addrest
The wofull daughter and forsaken heyre
Of that great Emperour of all the West;
And bids thee be advized for the best,        230
Ere thou thy daughter linck in holy band
Of wedlocke to that new unknowen guest:
For he already plighted his right hand
Unto another love, and to another land.
‘To me, sad mayd, or rather widow sad,
He was affyaunced long time before,
And sacred pledges he both gave, and had,
False erraunt knight, infamous, and forswore!
Witnesse the burning altars, which he swore,
And guilty heavens of his bold perjury,        240
Which though he hath polluted oft of yore,
Yet I to them for judgement just doe fly,
And them conjure t’ avenge this shamefull injury.
‘Therefore since mine he is, or free or bond,
Or false or trew, or living or else dead,        245
Withhold, O soverayne prince, your hasty hond
From knitting league with him, I you aread;
Ne weene my right with strength adowne to tread,
Through weakenesse of my widowhed or woe:
For Truth is strong, her rightfull cause to plead,        250
And shall finde friends, if need requireth soe.
So bids thee well to fare, thy neither friend nor foe,    FIDESSA.’
When he these bitter byting wordes had red,
The tydings straunge did him abashed make,
That still he sate long time astonished,        255
As in great muse, ne word to creature spake.
At last his solemne silence thus he brake,
With doubtfull eyes fast fixed on his guest:
‘Redoubted knight, that for myne only sake
Thy life and honor late adventurest,        260
Let nought be hid from me, that ought to be exprest.
‘What meane these bloody vowes and idle threats,
Throwne out from womanish impatient mynd?
What hevens? what altars? what enraged heates,
Here heaped up with termes of love unkynd,        265
My conscience cleare with guilty bands would bynd?
High God be witnesse, that I guiltlesse ame!
But if your selfe, sir knight, ye faulty fynd,
Or wrapped be in loves of former dame,
With cryme doe not it cover, but disclose the same.’        270
To whom the Redcrosse Knight this answere sent:
‘My lord, my king, be nought hereat dismayd,
Till well ye wote by grave intendiment,
What woman, and wherefore, doth me upbrayd
With breach of love and loialty betrayd.        275
It was in my mishaps, as hitherward
I lately traveild, that unwares I strayd
Out of my way, through perils straunge and hard;
That day should faile me ere I had them all declard.
‘There did I find, or rather I was fownd
Of this false woman, that Fidessa hight;
Fidessa hight the falsest dame on grownd,
Most false Duessa, royall richly dight,
That easy was t’ inveigle weaker sight:
Who by her wicked arts and wiely skill,        285
Too false and strong for earthly skill or might,
Unwares me wrought unto her wicked will,
And to my foe betrayd, when least I feared ill.’
Then stepped forth the goodly royall mayd,
And on the ground her selfe prostrating low,        290
With sober countenaunce thus to him sayd:
‘O pardon me, my soveraine lord, to sheow
The secret treasons, which of late I know
To have bene wrought by that false sorceresse.
Shee, onely she, it is, that earst did throw        295
This gentle knight into so great distresse,
That death him did awaite in daily wretchednesse.
‘And now it seemes, that she suborned hath
This crafty messenger with letters vaine,
To worke new woe and improvided scath,        300
By breaking of the band betwixt us twaine;
Wherein she used hath the practicke paine
Of this false footman, clokt with simplenesse,
Whome if ye please for to discover plaine,
Ye shall him Archimago find, I ghesse,        305
The falsest man alive; who tries, shall find no lesse.’
The king was greatly moved at her speach,
And, all with suddein indignation fraight,
Bad on that messenger rude hands to reach.
Eftsoones the gard, which on his state did wait,        310
Attacht that faytor false, and bound him strait:
Who, seeming sorely chauffed at his band,
As chained beare, whom cruell dogs doe bait,
With ydle force did faine them to withstand,
And often semblaunce made to scape out of their hand.        315
But they him layd full low in dungeon deepe,
And bound him hand and foote with yron chains,
And with continual watch did warely keepe:
Who then would thinke, that by his subtile trains
He could escape fowle death or deadly pains?        320
Thus when that princes wrath was pacifide,
He gan renew the late forbidden bains,
And to the kinght his daughter deare he tyde,
With sacred rites and vowes for ever to abyde.
His owne two hands the holy knotts did knitt,
That none but death for ever can divide;
His owne two hands, for such a turne most fitt,
The housling fire did knidle and provide,
And holy water thereon sprinckled wide;
At which the bushy teade a groome did light,        330
And sacred lamp in secret chamber hide,
Where it should not be quenched day nor night,
For feare of evill fates, but burnen ever bright.
Then gan they sprinckle all the posts with wine,
And made great feast to solemnize that day:        335
They all perfumde with frankincense divine,
And precious odours fetcht from far away,
That all the house did sweat with great aray:
And all the while sweete musicke did apply
Her curious skill, the warbling notes to play,        340
To drive away the dull melancholy;
The whiles one sung a song of love and jollity.
During the which there was an heavenly noise
Heard sownd through all the pallace pleasantly,
Like as it had bene many an angels voice        345
Singing before th’ Eternall Majesty,
In their trinall triplicities on hye;
Yett wist no creature, whence that hevenly sweet
Proceeded, yet each one felt secretly,
Himselfe thereby refte of his sences meet,        350
And ravished with rare impression in his sprite.
Great joy was made that day of young and old,
And solemne feast proclaymd throughout the land,
That their exceeding merth may not be told:
Suffice it heare by signes to understand        355
The usuall joyes at knitting of loves band.
Thrise happy man the knight himselfe did hold,
Possessed of his ladies hart and hand,
And ever, when his eie did her behold,
His heart did seeme to melt in pleasures manifold.        360
Her joyous presence and sweet company
In full content he there did long enjoy,
Ne wicked envy, ne vile gealosy,
His deare delights were hable to annoy:
Yet, swimming in that sea of blisfull joy,        365
He nought forgott, how he whilome had sworne,
In case he could that monstrous beast destroy,
Unto his Faery Queene backe to retourne:
The which he shortly did, and Una left to mourne.
Now strike your sailes, yee jolly mariners,
For we be come unto a quiet rode,
Where we must land some of our passengers,
And light this weary vessell of her lode.
Here she a while may make her safe abode,
Till she repaired have her tackles spent,        375
And wants supplide; and then againe abroad
On the long voiage whereto she is bent:
Well may she speede, and fairely finish her intent.

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