Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Faerie Queene
Book II. The Legend of Sir Guyon
Canto II
        Babes bloody handes may not be clensd:
  The face of Golden Meane:
Her sisters, two Extremities,
  Strive her to banish cleane.

THUS when Sir Guyon, with his faithful guyde,
Had with dew rites and dolorous lament
The end of their sad tragedie uptyde,
The litle babe up in his armes he hent;
Who, with sweet pleasaunce and bold blandishment,        5
Gan smyle on them, that rather ought to weepe,
As carelesse of his woe, or innocent
Of that was doen; that ruth emperced deepe
In that knightes hart, and wordes with bitter teares did steepe:
‘Ah! lucklesse babe, borne under cruell starre,
And in dead parents balefull ashes bred,
Full little weenest thou, what sorrowes are
Left thee for porcion of thy livelyhed:
Poore orphane! in the wide world scattered,
As budding braunch rent from the native tree,        15
And throwen forth, till it be withered!
Such is the state of men! Thus enter we
Into this life with woe, and end with miseree!’
Then soft him selfe inclyning on his knee
Downe to that well, did in the water weene        20
(So love does loath disdainefull nicitee)
His guiltie handes from bloody gore to cleene.
He washt them oft and oft, yet nought they beene
For all his washing cleaner. Still he strove,
Yet still the litle hands were bloody seene:        25
The which him into great amaz’ment drove,
And into diverse doubt his wavering wonder clove.
He wist not whether blott of fowle offence
Might not be purgd with water nor with bath;
Or that High God, in lieu of innocence,        30
Imprinted had that token of his wrath,
To shew how sore bloodguiltinesse he hat’th;
Or that the charme and veneme, which they dronck,
Their blood with secret filth infected hath,
Being diffused through the sencelesse tronck,        35
That, through the great contagion, direful deadly stonck.
Whom thus at gaze the palmer gan to bord
With goodly reason, and thus fayre bespake:
‘Ye bene right hard amated, gratious lord,
And of your ignorance great merveill make,        40
Whiles cause not well conceived ye mistake.
But know, that secret vertues are infusd
In every fountaine, and in everie lake,
Which who hath skill them rightly to have chusd
To proofe of passing wonders hath full often usd.        45
’Of those some were so from their sourse indewd
By great Dame Nature, from whose fruitfull pap
Their welheads spring, and are with moisture deawd;
Which feedes each living plant with liquid sap,
And filles with flowres fayre Floraes painted lap:        50
But other some by guifte of later grace,
Or by good prayers, or by other hap,
Had vertue pourd into their waters bace,
And thenceforth were renowmd, and sought from place to place.
‘Such is this well, wrought by occasion straunge,
Which to her nymph befell. Upon a day,
As she the woodes with bow and shaftes did raunge,
The hartlesse hynd and robucke to dismay,
Dan Faunus chaunst to meet her by the way,
And kindling fire at her faire burning eye,        60
Inflamed was to follow beauties pray,
And chaced her, that fast from him did fly;
As hynd from her, so she fled from her enimy.
‘At last, when fayling breath began to faint,
And saw no meanes to scape, of shame affrayd,        65
She set her downe to weepe for sore constraint,
And to Diana calling lowd for ayde,
Her deare besought, to let her die a mayd.
The goddesse heard, and suddeine, where she sate,
Welling out streames of teares, and quite dismayd        70
With stony feare of that rude rustick mate,
Transformd her to a stone from stedfast virgins state.
‘Lo! now she is that stone, from whose two heads,
As from two weeping eyes, fresh streames do flow,
Yet colde through feare and old conceived dreads;        75
And yet the stone her semblance seemes to show,
Shapt like a maide, that such ye may her know;
And yet her vertues in her water byde;
For it is chaste and pure, as purest snow,
Ne lets her waves with any filth be dyde,        80
But ever like her selfe unstayned hath beene tryde.
‘From thence it comes, that this babes bloody hand
May not be clensd with water of this well:
Ne certes, sir, strive you it to withstand,
But let them still be bloody, as befell,        85
That they his mothers innocence may tell,
As she bequeathd in her last testament;
That as a sacred symbole it may dwell
In her sonnes flesh, to mind revengement,
And be for all chaste dames an endlesse moniment.’        90
He harkned to his reason, and the childe
Uptaking, to the palmer gave to beare;
But his sad fathers armes with blood defilde,
An heavie load, himselfe did lightly reare;
And turning to that place, in which whyleare        95
He left his loftie steed with golden sell
And goodly gorgeous barbes, him found not theare:
By other accident, that earst befell,
He is convaide; but how or where, here fits not tell.
Which when Sir Guyon saw, all were he wroth,
Yet algates mote he soft himselfe appease,
And fairely fare on foot, how ever loth:
His double burden did him sore disease.
So long they traveiled with litle ease,
Till that at last they to a castle came,        105
Built on a rocke adjoyning to the seas:
It was an auncient worke of antique fame,
And wondrous strong by nature, and by skilfull frame.
Therein three sisters dwelt of sundry sort,
The children of one syre by mothers three;        110
Who dying whylome did divide this fort
To them by equall shares in equall fee:
But stryfull mind and diverse qualitee
Drew them in partes, and each made others foe:
Still did they strive, and daily disagree;        115
The eldest did against the youngest goe,
And both against the middest meant to worken woe.
Where when the knight arriv’d, he was right well
Receiv’d, as knight of so much worth became,
Of second sister, who did far excell        120
The other two; Medina was her name,
A sober sad, and comely courteous dame;
Who, rich arayd, and yet in modest guize,
In goodly garments, that her well became,
Fayre marching forth in honorable wize,        125
Him at the threshold mett, and well did enterprize.
She led him up into a goodly bowre,
And comely courted with meet modestie,
Ne in her speach, ne in her haviour,
Was lightnesse seene, or looser vanitie,        130
But gratious womanhood, and gravitie,
Above the reason of her youthly yeares:
Her golden lockes she roundly did uptye
In breaded tramels, that no looser heares
Did out of order stray about her daintie eares.        135
Whilest she her selfe thus busily did frame,
Seemely to entertaine her new-come guest,
Newes hereof to her other sisters came,
Who all this while were at their wanton rest,
Accourting each her frend with lavish fest:        140
They were two knights of perelesse puissaunce,
And famous far abroad for warlike gest,
Which to these ladies love did countenaunce,
And to his mistresse each himselfe strove to advaunce.
He that made love unto the eldest dame
Was hight Sir Huddibras, an hardy man;
Yet not so good of deedes as great of name,
Which he by many rash adventures wan,
Since errant armes to sew he first began:
More huge in strength then wise in workes he was,        150
And reason with foole-hardize over ran;
Sterne melancholy did his courage pas;
And was, for terrour more, all armd in shyning bras.
But he that lov’d the youngest was Sansloy,
He that faire Una late fowle outraged,        155
The most unruly and the boldest boy,
That ever warlike weapons menaged,
And to all lawlesse lust encouraged
Through strong opinion of his matchlesse might;
Ne ought he car’d, whom he endamaged        160
By tortious wrong, or whom bereav’d of right.
He now this ladies champion chose for love to fight.
These two gay knights, vowd to so diverse loves,
Each other does envy with deadly hate,
And daily warre against his foeman moves,        165
In hope to win more favour with his mate,
And th’ others pleasing service to abate,
To magnifie his owne. But when they heard,
How in that place straunge knight arrived late,
Both knights and ladies forth right angry far’d,        170
And fercely unto battell sterne themselves prepar’d.
But ere they could proceede unto the place
Where he abode, themselves at discord fell,
And cruell combat joynd in middle space:
With horrible assault, and fury fell,        175
They heapt huge strokes, the scorned life to quell,
That all on uprore from her settled seat
The house was raysd, and all that in did dwell;
Seemd that lowde thunder with amazement great
Did rend the ratling skyes with flames of fouldering heat.        180
The noyse thereof cald forth that straunger knight,
To weet what dreadfull thing was there in hand;
Where when as two brave knightes in bloody fight
With deadly rancour he enraunged fond,
His sunbroad shield about his wrest he bond,        185
And shyning blade unsheathd, with which he ran
Unto that stead, their strife to understond;
And at his first arrivall, them began
With goodly meanes to pacifie, well as he can.
But they him spying, both with greedy forse
Attonce upon him ran, and him beset
With strokes of mortall steele without remorse,
And on his shield like yron sledges bet:
As when a beare and tygre, being met
In cruell fight on Lybicke ocean wide,        195
Espye a traveiler with feet surbet,
Whom they in equall pray hope to divide,
They stint their strife, and him assayle on everie side.
But he, not like a weary traveilere,
Their sharp assault right boldly did rebut,        200
And suffred not their blowes to byte him nere,
But with redoubled buffes them backe did put:
Whose grieved mindes, which choler did englut,
Against themselves turning their wrathfull spight,
Gan with new rage their shieldes to hew and cut;        205
But still when Guyon came to part their fight,
With heavie load on him they freshly gan to smight.
As a tall ship tossed in troublous seas,
Whom raging windes, threatning to make the pray
Of the rough rockes, doe diversly disease,        210
Meetes two contrarie billowes by the way,
That her on either side doe sore assay,
And boast to swallow her in greedy grave;
Shee, scorning both their spights, does make wide way,
And with her brest breaking the fomy wave,        215
Does ride on both their backs, and faire her self doth save:
So boldly he him beares, and rusheth forth
Betweene them both, by conduct of his blade.
Wondrous great prowesse and heroick worth
He shewd that day, and rare ensample made,        220
When two so mighty warriours he dismade:
Attonce he wards and strikes, he takes and paies,
Now forst to yield, now forcing to invade,
Before, behind, and round about him laies:
So double was his paines, so double be his praise.        225
Straunge sort of fight, three valiaunt knights to see
Three combates joine in one, and to darraine
A triple warre with triple enmitee,
All for their ladies froward love to gaine,
Which gotten was but hate. So Love does raine        230
In stoutest minds, and maketh monstrous warre;
He maketh warre, he maketh peace againe,
And yett his peace is but continuall jarre:
O miserable men, that to him subject arre!
Whilst thus they mingled were in furious armes,
The faire Medina, with her tresses torne
And naked brest, in pitty of their harmes,
Emongst them ran, and, falling them beforne,
Besought them by the womb, which them had born,
And by the loves, which were to them most deare,        240
And by the knighthood, which they sure had sworn,
Their deadly cruell discord to forbeare,
And to her just conditions of faire peace to heare.
But her two other sisters, standing by,
Her lowd gainsaid, and both their champions bad        245
Pursew the end of their strong enmity,
As ever of their loves they would be glad.
Yet she with pitthy words and counsell sad
Still strove their stubborne rages to revoke,
That, at the last, suppressing fury mad,        250
They gan abstaine from dint of direfull stroke,
And hearken to the sober speaches which she spoke.
‘Ah! puissaunt lords, what cursed evill spright,
Or fell Erinnys, in your noble harts
Her hellish brond hath kindled with despight,        255
And stird you up to worke your wilfull smarts?
Is this the joy of armes? be these the parts
Of glorious knighthood, after blood to thrust,
And not regard dew right and just desarts?
Vaine is the vaunt, and victory unjust,        260
That more to mighty hands then rightful cause doth trust.
‘And were there rightfull cause of difference,
Yet were not better, fayre it to accord,
Then with bloodguiltinesse to heape offence,
And mortal vengeaunce joyne to crime abhord?        265
O fly from wrath! fly, O my liefest lord!
Sad be the sights, and bitter fruites of warre,
And thousand furies wait on wrathfull sword;
Ne ought the praise of prowesse more doth marre
Then fowle revenging rage, and base contentious jarre.        270
‘But lovely concord, and most sacred peace,
Doth nourish vertue, and fast friendship breeds;
Weake she makes strong, and strong thing does increace,
Till it the pitch of highest praise exceeds;
Brave be her warres, and honorable deeds,        275
By which she triumphes over yre and pride,
And winnes an olive girlond for her meeds:
Be therefore, O my deare lords, pacifide,
And this misseeming discord meekely lay aside.’
Her gracious words their rancour did appall,
And suncke so deepe into their boyling brests,
That downe they lett their cruell weapons fall,
And lowly did abase their lofty crests
To her faire presence and discrete behests.
Then she began a treaty to procure,        285
And stablish termes betwixt both their requests,
That as a law for ever should endure;
Which to observe, in word of knights they did assure.
Which to confirme, and fast to bind their league,
After their weary sweat and bloody toile,        290
She them besought, during their quiet treague,
Into her lodging to repaire a while,
To rest themselves, and grace to reconcile.
They soone consent: so forth with her they fare,
Where they are well receivd, and made to spoile        295
Themselves of soiled armes, and to prepare
Their minds to pleasure, and their mouths to dainty fare.
And those two froward sisters, their faire loves,
Came with them eke, all were they wondrous loth,
And fained cheare, as for the time behoves;        300
But could not colour yet so well the troth,
But that their natures bad appeard in both:
For both did at their second sister grutch,
And inly grieve, as doth an hidden moth
The inner garment frett, not th’ utter touch;        305
One thought her cheare too litle, th’ other thought too mutch.
Elissa (so the eldest hight) did deeme
Such entertainment base, ne ought would eat,
Ne ought would speake, but evermore did seeme
As discontent for want of merth or meat;        310
No solace could her paramour intreat
Her once to show, ne court, nor dalliaunce;
But with bent lowring browes, as she would threat,
She scould, and frownd with froward countenaunce,
Unworthy of faire ladies comely governaunce.        315
But young Perissa was of other mynd,
Full of disport, still laughing, loosely light,
And quite contrary to her sisters kynd;
No measure in her mood, no rule of right,
But poured out in pleasure and delight;        320
In wine and meats she flowd above the banck,
And in excesse exceeded her owne might;
In sumptuous tire she joyd her selfe to pranck,
But of her love too lavish (litle have she thanck.)
Fast by her side did sitt the bold Sansloy,
Fitt mate for such a mincing mineon,
Who in her loosenesse tooke exceeding joy;
Might not be found a francker franion,
Of her leawd parts to make companion:
But Huddibras, more like a malecontent,        330
Did see and grieve at his bold fashion;
Hardly could he endure his hardiment,
Yett still he satt, and inly did him selfe torment.
Betwixt them both the faire Medina sate
With sober grace and goodly carriage:        335
With equall measure she did moderate
The strong extremities of their outrage.
That forward paire she ever would asswage,
When they would strive dew reason to exceed;
But that same froward twaine would accorage,        340
And of her plenty adde unto their need:
So kept she them in order, and her selfe in heed.
Thus fairely shee attempered her feast,
And pleasd them all with meete satiety:
At last, when lust of meat and drinke was ceast,        345
She Guyon deare besought of curtesie,
To tell from whence he came through jeopardy,
And whether now on new adventure bownd:
Who with bold grace, and comely gravity,
Drawing to him the eies of all arownd,        350
From lofty siege began these words aloud to sownd.
‘This thy demaund, O lady, doth revive
Fresh memory in me of that great Queene,
Great and most glorious virgin Queene alive,
That with her soveraine powre, and scepter shene,        355
All Faery Lond does peaceably sustene.
In widest ocean she her throne does reare,
That over all the earth it may be seene;
As morning sunne her beames dispredden cleare,
And in her face faire peace and mercy doth appeare.        360
‘In her the richesse of all heavenly grace
In chiefe degree are heaped up on hye:
And all, that els this worlds enclosure bace
Hath great or glorious in mortall eye,
Adornes the person of her Majestye;        365
That men beholding so great excellence,
And rare perfection in mortalitye,
Doe her adore with sacred reverence,
As th’ idole of her Makers great magnificence.
‘To her I homage and my service owe,
In number of the noblest knightes on ground,
Mongst whom on me she deigned to bestowe
Order of Maydenhead, the most renownd,
That may this day in all the world be found.
An yearely solemne feast she wontes to hold,        375
The day that first doth lead the yeare around;
To which all knights of worth and courage bold
Resort, to heare of straunge adventures to be told.
‘There this old palmer shewd himselfe that day,
And to that mighty Princesse did complaine        380
Of grievous mischiefes, which a wicked Fay
Had wrought, and many whelmd in deadly paine,
Whereof he crav’d redresse. My soveraine,
Whose glory is in gracious deeds, and joyes
Throughout the world her mercy to maintaine,        385
Eftsoones devisd redresse for such annoyes:
Me, all unfitt for so great purpose, she employes.
‘Now hath faire Phebe with her silver face
Thrise seene the shadowes of the neather world,
Sith last I left that honorable place,        390
In which her roiall presence is enrold;
Ne ever shall I rest in house nor hold,
Till I that false Acrasia have wonne;
Of whose fowle deedes, too hideous to bee told,
I witnesse am, and this their wretched sonne,        395
Whose wofull parents she hath wickedly fordonne.’
‘Tell on, fayre sir,’ said she, ‘that dolefull tale,
From which sad ruth does seeme you to restraine,
That we may pitty such unhappie bale,
And learne from Pleasures poyson to abstaine:        400
Ill by ensample good doth often gayne.’
Then forward he his purpose gan pursew,
And told the story of the mortall payne,
Which Mordant and Amavia did rew;
As with lamenting eyes him selfe did lately vew.        405
Night was far spent, and now in ocean deep
Orion, flying fast from hissing Snake,
His flaming head did hasten for to steep,
When of his pitteous tale he end did make;
Whilst with delight of that he wisely spake        410
Those guestes beguyled did beguyle their eyes
Of kindly sleepe, that did them overtake.
At last, when they had markt the chaunged skyes,
They wist their houre was spent; then each to rest him hyes.

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