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 VI
        Guyon is of Immodest Merth
  Led into loose desyre;
Fights with Cymochles, whiles his bro-
  ther burnes in furious fyre.

A HARDER lesson to learne continence
In joyous pleasure then in grievous paine:
For sweetnesse doth allure the weaker sence
So strongly, that uneathes it can refraine
From that which feeble nature covets faine;        5
But griefe and wrath, that be her enemies,
And foes of life, she better can restraine;
Yet Vertue vauntes in both her victories,
And Guyon in them all shewes goodly maysteries.
Whom bold Cymochles traveiling to finde,
With cruell purpose bent to wreake on him
The wrath which Atin kindled in his mind,
Came to a river, by whose utmost brim
Wayting to passe, he saw whereas did swim
Along the shore, as swift as glaunce of eye,        15
A litle gondelay, bedecked trim
With boughes and arbours woven cunningly,
That like a litle forrest seemed outwardly.
And therein sate a lady fresh and fayre,
Making sweete solace to herselfe alone;        20
Sometimes she song, as lowd as larke in ayre,
Sometimes she laught, that nigh her breth was gone,
Yet was there not with her else any one,
That might to her move cause of meriment:
Matter of merth enough, though there were none,        25
She could devise, and thousand waies invent,
To feede her foolish humour and vaine jolliment.
Which when far of Cymochles heard and saw,
He lowdly cald to such as were abord,
The little barke unto the shore to draw,        30
And him to ferry over that deepe ford.
The merry mariner unto his word
Soone hearkned, and her painted bote streightway
Turnd to the shore, where that same warlike lord
She in receiv’d; but Atin by no way        35
She would admit, albe the knight her much did pray.
Eftsoones her shallow ship away did slide,
More swift then swallow sheres the liquid skye,
Withouten oare or pilot it to guide,
Or winged canvas with the wind to fly:        40
Onely she turnd a pin, and by and by
It cut away upon the yielding wave;
Ne cared she her course for to apply:
For it was taught the way which she would have,
And both from rocks and flats it selfe could wisely save.        45
And all the way, the wanton damsell found
New merth, her passenger to entertaine:
For she in pleasaunt purpose did abound,
And greatly joyed merry tales to faine,
Of which a store-house did with her remaine:        50
Yet seemed, nothing well they her became;
For all her wordes she drownd with laughter vaine,
And wanted grace in utt’ring of the same,
That turned all her pleasaunce to a scoffing game.
And other whiles vaine toyes she would devize,
As her fantasticke wit did most delight:
Sometimes her head she fondly would aguize
With gaudy girlonds, or fresh flowrets dight
About her necke, or rings of rushes plight;
Sometimes, to do him laugh, she would assay        60
To laugh at shaking of the leaves light,
Or to behold the water worke and play
About her little frigot, therein making way.
Her light behaviour and loose dalliaunce
Gave wondrous great contentment to the knight,        65
That of his way he had no sovenaunce,
Nor care of vow’d revenge and cruell fight,
But to weake wench did yield his martiall might:
So easie was, to quench his flamed minde
With one sweete drop of sensuall delight;        70
So easie is, t’ appease the stormy winde
Of malice in the calme of pleasaunt womankind.
Diverse discourses in their way they spent,
Mongst which Cymochles of her questioned,
Both what she was, and what that usage ment,        75
Which in her cott she daily practized.
‘Vaine man!’ saide she, ‘that wouldest be reckoned
A straunger in thy home, and ignoraunt
Of Phædria (for so my name is red)
Of Phædria, thine owne fellow servaunt;        80
For thou to serve Acrasia thy selfe doest vaunt.
‘In this wide inland sea, that hight by name
The Idle Lake, my wandring ship I row,
That knowes her port, and thether sayles by ayme;
Ne care, ne feare I, how the wind do blow,        85
Or whether swift I wend, or whether slow:
Both slow and swift a like do serve my tourne:
Ne swelling Neptune, ne lowd thundring Jove
Can chaunge my cheare, or make me ever mourne:
My little boat can safely passe this perilous bourne.’        90
Whiles thus she talked, and whiles thus she toyd,
They were far past the passage which he spake,
And come unto an island, waste and voyd,
That floted in the midst of that great lake.
There her small gondelay her port did make,        95
And that gay payre issewing on the shore
Disburdned her. Their way they forward take
Into the land, that lay them faire before,
Whose pleasaunce she him shewd, and plentifull great store.
It was a chosen plott of fertile land,
Emongst wide waves sett, like a litle nest,
As if it had by Natures cunning hand
Bene choycely picked out from all the rest,
And laid forth for ensample of the best:
No dainty flowre or herbe, that growes on grownd,        105
No arborett with painted blossomes drest,
And smelling sweete, but there it might be fownd
To bud out faire, and her sweete smels throwe al arownd.
No tree, whose braunches did not bravely spring;
No braunch, whereon a fine bird did not sitt;        110
No bird, but did her shrill notes sweetely sing;
No song, but did containe a lovely ditt:
Trees, braunches, birds, and songs were framed fitt
For to allure fraile mind to carelesse ease.
Carelesse the man soone woxe, and his weake witt        115
Was overcome of thing that did him please;
So pleased, did his wrathfull purpose faire appease.
Thus when shee had his eyes and sences fed
With false delights, and fild with pleasures vayn,
Into a shady dale she soft him led,        120
And laid him downe upon a grassy playn;
And her sweete selfe without dread or disdayn
She sett beside, laying his head disarmd
In her loose lap, it softly to sustayn,
Where soone he slumbred, fearing not be harmd,        125
The whiles with a love lay she thus him sweetly charmd:
‘Behold, O man, that toilesome paines doest take,
The flowrs, the fields, and all that pleasaunt growes,
How they them selves doe thine ensample make,
Whiles nothing envious Nature them forth throwes        130
Out of her fruitfull lap; how no man knowes,
They spring, they bud, they blossome fresh and faire,
And decke the world with their rich pompous showes;
Yet no man for them taketh paines or care,
Yet no man to them can his carefull paines compare.        135
‘The lilly, lady of the flowring field,
The flowre deluce, her lovely paramoure,
Bid thee to them thy fruitlesse labors yield,
And soone leave off this toylsome weary stoure:
Loe, loe, how brave she decks her bounteous boure,        140
With silkin curtens and gold coverletts,
Therein to shrowd her sumptuous belamoure!
Yet nether spinnes nor cards, ne cares nor fretts,
But to her mother Nature all her care she letts.
‘Why then doest thou, O man, that of them all
Art lord, and eke of Nature soveraine,
Wilfully make thy selfe a wretched thrall,
And waste thy joyous howres in needelesse paine,
Seeking for daunger and adventures vaine?
What bootes it al to have, and nothing use?        150
Who shall him rew, that swimming in the maine
Will die for thrist, and water doth refuse?
Refuse such fruitlesse toile, and present pleasures chuse.’
By this she had him lulled fast a sleepe,
That of no worldly thing he care did take;        155
Then she with liquors strong his eies did steepe,
That nothing should him hastily awake:
So she him lefte, and did her selfe betake
Unto her boat again, with which she clefte
The slouthfull wave of that great griesy lake;        160
Soone shee that island far behind her lefte,
And now is come to that same place, where first she wefte.
By this time was the worthy Guyon brought
Unto the other side of that wide strond,
Where she was rowing, and for passage sought:        165
Him needed not long call; shee soone to hond
Her ferry brought, where him she byding fond
With his sad guide: him selfe she tooke a boord,
But the blacke palmer suffred still to stond,
Ne would for price or prayers once affoord,        170
To ferry that old man over the perlous foord.
Guyon was loath to leave his guide behind,
Yet, being entred, might not backe retyre;
For the flitt barke, obaying to her mind,
Forth launched quickly, as she did desire,        175
Ne gave him leave to bid that aged sire
Adieu, but nimbly ran her wonted course
Through the dull billowes thicke as troubled mire,
Whom nether wind out of their seat could forse,
Nor timely tides did drive out of their sluggish sourse.        180
And by the way, as was her wonted guize,
Her mery fitt shee freshly gan to reare,
And did of joy and jollity devize,
Her selfe to cherish, and her guest to cheare.
The knight was courteous, and did not forbeare        185
Her honest merth and pleasaunce to partake;
But when he saw her toy, and gibe, and geare,
And passe the bonds of modest merimake,
Her dalliaunce he despisd, and follies did forsake.
Yet she still followed her former style,
And said, and did, all that mote him delight,
Till they arrived in that pleasaunt ile,
Where sleeping late she lefte her other knight.
But whenas Guyon of that land had sight,
He wist him selfe amisse, and angry said:        195
‘Ah! dame, perdy ye have not doen me right,
Thus to mislead mee, whiles I you obaid:
Me litle needed from my right way to have straid.’
‘Faire sir,’ quoth she, ‘be not displeasd at all:
Who fares on sea may not commaund his way,        200
Ne wind and weather at his pleasure call:
The sea is wide, and easy for to stray;
The wind unstable, and doth never stay.
But here a while ye may in safety rest,
Till season serve new passage to assay:        205
Better safe port, then be in seas distrest.’
Therewith she laught, and did her earnest end in jest.
But he, halfe discontent, mote nathelesse
Himselfe appease, and issewd forth on shore:
The joyes whereof, and happy fruitfulnesse,        210
Such as he saw, she gan him lay before,
And all, though pleasaunt, yet she made much more:
The fields did laugh, the flowres did freshly spring,
The trees did bud, and early blossomes bore,
And all the quire of birds did sweetly sing,        215
And told that gardins pleasures in their caroling.
And she, more sweete then any bird on bough,
Would oftentimes emongst them beare a part,
And strive to passe (as she could well enough)
Their native musicke by her skilful art:        220
So did she all, that might his constant hart
Withdraw from thought of warlike enterprize,
And drowne in dissolute delights apart,
Where noise of armes, or vew of martiall guize,
Might not revive desire of knightly exercize.        225
But he was wise, and wary of her will,
And ever held his hand upon his hart:
Yet would not seeme so rude, and thewed ill,
As to despise so curteous seeming part,
That gentle lady did to him impart:        230
But fairly tempring fond desire subdewd,
And ever her desired to depart.
She list not heare, but her disports poursewd,
And ever bad him stay, till time the tide renewd.
And now by this, Cymochles howre was spent,
That he awoke out of his ydle dreme,
And shaking off his drowsy dreriment,
Gan him avize, howe ill did him beseme,
In slouthfull sleepe his molten hart to steme,
And quench the brond of his conceived yre.        240
Tho up he started, stird with shame extreme,
Ne staied for his damsell to inquire,
But marched to the strond, there passage to require.
And in the way he with Sir Guyon mett,
Accompanyde with Phædria the faire:        245
Eftsoones he gan to rage, and inly frett,
Crying: ‘Let be that lady debonaire,
Thou recreaunt knight, and soone thy selfe prepaire
To batteile, if thou meane her love to gayn:
Loe! loe already, how the fowles in aire        250
Doe flocke, awaiting shortly to obtayn
Thy carcas for their pray, the guerdon of thy payn.’
And therewithall he fiersly at him flew,
And with importune outrage him assayld;
Who, soone prepard to field, his sword forth drew,        255
And him with equall valew countervayld:
Their mightie strokes their haberjeons dismayld,
And naked made each others manly spalles;
The mortall steele despiteously entayld
Deepe in their flesh, quite through the yron walles,        260
That a large purple stream adown their giambeux falles.
Cymocles, that had never mett before
So puissant foe, with envious despight
His prowd presumed force increased more,
Disdeigning to bee held so long in fight:        265
Sir Guyon, grudging not so much his might,
As those unknightly raylinges which he spoke,
With wrathfull fire his corage kindled bright,
Thereof devising shortly to be wroke,
And, doubling all his powres, redoubled every stroke.        270
Both of them high attonce their hands enhaunst,
And both attonce their huge blowes down did sway:
Cymochles sword on Guyons shield ygalunst,
And thereof nigh one quarter sheard away;
But Guyons angry blade so fiers did play        275
On th’ others helmett, which as Titan shone,
That quite it clove his plumed crest in tway,
And bared all his head unto the bone;
Wherewith astonisht, still he stood, as sencelesse stone.
Still as he stood, fayre Phædria, that beheld
That deadly daunger, soone atweene them ran;
And at their feet her selfe most humbly feld,
Crying with pitteous voyce, and count’nance wan,
‘Ah, well away! most noble lords, how can
Your cruell eyes endure so pitteous sight,        285
To shed your lives on ground? Wo worth the man,
That first did teach the cursed steele to bight
In his owne flesh, and make way to the living spright!
‘If ever love of lady did empierce
Your yron brestes, or pittie could find place,        290
Withhold your bloody handes from battaill fierce,
And sith for me ye fight, to me this grace
Both yield, to stay your deadly stryfe a space.’
They stayd a while; and forth she gan proceed:
‘Most wretched woman, and of wicked race,        295
That am the authour of this hainous deed,
And cause of death betweene two doughtie knights do breed!
‘But if for me ye fight, or me will serve,
Not this rude kynd of battaill, nor these armes
Are meet, the which doe men in bale to sterve,        300
And doolefull sorrow heape with deadly harmes:
Such cruell game my scarmoges disarmes:
Another warre, and other weapons, I
Doe love, where Love does give his sweet alarmes,
Without bloodshed, and where the enimy        305
Does yield unto his foe a pleasaunt victory.
‘Debatefull strife, and cruell enmity,
The famous name of knighthood fowly shend;
But lovely peace, and gentle amity,
And in amours the passing howres to spend,        310
The mightie martiall handes doe most commend;
Of love they ever greater glory bore,
Then of their armes: Mars is Cupidoes frend,
And is for Venus loves renowmed more,
Then all his wars and spoiles, the which he did of yore.’        315
Therewith she sweetly smyld. They, though full bent
To prove extremities of bloody fight,
Yet at her speach their rages gan relent,
And calme the sea of their tempestuous spight:
Such powre have pleasing wordes; such is the might        320
Of courteous clemency in gentle hart.
Now after all was ceast, the Faery knight
Besought that damzell suffer him depart,
And yield him ready passage to that other part.
She no lesse glad, then he desirous, was
Of his departure thence; for of her joy
And vaine delight she saw he light did pas,
A foe of folly and immodest toy,
Still solemne sad, or still disdainfull coy,
Delighting all in armes and cruell warre,        330
That her sweet peace and pleasures did annoy,
Troubled with terrour and unquiet jarre,
That she well pleased was thence to amove him farre.
Tho him she brought abord, and her swift bote
Forthwith directed to that further strand;        335
The which on the dull waves did lightly flote,
And soone arrived on the shallow sand,
Where gladsome Guyon salied forth to land,
And to that damsell thankes gave for reward.
Upon that shore he spyed Atin stand,        340
There by his maister left when late he far’d
In Phædrias flitt barck over that perlous shard.
Well could he him remember, sith of late
He with Pyrochles sharp debatement made:
Streight gan he him revyle, and bitter rate,        345
As shepheardes curre, that in darke eveninges shade
Hath tracted forth some salvage beastes trade:
‘Vile miscreaunt!’ said he, ‘whether dost thou flye
The shame and death, which will thee soone invade?
What coward hand shall doe thee next to dye,        350
That art thus fowly fledd from famous enimy?’
With that he stifly shooke his steelhead dart:
But sober Guyon hearin him so rayle,
Though somewhat moved in his mightie hart,
Yet with strong reason maistred passion fraile,        355
And passed fayrely forth. He, turning taile,
Backe to the strond retyrd, and there still stayd,
A waiting passage, which him late did faile;
The whiles Cymochles with that wanton mayd
The hasty heat of his avowd revenge delayd.        360
Whylest there the varlet stood, he saw from farre
An armed knight, that towardes him fast ran;
He ran on foot, as if in lucklesse warre
His forlorne steed from him the victour wan;
He seemed breathlesse, hartlesse, faint, and wan,        365
And all his armour sprinckled was with blood,
And soyld with durtie gore, that no man can
Discerne the hew thereof. He never stood,
But bent his hastie course towardes the ydle flood.
The varlett saw, when to the flood he came,
How without stop or stay he fiersly lept,
And deepe him selfe beducked in the same,
That in the lake his loftie crest was stept,
Ne of his safetie seemed care he kept,
But with his raging armes he rudely flasht        375
The waves about, and all his armour swept,
That all the blood and filth away was washt,
Yet still he bet the water, and the billowes dasht.
Atin drew nigh, to weet what it mote bee;
For much he wondred at that uncouth sight:        380
Whom should he, but his own deare lord, there see,
His owne deare lord Pyrochles in sad plight,
Ready to drowne him selfe for fell despight.
‘Harrow now out, and well away!’ he cryde,
‘What dismall day hath lent this cursed light,        385
To see my lord so deadly damnifyde?
Pyrochles, O Pyrochles, what is thee betyde?’
‘I burne, I burne, I burne!’ then lowd he cryde,
‘O how I burne with implacable fyre!
Yet nought can quench mine inly flaming syde,        390
Nor sea of licour cold, nor lake of myre,
Nothing but death can doe me to respyre.’
‘Ah! be it,’ said he, ‘from Pyrochles farre,
After pursewing Death once to requyre,
Or think, that ought those puissant hands may marre:        395
Death is for wretches borne under unhappy starre.’
‘Perdye, then is it fitt for me,’ said he,
‘That am, I weene, most wretched man alive,
Burning in flames, yet no flames can I see,
And dying dayly, dayly yet revive.        400
O Atin, helpe to me last death to give.’
The varlet at his plaint was grieved so sore,
That his deepe wounded hart in two did rive,
And his owne health remembring now no more,
Did follow that ensample which he blam’d afore.        405
Into the lake he lept, his lord to ayd,
(So love the dread of daunger doth despise)
And of him catching hold, him strongly stayd
From drowning. But more happy he then wise,
Of that seas nature did him not avise.        410
The waves thereof so slow and sluggish were,
Engrost with mud, which did them fowle agrise,
That every weighty thing they did upbeare,
Ne ought mote ever sinck downe to the bottom there.
Whiles thus they strugled in that ydle wave,
And strove in vaine, the one him selfe to drowne,
The other both from drowning for to save,
Lo! to that shore one in an auncient gowne,
Whose hoary locks great gravitie did crowne,
Holding in hand a goodly arming sword,        420
By fortune came, ledd with the troublous sowne:
Where drenched deepe he fownd in that dull ford
The carefull servaunt, stryving with his raging lord.
Him Atin spying, knew right well of yore,
And lowdly cald: ‘Help, helpe! O Archimage,        425
To save my lord, in wretched plight forlore;
Helpe with thy hand, or with thy counsell sage:
Weake handes, but counsell is most strong in age.’
Him when the old man saw, he woundred sore,
To see Pyrochles there so rudely rage:        430
Yet sithens helpe, he saw, he needed more
Then pitty, he in hast approched to the shore;
And cald, ‘Pyrochles! what is this I see?
What hellish fury hath at earst thee hent?
Furious ever I thee knew to bee,        435
Yet never in this straunge astonishment.’
‘These flames, these flames,’ he cryde, ‘do me torment!’
‘What flames,’ quoth he, ‘when I thee present see
In daunger rather to be drent then brent?’
‘Harrow! the flames which me consume,’ said hee,        440
‘Ne can be quencht, within my secret bowelles bee.
‘That cursed man, that cruel feend of hell,
Furor, oh! Furor hath me thus bedight:
His deadly woundes within my liver swell,
And his whott fyre burnes in mine entralles bright,        445
Kindled through his infernall brond of spight,
Sith late with him I batteill vaine would boste;
That now I weene Joves dreaded thunder light
Does scorch not halfe so sore, nor damned ghoste
In flaming Phlegeton does not so felly roste.’        450
Which when as Archimago heard, his griefe
He knew right well, and him attonce disarmd:
Then searcht his secret woundes, and made a priefe
Of every place, that was with bruzing harmd,
Or with the hidden fire too inly warmd.        455
Which doen, he balmes and herbes thereto applyde,
And evermore with mightie spels them charmd,
That in short space he has them qualifyde,
And him restor’d to helth, that would have algates dyde.

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