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 IX
        The House of Temperance, in which
  Doth sober Alma dwell,
Besiegd of many foes, whom straunger
  knightes to flight compell.

OF all Gods workes, which doe this world adorne,
There is no one more faire and excellent,
Then is mans body both for powre and forme,
Whiles it is kept in sober government;
But none then it more fowle and indecent,        5
Distempred through misrule and passions bace:
It growes a monster, and incontinent
Doth loose his dignity and native grace.
Behold, who list, both one and other in this place.
After the Paynim brethren conquer’d were,
The Briton Prince recov’ring his stolne sword,
And Guyon his lost shield, they both yfere
Forth passed on their way in fayre accord,
Till him the Prince with gentle court did bord:
‘Sir knight, mote I of you this court’sy read,        15
To weet why on your shield, so goodly scord,
Beare ye the picture of that ladies head?
Full lively is the semblaunt, though the substance dead.’
‘Fayre sir,’ sayd he, ‘if in that picture dead
Such life ye read, and vertue in vaine shew,        20
What mote ye weene, if the trew lively-head
Of that most glorious visage ye did vew?
But yf the beauty of her mind ye knew,
That is, her bounty and imperiall powre,
Thousand times fairer then her mortal hew,        25
O how great wonder would your thoughts devoure,
And infinite desire into your spirite poure!
‘Shee is the mighty Queene of Faery,
Whose faire retraitt I in my shield doe beare;
Shee is the flowre of grace and chastity,        30
Throughout the world renowmed far and neare,
My liefe, my liege, my soveraine, my deare,
Whose glory shineth as the morning starre,
And with her light the earth enlumines cleare:
Far reach her mercies, and her praises farre,        35
As well in state of peace, as puissaunce in warre.’
‘Thrise happy man,’ said then the Briton knight,
‘Whom gracious lott and thy great valiaunce
Have made thee soldier of that princesse bright,
Which with her bounty and glad countenaunce        40
Doth blesse her servaunts, and them high advaunce.
How may straunge knight hope ever to aspire,
By faithfull service and meete amenaunce,
Unto such blisse? Sufficient were that hire
For losse of thousand lives, to die at her desire.’        45
Said Guyon, ‘Noble lord, what meed so great,
Or grace of earthly prince so soveraine,
But by your wondrous worth and warlike feat
Ye well may hope, and easely attaine?
But were your will, her sold to entertaine,        50
And numbred be mongst Knights of May-denhed,
Great guerdon, well I wote, should you remaine,
And in her favor high bee reckoned,
As Arthegall and Sophy now beene honored.’
‘Certes,’ then said the Prince, ‘I God avow,
That sith I armes and knighthood first did plight,
My whole desire hath beene, and yet is now,
To serve that Queene with al my powre and might.
Now hath the sunne with his lamp-burning light
Walkt round about the world, and I no lesse,        60
Sith of that goddesse I have sought the sight,
Yet no where can her find: such happinesse
Heven doth to me envy, and Fortune favourlesse.’
‘Fortune, the foe of famous chevisaunce,
Seldome,’ said Guyon, ‘yields to vertue aide,        65
But in her way throwes mischiefe and mischaunce,
Whereby her course is stopt and passage staid.
But you, faire sir, be not herewith dismaid,
But constant keepe the way in which ye stand;
Which were it not that I am els delaid        70
With hard adventure, which I have in hand,
I labour would to guide you through al Fary Land.’
‘Gramercy, sir,’ said he; ‘but mote I weete
What straunge adventure doe ye now pursew?
Perhaps my succour or advizement meete        75
Mote stead you much your purpose to subdew.’
Then gan Sir Guyon all the story shew
Of false Acrasia, and her wicked wiles,
Which to avenge, the palmer him forth drew
From Faery court. So talked they, the whiles        80
They wasted had much way, and measurd many miles.
And now faire Phoebus gan decline in haste
His weary wagon to the westerne vale,
Whenas they spide a goodly castle, plaste
Foreby a river in a pleasaunt dale;        85
Which choosing for that evenings hospitale,
They thether marcht: but when they came in sight,
And from their sweaty coursers did avale,
They found the gates fast barred long ere night,
And every loup fast lockt, as fearing foes despight.        90
Which when they saw, they weened fowle reproch
Was to them doen, their entraunce to forstall,
Till that the squire gan nigher to approch,
And wind his horne under the castle wall,
That with the noise it shooke, as it would fall.        95
Eftsoones forth looked from the highest spire
The watch, and lowd unto the knights did call,
To weete what they so rudely did require:
Who gently answered, they entraunce did desire.
‘Fly, fly, good knights,’ said he, ‘fly fast away,
If that your lives ye love, as meete ye should;
Fly fast, and save your selves from neare decay;
Here may ye not have entraunce, though we would:
We would and would againe, if that we could;
But thousand enemies about us rave,        105
And with long siege us in this castle hould:
Seven yeares this wize they us besieged have,
And many good knights slaine, that have us sought to save.’
Thus as he spoke, loe! with outragious cry
A thousand villeins rownd about them swarmd        110
Out of the rockes and caves adjoyning nye:
Vile caitive wretches, ragged, rude, deformd,
All threatning death, all in straunge manner armd;
Some with unweldy clubs, some with long speares,
Some rusty knifes, some staves in fier warmd.        115
Sterne was their looke, like wild amazed steares,
Staring with hollow eies, and stiffe upstanding heares.
Fiersly at first those knights they did assayle,
And drove them to recoile: but, when againe
They gave fresh charge, their forces gan to fayle,        120
Unhable their encounter to sustaine;
For with such puissaunce and impetuous maine
Those champions broke on them, that forst them fly,
Like scattered sheepe, whenas the shepherds swaine
A lyon and a tigre doth espye,        125
With greedy pace forth rushing from the forest nye.
A while they fled, but soone retournd againe
With greater fury then before was fownd;
And evermore their cruell capitaine
Sought with his raskall routs t’ enclose them rownd,        130
And overronne to tread them to the grownd.
But soone the knights with their bright-burning blades
Broke their rude troupes, and orders did confownd,
Hewing and slashing at their idle shades;
For though they bodies seem, yet substaunce from them fades.        135
As when a swarme of gnats at eventide
Out of the fennes of Allan doe arise,
Their murmuring small trompetts sownden wide,
Whiles in the aire their clustring army flies,
That as a cloud doth seeme to dim the skies;        140
Ne man nor beast may rest, or take repast,
For their sharpe wounds and noyous injuries,
Till the fierce northerne wind with blustring blast
Doth blow them quite away, and in the ocean cast.
Thus when they had that troublous rout disperst,
Unto the castle gate they come againe,
And entraunce crav’d, which was denied erst.
Now when report of that their perlous paine,
And combrous conflict which they did sustaine,
Came to the ladies eare, which there did dwell,        150
Shee forth issewed with a goodly traine
Of squires and ladies equipaged well,
And entertained them right fairely, as befell.
Alma she called was, a virgin bright,
That had not yet felt Cupides wanton rage;        155
Yet was shee wooed of many a gentle knight,
And many a lord of noble parentage,
That sought with her to lincke in marriage,
For shee was faire, as faire mote ever bee,
And in the flowre now of her freshest age;        160
Yet full of grace and goodly modestee,
That even heven rejoyced her sweete face to see.
In robe of lilly white she was arayd,
That from her shoulder to her heele downe raught;
The traine whereof loose far behind her strayd,        165
Braunched with gold and perle, most richly wrought,
And borne of two faire damsels, which were taught
That service well. Her yellow golden heare
Was trimly woven, and in tresses wrought,
Ne other tire she on her head did weare,        170
But crowned with a garland of sweete rosiere.
Goodly shee entertaind those noble knights,
And brought them up into her castle hall;
Where gentle court and gracious delight
Shee to them made, with mildnesse virginall,        175
Shewing her selfe both wise and liberall.
There when they rested had a season dew,
They her besought, of favour speciall,
Of that faire castle to affoord them vew:
Shee graunted, and them leading forth, the same did shew.        180
First she them led up to the castle wall,
That was so high as foe might not it clime,
And all so faire and fensible withall;
Not built of bricke, ne yet of stone and lime,
But of thing like to that Ægyptian slime,        185
Whereof King Nine whilome built Babell towre:
But O great pitty that no lenger time
So goodly workemanship should not endure!
Soone it must turne to earth: no earthly thing is sure.
The frame thereof seemd partly circulare,
And part triangulare: O worke divine!
Those two the first and last proportions are;
The one imperfect, mortall, fœminine,
Th’ other immortall, perfect, masculine:
And twixt them both a quadrate was the base,        195
Proportioned equally by seven and nine;
Nine was the circle sett in heavens place:
All which compacted made a goodly diapase.
Therein two gates were placed seemly well:
The one before, by which all in did pas,        200
Did th’ other far in workmanship excell;
For not of wood, nor of enduring bras,
But of more worthy substance fram’d it was:
Doubly disparted, it did locke and close,
That, when it locked, none might thorough pas,        205
And when it opened, no man might it close;
Still open to their friendes, and closed to their foes.
Of hewen stone the porch was fayrely wrought,
Stone more of valew, and more smooth and fine,
Then jett or marble far from Ireland brought;        210
Over the which was cast a wandring vine,
Enchaced with a wanton yvie twine.
And over it a fayre portcullis hong,
Which to the gate directly did incline,
With comely compasse and compacture strong,        215
Nether unseemly short, nor yet exceeding long.
Within the barbican a porter sate,
Day and night duely keeping watch and ward;
Nor wight nor word mote passe out of the gate,
But in good order, and with dew regard:        220
Utterers of secrets he from thence debard,
Bablers of folly, and blazers of cryme:
His larumbell might lowd and wyde be hard,
When cause requyrd, but never out of time;
Early and late it rong, at evening and at prime.        225
And rownd about the porch on every syde
Twise sixteene warders satt, all armed bright
In glistring steele, and strongly fortifyde:
Tall yeomen seemed they, and of great might,
And were enraunged ready still for fight.        230
By them as Alma passed with her guestes,
They did obeysaunce, as beseemed right,
And then againe retourned to their restes:
The porter eke to her did lout with humble gestes.
Thence she them brought into a stately hall,
Wherein were many tables fayre dispred
And ready dight with drapets festivall,
Against the viaundes should be ministred
At th’ upper end there sate, yclad in red
Downe to the ground, a comely personage,        240
That in his hand a white rod menaged:
He steward was, hight Diet; rype of age,
And in demeanure sober, and in counsell sage.
And through the hall there walked to and fro
A jolly yeoman, marshall of the same,        245
Whose name was Appetite: he did bestow
Both guestes and meate, when ever in they came,
And knew them how to order without blame,
As him the steward badd. They both attone
Did dewty to their lady, as became;        250
Who, passing by, forth ledd her guestes anone
Into the kitchin rowme, ne spard for nicenesse none.
It was a vaut ybuilt for great dispence,
With many raunges reard along the wall,
And one great chimney, whose long tonnell thence        255
The smoke forth threw: and in the midst of all
There placed was a caudron wide and tall,
Upon a mightie fornace, burning whott,
More whott then Aetn’, or flaming Mongiball:
For day and night it brent, ne ceased not,        260
So long as any thing it in the caudron gott.
But to delay the heat, least by mischaunce
It might breake out, and set the whole on fyre,
There added was by goodly ordinaunce
An huge great payre of bellowes, which did styre        265
Continually, and cooling breath inspyre.
About the caudron many cookes accoyld,
With hookes and ladles, as need did requyre:
The whyles the viaundes in the vessell boyld,
They did about their businesse sweat, and sorely toyld.        270
The maister cooke was cald Concoction,
A carefull man, and full of comely guyse.
The kitchin clerke, that hight Digestion,
Did order all th’ achates in seemely wise,
And set them forth, as well he could devise.        275
The rest had severall offices assynd:
Some to remove the scum, as it did rise;
Others to beare the same away did mynd;
And others it to use according to his kynd.
But all the liquour, which was fowle and waste,
Not good nor serviceable elles for ought,
They in another great rownd vessel plaste,
Till by a conduit pipe it thence were brought:
And all the rest, that noyous was and nought,
By secret wayes, that none might it espy,        285
Was close convaid, and to the backgate brougt,
That cleped was Port Esquiline, whereby
It was avoided quite, and throwne out privily.
Which goodly order and great workmans skill
Whenas those knightes beheld, with rare delight        290
And gazing wonder they their mindes did fill;
For never had they seene so straunge a sight.
Thence backe againe faire Alma led them right,
And soone into a goodly parlour brought,
That was with royall arras richly dight,        295
In which was nothing pourtrahed nor wrought,
Not wrought nor pourtrahed, but easie to be thought.
And in the midst thereof upon the floure,
A lovely bevy of faire ladies sate,
Courted of many a jolly paramoure,        300
The which them did in modest wise amate,
And eachone sought his lady to aggrate:
And eke emongst them litle Cupid playd
His wanton sportes, being retourned late
From his fierce warres, and having from him layd        305
His cruel bow, wherewith he thousands hath dismayd.
Diverse delights they fownd them selves to please;
Some song in sweet consort, some laught for joy,
Some plaid with strawes, some ydly satt at ease;
But other some could not abide to toy,        310
All pleasaunce was to them griefe and annoy:
This fround, that faund, the third for shame did blush,
Another seemed envious, or coy,
Another in her teeth did gnaw a rush:
But at these straungers presence every one did hush.        315
Soone as the gracious Alma came in place,
They all attonce out of their seates arose,
And to her homage made, with humble grace:
Whom when the knights beheld, they gan dispose
Themselves to court, and each a damzell chose.        320
The Prince by chaunce did on a lady light,
That was right faire and fresh as morning rose,
But somwhat sad and solemne eke in sight,
As if some pensive thought constraind her gentle spright.
In a long purple pall, whose skirt with gold
Was fretted all about, she was arayd;
And in her hand a poplar braunch did hold:
To whom the Prince in courteous maner sayd:
‘Gentle madame, why beene ye thus dismayd,
And your faire beautie doe with sadnes spill?        330
Lives any, that you hath thus ill apayd?
Or doen you love, or doen you lack your will?
What ever bee the cause, it sure beseemes you ill.’
‘Fayre sir,’ said she, halfe in disdainefull wise,
‘How is it, that this word in me ye blame,        335
And in your selfe doe not the same advise?
Him ill beseemes, anothers fault to name,
That may unwares bee blotted with the same:
Pensive I yeeld I am, and sad in mind,
Through great desire of glory and of fame;        340
Ne ought I weene are ye therein behynd,
That have twelve moneths sought one, yet no where can her find.’
The Prince was inly moved at her speach,
Well weeting trew what she had rashly told,
Yet with faire semblaunt sought to hyde the breach,        345
Which chaunge of colour did perfoce unfold,
Now seeming flaming whott, now stony cold.
Tho, turning soft aside, he did inquyre
What wight she was, that poplar braunch did hold:
It answered was, her name was Praysdesire,        350
That by well doing sought to honour to aspyre.
The whyles, the Faery knight did entertayne
Another damsell of that gentle crew,
That was right fayre, and modest of demayne,
But that too oft she chaung’d her native hew:        355
Straunge was her tyre, and all her garment blew,
Close rownd about her tuckt with many a plight:
Upon her fist the bird, which shonneth vew
And keepes in coverts close from living wight,
Did sitt, as yet ashamd, how rude Pan did her dight.        360
So long as Guyon with her commoned,
Unto the grownd she cast her modest eye,
And ever and anone with rosy red
The bashfull blood her snowy cheekes did dye,
That her became, as polisht yvory        365
Which cunning craftesman hand hath overlayd
With fayre vermilion or pure castory.
Great wonder had the knight, to see the mayd
So straungely passioned, and to her gently said:
‘Fayre damzell, seemeth by your troubled cheare,
That either me too bold ye weene, this wise
You to molest, or other ill to feare
That in the secret of your hart close lyes,
From whence it doth, as cloud from sea, aryse.
If it be I, of pardon I you pray;        375
But if ought else that I mote not devyse,
I will, if please you it discure, assay
To ease you of that ill, so wisely as I may.’
She answerd nought, but more abasht for shame,
Held downe her head, the whiles her lovely face        380
The flashing blood with blushing did inflame,
And the strong passion mard her modest grace,
That Guyon mervayld at her uncouth cace;
Till Alma him bespake: ‘Why wonder yee,
Faire sir, at that which ye so much embrace?        385
She is the fountaine of your modestee;
You shamefast are, but Shamefastnes it selfe is shee.’
Thereat the Elfe did blush in privitee,
And turnd his face away; but she the same
Dissembled faire, and faynd to oversee.        390
Thus they awhile with court and goodly game
Themselves did solace each one with his dame,
Till that great lady thence away them sought,
To vew her castles other wondrous frame.
Up to a stately turret she them brought,        395
Ascending by ten steps of alablaster wrought.
That turrets frame most admirable was,
Like highest heaven compassed around,
And lifted high above this earthly masse,
Which it survewd, as hils doen lower ground:        400
But not on ground mote like to this be found;
Not that, which antique Cadmus whylome built
In Thebes, which Alexander did confound;
Nor that proud towre of Troy, though richly guilt,
From which young Hectors blood by cruell Greekes was spilt.        405
The roofe hereof was arched over head,
And deckt with flowers and herbars daintily:
Two goodly beacons, set in watches stead,
Therein gave light, and flamd continually;
For they of living fire most subtilly        410
Were made, and set in silver sockets bright,
Cover’d with lids deviz’d of substance sly,
That readily they shut and open might.
O who can tell the prayses of that makers might?
Ne can I tell, ne can I stay to tell
This parts great workemanship and wondrous powre,
That all this other worldes worke doth excell,
And likest is unto that heavenly towre,
That God hath built for his owne blessed bowre.
Therein were divers rowmes, and divers stages,        420
But three the chiefest, and of greatest powre,
In which there dwelt three honorable sages,
The wisest men, I weene, that lived in their ages.
Not he, whom Greece, the nourse of all good arts,
By Phæbus doome, the wisest thought alive,        425
Might be compar’d to these by many parts:
Nor that sage Pylian syre, which did survive
Three ages, such as mortall men contrive,
By whose advise old Priams cittie fell,
With these in praise of pollicies mote strive.        430
These three in these three rowmes did sondry dwell,
And counselled faire Alma, how to governe well.
The first of them could things to come foresee;
The next could of thinges present best advize;
The third things past could keepe in memoree:        435
So that no time nor reason could arize,
But that the same could one of these comprize.
Forthy the first did in the forepart sit,
That nought mote hinder his quicke prejudize:
He had a sharpe foresight, and working wit,        440
That never idle was, ne once would rest a whit.
His chamber was dispainted all with in
With sondry colours, in the which were writ
Infinite shapes of thinges dispersed thin;
Some such as in the world were never yit,        445
Ne can devized be of mortall wit;
Some daily seene, and knowen by their names,
Such as in idle fantasies doe flit:
Infernall hags, centaurs, feendes, hippodames,
Apes, lyons, aegles, owles, fooles, lovers, children, dames.        450
And all the chamber filled was with flyes,
Which buzzed all about, and made such sound,
That they encombred all mens eares and eyes,
Like many swarmes of bees assembled round,
After their hives with honny do abound:        455
All those were idle thoughtes and fantasies,
Devices, dreames, opinions unsound,
Shewes, visions, sooth-sayes, and prophesies;
And all that fained is, as leasings, tales, and lies.
Emongst them all sate he which wonned there,
That hight Phantastes by his nature trew,
A man of yeares yet fresh, as mote appere,
Of swarth complexion, and of crabbed hew,
That him full of melancholy did shew;
Bent hollow beetle browes, sharpe staring eyes,        465
That mad or foolish seemd: one by his vew
Mote deeme him borne with ill-disposed skyes,
When oblique Saturne sate in the house of agonyes.
Whom Alma having shewed to her guestes,
Thence brought them to the second rowme, whose wals        470
Were painted faire with memorable gestes
Of famous wisards, and with picturals
Of magistrates, of courts, of tribunals,
Of commen wealthes, of states, of pollicy,
Of lawes, of judgementes, and of decretals;        475
All artes, all science, all philosophy,
And all that in the world was ay thought wittily.
Of those that rowme was full, and them among
There sate a man of ripe and perfect age,
Who did them meditate all his life long,        480
That through continuall practise and usage,
He now was growne right wise and wondrous sage.
Great pleasure had those straunger knightes, to see
His goodly reason and grave personage,
That his disciples both desyrd to bee;        485
But Alma thence them led to th’ hindmost rowme of three.
That chamber seemed ruinous and old,
And therefore was removed far behind,
Yet were the wals, that did the same uphold,
Right firme and strong, though somwhat they declind;        490
And therein sat an old old man, halfe blind,
And all decrepit in his feeble corse,
Yet lively vigour rested in his mind,
And recompenst him with a better scorse:
Weake body well is chang’d for minds redoubled forse.        495
This man of infinite remembraunce was,
And things foregone through many ages held,
Which he recorded still, as they did pas,
Ne suffred them to perish through long eld,
As all things els, the which this world doth weld,        500
But laid them up in his immortall scrine,
Where they for ever incorrupted dweld:
The warres he well remembred of King Nine,
Of old Assaracus, and Inachus divine.
The yeares of Nestor nothing were to his,
Ne yet Mathusalem, though longest liv’d;
For he remembred both their infancis:
Ne wonder then, if that he were depriv’d
Of native strength now that he them surviv’d.
His chamber all was hangd about with rolls,        510
And old records from auncient times derivd,
Some made in books, some in long parchment scrolls,
That were all worm-eaten and full of canker holes.
Amidst them all he in a chaire was sett,
Tossing and turning them withouten end;        515
But for he was unhable them to fett,
A litle boy did on him still attend,
To reach, when ever he for ought did send;
And oft when thinges were lost, or laid amis,
That boy them sought and unto him did lend:        520
Therefore he Anamnestes cleped is,
And that old man Eumnestes, by their propertis.
The knightes, there entring, did him reverence dew,
And wondred at his endlesse exercise.
Then as they gan his library to vew,        525
And antique regesters for to avise,
There chaunced to the Princes hand to rize
An auncient booke, hight Briton Moniments,
That of this lands first conquest did devize,
And old division into regiments,        530
Till it reduced was to one mans governements.
Sir Guyon chaunst eke on another booke,
That hight Antiquitee of Faery Lond:
In which whenas he greedily did looke,
Th’ ofspring of Elves and Faryes there he fond,        535
As it delivered was from hond to hond.
Whereat they, burning both with fervent fire
Their countreys auncestry to understond,
Crav’d leave of Alma and that aged sire,
To read those bookes; who gladly graunted their desire.        540

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