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 XI
        The enimies of Temperaunce
  Besiege her dwelling place:
Prince Arthure them repelles, and fowle
  Maleger doth deface.

WHAT warre so cruel, or what siege so sore,
As that which strong affections doe apply
Against the forte of reason evermore,
To bring the sowle into captivity?
Their force is fiercer through infirmity        5
Of the fraile flesh, relenting to their rage,
And exercise most bitter tyranny
Upon the partes, brought into their bondage:
No wretchednesse is like to sinfull vellenage.
But in a body which doth freely yeeld
His partes to reasons rule obedient,
And letteth her, that ought, the scepter weeld,
All happy peace and goodly government
Is setled there in sure establishment.
There Alma, like a virgin queene most bright,        15
Doth florish in all beautie excellent,
And to her guestes doth bounteous banket dight,
Attempred goodly well for health and for delight.
Early, before the morne with cremosin ray
The windowes of bright heaven opened had,        20
Through which into the world the dawning day
Might looke, that maketh every creature glad,
Uprose Sir Guyon, in bright armour clad,
And to his purposd journey him prepar’d:
With him the palmer eke in habit sad        25
Him selfe addrest to that adventure hard:
So to the rivers syde they both together far’d.
Where them awaited ready at the ford
The ferriman, as Alma had behight,
With his well rigged bote. They goe abord,        30
And he eftsoones gan launch his barke forth-right.
Ere long they rowed were quite out of sight,
And fast the land behynd them fled away.
But let them pas, whiles winde and wether right
Doe serve their turnes: here I a while must stay,        35
To see a cruell fight doen by the Prince this day.
For all so soone as Guyon thence was gon
Upon his voyage with his trustie guyde,
That wicked band of villeins fresh begon
That castle to assaile on every side,        40
And lay strong siege about it far and wyde.
So huge and infinite their numbers were,
That all the land they under them did hyde;
So fowle and ugly, that exceeding feare
Their visages imprest, when they approched neare.        45
Them in twelve troupes their captein did dispart,
And round about in fittest steades did place,
Where each might best offend his proper part,
And his contrary object most deface,
As every one seem’d meetest in that cace.        50
Seven of the same against the castle gate
In strong entrenchments he did closely place,
Which with incessaunt force and endlesse hate
They battred day and night, and entraunce did awate.
The other five, five sondry wayes he sett,
Against the five great bulwarkes of that pyle,
And unto each a bulwarke did arrett,
T’ assayle with open force or hidden guyle,
In hope thereof to win victorious spoile.
They all that charge did fervently apply        60
With greedie malice and importune toyle,
And planted there their huge artillery,
With which they dayly made most dreadfull battery.
The first troupe was a monstrous rablement
Of fowle misshapen wightes, of which some were        65
Headed like owles, with beckes uncomely bent,
Others like dogs, others like gryphons dreare,
And some had wings, and some had clawes to teare,
And every one of them had lynces eyes,
And every one did bow and arrowes beare;        70
All those were lawlesse lustes, corrupt envyes,
And covetous aspects, all cruel enimyes.
Those same against the bulwarke of the Sight
Did lay strong siege and battailous assault,
Ne once did yield it respitt day nor night,        75
But soone as Titan gan his head exault,
And soone againe as he his light withhault,
Their wicked engins they against it bent:
That is, each thing by which the eyes may fault:
But two, then all more huge and violent,        80
Beautie and money, they that bulwarke sorely rent.
The second bulwarke was the Hearing Sence,
Gainst which the second troupe dessignment makes,
Deformed creatures, in straunge difference,
Some having heads like harts, some like to snakes,        85
Some like wilde bores late rouzd out of the brakes;
Slaunderous reproches, and fowle infamies,
Leasinges, backbytinges, and vaineglorious crakes,
Bad counsels, prayses, and false flatteries;
All those against that fort did bend their batteries.        90
Likewise that same third fort, that is the Smell,
Of that third troupe was cruelly assayd;
Whose hideous shapes were like to feendes of hell,
Some like to houndes, some like to apes, dismayd,
Some like to puttockes, all in plumes arayd;        95
All shap’t according their conditions:
For by those ugly formes weren pourtrayd
Foolish delights and fond abusions,
Which doe that sence besiege with light illusions.
And that fourth band, which cruell battry bent
Against the fourth bulwarke, that is the Taste,
Was, as the rest, a grysie rablement,
Some mouth’d like greedy oystriges, some faste
Like loathly toades, some fashioned in the waste
Like swine; for so deformd is luxury,        105
Surfeat, misdiet, and unthriftie waste,
Vaine feastes, and ydle superfluity:
All those this sences fort assayle incessantly.
But the fift troupe, most horrible of hew
And ferce of force, is dreadfull to report:        110
For some like snailes, some did like spyders shew,
And some like ugly urchins thick and short:
Cruelly they assayled that fift fort,
Armed with dartes of sensuall delight,
With stinges of carnall lust, and strong effort        115
Of feeling pleasures, with which day and night
Against that same fift bulwarke they continued fight.
Thus these twelve troupes with dreadfull puissaunce
Against that castle restlesse siege did lay,
And evermore their hideous ordinaunce        120
Upon the bulwarkes cruelly did play,
That now it gan to threaten neare decay;
And evermore their wicked capitayn
Provoked them the breaches to assay,
Somtimes with threats, somtimes with hope of gayn,        125
Which by the ransack of that peece they should attayn.
On th’ other syde, th’ assieged castles ward
Their stedfast stonds did mightily maintaine,
And many bold repulse and many hard
Atchievement wrought, with perill and with payne,        130
That goodly frame from ruine to sustaine:
And those two brethren gyauntes did defend
The walles so stoutly with their sturdie mayne,
That never entraunce any durst pretend,
But they to direfull death their groning ghosts did send.        135
The noble virgin, ladie of the place,
Was much dismayed with that dreadful sight;
For never was she in so evill cace:
Till that the Prince, seeing her wofull plight,
Gan her recomfort from so sad affright,        140
Offring his service and his dearest life
For her defence, against that carle to fight,
Which was their chiefe and th’ authour of that strife:
She him remercied as the patrone of her life.
Eftsoones himselfe in glitterand armes he dight,
And his well proved weapons to him hent:
So taking courteous conge, he behight
Those gates to be unbar’d, and forth he went.
Fayre mote he thee, the prowest and most gent
That ever brandished bright steele on hye:        150
Whom soone as that unruly rablement
With his gay squyre issewing did espye,
They reard a most outrageous dreadfull yelling cry;
And therewithall attonce at him let fly
Their fluttring arrowes, thicke as flakes of snow,        155
And round about him flocke impetuously,
Like a great water flood, that, tombling low
From the high mountaines, threates to over-flow
With suddein fury all the fertile playne,
And the sad husbandmans long hope doth throw        160
A downe the streame, and all his vowes make vayne,
Nor bounds nor banks his headlong ruine may sustayne.
Upon his shield their heaped hayle he bore,
And with his sword disperst the raskall flockes,
Which fled a sonder, and him fell before,        165
As withered leaves drop from their dryed stockes,
When the wroth western wind does reave their locks;
And under neath him his courageous steed,
The fierce Spumador, trode them downe like docks;
The fierce Spumador borne of heavenly seed,        170
Such as Laomedon of Phæbus race did breed.
Which suddeine horrour and confused cry
When as their capteine heard, in haste he yode,
The cause to weet, and fault to remedy:
Upon a tygre swift and fierce he rode,        175
That as the winde ran underneath his lode,
Whiles his long legs nigh raught unto the ground:
Full large he was of limbe, and shoulders brode,
But of such subtile substance and unsound,
That like a ghost he seem’d, whose grave-clothes were unbound.        180
And in his hand a bended bow was seene,
And many arrowes under his right side,
All deadly daungerous, all cruell keene,
Headed with flint, and fethers bloody dide,
Such as the Indians in their quivers hide:        185
Those could he well direct and streight as line,
And bid them strike the marke which he had eyde;
Ne was there salve, ne was there medicine,
That mote recure their wounds, so inly they did tine.
As pale and wan as ashes was his looke,
His body leane and meagre as a rake,
And skin all withered like a dryed rooke,
Thereto as cold and drery as a snake,
That seemd to tremble evermore, and quake:
All in a canvas thin he was bedight,        195
And girded with a belt of twisted brake:
Upon his head he wore an helmet light,
Made of a dead mans skull, that seemd a ghastly sight.
Maleger was his name; and after him
There follow’d fast at hand two wicked hags,        200
With hoary lockes all loose and visage grim;
Their feet unshod, their bodies wrapt in rags,
And both as swift on foot as chased stags;
And yet the one her other legge had lame,
Which with a staffe, all full of litle snags,        205
She did support, and Impotence her name:
But th’ other was Impatience, arm’d with raging flame.
Soone as the carle from far the Prince espyde
Glistring in armes and warlike ornament,
His beast he felly prickt on either syde,        210
And his mischievous bow full readie bent,
With which at him a cruell shaft he sent:
But he was warie, and it warded well
Upon his shield, that it no further went,
But to the ground the idle quarrell fell:        215
Then he another and another did expell.
Which to prevent, the Prince his mortall speare
Soone to him raught, and fierce at him did ride,
To be avenged of that shot whyleare:
But he was not so hardy to abide        220
That bitter stownd, but turning quicke aside
His light-foot beast, fled fast away for feare:
Whom to poursue, the infant after hide,
So fast as his good courser could him beare;
But labour lost it was to weene approch him neare.        225
For as the winged wind his tigre fled,
That vew of eye could scarse him over take,
Ne scarse his feet on ground were seene to tred:
Through hils and dales he speedy way did make,
Ne hedge ne ditch his readie passage brake,        230
And in his flight the villein turn’d his face,
(As wonts the Tartar by the Caspian lake,
When as the Russian him in fight does chace)
Unto his tygres taile, and shot at him apace.
Apace he shot, and yet he fled apace,
Still as the greedy knight nigh to him drew,
And oftentimes he would relent his pace,
That him his foe more fiercely should poursew:
Who when his uncouth manner he did vew,
He gan avize to follow him no more,        240
But keepe his standing, and his shaftes eschew,
Untill he quite had spent his perlous store,
And then assayle him fresh, ere he could shift for more.
But that lame hag, still as abroad he strew
His wicked arrowes, gathered them againe,        245
And to him brought, fresh batteill to renew:
Which he espying, cast her to restraine
From yielding succour to that cursed swaine,
And her attaching, thought her hands to tye;
But soone as him dismounted on the plaine        250
That other hag did far away espye
Binding her sister, she to him ran hastily;
And catching hold of him, as downe he lent,
Him backeward overthrew, and downe him stayd
With their rude handes and gryesly graplement,        255
Till that the villein, comming to their ayd,
Upon him fell, and lode upon him layd:
Full litle wanted, but he had him slaine,
And of the battell balefull end had made,
Had not his gentle squire beheld his paine,        260
And commen to his reskew, ere his bitter bane.
So greatest and most glorious thing on ground
May often need the helpe of weaker hand;
So feeble is mans state, and life unsound,
That in assuraunce it may never stand,        265
Till it dissolved be from earthly band.
Proofe be thou, Prince, the prowest man alyve,
And noblest borne of all in Britayne land;
Yet thee fierce Fortune did so nearely drive,
That had not Grace thee blest, thou shouldest not survive.        270
The squyre arriving, fiercely in his armes
Snatcht first the one, and then the other jade,
His chiefest letts and authors of his harmes,
And them perforce withheld with threatned blade,
Least that his lord they should behinde invade;        275
The whiles the Prince, prickt with reprochful shame,
As one awakte out of long slombring shade,
Revivyng thought of glory and of fame,
United all his powres to purge him selfe from blame.
Like as a fire, the which in hollow cave
Hath long bene underkept and down supprest,
With murmurous disdayne doth inly rave,
And grudge, in so streight prison to be prest,
At last breakes forth with furious unrest,
And strives to mount unto his native seat;        285
All that did earst it hinder and molest,
Yt now devoures with flames and scorching heat,
And carries into smoake with rage and horror great.
So mightely the Briton Prince him rouzd
Out of his holde, and broke his caytive bands;        290
And as a beare, whom angry curres have touzd,
Having off-shakt them, and escapt their hands,
Becomes more fell, and all that him with stands
Treads down and overthrowes. Now had the carle
Alighted from his tigre, and his hands        295
Discharged of his bow and deadly quar’le,
To seize upon his foe flatt lying on the marle.
Which now him turnd to disavantage deare,
For neither can he fly, nor other harme,
But trust unto his strength and manhood meare,        300
Sith now he is far from his monstrous swarme,
And of his weapons did him selfe disarme.
The knight, yet wrothfull for his late disgrace,
Fiercely advaunst his valorous right arme,
And him so sore smott with his yron mace,        305
That groveling to the ground he fell, and fild his place.
Wel weened hee that field was then his owne,
And all his labor brought to happy end,
When suddein up the villeine overthrowne
Out of his swowne arose, fresh to contend,        310
And gan him selfe to second battaill bend,
As hurt he had not beene. Thereby there lay
An huge great stone, which stood upon one end,
And had not bene removed many a day;
Some land-marke seemd to bee, or signe of sundry way.        315
The same he snatcht, and with exceeding sway
Threw at his foe, who was right well aware
To shonne the engin of his meant decay;
It booted not to thinke that throw to beare,
But grownd he gave, and lightly lept areare:        320
Efte fierce retourning, as a faulcon fayre,
That once hath failed of her souse full neare,
Remounts againe into the open ayre,
And unto better fortune doth her selfe prepayre.
So brave retourning, with his brandisht blade,
He to the carle him selfe agayn addrest,
And strooke at him so sternely, that he made
An open passage through his riven brest,
That halfe the steele behind his backe did rest;
Which drawing backe, he looked ever more        330
When the hart blood should gush out of his chest,
Or his dead corse should fall upon the flore;
But his dead corse upon the flore fell nathemore.
Ne drop of blood appeared shed to bee,
All were the wownd so wide and wonderous,        335
That through his carcas one might playnly see.
Halfe in amaze with horror hideous,
And halfe in rage to be deluded thus,
Again through both the sides he strooke him quight,
That made his spright to grone full piteous:        340
Yet nathemore forth fled his groning spright,
But freshly as at first, prepard himselfe to fight.
Thereat he smitten was with great affright,
And trembling terror did his hart apall,
Ne wist he what to thinke of that same sight,        345
Ne what to say, ne what to doe at all;
He doubted least it were some magicall
Illusion, that did beguile his sense,
Or wandring ghost, that wanted funerall,
Or aery spirite under false pretence,        350
Or hellish feend raysd up through divelish science.
His wonder far exceeded reasons reach,
That he began to doubt his dazeled sight,
And oft of error did him selfe appeach:
Flesh without blood, a person without spright,        355
Wounds without hurt, a body without might,
That could doe harme, yet could not harmed bee,
That could not die, yet seemd a mortall wight,
That was most strong in most infirmitee;
Like did he never heare, like did he never see.        360
A while he stood in this astonishment,
Yet would he not for all his great dismay
Give over to effect his first intent,
And th’ utmost meanes of victory assay,
Or th’ utmost yssew of his owne decay.        365
His owne good sword Mordure, that never fayld
At need till now, he lightly threw away,
And his bright shield, that nought him now avayld,
And with his naked hands him forcibly assayld.
Twixt his two mighty armes him up he snatcht,
And crusht his carcas so against his brest,
That the disdainfull sowle he thence dispatcht,
And th’ ydle breath all utterly exprest:
Tho, when he felt him dead, adowne he kest
The lumpish corse unto the sencelesse grownd;        375
Adowne he kest it with so puissant wrest,
That backe againe it did alofte rebownd,
And gave against his mother Earth a gronefull sownd.
As when Joves harnesse-bearing bird from hye
Stoupes at a flying heron with proud disdayne,        380
The stone-dead quarrey falls so forciblye,
That yt rebownds against the lowly playne,
A second fall redoubling backe agayne.
Then thought the Prince all peril sure was past,
And that he victor onely did remayne;        385
No sooner thought, then that the carle as fast
Gan heap huge strokes on him, as ere he down was cast.
Nigh his wits end then woxe th’ amazed knight,
And thought his labor lost and travell vayne,
Against this lifelesse shadow so to fight:        390
Yet life he saw, and felt his mighty mayne,
That, whiles he marveild still, did still him payne:
Forthy he gan some other wayes advize,
How to take life from that dead-living swayne,
Whom still he marked freshly to arize        395
From th’ earth, and from her womb new spirits to reprize.
He then remembred well, that had bene sayd,
How th’ Earth his mother was, and first him bore;
Shee eke, so often as his life decayd,
Did life with usury to him restore,        400
And reysd him up much stronger then before,
So soone as he unto her wombe did fall;
Therefore to grownd he would him cast no more,
Ne him committ to grave terrestriall,
But beare him farre from hope of succour usuall.        405
Tho up he caught him twixt his puissant hands,
And having scruzd out of his carrion corse
The lothfull life, now loosd from sinfull hands,
Upon his shoulders carried him perforse
Above three furlongs, taking his full course,        410
Untill he came unto a standing lake:
Him thereinto he threw without remorse,
Ne stird, till hope of life did him forsake:
So end of that carles dayes, and his owne paynes did make.
Which when those wicked hags from far did spye,
Like two mad dogs they ran about the lands;
And th’ one of them with dreadfull yelling crye,
Throwing away her broken chaines and bands,
And having quencht her burning fier brands,
Hedlong her selfe did cast into that lake;        420
But Impotence with her owne wilfull hands
One of Malegers cursed darts did take,
So ryv’d her trembling hart, and wicked end did make.
Thus now alone he conquerour remaines:
Tho, cumming to his squyre, that kept his steed,        425
Thought to have mounted, but his feeble vaines
Him faild thereto, and served not his need,
Through losse of blood, which from his wounds did bleed,
That he began to faint, and life decay:
But his good squyre, him helping up with speed,        430
With stedfast hand upon his horse did stay,
And led him to the castle by the beaten way.
Where many groomes and squyres ready were
To take him from his steed full tenderly,
And eke the fayrest Alma mett him there        435
With balme and wine and costly spicery,
To comfort him in his infirmity:
Eftesoones shee causd him up to be convayd,
And of his armes despoyled easily,
In sumptuous bed shee made him to be layd,        440
And al the while his wounds were dressing, by him stayd.

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