Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Faerie Queene
Book III. The Legend of Britomartis
Canto III
        Merlin bewrayes to Britomart
  The state of Arthegall:
And shews the famous progeny,
  Which from them springen shall.

MOST sacred fyre, that burnest mightily
In living brests, ykindled first above,
Emongst th’ eternall spheres and lamping sky,
And thence pourd into men, which men call Love;
Not that same which doth base affections move        5
In brutish mindes, and filthy lust inflame,
But that sweete fit that doth true beautie love,
And choseth Vertue for his dearest dame,
Whence spring all noble deedes and never dying fame:
Well did antiquity a god thee deeme,
That over mortall mindes hast so great might,
To order them as best to thee doth seeme,
And all their actions to direct aright:
The fatall purpose of divine foresight
Thou doest effect in destined descents,        15
Through deepe impression of thy secret might,
And stirredst up th’ heroes high intents,
Which the late world admyres for wondrous moniments.
But thy dredd dartes in none doe triumph more,
Ne braver proofe, in any, of thy powre        20
Shew’dst thou, then in this royall maid of yore,
Making her seeke an unknowne paramoure,
From the worlds end, through many a bitter stowre:
From whose two loynes thou afterwardes did rayse
Most famous fruites of matrimoniall bowre,        25
Which through the earth have spredd their living prayse,
That Fame in tromp of gold eternally displayes.
Begin then, O my dearest sacred dame,
Daughter of Phœbus and of Memorye,
That doest ennoble with immortall name        30
The warlike worthies, from antiquitye,
In thy great volume of eternitye:
Begin, O Clio, and recount from hence
My glorious Soveraines goodly auncestrye,
Till that by dew degrees and long protense,        35
Thou have it lastly brought unto her Excellence.
Full many wayes within her troubled mind
Old Glauce east, to cure this ladies griefe:
Full many waies she sought, but none could find,
Nor herbes, nor charmes, nor counsel, that is chiefe        40
And choisest med’cine for sick harts reliefe:
Forthy great care she tooke, and greater feare,
Least that it should her turne to fowle repriefe
And sore reproch, when so her father deare
Should of his dearest daughters hard misfortune heare.        45
At last she her avisde, that he which made
That mirrhour, wherein the sicke damosell
So straungely vewed her straunge lovers shade,
To weet, the learned Merlin, well could tell,
Under what coast of heaven the man did dwell,        50
And by what means his love might best be wrought:
For though beyond the Africk Ismael
Or th’ Indian Peru he were, she thought
Him forth through infinite endevour to have sought.
Forthwith them selves disguising both in straunge
And base atyre, that none might them bewray,
To Maridunum, that is now by chaunge
Of name Cayr-Merdin cald, they tooke their way:
There the wise Merlin whylome wont (they say)
To make his wonne, low underneath the ground,        60
In a deepe delve, farre from the vew of day,
That of no living wight he mote be found,
When so he counseld with his sprights encompast round.
And if thou ever happen that same way
To traveill, go to see that dreadfull place:        65
It is an hideous hollow cave (they say)
Under a rock, that lyes a litle space
From the swift Barry, tombling downe apace
Emongst the woody hilles of Dynevowre:
But dare thou not, I charge, in any cace,        70
To enter into that same balefull bowre,
For feare the cruell feendes should thee unwares devowre.
But standing high aloft, low lay thine eare,
And there such ghastly noyse of yron chaines
And brasen caudrons thou shalt rombling heare,        75
Which thousand sprights with long enduring paines
Doe tosse, that it will stonn thy feeble braines;
And oftentimes great grones, and grievous stownds,
When too huge toile and labour them constraines,
And oftentimes loud strokes, and ringing sowndes,        80
From under that deepe rock most horribly rebowndes.
The cause, some say, is this: A litle whyle
Before that Merlin dyde, he did intend
A brasen wall in compas to compyle
About Cairmardin, and did it commend        85
Unto these sprights, to bring to perfect end.
During which worke the Lady of the Lake,
Whom long he lov’d, for him in hast did send;
Who, thereby forst his workemen to forsake,
Them bownd, till his retourne, their labour not to slake.        90
In the meane time, through that false ladies traine,
He was surprisd, and buried under beare,
Ne ever to his worke returnd againe:
Nath’lesse those feends may not their work forbeare,
So greatly his commandement they feare,        95
But there doe toyle and traveile day and night,
Untill that brasen wall they up doe reare:
For Merlin had in magick more insight
Then ever him before or after living wight.
For he by wordes could call out of the sky
Both sunne and moone, and make them him obay:
The land to sea, and sea to maineland dry,
And darksom night he eke could turne to day:
Huge hostes of men he could alone dismay,
And hostes of men of meanest thinges could frame,        105
When so him list his enimies to fray:
That to this day, for terror of his fame,
The feends do quake, when any him to them does name.
And sooth, men say that he was not the sonne
Of mortall syre or other living wight,        110
But wondrously begotten, and begonne
By false illusion of a guilefull spright
On a faire lady nonne, that whilome hight
Matilda, daughter to Pubidius,
Who was the lord of Mathraval by right,        115
And coosen unto King Ambrosius:
Whence he indued was with skill so merveilous.
They, here ariving, staid a while without,
Ne durst adventure rashly in to wend,
But of their first intent gan make new dout,        120
For dread of daunger, which it might portend:
Untill the hardy mayd (with love to frend)
First entering, the dreadfull mage there fownd
Deepe busied bout worke of wondrous end,
And writing straunge characters in the grownd,        125
With which the stubborne feendes he to his service bownd.
He nought was moved at their entraunce bold,
For of their comming well he wist afore;
Yet list them bid their businesse to unfold,
As if ought in this world in secrete store        130
Were from him hidden, or unknowne of yore.
Then Glauce thus: ‘Let not it thee offend,
That we thus rashly through thy darksom dore
Unwares have prest: for either fatall end,
Or other mightie cause, us two did hether send.’        135
He bad tell on; and then she thus began:
‘Now have three moones with borrowd brothers light
Thrise shined faire, and thrise seemd dim and wan,
Sith a sore evill, which this virgin bright
Tormenteth, and doth plonge in dolefull plight,        140
First rooting tooke; but what thing it mote bee,
Or whence it sprong, I can not read aright;
But this I read, that, but if remedee
Thou her afford, full shortly I her dead shall see.’
Therewith th’ enchaunter softly gan to smyle
At her smooth speeches, weeting inly well
That she to him dissembled womanish guyle,
And to her said: ‘Beldame, by that ye tell,
More neede of leach-crafte hath your damozell,
Then of my skill: who helpe may have elswhere,        150
In vaine seekes wonders out of magick spell.’
Th’ old woman wox half blanck those wordes to heare;
And yet was loth to let her purpose plaine appeare;
And to him said: ‘Yf any leaches skill,
Or other learned meanes, could have redrest        155
This my deare daughters deepe engraffed ill,
Certes I should be loth thee to molest:
But this sad evill, which doth her infest,
Doth course of naturall cause farre exceed,
And housed is within her hollow brest,        160
That either seemes some cursed witches deed,
Or evill spright, that in her doth such torment breed.’
The wisard could no lenger beare her bord,
But brusting forth in laughter, to her sayd:
‘Glauce, what needes this colourable word,        165
To cloke the cause that hath it selfe bewrayd?
Ne ye, fayre Britomartis, thus arayd,
More hidden are then sunne in cloudy vele;
Whom thy good fortune, having fate obayd,
Hath hether brought, for succour to appele:        170
The which the Powres to thee are pleased to revele.’
The doubtfull mayd, seeing her selfe descryde,
Was all abasht, and her pure yvory
Into a cleare carnation suddeine dyde;
As fayre Aurora, rysing hastily,        175
Doth by her blushing tell that she did lye
All night in old Tithonus frosen bed,
Whereof she seemes ashamed inwardly.
But her olde nourse was nought dishartened,
But vauntage made of that which Merlin had ared;        180
And sayd: ‘Sith then thou knowest all our griefe,
(For what doest not thou knowe?) of grace, I pray,
Pitty our playnt, and yield us meet reliefe.’
With that the prophet still awhile did stay,
And then his spirite thus gan foorth display:        185
‘Most noble virgin, that by fatall lore
Hast learn’d to love, let no whit thee dismay
The hard beginne that meetes thee in the dore,
And with sharpe fits thy tender hart oppresseth sore.
‘For so must all things excellent begin,
And eke enrooted deepe must be that tree,
Whose big embodied braunches shall not lin,
Till they to hevens hight forth stretched bee.
For from thy wombe a famous progenee
Shall spring, out of the auncient Trojan blood,        195
Which shall revive the sleeping memoree
Of those same antique peres, the hevens brood,
Which Greeke and Asian rivers stayned with their blood.
‘Renowmed kings and sacred emperours,
Thy fruitfull ofspring, shall from thee descend;        200
Brave captaines and most mighty warriours,
That shall their conquests through all lands extend,
And their decayed kingdomes shall amend:
The feeble Britons, broken with long warre,
They shall upreare, and mightily defend        205
Against their forren foe, that commes from farre,
Till universall peace compound all civill jarre.
‘It was not, Britomart, thy wandring eye,
Glauncing unwares in charmed looking glas,
But the streight course of hevenly destiny,        210
Led with Eternall Providence, that has
Guyded thy glaunce, to bring His will to pas:
Ne is thy fate, ne is thy fortune ill,
To love the prowest knight that ever was:
Therefore submit thy wayes unto His will,        215
And doe, by all dew meanes, thy destiny fulfill.’
‘But read,’ saide Glauce, ‘thou magitian,
What meanes shall she out seeke, or what waies take?
How shall she know, how shall she finde the man?
Or what needes her to toyle, sith Fates can make        220
Way for themselves, their purpose to pertake?’
Then Merlin thus: ‘Indeede the Fates are firme,
And may not shrinck, though all the world do shake:
Yet ought mens good endevours them confirme,
And guyde the heavenly causes to their constant terme.        225
‘The man, whom heavens have ordaynd to bee
The spouse of Britomart, is Arthegall:
He wonneth in the land of Fayeree,
Yet is no Fary borne, ne sib at all
To Elfes, but sprong of seed terrestriall,        230
And whylome by false Faries stolne away,
Whyles yet in infant cradle he did crall;
Ne other to himselfe is knowne this day,
But that he by an Elfe was gotten of a Fay.
‘But sooth he is the sonne of Gorlois,
And brother unto Cador, Cornish king,
And for his warlike feates renowmed is,
From where the day out of the sea doth spring
Untill the closure of the evening.
From thence him, firmely bound with faithfull band,        240
To this his native soyle thou backe shalt bring,
Strongly to ayde his countrey to withstand
The powre of forreine Paynims, which invade thy land.
‘Great ayd thereto his mighty puissaunce
And dreaded name shall give in that sad day:        245
Where also proofe of thy prow valiaunce
Thou then shalt make, t’ increase thy lovers pray.
Long time ye both in armes shall beare great sway,
Till thy wombes burden thee from them do call,
And his last fate him from thee take away,        250
Too rathe cut off by practise criminall
Of secrete foes, that him shall make in mischiefe fall.
‘With thee yet shall he leave, for memory
Of his late puissaunce, his ymage dead,
That living him in all activity        255
To thee shall represent. He from the head
Of his coosen Constantius, without dread,
Shall take the crowne, that was his fathers right,
And therewith crowne himselfe in th’ others stead:
Then shall he issew forth with dreadfull might,        260
Against his Saxon foes in bloody field to fight.
‘Like as a lyon, that in drowsie cave
Hath long time slept, himselfe so shall he shake,
And comming forth, shall spred his banner brave
Over the troubled South, that it shall make        265
The warlike Mertians for feare to quake:
Thrise shall he fight with them, and twise shall win,
But the third time shall fayre accordaunce make:
And if he then with victorie can lin,
He shall his dayes with peace bring to his earthly in.        270
‘His sonne, hight Vortipore, shall him succeede
In kingdome, but not in felicity;
Yet shall he long time warre with happy speed,
And with great honour many batteills try:
But at the last to th’ importunity        275
Of froward fortune shall be forst to yield.
But his sonne Malgo shall full mightily
Avenge his fathers losse, with speare and shield,
And his proud foes discomfit in victorious field.
‘Behold the man! and tell me, Britomart,
If ay more goodly creature thou didst see:
How like a gyaunt in each manly part
Beares he himselfe with portly majestee,
That one of th’ old heroes seemes to bee!
He the six islands, comprovinciall        285
In auncient times unto Great Britainee,
Shall to the same reduce, and to him call
Their sondry kings to doe their homage severall.
‘All which his sonne Careticus awhile
Shall well defend, and Saxons powre suppresse,        290
Untill a straunger king, from unknowne soyle
Arriving, him with multitude oppresse;
Great Gormond, having with huge mightinesse
Ireland subdewd, and therein fixt his throne,
Like a swift otter, fell through emptinesse,        295
Shall overswim the sea with many one
Of his Norveyses, to assist the Britons fone.
‘He in his furie all shall overronne,
And holy church with faithlesse handes deface,
That thy sad people, utterly fordonne,        300
Shall to the utmost mountaines fly apace:
Was never so great waste in any place,
Nor so fowle outrage doen by living men:
For all thy citties they shall sacke and race,
And the greene grasse that groweth they shall bren,        305
That even the wilde beast shall dy in starved den.
‘Whiles thus thy Britons doe in languour pine,
Proud Etheldred shall from the North arise,
Serving th’ ambitious will of Augustine,
And passing Dee with hardy enterprise,        310
Shall backe repulse the valiaunt Brockwell twise,
And Bangor with massacred martyrs fill;
But the third time shall rew his foolhardise:
For Cadwan, pittying his peoples ill,
Shall stoutly him defeat, and thousand Saxons kill.        315
‘But after him, Cadwallin mightily
On his sonne Edwin all those wrongs shall wreake;
Ne shall availe the wicked sorcery
Of false Pellite, his purposes to breake,
But him shall slay, and on a gallowes bleak        320
Shall give th’ enchaunter his unhappy hire:
Then shall the Britons, late dismayd and weake,
From their long vassallage gin to respire,
And on their Paynim foes avenge their ranckled ire.
‘Ne shall he yet his wrath so mitigate,
Till both the sonnes of Edwin he have slayne,
Offricke and Osricke, twinnes unfortunate,
Both slaine in battaile upon Layburne playne,
Together with the king of Louthiane,
Hight Adin, and the king of Orkeny,        330
Both joynt partakers of their fatall payne:
But Penda, fearefull of like desteny,
Shall yield him selfe his liegeman, and sweare fealty.
‘Him shall he make his fatall instrument,
T’ afflict the other Saxons unsubdewd;        335
He marching forth with fury insolent
Against the good King Oswald, who, indewd
With heavenly powre, and by angels reskewd,
Al holding crosses in their hands on hye,
Shall him defeate withouten blood imbrewd:        340
Of which that field for endlesse memory
Shall Hevenfield be cald to all posterity.
‘Whereat Cadwallin wroth, shall forth issew,
And an huge hoste into Northumber lead,
With which he godly Oswald shall subdew,        345
And crowne with martiredome his sacred head.
Whose brother Oswin, daunted with like dread,
With price of silver shall his kingdome buy,
And Penda, seeking him adowne to tread,
Shall tread adowne, and doe him fowly dye,        350
But shall with guifts his lord Cadwallin pacify.
‘Then shall Cadwallin die, and then the raine
Of Britons eke with him attonce shall dye;
Ne shall the good Cadwallader, with paine
Or powre, be hable it to remedy,        355
When the full time, prefixt by destiny,
Shalbe expird of Britons regiment:
For Heven it selfe shall their successe envy,
And them with plagues and murrins pestilent
Consume, till all their warlike puissaunce be spent.        360
‘Yet after all these sorrowes, and huge hills
Of dying people, during eight yeares space,
Cadwallader, not yielding to his ills,
From Armoricke, where long in wretched cace
He liv’d, retourning to his native place,        365
Shalbe by vision staide from his intent:
For th’ Heavens have decreed to displace
The Britons for their sinnes dew punishment,
And to the Saxons over-give their government.
‘Then woe, and woe, and everlasting woe,
Be to the Briton babe, that shalbe borne
To live in thraldome of his fathers foe!
Late king, now captive, late lord, now forlorne,
The worlds reproch, the cruell victors scorne,
Banisht from princely bowre to wasteful wood!        375
O! who shal helpe me to lament and mourne
The royall seed, the antique Trojan blood,
Whose empire lenger here then ever any stood?’
The damzell was full deepe empassioned,
Both for his griefe, and for her peoples sake,        380
Whose future woes so plaine he fashioned,
And sighing sore, at length him thus bespake:
‘Ah! but will Hevens fury never slake,
Nor vengeaunce huge relent it selfe at last?
Will not long misery late mercy make,        385
But shall their name for ever be defaste,
And quite from of the earth their memory be raste?’
‘Nay, but the terme,’ sayd he, ‘is limited,
That in this thraldome Britons shall abide,
And the just revolution measured,        390
That they as straungers shalbe notifide:
For twise fowre hundreth yeares shalbe supplide,
Ere they to former rule restor’d shalbee,
And their importune fates all satisfide:
Yet during this their most obscuritee,        395
Their beames shall ofte breake forth, that men them faire may see.
‘For Rhodoricke, whose surname shalbe Great,
Shall of him selfe a brave ensample shew,
That Saxon kings his frendship shall intreat;
And Howell Dha shall goodly well indew        400
The salvage minds with skill of just and trew;
Then Griffyth Conan also shall up reare
His dreaded head, and the old sparkes renew
Of native corage, that his foes shall feare
Least back againe the kingdom he from them should beare.        405
‘Ne shall the Saxons selves all peaceably
Enjoy the crowne, which they from Britons wonne
First ill, and after ruled wickedly:
For ere two hundred yeares be full outronne,
There shall a Raven, far from rising sunne,        410
With his wide wings upon them fiercely fly,
And bid his faithlesse chickens overonne
The fruitfull plaines, and with fell cruelty,
In their avenge, tread downe the victors surquedry.
‘Yet shall a third both these and thine subdew:
There shall a Lion from the sea-bord wood
Of Neustria come roring, with a crew
Of hungry whelpes, his battailous bold brood,
Whose clawes were newly dipt in cruddy blood,
That from the Daniske tyrants head shall rend        420
Th’ usurped crowne, as if that he were wood,
And the spoile of the countrey conquered
Emongst his young ones shall divide with bountyhed.
‘Tho, when the terme is full accomplishid,
There shall a sparke of fire, which hath long-while        425
Bene in his ashes raked up and hid,
Bee freshly kindled in the fruitfull ile
Of Mona, where it lurked in exile;
Which shall breake forth into bright burning flame,
And reach into the house that beares the stile        430
Of roiall majesty and soveraine name:
So shall the Briton blood their crowne agayn reclame.
‘Thenceforth eternall union shall be made
Betweene the nations different afore,
And sacred Peace shall lovingly persuade        435
The warlike minds to learne her goodly lore,
And civile armes to exercise no more:
Then shall a royall Virgin raine, which shall
Stretch her white rod over the Belgicke shore,
And the great Castle smite so sore with all,        440
That it shall make him shake, and shortly learn to fall.
‘But yet the end is not.——’ There Merlin stayd,
As overcomen of the spirites powre,
Or other ghastly spectacle dismayd,
That secretly he saw, yet note discoure:        445
Which suddein fitt and halfe extatick stoure
When the two fearefull wemen saw, they grew
Greatly confused in behaveoure:
At last the fury past, to former hew
Hee turnd againe, and chearfull looks as earst did shew.        450
Then, when them selves they well instructed had
Of all that needed them to be inquird,
They both, conceiving hope of comfort glad,
With lighter hearts unto their home retird;
Where they in secret counsell close conspird,        455
How to effect so hard an enterprize,
And to possesse the purpose they desird:
Now this, now that twixt them they did devize,
And diverse plots did frame, to maske in strange disguise.
At last the nourse in her foolhardy wit
Conceivd a bold devise, and thus bespake:
‘Daughter, I deeme that counsel aye most fit,
That of the time doth dew advauntage take:
Ye see that good King Uther now doth make
Strong warre upon the Paynim brethren, hight        465
Octa and Oza, whome hee lately brake
Beside Cayr Verolame in victorious fight,
That now all Britany doth burne in armes bright.
‘That therefore nought our passage may empeach,
Let us in feigned armes our selves disguize,        470
And our weake hands (whom need new strength shall teach)
The dreadful speare and shield to exercize:
Ne certes, daughter, that same warlike wize,
I weene, would you misseeme; for ye beene tall
And large of limbe t’ atchieve an hard emprize,        475
Ne ought ye want, but skil, which practize small
Wil bring, and shortly make you a mayd martiall.
‘And sooth, it ought your corage much inflame,
To heare so often, in that royall hous,
From whence to none inferior ye came,        480
Bards tell of many wemen valorous,
Which have full many feats adventurous
Performd, in paragone of proudest men:
The bold Bunduca, whose victorious
Exployts made Rome to quake, stout Guendolen,        485
Renowmed Martia, and redoubted Emmilen;
‘And that which more then all the rest may sway,
Late dayes ensample, which these eyes beheld:
In the last field before Menevia,
Which Uther with those forrein pagans held,        490
I saw a Saxon virgin, the which feld
Great Ulfin thrise upon the bloody playne,
And had not Carados her hand withheld
From rash revenge, she had him surely slayne,
Yet Carados himselfe from her escapt with payne.’        495
‘Ah! read,’ quoth Britomart, ‘how is she hight?’
‘Fayre Angela,’ quoth she, ‘men do her call,
No whit lesse fayre then terrible in fight:
She hath the leading of a martiall
And mightie people, dreaded more then all        500
The other Saxons, which doe, for her sake
And love, themselves of her name Angles call.
Therefore, faire infant, her ensample make
Unto thy selfe, and equall corage to thee take.’
Her harty wordes so deepe into the mynd
Of the yong damzell sunke, that great desire
Of warlike armes in her forthwith they tynd,
And generous stout courage did inspyre,
That she resolv’d, unweeting to her syre,
Advent’rous knighthood on her selfe to don,        510
And counseld with her nourse, her maides attyre
To turne into a massy habergeon,
And bad her all things put in readinesse anon.
Th’ old woman nought that needed did omit;
But all thinges did conveniently purvay.        515
It fortuned (so time their turne did fitt)
A band of Britons, ryding on forray
Few dayes before, had gotten a great pray
Of Saxon goods, emongst the which was seene
A goodly armour, and full rich aray,        520
Which long’d to Angela, the Saxon queene,
All fretted round with gold, and goodly wel beseene.
The same, with all the other ornaments,
King Ryence caused to be hanged hy
In his chiefe church, for endlesse moniments        525
Of his successe and gladfull victory:
Of which her selfe avising readily,
In th’ evening late old Glauce thether led
Faire Britomart, and that same armory
Downe taking, her therein appareled,        530
Well as she might, and with brave bauldrick garnished.
Beside those armes there stood a mightie speare,
Which Bladud made by magick art of yore,
And usd the same in batteill aye to beare;
Sith which it had beene here preserv’d in store,        535
For his great vertues proved long afore:
For never wight so fast in sell could sit,
But him perforce unto the ground it bore:
Both speare she tooke and shield, which hong by it;
Both speare and shield of great powre, for her purpose fit.        540
Thus when she had the virgin all arayd,
Another harnesse, which did hang thereby,
About her selfe she dight, that the yong mayd
She might in equall armes accompany,
And as her squyre attend her carefully:        545
Tho to their ready steedes they clombe full light,
And through back waies, that none might them espy,
Covered with secret cloud of silent night,
Themselves they forth convaid, and passed forward right.
Ne rested they, till that to Faery Lond
They came, as Merlin them directed late:
Where meeting with this Redcrosse Knight, she fond
Of diverse thinges discourses to dilate,
But most of Arthegall and his estate.
At last their wayes so fell, that they mote part:        555
Then each to other well affectionate,
Frendship professed with unfained hart:
The Redcrosse Knight diverst, but forth rode Britomart.

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