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 VI
        The birth of fayre Belphoebe and
  Of Amorett is told:
The Gardins of Adonis fraught
  With pleasures manifold.

WELL may I weene, faire ladies, all this while
Ye wonder how this noble damozell
So great perfections did in her compile,
Sith that in salvage forests she did dwell,
So farre from court and royall citadell,        5
The great schoolmaistresse of all courtesy:
Seemeth that such wilde woodes should far expell
All civile usage and gentility,
And gentle sprite deforme with rude rusticity.
But to this faire Belphœbe in her berth
The hevens so favorable were and free,
Looking with myld aspect upon the earth
In th’ horoscope of her nativitee,
That all the gifts of grace and chastitee
On her they poured forth of plenteous horne;        15
Jove laught on Venus from his soverayne see,
And Phœbus with faire beames did her adorne,
And all the Graces rockt her cradle being borne.
Her berth was of the wombe of morning dew,
And her conception of the joyous prime,        20
And all her whole creation did her shew
Pure and unspotted from all loathly crime,
That is ingenerate in fleshly slime.
So was this virgin borne, so was she bred,
So was she trayned up from time to time        25
In all chaste vertue and true bounti-hed,
Till to her dew perfection she was ripened.
Her mother was the faire Chrysogonee,
The daughter of Amphisa, who by race
A Faerie was, yborne of high degree:        30
She bore Belphæbe, she bore in like cace
Fayre Amoretta in the second place:
These two were twinnes, and twixt them two did share
The heritage of all celestiall grace;
That all the rest it seemd they robbed bare        35
Of bounty, and of beautie, and all vertues rare.
It were a goodly storie to declare
By what straunge accident faire Chrysogone
Conceiv’d these infants, and how them she bare,
In this wilde forrest wandring all alone,        40
After she had nine moneths fulfild and gone:
For not as other wemens commune brood
They were enwombed in the sacred throne
Of her chaste bodie, nor with commune food,
As other wemens babes, they sucked vitall blood.        45
But wondrously they were begot and bred,
Through influence of th’ hevens fruitfull ray,
As it in antique bookes is mentioned.
It was upon a sommers shinie day,
When Titan faire his beames did display,        50
In a fresh fountaine, far from all mens vew,
She bath’d her brest, the boyling heat t’ allay;
She bath’d with roses red and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres that in the forrest grew:
Till, faint through yrkesome wearines, adowne
Upon the grassy ground her selfe she layd
To sleepe, the whiles a gentle slombring swowne
Upon her fell all naked bare displayd:
The sunbeames bright upon her body playd,
Being through former bathing mollifide,        60
And pierst into her wombe, where they embayd
With so sweet sence and secret power unspide,
That in her pregnant flesh they shortly fructifide.
Miraculous may seeme to him that reades
So straunge ensample of conception;        65
But reason teacheth that the fruitfull seades
Of all things living, through impression
Of the sunbeames in moyst complexion,
Doe life conceive and quickned are by kynd:
So, after Nilus inundation,        70
Infinite shapes of creatures men doe fynd,
Informed in the mud, on which the sunne hath shynd.
Great father he of generation
Is rightly cald, th’ authour of life and light;
And his faire sister for creation        75
Ministreth matter fit, which, tempred right
With heate and humour, breedes the living wight.
So sprong these twinnes in womb of Chrysogone;
Yet wist she nought thereof, but, sore affright,
Wondred to see her belly so upblone,        80
Which still increast, till she her terme had full outgone.
Whereof conceiving shame and foule disgrace,
Albe her guiltlesse conscience her cleard,
She fled into the wildernesse a space,
Till that unweeldy burden she had reard,        85
And shund dishonor, which as death she feard:
Where, wearie of long traveill, downe to rest
Her selfe she set, and comfortably cheard;
There a sad cloud of sleepe her overkest,
And seized every sence with sorrow sore opprest.        90
It fortuned, faire Venus having lost
Her little sonne, the winged God of Love,
Who for some light displeasure, which him crost,
Was from her fled, as flit as ayery dove,
And left her blisfull bowre of joy above;        95
(So from her often he had fled away,
When she for ought him sharpely did reprove,
And wandred in the world in straunge aray,
Disguiz’d in thousand shapes, that none might him bewray;)
Him for to seeke, she left her heavenly hous,
The house of goodly formes and faire aspects,
Whence all the world derives the glorious
Features of beautie, and all shapes select,
With which High God his workmanship hath deckt;
And searched everie way through which his wings        105
Had borne him, or his tract she mote detect:
She promist kisses sweet, and sweeter things,
Unto the man that of him tydings to her brings.
First she him sought in court, where most he us’d
Whylome to haunt, but there she found him not;        110
But many there she found, which sore accus’d
His falshood, and with fowle infamous blot
His cruell deedes and wicked wyles did spot:
Ladies and lordes she every where mote heare
Complayning, how with his empoysned shot        115
Their wofull harts he wounded had whyleare,
And so had left them languishing twixt hope and feare.
She then the cities sought from gate to gate,
And everie one did aske, did he him see?
And everie one her answerd, that too late        120
He had him seene, and felt the crueltee
Of his sharpe dartes and whot artilleree;
And every one threw forth reproches rife
Of his mischievous deedes, and sayd that hee
Was the disturber of all civill life,        125
The enimy of peace, and authour of all strife.
Then in the countrey she abroad him sought,
And in the rurall cottages inquir’d,
Where also many plaintes to her were brought,
How he their heedelesse harts with love had fir’d,        130
And his false venim through their veines inspir’d;
And eke the gentle shepheard swaynes, which sat
Keeping their fleecy flockes, as they were hyr’d,
She sweetly heard complaine both how and what
Her sonne had to them doen; yet she did smile thereat.        135
But when in none of all these she him got,
She gan avize where els he mote him hyde:
At last she her bethought, that she had not
Yet sought the salvage woods and forests wyde,
In which full many lovely nymphes abyde,        140
Mongst whom might be that he did closely lye,
Or that the love of some of them him tyde:
Forthy she thether cast her course t’ apply,
To search the secret haunts of Dianes company.
Shortly unto the wastefull woods she came,
Whereas she found the goddesse with her crew,
After late chace of their embrewed game,
Sitting beside a fountaine in a rew;
Some of them washing with the liquid dew
From of their dainty limbs the dusty sweat        150
And soyle, which did deforme their lively hew;
Others lay shaded from the scorching heat;
The rest upon her person gave attendance great.
She, having hong upon a bough on high
Her bow and painted quiver, had unlaste        155
Her silver buskins from her nimble thigh,
And her lanck loynes ungirt, and brests unbraste,
After her heat the breathing cold to taste;
Her golden lockes, that late in tresses bright
Embreaded were for hindring of her haste,        160
Now loose about her shoulders hong undight,
And were with sweet ambrosia all besprinckled light.
Soone as she Venus saw behinde her backe,
She was asham’d to be so loose surpriz’d,
And woxe halfe wroth against her damzels slacke,        165
That had not her thereof before aviz’d,
But suffred her so carelesly disguiz’d
Be overtaken. Soone her garments loose
Upgath’ring, in her bosome she compriz’d,
Well as she might, and to the goddesse rose,        170
Whiles all her nymphes did like a girlond her enclose.
Goodly she gan faire Cytherea greet,
And shortly asked her, what cause her brought
Into that wildernesse for her unmeet,
From her sweete bowres, and beds with pleasures fraught:        175
That suddein chaung the straung adventure thought.
To whom halfe weeping she thus answered:
That she her dearest sonne Cupido sought,
Who in his frowardnes from her was fled;
That she repented sore to have him angered.        180
Thereat Diana gan to smile, in scorne
Of her vaine playnt, and to her scoffing sayd:
‘Great pitty sure that ye be so forlorne
Of your gay sonne, that gives ye so good ayd
To your disports: ill mote ye bene apayd!’        185
But she was more engrieved, and replide:
‘Faire sister, ill beseemes it to upbrayd
A dolefull heart with so disdainfull pride;
The like that mine, may be your paine another tide.
‘As you in woods and wanton wildernesse
Your glory sett, to chace the salvage beasts,
So my delight is all in joyfulnesse,
In beds, in bowres, in banckets, and in feasts:
And ill becomes you, with your lofty creasts,
To scorne the joy that Jove is glad to seeke;        195
We both are bownd to follow heavens beheasts,
And tend our charges with obeisaunce meeke:
Spare, gentle sister, with reproch my paine to eeke.
‘And tell me if that ye my sonne have heard
To lurke emongst your nimphes in secret wize,        200
Or keepe their cabins: much I am affeard,
Least he like one of them him selfe disguize,
And turne his arrowes to their exercize:
So may he long him selfe full easie hide:
For he is faire, and fresh in face and guize,        205
As any nimphe (let not it be envide.)’
So saying, every nimph full narrowly shee eide.
But Phœbe therewith sore was angered,
And sharply saide: ‘Goe, dame; goe, seeke your boy,
Where you him lately lefte, in Mars his bed:        210
He comes not here; we scorne his foolish joy,
Ne lend we leisure to his idle toy:
But if I catch him in this company,
By Stygian lake I vow, whose sad annoy
The gods doe dread, he dearly shall abye:        215
Ile clip his wanton wings, that he no more shall flye.’
Whom whenas Venus saw so sore displeasd,
Shee inly sory was, and gan relent
What shee had said: so her she soone appeasd
With sugred words and gentle blandishment,        220
Which as a fountaine from her sweete lips went,
And welled goodly forth, that in short space
She was well pleasd, and forth her damzells sent
Through all the woods, to search from place to place,
If any tract of him or tidings they mote trace.        225
To search the God of Love her nimphes she sent,
Throughout the wandring forest every where:
And after them her selfe eke with her went
To seeke the fugitive both farre and nere.
So long they sought, till they arrived were        230
In that same shady covert whereas lay
Faire Crysogone in slombry traunce whilere:
Who in her sleepe (a wondrous thing to say)
Unwares had borne two babes, as faire as springing day.
Unwares she them conceivd, unwares she bore:
She bore withouten paine that she conceiv’d
Withouten pleasure: ne her need implore
Lucinaes aide: which when they both perceiv’d,
They were through wonder nigh of sence berev’d,
And gazing each on other, nought bespake:        240
At last they both agreed, her seeming griev’d
Out of her heavie swowne not to awake,
But from her loving side the tender babes to take.
Up they them tooke, eachone a babe uptooke,
And with them carried, to be fostered:        245
Dame Phæbe to a nymphe her babe betooke,
To be upbrought in perfect maydenhed,
And, of her selfe, her name Belphœbe red:
But Venus hers thence far away convayd,
To be upbrought in goodly womanhed,        250
And in her litle Loves stead, which was strayd,
Her Amoretta cald, to comfort her dismayd.
Shee brought her to her joyous paradize,
Wher most she wonnes, when she on earth does dwell:
So faire a place as Nature can devize:        255
Whether in Paphos, or Cytheron hill,
Or it in Gnidus bee, I wote not well;
But well I wote by triall, that this same
All other pleasaunt places doth excell,
And called is by her lost lovers name,        260
The Gardin of Adonis, far renowmd by fame.
In that same gardin all the goodly flowres,
Wherewith Dame Nature doth her beautify,
And decks the girlonds of her paramoures,
Are fetcht: there is the first seminary        265
Of all things that are borne to live and dye,
According to their kynds. Long worke it were,
Here to account the endlesse progeny
Of all the weeds that bud and blossome there;
But so much as doth need must needs be counted here.        270
It sited was in fruitfull soyle of old,
And girt in with two walls on either side,
The one of yron, the other of bright gold,
That none might thorough breake, nor overstride:
And double gates it had, which opened wide,        275
By which both in and out men moten pas;
Th’ one faire and fresh, the other old and dride:
Old Genius the porter of them was,
Old Genius, the which a double nature has.
He letteth in, he letteth out to wend,
All that to come into the world desire:
A thousand thousand naked babes attend
About him day and night, which doe require
That he with fleshly weeds would them attire:
Such as him list, such as eternall Fate        285
Ordained hath, he clothes with sinfull mire,
And sendeth forth to live in mortall state,
Till they agayn returne backe by the hinder gate.
After that they againe retourned beene,
They in that gardin planted bee agayne,        290
And grow afresh, as they had never seene
Fleshly corruption nor mortall payne.
Some thousand yeares so doen they there remayne,
And then of him are clad with other hew,
Or sent into the chaungefull world agayne,        295
Till thether they retourne, where first they grew:
So like a wheele arownd they ronne from old to new.
Ne needs there gardiner to sett or sow,
To plant or prune: for of their owne accord
All things, as they created were, doe grow,        300
And yet remember well the mighty word,
Which first was spoken by th’ Almighty Lord,
That bad them to increase and multiply:
Ne doe they need with water of the ford
Or of the clouds to moysten their roots dry;        305
For in themselves eternall moisture they imply.
Infinite shapes of creatures there are bred,
And uncouth formes, which none yet ever knew;
And every sort is in a sondry bed
Sett by it selfe, and ranckt in comely rew:        310
Some fitt for reasonable sowles t’ indew,
Some made for beasts, some made for birds to weare,
And all the fruitfull spawne of fishes hew
In endlesse rancks along enraunged were,
That seemd the ocean could not containe them there.        315
Daily they grow, and daily forth are sent
Into the world, it to replenish more;
Yet is the stocke not lessened nor spent,
But still remaines in everlasting store,
As it at first created was of yore:        320
For in the wide wombe of the world there lyes,
In hatefull darknes and in deepe horrore,
An huge eternal chaos, which supplyes
The substaunces of Natures fruitfull progenyes.
All things from thence doe their first being fetch,
And borrow matter whereof they are made,
Which, whenas forme and feature it does ketch,
Becomes a body, and doth then invade
The state of life out of the griesly shade.
That substaunce is eterne, and bideth so,        330
Ne when the life decayes, and forme does fade,
Doth it consume and into nothing goe,
But chaunged is, and often altred to and froe.
The substaunce is not chaungd nor altered,
But th’ only forme and outward fashion;        335
For every substaunce is conditioned
To chaunge her hew, and sondry formes to don,
Meet for her temper and complexion:
For formes are variable, and decay
By course of kinde and by occasion;        340
And that faire flowre of beautie fades away,
As doth the lilly fresh before the sunny ray.
Great enimy to it, and to all the rest,
That in the Gardin of Adonis springs,
Is wicked Tyme, who, with his scyth addrest,        345
Does mow the flowring herbes and goodly things,
And all their glory to the ground downe flings,
Where they do wither and are fowly mard:
He flyes about, and with his flaggy winges
Beates downe both leaves and buds without regard,        350
Ne ever pitty may relent his malice hard.
Yet pitty often did the gods relent,
To see so faire thinges mard and spoiled quight:
And their great mother Venus did lament
The losse of her deare brood, her deare delight:        355
Her hart was pierst with pitty at the sight,
When walking through the gardin them she saw,
Yet no’te she find redresse for such despight:
For all that lives is subject to that law:
All things decay in time, and to their end doe draw.        360
But were it not, that Time their troubler is,
All that in this delightfull gardin growes
Should happy bee, and have immortall blis:
For here all plenty and all pleasure flowes,
And sweete Love gentle fitts emongst them throwes,        365
Without fell rancor or fond gealosy:
Franckly each paramor his leman knowes,
Each bird his mate, ne any does envy
Their goodly meriment and gay felicity.
There is continuall spring, and harvest there
Continuall, both meeting at one tyme:
For both the boughes doe laughing blossoms beare,
And with fresh colours decke the wanton pryme,
And eke attonce the heavy trees they clyme,
Which seeme to labour under their fruites lode:        375
The whiles the joyous birdes make their pastyme
Emongst the shady leaves, their sweet abode,
And their trew loves without suspition tell abrode.
Right in the middest of that paradise
There stood a stately mount, on whose round top        380
A gloomy grove of mirtle trees did rise,
Whose shady boughes sharp steele did never lop,
Nor wicked beastes their tender buds did crop,
But like a girlond compassed the hight,
And from their fruitfull sydes sweet gum did drop,        385
That all the ground, with pretious deaw bedight,
Threw forth most dainty odours, and most sweet delight.
And in the thickest covert of that shade
There was a pleasaunt arber, not by art,
But of the trees owne inclination made,        390
Which knitting their rancke braunches part to part,
With wanton yvie twyne entrayld athwart,
And eglantine and caprifole emong,
Fashiond above within their inmost part,
That nether Phoebus beams could through them throng,        395
Nor Aeolus sharp blast could worke them any wrong.
And all about grew every sort of flowre,
To which sad lovers were transformde of yore;
Fresh Hyacinthus, Phœbus paramoure
And dearest love,        400
Foolish Narcisse, that likes the watry shore,
Sad Amaranthus, made a flowre but late,
Sad Amaranthus, in whose purple gore
Me seemes I see Amintas wretched fate,
To whom sweet poets verse hath given endlesse date.        405
There wont fayre Venus often to enjoy
Her deare Adonis joyous company,
And reape sweet pleasure of the wanton boy:
There yet, some say, in secret he does ly,
Lapped in flowres and pretious spycery,        410
By her hid from the world, and from the skill
Of Stygian gods, which doe her love envy;
But she her selfe, when ever that she will,
Possesseth him, and of his sweetnesse takes her fill.
And sooth, it seemes, they say: for he may not
For ever dye, and ever buried bee
In balefull night, where all thinges are forgot;
All be he subject to mortalitie,
Yet is eterne in mutabilitie,
And by succession made perpetuall,        420
Transformed oft, and chaunged diverslie:
For him the father of all formes they call;
Therfore needs mote he live, that living gives to all.
There now he liveth in eternall blis,
Joying his goddesse, and of her enjoyd:        425
Ne feareth he henceforth that foe of his,
Which with his cruell tuske him deadly cloyd:
For that wilde bore, the which him once annoyd,
She firmely hath emprisoned for ay,
That her sweet love his malice mote avoyd,        430
In a strong rocky cave, which is, they say,
Hewen underneath that mount, that none him losen may.
There now he lives in everlasting joy,
With many of the gods in company,
Which thether haunt, and with the winged boy        435
Sporting him selfe in safe felicity:
Who, when he hath with spoiles and cruelty
Ransackt the world, and in the wofull harts
Of many wretches set his triumphes hye,
Thether resortes, and laying his sad dartes        440
Asyde, with faire Adonis playes his wanton partes.
And his trew love, faire Psyche, with him playes,
Fayre Psyche to him lately reconcyld,
After long troubles and unmeet upbrayes,
With which his mother Venus her revyld,        445
And eke himselfe her cruelly exyld:
But now in stedfast love and happy state
She with him lives, and hath him borne a chyld,
Pleasure, that doth both gods and men aggrate,
Pleasure, the daughter of Cupid and Psyche late.        450
Hether great Venus brought this infant fayre,
The yonger daughter of Chrysogonee,
And unto Psyche with great trust and care
Committed her, yfostered to bee,
And trained up in trew feminitee:        455
Who no lesse carefully her tendered
Then her owne daughter Pleasure, to whom shee
Made her companion, and her lessoned
In all the lore of love and goodly womanhead.
In which when she to perfect ripenes grew,
Of grace and beautie noble paragone,
She brought her forth into the worldes vew,
To be th’ ensample of true love alone,
And lodestarre of all chaste affection
To all fayre ladies, that doe live on grownd.        465
To Faery court she came, where many one
Admyrd her goodly haveour, and fownd
His feeble hart wide launched with loves cruel wownd.
But she to none of them her love did cast,
Save to the noble knight, Sir Scudamore,        470
To whom her loving hart she linked fast
In faithfull love, t’ abide for evermore,
And for his dearest sake endured sore,
Sore trouble of an hainous enimy,
Who her would forced have to have forlore        475
Her former love and stedfast loialty,
As ye may elswhere reade that ruefull history.
But well I weene ye first desire to learne
What end unto that fearefull damozell,
Which fledd so fast from that same foster stearne,        480
Whom with his brethren Timias slew, befell:
That was, to weet, the goodly Florimell,
Who, wandring for to seeke her lover deare,
Her lover deare, her dearest Marinell,
Into misfortune fell, as ye did heare,        485
And from Prince Arthure fled with wings of idle feare.

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