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 VII
        The witches sonne loves Florimell:
  She flyes, he faines to dy.
Satyrane saves the Squyre of Dames
  From gyaunts tyranny.

LIKE as an hynd forth singled from the heard,
That hath escaped from a ravenous beast,
Yet flyes away of her owne feete afeard,
And every leafe, that shaketh with the least
Murmure of winde, her terror hath encreast;        5
So fledd fayre Florimell from her vaine feare,
Long after she from perill was releast:
Each shade she saw, and each noyse she did heare,
Did seeme to be the same which she escapt whileare.
All that same evening she in flying spent,
And all that night her course continewed:
Ne did she let dull sleepe once to relent,
Nor wearinesse to slack her hast, but fled
Ever alike, as if her former dred
Were hard behind, her ready to arrest:        15
And her white palfrey, having conquered
The maistring raines out of her weary wrest,
Perforce her carried where ever he thought best.
So long as breath and hable puissaunce
Did native corage unto him supply,        20
His pace he freshly forward did advaunce,
And carried her beyond all jeopardy;
But nought that wanteth rest can long aby:
He, having through incessant traveill spent
His force, at last perforce adowne did ly,        25
Ne foot could further move. The lady gent
Thereat was suddein strook with great astonishment;
And forst t’ alight, on foot mote algates fare,
A traveiler unwonted to such way:
Need teacher her this lesson hard and rare,        30
That Fortune all in equall launce doth sway,
And mortall miseries doth make her play.
So long she traveild, till at length she came
To an hilles side, which did to her bewray
A litle valley, subject to the same,        35
All coverd with thick woodes, that quite it overcame.
Through the tops of the high trees she did descry
A litle smoke, whose vapour him and light,
Reeking aloft, uprolled to the sky:
Which chearefull signe did send unto her sight        40
That in the same did wonne some living wight.
Eftsoones her steps she thereunto applyd,
And came at last, in weary wretched plight,
Unto the place, to which her hope did guyde,
To finde some refuge there, and rest her wearie syde.        45
There in a gloomy hollow glen she found
A little cottage, built of stickes and reedes
In homely wize, and wald with sods around,
In which a witch did dwell, in loathly weedes,
And wilfull want, all carelesse of her needes;        50
So choosing solitarie to abide,
Far from all neighbours, that her divelish deedes
And hellish arts from people she might hide,
And hurt far off unknowne whom ever she envide.
The damzell there arriving entred in;
Where sitting on the flore the hag she found,
Busie (as seem’d) about some wicked gin:
Who, soone as she beheld that suddein stound,
Lightly upstarted from the dustie ground,
And with fell looke and hollow deadly gaze        60
Stared on her awhile, as one astound,
Ne had one word to speake, for great amaze,
But shewd by outward signes that dread her sence did daze.
At last, turning her feare to foolish wrath,
She askt, what devill had her thether brought,        65
And who she was, and what unwonted path
Had guided her, unwelcomed, unsought.
To which the damzell, full of doubtfull thought,
Her mildly answer’d: ‘Beldame, be not wroth
With silly virgin, by adventure brought        70
Unto your dwelling, ignorant and loth,
That crave but rowme to rest, while tempest overblo’th.’
With that, adowne out of her christall eyne
Few trickling teares she softly forth let fall,
That like to orient perles did purely shyne        75
Upon her snowy cheeke; and there withall
She sighed soft, that none so bestiall
Nor salvage hart, but ruth of her sad plight
Would make to melt, or pitteously appall;
And that vile hag, all were her whole delight        80
In mischiefe, was much moved at so pitteous sight;
And gan recomfort her in her rude wyse,
With womanish compassion of her plaint,
Wiping the teares from her suffused eyes,
And bidding her sit downe, to rest her faint        85
And wearie limbs awhile. She nothing quaint
Nor s’deignfull of so homely fashion,
Sith brought she was now to so hard constraint,
Sate downe upon the dusty ground anon,
As glad of that small rest, as bird of tempest gon.        90
Tho gan she gather up her garments rent,
And her loose lockes to dight in order dew,
With golden wreath and gorgeous ornament;
Whom such whenas the wicked hag did vew,
She was astonisht at her heavenly hew,        95
And doubted her to deeme an earthly wight,
But or some goddesse, or of Dianes crew,
And thought her to adore with humble spright:
T’ adore thing so divine as beauty were but right.
This wicked woman had a wicked sonne,
The comfort of her age and weary dayes,
A laesy loord, for nothing good to donne,
But stretched forth in ydlenesse alwayes,
Ne ever cast his mind to covet prayse,
Or ply him selfe to any honest trade,        105
But all the day before the sunny rayes
He us’d to slug, or sleepe in slothfull shade:
Such laesinesse both lewd and poore attonce him made.
He, comming home at undertime, there found
The fayrest creature that he ever saw        110
Sitting beside his mother on the ground;
The sight whereof did greatly him adaw,
And his base thought with terrour and with aw
So inly smot, that, as one which hath gaz’d
On the bright sunne unwares, doth soone withdraw        115
His feeble eyne, with too much brightnes daz’d,
So stared he on her, and stood long while amaz’d.
Softly at last he gan his mother aske,
What mister wight that was, and whence deriv’d,
That in so straunge disguizement there did maske,        120
And by what accident she there arriv’d:
But she, as one nigh of her wits depriv’d,
With nought but ghastly lookes him answered,
Like to a ghost, that lately is reviv’d
From Stygian shores, where late it wandered;        125
So both at her, and each at other wondered.
But the fayre virgin was so meeke and myld,
That she to them vouchsafed to embace
Her goodly port, and to their senses vyld
Her gentle speach applyde, that in short space        130
She grew familiare in that desert place.
During which time the chorle, through her so kind
And courteise use, conceiv’d affection bace,
And cast to love her in his brutish mind;
No love, but brutish lust, that was so beastly tind.        135
Closely the wicked flame his bowels brent,
And shortly grew into outrageous fire;
Yet had he not the hart, nor hardiment,
As unto her to utter his desire;
His caytive thought durst not so high aspire:        140
But with soft sighes and lovely semblaunces
He ween’d that his affection entire
She should aread; many resemblaunces
To her he made, and many kinde remembraunces.
Oft from the forrest wildings he did bring,
Whose sides empurpled were with smyling red,
And oft young birds, which he had taught to sing
His maistresse praises sweetly caroled;
Girlonds of flowres sometimes for her faire hed
He fine would dight; sometimes the squirrell wild        150
He brought to her in bands, as conquered
To be her thrall, his fellow servant vild;
All which she of him tooke with countenance meeke and mild.
But, past awhile, when she fit season saw
To leave that desert mansion, she cast        155
In secret wize her selfe thence to withdraw,
For feare of mischiefe, which she did forecast
Might be by the witch or that her sonne compast:
Her wearie palfrey closely, as she might,
Now well recovered after long repast,        160
In his proud furnitures she freshly dight,
His late miswandred wayes now to remeasure right.
And earely, ere the dawning day appeard,
She forth issewed, and on her journey went;
She went in perill, of each noyse affeard,        165
And of each shade that did it selfe present;
For still she feared to be overhent
Of that vile hag, or her uncivile sonne:
Who when, too late awaking, well they kent
That their fayre guest was gone, they both begonne        170
To make exceeding mone, as they had beene undonne.
But that lewd lover did the most lament
For her depart, that ever man did heare;
He knockt his brest with desperate intent,
And scratcht his face, and with his teeth did teare        175
His rugged flesh, and rent his ragged heare:
That his sad mother, seeing his sore plight,
Was greatly woe begon, and gan to feare
Least his fraile senses were emperisht quight,
And love to frenzy turnd, sith love is franticke hight.        180
All wayes shee sought, him to restore to plight,
With herbs, with charms, with counsel, and with teares,
But tears, nor charms, nor herbs, nor counsell might
Asswage the fury which his entrails teares:
So strong is passion that no reason heares.        185
Tho, when all other helpes she saw to faile,
She turnd her selfe backe to her wicked leares,
And by her divelish arts thought to prevaile,
To bring her backe againe, or worke her finall bale.
Eftesoones out of her hidden cave she cald
An hideous beast, of horrible aspect,
That could the stoutest corage have appald;
Monstrous, mishapt, and all his backe was spect
With thousand spots of colours queint elect;
Thereto so swifte that it all beasts did pas:        195
Like never yet did living eie detect;
But likest it to an hyena was,
That feeds on wemens flesh, as others feede on gras.
It forth she cald, and gave it streight in charge,
Through thicke and thin her to poursew apace,        200
Ne once to stay to rest, or breath at large,
Till her he had attaind, and brought in place,
Or quite devourd her beauties scornefull grace.
The monster, swifte as word that from her went,
Went forth in haste, and did her footing trace        205
So sure and swiftly, through his perfect sent
And passing speede, that shortly he her overhent.
Whom when the fearefull damzell nigh espide,
No need to bid her fast away to flie;
That ugly shape so sore her terrifide,        210
That it she shund no lesse then dread to die;
And her flitt palfrey did so well apply
His nimble feet to her conceived feare,
That whilest his breath did strength to him supply,
From perill free he her away did beare:        215
But when his force gan faile, his pace gan wex areare.
Which whenas she perceiv’d, she was dismayd
At that same last extremity ful sore,
And of her safety greatly grew afrayd:
And now she gan approch to the sea shore,        220
As it befell, that she could flie no more,
But yield her selfe to spoile of greedinesse:
Lightly she leaped, as a wight forlore,
From her dull horse, in desperate distresse,
And to her feet betooke her doubtfull sickernesse.        225
Not halfe so fast the wicked Myrrha fled
From dread of her revenging fathers hond,
Nor halfe so fast, to save her maydenhed,
Fled fearfull Daphne on th’ Ægæan strond,
As Florimell fled from that monster yond,        230
To reach the sea ere she of him were raught:
For in the sea to drowne her selfe she fond,
Rather then of the tyrant to be caught:
Thereto fear gave her wings, and need her corage taught.
It fortuned (High God did so ordaine)
As shee arrived on the roring shore,
In minde to leape into the mighty maine,
A little bote lay hoving her before,
In which there slept a fisher old and pore,
The whiles his nets were drying on the sand:        240
Into the same shee lept, and with the ore
Did thrust the shallop from the floting strand:
So safety fownd at sea, which she fownd not at land.
The monster, ready on the pray to sease,
Was of his forward hope deceived quight,        245
Ne durst assay to wade the plerous seas,
But, greedily long gaping at the sight,
At last in vaine was forst to turne his flight,
And tell the idle tidings to his dame:
Yet, to avenge his divelishe despight,        250
He sett upon her palfrey tired lame,
And slew him cruelly, ere any reskew came.
And after having him embowelled,
To fill his hellish gorge, it chaunst a knight
To passe that way, as forth he traveiled:        255
Yt was a goodly swaine, and of great might,
As ever man that bloody field did fight;
But in vain sheows, that wont yong knights bewitch,
And courtly services tooke no delight,
But rather joyd to bee then seemen sich:        260
For both to be and seeme to him was labor lich.
It was to weete the good Sir Satyrane,
That raungd abrode to seeke adventures wilde,
As was his wont, in forest and in plaine:
He was all armd in rugged steele unfilde,        265
As in the smoky forge it was compilde,
And in his scutchin bore a satyres hedd:
He comming present, where the monster vilde
Upon that milke-white palfreyes carcas fedd,
Unto his reskew ran, and greedily him spedd.        270
There well perceivd he, that it was the horse
Whereon faire Florimell was wont to ride,
That of that feend was rent without remorse:
Much feared he, least ought did ill betide
To that faire maide, the flowre of wemens pride;        275
For her he dearely loved, and in all
His famous conquests highly magnifide:
Besides, her golden girdle, which did fall
From her in flight, he fownd, that did him sore apall.
Full of sad feare and doubtfull agony,
Fiercely he flew upon that wicked feend;
And with huge strokes and cruell battery
Him forst to leave his pray, for to attend
Him selfe from deadly daunger to defend:
Full many wounds in his corrupted flesh        285
He did engrave, and muchell blood did spend,
Yet might not doe him die, but aie more fresh
And fierce he still appeard, the more he did him thresh.
He wist not how him to despoile of life,
Ne how to win the wished victory,        290
Sith him he saw still stronger grow through strife,
And him selfe weaker through infirmity:
Greatly he grew enrag’d, and furiously
Hurling his sword away, he lightly lept
Upon the beast, that with great cruelty        295
Rored and raged to be undcrkept;
Yet he perforce him held, and strokes upon him hept.
As he that strives to stop a suddein flood,
And in strong bancks his violence containe,
Forceth it swell above his wonted mood,        300
And largely overflow the fruitfull plaine,
That all the countrey seemes to be a maine,
And the rich furrowes flote, all quite fordonne:
The wofull husbandman doth lowd complaine,
To see his whole yeares labor lost so soone,        305
For which to God he made so many an idle boone:
So him he held, and did through might amate:
So long he held him, and him bett so long,
That at the last his fiercenes gan abate,
And meekely stoup unto the victor strong:        310
Who, to avenge the implacable wrong,
Which he supposed donne to Florimell,
Sought by all meanes his dolor to prolong,
Sith dint of steele his carcas could not quell,
His maker with her charmes had framed him so well.        315
The golden ribband, which that virgin wore
About her sclender waste, he tooke in hand,
And with it bownd the beast, that lowd did rore
For great despight of that unwonted band,
Yet dared not his victor to withstand,        320
But trembled like a lambe fled from the pray,
And all the way him followd on the strand,
As he had long bene learned to obay;
Yet never learned he such service till that day.
Thus as he led the beast along the way,
He spide far of a mighty giauntesse,
Fast flying on a courser dapled gray
From a bold knight, that with great hardinesse
Her hard pursewd, and sought for to suppresse:
She bore before her lap a dolefull squire,        330
Lying athwart her horse in great distresse,
Fast bounden hand and foote with cords of wire,
Whom she did meane to make the thrall of her desire.
Which whenas Satyrane beheld, in haste
He lefte his captive beast at liberty,        335
And crost the nearest way, by which he cast
Her to encounter ere she passed by:
But she the way shund nathemore forthy,
But forward gallopt fast; which when he spyde,
His mighty speare he couched warily,        340
And at her ran: she having him descryde,
Her selfe to fight addrest, and threw her lode aside.
Like as a goshauke, that in foote doth beare
A trembling culver, having spide on hight
An eagle, that with plumy wings doth sheare        345
The subtile ayre, stouping with all his might,
The quarrey throwes to ground with fell despight,
And to the batteill doth her selfe prepare:
So ran the geauntesse unto the fight;
Her fyrie eyes with furious sparkes did stare,        350
And with blasphemous bannes High God in peeces tare.
She caught in hand an huge great yron mace,
Where with she many had of life depriv’d;
But ere the stroke could seize his aymed place,
His speare amids her sun-brode shield arriv’d;        355
Yet nathemore the steele a sonder riv’d,
All were the beame in bignes like a mast,
Ne her out of the stedfast sadle driv’d,
But glauncing on the tempred metall, brast
In thousand shivers, and so forth beside her past.        360
Her steed did stagger with that puissaunt strooke,
But she no more was moved with that might,
Then it had lighted on an aged oke;
Or on the marble pillour, that is pight
Upon the top of Mount Olympus hight,        365
For the brave youthly champions to assay,
With burning charet wheeles it nigh to smite:
But who that smites it mars his joyous play,
And is the spectacle of ruinous decay.
Yet there with sore enrag’d, with sterne regard
Her dreadfull weapon she to him addrest,
Which on his helmet martelled so hard,
That made him low incline his lofty crest,
And bowd his battred visour to his brest:
Where with he was so stund that he n’ote ryde,        375
But reeled to and fro from east to west:
Which when his cruell enimy espyde,
She lightly unto him adjoyned syde to syde;
And on his collar laying puissaunt hand,
Out of his wavering seat him pluckt perforse,        380
Perforse him pluckt, unable to withstand,
Or helpe himselfe, and laying thwart her horse,
In loathly wise like to a carrion corse,
She bore him fast away. Which when the knight
That her pursewed saw, with great remorse        385
He nere was touched in his noble spright,
And gan encrease his speed, as she encreast her flight.
Whom when as nigh approching she espyde,
She threw away her burden angrily;
For she list not the batteill to abide,        390
But made her selfe more light, away to fly:
Yet her the hardy knight pursewd so nye
That almost in the backe he oft her strake:
But still, when him at hand she did espy,
She turnd, and semblaunce of faire fight did make;        395
But when he stayd, to flight againe she did her take.
By this the good Sir Satyrane gan wake
Out of his dreame, that did him long entraunce,
And seeing none in place, he gan to make
Exceeding mone, and curst that cruell chaunce,        400
Which reft from him so faire a chevisaunce:
At length he spyde whereas that wofull squyre,
Whom he had reskewed from captivaunce
Of his strong foe, lay tombled in the myre,
Unable to arise, or foot or hand to styre.        405
To whom approching, well he mote perceive
In that fowle plight a comely personage,
And lovely face, made fit for to deceive
Fraile ladies hart with loves consuming rage,
Now in the blossome of his freshest age:        410
He reard him up, and loosd his yron bands,
And after gan inquire his parentage,
And how he fell into that gyaunts hands,
And who that was, which chaced her along the lands.
Then trembling yet through feare, the squire bespake:
‘That geauntesse Argante is behight,
A daughter of the Titans which did make
Warre against heven, and heaped hils on hight,
To scale the skyes, and put Jove from his right:
Her syre Typhoeus was, who, mad through merth,        420
And dronke with blood of men, slaine by his might,
Through incest her of his owne mother Earth
Whylome begot, being but halfe twin of that berth.
‘For at that berth another babe she bore,
To weet, the mightie Ollyphant, that wrought        425
Great wreake to many errant knights of yore,
And many hath to foule confusion brought.
These twinnes, men say, (a thing far passing thought)
Whiles in their mothers wombe enclosd they were,
Ere they into the lightsom world were brought,        430
In fleshly lust were mingled both yfere,
And in that monstrous wise did to the world appere.
‘So liv’d they ever after in like sin,
Gainst natures law and good behaveoure:
But greatest shame was to that maiden twin,        435
Who, not content so fowly to devoure
Her native flesh, and staine her brothers bowre,
Did wallow in all other fleshly myre,
And suffred beastes her body to deflowre,
So whot she burned in that lustfull fyre:        440
Yet all that might not slake her sensuall desyre.
‘But over all the countrie she did raunge,
To seeke young men, to quench her flaming thrust,
And feed her fancy with delightfull chaunge:
Whom so she fittest findes to serve her lust,        445
Through her maine strength, in which she most doth trust,
She with her bringes into a secret ile,
Where in eternall bondage dye he must,
Or be the vassall of her pleasures vile,
And in all shamefull sort him selfe with her defile.        450
‘Me, seely wretch, she so at vauntage caught,
After she long in waite for me did lye,
And meant unto her prison to have brought,
Her lothsom pleasure there to satisfye;
That thousand deathes me lever were to dye,        455
Then breake the vow, that to faire Columbell
I plighted have, and yet keepe stedfastly.
As for my name, it mistreth not to tell;
Call me the Squyre of Dames; that me beseemeth well.
‘But that bold knight, whom ye pursuing saw
That geauntesse, is not such as she seemd,
But a faire virgin, that in martiall law
And deedes of armes above all dames is deemd,
And above many knightes is eke esteemd,
For her great worth; she Palladine is hight:        465
She you from death, you me from dread, redeemd.
Ne any may that monster match in fight,
But she, or such as she, that is so chaste a wight.’
‘Her well beseemes that quest,’ quoth Satyrane:
‘But read, thou Squyre of Dames, what vow is this,        470
Which thou upon thy selfe hast lately ta’ne?’
‘That shall I you recount,’ quoth he, ‘ywis,
So be ye pleasd to pardon all amis.
That gentle lady whom I love and serve,
After long suit and wearie servicis,        475
Did aske me how I could her love deserve,
And how she might be sure that I would never swerve.
‘I, glad by any meanes her grace to gaine,
Badd her commaund my life to save or spill.
Eftsoones she badd me, with incessaunt paine        480
To wander through the world abroad at will,
And every where, where with my power or skill
I might doe service unto gentle dames,
That I the same should faithfully fulfill,
And at the twelve monethes end should bring their names        485
And pledges, as the spoiles of my victorious games.
‘So well I to faire ladies service did,
And found such favour in their loving hartes,
That, ere the yeare his course had compassid,
Thre hundred pledges for my good desartes,        490
And thrise three hundred thanks for my good partes,
I with me brought, and did to her present:
Which when she saw, more bent to eke my smartes
Then to reward my trusty true intent,
She gan for me devise a grievous punishment:        495
‘To weet, that I my traveill should resume,
And with like labour walke the world arownd,
Ne ever to her presence should presume,
Till I so many other dames had fownd,
The which, for all the suit I could propownd,        500
Would me refuse their pledges to afford,
But did abide for ever chaste and sownd.’
‘Ah! gentle squyre,’ quoth he, ‘tell at one word,
How many fowndst thou such to put in thy record?’
‘In deed, sir knight,’ said he, ‘one word may tell
All that I ever fownd so wisely stayd;
For onely three they were disposd so well,
And yet three yeares I now abrode have strayd,
To fynd them out.’ ‘Mote I,’ then laughing sayd
The knight, ‘inquire of thee, what were those three,        510
The which thy proffred curtesie denayd?
Or ill they seemed sure avizd to bee,
Or brutishly brought up, that nev’r did fashions see.’
‘The first which then refused me,’ said hee,
‘Certes was but a common courtisane,        515
Yet flat refusd to have adoe with mee,
Because I could not give her many a jane.’
(Thereat full hartely laughed Satyrane.)
‘The second was an holy nunne to chose,
Which would not let me be her chappellane,        520
Because she knew, she sayd, I would disclose
Her counsell, if she should her trust in me repose.
‘The third a damzell was of low degree,
Whom I in countrey cottage fownd by chaunce:
Full litle weened I, that chastitee        525
Had lodging in so meane a maintenaunce;
Yet was she fayre, and in her countenaunce
Dwelt simple truth in seemely fashion.
Long thus I woo’d her with dew observaunce,
In hope unto my pleasure to have won,        530
But was as far at last, as when I first begon.
‘Safe har, I never any woman found,
That chastity did for it selfe embrace,
But were for other causes firme and sound,
Either for want of handsome time and place,        535
Or else for feare of shame and fowle disgrace.
Thus am I hopelesse ever to attaine
My ladies love, in such a desperate case,
But all my dayes am like to waste in vaine,
Seeking to match the chaste wiht th’ unchaste ladies traine.’        540
‘Perdy,’ sayd Satyrane, ‘thou Squyre of Dames,
Great labour fondly hast thou hent in hand,
To get small thankes, and therewith many blames,
That may emongst Alcides labours stand.’
Thence backe returning to the former land,        545
Where late he left the beast he overcame,
He found him not; for he had broke his band,
And was returnd againe unto his dame,
To tell what tydings of fayre Florimell became.

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