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 VIII
        The witch creates a snowy lady,
  like to Florimell:
Who, wronged by carle, by Proteus sav’d,
  Is sought by Paridell.

SO oft as I this history record,
My hart doth melt with meere compassion,
To thinke how causelesse of her owne accord
This gentle damzell, whom I write upon,
Should plonged be in such affliction,        5
Without all hope of comfort or reliefe,
That sure I weene, the hardest hart of stone
Would hardly finde to aggravate her griefe;
For misery craves rather mercy then repriefe.
But that accursed hag, her hostesse late,
Had so enranckled her malitious hart,
That she desyrd th’ abridgement of her fate,
Or long enlargement of her painefull smart.
Now when the beast, which by her wicked art
Late foorth she sent, she backe retourning spyde,        15
Tyde with her broken girdle, it a part
Of her rich spoyles, whom he had earst destroyd,
She weend, and wondrous gladnes to her hart applyde.
And with it ronning hast’ly to her sonne,
Thought with that sight him much to have reliv’d;        20
Who thereby deeming sure the thing as donne,
His former griefe with furie fresh reviv’d,
Much more then earst, and would have algates riv’d
The hart out of his brest: for sith her dedd
He surely dempt, himselfe he thought depriv’d        25
Quite of all hope, wherewith he long had fedd
His foolish malady, and long time had misledd.
With thought whereof, exceeding mad he grew,
And in his rage his mother would have slaine,
Had she not fled into a secret mew,        30
Where she was wont her sprightes to entertaine,
The maisters of her art: there was she faine
To call them all in order to her ayde,
And them conjure, upon eternall paine,
To counsell her so carefully dismayd,        35
How she might heale her sonne, whose senses were decayd.
By their advise, and her owne wicked wit,
She there deviz’d a wondrous worke to frame,
Whose like on earth was never framed yit,
That even Nature selfe envide the same,        40
And grudg’d to see the counterfet should shame
The thing it selfe. In hand she boldly tooke
To make another like the former dame,
Another Florimell, in shape and looke
So lively and so like that many it mistooke.        45
The substance, whereof she the body made,
Was purest snow in massy mould congeald,
Which she had gathered in a shady glade
Of the Riphœan hils, to her reveald
By errant sprights, but from all men conceald:        50
The same she tempred with fine mercury,
And virgin wex, that never yet was seald,
And mingled them with perfect vermily,
That like a lively sanguine it seemd to the eye.
In stead of eyes, two burning lampes she set
In silver sockets, shyning like the skyes,
And a quicke moving spirit did arret
To stirre and roll them, like a womans eyes:
In stead of yellow lockes, she did devyse,
With golden wyre to weave her curled head;        60
Yet golden wyre was not so yellow thryse
As Florimells fayre heare: and in the stead
Of life, she put a spright to rule the carcas dead:
A wicked spright, yfraught with fawning guyle
And fayre resemblance, above all the rest        65
Which with the Prince of Darkenes fell somewhyle
From heavens blis and everlasting rest:
Him needed not instruct, which way were best
Him selfe to fashion likest Florimell,
Ne how to speake, ne how to use his gest;        70
For he in counterfesaunce did excell,
And all the wyles of wemens wits knew passing well.
Him shaped thus she deckt in garments gay,
Which Florimell had left behind her late,
That who so then her saw would surely say,        75
It was her selfe whom it did imitate,
Or fayrer then her selfe, if ought algate
Might fayrer be. And then she forth her brought
Unto her sonne, that lay in feeble state;
Who seeing her gan streight upstart, and thought        80
She was the lady selfe, whom he so long had sought.
Tho, fast her clipping twixt his armes twayne,
Extremely joyed in so happy sight,
And soone forgot his former sickely payne;
But she, the more to seeme such as she hight,        85
Coyly rebutted his embracement light;
Yet still with gentle countenaunce retain’d
Enough to hold a foole in vaine delight:
Him long she so with shadowes entertain’d,
As her creatresse had in charge to her ordain’d.        90
Till on a day, as he disposed was
To walke the woodes with that his idole faire,
Her to disport, and idle time to pas
In th’ open freshnes of the gentle aire,
A knight that way there chaunced to repaire;        95
Yet knight he was not, but a boastfull swaine,
That deedes of armes had every in despaire,
Proud Braggadocchio, that in vaunting vaine
His glory did repose, and credit did maintaine.
He, seeing with that chorle so faire a wight,
Decked with many a costly ornament,
Much merveiled thereat, as well he might,
And thought that match a fowle disparagement:
His bloody speare eftesoones he boldly bent
Against the silly clowne, who, dead through feare,        105
Fell streight to ground in great astonishment:
‘Villein,’ sayd he, ‘this lady is my deare;
Dy, if thou it gainesay: I will away her beare.’
The fearefull chorle durst not gainesay, nor dooe,
But trembling stood, and yielded him the pray;        110
Who, finding litle leasure her to wooe,
On Tromparts steed her mounted without stay,
And without reskew led her quite away.
Proud man himselfe then Braggadochio deem’d,
And next to none, after that happy day,        115
Being possessed of that spoyle, which seem’d
The fairest wight on ground, and most of men esteem’d.
But when hee saw him selfe free from poursute,
He gan make gentle purpose to his dame,
With termes of love and lewdnesse dissolute;        120
For he could well his glozing speaches frame
To such vaine uses, that him best became:
But she thereto would lend but light regard,
As seeming sory that she ever came
Into his powre, that used her so hard,        125
To reave her honor, which she more then life prefard.
Thus as they two of kindnes treated long,
There them by chaunce encountred on the way
An armed knight, upon a courser strong,
Whose trampling feete upon the hollow lay        130
Seemed to thunder, and did nigh affray
That capons corage: yet he looked grim,
And faynd to cheare his lady in dismay,
Who seemd for feare to quake in every lim,
And her to save from outrage meekely prayed him.        135
Fiercely that straunger forward came, and nigh
Approching, with bold words and bitter threat,
Bad that same boaster, as he mote on high,
To leave to him that lady for excheat,
Or bide him batteill without further treat.        140
That challenge did too peremptory seeme,
And fild his senses with abashment great;
Yet, seeing nigh him jeopardy extreme,
He it dissembled well, and light seemd to esteeme;
Saying, ‘Thou foolish knight! that weenst with words
To steale away that I with blowes have wonne,
And broght throgh points of many perilous swords:
But if thee list to see thy courser ronne,
Or prove thy selfe, this sad encounter shonne,
And seeke els without hazard of thy hedd.’        150
At those prowd words that other knight begonne
To wex exceeding wroth, and him aredd
To turne his steede about, or sure he should be dedd.
‘Sith then,’ said Braggadochio, ‘needes thou wilt
Thy daies abridge, through proofe of puissaunce,        155
Turne we our steeds, that both in equall tilt
May meete againe, and each take happy chaunce.’
This said, they both a furlongs mountenaunce
Retird their steeds, to ronne in even race:
But Braggadochio with his bloody launce        160
Once having turnd, no more returnd his face,
But lefte his love to losse, and fled him selfe apace.
The knight, him seeing flie, had no regard
Him to poursew, but to the lady rode,
And having her from Trompart lightly reard,        165
Upon his courser sett the lovely lode,
And with her fled away without abode.
Well weened he, that fairest Florimell
It was, with whom in company he yode,
And so her selfe did alwaies to him tell;        170
So made him thinke him selfe in heven, that was in hell.
But Florimell her selfe was far away,
Driven to great distresse by fortune straunge,
And taught the carefull mariner to play,
Sith late mischaunce had her compeld to chaunge        175
The land for sea, at randon there to raunge:
Yett there that cruell queene avengeresse,
Not satisfyde so far her to estraunge
From courtly blis and wonted happinesse,
Did heape on her new waves of weary wretchednesse.        180
For being fled into the fishers bote,
For refuge from the monsters cruelty,
Long so she on the mighty maine did flote,
And with the tide drove forward carelesly;
For th’ ayre was milde, and cleared was the skie,        185
And all his windes Dan Aeolus did keepe
From stirring up their stormy enmity,
As pittying to see her waile and weepe;
But all the while the fisher did securely sleepe.
At last when droncke with drowsinesse he woke,
And saw his drover drive along the streame,
He was dismayd, and thrise his brest he stroke,
For marveill of that accident extreame;
But when he saw that blazing beauties beame,
Which with rare light his bote did beautifyre,        195
He marveild more, and thought he yet did dreame
Not well awakte, or that some extasye
Assotted had his sence, or dazed was his eye.
But when her well avizing, hee perceiv’d
To be no vision nor fantasticke sight,        200
Great comfort of her presence he conceiv’d,
And felt in his old corage new delight
To gin awake, and stir his frosen spright:
Tho rudely askte her, how she thether came.
‘Ah!’ sayd she, ‘father, I note read aright        205
What hard misfortune brought me to this same;
Yet am I glad that here I now in safety ame.
‘But thou good man, sith far in sea we bee,
And the great waters gin apace to swell,
That now no more we can the mayn-land see,        210
Have care, I pray, to guide the cock-bote well,
Least worse on sea then us on land befell.’
Thereat th’ old man did nought but fondly grin,
And saide, his boat the way could wisely tell:
But his deceiptfull eyes did never lin        215
To looke on her faire face, and marke her snowy skin.
The sight whereof in his congealed flesh
Infixt such secrete sting of greedy lust,
That the drie withered stocke it gan refresh,
And kindled heat, that soone in flame forth brust:        220
The driest wood is soonest burnt to dust.
Rudely to her he lept, and his rough hand,
Where ill became him, rashly would have thrust;
But she with angry scorne him did with stond,
And shamefully reproved for his rudenes fond.        225
But he, that never good nor maners knew,
Her sharpe rebuke full litle did esteeme;
Hard is to teach an old horse amble trew.
The inward smoke, that did before but steeme,
Broke into open fire and rage extreme;        230
And now he strength gan adde unto his will,
Forcyng to doe that did him fowle misseeme:
Beastly he threwe her downe, ne car’d to spill
Her garments gay with scales of fish, that all did fill.
The silly virgin strove him to withstand,
All that she might, and him in vaine revild:
Shee strugled strongly both with foote and hand,
To save her honor from that villaine vilde,
And cride to heven, from humane helpe exild.
O ye brave knights, that boast this ladies love,        240
Where be ye now, when she is nigh defild
Of filthy wretch? Well may she you reprove
Of falsehood or of slouth, when most it may behove.
But if that thou, Sir Satyran, didst weete,
Or thou, Sir Peridure, her sory state,        245
How soone would yee assemble many a fleete,
To fetch from sea that ye at land lost late!
Towres, citties, kingdomes ye would ruinate,
In your avengement and dispiteous rage,
Ne ought your burning fury mote abate;        250
But if Sir Calidore could it presage,
No living creature could his cruelty asswage.
But sith that none of all her knights is nye,
See how the heavens, of voluntary grace
And soveraine favor towards chastity,        255
Doe succor send to her distressed cace:
So much High God doth innocence embrace.
It fortuned, whilest thus she stifly strove,
And the wide sea importuned long space
With shrilling shriekes, Proteus abrode did rove,        260
Along the fomy waves driving his finny drove.
Proteus is shepheard of the seas of yore,
And hath the charge of Neptunes mighty heard,
An aged sire with head all frowy hore,
And sprinckled frost upon his deawy beard:        265
Who when those pittifull outcries he heard
Through all the seas so ruefully resownd,
His charett swifte in hast he thether steard,
Which, with a teeme of scaly phocas bownd,
Was drawne upon the waves, that fomed him arownd.        270
And comming to that fishers wandring bote,
That went at will, withouten card or sayle,
He therein saw that yrkesome sight, which smote
Deepe indignation and compassion frayle
Into his hart attonce: streight did he hayle        275
The greedy villein from his hoped pray,
Of which he now did very litle fayle,
And with his staffe, that drives his heard astray,
Him bett so sore, that life and sence did much dismay.
The whiles the pitteous lady up did ryse,
Ruffled and fowly raid with filthy soyle,
And blubbred face with teares of her faire eyes:
Her heart nigh broken was with weary toyle,
To save her selfe from that outrageous spoyle:
But when she looked up, to weet what wight        285
Had her from so infamous fact assoyld,
For shame, but more for feare of his grim sight,
Downe in her lap she hid her face, and lowdly shright.
Her selfe not saved yet from daunger dredd
She thought, but chaung’d from one to other feare:        290
Like as a fearefull partridge, that is fledd
From the sharpe hauke, which her attached neare,
And fals to ground, to seeke for succor theare,
Whereas the hungry spaniells she does spye,
With greedy jawes her ready for to teare;        295
In such distresse and sad perplexity
Was Florimell, when Proteus she did see thereby.
But he endevored with speaches milde
Her to recomfort, and accourage bold,
Bidding her feare no more her foeman vilde,        300
Nor doubt himselfe; and who he was her told.
Yet all that could not from affright her hold,
Ne to recomfort her at all prevayld;
For her faint hart was with the frosen cold
Benumbd so inly, that her wits nigh fayld,        305
And all her sences with abashment quite were quayld.
Her up betwixt his rugged hands he reard,
And with his frory lips full softly kist,
Whiles the cold ysickles from his rough beard
Dropped adowne upon her yvory brest:        310
Yet he him selfe so busily addrest,
That her out of astonishment he wrought,
And out of that same fishers filthy nest
Removing her, into his charet brought,
And there with many gentle termes her faire besought.        315
But that old leachour, which with bold assault
That beautie durst presume to violate,
He cast to punish for his hainous fault:
Then tooke he him, yet trembling sith of late,
And tyde behind his charet, to aggrate        320
The virgin, whom be had abusde so sore:
So drag’d him through the waves in scornfull state,
And after cast him up upon the shore;
But Florimell with him unto his bowre he bore.
His bowre is in the bottom of the maine,
Under a mightie rocke, gainst which doe rave
The roring billowes in their proud disdaine,
That with the angry working of the wave
Therein is eaten out an hollow cave,
That seemes rough masons hand with engines keene        330
Had long while laboured it to engrave:
There was his wonne, ne living wight was seene,
Save one old nymph, hight Panope, to keepe it cleane.
Thether he brought the sory Florimell,
And entertained her the best he might,        335
And Panope her entertaind eke well,
As an immortall mote a mortall wight,
To winne her liking unto his delight:
With flattering wordes he sweetly wooed her,
And offered faire guiftes, t’ allure her sight;        340
But she both offers and the offerer
Despysde, and all the fawning of the flatterer.
Dayly he tempted her with this or that,
And never suffred her to be at rest:
But evermore she him refused flat,        345
And all his fained kindnes did detest;
So firmely she had sealed up her brest.
Sometimes he boasted that a god he hight;
But she a mortall creature loved best:
Then he would make him selfe a mortall wight;        350
But then she said she lov’d none but a Faery knight.
Then like a Faerie knight him selfe he drest;
For every shape on him he could endew:
Then like a king he was to her exprest,
And offred kingdoms unto her in vew,        355
To be his leman and his lady trew:
But when all this he nothing saw prevaile,
With harder meanes he cast her to subdew,
And with sharpe threates her often did assayle,
So thinking for to make her stubborne corage quayle.        360
To dreadfull shapes he did him selfe transforme,
Now like a gyaunt, now like to a feend,
Then like a centaure, then like to a storme,
Raging within the waves: thereby he weend
Her will to win unto his wished eend.        365
But when with feare, nor favour, nor with all
He els could doe, he saw him selfe esteemd,
Downe in a dongeon deepe he let her fall,
And threatned there to make her his eternall thrall.
Eternall thraldome was to her more liefe,
Then losse of chastitie, or chaunge of love:
Dye had she rather in tormenting griefe,
Then any should of falsenesse her reprove,
Or loosenes, that she lightly did remove.
Most vertuous virgin! glory be thy meed,        375
And crowne of heavenly prayse with saintes above,
Where most sweet hymmes of this thy famous deed
Are still emongst them song, that far my rymes exceed.
Fit song of angels caroled to bee!
But yet what so my feeble Muse can frame,        380
Shalbe t’ advance thy goodly chastitee,
And to enroll thy memorable name
In th’ heart of every honourable dame,
That they thy vertuous deedes may imitate,
And be partakers of thy endlesse fame.        385
Yt yrkes me leave thee in this wofull state,
To tell of Satyrane, where I him left of late.
Who having ended with that Squyre of Dames
A long discourse of his adventures vayne,
The which himselfe, then ladies, more defames,        390
And finding not th’ hyena to be slayne,
With that same squyre retourned back agayne
To his first way. And as they forward went,
They spyde a knight fayre pricking on the playne,
As if he were on some adventure bent,        395
And in his port appeared manly hardiment.
Sir Satyrane him towardes did addresse,
To weet what wight he was, and what his quest:
And comming nigh, eftsoones he gan to gesse
Both by the burning hart which on his brest        400
He bare, and by the colours in his crest,
That Paridell it was: tho to him yode,
And him saluting as beseemed best,
Gan first inquire of tydinges farre abrode;
And afterwardes, on what adventure now he rode.        405
Who thereto answering said: ‘The tydinges bad,
Which now in Faery court all men doe tell,
Which turned hath great mirth to mourning sad,
Is the late ruine of proud Marinell,
And suddein parture of faire Florimell,        410
To find him forth: and after her are gone
All the brave knightes, that doen in armes excell,
To savegard her, ywandred all alone;
Emongst the rest my lott (unworthy’) is to be one.’
‘Ah! gentle knight,’ said then Sir Satyrane,
‘Thy labour all is lost, I greatly dread,
That hast a thanklesse service on thee ta’ne,
And offrest sacrifice unto the dead.
For dead, I surely doubt, thou maist aread
Henceforth for ever Florimell to bee,        420
That all the noble knights of Maydenhead,
Which her ador’d, may sore repent with mee,
And all faire ladies may for ever sory bee.’
Which wordes when Paridell had heard, his hew
Gan greatly chaung, and seemd dismaid to bee;        425
Then said: ‘Fayre sir, how may I weene it trew,
That ye doe tell in such uncerteintee?
Or speake ye of report, or did ye see
Just cause of dread, that makes ye doubt so sore?
For, perdie, elles how mote it ever bee,        430
That ever hand should dare for to engore
Her noble blood? The hevens such crueltie abhore.’
‘These eyes did see, that they will ever rew
To have seene,’ quoth he, ‘when as a monstrous beast
The palfrey whereon she did travell slew,        435
And of his bowels made his bloody feast:
Which speaking token sheweth at the least
Her certeine losse, if not her sure decay:
Besides, that more suspicion encreast,
I found her golden girdle cast astray,        440
Distaynd with durt and blood, as relique of the pray.’
‘Ay me!’ said Paridell, ‘the signes be sadd,
And but God turne the same to good sooth say,
That ladies safetie is sore to be dradd:
Yet will I not forsake my forward way,        445
Till triall doe more certeine truth bewray.’
‘Faire sir,’ quoth he, ‘well may it you succeed:
Ne long shall Satyrane behind you stay,
But to the rest, which in this quest proceed,
My labour adde, and be partaker of their speed.’        450
‘Ye noble knights,’ said then the Squyre of Dames,
‘Well may yee speede in so praiseworthy payne:
But sith the sunne now ginnes to slake his beames
In deawy vapours of the westerne mayne,
And lose the teme out of his weary wayne,        455
Mote not mislike you also to abate
Your zealous hast, till morrow next againe
Both light of heven and strength of men relate:
Which if ye please, to yonder castle turne your gate.’
That counsell pleased well; so all yfere
Forth marched to a castle them before;
Where soone arryving, they restrained were
Of ready entraunce, which ought evermore
To errant knights be commune: wondrous sore
Thereat displeasd they were, till that young squyre        465
Gan them informe the cause why that same dore
Was shut to all which lodging did desyre:
The which to let you weet will further time requyre.

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