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 XI
        Britomart chaceth Ollyphant;
  Findes Scudamour distrest:
Assayes the house of Busyrane,
  Where Loves spoyles are exprest.

O HATEFULL hellish snake! what Furie furst
Brought thee from balefull house of Proserpine,
Where in her bosome she thee long had nurst,
And fostred up with bitter milke of tine,
Fowle Gealosy! that turnest love divine        5
To joylesse dread, and mak’st the loving hart
With hatefull thoughts to languish and to pine,
And feed it selfe with selfe-consuming smart?
Of all the passions in the mind thou vilest art.
O let him far be banished away,
And in his stead let Love for ever dwell,
Sweete Love, that doth his golden wings embay
In blessed nectar, and pure pleasures well,
Untroubled of vile feare or bitter fell.
And ye, faire ladies, that your kingdomes make        15
In th’ harts of men, them governe wisely well,
And of faire Britomart ensample take,
That was as trew in love as turtle to her make.
Who with Sir Satyrane, as earst ye red,
Forth ryding from Malbeccoes hostlesse hous,        20
Far off aspyde a young man, the which fled
From an huge geaunt, that with hideous
And hatefull outrage long him chaced thus;
It was that Ollyphant, the brother deare
Of that Argante vile and vitious,        25
From whom the Squyre of Dames was reft whylere;
This all as bad as she, and worse, if worse ought were.
For as the sister did in feminine
And filthy lust exceede all woman kinde,
So he surpassed his sex masculine,        30
In beastly use, all that I ever finde:
Whom when as Britomart beheld behinde
The fearefull boy so greedily poursew,
She was emmoved in her noble minde
T’ employ her puissaunce to his reskew,        35
And pricked fiercely forward, where she did him vew.
Ne was Sir Satyrane her far behinde,
But with like fiercenesse did ensew the chace:
Whom when the gyaunt saw, he soone resinde
His former suit, and from them fled apace:        40
They after both, and boldly bad him bace,
And each did strive the other to outgoe;
But he them both outran a wondrous space,
For he was long, and swift as any roe,
And now made better speed, t’ escape his feared foe.        45
It was not Satyrane, whom he did feare,
But Britomart the flowre of chastity;
For he the powre of chaste hands might not beare,
But alwayes did their dread encounter fly:
And now so fast his feet he did apply,        50
That he has gotten to a forrest neare,
Where he is shrowded in security.
The wood they enter, and search everie where;
They searched diversely, so both divided were.
Fayre Britomart so long him followed,
That she at last came to a fountaine sheare,
By which there lay a knight all wallowed
Upon the grassy ground, and by him neare
His haberjeon, his helmet, and his speare:
A little of, his shield was rudely throwne,        60
On which the Winged Boy in colours cleare
Depeincted was, full easie to be knowne,
And he thereby, where ever it in field was showne.
His face upon the grownd did groveling ly,
As if he had beene slombring in the shade,        65
That the brave mayd would not for courtesy
Out of his quiet slomber him abrade,
Nor seeme too suddeinly him to invade:
Still as she stood, she heard with grievous throb
Him grone, as if his hart were peeces made,        70
And with most painefull pangs to sigh and sob,
That pitty did the virgins hart of patience rob.
At last forth breaking into bitter plaintes
He sayd: ‘O soverayne Lord, that sit’st on hye,
And raignst in blis emongst thy blessed saintes,        75
How suffrest thou such shamefull cruelty,
So long unwreaked of thine enimy?
Or hast thou, Lord, of good mens cause no heed?
Or doth thy justice sleepe, and silently?
What booteth then the good and righteous deed,        80
If goodnesse find no grace, nor righteousnes no meed?
‘If good find grace, and righteousnes reward,
Why then is Amoret in caytive band,
Sith that more bounteous creature never far’d
On foot upon the face of living land?        85
Or if that hevenly justice may withstand
The wrongfull outrage of unrighteous men,
Why then is Busirane with wicked hand
Suffred, these seven monethes day in secret den
My lady and my love so cruelly to pen?        90
‘My lady and my love is cruelly pend
In dolefull darkenes from the vew of day,
Whilest deadly torments doe her chast brest rend,
And the sharpe steele doth rive her hart in tway,
All for she Scudamore will not denay.        95
Yet thou, vile man, vile Scudamore, art sound,
Ne canst her ayde, ne canst her foe dismay;
Unworthy wretch to tread upon the ground,
For whom so faire a lady feeles so sore a wound.’
There an huge heape of singulfes did oppresse
His strugling soule, and swelling throbs empeach
His foltring toung with pangs of drerinesse,
Choking the remnant of his plaintife speach,
As if his dayes were come to their last reach.
Which when she heard, and saw the ghastly fit,        105
Threatning into his life to make a breach,
Both with great ruth and terrour she was smit,
Fearing least from her cage the wearie soule would flit.
Tho stouping downe, she him amoved light;
Who, therewith somewhat starting, up gan looke,        110
And seeing him behind a stranger knight,
Whereas no living creature he mistooke,
With great indignaunce he that sight forsooke,
And downe againe himselfe disdainefully
Abjecting, th’ earth with his faire forhead strooke:        115
Which the bold virgin seeing, gan apply
Fit medcine to his griefe, and spake thus courtesly:
‘Ah! gentle knight, whose deepe conceived griefe
Well seemes t’ exceede the powre of patience,
Yet if that hevenly grace some good reliefe        120
You send, submit you to High Providence,
And ever in your noble hart prepense,
That all the sorrow in the world is lesse
Then vertues might and values confidence.
For who nill bide the burden of distresse        125
Must not here thinke to live: for life is wretchednesse.
‘Therefore, faire sir, doe comfort to you take,
And freely read what wicked felon so
Hath outrag’d you, and thrald your gentle make.
Perhaps this hand may helpe to ease your woe,        130
And wreake your sorrow on your cruell foe;
At least it faire endevour will apply.’
Those feeling words so neare the quicke did goe,
That up his head he reared easily,
And leaning on his elbowe, these few words lett fly:        135
‘What boots it plaine that cannot be redrest,
And sow vaine sorrow in a fruitlesse eare,
Sith powre of hand, nor skill of learned brest,
Ne worldly price cannot redeeme my deare
Out of her thraldome and continuall feare?        140
For he, the tyrant, which her hath in ward
By strong enchauntments and blacke magicke leare,
Hath in a dungeon deepe her close embard,
And many dreadfull feends hath pointed to her gard.
‘There he tormenteth her most terribly,
And day and night afflicts with mortall paine,
Because to yield him love she doth deny,
Once to me yold, not to be yolde againe:
But yet by torture he would her constraine
Love to conceive in her disdainfull brest;        150
Till so she doe, she must in doole remaine,
Ne may by living meanes be thence relest:
What boots it then to plaine that cannot be redrest?’
With this sad hersall of his heavy stresse
The warlike damzell was empassiond sore,        155
And sayd: ‘Sir knight, your cause is nothing lesse
Then is your sorrow, certes, if not more;
For nothing so much pitty doth implore,
As gentle ladyes helplesse misery.
But yet, if please ye listen to my lore,        160
I will, with proofe of last extremity,
Deliver her fro thence, or with her for you dy.’
‘Ah! gentlest knight alive,’ sayd Scudamore,
‘What huge heroicke magnanimity
Dwells in thy bounteous brest? what couldst thou more,        165
If shee were thine, and thou as now am I?
O spare thy happy daies, and them apply
To better boot, but let me die, that ought;
More is more losse: one is enough to dy.’
‘Life is not lost,’ said she, ‘for which is bought        170
Endlesse renowm, that more then death is to be sought.’
Thus shee at length persuaded him to rise,
And with her wend, to see what new successe
Mote him befall upon new enterprise:
His armes, which he had vowed to disprofesse,        175
She gathered up and did about him dresse,
And his forwandred steed unto him gott:
So forth they both yfere make their progresse,
And march not past the mountenaunce of a shott,
Till they arriv’d whereas their purpose they did plott.        180
There they dismounting, drew their weapons bold,
And stoutly came unto the castle gate,
Whereas no gate they found, them to withhold,
Nor ward to wait at morne and evening late;
But in the porch, that did them sore amate,        185
A flaming fire, ymixt with smouldry smoke
And stinking sulphure, that with griesly hate
And dreadfull horror did all entraunce choke,
Enforced them their forward footing to revoke.
Greatly thereat was Britomart dismayd,
Ne in that stownd wist how her selfe to beare;
For daunger vaine it were to have assayd
That cruell element, which all things feare,
Ne none can suffer to approchen neare:
And turning backe to Scudamour, thus sayd:        195
‘What monstrous enmity provoke we heare,
Foolhardy as th’ Earthes children, the which made
Batteill against the gods? so we a god invade.
‘Daunger without discretion to attempt
Inglorious and beastlike is: therefore, sir knight,        200
Aread what course of you is safest dempt,
And how we with our foe may come to fight.’
‘This is,’ quoth he, ‘the dolorous despight,
Which earst to you I playnd: for neither may
This fire be quencht by any witt or might,        205
Ne yet by any meanes remov’d away;
So mighty be th’ enchauntments which the same do stay.
‘What is there ells, but cease these fruitlesse paines,
And leave me to my former languishing?
Faire Amorett must dwell in wicked chaines,        210
And Scudamore here die with sorrowing.’
‘Perdy, not so,’ saide shee; ‘for shameful thing
Yt were t’ abandon noble chevisaunce,
For shewe of perill, without venturing:
Rather let try extremities of chaunce,        215
Then enterprised praise for dread to disavaunce.’
Therewith, resolv’d to prove her utmost might,
Her ample shield she threw before her face,
And her swords point directing forward right,
Assayld the flame, the which eftesoones gave place,        220
And did it selfe divide with equall space,
That through she passed, as a thonder bolt
Perceth the yielding ayre, and doth displace
The soring clouds into sad showres ymolt;
So to her yold the flames, and did their force revolt.        225
Whome whenas Scudamour saw past the fire,
Safe and untoucht, he likewise gan assay,
With greedy will and envious desire,
And bad the stubborne flames to yield him way:
But cruell Mulciber would not obay        230
His threatfull pride, but did the more augment
His mighty rage, and with imperious sway
Him forst (maulgre) his fercenes to relent,
And backe retire, all scorcht and pitifully brent.
With huge impatience he inly swelt,
More for great sorrow that he could not pas
Then for the burning torment which he felt;
That with fell woodnes he effierced was,
And wilfully him throwing on the gras,
Did beat and bounse his head and brest ful sore;        240
The whiles the championesse now entred has
The utmost rowme, and past the formost dore,
The utmost rowme, abounding with all precious store.
For round about, the walls yclothed were
With goodly arras of great majesty,        245
Woven with gold and silke so close and nere,
That the rich metall lurked privily,
As faining to be hidd from envious eye;
Yet here, and there, and every where unwares
It shewd it selfe, and shone unwillingly;        250
Like a discolourd snake, whose hidden snares
Through the greene gras his long bright burnisht back declares.
And in those tapets weren fashioned
Many faire pourtraicts, and many a faire feate;
And all of love, and al of lusty-hed,        255
As seemed by their semblaunt, did entreat;
And eke all Cupids warres they did repeate,
And cruell battailes, which he whilome fought
Gainst all the gods, to make his empire great;
Besides the huge massacres, which he wrought        260
On mighty kings and kesars, into thraldome brought.
Therein was writt, how often thondring Jove
Had felt the point of his hart percing dart,
And leaving heavens kingdome, here did rove
In straunge disguize, to slake his scalding smart;        265
Now like a ram, faire Helle to pervart,
Now like a bull, Europa to withdraw:
Ah! how the fearefull ladies tender hart
Did lively seeme to tremble, when she saw
The huge seas under her t’ obay her servaunts law!        270
Soone after that, into a golden showre
Him selfe he chaung’d, faire Danaë to vew,
And through the roofe of her strong brasen towre
Did raine into her lap an hony dew,
The whiles her foolish garde, that litle knew        275
Of such deceipt, kept th’ yron dore fast bard,
And watcht, that none should enter nor issew;
Vaine was the watch, and bootlesse all the ward,
Whenas the god to golden hew him selfe transfard.
Then was he turnd into a snowy swan,
To win faire Leda to his lovely trade:
O wondrous skill and sweet wit of the man,
That her in daffadillies sleeping made,
From scorching heat her daintie limbes to shade:
Whiles the proud bird, ruffing his fethers wyde        285
And brushing his faire brest, did her invade!
Shee slept, yet twixt her eielids closely spyde
How towards her he rusht, and smiled at his pryde.
Then shewd it how the Thebane Semelee,
Deceivd of gealous Juno, did require        290
To see him in his soverayne majestee,
Armd with his thunderbolts and lightning fire,
Whens dearely she with death bought her desire.
But faire Alcmena better match did make,
Joying his love in likenes more entire:        295
Three nights in one they say that for her sake
He then did put, her pleasures lenger to partake.
Twise was he seene in soaring eagles shape,
And with wide winges to beat the buxome ayre:
Once, when he with Asterie did scape,        300
Againe, when as the Trojane boy so fayre
He snatcht from Ida hill, and with him bare:
Wondrous delight it was, there to behould
How the rude shepheards after him did stare,
Trembling through feare least down he fallen should,        305
And often to him calling to take surer hould.
In Satyres shape Antiopa he snatcht:
And like a fire, when he Aegin’ assayd:
A shepeheard, when Mnemosyne he catcht:
And like a serpent to the Thracian mayd.        310
Whyles thus on earth great Jove these pageaunts playd,
The Winged Boy did thrust into his throne,
And scoffing, thus unto his mother sayd:
‘Lo! now the hevens obey to me alone,
And take me for their Jove, whiles Jove to earth is gone.’        315
And thou, faire Phœbus, in thy colours bright
Wast there enwoven, and the sad distresse
In which that boy thee plonged, for despight
That thou bewray’dst his mothers wantonnesse,
When she with Mars was meynt in joyfulnesse:        320
Forthy he thrild thee with a leaden dart,
To love faire Daphne, which thee loved lesse:
Lesse she thee lov’d then was thy just desart,
Yet was thy love her death, and her death was thy smart.
So lovedst thou the lusty Hyacinct,
So lovedst thou the faire Coronis deare:
Yet both are of thy haplesse hand extinct,
Yet both in flowres doe live, and love thee beare,
The one a paunce, the other a sweet breare:
For griefe whereof, ye mote have lively seene        330
The god himselfe rending his golden heare,
And breaking quite his garlond ever greene,
With other signes of sorrow and impatient teene.
Both for those two, and for his owne deare sonne,
The sonne of Climene, he did repent,        335
Who, bold to guide the charet of the sunne,
Himselfe in thousand peeces fondly rent,
And all the world with flashing fire brent:
So like, that all the walles did seeme to flame.
Yet cruell Cupid, not herewith content,        340
Forst him eftsoones to follow other game,
And love a shephards daughter for his dearest dame.
He loved Isse for his dearest dame,
And for her sake her cattell fedd a while,
And for her sake a cowheard vile became,        345
The servant of Admetus, cowheard vile,
Whiles that from heaven he suffered exile.
Long were to tell each other lovely fitt,
Now like a lyon, hunting after spoile,
Now like a stag, now like a faulcon flit:        350
All which in that faire arras was most lively writ.
Next unto him was Neptune pictured,
In his divine resemblance wondrous lyke:
His face was rugged, and his hoarie hed
Dropped with brackish deaw; his threeforkt pyke        355
He stearnly shooke, and therewith fierce did stryke
The raging billowes, that on every syde
They trembling stood, and made a long broad dyke,
That his swift charet might have passage wyde,
Which foure great hippodames did draw in temewise tyde.        360
His seahorsed did seeme to snort amayne,
And from their nosethrilles blow the brynie streame,
That made the sparckling waves to smoke agayne,
And flame with gold, but the white fomy creame
Did shine with silver, and shoot forth his beame.        365
The god himselfe did pensive seeme and sad,
And hond adowne his head, as he did dreame:
For privy love his brest empierced had,
Ne ought but deare Bisaltis ay could make him glad.
He loved eke Iphimedia deare,
And Aeolus faire daughter, Arne hight,
For whom he turnd him selfe into a steare,
And fedd on fodder, to beguile her sight.
Also to win Deucalions daughter bright,
He turnd him selfe into a dolphin fayre;        375
And like a winged horse he tooke his flight,
To snaky-locke Medusa to repayre,
On whom he got faire Pegasus, that flitteth in the arye.
Next Saturne was, (but who would ever weene
That sullein Saturne ever weend to love?        380
Yet love is sullein, and Saturnlike seene,
As he did for Erigone it prove,)
That to a centaure did him selfe transmove.
So proov’d it eke that gratious good of wine,
When, for to compasse Philliras hard love,        385
He turnd himselfe into a fruitfull vine,
And into her faire bosome made his grapes decline.
Long were to tell the amorous assayes,
And gentle pangues, with which he maked meeke
The mightie Mars, to learne his wanton playes:        390
How oft for Venus, and how often eek
For many other nymphes he sore did shreek,
With womanish teares, and with unwarlike smarts,
Privily moystening his horrid cheeke.
There was he painted full of burning dartes,        395
And many wide woundes launched through his inner partes.
Ne did he spare (so cruell was the elfe)
His owne deare mother, (ah! why should he so?)
Ne did he spare sometime to pricke himselfe,
That he might taste the sweet consuming woe,        400
Which he had wrought to many others moe.
But to declare the mournfull tragedyes,
And spoiles, wherewith he all the ground did strow,
More eath to number with how many eyes
High heven beholdes sad lovers nightly theeveryes.        405
Kings, queenes, lords, ladies, knights, and damsels gent
Were heap’d together with the vulgar sort,
And mingled with the raskall rablement,
Without respect of person or of port,
To shew Dan Cupids powre and great effort:        410
And round about, a border was entrayld
Of broken bowes and arrowes shivered short,
And a long bloody river through them rayld,
So lively and so like that living sence it fayld.
And at the upper end of that faire rowme,
There was an altar built of pretious stone,
Of passing valew and of great renowme,
On which there stood an image all alone
Of massy gold, which with his owne light shone;
And winges it had with sondry colours dight,        420
More sondry colours then the pround pavone
Beares in his boasted fan, or Iris bright,
When her discolourd bow she spreds through hevens hight.
Blyndfold he was, and in his cruell fist
A mortall bow and arrowes Keene did hold,        425
With which he shot at randon, when him list,
Some headed with sad lead, some with pure gold;
(Ah! man, beware how thou those dartes behold.)
A wounded dragon under him did ly,
Whose hideous tayle his lefte foot did enfold,        430
And with a shaft was shot through either eye,
That no man forth might draw, ne no man remedye.
And underneath his feet was written thus,
Unto the victor of the gods this bee:
And all the people in that ample hous        435
Did to that image bowe their humble knee,
And oft committed fowle idolatree.
That wondrous sight faire Britomart amazd,
Ne seeing could her wonder satisfie,
But ever more and more upon it gazd,        440
The whiles the passing brightnes her fraile sences dazd.
Tho as she backward cast her busie eye,
To search each secrete of that goodly sted,
Over the dore thus written she did spye,
Bee bold: she oft and oft it over-red,        445
Yet could not find what sence it figured:
But what so were therein or writ or ment,
She was no whit thereby discouraged
From prosecuting of her first intent,
But forward with bold steps into the next roome went.        450
Much fayrer then the former was that roome,
And richlier by many partes arayd;
For not with arras made in painefull loome,
But with pure gold, it all was overlayd,
Wrought with wilde antickes, which their follies playd        455
In the rich metall, as they living were:
A thousand monstrous formes therein were made,
Such as false Love doth oft upon him weare,
For Love in thousand monstrous formes doth oft appeare.
And all about, the glistring walles were hong
With warlike spoiles and with victorious prayes
Of mightie conquerours and captaines strong,
Which were whilome captived in their dayes
To cruell Love, and wrought their owne decayes:
Their swerds and speres were broke, and hauberques rent,        465
And their proud girlonds of tryumphant bayes
Troden in dust with fury insolent,
To shew the victors might and mercilesse intent.
The warlike mayd, beholding earnestly
The goodly ordinaunce of this rich place,        470
Did greatly wonder, ne could satisfy
Her greedy eyes with gazing a long space;
But more she mervaild that no footings trace
Nor wight appear’d, but wastefull emptinesse
And solemne silence over all that place:        475
Straunge thing it seem’d, that none was to possesse
So rich purveyaunce, ne them keepe with carefulnesse.
And as she lookt about, she did behold
How over that same dore was like wise writ,
Be bolde, be bolde, and every where Be bold,        480
That much she muz’d, yet could not construe it
By any ridling skill or commune wit.
At last she spyde at that rowmes upper end
Another yron dore, on which was writ,
Be not too bold; whereto though she did bend        485
Her earnest minde, yet wist not what it might intend.
Thus she there wayted untill eventyde,
Yet living creature none she saw appeare:
And now sad shadowes gan the world to hyde
From mortall vew, and wrap in darkenes dreare;        490
Yet nould she d’off her weary armes, for feare
Of secret daunger, ne let sleepe oppresse
Her heavy eyes with natures burdein deare,
But drew her selfe aside in sickernesse,
And her welpointed wepons did about her dresse.        495

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