Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Faerie Queene
Book V. The Legend of Artegall
Canto II
        Artegall heares of Florimell;
  Does with the Pagan fight:
Him slaies, drownes Lady Munera,
  Does race her castle quight.

NOUGHT is more honorable to a knight,
Ne better doth beseeme brave chevalry,
Then to defend the feeble in their right,
And wrong redresse in such as wend awry.
Whilome those great heroes got thereby        5
Their greatest glory, for their rightfull deedes,
And place deserved with the gods on hy.
Herein the noblesse of this knight exceedes,
Who now to perils great for justice sake proceedes.
To which as he now was uppon the way,
He chaunst to meet a dwarfe in hasty course;
Whom he requir’d his forward hast to stay,
Till he of tidings mote with him discourse.
Loth was the dwarfe, yet did he stay perforse,
And gan of sundry newes his store to tell,        15
As to his memory they had recourse:
But chiefely of the fairest Florimell,
How she was found againe, and spousde to Marinell.
For this was Dony, Florimels owne dwarfe,
Whom having lost (as ye have heard whyleare)        20
And finding in the way the scattred scarfe,
The fortune of her life long time did feare.
But of her health when Artegall did heare,
And safe returne, he was full inly glad,
And askt him where and when her bridale cheare        25
Should be solemniz’d: for if time he had,
He would be there, and honor to her spousall ad.
‘Within three daies,’ quoth he, ‘as I do here,
It will be at the Castle of the Strond;
What time, if naught me let, I will be there        30
To doe her service, so as I am bond.
But in my way a little here beyond
A cursed cruell Sarazin doth wonne,
That keepes a bridges passage by strong hond,
And many errant knights hath there fordonne;        35
That makes all men for feare that passage for to shonne.’
‘What mister wight,’ quoth he, ‘and how far hence
Is he, that doth to travellers such harmes?’
‘He is,’ said he, ‘a man of great defence;
Expert in battell and in deedes of armes;        40
And more emboldned by the wicked charmes,
With which his daughter doth him still support;
Having great lordships got and goodly farmes,
Through strong oppression of his powre extort;
By which he stil them holds, and keepes with strong effort.        45
‘And dayly he his wrongs encreaseth more;
For never wight he lets to passe that way,
Over his bridge, albee he rich or poore,
But he him makes his passage-penny pay:
Else he doth hold him backe or beat away.        50
Thereto he hath a groome of evill guize,
Whose scalp is bare, that bondage doth bewray,
Which pols and pils the poore in piteous wize;
But he him selfe uppon the rich doth tyrannize.
‘His name is hight Pollente, rightly so,
For that he is so puissant and strong,
That with his powre he all doth overgo,
And makes them subject to his mighty wrong;
And some by sleight he eke doth underfong:
For on a bridge he custometh to fight,        60
Which is but narrow, but exceeding long;
And in the same are many trap fals pight,
Through which the rider downe doth fall through oversight.
‘And underneath the same a river flowes,
That is both swift and dangerous deepe withall;        65
Into the which whom so he overthrowes,
All destitute of helpe doth headlong fall;
But he him selfe, through practise usuall,
Leapes forth into the floud, and there assaies
His foe confused through his sodaine fall,        70
That horse and man he equally dismaies,
And either both them drownes, or trayterously slaies.
‘Then doth he take the spoile of them at will,
And to his daughter brings, that dwels thereby:
Who all that comes doth take, and therewith fill        75
The coffers of her wicked threasury;
Which she with wrongs hath heaped up so hy,
That many princes she in wealth exceedes,
And purchast all the countrey lying ny
With the revenue of her plenteous meedes:        80
Her name is Munera, agreeing with her deedes.
‘Thereto she is full faire, and rich attired,
With golden hands and silver feete beside,
That many lords have her to wife desired:
But she them all despiseth for great pride.’        85
‘Now by my life,’ sayd he, ‘and God to guide,
None other way will I this day betake,
But by that bridge, whereas he doth abide:
Therefore me thither lead.’ No more he spake,
But thitherward forthright his ready way did make.        90
Unto the place he came within a while,
Where on the bridge he ready armed saw
The Sarazin, awayting for some spoile.
Who as they to the passage gan to draw,
A villaine to them came with scull all raw,        95
That passage money did of them require,
According to the custome of their law.
To whom he aunswerd wroth, ‘Loe! there thy hire;’
And with that word him strooke, that streight he did expire.
Which when the Pagan saw, he wexed wroth,
And streight him selfe unto the fight addrest,
Ne was Sir Artegall behinde: so both
Together ran with ready speares in rest.
Right in the midst, whereas they brest to brest
Should meete, a trap was letten downe to fall        105
Into the floud: streight leapt the carle unblest,
Well weening that his foe was falne withall:
But he was well aware, and leapt before his fall.
There being both together in the floud,
They each at other tyrannously flew;        110
Ne ought the water cooled their whot bloud,
But rather in them kindled choler new.
But there the Paynim, who that use well knew
To fight in water, great advantage had,
That oftentimes him nigh he overthrew:        115
And eke the courser whereuppon he rad
Could swim like to a fish, whiles he his backe bestrad.
Which oddes when as Sir Artegall espide,
He saw no way but close with him in hast;
And to him driving strongly downe the tide,        120
Uppon his iron coller griped fast,
That with the straint his wesand nigh he brast.
There they together strove and struggled long,
Either the other from his steede to cast;
Ne ever Artegall his griple strong        125
For any thing wold slacke, but still uppon him hong.
As when a dolphin and a sele are met
In the wide champian of the ocean plaine:
With cruell chaufe their courages they whet,
The maysterdome of each by force to gaine,        130
And dreadfull battaile twixt them do darraine:
They snuf, they snort, they bounce, they rage, they rore,
That all the sea, disturbed with their traine,
Doth frie with fome above the surges hore:
Such was betwixt these two the troublesome uprore.        135
So Artegall at length him forst forsake
His horses backe, for dread of being drownd,
And to his handy swimming him betake.
Eftsoones him selfe he from his hold unbownd,
And then no ods at all in him he fownd:        140
For Artegall in swimming skilfull was,
And durst the depth of any water sownd.
So ought each knight, that use of perill has,
In swimming be expert, through waters force to pas.
Then very doubtfull was the warres event,
Uncertaine whether had the better side:
For both were skild in that experiment,
And both in armes well traind and throughly tride.
But Artegall was better breath’d beside,
And towards th’ end grew greater in his might,        150
That his faint foe no longer could abide
His puissance, ne beare him selfe upright,
But from the water to the land betooke his flight.
But Artegall pursewd him still so neare,
With bright Chrysaor in his cruell hand,        155
That, as his head he gan a litle reare
Above the brincke, to tread upon the land,
He smote it off, that tumbling on the strand
It bit the earth for very fell despight,
And gnashed with his teeth, as if he band        160
High God, whose goodnesse he despaired quight,
Or curst the hand which did that vengeance on him dight.
His corps was carried downe along the lee,
Whose waters with his filthy bloud it stayned:
But his blasphemous head, that all might see,        165
He pitcht upon a pole on high ordayned;
Where many years it afterwards remayned,
To be a mirrour to all mighty men,
In whose right hands great power is contayned,
That none of them the feeble overren,        170
But alwaies doe their powre within just compasse pen.
That done, unto the castle he did wend,
In which the Paynims daughter did abide,
Guarded of many which did her defend:
Of whom he entrance sought, but was denide,        175
And with reprochfull blasphemy defide,
Beaten with stones downe from the battilment,
That he was forced to withdraw aside;
And bad his servant Talus to invent
Which way he enter might without endangerment.        180
Eftsoones his page drew to the castle gate,
And with his iron flale at it let flie,
That all the warders it did sore amate,
The which erewhile spake so reprochfully,
And made them stoupe, that looked earst so hie.        185
Yet still he bet and bounst uppon the dore,
And thundred strokes thereon so hideouslie,
That all the peece he shaked from the flore,
And filled all the house with feare and great uprore.
With noise whereof the lady forth appeared
Uppon the castle wall; and when she saw
The daungerous state in which she stood, she feared
The sad effect of her neare overthrow;
And gan entreat that iron man below
To cease his outrage, and him faire besought,        195
Sith neither force of stones which they did throw,
Nor powr of charms, which she against him wrought,
Might otherwise prevaile, or make him cease for ought.
But when as yet she saw him to proceede,
Unmov’d with praiers or with piteous thought,        200
She ment him to corrupt with goodly meede;
And causde great sackes with endlesse riches fraught,
Unto the battilment to be upbrought,
And powred forth over the castle wall,
That she might win some time, though dearly bought,        205
Whilest he to gathering of the gold did fall.
But he was nothing mov’d nor tempted therewithall;
But still continu’d his assault the more,
And layd on load with his huge yron flaile,
That at the length he has yrent the dore,        210
And made way for his maister to assaile.
Who being entred, nought did then availe
For wight, against his powre them selves to reare:
Each one did flie; their hearts began to faile;
And hid them selves in corners here and there;        215
And eke their dame halfe dead did hide her self for feare.
Long they her sought, yet no where could they finde her,
That sure they ween’d she was escapt away:
But Talus, that could like a limehound winde her,
And all things secrete wisely could bewray,        220
At length found out whereas she hidden lay
Under an heape of gold. Thence he her drew
By the faire lockes, and fowly did array,
Withouten pitty of her goodly hew,
That Artegall him selfe her seemelesse plight did rew.        225
Yet for no pitty would he change the course
Of justice, which in Talus hand did lye;
Who rudely hayld her forth without remorse,
Still holding up her suppliant hands on hye,
And kneeling at his feete submissively.        230
But he her suppliant hands, those hands of gold,
And eke her feete, those feete of silver trye,
Which sought unrighteousnesse, and justice sold,
Chopt off, and nayld on high, that all might them behold.
Her selfe then tooke he by the sclender wast,
In vaine loud crying, and into the flood
Over the castle wall adowne her cast,
And there her drowned in the durty mud:
But the streame washt away her guilty blood.
Thereafter all that mucky pelfe he tooke,        240
The spoile of peoples evill gotten good,
The which her sire had scrap’t by hooke and crooke,
And burning all to ashes, powr’d it downe the brooke.
And lastly all that castle quite he raced,
Even from the sole of his foundation,        245
And all the hewen stones thereof defaced,
That there mote be no hope of reparation,
Nor memory thereof to any nation.
All which when Talus throughly had perfourmed,
Sir Artegall undid the evill fashion,        250
And wicked customes of that bridge refourmed:
Which done, unto his former journey he retourned.
In which they measur’d mickle weary way,
Till that at length nigh to the sea they drew;
By which as they did travell on a day,        255
They saw before them, far as they could vew,
Full many people gathered in a crew;
Whose great assembly they did much admire;
For never there the like resort they knew.
So towardes them they coasted, to enquire        260
What thing so many nations met did there desire.
There they beheld a mighty gyant stand
Upon a rocke, and holding forth on hie
An huge great paire of ballance in his hand,
With which he boasted in his surquedrie,        265
That all the world he would weigh equallie,
If ought he had the same to counterpoys.
For want whereof he weighed vanity,
And fild his ballaunce full of idle toys:
Yet was admired much of fooles, women, and boys.        270
He sayd that he would all the earth uptake,
And all the sea, devided each from either:
So would he of the fire one ballaunce make,
And one of th’ ayre, without or wind or wether:
Then would he ballaunce heaven and hell together,        275
And all that did within them all containe;
Of all whose weight he would not misse a fether:
And looke what surplus did of each remaine,
He would to his owne part restore the same againe.
Forwhy, he sayd, they all unequall were,
And had encroched uppon others share,
Like as the sea (which plaine he shewed there)
Had worne the earth, so did the fire the aire,
So all the rest did others parts empaire,
And so were realmes and nations run awry.        285
All which he undertooke for to repaire,
In sort as they were formed aunciently;
And all things would reduce unto equality.
Therefore the vulgar did about him flocke,
And cluster thicke unto his leasings vaine,        290
Like foolish flies about an hony crocke,
In hope by him great benefite to gaine,
And uncontrolled freedome to obtaine.
All which when Artegall did see and heare,
How he mis-led the simple peoples traine,        295
In sdeignfull wize he drew unto him neare,
And thus unto him spake, without regard or feare:
‘Thou that presum’st to weigh the world anew,
And all things to an equall to restore,
In stead of right me seemes great wrong dost shew,        300
And far above thy forces pitch to sore.
For ere thou limit what is lesse or more
In every thing, thou oughtest first to know,
What was the poyse of every part of yore:
And looke then, how much it doth overflow,        305
Or faile thereof, so much is more then just to trow.
‘For at the first they all created were
In goodly measure by their Makers might,
And weighed out in ballaunces so nere,
That not a dram was missing of their right:        310
The earth was in the middle centre pight,
In which it doth immoveable abide,
Hemd in with waters like a wall in sight;
And they with aire, that not a drop can slide:
Al which the heavens containe, and in their courses guide.        315
‘Such heavenly justice doth among them raine,
That every one doe know their certaine bound,
In which they doe these many yeares remaine,
And mongst them al no change hath yet beene found.
But if thou now shouldst weigh them new in pound,        320
We are not sure they would so long remaine:
All change is perillous, and all chaunce unsound.
Therefore leave off to weigh them all againe,
Till we may be assur’d they shall their course retaine.’
‘Thou foolishe Elfe,’ said then the gyant wroth,
‘Seest not, how badly all things present bee,
And each estate quite out of order goth?
The sea it selfe doest thou not plainely see
Encroch uppon the land there under thee;
And th’ earth it selfe how daily its increast        330
By all that dying to it turned be?
Were it not good that wrong were then surceast,
And from the most, that some were given to the least?
‘Therefore I will throw downe these mountaines hie,
And make them levell with the lowly plaine:        335
These towring rocks, which reach unto the skie,
I will thrust downe into the deepest maine,
And as they were, them equalize againe.
Tyrants, that make men subject to their law,
I will suppresse, that they no more may raine;        340
And lordings curbe, that commons over-aw;
And all the wealth of rich men to the poore will draw.’
‘Of things unseene how canst thou deeme aright,’
Then answered the righteous Artegall,
‘Sith thou misdeem’st so much of things in sight?        345
What though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eate the earth? it is no more at all,
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought:
For whatsoever from one place doth fall
Is with the tide unto an other brought:        350
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.
‘Likewise the earth is not augmented more
By all that dying into it doe fade:
For of the earth they formed were of yore;
How ever gay their blossome or their blade        355
Doe flourish now, they into dust shall vade.
What wrong then is it, if that when they die,
They turne to that whereof they first were made?
All in the powre of their great Maker lie:
All creatures must obey the voice of the Most Hie.        360
‘They live, they die, like as He doth ordaine,
Ne ever any asketh reason why.
The hils doe not the lowly dales disdaine;
The dales doe not the lofty hils envy.
He maketh kings to sit in soverainty;        365
He maketh subjects to their power obay;
He pulleth downe, He setteth up on by;
He gives to this, from that He takes away:
For all we have is His: what He list doe, He may.
‘What ever thing is done, by Him is donne,
Ne any may His mighty will withstand;
Ne any may His soveraine power shonne,
Ne loose that He hath bound with stedfast band.
In vaine therefore doest thou now take in hand,
To call to count, or weigh His workes anew,        375
Whose counsels depth thou canst not understand;
Sith of things subject to thy daily vew
Thou doest not know the causes, nor their courses dew.
‘For take thy ballaunce, if thou be so wise,
And weigh the winde that under heaven doth blow;        380
Or weigh the light that in the East doth rise;
Or weigh the thought that from mans mind doth flow.
But if the weight of these thou canst not show,
Weigh but one word which from thy lips doth fall:
For how canst thou those greater secrets know,        385
That doest not know the least thing of them all?
Ill can he rule the great, that cannot reach the small.’
Therewith the gyant much abashed sayd,
That he of little things made reckoning light,
Yet the least word that ever could be layd        390
Within his ballaunce he could way aright.
‘Which is,’ sayd he, ‘more heavy then in weight,
The right or wrong, the false or else the trew?’
He answered that he would try it streight:
So he the words into his ballaunce threw;        395
But streight the winged words out of his ballaunce flew.
Wroth wext he then, and sayd that words were light,
Ne would within his ballaunce well abide:
But he could justly weigh the wrong or right.
‘Well then,’ sayd Artegall, ‘let it be tride.        400
First in one ballance set the true aside.’
He did so first; and then the false he layd
In th’ other scale; but still it downe did slide,
And by no meane could in the weight be stayd:
For by no meanes the false will with the truth be wayd.        405
‘Now take the right likewise,’ sayd Artegale,
‘And counterpeise the same with so much wrong.’
So first the right he put into one scale;
And then the gyant strove with puissance strong
To fill the other scale with so much wrong.        410
But all the wrongs that he therein could lay
Might not it peise; yet did he labour long,
And swat, and chauf’d, and proved every way:
Yet all the wrongs could not a litle right downe way.
Which when he saw, he greatly grew in rage,
And almost would his balances have broken:
But Artegall him fairely gan asswage,
And said: ‘Be not upon thy balance wroken;
For they doe nought but right or wrong betoken;
But in the mind the doome of right must bee:        420
And so likewise of words, the which be spoken,
The eare must be the ballance, to decree
And judge, whether with truth or falshood they agree.
‘But set the truth and set the right aside,
For they with wrong or falshood will not fare;        425
And put two wrongs together to be tride,
Or else two falses, of each equall share,
And then together doe them both compare:
For truth is one, and right is ever one.’
So did he, and then plaine it did appeare,        430
Whether of them the greater were attone.
But right sate in the middest of the beame alone.
But he the right from thence did thrust away,
For it was not the right which he did seeke;
But rather strove extremities to way,        435
Th’ one to diminish, th’ other for to eeke:
For of the meane he greatly did misleeke.
Whom when so lewdly minded Talus found,
Approching nigh unto him, cheeke by cheeke,
He shouldered him from off the higher ground,        440
And down the rock him throwing, in the sea him dround.
Like as a ship, whom cruell tempest drives
Upon a rocke with horrible dismay,
Her shattered ribs in thousand peeces rives,
And spoyling all her geares and goodly ray,        445
Does make her selfe misfortunes piteous pray:
So downe the cliffe the wretched gyant tumbled;
His battred ballances in peeces lay,
His timbered bones all broken rudely rumbled:
So was the high aspyring with huge ruine humbled.        450
That when the people, which had there about
Long wayted, saw his sudden desolation,
They gan to gather in tumultuous rout,
And mutining, to stirre up civill faction,
For certaine losse of so great expectation.        455
For well they hoped to have got great good,
And wondrous riches by his innovation.
Therefore resolving to revenge his blood,
They rose in armes, and all in battell order stood.
Which lawlesse multitude him comming too,
In warlike wise, when Artegall did vew,
He much was troubled, ne wist what to doo.
For loth he was his noble hands t’ embrew
In the base blood of such a rascall crew;
And otherwise, if that he should retire,        465
He fear’d least they with shame would him pursew.
Therefore he Talus to them sent, t’ inquire
The cause of their array, and truce for to desire.
But soone as they him nigh approching spide,
They gan with all their weapons him assay,        470
And rudely stroke at him on every side:
Yet nought they could him hurt, ne ought dismay.
But when at them he with his flaile gan lay,
He like a swarme of flyes them overthrew;
Ne any of them durst come in his way,        475
But here and there before his presence flew,
And hid themselves in holes and bushes from his vew.
As when a faulcon hath with nimble flight
Flowne at a flush of ducks, foreby the brooke,
The trembling foule, dismayd with dreadfull sight        480
Of death, the which them almost overtooke,
Doe hide themselves from her astonying looke
Amongst the flags and covert round about.
When Talus saw they all the field for-sooke,
And none appear’d of all that raskall rout,        485
To Artegall he turn’d, and went with him throughout.

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