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 VII
        Britomart comes to Isis Church,
  Where shee strange visions sees:
She fights with Radigund, her slaies,
  And Artegall thence frees.

NOUGHT is on earth more sacred or divine,
That gods and men doe equally adore,
Then this same vertue that doth right define:
For th’ hevens themselves, whence mortal men implore
Right in their wrongs, are rul’d by righteous lore        5
Of highest Jove, who doth true justice deale
To his inferiour gods, and evermore
Therewith containes his heavenly commonweale:
The skill whereof to princes hearts he doth reveale.
Well therefore did the antique world invent,
That Justice was a god of soveraine grace,
And altars unto him, and temples lent,
And heavenly honours in the highest place;
Calling him great Osyris, of the race
Of th’ old Ægyptian kings, that whylome were;        15
With fayned colours shading a true case:
For that Osyris, whilest he lived here,
The justest man alive and truest did appeare.
His wife was Isis, whom they likewise made
A goddesse of great powre and soverainty,        20
And in her person cunningly did shade
That part of justice which is equity,
Whereof I have to treat here presently.
Unto whose temple when as Britomart
Arrived, shee with great humility        25
Did enter in, ne would that night depart;
But Talus mote not be admitted to her part.
There she received was in goodly wize
Of many priests, which duely did attend
Uppon the rites and daily sacrifize,        30
All clad in linnen robes with silver hemd;
And on their heads, with long locks comely kemd,
They wore rich mitres shaped like the moone,
To shew that Isis doth the moone portend;
Like as Osyris signifies the sunne:        35
For that they both like race in equall justice runne.
The championesse them greeting, as she could,
Was thence by them into the temple led;
Whose goodly building when she did behould,
Borne uppon stately pillours, all dispred        40
With shining gold, and arched over hed,
She wondred at the workemans passing skill,
Whose like before she never saw nor red;
And thereuppon long while stood gazing still,
But thought that she thereon could never gaze her fill.        45
Thence forth unto the idoll they her brought,
The which was framed all of silver fine,
So well as could with cunning hand be wrought,
And clothed all in garments made of line,
Hemd all about with fringe of silver twine.        50
Uppon her head she wore a crowne of gold,
To shew that she had powre in things divine;
And at her feete a crocodile was rold,
That with his wreathed taile her middle did enfold.
One foote was set uppon the crocodile,
And on the ground the other fast did stand,
So meaning to suppresse both forged guile
And open force: and in her other hand
She stretched forth a long white sclender wand.
Such was the goddesse; whom when Britomart        60
Had long beheld, her selfe uppon the land
She did prostrate, and with right humble hart,
Unto her selfe her silent prayers did impart.
To which the idoll as it were inclining,
Her wand did move with amiable looke,        65
By outward shew her inward sence desining.
Who well perceiving how her wand she shooke,
It as a token of good fortune tooke.
By this the day with dampe was overcast,
And joyous light the house of Jove forsooke:        70
Which when she saw, her helmet she unlaste,
And by the altars side her selfe to slumber plaste.
For other beds the priests there used none,
But on their mother Earths deare lap did lie,
And bake their sides uppon the cold hard stone,        75
T’ enure them selves to sufferaunce thereby
And proud rebellious flesh to mortify.
For, by the vow of their religion,
They tied were to stedfast chastity,
And continence of life, that, all forgon,        80
They mote the better tend to their devotion.
Therefore they mote not taste of fleshly food,
Ne feed on ought the which doth bloud containe,
Ne drinke of wine, for wine they say is blood,
Even the bloud of gyants, which were slaine        85
By thundring Jove in the Phlegrean plaine:
For which the Earth (as they the story tell)
Wroth with the gods, which to perpetuall paine
Had damn’d her sonnes, which gainst them did rebell,
With inward griefe and malice did against them swell.        90
And of their vitall bloud, the which was shed
Into her pregnant bosome, forth she brought
The fruitfull vine, whose liquor blouddy red,
Having the mindes of men with fury fraught,
Mote in them stirre up old rebellious thought,        95
To make new warre against the gods againe:
Such is the powre of that same fruit, that nought
The fell contagion may thereof restraine,
Ne within reasons rule her madding mood containe.
There did the warlike maide her selfe repose,
Under the wings of Isis all that night,
And with sweete rest her heavy eyes did close,
After that long daies toile and weary plight.
Where whilest her earthly parts with soft delight
Of sencelesse sleepe did deeply drowned lie,        105
There did appeare unto her heavenly spright
A wondrous vision, which did close implie
The course of all her fortune and posteritie.
Her seem’d, as she was doing sacrifize
To Isis, deckt with mitre on her hed        110
And linnen stole, after those priestes guize,
All sodainely she saw transfigured
Her linnen stole to robe of scarlet red,
And moone-like mitre to a crowne of gold,
That even she her selfe much wondered        115
At such a chaunge, and joyed to behold
Her selfe adorn’d with gems and jewels manifold.
And in the midst of her felicity,
An hideous tempest seemed from below
To rise through all the temple sodainely,        120
That from the altar all about did blow
The holy fire, and all the embers strow
Uppon the ground, which, kindled privily,
Into outragious flames unwares did grow,
That all the temple put in jeopardy        125
Of flaming, and her selfe in great perplexity.
With that the crocodile, which sleeping lay
Under the idols feete in fearelesse bowre,
Seem’d to awake in horrible dismay,
As being troubled with that stormy stowre;        130
And gaping greedy wide, did streight devoure
Both flames and tempest: with which growen great,
And swolne with pride of his owne peerelesse powre,
He gan to threaten her likewise to eat;
But that the goddesse with her rod him backe did beat.        135
Tho turning all his pride to humblesse meeke,
Him selfe before her feete he lowly threw,
And gan for grace and love of her to seeke:
Which she accepting, he so neare her drew,
That of his game she soone enwombed grew,        140
And forth did bring a lion of great might;
That shortly did all other beasts subdew.
With that she waked, full of fearefull fright,
And doubtfully dismayd through that so uncouth sight.
So thereuppon long while she musing lay,
With thousand thoughts feeding her fantasie,
Untill she spide the lampe of lightsome day,
Up-lifted in the porch of heaven hie.
Then up she rose fraught with melancholy,
And forth into the lower parts did pas;        150
Whereas the priestes she found full busily
About their holy things for morrow mas:
Whom she saluting faire, faire resaluted was.
But, by the change of her unchearefull looke,
They might perceive she was not well in plight;        155
Or that some pensivenesse to heart she tooke.
Therefore thus one of them, who seem’d in sight
To be the greatest and the gravest wight,
To her bespake: ‘Sir knight, it seemes to me,
That, thorough evill rest of this last night,        160
Or ill apayd or much dismayd ye be,
That by your change of cheare is easie for to see.’
‘Certes,’ sayd she, ‘sith ye so well have spide
The troublous passion of my pensive mind,
I will not seeke the same from you to hide,        165
But will my cares unfolde, in hope to find
Your aide, to guide me out of errour blind.’
‘Say on,’ quoth he, ‘the secret of your hart:
For by the holy vow which me doth bind
I am adjur’d, best counsell to impart        170
To all that shall require my comfort in their smart.’
Then gan she to declare the whole discourse
Of all that vision which to her appeard,
As well as to her minde it had recourse.
All which when he unto the end had heard,        175
Like to a weake faint-hearted man he fared,
Through great astonishment of that strange sight;
And with long locks up-standing, stifly stared
Like one adawed with some dreadfull spright.
So fild with heavenly fury, thus he her behight:        180
‘Magnificke virgin, that in queint disguise
Of British armes doest maske thy royall blood,
So to pursue a perillous emprize,
How couldst thou weene, through that disguized hood,
To hide thy state from being understood?        185
Can from th’ immortall gods ought hidden bee?
They doe thy linage, and thy lordly brood,
They doe thy sire, lamenting sore for thee,
They doe thy love, forlorne in womens thraldome, see.
‘The end whereof, and all the long event,
They doe to thee in this same dreame discover.
For that same crocodile doth represent
The righteous knight that is thy faithfull lover,
Like to Osyris in all just endever.
For that same crocodile Osyris is,        195
That under Isis feete doth sleepe for ever:
To shew that clemence oft, in things amis,
Restraines those sterne behests and cruell doomes of his.
‘That knight shall all the troublous stormes asswage,
And raging flames, that many foes shall reare,        200
To hinder thee from the just heritage
Of thy sires crowne, and from thy countrey deare.
Then shalt thou take him to thy loved fere,
And joyne in equall portion of thy realme:
And afterwards a sonne to him shalt beare,        205
That lion-like shall shew his powre extreame.
So blesse thee God, and give thee joyance of thy dreame.’
All which when she unto the end had heard,
She much was eased in her troublous thought,
And on those priests bestowed rich reward:        210
And royall gifts of gold and silver wrought
She for a present to their goddesse brought.
Then taking leave of them, she forward went,
To seeke her love, where he was to be sought;
Ne rested till she came without relent        215
Unto the land of Amazons, as she was bent.
Whereof when newes to Radigund was brought,
Not with amaze, as women wonted bee,
She was confused in her troublous thought,
But fild with courage and with joyous glee,        220
As glad to heare of armes, the which now she
Had long surceast, she bad to open bold,
That she the face of her new foe might see.
But when they of that yron man had told,
Which late her folke had slaine, she bad them forth to hold.        225
So there without the gate (as seemed best)
She caused her pavilion be pight;
In which stout Britomart her selfe did rest,
Whiles Talus watched at the dore all night.
All night likewise, they of the towne in fright        230
Uppon their wall good watch and ward did keepe.
The morrow next, so soone as dawning light
Bad doe away the dampe of drouzie sleepe,
The warlike Amazon out of her bowre did peepe;
And caused streight a trumpet loud to shrill,
To warne her foe to battell soone be prest:
Who, long before awoke, (for she ful ill
Could sleepe all night, that in unquiet brest
Did closely harbour such a jealous guest)
Was to the battell whilome ready dight.        240
Eftsoones that warriouresse with haughty crest
Did forth issue, all ready for the fight:
On th’ other side her foe appeared soone in sight.
But ere they reared hand, the Amazone
Began the streight conditions to propound,        245
With which she used still to tye her fone:
To serve her so, as she the rest had bound.
Which when the other heard, she sternly frownd
For high disdaine of such indignity,
And would no lenger treat, but bad them sound.        250
For her no other termes should ever tie,
Then what prescribed were by lawes of chevalrie.
The trumpets sound, and they together run
With greedy rage, and with their faulchins smot;
Ne either sought the others strokes to shun,        255
But through great fury both their skill forgot,
And practicke use in armes: ne spared not
Their dainty parts, which Nature had created
So faire and tender, without staine or spot,
For other uses then they them translated;        260
Which they now hackt and hewd, as if such use they hated.
As when a tygre and a lionesse
Are met at spoyling of some hungry pray,
Both challenge it with equall greedinesse:
But first the tygre clawes thereon did lay;        265
And therefore loth to loose her right away,
Doth in defence thereof full stoutly stond:
To which the lion strongly doth gainesay,
That she to hunt the beast first tooke in hond;
And therefore ought it have, where ever she it fond.        270
Full fiercely layde the Amazon about,
And dealt her blowes unmercifully sore:
Which Britomart withstood with courage stout,
And them repaide againe with double more.
So long they fought, that all the grassie flore        275
Was fild with bloud, which from their sides did flow,
And gushed through their armes, that all in gore
They trode, and on the ground their lives did strow,
Like fruitles seede, of which untimely death should grow.
At last proud Radigund with fell despight,
Having by chaunce espide advantage neare,
Let drive at her with all her dreadfull might,
And thus upbrayding said: ‘This token beare
Unto the man whom thou doest love so deare;
And tell him for his sake thy life thou gavest.’        285
Which spitefull words she sore engriev’d to heare,
Thus answer’d: ‘Lewdly thou my love depravest,
Who shortly must repent that now so vainely bravest.’
Nath’lesse that stroke so cruell passage found,
That, glauncing on her shoulder plate, it bit        290
Unto the bone, and made a griesly wound,
That she her shield through raging smart of it
Could scarse uphold; yet soone she it requit:
For having force increast through furious paine,
She her so rudely on the helmet smit,        295
That it empierced to the very braine,
And her proud person low prostrated on the plaine.
Where being layd, the wrothfull Britonesse
Stayd not till she came to her selfe againe,
But in revenge both of her loves distresse,        300
And her late vile reproch, though vaunted vaine,
And also of her wound, which sore did paine,
She with one stroke both head and helmet cleft.
Which dreadfull sight when all her warlike traine
There present saw, each one, of sence bereft,        305
Fled fast into the towne, and her sole victor left.
But yet so fast they could not home retrate,
But that swift Talus did the formost win;
And pressing through the preace unto the gate,
Pelmell with them attonce did enter in.        310
There then a piteous slaughter did begin:
For all that ever came within his reach
He with his yron flale did thresh so thin,
That he no worke at all left for the leach:
Like to an hideous storme, which nothing may empeach.        315
And now by this the noble conqueresse
Her selfe came in, her glory to partake;
Where, though revengefull vow she did professe,
Yet when she saw the heapes which he did make
Of slaughtred carkasses, her heart did quake        320
For very ruth, which did it almost rive,
That she his fury willed him to slake:
For else he sure had left not one alive,
But all, in his revenge, of spirite would deprive.
Tho, when she had his execution stayd,
She for that yron prison did enquire,
In which her wretched love was captive layd:
Which breaking open with indignant ire,
She entred into all the partes entire:
Where when she saw that lothly uncouth sight,        330
Of men disguiz’d in womanishe attire,
Her heart gan grudge, for very deepe despight
Of so unmanly maske, in misery misdight.
At last when as to her owne love she came,
Whom like disguize no lesse deformed had,        335
At sight thereof abasht with secrete shame,
She turnd her head aside, as nothing glad
To have beheld a spectacle so bad.
And then too well beleev’d that which tofore
Jealous suspect as true untruely drad:        340
Which vaine conceipt now nourishing no more,
She sought with ruth to salve his sad misfortunes sore.
Not so great wonder and astonishment
Did the most chast Penelope possesse,
To see her lord, that was reported drent,        345
And dead long since in dolorous distresse,
Come home to her in piteous wretchednesse,
After long travell of full twenty yeares,
That she knew not his favours likelynesse,
For many scarres and many hoary heares,        350
But stood long staring on him, mongst uncertaine feares.
‘Ah! my deare lord, what sight is this?’ quoth she;
‘What May-game hath misfortune made of you?
Where is that dreadfull manly looke? where be
Those mighty palmes, the which ye wont t’ embrew        355
In bloud of kings, and great hoastes to subdew?
Could ought on earth so wondrous change have wrought,
As to have robde you of that manly hew?
Could so great courage stouped have to ought?
Then farewell, fleshly force; I see thy pride is nought.’        360
Thenceforth she streight into a bowre him brought,
And causd him those uncomely weedes undight,
And in their steede for other rayment sought,
Whereof there was great store, and armors bright,
Which had bene reft from many a noble knight;        365
Whom that proud Amazon subdewed had,
Whilest fortune favourd her successe in fight:
In which when as she him anew had clad,
She was reviv’d, and joyd much in his semblance glad.
So there a while they afterwards remained,
Him to refresh, and her late wounds to heale:
During which space she there as princes rained,
And changing all that forme of common weale,
The liberty of women did repeale,
Which they had long usurpt; and them restoring        375
To mens subjection, did true justice deale:
That all they, as a goddesse her adoring,
Her wisedome did admire, and hearkned to her loring.
For all those knights, which long in captive shade
Had shrowded bene, she did from thraldome free,        380
And magistrates of all that city made,
And gave to them great living and large fee:
And that they should for ever faithfull bee,
Made them sweare fealty to Artegall:
Who when him selfe now well recur’d did see,        385
He purposd to proceed, what so be fall,
Uppon his first adventure, which him forth did call.
Full sad and sorrowfull was Britomart
For his departure, her new cause of griefe;
Yet wisely moderated her owne smart,        390
Seeing his honor, which she tendred chiefe,
Consisted much in that adventures priefe.
The care whereof, and hope of his successe,
Gave unto her great comfort and reliefe,
That womanish complaints she did represse,        395
And tempred for the time her present heavinesse.
There she continu’d for a certaine space,
Till through his want her woe did more increase:
Then, hoping that the change of aire and place
Would change her paine, and sorrow somewhat ease,        400
She parted thence, her anguish to appease.
Meane while her noble lord, Sir Artegall,
Went on his way, ne ever howre did cease,
Till he redeemed had that lady thrall:
That for another canto will more fitly fall.        405

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