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 XI
        Prince Arthure overcomes the great
  Gerioneo in fight:
Doth slay the monster, and restore
  Belge unto her right.

IT often fals in course of common life,
That right long time is overborne of wrong,
Through avarice, or powre, or guile, or strife,
That weakens her, and makes her party strong:
But Justice, though her dome she doe prolong,        5
Yet at the last she will her owne cause right:
As by sad Belge seemes, whose wrongs though long
She suffred, yet at length she did requight,
And sent redresse thereof by this brave Briton knight.
Whereof when newes was to that tyrant brought,
How that the Lady Belge now had found
A champion, that had with his champion fought,
And laid his seneschall low on the ground,
And eke him selfe did threaten to confound,
He gan to burne in rage, and friese in feare,        15
Doubting sad end of principle unsound:
Yet sith he heard but one that did appeare,
He did him selfe encourage, and take better cheare.
Nathelesse him selfe he armed all in hast,
And forth he far’d with all his many bad,        20
Ne stayed step, till that he came at last
Unto the castle which they conquerd had.
There with huge terrour, to be more ydrad,
He sternely marcht before the castle gate,
And with bold vaunts and ydle threatning bad        25
Deliver him his owne, ere yet too late,
To which they had no right, nor any wrongfull state.
The Prince staid not his aunswere to devize,
But opening streight the sparre, forth to him came,
Full nobly mounted in right warlike wize;        30
And asked him, if that he were the same,
Who all that wrong unto that wofull dame
So long had done, and from her native land
Exiled her, that all the world spake shame.
He boldly aunswerd him, he there did stand        35
That would his doings justifie with his owne hand.
With that so furiously at him he flew,
As if he would have overrun him streight,
And with his huge great yron axe gan hew
So hideously uppon his armour bright,        40
As he to peeces would have chopt it quight:
That the bold Prince was forced foote to give
To his first rage, and yeeld to his despight;
The whilest at him so dreadfully he drive,
That seem’d a marble rocke asunder could have rive.        45
Thereto a great advauntage eke he has
Through his three double hands thrise multiplyde,
Besides the double strength which in them was:
For stil when fit occasion did betyde,
He could his weapon shift from side to syde,        50
From hand to hand, and with such nimblesse sly
Could wield about, that ere it were espide,
The wicked stroke did wound his enemy,
Behinde, beside, before, as he it list apply.
Which uncouth use when as the Prince perceived,
He gan to watch the wielding of his hand,
Least by such slight he were unwares deceived;
And ever ere he saw the stroke to land,
He would it meete and warily withstand.
One time, when he his weapon faynd to shift,        60
As he was wont, and chang’d from hand to hand,
He met him with a counterstroke so swift,
That quite smit off his arme, as he it up did lift.
Therewith, all fraught with fury and disdaine,
He brayd aloud for very fell despight,        65
And sodainely t’ avenge him selfe againe,
Gan into one assemble all the might
Of all his hands, and heaved them on hight,
Thinking to pay him with that one for all:
But the sad steele seizd not, where it was hight,        70
Uppon the childe, but somewhat short did fall,
And lighting on his horses head, him quite did mall.
Downe streight to ground fell his astonisht steed,
And eke to th’ earth his burden with him bare:
But he him selfe full lightly from him freed,        75
And gan him selfe to fight on foote prepare.
Whereof when as the gyant was aware,
He wox right blyth, as he had got thereby,
And laught so loud, that all his teeth wide bare
One might have seene enraung’d disorderly,        80
Like to a rancke of piles, that pitched are awry.
Eftsoones againe his axe he raught on hie,
Ere he were throughly buckled to his geare,
And can let drive at him so dreadfullie,
That had he chaunced not his shield to reare,        85
Ere that huge stroke arrived on him neare,
He had him surely cloven quite in twaine.
But th’ adamantine shield which he did beare
So well was tempred, that, for all his maine,
It would no passage yeeld unto his purpose vaine.        90
Yet was the stroke so forcibly applide,
That made him stagger with uncertaine sway,
As if he would have tottered to one side.
Wherewith full wroth, he fiercely gan assay
That curt’sie with like kindnesse to repay;        95
And smote at him with so importune might,
That two more of his armes did fall away,
Like fruitlesse braunches, which the hatchets slight
Hath pruned from the native tree, and cropped quight.
With that all mad and furious he grew,
Like a fell mastiffe through enraging heat,
And curst, and band, and blasphemies forth threw
Against his gods, and fire to them did threat,
And hell unto him selfe with horrour great.
Thenceforth he car’d no more which way he strooke,        105
Nor where it light, but gan to chaufe and sweat,
And gnasht his teeth, and his head at him shooke,
And sternely him beheld with grim and ghastly looke.
Nought fear’d the childe his lookes, ne yet his threats,
But onely wexed now the more aware,        110
To save him selfe from those his furious heats,
And watch advauntage, how to worke his care;
The which good fortune to him offred faire.
For as he in his rage him overstrooke,
He, ere he could his weapon backe repaire,        115
His side all bare and naked overtooke,
And with his mortal steel quite throgh the body strooke.
Through all three bodies he him strooke attonce,
That all the three attonce fell on the plaine:
Else should he thrise have needed for the nonce        120
Them to have stricken, and thrise to have slaine.
So now all three one sencelesse lumpe remaine,
Enwallow’d in his owne blacke bloudy gore,
And byting th’ earth for very deaths disdaine;
Who, with a cloud of night him covering, bore        125
Downe to the house of dole, his daies there to deplore.
Which when the lady from the castle saw,
Where she with her two sonnes did looking stand,
She towards him in hast her selfe did draw,
To greet him the good fortune of his hand:        130
And all the people both of towne and land,
Which there stood gazing from the citties wall
Uppon these warriours, greedy t’ understand
To whether should the victory befall,
Now when they saw it falne, they eke him greeted all.        135
But Belge with her sonnes prostrated low
Before his feete, in all that peoples sight,
Mongst joyes mixing some tears, mongst wele some wo,
Him thus bespake: ‘O most redoubted knight,
The which hast me, of all most wretched wight,        140
That earst was dead, restor’d to life againe,
And these weake impes replanted by thy might;
What guerdon can I give thee for thy paine,
But even that which thou savedst, thine still to remaine?’
He tooke her up forby the lilly hand,
And her recomforted the best he might,
Saying: ‘Deare lady, deedes ought not be scand
By th’ authors manhood, nor the doers might,
But by their trueth and by the causes right:
That same is it, which fought for you this day.        150
What other meed then need me to requight,
But that which yeeldeth vertues meed alway?
That is the vertue selfe, which her reward doth pay.’
She humbly thankt him for that wondrous grace,
And further sayd: ‘Ah! sir, but mote ye please,        155
Sith ye thus farre have tendred my poore case,
As from my chiefest foe me to release,
That your victorious arme will not yet cease,
Till ye have rooted all the relickes out
Of that vilde race, and stablished my peace.’        160
‘What is there else,’ sayd he, ‘left of their rout?
Declare it boldly, dame, and doe not stand in dout.’
‘Then wote you, sir, that in this church hereby,
There stands an idole of great note and name,
The which this gyant reared first on hie,        165
And of his owne vaine fancies thought did frame:
To whom, for endlesse horrour of his shame,
He offred up for daily sacrifize
My children and my people, burnt in flame,
With all the tortures that he could devize,        170
The more t’ aggrate his god with such his blouddy guize.
‘And underneath this idoll there doth lie
An hideous monster, that doth it defend,
And feedes on all the carkasses that die
In sacrifize unto that cursed feend:        175
Whose ugly shape none ever saw, nor kend,
That ever scap’d: for of a man they say
It has the voice, that speaches forth doth send,
Even blasphemous words, which she doth bray
Out of her poysnous entrails, fraught with dire decay.’        180
Which when the Prince heard tell, his heart gan earne
For great desire, that monster to assay,
And prayd the place of her abode to learne.
Which being shew’d, he gan him selfe streight way
Thereto addresse, and his bright shield display.        185
So to the church he came, where it was told
The monster underneath the altar lay;
There he that idoll saw of massy gold
Most richly made, but there no monster did behold.
Upon the image with his naked blade
Three times, as in defiance, there he strooke;
And the third time, out of an hidden shade,
There forth issewd, from under th’ altars smooke,
A dreadfull feend, with fowle deformed looke,
That stretcht it selfe, as it had long lyen still;        195
And her long taile and fethers strongly shooke,
That all the temple did with terrour fill;
Yet him nought terrifide, that feared nothing ill.
An huge great beast it was, when it in length
Was stretched forth, that nigh fild all the place,        200
And seem’d to be of infinite great strength;
Horrible, hideous, and of hellish race,
Borne of the brooding of Echidna base,
Or other like infernall Furies kinde:
For of a mayd she had the outward face,        205
To hide the horrour which did lurke behinde,
The better to beguile whom she so fond did finde.
Thereto the body of a dog she had,
Full of fell ravin and fierce greedinesse;
A lions clawes, with powre and rigour clad,        210
To rend and teare what so she can oppresse;
A dragons taile, whose sting without redresse
Full deadly wounds, where so it is empight;
And eagles wings, for scope and speedinesse,
That nothing may escape her reaching might,        215
Whereto she ever list to make her hardy flight.
Much like in foulnesse and deformity
Unto that monster whom the Theban knight,
The father of that fatall progeny,
Made kill her selfe for very hearts despight,        220
That he had red her riddle, which no wight
Could ever loose, but suffred deadly doole.
So also did this monster use like slight
To many a one which came unto her schoole,
Whom she did put to death, deceived like a foole.        225
She comming forth, when as she first beheld
The armed Prince, with shield so blazing bright,
Her ready to assaile, was greatly queld,
And much dismayd with that dismayfull sight,
That backe she would have turnd for great affright.        230
But he gan her with courage fierce assay,
That forst her turne againe in her despight,
To save her selfe, least that he did her slay:
And sure he had her slaine, had she not turnd her way.
Tho, when she saw that she was forst to fight,
She flew at him, like to an hellish feend,
And on his shield tooke hold with all her might,
As if that it she would in peeces rend,
Or reave out of the hand that did it hend.
Strongly he strove out of her greedy gripe        240
To loose his shield, and long while did contend:
But when he could not quite it, with one stripe
Her lions clawes he from her feete away did wipe.
With that aloude she gan to bray and yell,
And fowle blasphemous speaches forth did cast,        245
And bitter curses, horrible to tell,
That even the temple, wherein she was plast,
Did quake to heare, and nigh asunder brast.
Tho with her huge long taile she at him strooke,
That made him stagger, and stand halfe agast        250
With trembling joynts, as he for terrour shooke;
Who nought was terrifide, but greater courage tooke.
As when the mast of some well timbred hulke
Is with the blast of some outragious storme
Blowne downe, it shakes the bottome of the bulke,        255
And makes her ribs to cracke, as they were torne,
Whilest still she stands as stonisht and forlorne:
So was he stound with stroke of her huge taile.
But ere that it she backe againe had borne,
He with his sword it strooke, that without faile        260
He joynted it, and mard the swinging of her flaile.
Then gan she cry much louder then afore,
That all the people there without it heard,
And Belge selfe was therewith stonied sore,
As if the onely sound thereof she feard.        265
But then the feend her selfe more fiercely reard
Uppon her wide great wings, and strongly flew
With all her body at his head and beard,
That had he not foreseene with heedfull vew,
And thrown his shield atween, she had him done to rew.        270
But as she prest on him with heavy sway,
Under her wombe his fatall sword he thrust,
And for her entrailes made an open way
To issue forth; the which, once being brust,
Like to a great mill damb forth fiercely gusht,        275
And powred out of her infernall sinke
Most ugly filth, and poyson therewith rusht,
That him nigh choked with the deadly stinke:
Such loathly matter were small lust to speake, or thinke.
Then downe to ground fell that deformed masse,
Breathing out clouds of sulphure fowle and blacke,
In which a puddle of contagion was,
More loathd then Lerna, or then Stygian lake,
That any man would nigh awhaped make.
Whom when he saw on ground, he was full glad,        285
And streight went forth his gladnesse to partake
With Belge, who watcht all this while full sad,
Wayting what end would be of that same daunger drad.
Whom when she saw so joyously come forth,
She gan rejoyce, and shew triumphant chere,        290
Lauding and praysing his renowmed worth
By all the names that honorable were.
Then in he brought her, and her shewed there
The present of his paines, that monsters spoyle,
And eke that idoll deem’d so costly dere;        295
Whom he did all to peeces breake, and foyle
In filthy durt, and left so in the loathely soyle.
Then all the people, which beheld that day,
Gan shout aloud, that unto heaven it rong;
And all the damzels of that towne in ray        300
Came dauncing forth, and joyous carrols song:
So him they led through all their streetes along,
Crowned with girlonds of immortall baies,
And all the vulgar did about them throng,
To see the man, whose everlasting praise        305
They all were bound to all posterities to raise.
There he with Belgæ did a while remaine,
Making great feast and joyous merriment,
Untill he had her settled in her raine,
With safe assuraunce and establishment.        310
Then to his first emprize his mind he lent,
Full loath to Belgæ and to all the rest:
Of whom yet taking leave, thenceforth he went
And to his former journey him addrest,
On which long way he rode, ne ever day did rest.        315
But turne we now to noble Artegall;
Who, having left Mercilla, streight way went
On his first quest, the which him forth did call,
To weet, to worke Irenaes franchisement,
And eke Grantortoes worthy punishment.        320
So forth he fared as his manner was,
With onely Talus wayting diligent,
Through many perils and much way did pas,
Till nigh unto the place at length approcht he has.
There as he traveld by the way, he met
An aged wight, wayfaring all alone,
Who through his yeares long since aside had set
The use of armes, and battell quite forgone:
To whom as he approcht, he knew anone
That it was he which whilome did attend        330
On faire Irene in her affliction,
When first to Faery court he saw her wend,
Unto his Soveraine Queene her suite for to commend.
Whom by his name saluting, thus he gan:
‘Haile, good Sir Sergis, truest knight alive,        335
Well tride in all thy ladies troubles than
When her that tyrant did of crowne deprive;
What new ocasion doth thee hither drive,
Whiles she alone is left, and thou here found?
Or is she thrall, or doth she not survive?’        340
To whom he thus: ‘She liveth sure and sound;
But by that tyrant is in wretched thraldome bound.
‘For she, presuming on th’ appointed tyde,
In which ye promist, as ye were a knight,
To meete her at the Salvage Ilands syde,        345
And then and there for triall of her right
With her unrighteous enemy to fight,
Did thither come, where she, afrayd of nought,
By guilefull treason and by subtill slight
Surprized was, and to Grantorto brought,        350
Who her imprisond hath, and her life often sought.
‘And now he hath to her prefixt a day,
By which if that no champion doe appeare,
Which will her cause in battailous array
Against him justifie, and prove her cleare        355
Of all those crimes that he gainst her doth reare,
She death shall sure aby.’ Those tidings sad
Did much abash Sir Artegall to heare,
And grieved sore, that through his fault she had
Fallen into that tyrants hand and usage bad.        360
Then thus replide: ‘Now sure and by my life,
Too much am I too blame for that faire maide,
That have her drawne to all this troublous strife,
Through promise to afford her timely aide,
Which by default I have not yet defraide.        365
But witnesse unto me, ye heavens, that know
How cleare I am from blame of this upbraide:
For ye into like thraldome me did throw,
And kept from complishing the faith which I did owe.
‘But now aread, Sir Sergis, how long space
Hath he her lent, a champion to provide.’
‘Ten daies,’ quoth he, ‘he graunted hath of grace,
For that he weeneth well, before that tide
None can have tidings to assist her side.
For all the shores, which to the sea accoste,        375
He day and night doth ward both far and wide,
That none can there arrive without an hoste:
So her he deemes already but a damned ghoste.’
‘Now turne againe,’ Sir Artegall then sayd;
‘For if I live till those ten daies have end,        380
Assure your selfe, sir knight, she shall have ayd,
Though I this dearest life for her doe spend.’
So backeward he attone with him did wend.
Tho, as they rode together on their way,
A rout of people they before them kend,        385
Flocking together in confusde array,
As if that there were some tumultuous affray.
To which as they approcht, the cause to know,
They saw a knight in daungerous distresse
Of a rude rout him chasing to and fro,        390
That sought with lawlesse powre him to oppresse,
And bring in bondage of their brutishnesse:
And farre away, amid their rakehell bands,
They spide a lady left all succourlesse,
Crying, and holding up her wretched hands        395
To him for aide, who long in vaine their rage withstands.
Yet still he strives, ne any perill spares,
To reskue her from their rude violence,
And like a lion wood amongst them fares,
Dealing his dreadfull blowes with large dispence,        400
Gainst which the pallid death findes no defence.
But all in vaine; their numbers are so great,
That naught may boot to banishe them from thence:
For soone as he their outrage backe doth beat,
They turne afresh, and oft renew their former threat.        405
And now they doe so sharpely him assay,
That they his shield in peeces battred have,
And forced him to throw it quite away,
Fro dangers dread his doubtfull life to save;
Albe that it most safety to him gave,        410
And much did magnifie his noble name:
For from the day that he thus did it leave,
Amongst all knights he blotted was with blame,
And counted but a recreant knight, with endles shame.
Whom when they thus distressed did behold,
They drew unto his aide; but that rude rout
Them also gan assaile with outrage bold,
And forced them, how ever strong and stout
They were, as well approv’d in many a doubt,
Backe to recule; untill that yron man        420
With his huge flaile began to lay about,
From whose sterne presence they diffused ran,
Like scattred chaffe, the which the wind away doth fan.
So when that knight from perill cleare was freed,
He, drawing neare, began to greete them faire,        425
And yeeld great thankes for their so goodly deed,
In saving him from daungerous despaire
Of those which sought his life for to empaire.
Of whom Sir Artegall gan then enquire
The whole occasion of his late misfare,        430
And who he was, and what those villaines were,
The which with mortall malice him pursu’d so nere.
To whom he thus: ‘My name is Burbon hight,
Well knowne, and far renowmed heretofore,
Untill late mischiefe did uppon me light,        435
That all my former praise hath blemisht sore;
And that faire lady, which in that uprore
Ye with those caytives saw, Flourdelis hight,
Is mine owne love, though me she have forlore,
Whether withheld from me by wrongfull might,        440
Or with her owne good will, I cannot read aright.
‘But sure to me her faith she first did plight,
To be my love, and take me for her lord,
Till that a tyrant, which Grandtorto hight,
With golden giftes and many a guilefull word        445
Entyced her, to him for to accord.
O who may not with gifts and words be tempted?
Sith which she hath me ever since abhord,
And to my foe hath guilefully consented:
Ay me, that ever guyle in wemen was invented!        450
‘And now he hath this troupe of villains sent,
By open force to fetch her quite away:
Gainst whom my selfe I long in vaine have bent
To rescue her, and daily meanes assay,
Yet rescue her thence by no meanes I may:        455
For they doe me with multitude oppresse,
And with unequall might doe overlay,
That oft I driven am to great distresse,
And forced to forgoe th’ attempt remedilesse.’
‘But why have ye,’ said Artegall, ‘forborne
Your owne good shield in daungerous dismay?
That is the greatest shame and foulest scorne,
Which unto any knight behappen may,
To loose the badge that should his deedes display.’
To whom Sir Burbon, blushing halfe for shame,        465
‘That shall I unto you,’ quoth he, ‘bewray;
Least ye therefore mote happily me blame,
And deeme it doen of will, that through inforcement came.
‘True is, that I at first was dubbed knight
By a good knight, the Knight of the Redcrosse;        470
Who when he gave me armes, in field to fight,
Gave me a shield, in which he did endosse
His deare Redeemers badge upon the bosse:
The same long while I bore, and therewithall
Fought many battels without wound or losse;        475
Therewith Grandtorto selfe I did appall,
And made him oftentimes in field before me fall.
‘But for that many did that shield envie,
And cruell enemies increased more;
To stint all strife and troublous enmitie,        480
That bloudie scutchin being battered sore,
I layd aside, and have of late forbore,
Hoping thereby to have my love obtayned:
Yet can I not my love have nathemore;
For she by force is still fro me detayned,        485
And with corruptfull brybes is to untruth mis-trayned.’
To whom thus Artegall: ‘Certes, sir knight,
Hard is the case the which ye doe complaine;
Yet not so hard (for nought so hard may light,
That it to such a streight mote you constraine)        490
As to abandon that which doth containe
Your honours stile, that is your warlike shield.
All perill ought be lesse, and lesse all paine,
Then losse of fame in disaventrous field:
Dye rather, then doe ought that mote dishonour yield.’        495
‘Not so,’ quoth he; ‘for yet, when time doth serve,
My former shield I may resume againe:
To temporize is not from truth to swerve,
Ne for advantage terme to entertaine,
When as necessitie doth it constraine.’        500
‘Fie on such forgerie,’ said Artegall,
‘Under one hood to shadow faces twaine!
Knights ought be true, and truth is one in all:
Of all things, to dissemble fouly may befall.’
‘Yet let me you of courtesie request,’
Said Burbon, ‘to assist me now at need
Against these pesants which have me opprest,
And forced me to so infamous deed,
That yet my love may from their hands be freed.’
Sir Artegall, albe he earst did wyte        510
His wavering mind, yet to his aide agreed,
And buckling him eftsoones unto the fight,
Did set upon those troupes with all his powre and might.
Who flocking round about them, as a swarme
Of flyes upon a birchen bough doth cluster,        515
Did them assault with terrible allarme,
And over all the fields themselves did muster,
With bils and glayves making a dreadfull luster;
That forst at first those knights backe to retyre:
As when the wrathfull Boreas doth bluster,        520
Nought may abide the tempest of his yre;
Both man and beast doe fly, and succour doe inquyre.
But when as overblowen was that brunt,
Those knights began a fresh them to assayle,
And all about the fields like squirrels hunt;        525
But chiefly Talus with his yron flayle,
Gainst which no flight nor rescue mote avayle,
Made cruell havocke of the baser crew,
And chaced them both over hill and dale:
The raskall manie soone they overthrew,        530
But the two knights themselves their captains did subdew.
At last they came whereas that ladie bode,
Whom now her keepers had forsaken quight,
To save themselves, and scattered were abrode:
Her halfe dismayd they found in doubtfull plight,        535
As neither glad nor sorie for their sight;
Yet wondrous faire she was, and richly clad
In roiall robes, and many jewels dight,
But that those villens through their usage bad
Them fouly rent and shamefully defaced had.        540
But Burbon, streight dismounting from his steed,
Unto her ran with greedie great desyre,
And catching her fast by her ragged weed,
Would have embraced her with hart entyre.
But she, backstarting with disdainefull yre,        545
Bad him avaunt, ne would unto his lore
Allured be, for prayer nor for meed.
Whom when those knights so froward and forlore
Beheld, they her rebuked and upbrayded sore.
Sayd Artegall: ‘What foule disgrace is this
To so faire ladie as ye seeme in sight,
To blot your beautie, that unblemisht is,
With so foule blame as breach of faith once plight,
Or change of love for any worlds delight!
Is ought on earth so pretious or deare,        555
As prayse and honour? Or is ought so bright
And beautifull as glories beames appeare,
Whose goodly light then Phebus lampe doth shine more cleare?
‘Why then will ye, fond dame, attempted bee
Unto a strangers love, so lightly placed,        560
For guiftes of gold or any worldly glee,
To leave the love that ye before embraced,
And let your fame with falshood be defaced?
Fie on the pelfe for which good name is sold,
And honour with indignitie debased!        565
Dearer is love then life, and fame then gold;
But dearer then them both your faith once plighted hold.’
Much was the ladie in her gentle mind
Abasht at his rebuke, that bit her neare,
Ne ought to answere thereunto did find;        570
But hanging downe her head with heavie cheare,
Stood long amaz’d, as she amated weare.
Which Burbon seeing, her againe assayd,
And clasping twixt his armes, her up did reare
Upon his steede, whiles she no whit gainesayd;        575
So bore her quite away, nor well nor ill apayd.
Nathlesse the yron man did still pursew
That raskall many with unpittied spoyle,
Ne ceassed not, till all their scattred crew
Into the sea he drove quite from that soyle,        580
The which they troubled had with great turmoyle.
But Artegall, seeing his cruell deed,
Commaunded him from slaughter to recoyle,
And to his voyage gan againe proceed:
For that the terme, approching fast, required speed.        585

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