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 XII
        Artegall doth Sir Burbon aide,
  And blames for changing shield:
He with the great Grantorto fights,
  And slaieth him in field.

O SACRED hunger of ambitious mindes,
And impotent desire of men to raine,
Whom neither dread of God, that devils bindes,
Nor lawes of men, that common weales containe,
Nor bands of nature, that wilde beastes restraine,        5
Can keepe from outrage and from doing wrong,
Where they may hope a kingdome to obtaine.
No faith so firme, no trust can be so strong,
No love so lasting then, that may enduren long.
Witnesse may Burbon be, whom all the bands
Which may a knight assure had surely bound,
Untill the love of lordship and of lands
Made him become most faithlesse and unsound:
And witnesse be Gerioneo found,
Who for like cause faire Belge did oppresse,        15
And right and wrong most cruelly confound:
And so be now Grantorto, who no lesse
Then all the rest burst out to all outragiousnesse.
Gainst whom Sir Artegall, long having since
Taken in hand th’ exploit, being theretoo        20
Appointed by that mightie Faerie prince,
Great Gloriane, that tyrant to fordoo,
Through other great adventures hethertoo
Had it forslackt. But now time drawing ny,
To him assynd, her high beheast to doo,        25
To the sea shore he gan his way apply,
To weete if shipping readie he mote there descry.
Tho, when they came to the sea coast, they found
A ship all readie (as good fortune fell)
To put to sea, with whom they did compound        30
To passe them over, where them list to tell:
The winde and weather served them so well,
That in one day they with the coast did fall;
Whereas they readie found, them to repell,
Great hostes of men in order martiall,        35
Which them forbad to land, and footing did forstall.
But nathemore would they from land refraine,
But when as nigh unto the shore they drew,
That foot of man might sound the bottome plaine,
Talus into the sea did forth issew,        40
Though darts from shore and stones they at him threw;
And wading through the waves with stedfast sway,
Maugre the might of all those troupes in vew,
Did win the shore, whence he them chast away,
And made to fly, like doves whom the eagle doth affray.        45
The whyles Sir Artegall with that old knight
Did forth descend, there being none them neare,
And forward marched to a towne in sight.
By this came tydings to the tyrants eare,
By those which earst did fly away for feare,        50
Of their arrivall: wherewith troubled sore,
He all his forces streight to him did reare,
And forth issuing with his scouts afore,
Meant them to have incountred, ere they left the shore.
But ere he marched farre, he with them met,
And fiercely charged them with all his force;
But Talus sternely did upon them set,
And brusht and battred them without remorse,
That on the ground he left full many a corse;
Ne any able was him to withstand,        60
But he them overthrew both man and horse,
That they lay scattred over all the land,
As thicke as doth the seede after the sowers hand.
Till Artegall, him seeing so to rage,
Willd him to stay, and signe of truce did make:        65
To which all harkning, did a while asswage
Their forces furie, and their terror slake;
Till he an herauld cald, and to him spake,
Willing him wend unto the tyrant streight,
And tell him that not for such slaughters sake        70
He thether came, but for to trie the right
Of fayre Irenaes cause with him in single fight:
And willed him for to reclayme with speed
His scattred people, ere they all were slaine,
And time and place convenient to agreed,        75
In which they two the combat might darraine.
Which message when Grantorto heard, full fayne
And glad he was the slaughter so to stay,
And pointed for the combat twixt them twayne
The morrow next, ne gave him longer day:        80
So sounded the retraite, and drew his folke away.
That night Sir Artegall did cause his tent
There to be pitched on the open plaine;
For he had given streight commaundement,
That none should dare him once to entertaine:        85
Which none durst breake, though many would right faine
For fayre Irena, whom they loved deare.
But yet old Sergis did so well him paine,
That from close friends, that dar’d not to appeare,
He all things did purvay, which for them needfull weare.        90
The morrow next, that was the dismall day
Appointed for Irenas death before,
So soone as it did to the world display
His chearefull face, and light to men restore,
The heavy mayd, to whom none tydings bore        95
Of Artegals arryvall, her to free,
Lookt up with eyes full sad and hart full sore;
Weening her lifes last howre then neare to bee,
Sith no redemption nigh she did nor heare nor see.
Then up she rose, and on her selfe did dight
Most squalid garments, fit for such a day,
And with dull countenance, and with doleful spright,
She forth was brought in sorrowfull dismay,
For to receive the doome of her decay.
But comming to the place, and finding there        105
Sir Artegall, in battailous array
Wayting his foe, it did her dead hart cheare,
And new life to her lent, in midst of deadly feare.
Like as a tender rose in open plaine,
That with untimely drought nigh withered was,        110
And hung the head, soone as few drops of raine
Thereon distill, and deaw her daintie face,
Gins to looke up, and with fresh wonted grace
Dispreds the glorie of her leaves gay;
Such was Irenas countenance, such her case,        115
When Artegall she saw in that array,
There wayting for the tyrant, till it was farre day.
Who came at length, with proud presumpteous gate,
Into the field, as if he fearelesse were,
All armed in a cote of yron plate,        120
Of great defence to ward the deadly feare,
And on his head a steele cap he did weare
Of colour rustie browne, but sure and strong;
And in his hand an huge polaxe did beare,
Whose steale was yron studded, but not long,        125
With which he wont to fight, to justifie his wrong.
Of stature huge and hideous he was,
Like to a giant for his monstrous hight,
And did in strength most sorts of men surpas,
Ne ever any found his match in might;        130
Thereto he had great skill in single fight:
His face was ugly and his countenance sterne,
That could have frayd one with the very sight,
And gaped like a gulfe when he did gerne,
That whether man or monster one could scarse discerne.        135
Soone as he did within the listes appeare,
With dreadfull looke he Artegall beheld,
As if he would have daunted him with feare,
And grinning griesly, did against him weld
His deadly weapon, which in hand he held.        140
But th’ Elfin swayne, that oft had seene like sight,
Was with his ghastly count’nance nothing queld,
But gan him streight to buckle to the fight,
And cast his shield about, to be in readie plight.
The trompets sound, and they together goe,
With dreadfull terror and with fell intent;
And their huge strokes full daungerously bestow,
To doe most dammage where as most they ment.
But with such force and furie violent
The tyrant thundred his thicke blowes so fast,        150
That through the yron walles their way they rent,
And even to the vitall parts they past,
Ne ought could them endure, but all they cleft or brast.
Which cruell outrage when as Artegall
Did well avize, thenceforth with warie heed        155
He shund his strokes, where ever they did fall,
And way did give unto their gracelesse speed:
As when a skilfull marriner doth reed
A storme approching, that doth perill threat,
He will not bide the daunger of such dread,        160
But strikes his sayles, and vereth his mainsheat,
And lends unto it leave the emptie ayre to beat.
So did the Faerie knight himselfe abeare,
And stouped oft, his head from shame to shield;
No shame to stoupe, ones head more high to reare,        165
And, much to gaine, a litle for to yield;
So stoutest knights doen oftentimes in field.
But still the tyrant sternely at him layd,
And did his yron axe so nimbly wield,
That many wounds into his flesh it made,        170
And with his burdenous blowes him sore did overlade.
Yet when as fit advantage he did spy,
The whiles the cursed felon high did reare
His cruell hand, to smite him mortally,
Under his stroke he to him stepping neare,        175
Right in the flanke him strooke with deadly dreare,
That the gore bloud, thence gushing grievously,
Did underneath him like a pond appeare,
And all his armour did with purple dye:
Thereat he brayed loud, and yelled dreadfully.        180
Yet the huge stroke, which he before intended,
Kept on his course, as he did it direct,
And with such monstrous poise adowne descended,
That seemed nought could him from death protect:
But he it well did ward with wise respect,        185
And twixt him and the blow his shield did cast,
Which thereon seizing, tooke no great effect,
But byting deepe therein did sticke so fast,
That by no meanes it backe againe he forth could wrast.
Long while he tug’d and strove, to get it out,
And all his powre applyed thereunto,
That he therewith the knight drew all about:
Nathlesse, for all that ever he could doe,
His axe he could not from his shield undoe.
Which Artegall perceiving, strooke no more,        195
But loosing soone his shield, did it forgoe,
And whiles he combred was therewith so sore,
He gan at him let drive more fiercely then afore.
So well he him pursew’d, that at the last
He stroke him with Chrysaor on the hed,        200
That with the souse thereof full sore aghast,
He staggered to and fro in doubtfull sted.
Againe, whiles he him saw so ill bested,
He did him smite with all his might and maine,
That, falling, on his mother earth he fed:        205
Whom when he saw prostrated on the plaine,
He lightly reft his head, to ease him of his paine.
Which when the people round about him saw,
They shouted all for joy of his successe,
Glad to be quit from that proud tyrants awe,        210
Which with strong powre did them long time oppresse;
And running all with greedie joyfulnesse
To faire Irena, at her feet did fall,
And her adored with due humblenesse,
As their true liege and princesse naturall;        215
And eke her champions glorie sounded over all.
Who streight her leading with meete majestie
Unto the pallace, where their kings did rayne,
Did her therein establish peaceablie,
And to her kingdomes seat restore agayne.        220
And all such persons as did late maintayne
That tyrants part, with close or open ayde,
He sorely punished with heavie payne;
That in short space, whiles there with her he stayd,
Not one was left that durst her once have disobayd.        225
During which time that he did there remaine,
His studie was true justice how to deale,
And day and night employ’d his busie paine
How to reforme that ragged common-weale:
And that same yron man, which could reveale        230
All hidden crimes, through all that realme he sent,
To search out those that usd to rob and steale,
Or did rebell gainst lawfull government;
On whom he did inflict most grievous punishment.
But ere he could reforme it thoroughly,
He through occasion called was away
To Faerie court, that of necessity
His course of justice he was forst to stay,
And Talus to revoke from the right way,
In which he was that realme for to redresse.        240
But envies cloud still dimmeth vertues ray.
So having freed Irena from distresse,
He tooke his leave of her, there left in heavinesse.
Tho, as he backe returned from that land,
And there arriv’d againe, whence forth he set,        245
He had not passed farre upon the strand,
When as two old ill favour’d hags he met,
By the way side being together set;
Two griesly creatures; and, to that their faces
Most foule and filthie were, their garments yet,        250
Being all rag’d and tatter’d, their disgraces
Did much the more augment, and made most ugly cases.
The one of them, that elder did appeare,
With her dull eyes did seeme to looke askew,
That her mis-shape much helpt; and her foule heare        255
Hung loose and loathsomely: thereto her hew
Was wan and leane, that all her teeth arew
And all her bones might through her cheekes be red;
Her lips were like raw lether, pale and blew,
And as she spake, therewith she slavered;        260
Yet spake she seldom, but thought more, the lesse she sed.
Her hands were foule and durtie, never washt
In all her life, with long nayles over raught,
Like puttocks clawes: with th’ one of which she scracht
Her cursed head, although it itched naught;        265
The other held a snake with venime fraught,
On which she fed and gnawed hungrily,
As if that long she had not eaten ought;
That round about her jawes one might descry
The bloudie gore and poyson dropping lothsomely.        270
Her name was Envie, knowen well thereby;
Whose nature is to grieve and grudge at all
That ever she sees doen prays-worthily,
Whose sight to her is greatest crosse may fall,
And vexeth so, that makes her eat her gall.        275
For when she wanteth other thing to eat,
She feedes on her owne maw unnaturall,
And of her owne foule entrayles makes her meat;
Meat fit for such a monsters monsterous dyeat.
And if she hapt of any good to heare,
That had to any happily betid,
Then would she inly fret, and grieve, and teare
Her flesh for felnesse, which she inward hid:
But if she heard of ill that any did,
Or harme that any had, then would she make        285
Great cheare, like one unto a banquet bid;
And in anothers losse great pleasure take,
As she had got thereby, and gayned a great stake.
The other nothing better was then shee;
Agreeing in bad will and cancred kynd,        290
But in bad maner they did disagree:
For what so Envie good or bad did fynd
She did conceale, and murder her owne mynd;
But this, what ever evill she conceived,
Did spred abroad, and throw in th’ open wynd.        295
Yet this in all her words might be perceived,
That all she sought was mens good name to have bereaved.
For what soever good by any sayd
Or doen she heard, she would streightwayes invent
How to deprave, or slaunderously upbrayd,        300
Or to misconstrue of a mans intent,
And turne to ill the thing that well was ment.
Therefore she used often to resort
To common haunts, and companies frequent,
To hearke what any one did good report,        305
To blot the same with blame, or wrest in wicked sort.
And if that any ill she heard of any,
She would it eeke, and make much worse by telling,
And take great joy to publish it to many,
That every matter worse was for her melling.        310
Her name was hight Detraction, and her dwelling
Was neare to Envie, even her neighbour next;
A wicked hag, and Envy selfe excelling
In mischiefe: for her selfe she onely vext;
But this same both her selfe and others eke perplext.        315
Her face was ugly, and her mouth distort,
Foming with poyson round about her gils,
In which her cursed tongue full sharpe and short
Appear’d like aspis sting, that closely kils,
Or cruelly does wound, whom so she wils:        320
A distaffe in her other hand she had,
Upon the which she litle spinnes, but spils,
And faynes to weave false tales and leasings bad,
To throw amongst the good, which others had disprad.
These two now had themselves combynd in one,
And linckt together gainst Sir Artegall,
For whom they wayted as his mortall fone,
How they might make him into mischiefe fall,
For freeing from their snares Irena thrall:
Besides, unto themselves they gotten had        330
A monster, which the Blatant Beast men call,
A dreadfull feend, of gods and men ydrad,
Whom they by slights allur’d, and to their purpose lad.
Such were these hags, and so unhandsome drest:
Who when they nigh approching had espyde        335
Sir Artegall, return’d from his late quest,
They both arose, and at him loudly cryde,
As it had bene two shepheards curres had scryde
A ravenous wolfe amongst the scattered flocks.
And Envie first, as she that first him eyde,        340
Towardes him runs, and with rude flaring lockes
About her eares, does beat her brest and forhead knockes.
Then from her mouth the gobbet she does take,
The which whyleare she was so greedily
Devouring, even that halfe-gnawen snake,        345
And at him throwes it most despightfully.
The cursed serpent, though she hungrily
Earst chawd thereon, yet was not all so dead,
But that some life remayned secretly,
And as he past afore withouten dread,        350
Bit him behind, that long the marke was to be read.
Then th’ other comming neare, gan him revile
And fouly rayle, with all she could invent;
Saying that he had with unmanly guile
And foule abusion both his honour blent,        355
And that bright sword, the sword of Justice lent,
Had stayned with reprochfull crueltie
In guiltlesse blood of many an innocent:
As for Grandtorto, him with treacherie
And traynes having surpriz’d, he fouly did to die.        360
Thereto the Blatant Beast, by them set on,
At him began aloud to barke and bay,
With bitter rage and fell contention,
That all the woods and rockes nigh to that way
Began to quake and tremble with dismay,        365
And all the aire rebellowed againe,
So dreadfully his hundred tongues did bray:
And evermore those hags them selves did paine
To sharpen him, and their owne cursed tongs did straine.
And still among, most bitter wordes they spake,
Most shamefull, most unrighteous, most untrew,
That they the mildest man alive would make
Forget his patience, and yeeld vengeaunce dew
To her, that so false sclaunders at him threw.
And more to make them pierce and wound more deepe,        375
She with the sting which in her vile tongue grew
Did sharpen them, and in fresh poyson steepe:
Yet he past on, and seem’d of them to take no keepe.
But Talus, hearing her so lewdly raile,
And speake so ill of him that well deserved,        380
Would her have chastiz’d with his yron flaile,
If her Sir Artegall had not preserved,
And him forbidden, who his heast observed.
So much the more at him still did she scold,
And stones did cast; yet he for nought would swerve        385
From his right course, but still the way did hold
To Faery court, where what him fell shall else be told.

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