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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia

Isis and Osiris

By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)

WELL therefore did the antique world invent

That Iustice 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;

With fayned colours shading a true case;

For that Osyris, whilest he lived here,

The iustest man alive and truest did appeare.

His wife was Isis; whom they likewise made

A goddesse of great powre and soverainty,

And in her person cunningly did shade

That part of Iustice which is Equity,

Whereof I have to treat here presently:

Unto whose Temple whenas Britomart

Arrived, shee with great humility

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,

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:

For that they both like race in equall iustice runne.

The Championesse them greeting, as she could,

Was thence by them into the Temple led;

Whose goodly budding when she did behould

Borne uppon stately pillours, all dispred

With shining gold, and arched over hed,

She wondred at the workmans 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.

Thenceforth 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:

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 her 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

Had long beheld, herselfe uppon the land

She did prostráte, and with right humble hart

Unto herselfe her silent prayers did impart.