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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599). The Complete Poetical Works. 1908.

Fowre Hymnes

An Hymne of Heavenly Love

LOVE, lift me up upon thy golden wings,

From this base world unto thy heavens hight,

Where I may see those admirable things

Which there thou workest by thy soveraine might,

Farre above feeble reach of earthly sight,

That I thereof an heavenly hymne may sing

Unto the God of Love, high heavens king.

Many lewd layes (ah, woe is me the more!)

In praise of that mad fit which fooles call love,

I have in th’ heat of youth made heretofore,

That in light wits did loose affection move.

But all those follies now I do reprove,

And turned have the tenor of my string,

The heavenly prayses of true love to sing.

And ye that wont with greedy vaine desire

To reade my fault, and wondring at my flame,

To warme your selves at my wide sparckling fire,

Sith now that heat is quenched, quench my blame,

And in her ashes shrowd my dying shame:

For who my passed follies now pursewes,

Beginnes his owne, and my old fault renewes.

BEFORE this worlds great frame, in which al things

Are now containd, found any being place,

Ere flitting Time could wag his eyas wings

About that mightie bound, which doth embrace

The rolling spheres, and parts their houres by space,

That high eternall Powre, which now doth move

In all these things, mov’d in it selfe by love.

It lov’d it selfe, because it selfe was faire;

(For faire is lov’d;) and of it selfe begot

Like to it selfe his eldest Sonne and Heire,

Eternall, pure, and voide of sinfull blot,

The firstling of his joy, in whom no jot

Of loves dislike or pride was to be found,

Whom he therefore with equall honour crownd.

With him he raignd, before all time prescribed,

In endlesse glorie and immortall might,

Together with that third from them derived,

Most wise, most holy, most almightie Spright,

Whose kingdomes throne no thought of earthly wight

Can comprehend, much lesse my trembling verse

With equall words can hope it to reherse.

Yet, O most blessed Spirit, pure lampe of light,

Eternall spring of grace and wisedome trew,

Vouchsafe to shed into my barren spright

Some little drop of thy celestiall dew,

That may my rymes with sweet infuse embrew,

And give me words equall unto my thought,

To tell the marveiles by thy mercie wrought.

Yet being pregnant still with powrefull grace,

And full of fruitfull love, that loves to get

Things like himselfe, and to enlarge his race,

His second brood, though not in powre so great,

Yet full of beautie, next he did beget,

An infinite increase of angels bright,

All glistring glorious in their Makers light.

To them the heavens illimitable hight

(Not this round heaven, which we from hence behold,

Adornd with thousand lamps of burning light,

And with ten thousand gemmes of shyning gold)

He gave as their inheritance to hold,

That they might serve him in eternall blis,

And be partakers of those joyes of his.

There they in their trinall triplicities

About him wait, and on his will depend,

Either with nimble wings to cut the skies,

When he them on his messages doth send,

Or on his owne dread presence to attend,

Where they behold the glorie of his light,

And caroll hymnes of love both day and night.

Both day and night is unto them all one,

For he his beames doth still to them extend,

That darknesse there appeareth never none;

Ne hath their day, ne hath their blisse an end,

But there their termelesse time in pleasure spend;

Ne ever should their happinesse decay,

Had not they dar’d their Lord to disobay.

But pride, impatient of long resting peace,

Did puffe them up with greedy bold ambition,

That they gan cast their state how to increase

Above the fortune of their first condition,

And sit in Gods owne seat without commission:

The brightest angell, even the Child of Light,

Drew millions more against their God to fight.

Th’ Almighty, seeing their so bold assay,

Kindled the flame of his consuming yre,

And with his onely breath them blew away

From heavens hight, to which they did aspyre,

To deepest hell, and lake of damned fyre;

Where they in darknesse and dread horror dwell,

Hating the happie light from which they fell.

So that next off-spring of the Makers love,

Next to himselfe in glorious degree,

Degendering to hate, fell from above

Through pride; (for pride and love may ill agree)

And now of sinne to all ensample bee:

How then can sinfull flesh it selfe assure,

Sith purest angels fell to be impure?

But that Eternall Fount of love and grace,

Still flowing forth his goodnesse unto all,

Now seeing left a waste and emptie place

In his wyde pallace, through those angels fall,

Cast to supply the same, and to enstall

A new unknowen colony therein,

Whose root from earths base ground worke shold begin.

Therefore of clay, base, vile, and next to nought,

Yet form’d by wondrous skill, and by his might,

According to an heavenly patterne wrought,

Which he had fashiond in his wise foresight,

He man did make, and breathd a living spright

Into his face most beautifull and fayre,

Endewd with wisedomes riches, heavenly, rare.

Such he him made, that he resemble might

Himselfe, as mortall thing immortall could;

Him to be lord of every living wight

He made by love out of his owne like mould,

In whom he might his mightie selfe behould:

For love doth love the thing belov’d to see,

That like it selfe in lovely shape may bee.

But man, forgetfull of his Makers grace,

No lesse then angels, whom he did ensew,

Fell from the hope of promist heavenly place,

Into the mouth of death, to sinners dew,

And all his off-spring into thraldome threw:

Where they for ever should in bonds remaine

Of never dead, yet ever dying paine.

Till that great Lord of Love, which him at first

Made of meere love, and after liked well,

Seeing him lie like creature long accurst

In that deepe horror of despeyred hell,

Him, wretch, in doole would let no lenger dwell,

But cast out of that bondage to redeeme,

And pay the price, all were his debt extreeme.

Out of the bosome of eternall blisse,

In which he reigned with his glorious Syre,

He downe descended, like a most demisse

And abject thrall, in fleshes fraile attyre,

That he for him might pay sinnes deadly hyre,

And him restore unto that happie state

In which he stood before his haplesse fate.

In flesh at first the guilt committed was,

Therefore in flesh it must be satisfyde:

Nor spirit, nor angell, though they man surpas,

Could make amends to God for mans misguyde,

But onely man himselfe, who selfe did slyde.

So, taking flesh of sacred virgins wombe,

For mans deare sake he did a man become.

And that most blessed bodie, which was borne

Without all blemish or reprochfull blame,

He freely gave to be both rent and torne

Of cruell hands, who with despightfull shame

Revyling him, that them most vile became,

At length him nayled on a gallow tree,

And slew the just by most unjust decree.

O huge and most unspeakeable impression

Of loves deepe wound, that pierst the piteous hart

Of that deare Lord with so entyre affection,

And sharply launching every inner part,

Dolours of death into his soule did dart;

Doing him die, that never it deserved,

To free his foes, that from his heast had swerved!

What hart can feele least touch of so sore launch,

Or thought can think the depth of so deare wound,

Whose bleeding sourse their streames yet never staunch,

But stil do flow, and freshly still redound,

To heale the sores of sinfull soules unsound,

And clense the guilt of that infected cryme,

Which was enrooted in all fleshly slyme?

O blessed Well of Love! O Floure of Grace!

O glorious Morning Starre! O Lampe of Light!

Most lively image of thy Fathers face,

Eternall King of Glorie, Lord of Might,

Meeke Lambe of God, before all worlds behight,

How can we thee requite for all this good?

Or what can prize that thy most precious blood?

Yet nought thou ask’st in lieu of all this love,

But love of us, for guerdon of thy paine.

Ay me! what can us lesse then that behove?

Had he required life of us againe,

Had it beene wrong to aske his owne with gaine?

He gave us life, he it restored lost;

Then life were least, that us so litle cost.

But he our life hath left unto us free,

Free that was thrall, and blessed that was band;

Ne ought demaunds, but that we loving bee,

As he himselfe hath lov’d us afore hand,

And bound therto with an eternall band,

Him first to love, that us so dearely bought,

And next, our brethren, to his image wrought.

Him first to love, great right and reason is,

Who first to us our life and being gave;

And after, when we fared had amisse,

Us wretches from the second death did save;

And last, the food of life, which now we have,

Even himselfe in his deare sacrament,

To feede our hungry soules, unto us lent.

Then next, to love our brethren, that were made

Of that selfe mould and that selfe Makers hand

That we, and to the same againe shall fade,

Where they shall have like heritage of land,

How ever here on higher steps we stand;

Which also were with selfe same price redeemed

That we, how ever of us light esteemed.

And were they not, yet since that loving Lord

Commaunded us to love them for his sake,

Even for his sake, and for his sacred word,

Which in his last bequest he to us spake,

We should them love, and with their needs partake;

Knowing that whatsoere to them we give,

We give to him, by whom we all doe live.

Such mercy he by his most holy reede

Unto us taught, and to approve it trew,

Ensampled it by his most righteous deede,

Shewing us mercie, miserable crew!

That we the like should to the wretches shew,

And love our brethren; thereby to approve

How much himselfe, that loved us, we love.

Then rouze thy selfe, O Earth, out of thy soyle,

In which thou wallowest like to filthy swyne,

And doest thy mynd in durty pleasures moyle,

Unmindfull of that dearest Lord of thyne;

Lift up to him thy heavie clouded eyne,

That thou his soveraine bountie mayst behold,

And read through love his mercies manifold.

Beginne from first, where he encradled was

In simple cratch, wrapt in a wad of hay,

Betweene the toylefull oxe and humble asse,

And in what rags, and in how base aray,

The glory of our heavenly riches lay,

When him the silly shepheards came to see,

Whom greatest princes sought on lowest knee.

From thence reade on the storie of his life,

His humble carriage, his unfaulty wayes,

His cancred foes, his fights, his toyle, his strife,

His paines, his povertie, his sharpe assayes

Through which he past his miserable dayes,

Offending none, and doing good to all,

Yet being malist both of great and small.

And looke at last, how of most wretched wights

He taken was, betrayd, and false accused;

How with most scornefull taunts, and fell despights,

He was revyld, disgrast, and foule abused,

How scourgd, how crownd, how buffeted, how brused;

And lastly, how twixt robbers crucifyde,

With bitter wounds through hands, through feet, and syde.

Then let thy flinty hart, that feeles no paine,

Empierced be with pittifull remorse,

And let thy bowels bleede in every vaine,

At sight of his most sacred heavenly corse,

So torne and mangled with malicious forse,

And let thy soule, whose sins his sorrows wrought,

Melt into teares, and grone in grieved thought.

With sence whereof whilest so thy softened spirit

Is inly toucht, and humbled with meeke zeale,

Through meditation of his endlesse merit,

Lift up thy mind to th’ author of thy weale,

And to his soveraine mercie doe appeale;

Learne him to love, that loved thee so deare,

And in thy brest his blessed image beare.

With all thy hart, with all thy soule and mind,

Thou must him love, and his beheasts embrace;

All other loves, with which the world doth blind

Weake fancies, and stirre up affections base,

Thou must renounce, and utterly displace,

And give thy selfe unto him full and free,

That full and freely gave himselfe to thee.

Then shalt thou feele thy spirit so possest,

And ravisht with devouring great desire

Of his deare selfe, that shall thy feeble brest

Inflame with love, and set thee all on fire

With burning zeale, through every part entire,

That in no earthly thing thou shalt delight,

But in his sweet and amiable sight.

Thenceforth all worlds desire will in thee dye,

And all earthes glorie, on which men do gaze,

Seeme durt and drosse in thy pure sighted eye,

Compar’d to that celestiall beauties blaze,

Whose glorious beames all fleshly sense doth daze

With admiration of their passing light,

Blinding the eyes and lumining the spright.

Then shall thy ravisht soule inspired bee

With heavenly thoughts, farre above humane skil,

And thy bright radiant eyes shall plainely see

Th’ idee of his pure glorie present still

Before thy face, that all thy spirits shall fill

With sweete enragement of celestiall love,

Kindled through sight of those faire things above.