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

The Faerie Queene

Book II. The Legend of Sir Guyon. Canto VIII

  • Sir Guyon, layd in swowne, is by
  • Acrates sonnes despoyld;
  • Whom Arthure soone hath reskewed
  • And Paynim brethren foyld.

  • I
    AND is there care in heaven? And is there love

    In heavenly spirits to these creatures bace,

    That may compassion of their evilles move?

    There is: else much more wretched were the cace

    Of men then beasts. But O th’ exceeding grace

    Of Highest God, that loves his creatures so,

    And all his workes with mercy doth embrace,

    That blessed angels he sends to and fro,

    To serve to wicked man, to serve his wicked foe!

    How oft do they their silver bowers leave

    To come to succour us, that succour want!

    How oft do they with golden pineons cleave

    The flitting skyes, like flying pursuivant,

    Against fowle feendes to ayd us militant!

    They for us fight, they watch and dewly ward,

    And their bright squadrons round about us plant;

    And all for love, and nothing for reward:

    O why should hevenly God to men have such regard?

    During the while that Guyon did abide

    In Mamons house, the palmer, whom whyleare

    That wanton mayd of passage had denide,

    By further search had passage found elsewhere,

    And, being on his way, approched neare

    Where Guyon lay in traunce, when suddeinly

    He heard a voyce, that called lowd and cleare,

    ‘Come hether! come hether! O come hastily!’

    That all the fields resounded with the ruefull cry.

    The palmer lent his eare unto the noyce,

    To weet who called so importunely:

    Againe he heard a more efforced voyce,

    That bad him come in haste. He by and by

    His feeble feet directed to the cry;

    Which to that shady delve him brought at last,

    Where Mammon earst did sunne his threasury:

    There the good Guyon he found slumbring fast

    In senceles dreame; which sight at first him sore aghast.

    Beside his head there satt a faire young man,

    Of wondrous beauty and of freshest yeares,

    Whose tender bud to blossome new began,

    And florish faire above his equall peares:

    His snowy front, curled with golden heares,

    Like Phoebus face adornd with sunny rayes,

    Divinely shone, and two sharpe winged sheares,

    Decked with diverse plumes, like painted jayes,

    Were fixed at his backe, to cut his ayery wayes.

    Like as Cupido on Idæan hill,

    When having laid his cruell bow away,

    And mortall arrowes, wherewith he doth fill

    The world with murdrous spoiles and bloody pray,

    With his faire mother he him dights to play,

    And with his goodly sisters, Graces three;

    The goddesse, pleased with his wanton play,

    Suffers her selfe through sleepe beguild to bee,

    The whiles the other ladies mind theyr mery glee.

    Whom when the palmer saw, abasht he was

    Through fear and wonder, that he nought could say,

    Till him the childe bespoke: ‘Long lackt, alas!

    Hath bene thy faithfull aide in hard assay,

    Whiles deadly fitt thy pupill doth dismay.

    Behold this heavy sight, thou reverend sire:

    But dread of death and dolor doe away;

    For life ere long shall to her home retire,

    And he, that breathlesse seems, shal corage bold respire.

    ‘The charge, which God doth unto me arrett,

    Of his deare safety, I to thee commend;

    Yet will I not forgoe, ne yet forgett,

    The care thereof my selfe unto the end,

    But evermore him succour, and defend

    Against his foe and mine: watch thou, I pray;

    For evill is at hand him to offend.’

    So having said, eftsoones he gan display

    His painted nimble wings, and vanisht quite away.

    The palmer seeing his lefte empty place,

    And his slow eies beguiled of their sight,

    Woxe sore affraid, and standing still a space,

    Gaz’d after him, as fowle escapt by flight:

    At last him turning to his charge behight,

    With trembling hand his troubled pulse gan try,

    Where finding life not yet dislodged quight,

    He much rejoyst, and courd it tenderly,

    As chicken newly hatcht, from dreaded destiny.

    At last he spide where towards him did pace

    Two Paynim knights, al armd as bright as skie,

    And them beside an aged sire did trace,

    And far before a light-foote page did flie,

    That breathed strife and troublous enmitie.

    Those were the two sonnes of Acrates old,

    Who, meeting earst with Archimago slie,

    Foreby that idle strond, of him were told,

    That he which earst them combatted was Guyon bold.

    Which to avenge on him they dearly vowd,

    Where ever that on ground they mote him find:

    False Archimage provokte their corage prowd,

    And stryful Atin in their stubborne mind

    Coles of contention and whot vengeaunce tind.

    Now bene they come whereas the Palmer sate,

    Keeping that slombred corse to him assind:

    Well knew they both his person, sith of late

    With him in bloody armes they rashly did debate.

    Whom when Pyrochles saw, inflam’d with rage

    That sire he fowl bespake: ‘Thou dotard vile,

    That with thy brutenesse shendst thy comely age,

    Abandon soone, I read, the caytive spoile

    Of that same outcast carcas, that ere while

    Made it selfe famous through false trechery,

    And crownd his coward crest with knightly stile:

    Loe where he now inglorious doth lye,

    To proove he lived il, that did thus fowly dye.’

    To whom the palmer fearlesse answered:

    ‘Certes, sir knight, ye bene too much to blame,

    Thus for to blott the honor of the dead,

    And with fowle cowardize his carcas shame,

    Whose living handes immortalizd his name.

    Vile is the vengeaunce on the ashes cold,

    And envy base, to barke at sleeping fame:

    Was never wight that treason of him told:

    Your self his prowesse prov’d, and found him fiers and bold.’

    Then sayd Cymochles: ‘Palmer, thou doest dote,

    Ne canst of prowesse ne of knighthood deeme,

    Save as thou seest or hearst: but well I wote,

    That of his puissaunce tryall made extreeme:

    Yet gold is not, that doth golden seeme,

    Ne all good knights, that shake well speare and shield:

    The worth of all men by their end esteeme,

    And then dew praise or dew reproch them yield:

    Bad therefore I him deeme that thus lies dead on field.’

    ‘Good or bad,’ gan his brother fiers reply,

    ‘What doe I recke, sith that he dide entire?

    Or what doth his bad death now satisfy

    The greedy hunger of revenging yre,

    Sith wrathfull hand wrought not her owne desire?

    Yet since no way is lefte to wreake my spight,

    I will him reave of armes, the victors hire,

    And of that shield, more worthy of good knight,

    For why should a dead dog be deckt in armour bright?’

    ‘Fayr sir,’ said then the palmer suppliaunt,

    ‘For knighthoods love, doe not so fowle a deed,

    Ne blame your honor with so shamefull vaunt

    Of vile revenge. To spoile the dead of weed

    Is sacrilege, and doth all sinnes exceed;

    But leave these relicks of his living might

    To decke his herce, and trap his tomb-blacke steed.’

    ‘What herce or steed,’ said he, ‘should he have dight,

    But be entombed in the raven or the kight?’

    With that, rude hand upon his shield he laid,

    And th’ other brother gan his helme unlace,

    Both fiercely bent to have him disaraid;

    Till that they spyde where towards them did pace

    An armed knight, of bold and bounteous grace,

    Whose squire bore after him an heben launce

    And coverd shield. Well kend him so far space

    Th’ enchaunter by his armes and amenaunce,

    When under him he saw his Lybian steed to praunce;

    And to those brethren sayd: ‘Rise, rise bylive,

    And unto batteil doe your selves addresse;

    For yonder comes the prowest knight alive,

    Prince Arthur, flowre of grace and nobilesse,

    That hath to Paynim knights wrought gret distresse,

    And thousand Sar’zins fowly donne to dye.’

    That word so deepe did in their harts impresse,

    That both eftsoones upstarted furiously,

    And gan themselves prepare to batteill greedily.

    But fiers Pyrochles, lacking his owne sword,

    The want thereof now greatly gan to plaine,

    And Archimage besought, him that afford,

    Which he had brought for Braggadochio vaine.

    ‘So would I,’ said th’ enchaunter, ‘glad and faine

    Beteeme to you this sword, you to defend,

    Or ought that els your honor might maintaine,

    But that this weapons powre I well have kend

    To be contrary to the worke which ye intend.

    ‘For that same knights owne sword this is, of yore

    Which Merlin made by his almightie art

    For that his noursling, when he knighthood swore,

    Therewith to doen his foes eternall smart.

    The metall first he mixt with medæwart,

    That no enchauntment from his dint might save;

    Then it in flames of Aetna wrought apart,

    And seven times dipped in the bitter wave

    Of hellish Styx, which hidden vertue to it gave.

    ‘The vertue is, that nether steele nor stone

    The stroke thereof from entraunce may defend;

    Ne ever may be used by his fone,

    Ne forst his rightful owner to offend;

    Ne ever will it breake, ne ever bend:

    Wherefore Morddure it rightfully is hight.

    In vaine therefore, Pyrochles, should I lend

    The same to thee, against his lord to fight,

    For sure yt would deceive thy labor and thy might.’

    ‘Foolish old man,’ said then the Pagan wroth,

    ‘That weenest words or charms may force withstond:

    Soone shalt thou see, and then beleeve for troth,

    That I can carve with this inchaunted brond

    His lords owne flesh.’ Therewith out of his hond

    That vertuous steele he rudely snatcht away,

    And Guyons shield about his wrest he bond;

    So ready dight, fierce battaile to assay,

    And match his brother proud in battailous aray.

    By this, that straunger knight in presence came,

    And goodly salued them; who nought againe

    Him answered, as courtesie became,

    But with sterne lookes, and stomachous disdaine,

    Gave signes of grudge and discontentment vaine:

    Then, turning to the palmer, he gan spy

    Where at his feet, with sorrowfull demayne

    And deadly hew, an armed corse did lye,

    In whose dead face he redd great magnanimity.

    Sayd he then to the palmer: ‘Reverend syre,

    What great misfortune hath betidd this knight?

    Or did his life her fatall date expyre,

    Or did he fall by treason, or by fight?

    How ever, sure I rew his pitteous plight.’

    ‘Not one, nor other,’ sayd the palmer grave,

    ‘Hath him befalne; but cloudes of deadly night

    A while his heavy eylids cover’d have,

    And all his sences drowned in deep sencelesse wave.

    ‘Which those his cruell foes, that stand hereby,

    Making advauntage, to revenge their spight,

    Would him disarme and treaten shamefully;

    Unworthie usage of redoubted knight.

    But you, faire sir, whose honourable sight

    Doth promise hope of helpe and timely grace,

    Mote I beseech to succour his sad plight,

    And by your powre protect his feeble cace.

    First prayse of knighthood is, fowle outrage to deface.’

    ‘Palmer,’ said he, ‘no knight so rude, I weene,

    As to doen outrage to a sleeping ghost:

    Ne was there ever noble corage seene,

    That in advauntage would his puissaunce bost:

    Honour is least, where oddes appeareth most.

    May bee, that better reason will aswage

    The rash revengers heat. Words well dispost

    Have secrete powre t’ appease inflamed rage:

    If not, leave unto me thy knights last patronage.’

    Tho, turning to those brethren, thus bespoke:

    ‘Ye warlike payre, whose valorous great might,

    It seemes, just wronges to vengeaunce doe provoke,

    To wreake your wrath on this dead seeming knight,

    Mote ought allay the storme of your despight,

    And settle patience in so furious heat?

    Not to debate the chalenge of your right,

    But for this carkas pardon I entreat,

    Whom fortune hath already laid in lowest seat.’

    To whom Cymochles said: ‘For what art thou,

    That mak’st thy selfe his dayes-man, to prolong

    The vengeaunce prest? Or who shall let me now,

    On this vile body from to wreak my wrong,

    And make his carkas as the outcast dong?

    Why should not that dead carrion satisfye

    The guilt which, if he lived had thus long,

    His life for dew revenge should deare abye?

    The trespas still doth live, albee the person dye.’

    ‘Indeed,’ then said the Prince, ‘the evill donne

    Dyes not, when breath the body first doth leave,

    But from the grandsyre to the nephewes sonne,

    And all his seede, the curse doth often cleave,

    Till vengeaunce utterly the guilt bereave:

    So streightly God doth judge. But gentle knight,

    That doth against the dead his hand upheave,

    His honour staines with rancour and despight,

    And great disparagment makes to his former might.’

    Pyrochles gan reply the second tyme,

    And to him said: ‘Now, felon, sure I read,

    How that thou art partaker of his cryme:

    Therefore by Termagaunt thou shalt be dead.’

    With that, his hand, more sad then lomp of lead,

    Uplifting high, he weened with Morddure,

    His owne good sword Morddure, to cleave his head.

    The faithfull steele such treason no’uld endure,

    But swarving from the marke, his lordes life did assure.

    Yet was the force so furious and so fell,

    That horse and man it made to reele asyde:

    Nath’lesse the Prince would not forsake his sell,

    For well of yore he learned had to ryde,

    But full of anger fiersly to him cryde:

    ‘False traitour miscreaunt! thou broken hast

    The law of armes, to strike foe undefide.

    But thou thy treasons fruit, I hope, shalt taste

    Right sowre, and feele the law, the which thou hast defast.’

    With that, his balefull speare he fiercely bent

    Against the Pagans brest, and therewith thought

    His cursed life out of her lodg have rent:

    But ere the point arrivd where it ought,

    That seven fold shield, which he from Guyon brought,

    He cast between to ward the bitter stownd:

    Through all those foldes the steelehead passage wrought,

    And through his shoulder perst; wherwith to ground

    He groveling fell, all gored in his gushing wound.

    Which when his brother saw, fraught with great griefe

    And wrath, he to him leaped furiously,

    And fowly saide. ‘By Mahoune, cursed thiefe,

    That direfull stroke thou dearely shalt aby.’

    Then, hurling up his harmefull blade on hy,

    Smote him so hugely on his haughtie crest,

    That from his saddle forced him to fly:

    Els mote it needes downe to his manly brest

    Have cleft his head in twaine, and life thence dispossest.

    Now was the Prince in daungerous distresse,

    Wanting his sword, when he on foot should fight:

    His single speare could doe him small redresse

    Against two foes of so exceeding might,

    The least of which was match for any knight.

    And now the other, whom he earst did daunt,

    Had reard him selfe againe to cruel fight,

    Three times more furious and more puissaunt,

    Unmindfull of his wound, of his fate ignoraunt.

    So both attonce him charge on either syde,

    With hideous strokes and importable powre,

    That forced him his ground to traverse wyde,

    And wisely watch to ward that deadly stowre:

    For in his shield, as thicke as stormie showre,

    Their strokes did raine; yet did he never quaile,

    Ne backward shrinke, but as a stedfast towre,

    Whom foe with double battry doth assaile,

    Them on her bulwarke beares, and bids them nought availe,—

    So stoutly he withstood their strong assay;

    Till that at last, when he advantage spyde,

    His poynant speare he thrust with puissant sway

    At proud Cymochles, whiles his shield was wyde,

    That through his thigh the mortall steele did gryde:

    He, swarving with the force, within his flesh

    Did breake the launce, and let the head abyde:

    Out of the wound the red blood flowed fresh,

    That underneath his feet soone made a purple plesh.

    Horribly then he gan to rage and rayle,

    Cursing his gods, and him selfe damning deepe:

    Als when his brother saw the red blood rayle

    Adowne so fast, and all his armour steepe,

    For very felnesse lowd he gan to weepe,

    And said: ‘Caytive, cursse on thy cruell hond,

    That twise hath spedd! yet shall it not thee keepe

    From the third brunt of this my fatall brond:

    Lo where the dreadfull Death behynd thy backe doth stond!’

    With that he strooke, and thother strooke withall,

    That nothing seemd mote beare so monstrous might:

    The one upon his covered shield did fall,

    And glauncing downe would not his owner byte:

    But th’ other did upon his troncheon smyte,

    Which hewing quite a sunder, further way

    It made, and on his hacqueton did lyte,

    The which dividing with importune sway,

    It seizd in his right side, and there the dint did stay.

    Wyde was the wound, and a large lukewarme flood,

    Red as the rose, thence gushed grievously,

    That when the Paynym spyde the streaming blood,

    Gave him great hart, and hope of victory.

    On thother side, in huge perplexity

    The Prince now stood, having his weapon broke;

    Nought could he hurt, but still at warde did ly:

    Yet with his troncheon he so rudely stroke

    Cymochles twise, that twise him forst his foot revoke.

    Whom when the palmer saw in such distresse,

    Sir Guyons sword he lightly to him raught,

    And said: ‘Fayre sonne, great God thy right hand blesse,

    To use that sword so well as he it ought.’

    Glad was the knight, and with fresh courage fraught,

    When as againe he armed felt his hond:

    Then like a lyon, which hath long time saught

    His robbed whelpes, and at the last them fond

    Emongst the shepeheard swaynes, then wexeth wood and yond;

    So fierce he laid about him, and dealt blowes

    On either side, that neither mayle could hold,

    Ne shield defend the thunder of his throwes:

    Now to Pyrochles many strokes he told;

    Eft to Cymochles twise so many fold:

    Then backe againe turning his busie hond,

    Them both atonce compeld with courage bold,

    To yield wide way to his hart-thrilling brond;

    And though they both stood stiffe, yet could not both withstond.

    As salvage bull, whom two fierce mastives bayt,

    When rancour doth with rage him once engore,

    Forgets with wary warde them to awayt,

    But with his dreadfull hornes them drives afore,

    Or flings aloft, or treades downe in the flore,

    Breathing out wrath, and bellowing disdaine,

    That all the forest quakes to heare him rore:

    So rag’d Prince Arthur twixt his foemen twaine,

    That neither could his mightie puissaunce sustaine.

    But ever at Pyrochles when he smitt,

    Who Guyons shield cast ever him before,

    Whereon the Faery Queenes pourtract was writt,

    His hand relented, and the stroke forbore,

    And his deare hart the picture gan adore;

    Which oft the Paynim sav’d from deadly stowre.

    But him henceforth the same can save no more;

    For now arrived is his fatall howre,

    That no’te avoyded be by earthly skill or powre.

    For when Cymochles saw the fowle reproch,

    Which them appeached, prickt with guiltie shame

    And inward griefe, he fiercely gan approch,

    Resolv’d to put away that loathly blame,

    Or dye with honour and desert of fame;

    And on the haubergh stroke the Prince so sore,

    That quite disparted all the linked frame,

    And pierced to the skin, but bit no more,

    Yet made him twise to reele, that never moov’d afore.

    Whereat renfierst with wrath and sharp regret,

    He stroke so hugely with his borrowd blade,

    That it empierst the Pagans burganet,

    And cleaving the hard steele, did deepe invade

    Into his head, and cruell passage made

    Quite through his brayne. He, tombling downe on ground,

    Breathd out his ghost, which, to th’ infernall shade

    Fast flying, there eternall torment found

    For all the sinnes wherewith his lewd life did abound.

    Which when his german saw, the stony feare

    Ran to his hart, and all his sence dismayd,

    Ne thenceforth life ne corage did appeare;

    But as a man, whom hellish feendes have frayd,

    Long trembling still he stoode: at last thus sayd:

    ‘Traytour, what hast hou doen? How ever may

    Thy cursed hand so cruelly have swayd

    Against that knight? Harrow and well away!

    After so wicked deede why liv’st thou lenger day?’

    With that all desperate, as loathing light,

    And with revenge desyring soone to dye,

    Assembling all his force and utmost might,

    With his owne swerd he fierce at him did flye,

    And strooke, and foynd, and lasht outrageously,

    Withouten reason or regard. Well knew

    The Prince, with pacience and sufferaunce sly

    So hasty heat soone cooled to subdew:

    Tho, when this breathlesse woxe, that batteil gan renew.

    As when a windy tempest bloweth hye,

    That nothing may withstand his stormy stowre,

    The clowdes, as thinges affrayd, before him flye;

    But all so soone as his outrageous powre

    Is layd, they fiercely then begin to showre,

    And, as in scorne of his spent stormy spight,

    Now all attonce their malice forth do poure:

    So did Prince Arthur beare himselfe in fight,

    And suffred rash Pyrochles waste his ydle might.

    At last when as the Sarazin perceiv’d,

    How that straunge sword refusd to serve his neede,

    But, when he stroke most strong, the dint deceiv’d,

    He flong it from him, and, devoyd of dreed,

    Upon him lightly leaping without heed,

    Twixt his two mighty armes engrasped fast,

    Thinking to overthrowe and downe him tred:

    But him in strength and skill and Prince surpast,

    And through his nimble sleight did under him down cast.

    Nought booted it the Paynim then to strive;

    For as a bittur in the eagles clawe,

    That may not hope by flight to scape alive,

    Still waytes for death with dread and trembling aw,

    So he, now subject to the victours law,

    Did not once move, nor upward cast his eye,

    For vile disdaine and rancour, which did gnaw

    His hart in twaine with sad melancholy,

    As one that loathed life, and yet despysd to dye.

    But full of princely bounty and great mind,

    The conquerour nought cared him to slay,

    But casting wronges and all revenge behind,

    More glory thought to give life then decay,

    And sayd: ‘Paynim, this is thy dismall day;

    Yet if thou wilt renounce thy miscreaunce,

    And my trew liegeman yield thy selfe for ay,

    Life will I graunt thee for thy valiaunce,

    And all thy wronges will wipe out of my sovenaunce.’

    ‘Foole!’ sayd the Pagan, ‘I thy gift defye;

    But use thy fortune, as it doth befall,

    And say, that I not overcome doe dye,

    But in despight of life for death doe call.’

    Wroth was the Prince, and sory yet withall,

    That he so wilfully refused grace;

    Yet, sith his fate so cruelly did fall,

    His shining helmet he gan soone unlace,

    And left his headlesse body bleeding all the place.

    By this, Sir Guyon from his traunce awakt,

    Life having maystered her sencelesse foe;

    And looking up, when as his shield he lakt,

    And sword saw not, he wexed wondrous woe:

    But when the palmer, whom he long ygoe

    Had lost, he by him spyde, right glad he grew,

    And saide: ‘Deare sir, whom wandring to and fro

    I long have lackt, I joy thy face to vew:

    Firme is thy faith, whom daunger never fro me drew.

    ‘But read, what wicked hand hath robbed mee

    Of my good sword and shield?’ The palmer, glad

    With so fresh hew uprysing him to see,

    Him answered: ‘Fayre sonne, be no whit sad

    For want of weapons; they shall soone be had.’

    So gan he to discourse the whole debate,

    Which that straunge knight for him sustained had,

    And those two Sarazins confounded late,

    Whose carcases on ground were horribly prostrate.

    Which when he heard, and saw the tokens trew,

    His hart with great affection was embayd,

    And to the Prince bowing with reverence dew,

    As to the patrone of his life, thus sayd:

    ‘My lord, my liege, by whose most gratious ayd

    I live this day, and see my foes subdewd,

    What may suffise to be for meede repayd

    Of so great graces as ye have me shewd,

    But to be ever bound—’

    To whom the infant thus: ‘Fayre sir, what need

    Good turnes be counted, as a servile bond,

    To bind their dooers to receive their meed?

    Are not all knightes by oath bound to withstond

    Oppressours powre by armes and puissant hond?

    Suffise, that i have done my dew in place.’

    So goodly purpose they together fond

    Of kindnesse and of courteous aggrace;

    The whiles false Archimage and Atin fled aopace.