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

The Faerie Queene

Book V. The Legend of Artegall. Canto IX

  • Arthur and Artegall catch Guyle,
  • Whom Talus doth dismay:
  • They to Mercillaes pallace come,
  • And see her rich array.

  • I
    WHAT tygre, or what other salvage wight,

    Is so exceeding furious and fell

    As Wrong, when it hath arm’d it selfe with might?

    Not fit mongst men, that doe with reason mell,

    But mongst wyld beasts and salvage woods to dwell;

    Where still the stronger doth the weake devoure,

    And they that most in boldnesse doe excell

    Are dreadded most, and feared for their powre;

    Fit for Adicia, there to build her wicked bowre.

    There let her wonne farre from resort of men,

    Where righteous Artegall her late exyled;

    There let her ever keepe her damned den,

    Where none may be with her lewd parts defyled,

    Nor none but beasts may be of her despoyled:

    And turne we to the noble Prince, where late

    We did him leave, after that he had foyled

    The cruell Souldan, and with dreadfull fate

    Had utterly subverted his unrighteous state.

    Where having with Sir Artegall a space

    Well solast in that Souldans late delight,

    They both resolving now to leave the place,

    Both it and all the wealth therein behight

    Unto that damzell in her ladies right,

    And so would have departed on their way.

    But she them woo’d by all the meanes she might,

    And earnestly besought, to wend that day

    With her, to see her ladie thence not farre away.

    By whose entreatie both they overcommen,

    Agree to goe with her, and by the way,

    (As often falles) of sundry things did commen.

    Mongst which that damzell did to them bewray

    A straunge adventure, which not farre thence lay;

    To weet, a wicked villaine, bold and stout,

    Which wonned in a rocke not farre away,

    That robbed all the countrie there about,

    And brought the pillage home, whence none could get it out.

    Thereto both his owne wylie wit (she sayd)

    And eke the fastnesse of his dwelling place,

    Both unassaylable, gave him great ayde:

    For he so crafty was to forge and face,

    So light of hand, and nymble of his pace,

    So smooth of tongue, and subtile in his tale,

    That could deceive one looking in his face;

    Therefore by name Malengin they him call,

    Well knowen by his feates, and famous over all.

    Through these his slights he many doth confound,

    And eke the rocke, in which he wonts to dwell,

    Is wondrous strong, and hewen farre under ground

    A dreadfull depth, how deepe no man can tell;

    But some doe say, it goeth downe to hell.

    And all within, it full of wyndings is,

    And hidden wayes, that scarse an hound by smell

    Can follow out those false footsteps of his,

    Ne none can backe returne that once are gone amis.

    Which when those knights had heard, their harts gan earne

    To understand that villeins dwelling place,

    And greatly it desir’d of her to learne,

    And by which way they towards it should trace.

    ‘Were not,’ sayd she, ‘that it should let your pace

    Towards my ladies presence by you ment,

    I would you guyde directly to the place.’

    ‘Then let not that,’ said they, ‘stay your intent;

    For neither will one foot, till we that carle have hent.’

    So forth they past, till they approched ny

    Unto the rocke where was the villains won:

    Which when the damzell neare at hand did spy,

    She warn’d the knights thereof: who thereupon

    Gan to advize what best were to be done.

    So both agreed to send that mayd afore,

    Where she might sit nigh to the den alone,

    Wayling, and raysing pittifull uprore,

    As if she did some great calamitie deplore.

    With noyse whereof when as the caytive carle

    Should issue forth, in hope to find some spoyle,

    They in awayt would closely him ensnarle,

    Ere to his den he backward could recoyle,

    And so would hope him easily to foyle.

    The damzell straight went, as she was directed,

    Unto the rocke, and there upon the soyle

    Having her selfe in wretched wize abjected,

    Gan weepe and wayle, as if great griefe had her affected.

    The cry whereof entring the hollow cave,

    Eftsoones brought forth the villaine, as they ment,

    With hope of her some wishfull boot to have.

    Full dreadfull wight he was, as ever went

    Upon the earth, with hollow eyes deepe pent,

    And long curld locks, that downe his shoulders shagged,

    And on his backe an uncouth vestiment

    Made of straunge stuffe, but all to-worne and ragged,

    And underneath his breech was all to-torne and jagged.

    And in his hand an huge long staffe he held,

    Whose top was arm’d with many an yron hooke,

    Fit to catch hold of all that he could weld,

    Or in the compasse of his clouches tooke;

    And ever round about he cast his looke.

    Als at his backe a great wyde net he bore,

    With which he seldome fished at the brooke,

    But usd to fish for fooles on the dry shore,

    Of which he in faire weather wont to take great store.

    Him when the damzell saw fast by her side,

    So ugly creature, she was nigh dismayd,

    And now for helpe aloud in earnest cride.

    But when the villaine saw her so affrayd,

    He gan with guilefull words her to perswade

    To banish feare, and with Sardonian smyle

    Laughing on her, his false intent to shade,

    Gan forth to lay his bayte her to beguyle,

    That from her self unwares he might her steale the whyle.

    Like as the fouler on his guilefull pype

    Charmes to the birds full many a pleasant lay,

    That they the whiles may take lesse heedie keepe,

    How he his nets doth for their ruine lay:

    So did the villaine to her prate and play,

    And many pleasant trickes before her show,

    To turne her eyes from his intent away:

    For he in slights and jugling feates did flow,

    And of legierdemayne the mysteries did know.

    To which whilest she lent her intentive mind,

    He suddenly his net upon her threw,

    That oversprad her like a puffe of wind;

    And snatching her soone up, ere well she knew,

    Ran with her fast away unto his mew,

    Crying for helpe aloud. But when as ny

    He came unto his cave, and there did vew

    The armed knights stopping his passage by,

    He threw his burden downe, and fast away did fly.

    But Artegall him after did pursew,

    The whiles the Prince there kept the entrance still:

    Up to the rocke he ran, and thereon flew

    Like a wyld gote, leaping from hill to hill,

    And dauncing on the craggy cliffes at will;

    That deadly daunger seem’d in all mens sight,

    To tempt such steps, where footing was so ill:

    Ne ought avayled for the armed knight

    To thinke to follow him, that was so swift and light.

    Which when he saw, his yron man he sent

    To follow him; for he was swift in chace.

    He him pursewd, where ever that he went;

    Both over rockes, and hilles, and every place,

    Where so he fled, he followd him apace:

    So that he shortly forst him to forsake

    The hight, and downe descend unto the base.

    There he him courst a fresh, and soone did make

    To leave his proper forme, and other shape to take.

    Into a foxe himselfe he first did tourne;

    But he him hunted like a foxe full fast:

    Then to a bush himselfe he did transforme;

    But he the bush did beat, till that at last

    Into a bird it chaung’d, and from him past,

    Flying from tree to tree, from wand to wand:

    But he then stones at it so long did cast,

    That like a stone it fell upon the land;

    But he then tooke it up, and held fast in his hand.

    So he it brought with him unto the knights,

    And to his lord, Sir Artegall, it lent,

    Warning him hold it fast, for feare of slights.

    Who whilest in hand it gryping hard he hent,

    Into a hedgehogge all unwares it went,

    And prickt him so that he away it threw.

    Then gan it runne away incontinent,

    Being returned to his former hew:

    But Talus soone him overtooke, and backward drew.

    But when as he would to a snake againe

    Have turn’d himselfe, he with his yron flayle

    Gan drive at him, with so huge might and maine,

    That all his bones as small as sandy grayle

    He broke, and did his bowels disentrayle;

    Crying in vaine for helpe, when helpe was past.

    So did deceipt the selfe deceiver fayle.

    There they him left a carrion outcast,

    For beasts and foules to feede upon for their repast.

    Thence forth they passed with that gentle mayd,

    To see her ladie, as they did agree.

    To which when she approched, thus she sayd:

    ‘Loe now, right noble knights, arriv’d ye bee

    Nigh to the place which ye desir’d to see:

    There shall ye see my soverayne Lady Queene,

    Most sacred wight, most debonayre and free,

    That ever yet upon this earth was seene,

    Or that with diademe hath ever crowned beene.’

    The gentle knights rejoyced much to heare

    The prayses of that prince so manifold,

    And passing litle further, commen were

    Where they a stately pallace did behold,

    Of pompous show, much more then she had told;

    With many towres and tarras mounted hye,

    And all their tops bright glistering with gold,

    That seemed to outshine the dimmed skye,

    And with their brightnesse daz’d the straunge beholders eye.

    There they alighting, by that damzell were

    Directed in, and shewed all the sight:

    Whose porch, that most magnificke did appeare,

    Stood open wyde to all men day and night;

    Yet warded well by one of mickle might,

    That sate thereby, with gyantlike resemblance,

    To keepe out Guyle, and Malice, and Despight,

    That under shew oftimes of fayned semblance

    Are wont in princes courts to worke great scath and hindrance.

    His name was Awe; by whom they passing in

    Went up the hall, that was a large wyde roome,

    All full of people making troublous din,

    And wondrous noyse, as if that there were some

    Which unto them was dealing righteous doome.

    By whom they passing, through the thickest preasse,

    The marshall of the hall to them did come;

    His name hight Order, who, commaunding peace,

    Them guyded through the throng, that did their clamors ceasse.

    They ceast their clamors upon them to gaze;

    Whom seeing all in armour bright as day,

    Straunge there to see, it did them much amaze,

    And with unwonted terror halfe affray:

    For never saw they there the like array;

    Ne ever was the name of warre there spoken,

    But joyous peace and quietnesse alway,

    Dealing just judgements, that mote not be broken

    For any brybes, or threates of any to be wroken.

    There as they entred at the scriene, they saw

    Some one, whose tongue was for his trespasse vyle

    Nayld to a post, adjudged so by law:

    For that therewith he falsely did revyle

    And foule blaspheme that queene for forged guyle,

    Both with bold speaches which he blazed had,

    And with lewd poems which he did compyle;

    For the bold title of a poet bad

    He on himselfe had ta’en, and rayling rymes had sprad.

    Thus there he stood, whylest high over his head

    There written was the purport of his sin,

    In cyphers strange, that few could rightly read,

    Bon font: but Bon, that once had written bin,

    Was raced out, and Mal was now put in:

    So now Malfont was plainely to be red;

    Eyther for th’ evill which he did therein,

    Or that he likened was to a welhed

    Of evill words, and wicked sclaunders by him shed.

    They, passing by, were guyded by degree

    Unto the presence of that gratious queene:

    Who sate on high, that she might all men see,

    And might of all men royally be seene,

    Upon a throne of gold full bright and sheene,

    Adorned all with gemmes of endlesse price,

    As either might for wealth have gotten bene,

    Or could be fram’d by workmans rare device;

    And all embost with lyons and with flourdelice.

    All over her a cloth of state was spred,

    Not of rich tissew, nor of cloth of gold,

    Nor of ought else that may be richest red,

    But like a cloud, as likest may be told,

    That her brode spreading wings did wyde unfold;

    Whose skirts were bordred with bright sunny beams,

    Glistring like gold, amongst the plights enrold,

    And here and there shooting forth silver streames,

    Mongst which crept litle angels through the glittering gleames.

    Seemed those litle angels did uphold

    The cloth of state, and on their purpled wings

    Did beare the pendants, through their nimblesse bold:

    Besides, a thousand more of such as sings

    Hymnes to High God, and carols heavenly things,

    Encompassed the throne on which she sate:

    She angel-like, the heyre of ancient kings

    And mightie conquerors, in royall state,

    Whylest kings and kesars at her feet did them prostrate.

    Thus she did sit in soverayne majestie,

    Holding a scepter in her royall hand,

    The sacred pledge of peace and clemencie,

    With which High God had blest her happie land,

    Maugre so many foes which did withstand.

    But at her feet her sword was likewise layde,

    Whose long rest rusted the bright steely brand;

    Yet when as foes enforst, or friends sought ayde,

    She could it sternely draw, that all the world dismayde.

    And round about, before her feet there sate

    A bevie of faire virgins clad in white,

    That goodly seem’d t’ adorne her royall state,

    All lovely daughters of high Jove, that hight

    Litæ, by him begot in loves delight

    Upon the righteous Themis: those they say

    Upon Joves judgement seat wayt day and night,

    And when in wrath he threats the worlds decay,

    They doe his anger calme, and cruell vengeance stay.

    They also doe by his divine permission

    Upon the thrones of mortall princes tend,

    And often treat for pardon and remission

    To suppliants, through frayltie which offend.

    Those did upon Mercillaes throne attend:

    Just Dice, wise Eunomie, myld Eirene;

    And them amongst, her glorie to commend,

    Sate goodly Temperance in garments clene,

    And sacred Reverence, yborne of heavenly strene.

    Thus did she sit in royall rich estate,

    Admyr’d of many, honoured of all,

    An underneath her feete, there as she sate,

    An huge great lyon lay, that mote appall

    An hardie courage, like captived thrall,

    With a strong yron chaine and coller bound,

    That once he could not move, nor quich at all;

    Yet did he murmure with rebellious sound,

    And softly royne, when salvage choler gan redound.

    So sitting high in dreaded soverayntie,

    Those two strange knights were to her presence brought;

    Who, bowing low before her majestie,

    Did to her myld obeysance, as they ought,

    And meekest boone that they imagine mought.

    To whom she eke inclyning her withall,

    As a faire stoupe of her high soaring thought,

    A chearefull countenance on them let fall,

    Yet tempred with some majestie imperiall.

    As the bright sunne, what time his fierie teme

    Towards the westerne brim begins to draw,

    Gins to abate the brightnesse of his beme,

    And fervour of his flames somewhat adaw:

    So did this mightie ladie, when she saw

    Those two strange knights such homage to her make,

    Bate somewhat of that majestie and awe,

    That whylome wont to doe so many quake,

    And with more myld aspect those two to entertake.

    Now at that instant, as occasion fell,

    When these two stranger knights arriv’d in place,

    She was about affaires of common wele,

    Dealing of justice with indifferent grace,

    And hearing pleas of people meane and base.

    Mongst which, as then, there was for to be heard

    The tryall of a great and weightie case,

    Which on both sides was then debating hard:

    But at the sight of these, those were a while debard.

    But after all her princely entertayne,

    To th’ hearing of that former cause in hand

    Her selfe eftsoones she gan convert againe;

    Which that those knights likewise mote understand,

    And witnesse forth aright in forrain land,

    Taking them up unto her stately throne,

    Where they mote heare the matter throughly scand

    On either part, she placed th’ one on th’ one,

    The other on the other side, and neare them none.

    Then was there brought, as prisoner to the barre,

    A ladie of great countenance and place,

    But that she it with foule abuse did marre;

    Yet did appeare rare beautie in her face,

    But blotted with condition vile and base,

    That all her other honour did obscure,

    And titles of nobilitie deface:

    Yet in that wretched semblant, she did sure

    The peoples great compassion unto her allure.

    Then up arose a person of deepe reach,

    And rare in-sight, hard matters to revele;

    That well could charme his tongue, and time his speach

    To all assayes; his name was called Zele:

    He gan that ladie strongly to appele

    Of many haynous crymes, by her enured,

    And with sharpe reasons rang her such a pele,

    That those whom she to pitie had allured

    He now t’ abhorre and loath her person had procured.

    First gan he tell, how this, that seem’d so faire

    And royally arayd, Duessa hight,

    That false Duessa, which had wrought great care

    And mickle mischiefe unto many a knight,

    By her beguyled and confounded quight:

    But not for those she now in question came,

    Though also those mote question’d be aright,

    But for vyld treasons and outrageous shame,

    Which she against the dred Mercilla oft did frame.

    For she whylome (as ye mote yet right well

    Remember) had her counsels false conspyred

    With faithlesse Blandamour and Paridell,

    (Both two her paramours, both by her hyred,

    And both with hope of shadowes vaine inspyred.)

    And with them practiz’d, how for to depryve

    Mercilla of her crowne, by her aspyred,

    That she might it unto her selfe deryve,

    And tryumph in their blood, whom she to death did dryve.

    But through high heavens grace, which favour not

    The wicked driftes of trayterous desynes

    Gainst loiall princes, all this cursed plot,

    Ere proofe it tooke, discovered was betymes,

    And th’ actours won the meede meet for their crymes.

    Such be the meede of all that by such mene

    Unto the type of kingdomes title clymes.

    But false Duessa, now untitled queene,

    Was brought to her sad doome, as here was to be seene.

    Strongly did Zele her haynous fact enforce,

    And many other crimes of foule defame

    Against her brought, to banish all remorse,

    And aggravate the horror of her blame.

    And with him to make part against her, came

    Many grave persons, that against her pled:

    First was a sage old syre, that had to name

    The Kingdomes Care, with a white silver hed,

    That many high regards and reasons gainst her red.

    Then gan Authority her to appose

    With peremptorie powre, that made all mute;

    And then the Law of Nations gainst her rose,

    And reasons brought, that no man could refute;

    Next gan Religion gainst her to impute

    High Gods beheast, and powre of holy lawes;

    Then gan the Peoples Cry and Commons Sute

    Importune care of their owne publicke cause;

    And lastly Justice charged her with breach of lawes.

    But then for her, on the contrarie part,

    Rose many advocates for her to plead:

    First there came Pittie, with full tender hart,

    And with her joyn’d Regard of Womanhead;

    And then came Daunger, threatning hidden dread

    And high alliance unto forren powre;

    Then came Nobilitie of Birth, that bread

    Great ruth through her misfortunes tragicke stowre;

    And lastly Griefe did plead, and many teares forth powre.

    With the neare touch whereof in tender hart

    The Briton Prince was sore empassionate,

    And woxe inclined much unto her part,

    Through the sad terror of so dreadfull fate,

    And wretched ruine of so high estate,

    That for great ruth his courage gan relent.

    Which when as Zele perceived to abate,

    He gan his earnest fervour to augment,

    And many fearefull objects to them to present.

    He gan t’ efforce the evidence anew,

    And new accusements to produce in place:

    He brought forth that old hag of hellish hew,

    The cursed Ate, brought her face to face,

    Who privie was, and partie in the case:

    She, glad of spoyle and ruinous decay,

    Did her appeach, and, to her more disgrace,

    The plot of all her practise did display,

    And all her traynes and all her treasons forth did lay.

    Then brought he forth, with griesly grim aspect,

    Abhorred Murder, who with bloudie knyfe

    Yet dropping fresh in hand did her detect,

    And there with guiltie bloudshed charged ryfe:

    Then brought he forth Sedition, breeding stryfe

    In troublous wits, and mutinous uprore:

    Then brought he forth Incontinence of Lyfe,

    Even foule Adulterie her face before,

    And lewd Impietie, that her accused sore.

    All which when as the Prince had heard and seene,

    His former fancies ruth he gan repent,

    And from her partie eftsoones was drawen cleene.

    But Artegall, with constant firme intent,

    For zeale of justice was against her bent.

    So was she guiltie deemed of them all.

    Then Zele began to urge her punishment,

    And to their queene for judgement loudly call,

    Unto Mercilla myld, for justice gainst the thrall.

    But she, whose princely breast was touched nere

    With piteous ruth of her so wretched plight,

    Though plaine she saw, by all that she did heare,

    That she of death was guiltie found by right,

    Yet would not let just vengeance on her light;

    But rather let in stead thereof to fall

    Few perling drops from her faire lampes of light;

    The which she covering with her purple pall

    Would have the passion hid, and up arose withall.