Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  81. Prothalamion

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Edmund Spenser. 1552–1599

81. Prothalamion

CALME was the day, and through the trembling ayre 
Sweete-breathing Zephyrus did softly play 
A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay 
Hot Titans beames, which then did glyster fayre; 
When I, (whom sullein care,         5
Through discontent of my long fruitlesse stay 
In Princes Court, and expectation vayne 
Of idle hopes, which still doe fly away, 
Like empty shaddowes, did afflict my brayne,) 
Walkt forth to ease my payne  10
Along the shoare of silver streaming Themmes; 
Whose rutty Bancke, the which his River hemmes, 
Was paynted all with variable flowers, 
And all the meades adornd with daintie gemmes 
Fit to decke maydens bowres,  15
And crowne their Paramours 
Against the Brydale day, which is not long: 
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly, till I end my Song. 
There, in a Meadow, by the Rivers side, 
A Flocke of Nymphes I chauncèd to espy,  20
All lovely Daughters of the Flood thereby, 
With goodly greenish locks, all loose untyde, 
As each had bene a Bryde; 
And each one had a little wicker basket, 
Made of fine twigs, entrayl`d curiously,  25
In which they gathered flowers to fill their flasket, 
And with fine Fingers cropt full feateously 
The tender stalkes on hye. 
Of every sort, which in that Meadow grew, 
They gathered some; the Violet, pallid blew,  30
The little Dazie, that at evening closes, 
The virgin Lillie, and the Primrose trew, 
With store of vermeil Roses, 
To decke their Bridegromes posies 
Against the Brydale day, which was not long:  35
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly, till I end my Song. 
With that I saw two Swannes of goodly hewe 
Come softly swimming downe along the Lee; 
Two fairer Birds I yet did never see; 
The snow, which doth the top of Pindus strew,  40
Did never whiter shew; 
Nor Jove himselfe, when he a Swan would be, 
For love of Leda, whiter did appeare; 
Yet Leda was (they say) as white as he, 
Yet not so white as these, nor nothing neare;  45
So purely white they were, 
That even the gentle streame, the which them bare, 
Seem’d foule to them, and bad his billowes spare 
To wet their silken feathers, least they might 
Soyle their fayre plumes with water not so fayre,  50
And marre their beauties bright, 
That shone as heavens light, 
Against their Brydale day, which was not long: 
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly, till I end my Song. 
Eftsoones the Nymphes, which now had Flowers their fill,  55
Ran all in haste to see that silver brood, 
As they came floating on the Christal Flood; 
Whom when they sawe, they stood amazèd still, 
Their wondring eyes to fill; 
Them seem’d they never saw a sight so fayre,  60
Of Fowles, so lovely, that they sure did deeme 
Them heavenly borne, or to be that same payre 
Which through the Skie draw Venus silver Teeme; 
For sure they did not seeme 
To be begot of any earthly Seede,  65
But rather Angels, or of Angels breede; 
Yet were they bred of Somers-heat, they say, 
In sweetest Season, when each Flower and weede 
The earth did fresh aray; 
So fresh they seem’d as day,  70
Even as their Brydale day, which was not long: 
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly, till I end my Song. 
Then forth they all out of their baskets drew 
Great store of Flowers, the honour of the field, 
That to the sense did fragrant odours yield,  75
All which upon those goodly Birds they threw 
And all the Waves did strew, 
That like old Peneus Waters they did seeme, 
When downe along by pleasant Tempes shore, 
Scattred with Flowres, through Thessaly they streeme,  80
That they appeare, through Lillies plenteous store, 
Like a Brydes Chamber flore. 
Two of those Nymphes, meane while, two Garlands bound 
Of freshest Flowres which in that Mead they found, 
The which presenting all in trim Array,  85
Their snowie Foreheads therewithall they crownd, 
Whil’st one did sing this Lay, 
Prepar’d against that Day, 
Against their Brydale day, which was not long: 
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly, till I end my Song.  90
‘Ye gentle Birdes! the worlds faire ornament, 
And heavens glorie, whom this happie hower 
Doth leade unto your lovers blisfull bower, 
Joy may you have, and gentle hearts content 
Of your loves couplement;  95
And let faire Venus, that is Queene of love, 
With her heart-quelling Sonne upon you smile, 
Whose smile, they say, hath vertue to remove 
All Loves dislike, and friendships faultie guile 
For ever to assoile. 100
Let endlesse Peace your steadfast hearts accord, 
And blessèd Plentie wait upon your bord; 
And let your bed with pleasures chast abound, 
That fruitfull issue may to you afford, 
Which may your foes confound, 105
And make your joyes redound 
Upon your Brydale day, which is not long: 
  Sweete Themmes! runne softlie, till I end my Song.’ 
So ended she; and all the rest around 
To her redoubled that her undersong, 110
Which said their brydale daye should not be long: 
And gentle Eccho from the neighbour ground 
Their accents did resound. 
So forth those joyous Birdes did passe along, 
Adowne the Lee, that to them murmurde low, 115
As he would speake, but that he lackt a tong, 
Yet did by signes his glad affection show, 
Making his streame run slow. 
And all the foule which in his flood did dwell 
Gan flock about these twaine, that did excell 120
The rest, so far as Cynthia doth shend 
The lesser starres. So they, enrangèd well, 
Did on those two attend, 
And their best service lend 
Against their wedding day, which was not long: 125
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly, till I end my Song. 
At length they all to mery London came, 
To mery London, my most kyndly Nurse, 
That to me gave this Lifes first native sourse, 
Though from another place I take my name, 130
An house of auncient fame: 
There when they came, whereas those bricky towres 
The which on Themmes brode agèd backe doe ryde, 
Where now the studious Lawyers have their bowers, 
There whylome wont the Templer Knights to byde, 135
Till they decayd through pride: 
Next whereunto there standes a stately place, 
Where oft I gaynèd giftes and goodly grace 
Of that great Lord, which therein wont to dwell, 
Whose want too well now feeles my freendles case; 140
But ah! here fits not well 
Olde woes, but joyes, to tell 
Against the Brydale daye, which is not long: 
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly, till I end my Song. 
Yet therein now doth lodge a noble Peer, 145
Great Englands glory, and the Worlds wide wonder, 
Whose dreadfull name late through all Spaine did thunder, 
And Hercules two pillors standing neere 
Did make to quake and feare: 
Faire branch of Honor, flower of Chevalrie! 150
That fillest England with thy triumphes fame, 
Joy have thou of thy noble victorie, 
And endlesse happinesse of thine owne name 
That promiseth the same; 
That through thy prowesse, and victorious armes, 155
Thy country may be freed from forraine harmes; 
And great Elisaes glorious name may ring 
Through al the world, fil’d with thy wide Alarmes, 
Which some brave muse may sing 
To ages following, 160
Upon the Brydale day, which is not long: 
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly till I end my Song. 
From those high Towers this noble Lord issuing, 
Like Radiant Hesper, when his golden hayre 
In th’ Ocean billowes he hath bathèd fayre, 165
Descended to the Rivers open vewing, 
With a great traine ensuing. 
Above the rest were goodly to bee seene 
Two gentle Knights of lovely face and feature, 
Beseeming well the bower of anie Queene, 170
With gifts of wit, and ornaments of nature, 
Fit for so goodly stature, 
That like the twins of Jove they seem’d in sight, 
Which decke the Bauldricke of the Heavens bright; 
They two, forth pacing to the Rivers side, 175
Received those two faire Brides, their Loves delight; 
Which, at th’ appointed tyde, 
Each one did make his Bryde 
Against their Brydale day, which is not long: 
  Sweete Themmes! runne softly, till I end my Song. 180