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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

The Bower of Bliss

Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)

From “The Faerie Queene,” Book II. Canto XII

THENCE passing forth, they shortly doe arryve

Whereas the Bowre of Blisse was situate;

A place pickt out by choyce of best alyve,

That natures worke by art can imitate:

In which whatever in this worldly state

Is sweete and pleasing unto living sense,

Or that may dayntest fantasy aggrate,

Was pourèd forth with plentifull dispence,

And made there to abound with lavish affluence.

Goodly it was enclosèd rownd about,

As well their entred guestes to keep within,

As those unruly beasts to hold without;

Yet was the fence thereof but weake and thin:

Nought feard theyr force that fortilage to win,

But wisedomes powre, and temperaunces might,

By which the mightiest things efforced bin:

And eke the gate was wrought of substaunce light,

Rather for pleasure then for battery or fight.

Yt framèd was of precious yvory,

That seemd a worke of admirable witt;

And therein all the famous history

Of Jason and Medæa was ywrttt;

Her mighty charmes, her furious loving fitt;

His goodly conquest of the golden fleece,

His falsèd fayth, and love too lightly flitt;

The wondred Argo, which in venturous peece

First through the Euxine seas bore all the flowr of Greece.

Eftsoones they heard a most melodious sound,

Of all that mote delight a daintie eare,

Such as attonce might not on living ground,

Save in this Paradise, be heard elsewhere:

Right hard it was for wight which did it heare,

To read what manner musicke that mote bee;

For all that pleasing is to living eare

Was there consorted in one harmonee;

Birdes, voices, instruments, windes, waters, all agree:

The joyous birdes, shrouded in chearefull shade

Their notes unto the voice attempred sweet;

Th’ Angelicall soft trembling voyces made

To th’ instruments divine respondence meet;

The silver sounding instruments did meet

With the base murmure of the waters fall;

The waters fall with difference discreet,

Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call;

The gentle warbling wind low answerèd to all.

There, whence that Musick seemèd heard to bee,

Was the faire Witch her selfe now solacing

With a new Lover, whom, through sorceree

And witchcraft, she from farre did thither bring:

There she had him now laid aslombering

In secret shade after long wanton joyes;

Whilst round about them pleasauntly did sing

Many faire Ladies and lascivious boyes,

That ever mixt their song with light licentious toyes.

The whiles some one did chaunt this lovely lay:

Ah! see, whoso fayre thing doest faine to see,

In springing flowre the image of thy day.

Ah! see the Virgin Rose, how sweetly shee

Doth first peepe foorth with bashfull modestee,

That fairer seemes the lesse ye see her may.

Lo! see soone after how more bold and free

Her barèd bosome she doth broad display;

Lo! see soone after how she fades and falls away.

So passeth, in the passing of a day,

Of mortall life the leafe, the bud, the flowre;

Ne more doth florish after first decay,

That earst was sought to deck both bed and bowre

Of many a lady, and many a Paramowre.

Gather therefore the Rose whitest yet is prime,

For soone comes age that will her pride deflowre;

Gather the Rose of Love whilest yet is time,

Whilest loving thou mayst loved be with equal crime.

He ceast; and then gan all the quire of birdes

Their diverse notes t’ attune unto his lay,

As in approvaunce of his pleasing wordes,

The constant payre heard all that he did say,

Yet swarved not, but kept their forward way

Through many covert groves and thickets close,

In which they creeping did at last display

That wanton Lady with her Lover lose,

Whose sleepee head she in her lap did soft dispose.