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excellent beauty ravished, he awaking resolved to seeke her out; and so being [80 by Merlin armed, and by Timon throughly instructed, he went to seeke her forth in Faerye land. In that Faery Queene I meane glory in my generall intention, but in my particular I conceive the most excellent and glorious person of our soveraine the Queene, and her kingdome in Faery land. And yet, in some places els, I doe otherwise shadow her. For considering she beareth two persons, the [90 one of a most royall Queene or Empresse, the other of a most vertuous and beautifull Lady, this latter part in some places I doe expresse in Belphoebe, fashioning her name according to your owne excellent conceipt of Cynthia, (Phoebe and Cynthia being both names of Diana.) So in the person of Prince Arthure I sette forth magnificence in particular, which vertue, for that (according to Artistotle and [100 the rest) it is the perfection of all the rest, and conteineth in it them all, therefore in the whole course I mention the deedes of Arthure applyable to that vertue, which I write of in that booke. But of the xii. other vertues, I make xii. other knights the patrones, for the more variety of the history: of which these three bookes contayn three. The first of the knight of the Redcrosse, in whome I expresse [110 holynes: The seconde of Sir Guyon, in whome I sette forth temperaunce: The third of Britomartis, a lady knight, in whome I picture chastity. But, because the beginning of the whole worke seemeth abrupte, and as depending upon other antecedents, it needs that ye know the occasion of these three knights' seuerall adventures. For the methode of a poet historical is not such, as of an his- [120 toriographer. For an historiographer discourseth of affayres orderly as they were donne, accounting as well the times as the actions; but a poet thrusteth into the middest, even where it most concerneth him, and there recoursing to the thinges forepaste, and divining of thinges to come, maketh a pleasing analysis of all.
The beginning therefore of my history, if it were to be told by an historiog- [130 rapher, should be the twelfth booke, which is the last; where I devise that the Faery
Queene kept her annuall feaste xii. dayes; uppon which xii. severall dayes, the occasions of the xii. severall adventures hapned, which, being undertaken by xii. severall knights, are in these xii. books severally handled and discoursed. The first was this. In the beginning of the feast, there presented him selfe a tall clownishe [140 younge man, who, falling before the Queene of Faeries, desired a boone (as the manner then was) which during that feast she might not refuse: which was that hee might have the atchievement of any adventure, which during that feaste should happen: that being graunted, he rested him on the floore, unfitte through his rusticity for a better place. Soone after entred a faire ladye in mourning [150 weedes, riding on a white asse, with a dwarfe behind her leading a warlike steed, that bore the armes of a knight, and his speare in the dwarfes hand. Shee, falling before the Queene of Faeries, complayned that her father and mother, an ancient king and queene, had bene by an huge dragon many years shut up in a brasen castle, who thence suffred them not to yssew; and therefore besought the [160 Faery Queene to assygne her some one of her knights to take on him that exployt. Presently that clownish person, upstarting, desired that adventure: whereat the Queene much wondering, and the lady much gainesaying, yet he earnestly importuned his desire. In the end the lady told him, that unlesse that armour which she brought, would serve him (that is, the armour of a Christian man speci- [170 fied by Saint Paul, vi. Ephes.) that he could not succeed in that enterprise: which being forthwith put upon him, with dewe furnitures thereunto, he seemed the goodliest man in al that company, and was well liked of the lady. And eftesoones taking on him knighthood, and mounting on that straunge courser, he went forth with her on that adventure: where beginneth the first booke, viz. [180 A gentle knight was pricking on the playne, etc.
The second day there came in a palmer, bearing an infant with bloody hands, whose parents he complained to have
bene slayn by an enchaunteresse called Acrasia; and therefore craved of the Faery Queene, to appoint him some. knight to performe that adventure; which being assigned to Sir Guyon, he presently went forth with that same palmer: [190 which is the beginning of the second booke, and the whole subject thereof. The third day there came in a groome, who complained before the Faery Queene, that a vile enchaunter, called Busirane, had in hand a most faire lady, called Amoretta, whom he kept in most grievous torment, because she would not yield him the pleasure of her body. Whereupon Sir Scudamour, the lover of that lady, [200 presently tooke on him that adventure. But being unable to performe it by reason of the hard enchauntments, after long sorrow, in the end met with Britomartis, who succoured him, and reskewed his loue.
But by occasion hereof many other adventures are intermedled; but rather as accidents then intendments: as the love of Britomart, the overthrow of Marinell, [210 the misery of Florimell, the vertuousness of Belphœbe, the lasciviousnes of Hellenora, and many the like.
Thus much, Sir, I have briefly overronne, to direct your understanding to the welhead of the history, that from thence gathering the whole intention of the conceit ye may, as in a handfull, gripe al the discourse, which otherwise may happily seeme tedious and confused. So, humbly [220 craving the continuance of your honorable favour towards me, and th' eternall establishment of your happines, I humbly take leave.
23. January, 1589. Yours most humbly affectionate, ED. SPENSER.
From Book I, CANTO I The patrone of true Holinesse
Foule Errour doth defeate: Hypocrisie, him to entrappe, Doth to his home entreate.
Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine,
The cruell markes of many a bloody fielde; Yet armes till that time did he never wield:
A gentle knight was pricking1 on the plaine, Ycladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,
1 spurring, riding.
Enforst to seeke some covert nigh at hand,
And foorth they passe, with pleasure forward led,
Joying to heare the birdes sweete har65 Which, therein shrouded from the tempest dred,
Seemed in their song to scorne the cruell sky.
Much can they praise the trees so straight and hy,
The sayling pine, the cedar proud and
The vine-propp elme, the poplar never dry,
The builder oake, sole king of forrests all, The aspine good for staves, the cypresse funerall,
The laurell, meed of mightie conquerours
The willow worne of forlorne paramours,' 10
The mirrhe sweete bleeding in the bitter wound,
The warlike beech, the ash for nothing ill, The fruitfull olive, and the platane12 round,
The carver holme,13 the maple seeldom inward sound.
Led with delight, they thus beguile the
Untill the blustring storme is overblowne;
Whose loftie trees, yclad with sommers They cannot finde that path, which first pride, was showne, 85 But wander too and fro in waies unknowne, Furthest from end then, when they neerest weene,
Did spred so broad, that heavens light did
Not perceable with power of any starr; 60
That makes them doubt, their wits be not
So many pathes, so many turnings seene, That which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.
1 utterly laid waste.
loved one's, i. e. the earth's.
8 used for ship timber. 10 lovers. 11 yew.
13 a kind of oak, used for wood carvings.
used for building. 12 plane.
At last resolving forward still to fare,
And like to lead the labyrinth about;1 Which when by tract2 they hunted had throughout,
At length it brought them to a hollowe
But forth unto the darksom hole he went,
Amid the thickest woods. The champion A litle glooming light, much like a shade,
Eftsoones3 dismounted from his courser
By which he saw the ugly monster plaine,
And to the dwarfe a while his needlesse
I better wot then you; though nowe too late
To wish you backe returne with foule disgrace,
Yet wisedome warnes, whilest foot is in the gate,
To stay the steppe, ere forced to retrate.
Therefore I read beware." "Fly, fly!" quoth then
The fearefull dwarfe: "this is no place for living men."
"Be well aware," quoth then that ladie
The danger hid, the place unknowne and Approcht in hast to greet his victorie,
And perill without show: therefore your stroke,
Who see your vanquisht foes before you lye,
Sir knight, with-hold, till further tryall made."
"Ah, ladie," sayd he, "shame were to revoke
The forward footing for an hidden shade: Vertue gives her selfe light, through darkenesse for to wade."
1 out of. 5 way.
But full of fire and greedy hardiment,8 The youthfull knight could not for ought be staide,
Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine.9
Then mounted he upon his steede againe, "Yea, but," quoth she, "the perill of this And with the lady backward sought to place wend;
That path he kept which beaten was most plaine,
His lady, seeing all that chaunst, from farre,
Well worthie be you of that armory,10 Wherein ye have great glory wonne this day,
And proov'd your strength on a strong enimie,
Your first adventure: many such I pray, And henceforth ever wish that like succeed it may."
A monster vile, whom God and man does Long way he traveiled, before he heard of
Ne ever would to any by way bend,
So forward on his way (with God to frend) He passed forth, and new adventure sought: