1590
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book III. Canto XII.

The Faerie Queene. Disposed into Twelve Books, fashioning XII. Morall Vertues.

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto XII. (45 stanzas). — At last, when it is quite dark, a trumpet sounds, and then, after a storm of thunder and lightning and earthquake, and a stench of smoke and sulphur, lasting 'from the fourth hour of the night until the sixth, — 'All suddenly a stormy whirlwind blew | Throughout the house, that clapped every door, | With which that iron wicket open flew, | As it with mighty levers had been tore; | And forth issued, as on the ready floor | Of some theatre, a grave personage | That in his hand a branch of laurel bore'.... In the argument at the head of the Canto this splendid show, so wonderful for the profusion of allegoric invention displayed in it, is called the Masque of Cupid; and, as already noticed, it has been supposed to be perhaps an adaptation of the author's early composition, The Court of Cupid, mentioned by E. K. in his Epistle to Harvey prefixed to the Shepherd's Calendar.

"As soon as they have retired, the floor is again fast locked, driven to by a blast of wind even as it had been driven open. Britomart courageously advances to it, but tries in vain to open it, first by force then by art. She resolves to remain in the room where she is till the following morning, when she concludes the mask will probably again come forth. Accordingly, after another night, towards the close of the second watch, open flies the brazen door as before, and in walks bold Britomart: — 'So soon as she was entered, round about | She cast her eyes to see what was become | Of all those persons which she saw without. | But lo! they straight were vanished all and some; | Ne living wight she saw in all that room, | Save that same woeful lady'.... The lady is Amoret; and before her sits the vile enchanter Busirane himself, writing strange magic characters with the living blood dropping from her dying breast, in which the dart still seems planted — 'and all perforce to make her him to love.'

"As soon as he sees Britomart, starting up, and overthrowing in his haste his wicked books, he draws a knife from his pocket, and runs fiercely up to Amoret to plunge it into her; but Britomart, 'to him leaping light,' prevents the blow and overpowers him. Turning, however, upon her, he wounds her slightly in the breast; on which, 'exceeding wroth,' the virgin draws her sword 'to give him the reward for such vile outrage due;' — 'So mightily she smote him, that to ground | He fell half dead; next stroke him should have slain, | Had not the lady, which by him stood bound, | Dernly unto her called to abstain'.... Britomart, raising her from the ground, tells her to put away all sorrow — all 'remembrance of late teen,' — adding, 'Instead thereof, know that your loving make | Hath no less grief endured for your gentle sake.'

"The championess then, laying her strong hand upon the enchanter, binds him with the same chain with which Amoret had been lately bound, and leads him away captive. Returning now by the way she had come, she finds all those goodly rooms, 'which erst she saw so rich and royally arrayed,' utterly vanished; and, when she descends to 'that perilous porch,' the dreadful fire likewise quenched and gone. But when she comes to where she had left Scudamore and her old squire, neither of them is to be seen. After having waited long for Britomart's re-appearance, they had concluded that she must have perished, and had set out to seek for further aid — 'where,' says the poet, bringing to a close the Canto and the Book — 'let them wend at will, whilst here I do respire.'

"As the poem, however, was originally written and published, in the place of the three last stanzas, which relate the coming forth of Britomart and Amoret, and state what had induced Scudamore and Glauce to take their departure, were other seven stanzas giving a different turn to the story. Scudamore was found where he had been left; the delighted lovers threw themselves into one another's arms — 'No word they spake, nor earthly thing they felt, | But like two senseless stocks in long embracements dwelt;' — and this first portion of the work, all probably that was then composed, was finished off in the following lines: — 'Thus do those lovers with, sweet | Each other of love's bitter fruit despoil. | But now my team begins to faint and fail, | All woxen weary of their journal toil'.... In the alteration which he made when he reprinted the poem with its continuation, Spenser judiciously availed himself of the opportunity of keeping up the excitement of suspense with regard to Scudamore and Amoret, as well as with regard to Britomart and Arthegal, Florimel, and other personages that figure in this third Book. The second portion of the Fairy Queen, consisting of Books Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth, was published (along with a reprint of the three former Books) in 1596" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 2:73-82.



The Mask of Cupid, and th' enchan-
ted Chamber are display'd;
Whence Britomart redeems fair A-
moret, through Charms decay'd.

Tho, when as cheerless Night ycover'd had
Fair Heaven with an universal Cloud,
That every Wight, dismay'd with Darkness sad,
In Silence and in Sleep themselves did shroud,
She heard a shrilling Trumpet sound aloud,
Sign of nigh Battle, or got Victory:
Nought therewith daunted was her Courage proud,
But rather stir'd to cruel Enmity,
Expecting ever, when some Foe she might descry.

With that, an hideous Storm of Wind arose,
With dreadful Thunder and Lightning atwixt,
And an Earthquake, as if it straight would loose
The World's Foundations from his Center fix'd;
A direful Stench of Smoke and Sulphur mix'd
Ensu'd, whose noyance fill'd the fearful Sted,
From the fourth Hour of Night until the Sixth:
Yet the bold Britoness was nought ydred,
Though much emmov'd, but stedfast still persevered.

All suddenly a stormy Whirlwind blew
Throughout the house, that clapped ev'ry Door;
With which, that iron Wicket open flew,
As it with mighty Levers had been tore:
And forth issu'd, as on the ready Floor,
Of some Theatre, a grave Personage,
That in his Hand a Branch of Laurel bore,
With comely Haviour and Count'nance sage,
Yclad in costly Garments, fit for tragick Stage.

Proceeding to the midst, he still did stand,
As if in mind he somewhat had to say;
And to the Vulgar beck'ning with his hand,
In sign of Silence, as to hear a Play,
By lively Actions he 'gan bewray
Some Argument of Matter passioned:
Which doen, he back retired soft away;
And passing by, his Name discovered,
Ease, on his Robe in golden Letters cyphered.

The noble Maid, still standing, all this view'd,
And marveil'd at his strange Intendiment;
With that, a joyous Fellowship issu'd
Of Minstrels, making goodly Merriment,
With wanton Bards, and Rimers impudent
All which together sung full cheerfully
A Lay of Love's Delight, with sweet Consent:
After whom, march'd a jolly Company,
In manner of a Mask, enranged orderly.

The whiles a most delicious Harmony,
In full strange Notes was sweetly heard to sound,
That the rare Sweetness of the Melody
The feeble Senses wholly did confound,
And the frail Soul in deep Delight nigh around:
And when it ceas'd, shrill Trumpets loud did bray,
That their Report did far away rebound;
And when they ceas'd, it 'gan again to play,
The whiles the Maskers marched forth in trim array.

The first was Fancy, like a lovely Boy,
Of rare Aspect, and Beauty without Peer;
Matchable either to that Imp of Troy,
Whom Jove did love, and chuse his Cup to bear,
Or that same dainty Lad, which was so dear
To great Alcides, that when-as he dy'd,
He wailed Womanlike with many a Tear,
And every Wood, and every Valley wide
He fill'd with Hylas' Name; the Nymphs eke Hylas cry'd.

His Garment neither was of silk nor Say,
But painted Plumes, in goodly Order dight,
Like as the Sun-burnt Indians do array
Their tawny Bodies, in their proudest Plight:
As those same Plumes, so seem'd he vain and light,
That by his Gate might easily appear;
For still he far'd as dancing in Delight,
And in his Hand a windy Fan did bear,
That in the idle Air he mov'd still here and there.

And him beside march'd amorous Desire,
Who seem'd of riper Years than th' other Swain;
Yet was that other Swain this Elder's Sire,
And gave him Being, common to them twain:
His Garment was disguised very vain,
And his embroider'd Bonnet sat awry;
'Twixt both his Hands few Sparks he close did strain.
Which still he blew, and kindled busily,
That soon they Life conceiv'd, and forth in Flames did fly.

Next after him went Doubt, who was yclad
In a discolour'd Coat, of strange Disguise,
That at his Back a broad Capuccio had,
And Sleeves dependent Albanese-wise:
He look'd askew with his mistrustful Eyes,
And nicely trode, as Thorns lay in his way,
Or that the Floor to shrink he did avise,
And on a broken Reed he still did stay
His feeble Steps, which shrunk when hard thereon he lay.

With him went Danger, cloth'd in ragged Weed,
Made of Bears-Skin, that him more dreadful made;
Yet his own Face was dreadful, ne did need
Strange Horrour, to deform his griesly Shade.
A Net in th' one Hand, and a rusty Blade
In th' other was; this Mischief, that Mishap:
With th' one his Foes he threatned to invade,
With th' other he his Friends ment to enwrap;
For whom he could not kill, he practis'd to entrap.

Next him was Fear, all arm'd from top to toe,
Yet thought himself not safe enough thereby,
But fear'd each Shadow moving to and fro:
And his own Arms when glittering he did spy,
Or clashing heard, he fast away did fly,
As Ashes pale of hue, and wingy-heel'd;
And evermore on Danger fix'd his Eye,
'Gainst whom he always bent a brazen Shield,
Which his right Hand unarmed, fearfully did wield.

With him went Hope in Rank, a handsom Maid,
Of chearful Look and lovely to behold;
In silken Samite she was light array'd,
And her fair Locks were woven up in Gold:
She alway smil'd, and in her Hand did hold
An holy-water Sprinkle, dipt in Dew,
With which she sprinkled Favours manifold,
On whom she list, and did great Liking shew;
Great Liking unto many, but true Love to few.

And after them Dissemblance and Suspect
March'd in one Rank, yet an unequal Pair:
For she was gentle, and of mild Aspect,
Courteous to all, and seeming debonair;
Goodly adorned, and exceeding fair;
Yet was that all but painted, and purloin'd,
And her bright Brows were deckt with borrow'd Hair,
Her Deeds were forged, and her Words false coin'd,
And always in her Hand two Clews of Silk she twin'd.

But he was foul, ill-favoured, and grim,
Under his Eyebrows looking still ascaunce;
And ever as Dissemblance laugh'd on him,
He lour'd on her with dangerous Eye-glaunce;
Shewing his Nature in his Countenaunce:
His rolling Eyes did never rest in place,
But walk'd each where, for fear of hid Mischaunce,
Holding a Lattice still before his Face,
Thro which he still did peep, as forward he did pace.

Next him went Grief, and Fury match'd yfere;
Grief, all in Sable sorrowfully clad,
Down-hanging his dull Head, with heavy Chear,
Yet inly being more than seeming sad:
A Pair of Pincers in his Hand he had,
With which he pieced People to the Heart,
That from thenceforth a wretched Life they led,
In wilful Langour and consuming Smart,
Dying each Day with inward Wounds of Dolour's Dart.

But Fury was full ill apparelled
In Rags, that naked nigh she did appear,
With ghastful Looks, and dreadful Drerihed;
For from her Back her Garments she did tear,
And from her Head oft rent her snarled Hair:
In her right Hand a Fire-brand she did toss
About her Head, still roming here and there;
As a dismayed Deer in Chace embost,
Forgetful of his Safety, hath his right way lost.

After them, went Displeasure and Pleasance;
He looking lumpish, and full sullen sad,
And hanging down his heavy Countenance,
She chearful, fresh, and full of Joyance glad,
As if no Sorrow she ne felt, ne drad;
That evil-matched Pair they seem'd to be.
An angry Wasp th' one in a Vial had;
Th' other in hers an hony-lady Bee:
Thus marched these six Couples forth in fair degree.

After all these, there march'd a most fair Dame,
Led of two grisie Villeins, th' one Despight,
The other cleped Cruelty by Name:
She doleful Lady, like a dreary Spright,
Call'd by strong Charms out of eternal Night,
Had Death's own image figur'd in her Face,
Full of sad Signs, fearful to living Sight;
Yet in that Horrour shew'd a seemly Grace,
And with her feeble Feet did move a comely pace.

Her Breast all naked, as net Ivory,
Without Adorn of Gold or Silver bright,
Wherewith the Craftsman wonts it beautify,
Of her due Honour was despoiled quite,
And a wide Wound therein (O rueful Sight!)
Entrenched deep with Knife accursed keen,
Yet freshly bleeding forth her fainting Spright
(The work of cruel Hand) was to be seen,
That dy'd in sanguine Red her Skin all snowy clean.

At that wide Orifice, her trembling Heart
Was drawn forth, and in silver Basin laid,
Quite thro transfixed with a deadly Dart,
And in her Blood yet steeming fresh embay'd:
And those two Villeins, which her Steps upstay'd,
When her weak Feet could scarcely her sustain,
And fading vital Powers 'gan to fade,
Her forward still with Torture did constrain,
And evermore encreased her consuming Pain.

Next after her, the winged God himself
Came riding on a Lion ravenous,
Taught to obey the Menage of that Elf,
That Man and Beast with Power imperious
Subdueth to his Kingdom tyrannous:
His blindfold Eyes he bade awhile unbind,
That his proud Spoil of that same dolorous
Fair Dame he might behold in perfect kind;
Which seen, he much rejoiced in his cruel Mind.

Of which full proud, himself up-rearing high,
He looked round about with stern Disdain;
And did survey his goodly Company:
And marshalling the evil-order'd Train,
With that the Darts, which his right Hand did strain,
Full dreadfully he shook, that all did quake;
And clapt on high his coloured Winges twain,
That all his many it afraid did make:
Tho, blinding him again, his way he forth did take.

Behind him was Reproach, Repentance, Shame;
Reproach the first, Shame next, Repent behind:
Repentance feeble, sorrowful, and lame:
Reproach despightful, careless, and unkind;
Shame most ill-favour'd, bestial, and blind:
Shame lour'd, Repentance sigh'd, Reproach did scold;
Reproach sharp Stings, Repentance Whips entwin'd,
Shame burning Brond-yrons in her Hand did hold:
All three to each unlike, yet all made in one Mould.

And after them, a rude confused Rout
Of Persons flock'd, whose Names is hard to read:
Emongst them was stern Strife, and Anger stout.
Unquiet Care, and fond Unthriftihead,
Leud Loss of Time, and Sorrow seeming dead,
Inconstant Change, and false Disloyalty,
Consuming Riotise, and guilty Dread
Of heavenly Vengeance, faint Infirmity,
Vile Poverty, and lastly Death with Infamy.

There were full many more like Maladies,
Whose Names and Natures I no'te readen well;
So many more, as there be Phantasies
In wavering Womens Wit, that none can tell,
Or Pains in Love, or Punishments in Hell;
And which disguised march'd in Masking-wise,
About the Chamber with that Damozel,
And then returned (having marched thrice)
Into the inner Room, from whence they first did rise.

So soon as they were in, the Door straitway
Fast locked, driven with that stormy Blast,
Which first it open'd; and bore all away.
Then the brave Maid, which all this while was plac'd
In secret Shade, and saw both first and last,
Issued forth, and went unto the Door,
To enter in, but found it locked fast:
It vain she thought with rigorous Uproar
For to efforce, when Charms had closed it afore.

Where Force might not avail, their Sleights and Art
She cast to use, both fit for hard Emprize;
For-thy, from that same Room not to depart
Till morrow next, she did her self avize,
When that same Mask again should forth arise.
The morrow next appear'd with joyous Chear,
Calling Men to their daily Exercise:
Then she, as morrow fresh, her self did rear
Out of her secret Stand, that Day for to out-wear.

All that Day she out-wore in wandering,
And gazing on that Chamber's Ornament,
Till that again the second Evening
Her cover'd with her sable Vestiment,
Wherewith the World's fair Beauty she hath blent:
Then when the second Watch was almost past,
That brazen Door flew open, and in went
Bold Britomart, as she had late forecast,
Neither of idle Shews, nor of false Charms aghast.

So soon as she was enter'd, round about
She cast her Eyes, to see what was become
Of all those Persons, which she saw without:
But lo! they strait were vanish'd all and some,
Ne living Wight she saw in all that Room,
Save that same woeful Lady; both whose Hands
Were bounden fast, that did her ill become,
And her small Waste girt round with iron Bands
Unto a brazen Pillour, by the which she stands.

And her before the vile Enchaunter sate,
Figuring strange Characters of his Art:
With living Blood he those Characters wrote,
Dreadfully dropping from her dying Heart,
Seeming transfixed with a cruel Dart;
And all perforce to make her him to love.
Ah! who can love the Worker of her smart?
A thousand Charms he formerly did prove;
Yet thousand Charms could not her stedfast Heart remove.

Soon as that virgin Knight he saw in place,
His wicked Books in haste he overthrew,
Not caring his long Labours to deface;
And fiercely running to that Lady true,
A murdrous Knife out of his Pocket drew;
The which he thought, for villainous Despight,
In her tormented Body to embrue:
But the stout Damsel to him leaping light,
His cursed Hand witheld, and maistered his Might.

From her, to whom his Fury first he meant,
The wicked Weapon rashly he did rest;
And turning to her self his fell Intent,
Unwares it strook into her snowy Chest,
That little Drops empurpled her fair Breast.
Exceeding wroth therewith the Virgin grew,
Albe the Wound were nothing deep imprest;
And fiercely forth her mortal Blade she drew,
To give him the Reward for such vile Outrage due.

So mightily she smote him, that to ground
He fell half dead; next stroke him should have slain,
Had not the Lady, which by him stood bound,
Dernly unto her called to abstain
From doing him to die. For else her Pain
Should be remediless, sith none but he,
Which wrought it, could the same recure again.
Therewith she staid her Hand, loth staid to be;
For Life she him envy'd, and long'd Revenge to see:

And to him said, Thou wicked Man, whose Meed
For so huge Mischief, and vile Villany,
Is Death, or if that ought do Death exceed,
Be sure, that nought may save thee from to die;
But if that thou this Dame do presently
Restore unto her Health, and former State,
This do and live, else die undoubtedly.
He glad of Life, that look'd for Death but late,
Did yield himself right willing to prolong his Date.

And rising up, 'gan strait to overlook
Those cursed Leaves, his Charms back to reverse;
Full dreadful things out of that baleful Book
He read, and measur'd many a sad Verse,
That Horrour 'gan the Virgin's Heart to pierce,
And her fair Locks up-stared stiff on end,
Hearing him those same bloody Lines rehearse;
And all the while he read, she did extend
Her Sword high over him, if ought he did offend.

Anon she 'gan perceive the House to quake,
And all the Doors to rattle round about;
Yet all that did not her dismayed make,
Nor slack her threatful Hand for Danger's doubt;
But still with stedfast Eye and Courage stout
Abode, to weet what end would come of all.
At last, that mighty Chain, which round about
Her tender Waste was wound, adown 'gan fall,
And that great brazen Pillour broke in pieces small.

The cruel Steel which thrill'd her dying Heart,
Fell softly forth, as of his own accord:
And the wide Wound, which lately did dispart
Her bleeding Breast, and riven Bowels gor'd,
Was closed up, as it had not been bor'd;
And every Part to Safety full sound,
As she were never hurt, was soon restor'd.
Tho when she felt her self to be unbound,
And perfect whole, prostrate she fell unto the ground.

Before fair Britomart, she fell prostrate,
Saying; Ah! noble Knight, what worthy Meed
Can wretched Lady, quit from woeful State
Yield you in lieu of this your gracious Deed?
Your Vertue's self her own Reward shall breed
Even immortal Praise, and Glory wide,
Which I your Vassal, by your Prowess freed,
Shall thro the World make to be notify'd,
And goodly well advance, that goodly well was try'd.

But Britomart, up-rearing her from Ground
Said, Gentle Dame, Reward enough I ween
For many Labours more than I have found,
This, that in Safety now I have you seen,
And Mean of your Deliverance have been:
Henceforth, fair Lady, Comfort to you take,
And put away Remembrance of late Teen;
Instead thereof know, that your loving Make
Hath no less Grief endured for your gentle Sake.

She much was chear'd to hear him mention'd,
Whom of all living Wights she loved best.
Then laid the noble Championess strong Hond
Upon th' Enchaunter; which had her distrest
So sore, and with foul Outrages opprest:
With that great Chain, wherewith not long ygo
He bound that piteous Lady Prisoner, now releast,
Himself she bound, more worthy to be so,
And captive with her led to Wretchedness and Woe.

Returning back, those goodly Rooms, which erst
She saw so rich and royally array'd,
Now vanish'd utterly, and clean subverst
She found, and all their Glory quite decay'd,
That Sight of such a Change her much dismay'd.
Thenceforth descending to that perlous Porch,
Those dreadful Flames she also found delay'd,
And quenched quite, like a consumed Torch,
That erst all Entrers wont so cruelly to scorch.

More easy Issue now, than Entrance late
She found: for now that feigned dreadful Flame,
Which choak'd the Porch of that enchaunted Gate,
And Passage barr'd to all that thither came,
Was vanish'd quite, as it were not the same,
And gave her leave at pleasure forth to pass.
Th' Enchaunter self, which all that Fraud did frame,
To have efforc'd the Love of that fair Lass,
Seeing his Work now wasted, deep engrieved was.

But when the Victoress arrived there,
Where late she left the pensive Scudamore
With her own trusty Squire, both full of Fear,
Neither of them she found where she them lore:
Thereat her noble Heart was 'stonish'd sore;
But most fair Amoret, whose gentle Spright
Now 'gan to feed on Hope, which she before
Conceived had, to see her own dear Knight,
Being thereof beguil'd, was fill'd with new Affright.

But he sad Man, when he had long in Dreed
Awaited there for Britomart's Return,
Yet saw her not, nor Sign of her good Speed,
His Expectation to Despair did turn,
Misdeeming sure that her those Flames did burn;
And therefore 'gan advise with her old Squire,
Who her dear Noursling's Loss no less did mourn,
Thence to depart for further Aid t' enquire:
Where let then, wend at will, whilst here I do respire.

THE 1590 CONCLUSION.
At last she came unto the Place, where late
She left Sir Scudamore in great Distress,
'Twixt Dolour and Despight half desperate,
Of his Love's Succour, of his own Redress,
And of the hardy Britomart's Success:
There on the cold Earth him how thrown she found,
In wilful Anguish, and dead Heaviness,
And to him call'd; whose Voice's knowen Sound
Soon as he heard, himself he reared light from Ground.

There did he see, that most on Earth him joy'd,
His dearest Love, the Comfort of his Dayes,
Whose too long Absence had him sore annoy'd,
And wearied his Life with dull Delayes:
Straight he upstarted from the loathed Layes,
And to her ran with hasty egerness,
Like as a Deer that greedily embayes
In the cool Soil, after long Thriftiness,
Which he in Chace endured hath, now nigh breathless.

Lightly he clip'd her twixt his Armes twain,
And streightly did embrace her Body bright,
Her Body, late the Prison of sad Pain,
Now the sweet Lodge of Love and dear Delight:
But she, fair Lady, overcommen quight
Of huge Affection, did in Pleasure melt,
And in sweet Ravishment pour'd out her Spright:
No word they spake, nor earthly thing they felt,
But like two senseless Stocks in long Embracement dwelt.

Had ye seen them, ye would have surely thought
That thy had been that fair Hermaphrodite,
The which that Roman, of white Marble wrought,
And in his costly Bath caus'd to be site:
So seem'd those two, as grown together quite,
That Britomart, half envying their Bless,
Was much empassion'd in her gentle Sprite,
And to her self oft wish'd like Happiness;
In vain she wish'd, that Fate n'ould let her yet possess.

Thus do those Lovers, with sweet Countervaile,
Each other of Love's bitter Fruit despoile.
But now my Teem begins to faint and faile,
All woxen weary of their journal Toile:
Therefore I will their sweaty Yokes assoile
At this same Furrow's End, till a new Day;
And ye fair Swains, after long Turmoile,
Now cease your Work, and at your Pleasure play;
Now cease your Work, to-morrow is an Holyday.

[Works, ed Hughes (1715) 2:531-46]

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