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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book IV. Canto XII.

The Faerie Queene. Disposed into Twelve Bookes, fashioning XII. morall Vertues. The Second Part of the Faerie Queene. Containing the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Bookes.

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto XII. (35 stanzas). — Still dwelling on the thought with which he had concluded the preceding Canto, the poet resumes: — 'O what an endless work have I in hand, | To count the sea's abundant progeny, | Whose fruitful seed far passeth those in land, | And also those which won in the azure sky! | For much more eath to tell the stars on high | All be they endless seem in estimation'.... All those were there, and many others, filling the house of Proteus even to the door. And among the rest, as already mentioned, was the mother of Marinel, now, we have seen, called Cymodoce (instead of Cymoent, as before). With her, too, had come Marinel himself, 'to learn and see | The manner of the gods when they at banquet be.'

"But, being half mortal, he could not sit down and partake with them; so then a little while he walked abroad to take a view of a dwelling-place so unlike anything he had ever seen on earth and, while so engaged, 'Under the hanging of an hideous cliff | He heard the lamentable voice of one | That piteously complained her careful grief, | Which never she before disclosed to none.... | I will them tell, though unto no man near'.... He, she went on, who kept her in bondage was only hardened the more by her complaints and tears; yet would she never repent of her constancy to her own love, but rather rejoice at all she suffered for his sake. And, when she should be at rest in death at last, all she asked was that the lament she now made might then he borne to his ears, and he might know how hard she thought it that he, a knight professing arms, should let her die without attempting her deliverance. Then, after a pause, she began afresh: — Ye gods of seas, if any gods at all | Have care of right or ruth of wretches' wrong, | By one or other way me, woeful thrall, | Deliver hence out of this dungeon strong'....

"Hearing his own name thus pronounced in passion and agony, Marinel is for the first time touched with remorse and pity; he wishes that he could release poor Florimel, but knows no means by which to make the attempt: — 'Thus whilst his stony heart with tender ruth, | Was touched and mighty courage molified, | Dame Venus' son that tameth stubborn youth | With iron bit, and maketh him abide | Till like a victor on his back he ride'.... He has now no rest for thinking how he may deliver her: sometimes he thinks of humbly suing Proteus for her discharge; sometimes of forcing him 'with sword and targe' to give her up; sometimes of stealing her away. But these plans are all manifestly vain and hopeless. Then he begins 'To damn himself by every evil name, | And deem unworthy or of love or life, | That had despised so chaste and fair a dame, | Which him had sought through trouble and long strife; | Yet had refused a god that her had sought to wife.'

"At length, however, the feast being over, he is obliged to take his departure and return with his mother to her bower. Here, in solitude and silence, he remembers the state in which he has left Florimel, suffering day and night for his dear sake: — 'The thought whereof empierced his heart so deep, | That of no worldly thing he took delight; | Ne daily food did take, ne nightly sleep, | But pined and mourned, and languished, and alone did weep'.... His mother, alarmed and unable to discover the cause of his illness, hastens again to Tryphon, who, revisiting his patient, assures her that it is not, as she suspected, his old wound insufficiently cured and rankling under the orifice, or scar; but some other malady, or hidden grief, which his skill is unable to detect.

"Faint and trembling, she then applies to Marinel himself; beseeching him, 'now with fair speeches, now with threatenings stern,' to tell her if anything lies heavy on his heart; 'who still her answered there was nought.' 'Nathless she rested not so satisfied; | But leaving watery gods, as booting nought, Unto the shiny heaven in haste she hied, | And thence Apollo, king of leeches, brought. | Apollo came; who, soon as he had sought | Through his disease, did by and by out find | That he did languish of some inward thought, | The which afflicted his engrieved mind; | Which love he read to be, that leads each living kind.'

"Cymodoce is at first angry and chides her son; but, reassuring herself with the thought that it must be one of the sea-nymphs he had lately seen for whom he languished, and that love of nymphs could not be included in the 'fatal read' which had warned him to beware of the love of women, she afterwards wears him with fair entreaty to reveal to her who it is that moves his heart so sore. When, however, he tells her that it is Florimel, she begins to chafe afresh, and to 'grieve in every vein.' Yet, whatever the prophecy of Proteus may mean, or whether it be true or false, it is evident that her son will die at any rate if the only remedy be not instantly procured by the liberation of the lady. She feels that it is useless to make suit to Proteus, or 'unto any meaner to complain;' but hieing her at once to great King Neptune himself, 'and on her knee before him falling low,' she humbly implores him to grant her the life of her son, whom his foe, a cruel tyrant, has iniquitously and presumptuously condemned to death.

"God Neptune, softly smiling, replies that the person of whom she complains has committed wrong against him as well as against her; for to condemn to death appertains to none but to 'the sea's sole sovereign.' 'Read therefore,' he says, 'who it is which thus hath wrought, | And for what cause; the truth discover plain: | For never wight so evil did or thought, | But would some rightful cause pretend, though rightly nought.' She informs him that it is Proteus; and that the pretence he alleges is her son having laid claim to a waift, which had come by chance upon the seas, and which in reality belonged to neither of them, but to Neptune himself, by his prerogative as sovereign: 'Therefore,' she adds, 'I humbly crave your majesty | It to replevy, and my son reprive: | So shall you by one gift save all us three alive.'

"Her prayer is granted; a warrant is made out forthwith, 'under the sea-god's seal autentical,' commanding Proteus instantly to set at liberty the Maid he had lately taken captive while wandering on the seas; and Proteus, as soon as he reads the order, which Cymodoce straightway takes to him, is reluctantly compelled to obey, and to give up Florimel: — 'Whom she receiving by the lily hand, | Admired her beauty much, as she mote well. | For she all living creatures did excel, | And was right joyous that she gotten had | So fair a wife for her son Marinel.'

"As for Marinel himself, as 'soon as he beheld that angel's face,' his heart revived, even as a withered flower at the return of warm and genial weather 'Lifts up his head that did before decline, | And gins to spread his leaf before the fair sunshine.' Nor did Florimel want her share of the blessedness: — 'Ne less was she in secret heart affected, | But that she masked it with modesty, | For fear she should of lightness be detected'" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 2:171-76.



Marin' for Love of Florimel,
In Languor wastes his Life:
The Nymph, his Mother, getteth her,
And gives to him for Wife.

O what an endless Work have I in hand,
To count the Sea's abundant Progeny!
Whose fruitful Seed far passeth those in Land,
And also those which wonne in th' azure Sky.
For, much more eath to tell the Stars on high,
Albe they endless seem in estimation,
Than to recount the Sea's Posterity:
So fertile be the Floods in Generation,
So huge their Numbers, and so numberless their Nation.

Therefore the antique Wizards well invented,
That Venus of the foamy Sea was bred;
For that the Seas by her are most augmented:
Witness th' exceeding Fry, which there are fed,
And wondrous Shoals, which may of none be read.
Then blame me not, if I have err'd in 'count
Of Gods, of Nymphs, of Rivers yet unread:
For though their Numbers do much more surmount,
Yet all those same were there, which earst I did recount.

All those were there, and many other more,
Whose Names and Nations were too long to tell,
That Proteus' House they fill'd e'en to the Door;
Yet were they all in order, as befel,
According their Degrees, disposed well.
Amongst the rest, was fair Cymodoce,
The Mother of unlucky Marinel,
Who thither with her came, to learn and see
The manner of the Gods when they at Banquet be.

But for he was half mortal, being bred
Of mortal Sire, though of immortal Womb,
He might not with immortal Food be fed,
Ne with th' eternal Gods to Banquet come;
But walk'd abroad, and round about did roam,
To view the Building of that uncouth Place,
That seem'd unlike unto his earthly Home:
Where, as he to and fro by chaunce did trace,
There unto him betid a disadventrous Case.

Under the Hanging of an hideous Cliff,
He heard the lamentable Voice of one,
That piteously complain'd her careful Grief,
Which never she before disclos'd to none,
But to her self her Sorrow did bemoan.
So feelingly her Case the did complain,
That Ruth it moved in the rocky Stone,
And made it seem to feel her grievous Pain,
And oft to groan with Billows beating from the Main.

Though vain I see my Sorrows to unfold,
And count my Cares, when none is nigh to hear;
Yet hoping, Grief may lessen being told,
I will them tell, though unto no Man near:
For Heaven, that unto all lends equal Ear,
Is far from hearing of my heavy Plight;
And lowest Hell, to which I lie most near,
Cares not what Evils hap to wretched Wight;
And greedy Seas do in the Spoil of Life delight.

Yet lo! the Seas I see by often beating,
Do pierce the Rocks, and hardest Marble wears;
But his hard rocky Heart for no entreating
Will yield; but when my piteous Plaints he hears,
Is hardned more with my abundant Tears.
Yet though he never list to me relent,
But let me waste in Woe my wretched Years,
Yet will I never of my Love repent,
But joy that for his sake I suffer Prisonment.

And when my weary Ghost, with Grief out-worn,
By timely Death shall win her wished Rest,
Let then this Plaint unto his Ears be borne,
That Blame it is to him, that Arms profess'd,
To let her die, whom he might have redressed.
There did she pause, inforced to give place
Unto the Passion, that her Heart oppress'd.
And after she had wept and wail'd a space,
She 'gan afresh thus to renew her wretched Case:

Ye Gods of Seas, if any Gods at all
Have care of Right, or ruth of Wretch's Wrong,
By one or other way me, woeful Thrall,
Deliver hence out of this Dungeon strong,
In which I daily dying am too long.
And if ye deem me Death, for loving one
That loves not me, then do it not prolong,
But let me die and end my Days attone,
And let him live unlov'd, or love himself alone.

But if that Life ye unto me decree,
Then let me live as Lovers ought to do,
And of my Life's dear Love beloved be:
And if he should thro Pride your Doom undo,
Do you by Duress him compel thereto,
And in this Prison put him here with me;
One Prison fittest is to hold us two:
So had I rather to be thrall than free;
Such Thraldom or such Freedom let it surely be.

But O vain Judgment, and Conditions vain,
The which the Prisoner points unto the Free!
The whiles I him condemn, and deem his Pain,
He where he list goes loose, and laughs at me;
So ever loose, so ever happy be.
But where so loose or happy that thou are,
Know Marinel that all this is for thee.
With that she wept and wail'd, as if her Heart
Would quite have burst through great Aboundance of Smart.

All which Complaint, when Marinel had heard,
And understood the Cause of all her Care
To come of him, for using her so hart,
His stubborn Heart, that never felt Misfare,
Was touch'd with soft Remorse and Pity rare;
That even for Grief of Mind he oft did groan,
And inly wish, that in his power it were
Her to redress: but since he means found none,
He could no more but her great Misery bemoan.

Thus whilst his Heart was touch'd with tender Ruth,
And mighty Courage something mollify'd,
Dame Venus' Son that tameth stubborn Youth
With iron Bit, and maketh him abide,
Till like a Victor on his Back he ride,
Into his Mouth his maistring Bridle threw,
That made him stoop, till he did him bestride:
Then 'gan he make him tread his Steps anew,
And learn to love, by learning Lovers Pains to rue.

Now 'gan he in his grieved Mind devise,
How from that Dungeon he might her enlarge;
Some while he thought, by fair and humble wise
To Proteus' self to sue for her Discharge.
But then he fear'd his Mother's former Charge
'Gainst Women's Love, long given him in vain:
Then 'gan he think, perforce with Sword and Targe
Her forth to fetch, and Proteus to constrain:
But soon he 'gan such Folly to forthink again.

Then did he cast to steal her thence away,
And with him bear, where none of her might know.
But all in vain: for why he found no way
To enter in, or issue forth below;
For all about that Rock the Sea did flow.
And though unto his Will she given were,
Yet without Ship or Boat her thence to row,
He wist not how her thence away to bear;
And Danger well he wist long to continue there.

At last, when-as no means he could invent,
Back to himself he 'gan return the Blame,
That was the Author of her Punishment;
And with vile Curses, and reproachful Shame,
To damn himself by every evil Name,
And deem unworthy or of Love or Life,
That had despis'd so chaste and fair a Dame,
Which him had sought through Trouble and long Strife;
Yet had refus'd a God that her had sought to Wife.

In this sad Plight he walked here and there,
And roamed round about the Rock in vain,
As he had lost himself, he wist not where
Oft listning if he mote her hear again;
And still bemoaning her unworthy Pain:
Like as an Hind whose Calf is fal'n unwares
Into some Pit, where she him hears complain,
An hundred times about the Pit-side fares,
Right sorrowfully mourning her bereaved Cares.

And now by this, the Feast was throughly ended,
And every one 'gan homeward to resort:
Which seeing, Marinel was sore offended,
That his Departure thence should be so short,
And leave his Love in that sea-walled Fort,
Yet durst he not his Mother disobey;
But her attending in full seemly sort,
Did march amongst the Many all the way;
And all the way did inly mourn, like one astray.

Being returned to his Mother's Bow'r,
In solitary Silence far from Wight,
He 'gan record the lamentable Stow'r,
In which his wretched Love lay day and night,
For his dear sake, that ill deserv'd that Plight:
The Thought whereof empierc'd his Heart so deep,
That of no worldly thing he took delight;
Ne daily Food did take, ne nightly Sleep,
But pin'd, and mourn'd, and languish'd, and alone did weep.

That in short space his wonted chearful Hue
'Gan fade, and lively Spirits deaded quite:
His Cheek-bones raw, and Eye-pits hollow grew,
And brawny Arms had lost their knowen Might,
That nothing like himself he seem'd in sight.
E'er long, so weak of Limb, and sick of Love
He woxe, that lenger he n'ote stand upright,
But to his Bed was brought, and laid above,
Like rueful Ghost, unable once to stir or move.

Which when his Mother saw, she in her Mind
Was troubled sore, ne wist well what to ween:
Ne could by Search nor any means out-find
The secret Cause and Nature of his Teen,
Whereby she might apply some Medicine;
But weeping day and night did him attend,
And mourn'd to see her Loss before her Eyne:
Which griev'd her more, that she it could not mend;
To see an helpless Evil, double Grief doth lend.

Nought could she read the Root of his Disease,
Ne ween what mister Malady it is,
Whereby to seek some means it to appease.
Most did she think, but most she thought amiss,
That that same former fatal Wound of his
Whileare by Tryphon was not throughly heal'd,
But closely rankled under th' Orifice:
Least did she think, that which he most conceal'd,
That Love it was, which in his Heart lay unreveal'd.

Therefore to Tryphon she again doth haste,
And him doth chide as false and fraudulent,
That fail'd the Trust which she in him had plac'd,
To cure her Son, as he his Faith had lent:
Who now was fal'n into new Languishment
Of his old Hurt, which was not throughly cur'd.
So back he came unto her Patient;
Where searching every Part, her well assur'd,
That it was no old Sore, which his new Pain procur'd;

But that it was some other Malady,
Or Grief unknown, which he could nor discern:
So left he her withouten Remedy.
Then 'gan her Heart to faint, and quake and yern,
And inly troubled was, the Truth to learn.
Unto himself she came, and him besought,
Now with fair Speeches, now with Threatnings stern,
If ought lay hidden in his grieved Thought,
It to reveal: who still her answer'd, there was nought.

Nath'less she rested not so satisfy'd:
But leaving watry Gods, as booting nought,
Unto the shiny Heaven in haste she hy'd,
And thence Apollo, King of Leaches, brought.
Apollo came; who soon as he had sought
Through his Disease, did by and by out-find,
That he did languish of some inward Thought,
The which afflicted his engrieved Mind;
Which Love he read to be, that leads each living Kind.

Which when he had unto his Mother told,
She 'gan thereat to fret, and greatly grieve.
And coming to her Son, 'gan first to scold,
And chide at him, that made her misbelieve:
But afterwards she 'gan him soft to shrieve,
And woo with fair Intreaty to disclose
Which of the Nymphs his Heart so sore did mieve;
For sure she ween'd it was some one of those,
Which he had lately seen, that for his Love he chose.

Now less she feared that same fatal Read,
That warned him of Women's Love beware;
Which being meant of mortal Creature's Seed,
For Love of Nymphs she thought she need not care,
But promis'd him, whatever Wight she were,
That she her Love to him would shortly gain.
So he her told: but soon as she did hear
That Florimel it was which wrought his Pain,
She 'gan afresh to chafe, and grieve in every Vein.

Yet since she saw the straight Extremity,
In which his Life unluckily was laid,
It was no time to scan the Prophecy,
Whether old Proteus true or false had said,
That his Decay should happen by a Maid.
It's late in Death of Danger to advise,
Or Love forbid him, that is Life deny'd:
But rather 'gan in troubled Mind devise,
How the that Lady's Liberty might enterprise.

To Proteus' self to sue, she thought it vain,
Who was the Root and Worker of her Woe:
Nor unto any meaner to complain,
But unto great King Neptune's self did go,
And on her Knee before him falling low,
Made humble Suit unto his Majesty,
To grant to Her her Son's Life, which his Foe
A cruel Tyrant had presumptuously
By wicked Doom condemn'd, a wretched Death to die.

To whom God Neptune softly smiling, thus;
Daughter, me seems of double Wrong ye 'plain,
'Gainst one that hath both wronged you and us;
For Death t' award I ween'd did appertain
To none, but to the Sea's sole Sovereign.
Read therefore who it is which this hath wrought,
And for what Cause; the Truth discover plain:
For never Wight so evil did or thought,
But would some rightful Cause pretend, tho rightly nought.

To whom she answer'd; Then it is by Name
Proteus, that hath ordain'd my Son to die;
For that a Waift, the which by Fortune came
Upon your Seas, he claim'd as Property:
And yet not his, nor his in Equity,
But yours the Waift by high Prerogative.
Therefore I humbly crave your Majesty,
It to replevy, and my Son reprieve:
So shall you by one Gift save all us three alive.

He graunted it: and straight his Warrant made,
Under the Sea-god's Seal authentical,
Commanding Proteus straight t' enlarge the Maid,
Which wandring on his Seas imperial
He lately took, and sithence kept as Thrall.
Which she receiving with meet Thankfulness,
Departed straight to Proteus therewithal:
Who reading it with inward Loathfulness,
Was grieved to restore the Pledge he did possess.

Yet durst he not the Warrant to withstand,
But unto her deliver'd Florimel.
Whom she receiving by the lilly Hand,
Admir'd her Beauty much, as she mote well,
For she all living Creatures did excel;
And was right joyous that she gotten had
So fair a Wife for her Son Marinel,
So home with her she straight the Virgin lad,
And shewed her to him, then being sore bestad.

Who soon as he beheld that Angel's Face
Adorn'd with all divine Perfection,
His cheered Heart eftsoons away 'gan chace
Sad Death, revived with her sweet Inspection,
And feeble Spirit inly felt Refection:
As wither'd Weed through cruel Winter's Tine,
That feels the Warmth of stormy Beam's Reflection,
Lifts up his Head, that did before decline,
And 'gins to spread his Leaf before the fair Sunshine.

Right so himself did Marinel up-rear,
When he in place his dearest Love did spy;
And though his Limbs could not his Body bear,
Ne former Strength return so suddenly,
Yet chearful Signs he shewed outwardly.
Ne less was she in secret Heart affected,
But that she masked it with Modesty,
For fear she should of Lightness be detected:
Which to another Place I leave to be perfected.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 3:694-703]

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