1596
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Fifth Booke of the Faerie Queene. Contayning the Legend of Artegall or of Justice.

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. 2 vols.

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "The Fifth Book of the Fairy Queen is entitled, The Legend of Artegal, or of Justice. The introductory address is of greater length than usual, and is very fine. It begins, 'So oft as I with state of present time | The image of the antique world compare'.... For what all men then used to call virtue is now called vice, and the name of virtue is given to what was then esteemed vicious; right is now wrong, and wrong is right; and all other things are similarly changed. Nor, proceeds our author, is this to be wondered at, seeing that the revolving heavens themselves (he alludes to the precession of the equinoxes) are wandered far away from where they first were fixed, as plainly appears....

"Even the Sun, in these fourteen hundred years that have elapsed since the time 'that learned Ptolomy his height did take,' is declined nigh thirty minutes to the south, so that it may be feared we shall in time lose his light altogether. Indeed, if credit may be given to the old Egyptian sages, he had, since they first began to take his height (a space, according to Herodotus, whose account is here referred to, of 11,340 years) four times changed his place, and twice risen where he now sets and set where he now rises. This leads naturally to the customary appeal to Elizabeth, who is addressed as 'dread sovereign goddess,' and requested to pardon the boldness of her 'basest thrall' who dares discourse of so high a theme as her great justice; the instrument whereof;' the eleven stanzas conclude, 'lo, here thy Artegal.'

"Canto I. (30 stanzas). — It has already been stated that Sir Artegal (or Arthegal, as he is called in the earlier part of the poem) is understood to stand for Arthur Lord Grey of Wilton, who was sent over as Lord Lieutenant to Ireland in July 1580, when Spenser accompanied him as his secretary. In the present Book he appears more distinctly than heretofore in his historical character; and his Irish government, which lasted for about two years, and comprised the suppression of the great rebellion headed by the Earl of Desmond, is especially shadowed forth in the allegory.

"The present Canto opens with the praise of Bacchus and Hercules, who first, we are told, in the ancient world gave example of the repression of wrong and the establishment of right under the rule and by the power of Justice, the former in the East, the latter in the West; and then we are carried back to the story of Artegal, and the great adventure upon which we left him proceeding after his marriage with Britomart, at the end of the Sixth Canto of the preceding Book. The object upon which he was bound was to succour a distressed lady, Irena (that is, Ireland, anciently Ierne), against the tyrant Grantorto, who withheld from her her heritage; Irena had come and besought redress from the Fairy Queen, and that mighty empress, whose glory it is to be the patroness and helper of all who are poor and oppressed, had selected Artegal for the enterprise. For he from his infancy had been brought up and instructed in all good and right by Astraea herself, who one day while she lived among men and walked about over the earth, 'found this gentle child amongst his peers playing his childish sport,' and, having allured him 'with gifts and speeches mild to wend with her,' brought him to a distant cave, where she nursed him till he came of years, 'and all the discipline of justice there him taught.' She taught him to weigh right and wrong in equal balance, and to measure out equity 'According to the line of conscience, | Whenso it needs with rigour to dispense: | Of all the which, for want there of mankind, | She caused him to make experience | Upon wild beasts, which she in woods did find, | With wrongful power oppressing others of their kind.'

"Thus educated, when he came to the ripeness of his age he was both the terror of the brute creation and the admiration of men; 'Ne any lived on ground that durst withstand | His dreadful hest, much less him match in fight, | Or bide the horror of his wreakful hand, | Whenso he list in wrath lift up his steely brand.' This brand, or sword, she had procured for him 'by her sleight and earnest search,' from the eternal house of Jove, where it lay, 'unwist of wight,' 'Since he himself it used in that great fight | Against the Titans, that whilome rebelled | Gainst highest heaven; Chrysaor it was hight'.... When Astraea returned to heaven ... she left also to Artegal, always to go with him and to perform whatever he commanded, an iron man, her faithful groom, or attendant, and executioner of her decrees: — 'His name was Talus, made of iron mould, | Immoveable, resistless, without end; | Who in his hand an iron flail did hold, | With which he threshed out falsehood, and did truth unfold.'

"Artegal being Justice, Talus is Power, with which Justice, to be of any efficiency, must be attended or associated. Talus, according to the ancient mythologists, was a judge of the isle of Crete, who, partly from his severity, partly from carrying about with him the law's which he administered inscribed on brazen tablets, was called the Brazen Man, and came to have the popular reputation of being made of brass. 'But how properly,' observes Upton, 'does Spenser depart from ancient mythology, having a mythology of his own! Spenser's Talus is no judge; therefore not a brazen man; but he is an executioner, an iron man, imaging his unfeeling and rigid character.'

"Him Artegal accordingly takes with him on his present expedition; and now, as they are making their way along together, they came upon a startling sight — a squire, squalidly attired, lamenting grievously with many bitter tears, and lying beside him a headless lady wallowing in her blood. Greatly moved, Artegal asks the squire who it is that has done so foul a deed, himself or another. It were little loss, the miserable man replies, if he should admit the crime to be his own, that he might drink the cup whereof she has drunk; but he would not take to himself another's guilt. The murderer is a knight, 'if knight he may be thought,' who came to him a short time ago as he sate here solacing himself with a fair lady, his love; the knight was accompanied by this other lady, who now lies headless before them, and insisted upon exchanging her for the one who was with the squire; the squire and both ladies, as may be supposed, objected to this arrangement; but the knight, throwing down his own lady from the courser on which she rode along with him, snatched up the other and rode off with her; and, when the one he had abandoned ran after him and laid hold of him, praying that she might rather die by his hand than be so cast oft; 'his sword he drew all wrathfully, | And at one stroke cropped off her head with scorn.'

"To Artegal's impatient inquiry which way he had gone, and how he might be known, the squire states that he bears for his ensign armorial a broken sword within a bloody field — but that he is now too far away over the plain to be overtaken. 'No sooner said, but straight he after sent | His iron page, who him pursued so light, | As that it seemed above the ground he went: | For he was swift as swallow in her flight, | And strong as lion in his lordly might.' It is not long before the all-subduing Talus overtakes the ruffian, who is called Sir Sanglier (which name, it has been conjectured, may be designed to glance at Shan O'Neal, the leader of the Irish insurrection of 1567, who was notorious for his profligacy). To the call of the iron man, he answers by making the lady alight, and riding at him with all his force; but Talus, no more moved than is a rock when a stone is thrown at it, 'to him leaping lent mm such a knock, | That on the ground he laid him like a senseless block;' and before he can recover himself he has him seized so firmly in his iron paw that when he comes to his senses he finds he cannot wag a limb. The lady, too, who flies in dread from the tremendous man, is quickly forced to stay.

"But, when they are brought back to Artegal and the squire, Sir Sanglier flatly denies all that he has been charged with, and defies his accuser to the proof. The squire, too weak to encounter such an antagonist, is inclined to give in; yet Artegal has no doubt that he has told the truth. It might seem that the most natural and most satisfactory plan would be to appeal to the lady; but she may not perhaps have been so much disinclined as she ought to have been to admit the claim of her bold reaver, with whom she appears both to have gone off somewhat readily and to have been riding along peaceably enough when they were overtaken by Talus; at any rate Artegal takes another method of settling the matter. Having requested them to allow him to decide the cause, and got both to swear to submit to his judgment, he proceeds to apply Solomon's famous test for the discovery of the truth in such cases, and proposes to have both the dead and the living lady divided equally, between the two claimants. If either, he declares, should dissent from this proposal, he must bear about with him the dead lady's head for a year as a penance, and for a witness or confession to the world that he is her murderer. 'Well pleased with that doom was Sanglier, | And offered straight the lady to be slain: | But that same squire to whom she was more dear, | Whenas he saw she should be cut in twain, | Did yield she rather should with him remain'....

"Artegal immediately pronounces his just judgment; but it requires the intervention of Talus to compel the discomfited Sir Sanglier to take up the head, which, however, he does at last, going off with it like a 'rated spaniel.' The squire, filled with adoration of his benefactor, would gladly become his squire, and accompany him on his adventure; but Sir Artegal will by no means consent, and, leaving him and his lady-love, of whose state of feeling nothing is said, he proceeds on his journey as before: 'Ne wight with him but only Talus went; | They two enough to encounter an whole regiment'" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 2:177-84.



So oft as I, with State of present time,
The Image of the antique World compare,
When-as Mans Age was in his freshest Prime,
And the first Blossom of fair Vertue bare:
Such odds I find 'twixt those, and these which are,
As that, through long Continuance of his Course,
Me seems the World is run quite out of square,
From the first Point of his appointed Sourse,
And being once amiss, grows daily worse and worse.

For from the golden Age, that first was nam'd,
It's now as earst become a stony one;
And Men themselves, the which at first were fram'd
Of earthly Mould, and form'd of Flesh and Bone,
Are now transformed into hardest Stone;
Such as behind their Backs (so backward bred)
Were thrown by Pyrrha and Deucalion:
And if than those may any worse be read;
They into that e'er long will be degenered.

Let none then blame me, if in Discipline
Of Vertue and of civil Use's Lore,
I do not form them to the common Line
Of present Days, which are corrupted sore;
But to the antique Use, which was of yore,
When Good was only for it self desir'd,
And all Men sought their own, and none no more;
When Justice was not for most Meed out-hir'd,
But simple Truth did reign, and was of all admir'd.

For that which all Men then did Vertue call,
Is now call'd Vice; and that which Vice was hight,
Is now hight Vertue, and so us'd of all:
Right now is Wrong, and Wrong that was is Right,
As all things else in time are changed quite.
Ne wonder; for the Heavens Revolution
Is wandred far from, where it first was pight,
And so do make contrary Constitution
Of all this lower World, toward his dissolution.

For whoso list into the Heavens look,
And search the Courses of the rolling Sphears,
Shall find that from the Point, where they first took
Their setting forth, in these few thousand Years
They all are wander'd much; that plain appears.
For that same golden fleecy Ram, which bore
Phrixus and Helle from their Stepdame's Fears,
Hath now forgot, where he was plac'd of yore,
And shoulder'd hath the Bull, which fair Europa bore.

And eke the Bull hath with his bow-bent Horn
So hardly butted those two Twins of Jove,
That they have crush'd the Crab, and quite him borne
Into the great Nemean Lion's Grove.
So now all range, and do at random rove
Out of their proper Places far away;
And all this World with them amiss do move,
And all his Creatures from their Course astray,
Till they arrive at their last ruinous Decay.

Ne is that same great glorious lamp of Light,
That doth enlumine all those lesser Fires,
In better case, ne keeps his Course more right,
But is miscarry'd with the other Sphears.
For since the Term of fourteen hundred Years
That learned Ptolomy his Height did take,
He is declined from that Mark of theirs,
Nigh thirty Minutes, to the Southern Lake;
That makes me fear in time he will us quite forsake.

And if to those Egyptian Wizards old,
Which in Star-read were wont have best Insight,
Faith may be given, it is by them told,
That since the time they first took the Sun's Height,
Four times his Place he shifted hath in sight,
And twice hath risen where be now doth west,
And wested twice, where he ought rise alight.
But most is Mars amiss of all the rest,
And next to him old Saturn, that was wont be best.

For during Saturn's antient Reign, it's said,
That all the World with Goodness did abound;
All loved Vertue, no Man was affraid
Of Force, ne Fraud in Wight was to be found:
No War was known, no dreadful Trumpet's sound,
Peace universal reign'd 'mongst Men and Beasts,
And all things freely grew out of the Ground:
Justice sate high ador'd with solemn Feasts,
And to all People did divide her drad Beheasts.

Most sacred Vertue she of all the rest,
Resembling God in his Imperial Might;
Whose sovereign Pow'r is herein most express'd,
That both to Good and Bad he dealeth right,
And all his Works with Justice hath bedight.
That Pow'r he also doth to Princes lend,
And makes them like himself in glorious Sight,
To sit in his own Seat, his Cause to end,
And rule his People right, as he doth recommend.

Drad sovereign Goddess, that dost highest sit
In Seat of Judgment, in th' Almighty's stead,
And with magnifick Might and wondrous Wit
Dost to thy People righteous Doom aread,
That furthest Nations fills with aweful Dread;
Pardon the Boldness of thy basest Thrall,
That dare discourse of so divine a Read,
As thy great Justice praised over all;
The Instrument whereof lo here thy Arthegal.

CANTO I.
Arthegal, train'd in Justice' Lore,
Irena's Quest pursu'd:
He doth avenge on Sanglier
His Lady's Blood embru'd.

Though Vertue then were held in highest Price,
In those old times, of which I do entreat,
Yet then likewise the wicked Seed of Vice
Began to spring; which shortly grew full great,
And with their Boughs the gentle Plants did beat.
But evermore some of the vertuous Race
Rose up, inspires with heroick Heat,
That cropt the Branches of the Cyen base,
And with strong Hand their fruitful Rankness did deface.

Such first was Bacchus, that with furious Might
All th' East before untam'd, did over-run,
And Wrong repressed, and establish'd Right,
Which lawless Men had formerly foredone.
There Justice first her princely Rule begun.
Next, Hercules his like Ensample shew'd,
Who all the West with equal Conquest won,
And monstrous Tyrants with his Club subdu'd:
The Club of Justice drad, with kingly Pow'r endu'd.

And such was he, of whom I have to tell,
The Champion of true Justice, Arthegal:
Whom (as ye lately more remember well)
An hard Adventure, which did then befal,
Into redoubled Peril forth did call;
That was, to succour a distressed Dame,
Whom a strong Tyrant did unjustly thrall,
And from the Heritage, which she did claim,
Did with strong Hand withhold; Grantorto was his Name.

Wherefore the Lady, which Irena hight,
Did to the Fairy Queen her way address;
To whom complaining her afflicted Plight,
She her besought of gracious Redress.
That sovereign Queen, that mighty Emperess,
Whose Glory is to aid all Suppliants poor,
And of weak Princes to be Patroness,
Chose Arthegal to Right her to restore;
For that to her he seem'd best skill'd in righteous Lore.

For Arthegal in Justice was up-brought
Even from the Cradle of his Infancy,
And all the Depth of rightful Doom was taught
By fair Astraea with great Industry,
Whilst here on Earth she lived mortally.
For till the World from his Perfection fell
Into all Filth and foul Iniquity,
Astraea here 'mongst earthly Men did dwell,
And in the Rules of Justice them instructed well.

Whiles through the World she walked in this sort,
Upon a day she found this gentle Child,
Amongst his Peers playing his childish Sport:
Whom seeing fit, and with no Crime defil'd,
She did allure with Gifts and Speeches mild,
To wend with her. So thence him far she brought
Into a Cave from Company exil'd,
In which she noursled him, till Years he raught,
And all the Discipline of Justice there him taught.

There she him taught to weigh both Right and Wrong
In equal Ballance with due Recompence,
And Equity to measure out along,
According to the Line of Conscience,
When-so it needs with Rigour to dispense.
Of all the which, for want there of Mankind,
She caused him to make Experience
Upon wild Beasts, which she in Woods did find,
With wrongful Pow'r oppressing others of their Kind.

Thus she him trained, and thus she him taught
In all the Skill of deeming Wrong and Right,
Until the Ripeness of Man's Years he raught;
That even wild Beasts did fear his aweful Sight,
And Men admir'd his over-ruling Might:
Ne any liv'd on ground, that durst withstand
His dreadful Heast, much less him match in Fight,
Or 'bide the Horrour of his wreakful Hand,
When-so he list in Wrath lift up his steely Brand.

Which steely Brand, to make him dradded more,
She gave unto him, gotten by her Slight
And earnest Search, where it was kept in store
In Jove's eternal House, unwist of Wight,
Since he himself it us'd in that great Fight
Against the Titans that whilom rebell'd
'Gainst highest Heaven; Chrysaor it was hight;
Chrysaor, that all other Swords excell'd,
Well prov'd in that same Day, when Jove those Giants quell'd.

For of most perfect Metal it was made,
Temper'd with Adamant amongst the same,
And garnish'd all with Gold upon the Blade
In goodly wise, whereof it took his Name,
And was of no less Vertue, than of Fame.
For there no Substance was so firm and hard,
But it would pierce or Cleave, where-so it came;
Ne any Armour could his Dint out-ward,
But wheresoever it did light, it throughly shar'd.

How when the World with Sin 'gan to abound,
Astraea loathing lenger here to space
'Mongst wicked Men, in whom no Truth she found,
Return'd to Heaven, whence she deriv'd her Race;
Where she hath now an everlasting Place
'Mongst those twelve Signs, which nightly we do see
The Heaven's bright-shining Baudrike to enchace;
And is the Virgin, sixth in her Degree:
And next her self, her righteous Ballance hanging be.

But when she parted hence, she left her Groom
An yron Man, which did on her attend
Always, to execute her stedfast Doom,
And willed him with Arthegal to wend,
And do whatever thing he did intend.
His Name was Talus, made of yron Mould,
Immovable, resistless, without end;
Who, in his Hand, an yron Flail did hold,
With which he thresh'd out Falshood, and did Truth unfold.

He now went with him in this new Inquest,
Him for to aid, if Aid he chaunc'd to need,
Against that cruel Tyrant, which oppress'd
The fair Irena with his foul Misdeed;
And kept the Crown in which she should succeed.
And now together on their way they bin,
When-as they saw a Squire in squallid Weed,
Lamenting sore his sorrowful sad Tine,
With many bitter Tears shed from his blubber'd Eyne.

To whom as they approached, they espy'd
A sorry Sight, as ever seen with Eye;
An headless Lady lying him beside,
In her own Blood all wallow'd woefully,
That her gay Clothes did in Discolour dye.
Much was he moved at that rueful Sight,
And flam'd with Zeal of Vengeance inwardly;
He ask'd, who had that Dame so sourly dight;
Or whether his own Hand, or whether other Wight?

Ah! woe is me, and weal-a-way, quoth he,
Bursting forth Tears, like Springs out of a Bank,
That ever I this dismal Day did see:
Full far was I from thinking such a Prank;
Yet little Loss it were, and mickle Thank,
If I should grant that I have done the same,
That I mote drink the Cup whereof she drank:
But that I should die guilty of the Blame,
The which another did, who now is Red with Shame.

Who was it then, said Arthegal, that wrought?
And why? do it declare unto me true.
A Knight, said he, if Knight he may be thought,
That did his Hand in Lady's Blood embrue,
And for no Cause, but as I shall you shew.
This day as I in Solace sate hereby
With a fair Love, whose Loss I now do rue,
There came this Knight, having in Company
This luckless Lady, which now here doth headless lie.

He, whether mine seem'd fairer in his Eye.
Or that he, wexed weary of his own,
Would change with me; but I did it deny:
So did the Ladies both, as may be known.
But he, whose Spirit was with Pride up-blown,
Would not so rest contented with his Right,
But having from his Courser her down-thrown,
From me reft mine away by lawless Might,
And on his Steed her set, to bear her out of sight.

Which when his Lady saw, she follow'd fast,
And on him catching hold, 'gan loud to cry
Not so to leave her, nor away to cast,
But rather of his Hand besought to die.
With that, his Sword he drew all wrathfully,
And at one Stroke crops off her Head with Scorn,
In that same place, whereas it now doth lie:
So he my Love away with him hath borne,
And left me here, both his and mine own Love to mourn.

Aread, said he, which way then did he make?
And by what Marks may he be known again?
To hope, quoth he, him soon to overtake,
That hence so long departed, is but vain;
But yet he pricked over yonder Plain;
And as I marked, bore upon his Shield,
By which it's easy him to know again,
A broken Sword within a bloody Field;
Expressing well his Nature which the fame did wield.

No sooner said, but straight he after sent
His yron Page, who him pursu'd so light,
As that it seem'd above the Ground he went:
For he was swift as Swallow in her Flight,
And strong as Lion in his lordly Might.
It was not long before he overtook
Sir Sanglier (so cleeped was that Knight)
Whom at the first he guessed by his Look,
And by the other Marks, which of his Shield he took.

He bade him stay, and back with him retire;
Who full of Scorn to be commanded so,
The Lady to alight did eft requite,
Whilst he reformed that uncivil Foe:
And straight at him with all his Force did go.
Who mov'd no mote therewith, than when a Rock
Is lightly striken with some Stone's throw;
But to him leaping, lent him such a knock,
That on the Ground he laid him like a sensless Block.

But e'er he could himself recure again,
Him in his Iron Paw he seized had;
That when he wak'd out of his wareless Pain,
He found himself, unwist, so ill bestad,
That Limb he could not wag. Thence he him lad,
Bound like a Beast appointed to the Stall:
The Sight whereof the Lady sore adrad,
And fain'd to fly for fear of being Thrall;
But he her quickly stay'd, and forc'd to wend withall.

When to the Place they came, where Arthegal
By that same careful Squire did them abide,
He gently 'gan him to demaund of all
That did betwixt him and that Squire betide.
Who with stern Count'nance and indignant Pride
Did answer, that of all he guiltless flood,
And his Accuser thereupon defy'd:
For neither he did shed that Lady's Blood,
Nor took away his Love, but his own proper Good.

Well did the Squire perceive himself too weak,
To answer his Defiance in the Field,
And rather chose his Challenge off to break,
Than to approve his Right with Spear and Shield;
And rather guilty chose himself to yield.
But Arthegal by Signs perceiving plain,
That he it was not, which that Lady kill'd,
But that strange Knight, the fairer Love to gain,
Did cast about by Sleight the Truth thereout to strain;

And said, Now sure this doubtful Cause's Right
Can hardly but by Sacrament be try'd,
Or else by Ordele, or by bloody Fight;
That ill perhaps mote fall to either side.
But if ye please, that I your Cause decide,
Perhaps I may all further Quarrel end,
So ye will swear my Judgment to abide.
Thereto they both did frankly condescend,
And to his Doom with listful Ears did both attend.

Sith then, said he, ye both the dead deny,
And both the living Lady claim your Right,
Let both the Dead and Living equally
Divided be betwixt you here in sight,
And each of either take his Share aright.
But look who does dissent from this my Read,
He for a Twelvemonth's Day shall in despight
Bear for his Penance that same Lady's Head;
To witness to the World, that she by him is dead.

Well pleased with that Doom was Sangliere,
And order'd straight the Lady to be slain.
But that same Squire, to whom she was most dear,
When-as he saw she should be cut in twain,
Did yield, she rather should with him remain
Alive, than to himself be shared dead:
And rather than his Love should suffer Pain,
He chose with Shame to bear that Lady's Head.
True Love despiseth Shame, when Lift is call'd in Dread.

Whom when so willing Arthegal perceiv'd;
Not so, thou Squire, he said, but thine I deem
The living Lady, which from thee he reav'd:
For worthy thou of her dost rightly seem.
And you, Sir Knight, that Love so light esteem,
As that ye would for little leave the same,
Take here your own, that doth you best beseem,
And with it bear the Burden of Defame;
Your own dead Lady's Head, to tell abroad your Shame.

But Sangliere disdained much his Doom,
And sternly 'gan repine at his Beheast;
Ne would for ought obey, as did become,
To bear that Lady's Heal before his Breast:
Until that Talus had his Pride repress'd,
And forced him, maulgre, it up to rear.
Who, when he saw it bootless to resist,
He took it up, and thence with him did bear,
As rated Spaniel takes his Burden up for fear.

Much did that Squire Sir Arthegal adore
For his great Justice, held in high regard;
And (as his Squire) him offer'd evermore
To serve, for want of other meet Reward,
And wend with him on his Adventure hard.
But he thereto would by no means consent;
But leaving him, forth on his Journey far'd:
Ne Wight with him but only Talus went;
They two enough t' encounter an whole Regiment.

{Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 3:705-16]

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