1596
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book V. 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. (43 stanzas). — Spenser shows great art in managing his transitions from line to line or stage to stage of his various and involved narrative. He thus winds his way now from Artegal's last to his next adventure: — 'O sacred hunger of ambitious minds, | And impotent desire of men to reign! | Whom neither dread of God, that devils binds, | Nor laws of men, that commonweals contain, | Nor bands of nature, that wild beasts restrain, | Can keep from outrage and from doing wrong'.... And witness of the same thing, he adds, let Geryoneo be, by whom we have seen the fair Belge oppressed; and so, finally, be likewise Grantorto, who is now to occupy our attention.

"When Artegal and his companions arrive at the sea-coast they find there by good chance a ship ready to put to sea; and, wind and weather serving, a day's sail carries them across to the opposite shore. Their landing is opposed by a numerous military force; but that is quickly disposed of: as soon as the water became shallow enough for wading, 'Talus into the sea did forth issue | Though darts from shore and stones they at him threw; | And wading through the waves with stedfast sway, | Maugre the might of all those troops in view, | Did win the shore whence he them chased away | And made to fly like doves, whom the eagle doth affray.' Artegal and Sergis now land, and set forward for a town which they see at a little distance. Meanwhile the fugitives have carried the news of their arrival to Grantorte, who thereupon has put himself at the head of all his remaining forces, and come forth, with the hope of being able to attack them before they have left the shore; the tyrant and his host, on meeting the two knights, charge them with great fierceness; 'But Talus sternly did upon them set, | And brushed and battered them without remorse, | That on the ground he left full many a corse'....

"As usual, the iron man goes on scattering and killing till he is stopped by Artegal who then, a truce having been agreed to, sends a herald to Grantorto desiring him to appoint a day when they may try the right of fair Irena's cause in single combat. Grantorto, very glad to have an end put to the slaughter of his people before they are every man of them slain, appoints the following morning. Sir Artegal pitches his tent for the night on the open plain, and is well supplied with all needful accommodations by the exertions of old Sergis among persons whom he knows to be secret friends of Irena, although the tyrant has strictly commanded that none should dare to afford him any entertainment. Upton takes Sergis to be Sir Francis Walsingham, for what reason does not appear: he is more probably some adviser by whom Lord Grey was assisted while he held the government of Ireland.

"All this while no one has brought the tidings of Artegal's arrival to Irena; and when the morning comes, she believes that her life's last hour has come. She rises and attires herself in garments fit for such a day, and is brought forth, with heavy countenance and heavier heart, to receive, as she imagines, the doom that she must die. But, when, on coming to the place, she sees Sir Artegal 'in batailous array waiting his foe,' new life springs up within her.... He appears at length and marches into the field with haughty and fearless gait; 'All armed in a coat of iron plate | Of great defence to ward the deadly fear, | And on his head a steel-cap he did wear | Of colour rusty-brown, but sure and strong'.... Grantorto is very evidently the genius of the Irish rebellion of 1580 — an allegorical representation of the spirit of Popery as animating the insurgent or native party. In his View of the State of Ireland Spenser describes the Galloglass, or Irish foot-soldier, as 'armed in a long shirt of mail down to the calf of his leg, with a long broad axe in his hand,' much as Grantorto is pictured here. Although he is also, as we have seen, made to be the seducer of France from Henry of Navarre, it does not seem to be necessary to adopt Upton's notion that we have here again King Philip of Spain, as we certainly have in Geryoneo, and as we probably also have in the Soldan.

"Artegal suffers severely at first from the storm of blows with which the tyrant assails him, and, although he adroitly shuns as many of them as he can, and often stoops to escape them — 'No shame to stoop, one's head more high to rear; | And, much to gain, a little for to yield: | So stoutest knights doen oftentimes in field' — yet the heavy and nimbly wielded iron axe, cleaving his armour, gashes his flesh in numerous places. He at last manages, however, when the felon has raised his arm for a more than usually ponderous stroke, to plunge his sword into his side, when a torrent of blood gushes out from the wound, and Grantorto brays and yells tremendously. At the same time he catches the intended blow of the battle-axe on his shield, from which the giant then strives in vain to extricate his weapon, dragging about the knight in all directions as he tugs at it; till at last Artegal gives him up his shield, and, flying at his head with his good sword, Chrysaor (the poet has forgotten that it was long ago broken to pieces by Queen Radigund), first comes down upon him with a blow that makes all his huge frame stagger, and, then following that up with a rapid succession of others, at last compels him to bite the earth; — 'Whom when he saw prostrated on the plain, | He lightly reft his head to ease him of his pain.' The people all shout for joy; and, falling at fair Irena's feet, adore her 'as their true liege and princess natural; | And eke her champion's glory sounded over all.'

"Artegal then, leading her 'unto the palace where their kings did reign,' there establishes her in the peaceful possession of her kingdom. After this he proceeds to punish with severity all such as had either openly or secretly taken part with the late tyrant the effect of which was that soon there was not an individual in the country who, so long as this good knight continued in the administration of Irena's affairs, durst once have disobeyed her.... This is exactly the same account that Spenser gives of the government of his patron Lord Grey in his prose tract on the State of Ireland. It is known, however, that the severity of the Lord Deputy, which the poet so warmly admires and defends, exposed him after his return to England to great obloquy. This sufficiently explains the remarkable passage that follows. Artegal, we are told, was 'through occasion' called away to Fairy Court before he could thoroughly accomplish his plans of reform so 'that of necessity | His course of justice he was forced to stay, | And Talus to revoke from the right way, | In which he was that realm for to redress'....

"He has scarcely arrived in that other land from which he had crossed over to the kingdom of Irena when he meets, sitting together by the wayside, two foul, ill-favoured hags, in ragged and tattered garments, further painted at hill length in this powerful style: — 'The one of them, that elder did appear, | With her dull eyes did seem to look askew... | Her name was Envy, knowen well thereby: | Whose nature is to grieve and grudge at all'.... This, it will be observed, is feminine Envy. The description may be compared with that of Lucifera's male counsellor of the same name in the Fourth Canto of the First Book.

"The second hag is now brought forward into the same magic light: — 'Her name was hight Detraction, and her dwelling | Was near to Envy, even her neighbour next; | A wicked hag, and Envy self excelling | In mischief; for herself she only vexed'.... The two have now combined against Sir Artegal, and, as his mortal foes, lie in wait to do him what mischief they can, all for having delivered Irena from their snares. 'Besides, unto themselves they gotten had | A monster which the Blatant Beast men call, | A dreadful fiend of gods and men ydrad, | Whom they by sleights allured and to their purpose lad.' Of the Blatant Beast, of whom we shall hear more in the next Book, it will be sufficient to say for the present that it maybe understood to typify what in modern times is commonly designated, by a more respectful form of words, Public Opinion.

"When Sir Artegal comes up, the two hags fall to howling like two shepherd's curs when a wolf has got among their flocks; 'And Envy first, as she that first him eyed, | Towards him runs, and, with rude flaring locks, | About her ears does beat her breast and forehead knocks'.... [In other words, Grey long experienced the effects of the malice with which he was now attacked.] Then the other hag, the account proceeds, coming behind him, began to revile him and rail upon him, charging him with having, both by abuse of his power and by unmanly guile, not only tarnished his own honour, but stained that bright sword, intrusted to him to be used as the sword of justice, in much innocent blood. Grantorto, too, she asserted, he had treacherously surprised, and foully put to death. These were the very charges brought against Grey for the manner in which he had suppressed the Earl of Desmond's rebellion. 'Thereto the Blatant Beast, by them set on, | At him began aloud to bark and bay | With bitter rage and fell contention'.... And so ends the Canto and the Book" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 2:258-66.



Athegal doth Sir Burbon aid,
And blames for changing Shield:
He with the Great Grantorto fights,
And slayeth him in Field.

O Sacred Hunger of ambitious Minds,
And impotent Desire of Men to reign:
Whom neither Dread of God, that Devils binds,
Nor Laws of Men, that Commonweals contain,
Nor Bands of Nature, that wild Beasts restrain,
Can keep from Outrage, and from doing wrong,
Where they may hope a Kingdom to obtain.
No Faith so firm, no Trust can be so strong,
No Love so lasting then, that may enduren long.

Witness may Burbon be, whom all the Bands,
Which may a Knight assure, had surely bound,
Until the Love of Lordship and of Lands
Made him become most faithless and unsound:
And witness be Gerioneo found,
Who for like cause fair Belge did Oppress,
And Right and Wrong most cruelly confound:
And so be now Grantorto, who no less
Than all the rest burst out to all Outrageousness.

'Gainst whom Sir Arthegal, long having since
Taken in hand th' exploit, being thereto
Appointed by that mighty Fairy Prince,
Great Gloriane, that Tyrant to fordo,
Through other great Adventures hitherto
Had it forslack'd. But now time drawing nigh,
To him assign'd, her high Beheast to do,
To the Sea-shore he 'gan his way apply,
To weet, if Shipping ready he mote there descry.

Tho when they came to the Sea-coast, they found
A ship all ready (as good Fortune fell)
To put to Sea, with whom they did compound
To pass them over, where them list to tell:
The Wind and Weather served them so well,
That in one day they with the Coast did fall;
Whereas they ready found, them to repel,
Great Hosts of Men in order Martial,
Which them forbad to land, and Footing did forstal.

But nathemore would they from Land refrain:
But whenas nigh unto the Shore they drew,
That Foot of Man might sound the bottom plain,
Talus into the Sea did forth issue,
Though Darts from Shore, and Stones they at him threw;
And wading through the Waves with stedfast Sway,
Maugre the Might of all those Troops in view,
Did win the Shore, whence he them chas'd away,
And made to fly, like Doves, whom th' Eagle doth affray.

The whiles, Sir Arthegal, with that old Knight
Did forth descend, there being none them near,
And forward marched to a Town in sight.
By this, came Tidings to the Tyrant's ear,
By those, which earst did fly away for fear
Of their Arrival: wherewith troubled sore,
He all his Forces streight to him did rear,
And forth issuing with his Scouts afore,
Meant them to have encountred, e'er they left the Shore.

But e'er he marched far, he with them met,
And fiercely charged them with all his Force;
But Talus sternly did upon them set,
And brush'd and batter'd them without Remorse,
That on the Ground he left full many a Corse:
Ne any able was him to withstand,
But he them overthrew both Man and Horse,
That they lay scatter'd over all the Land,
As thick as doth the Seed after the Sower's Hand;

Till Arthegal him seeing so to rage,
Will'd him to stay, and sign of Truce did make:
To which all hearkning, did awhile assuage
Their Force's Fury, and their Terror slake;
Till he an Herauld call'd, and to him spake,
Willing him wend unto the Tyrant straight,
And tell him that not for such Slaughter's sake
He thither came, but for to try the Right
Of fair Irena's Cause with him in single Fight.

And willed him for to reclaim with speed
His scattered People, e'er they all were slain,
And Time and Place convenient to areed,
In which, they two the Combat might darrain.
Which Message when Grantorto heard, full fain
And glad he was the Slaughter so to stay,
And pointed for the Combat 'twixt them twain
The Morrow next, ne gave him longer Day;
So sounded the Retrate, and drew his Folk away.

That Night, Sir Arthegal did Cause his Tent
There to be pitched on the open Plain;
For, he had given streight commandement,
That none should dare him once to entertain:
Which none durst break, though many would right fain,
For fair Irena, whom they loved dear.
But yet old Sergis did so well him pain,
That from close Friends, that dar'd nor to appear,
He all things did purvay, which for them needful were.

The Morrow next, that was the dismal Day,
Appointed for Irena's Death before,
So soon as it did to the World display
His chearful Face, and Light to Men restore,
The heavy Maid, to whom none Tidings bore
Of Arthegal's Arrival, her to free,
Look'd up with Eyes full sad, and Heart full sore;
Weening her Life's last hour then near to be,
Sith no Redemption nigh she did nor hear nor see.

Then up she rose, and on her self did dight
Most squalid Garments, fit for such a Day;
And with dull Count'nance, and with doleful Spright,
She forth was brought in sorrowful Dismay,
For to receive the Doom of her Decay.
But coming to the place, and finding there
Sir Arthegal, in battailous Array
Waiting his Foe, it did her dead Heart chear,
And new life to her lent, in midst of deadly Fear.

Like as a tender Rose in open Plain,
That with untimely Drought nigh wither'd was,
And hung the Head, soon as few Drops of Rain
Thereon distil and dew her dainty Face,
'Gins to look up, and with fresh wonted Grace
Disspreads the Glory of her Leaves gay;
Such was Irena's Count'nance, such her Case,
When Arthegal she saw in that Array,
There waiting for the Tyrant, till it was far day.

Who came at length with proud presumptuous Gate
Into the Field, as if he fearless were,
All armed in a Coat of Iron Plate,
Of great Defence toward the deadly Fear,
And on his Hat a Steel-Cap he did wear
Of Colour rusty brown, but sure and strong.
And in his Hand an huge Polaxe did bear,
Whose Steel was Iron studded, but not long,
With which he wont to fight, to justify his Wrong.

Of Stature huge, and hideous he was,
Like to a Giant for his monstrous Height,
And did in Strength most sorts of Men surpass,
Ne ever any found his match in Might;
Thereto he had great Skill in single Fight:
His Face was ugly, and his countenance stern,
That could have fray'd one with the very Sight,
And gaped like a Gulf, when he did gern,
That whether Man or Monster one could scarce discern.

Soon as he did within the Lists appear,
With dreadful Look he Arthegal beheld,
As if he would have daunted him with Fear,
And grinning griesly, did against him weld
His deadly Weapon, which in Hand he held.
But th' Elfin Swain, that oft had seen like Sight,
Was with his ghastly Count'nance nothing queld,
But 'gan him streight to buckle to the Fight,
And cast his Shield about, to be in ready plight.

The Trumpets sound, and they together go
With dreadful Terror, and with fell Intent;
And their huge Strokes full dangerously bestow
To do most damage, whereas most they ment.
But with sure Force and Fury violent,
The Tyrant thunder'd his thick Blows so fast,
That through the iron Walls their way they rent,
And even to the vital Parts they past,
Ne ought could them endure, but all they cleft or brast.

Which cruel Outrage, whenas Arthegal
Did well avize, thenceforth with wary heed
He shun'd his Strokes, wherever they did fall,
And way did give unto their graceless Speed;
As when a skilful Mariner doth read
A Storm approaching, that doth Peril threat,
He will not bide the Danger of such Dread,
But strikes his Sails, and veereth his Main-sheet,
And lends unto it leave the empty Air to beat.

So did the Fairy Knight himself abear,
And stouped oft, his Head from Shame to shield:
No shame to stoup, one's Head more high to rear,
And much to gain, a little for to yield;
So stoutest Knights doen oftentimes in Field.
But still the Tyrant sternly at him laid,
And did his iron Axe so nimbly wield,
That many Wounds into his Flesh it made,
And with his burdenous Blows him sore did over-lade.

Yet, when as fit Advantage he did spy,
The whiles the cursed Felon high did rear
His cruel Hand, to smite him mortally,
Under his Stroke he to him stepping near,
Right in the Flank him strook with deadly Drear,
That the Gore-blood, thence gushing grievously,
Did underneath him like a Pond appear,
And all his Armour did with Purple dye;
Thereat he brayed loud, and yelled dreadfully.

Yet the huge Stroke, which he before intended,
Kept on his Course, as he did it direct,
And with such monstrous Poise adown descended,
That seemed nought could him from Death protect:
But he it well did ward with wise Respect,
And 'twixt him and the Blow his Shield did cast;
Which thereon seizing, took no great effect;
But biting deep therein, did stick so fast,
That by no means it back again he forth could wrast.

Long while he tug'd and strove, to get it out,
And all his Power applyed thereunto
That he therewith the Knight drew all about:
Nath'less, for all that ever he could do,
His Axe he could not from his Shield undo.
Which Arthegal perceiving, strook no more,
But loosing soon his Shield, did it forgo
And whiles he combred was therewith so sore,
He 'gan at him let drive more fiercely than afore.

So well he him pursu'd, that at the last,
He strook him with Chrysaor on the Head,
That with the Souse thereof full sore agast,
He stagger'd to and fro in doubtful stead.
Again, whiles he him saw so ill bested;
He did him smite with all his Might and Main,
That falling on his Mother Earth he fed:
Whom when he saw prostrated on the Plain,
He lightly reft his Head, to ease him of his Pain.

Which when the People round about him saw,
They shouted all for Joy of his Success,
Glad to be quit from that proud Tyrant's Awe,
Which with strong Power did them long time oppress;
And running all with greedy Joyfulness
To fair Irena, at her Feet did fall,
And her adored with due Humbleness,
As their true Liege and Princess natural;
And eke her Champion's Glory sounded over all.

Who straight her leading with meet Majesty
Unto the Palace where their Kings did reign,
Did her therein establish peaceably,
And to her Kingdom's Seat restore again;
And all such Persons as did late maintain
That Tyrant's part, with close or open Aid,
He sorely punished with heavy Pain;
That in short space, whiles there with her he staid,
Not one was left, that durst her once have disobey'd.

During which time that he did there remain,
His Study was true Justice how to deal,
And Day and Night employ'd his busy Pain
How to reform that ragged Commonweal:
And that same iron Man which could reveal
All hidden Crimes, through all that Realm he sent,
To search out those that us'd to rob and steal,
Or did rebel 'gainst lawful Government;
On whom he did inflict most grievous Punishment.

But e'er he could reform it thoroughly,
He through occasion called was away
To Fairy-Court, that of Necessity
His Course of Justice he was forc'd to stay,
And Talus to revoke from the right way,
In which he was that Realm for to redress.
But Envy's Cloud still dimmeth Vertue's Ray.
So having freed Irena from Distress,
He took his leave of her, there left in Heaviness.

Tho, as he back returned from that Land,
And there arriv'd again whenceforth he set,
He had not passed far upon the strand,
When as two old ill-favour'd Hags he met,
By the way-side being together set,
Two griesly Creatures; and, to that their Faces
Most foul and filthy were, their Garments yet
Being all ragg'd and tatter'd, their Disgraces
Did much the more augment, and made most ugly Cases.

The one of them, that elder did appear,
With her dull Eyes did seem to look askew,
That her Mis-shape much help'd; and her foul Hair
Hung loose and loathsomely thereto her Hue
Was wan and lean, that all her Teeth arew,
And all her Bones, might through her Cheeks be read;
Her Lips were like raw Leather, pale and blue:
And as she spake, therewith she slavered;
Yet spake she seldom, but thought more, the less she fed.

Her Hands were foul and dirty, never wash'd
In all her Life, with long Nails over-raught,
Like Puttock's Claws with th' one of which she scratch'd
Her cursed Head, although it itched naught;
The other held a Snake with Venom fraught,
On which she fed, and gnawed hungerly,
As if that long she had not eaten nought;
That round about her Jaws one might descry
The bloody Gore and Poison dropping loathsomly.

Her Name was Envy, knowen well thereby:
Whose Nature is to grieve, and grudge at all
That ever she sees doen praise-worthily:
Whose Sight to her is greatest Cross may fall,
And vexeth so, that makes her eat her Gall.
For, when she wanteth other thing to eat,
She feeds on her own Maw unnatural,
And of her own foul Entrails makes her Meat;
Meat fit for such a Monster's monsterous Diet.

And if she hapt of any good to hear,
That had to any happily betid,
Then would she inly fret, and grieve, and tear
Her Flesh for Felness, which she inward hid;
But if she heard of ill that any did,
Or harm that any kid, then would she make
Great Chear, like one unto a Banquet bid;
And ill another's Loss great pleasure take,
As she had got thereby, and gained a great Stake.

The other, nothing better was than she;
Agreeing in bad Will and cancred Kind,
But in bad Manner they did disagree;
For, whatso Envy good or bad did find,
She did conceal, and murder her own Mind;
But this, whatever evil she conceiv'd,
Did spread abroad, and throw in th' open Wind.
Yet this in all her Words might be perceiv'd,
That all she sought, was Mens good Name to have bereav'd.

For, whatsoever good by any said,
Or doen she heard, she would straightways invent
How to deprave, or slanderously upbraid,
Or to misconstrue of a Man's Intent,
And turn to ill the thing that well was meant.
Therefore she used often to resort
To common Haunts, and Companies frequent,
To harke what any one did good report,
To blot the fame with Blame, or wrest in wicked sort.

And if that any ill she heard of any,
She would it eke, and make much worse by telling,
And take great Joy to publish it to many,
That every Matter worse was for her melling.
Her Name was hight Detraction, and her Dwelling
Was near to Envy, even her Neighbour next;
A wicked Hag, and Envy self excelling
In Mischief: for, her self she only vext;
But this same, both her self, and others eke perplext.

Her Face was ugly, and her Mouth distort,
Foaming with Poison round about her Gills,
In which her cursed Tongue (full sharp and short)
Appear'd like Aspis Sting, that closely kills,
Or cruelly does wound whomso she wills.
A Distaff in her other Hand she had,
Upon the which she little spins, but spills,
And fains to weave false Tales, and Leasings bad,
To throw among the good, which others had dissprad.

These two now had themselves combin'd in one,
And link'd together 'gainst Sir Arthegal,
For whom they waited as his mortal Fone,
How they might make him into Mischief fall,
For freeing from their Snares Irena thrall:
Besides, unto themselves they gotten had
A Monster, which the Blatant Beast Men call;
A dreadful Fiend, of Gods and Men ydrad,
Whom they by Slights allur'd, and to their purpose lad.

Such were these Hags, and so unhandsome drest:
Who when they nigh approaching had espy'd
Sir Arthegal return'd from his late Quest,
They both arose, and at him loudly cry'd,
As it had been two Shepherds Curs had scry'd
A ravenous Wolfe amongst the scatter'd Flocks.
And Envy first, as she that first him ey'd,
Towards him runs, and with rude flaring Locks
About her Ears, does beat her Breast, and Forhead knocks.

Then from her Mouth the Gobbet she does take,
The which whylear she was so greedily
Devouring; even that half-gnawen Snake,
And at him throws it most despightfully.
The cursed Serpent, tho she hungrily
Earst chaw'd thereon, yet was not all so dead
But that some Life remained secretly;
And, as he past afore withouten dread,
Bit him behind, that long the Mark was to be read.

Then th' other coming near, 'gan him revile,
And foully rail, with all she could invent;
Saying, that he had with unmanly Guile,
And foul Abusion both his Honour blent,
And that bright Sword, the Sword of Justice lent,
Had stained with reproachful Cruelty,
In guiltless Blood of many an Innocent:
As for Grantorto, him with Treachery
And Trains having surpriz'd, he foully did to die.

Thereto the Blatant Beast, by them set on,
At him began aloud to bark and bay,
With bitter Rage and fell Contention,
That all the Woods and Rocks, nigh to that way,
Began to quake and tremble with Dismay;
And all the Air rebellowed again,
So dreadfully his hundred Tongues did bray,
And evermore those Hags themselves did pain,
To sharpen him, and their own curses Tongues did strain.

And still among, most bitter Words they spake,
Most shameful, most unrighteous, most untrue,
That they the mildest Man alive would make
Forget his Patience, and yield Vengeance due
To her, that so false Slanders at him threw.
And more, to make them pierce and wound more deep,
She with the Sting which in her vile Tongue grew,
Did sharpen them, and in fresh Poison steep:
Yet he past on, and seem'd of them to take no keep.

But Talus, hearing her so leudly rail,
And speak so ill of him thee well deserv'd,
Would her have chastiz'd with his iron Flail,
If her Sir Arthegal had not preserv'd,
And him forbidden, who his Heast observ'd.
So much the more at him still did she scold,
And Stones did cast, yet he for nought would swerve
From his right Course, but still the way did hold
To Fairy-Court, where what him fell shall else be told.

[Works, ed Hughes (1715) 3:843-54]

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