1615 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Purple Island. Canto IX.

The Purple Island, or the Isle of Man: Together with Piscatorie Eclogs and other Poeticall Miscellanies. By P. F.

Rev. Phineas Fletcher


Canto IX begins the corresponding catalogue of theological virtues: Spiritto, Urania, Knowledge, Contemplation, Care, Humilitie, Obedience, Faith, Meditation, Penitence, Hope, Promise, Love, Remembrance, Gratitude, and "Love's Twin, but younger brother," the Son of God.

David Masson: "Some of his personifications are not surpassed in Spenser; and, on the whole, the poetry, though still wearisome from the unflagging strain of the abominable allegory, is richer than in his brother's shorter production, if not so serenely solemn" Life of Milton (1859-94, 1965) 1:461.



The Bridegroom Sunne, who late the Earth had spous'd,
Leaves his star-chamber; early in the East
He shook his sparkling locks, head lively rouz'd,
While Morn his couch with blushing roses drest;
His shines the Earth soon latcht to gild her flowers:
Phosphor his gold-fleec't drove folds in their bowers,
Which all the night had graz'd about th' Olympick towers.

The cheerfull Lark, mounting from early bed,
With sweet salutes awakes the drowsie light;
The earth she left, and up to heav'n is fled;
There chants her Makers praises out of sight:
Earth seems a molehill, men but ants to be;
Teaching proud men, that soar to high degree,
The farther up they climbe, the lesse they seem, and see:

The shepherds met, and Thomalin began;
Young Thomalin, whose notes and silver string
Silence the rising Lark, and falling Swan:
Come Thirsil, end thy lay, and cheerly sing:
Hear'st how the Larks give welcome to the day,
Temp'ring their sweetest notes unto thy lay?
Up then, thou loved swain; why dost thou longer stay?

Well sett'st thou (friend) the Lark before mine eyes,
Much easier to heare then imitate:
Her wings lift up her notes to loftie skies;
But me a leaden sleep, and earthly state
Down to the centre ties with captive string:
Well might I follow here her note and wing;
Singing she loftie mounts: ah! mounting should I sing.

Oh thou dread King of that heroick band,
Which by thy power beats back these hellish sprites,
Rescuing this State from death and base command;
Tell me, (dread King) what are those warlike Knights?
What force? what arms? where lies their strengths increase,
That though so few in number, never cease
To keep this sieged town 'gainst numbers numberlesse?

The first Commanders in this holy train,
Leaders to all the rest, an ancient pair;
Long since sure linkt in wedlocks sweetest chain;
His name Spiritto, she Urania fair:
Fair had she been, and full of heav'nly grace,
And he in youth a mightie warrier was,
Both now more fair, and strong; which prov'd their heav'nly race.

His arms with flaming tongues all sparkled bright,
Bright flaming tongues, in divers sections parted;
His piercing sword, edg'd with their firy light,
'Twixt bones and marrow, soul and spirit disparted:
Upon his shield was drawn a glorious Dove,
'Gainst whom the proudest Eagle dares not move;
Glitt'ring in beams: his word, Conqu'ring by peace and love.

But she Amazon-like in azure arms,
Silver'd with starres, and gilt with sunnie rayes,
Her mighty Spouse in fight and fierce alarms
Attends, and equals in these bloudie frayes;
And on her shield an heav'nly globe (displaying
The constellations lower bodies swaying,
Sway'd by the higher) she bore: her word, I rule obeying.

About them swarm'd their fruitfull progenie;
An heav'nly off-spring of an heav'nly bed:
Well mought you in their looks his stoutnesse see
With her sweet graces lovely tempered.
Fit youth they seem'd to play in Princes hall,
(But ah long since they thence were banisht all)
Or shine in glitt'ring arms, when need fierce warre doth call.

The first in order (nor in worth the last)
Is Knowledge, drawn from peace and Muses spring;
Where shaded in fair Sinaies groves, his taste
He feasts with words and works of heav'nly King;
But now to bloudy field is fully bent:
Yet still he seem'd to study as he went:
His arms cut all in books; strong shield slight papers lent.

His glitt'ring armour shin'd like burning day,
Garnisht with golden Sunnes, and radiant flowers;
Which turn their bending heads to Phoebus ray,
And when he falls, shut up their leavie bowers:
Upon his shield the silver Moon did bend
Her horned bow, and round her arrows spend:
His word in silver wrote, I borrow what I lend.

All that he saw, all that he heard, were books,
In which he read and learn'd his Makers will:
Most on his word, but much on heav'n he looks,
And thence admires with praise the workmans skill.
Close to him went still-musing Contemplation,
That made good use of ills by meditation;
So to him ill it self was good by strange mutation.

And Care, who never from his sides would part,
Of knowledge oft the waies and means enquiring,
To practise what he learnt from holy art;
And oft with tears, and oft with sighs desiring
Aid from that Soveraigne Guide, whose wayes so steep,
Though fain he would, yet weak he could not keep:
But when he could not go, yet forward would he creep.

Next Tapinus, whose sweet, though lowly grace
All other higher then himself esteem'd;
He in himself priz'd things as mean and base,
Which yet in others great and glorious seem'd:
All ill due debt, good undeserv'd he thought;
His heart a low-rooft house, but sweetly wrought,
Where God himself would dwell, though he it dearly bought.

Honour he shunnes, yet is the way unto him;
As hell, he hates advancement wonne with bribes;
But publick place and charge are forc't to wooe him;
He good to grace, ill to desert ascribes:
Him (as his Lord) contents a lowly room,
Whose first house was the blessed Virgins wombe,
The next a cratch, the third a crosse, the fourth a tombe.

So choicest drugs in meanest shrubs are found;
So precious gold in deepest centre dwells:
So sweetest violets trail on lowly ground;
So richest pearls ly clos'd in vilest shells:
So lowest dales we let at highest rates;
So creeping strawberries yeeld daintiest cates.
The Highest highly loves the low, the loftie hates.

Upon his shield was drawn that Shepherd lad,
Who with a sling threw down faint Israels fears;
And in his hand his spoils, and trophies glad,
The Monsters sword and head, he bravely bears:
Plain in his lovely face you might behold
A blushing meeknesse met with courage bold:
Little, not little worth, was fairly wrote in gold.

With him his kinsman both in birth and name,
Obedience, taught by many bitter showers
In humble bonds his passions proud to tame,
And low submit unto the higher powers:
But yet no servile yoke his forehead brands;
For ti'd in such an holy service bands,
In this obedience rules, and serving thus commands.

By them went Fido, Marshal of the field:
Weak was his mother, when she gave him day;
And he at first a sick and weakly childe,
As e're with tears welcom'd the sunnie ray:
Yet when more yeares afford more growth, and might,
A champion stout he was, and puissant Knight,
As ever came in field, or shone in armour bright.

So may we see a little lionet,
When newly whelpt, a weak and tender thing,
Despis'd by every beast; but waxen great,
When fuller times full strength and courage bring,
The beasts all crouching low, their King adore,
And dare not see what they contemn'd before:
The trembling forrest quakes at his affrighting roar.

Mountains he flings in seas with mighty hand;
Stops, and turns back the Sunnes impetuous course;
Nature breaks natures laws at his command;
No force of hell or heav'n withstands his force:
Events to come yet many ages hence
He present makes, by wondrous prescience;
Proving the senses blinde, by being blinde to sense.

His sky-like arms, di'd all in blue and white,
And set with golden starres that flamed wide;
His shield invisible to mortall sight,
Yet he upon it easily descri'd
The lively semblance of his dying Lord;
Whose bleeding side with wicked steel was gor'd,
Which to his fainting spirits new courage would afford.

Strange was the force of that enchanted shield,
Which highest powers to it from heav'n impart;
For who could bear it well, and rightly wield,
It sav'd from sword, and spear, and poison'd dart:
Well might he slip, but yet not wholly fall:
No finall losse his courage might appall;
Growing more sound by wounds, and rising by his fall.

So some have feign'd that Tellus giant sonne
Drew many new-born lives from his dead mother;
Another rose as soon as one was done,
And twentie lost, yet still remain'd another:
For when he fell, and kist the barren heath,
His parent straight inspir'd successive breath;
And though her self was dead, yet ransom'd him from death.

With him his Nurse went, carefull Acoe;
Whose hands first from his mothers wombe did take him,
And ever since have foster'd tenderly:
She never might, she never would forsake him;
And he her lov'd again with mutuall band:
For by her needfull help he oft did stand,
When else he soon would fail, and fall in foemens hand.

With both sweet Meditation ever pac't,
His Nurses daughter, and his Foster-sister:
Deare as his soul he in his soul her plac't,
And oft embrac't, and oft by stealth he kist her:
For she had taught him by her silent talk
To tread the safe, and dangerous wayes to balk;
And brought his God with him, him with his God to walk.

Behinde him Penitence did sadly go,
Whose cloudie dropping eyes were ever raining;
Her swelling tears, which ev'n in ebbing flow,
Furrow her cheek, the sinfull puddles draining:
Much seem'd she in her pensive thought molested,
And much the mocking world her soul infested;
More she the hatefull world, and most her self detested.

She was the object of lewd mens disgrace,
The squint-ey'd, wrie-mouth'd scoffe of carnall hearts;
Yet smiling heav'n delights to kisse her face,
And with his bloud God bathes her painfull smarts:
Afflictions iron flail her soul had thrasht;
Sharp Circumcisions knife her heart had slasht;
Yet was it angels wine, which in her eyes was masht.

With her a troop of mournfull grooms abiding,
Help with their sullen blacks their Mistresse wo;
Amendment still (but still his own faults) chiding,
And Penance arm'd with smarting whips did go:
Then sad Remorse came sighing all the way;
Last Satisfaction, giving all away:
Much surely did he owe, much more he would repay.

Next went Elpinus, clad in skie-like blue;
And through his arms few starres did seem to peep,
Which there the workmans hand so finely drew,
That rockt in clouds they softly seem'd to sleep:
His rugged shield was like a rockie mold,
On which an anchour bit with surest hold:
I hold by being held, was written round in gold.

Nothing so cheerfull was his thoughtfull face,
As was his brother Fido's: Fear seem'd dwell
Close by his heart; his colour chang'd apace,
And went, and came, that sure all was not well:
Therefore a comely Maid did oft sustain
His fainting steps, and fleeting life maintain:
Pollicita she hight, which ne're could lie or feigne.

Next to Elpinus marcht his brother Love;
Not that great Love which cloth'd his Godhead bright
With rags of flesh, and now again above
Hath drest his flesh in heav'ns eternall light;
Much lesse the brat of that false Cyprian dame,
Begot by froth, and fire in bed of shame,
And now burns idle hearts swelt'ring in lustfull flame:

But this from heav'n brings his immortall race,
And nurst by Gratitude; whose carefull arms
Long held, and hold him still in kinde embrace:
But train'd to daily warres, and fierce alarms,
He grew to wondrous strength, and beautie rare:
Next that God-Love, from whom his off-springs are,
No match in earth or heav'n may with this Love compare.

His Page, who from his side might never move,
Remembrance, on him waits; in books reciting
The famous passions of that highest Love,
His burning zeal to greater flames exciting:
Deep would he sigh, and seem empassion'd sore,
And oft with tears his backward heart deplore,
That loving all he could, he lov'd that Love no more.

Yet sure he truely lov'd, and honour'd deare
That glorious name; for when, or where he spi'd
Wrong'd, or in hellish speech blasphem'd did heare,
Boldly the rash blasphemer he defi'd,
And forc't him eat the words he foully spake:
But if for him he grief or death did take,
That grief he counted joy, and death life for his sake.

His glitt'ring arms, drest all with firie hearts,
Seem'd burn in chaste desire, and heav'nly flame:
And on his shield kinde Jonathan imparts
To his souls friend his robes, and princely name,
And kingly throne, which mortals so adore:
And round about was writ in golden ore,
Well might he give him all, that gave his life before.

These led the Vantguard; and an hundred moe
Fill'd up the emptie ranks with ord'red train:
But first in middle ward did justly go
In goodly arms a fresh and lovely Swain,
Vaunting himself Loves twin, but younger brother:
Well mought it be; for ev'n their very mother
With pleasing errour oft mistook the one for th' other.

As when fair Paris gave that golden ball,
A thousand doubts ranne in his stagg'ring breast:
All lik'd him well, fain would he give it all;
Each better seems, and still the last seems best:
Doubts ever new his reaching hand deferr'd;
The more he looks, the more his judgement err'd:
So she first this, then that, then none, then both preferr'd.

Like them, their armour seem'd full neare of kinne:
In this they onely differ; th' elder bent
His higher soul to heav'n, the younger Twinne
'Mong mortals here his love and kindenesse spent;
Teaching strange alchymie, to get a living
By selling land, and to grow rich by giving;
By emptying filling bags, so heav'n by earth atchieving.

About him troop the poore with num'rous trains,
Whom he with tender care, and large expence,
With kindest words, and succour entertains;
Ne looks for thanks, or thinks of recompence:
His wardrobe serves to cloath the naked side,
And shamefull parts of bared bodies hide;
If other cloaths he lackt, his own he would divide.

To rogues his gate was shut; but open lay,
Kindely the weary traveller inviting:
Oft therefore Angels, hid in mortall clay,
And God himself in his free roofs delighting,
Lowly to visit him would not disdain,
And in his narrow cabin oft remain,
Whom heav'n, and earth, and all the world cannot contain.

His table still was fill'd with wholesome meat,
Not to provoke, but quiet appetite;
And round about the hungry freely eat,
With plenteous cates cheering their feeble sprite:
Their earnest vows broke open heav'ns wide doore,
That not in vain sweet Plentie evermore
With gracious eye looks down upon his blessed store.

Behinde attend him in an uncouth wise
A troop with little caps, and shaved head;
Such whilome was infranched bondmens guise,
New freed from cruell masters servile dread:
These had he lately bought from captive chain;
Hence they his triumph sing with joyfull strain,
And on his head due praise and thousand blessings rain.

He was a father to the fatherlesse,
To widows he suppli'd an husbands care;
Nor would he heap up woe to their distresse,
Or by a Guardians name their state impair;
But rescue them from strong oppressours might:
Nor doth he weigh the great mans heavie spight.
Who fears the highest Judge, needs fear no mortall wight.

Once every week he on his progresse went,
The sick to visit, and those meager swains,
Which all their weary life in darknesse spent,
Clogg'd with cold iron, prest with heavy chains:
He hoords not wealth for his loose heir to spend it,
But with a willing hand doth well expend it.
Good then is onely good, when to our God we lend it.

And when the dead by cruell tyrants spight
Lie out to rav'nous birds and beasts expos'd,
His yearnfull heart pitying that wretched sight,
In seemly graves their weary flesh enclos'd,
And strew'd with dainty flowers the lowly herse;
Then all alone the last words did rehearse,
Bidding them softly sleep in his sad sighing verse.

So once that royall Maid fierce Thebes beguil'd,
Though wilfull Creon proudly did forbid her;
Her brother, from his home and tombe exil'd,
(While willing night in darknesse safely hid her)
She lowly laid in earths all-covering shade:
Her dainty hands (not us'd to such a trade)
She with a mattock toils, and with a weary spade.

Yet feels she neither sweat, nor irksome pain,
Till now his grave was fully finished;
Then on his wounds her cloudy eyes 'gin rain,
To wash the guilt painted in bloudy red:
And falling down upon his gored side,
With hundred varied plaints she often cri'd,
Oh had I di'd for thee, or with thee might have di'd!

Ay me! my ever wrong'd, and banisht brother,
How can I fitly thy hard fate deplore,
Or in my breast so just complainings smother?
To thy sad chance what can be added more?
Exile thy home, thy home a tombe thee gave:
Oh no; such little room thou must not have,
But for thy banisht bones I (wretch) must steal a grave.

But whither, wofull Maid, have thy complaints
With fellow passion drawn my feeling mone?
But thus this Love deals with those murd'red Saints;
Weeps with the sad, and sighs with those that grone.
But now in that beech grove we'l safely play,
And in those shadows mock the boyling ray;
Which yet increases more with the decreasing day.

[Boas (1909) 2:119-30]

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