Canto XI begins the psychomachia as Intellect with his wife Volleta and their daughter Eclecta assemble their knights to do battle. Chastitie meets Porneios, and is assailed by a disguised "False Delight." The forces of the Dragon take the upper hand.
George Macdonald: "He triumphs over his difficulties partly by audacity, partly by seriousness, partly by the enchantment of song. But the poem will never be read through except by students of English literature. It is a whole; its members are well-fitted; it is full of beauties — in parts they swarm like fire-flies; and yet it is not a good poem. It is like a well-shaped house, built of mud, and stuck full of precious stones. I do not care, in my limited space, to quote from it. Never was there a more incongruous dragon of allegory" "The Brothers Fletcher" in England's Antiphon (1868; 1890) 155-56.
Herbert E. Cory: "The ensuing battle is managed with nice allegorical but rather doubtful moral propriety. First Parthenia jousts with Porneios (Fornication), and overthrown him. Aselges (Laciviousness), is bent on revenge but falls before the warlike maid. Other rascals swarm around her but she defends herself valiantly till the Old Dragon sends False Delight, in friendly attire, who wounds her in the side. Agneia (Chastity in married life), and her husband Eucrates (Temperance), ride to her rescue. Soon there is a general melee in which Fletcher's allegory works with the preciseness of a machine. It is a rare puppet show, like the first part of the battle of Roncesvalles in the Chanson" "Spenser, the Fletchers, and Milton" UCPMP 2 (1912) 323." "Spenser, the Fletchers, and Milton" UCPMP 2 (1912) 323.
The early Morn lets out the peeping day,
And strew'd his paths with golden Marygolds:
The Moon grows wanne, and starres flie all away,
Whom Lucifer locks up in wonted folds,
Till light is quencht, and heav'n in seas hath flung
The headlong day: to th' hill the shepherds throng,
And Thirsil now began to end his task and song.
Who now (alas!) shall teach my humble vein,
That never yet durst peep from covert glade;
But softly learnt for fear to sigh and plain,
And vent her griefs to silent myrtils shade?
Who now shall teach to change my oaten quill
For trumpet 'larms, or humble verses fill
With gracefull majestie, and loftie rising skill?
Ah thou dread Spirit, shed thy holy fire,
Thy holy flame into my frozen heart;
Teach thou my creeping measures to aspire,
And swell in bigger notes, and higher art:
Teach my low Muse thy fierce alarums ring,
And raise my soft strain to high thundering:
Tune thou my loftie song; thy battels must I sing.
Such as thou wert within the sacred breast
Of that thrice famous Poet-Shepherd-King;
And taught'st his heart to frame his Canto's best
Of all that e're thy glorious works did sing:
Or as those holy Fishers once amongs
Thou flamedst bright with sparkling parted tongues,
And brought'st down heav'n to earth in those all-conqu'ring songs.
These mighty Heroes, fill'd with justest rage
To be in narrow walls so closely pent,
Glitt'ring in arms, and goodly equipage,
Stood at the Castles gate, now ready bent
To sally out, and meet the enemie:
A hot disdain sparkled in every eye,
Breathing out hatefull warre, and deadly enmitie.
Thither repairs the carefull Intellect,
With his fair Spouse Voletta, heav'nly fair:
With both, their daughter; whose divine aspect,
Though now sad damps of sorrow much empair,
Yet through those clouds did shine so glorious bright,
That every eye did homage to the sight,
Yeelding their captive hearts to that commanding light.
But who may hope to paint such majestie,
Or shadow well such beautie, such a face,
Such beauteous face, unseen to mortall eye?
Whose powerfull looks, and more then mortall grace
Loves self hath lov'd, leaving his heav'nly throne,
With amorous sighs, and many a lovely mone
(Whom all the world would wooe) woo'd her his onely one.
Farre be that boldnesse from thy humble swain,
Fairest Ec[l]ecta, to describe thy beautie,
And with unable skill thy glory stain,
Which ever he admires with humble dutie:
But who to view such blaze of beautie longs,
Go he to Sinah, th' holy groves amongs;
Where that wise Shepherd chants her in his Song of songs.
The Islands King with sober countenance
Aggrates the Knights, who thus his right defended;
And with grave speech, and comely amenance
Himself, his State, his Spouse, to them commended:
His lovely childe, that by him pensive stands,
He last delivers to their valiant hands;
And her to thank the Knights, her Champions, he commands.
The God-like Maid a while all silent stood,
And down to th' earth let fall her humble eyes;
While modest thoughts shot up the flaming bloud,
Which fir'd her scarlet cheek with rosie dies:
But soon to quench the heat, that lordly reignes,
From her fair eye a shower of crystall rains,
Which with his silver streams o're-runs the beauteous plains.
As when the Sunne in midst of summers heat
Draws up thinne vapours with his potent ray,
Forcing dull waters from their native seat;
At length dimme clouds shadow the burning day:
Till coldest aire, soon melted into showers,
Upon the earth his welcome anger powres,
And heav'ns cleare forehead now wipes off her former lowres.
At length a little lifting up her eyes,
A renting sigh way for her sorrow brake,
Which from her heart 'gan in her face to rise,
And first in th' eye, then in the lip thus spake;
Ah gentle Knights, how may a simple maid,
With justest grief and wrong so ill apaid,
Give due reward for such your pains, and friendly aid?
But if my Princely Spouse do not delay
His timely presence in my greatest need,
He will for me your friendly love repay,
And well requite this your so gentle deed:
Then let no fear your mighty hearts assail:
His word's himself; himself he cannot fail.
Long may he stay, yet sure he comes, and must prevail.
By this the long-shut gate was open laid;
Soon out they rush in order well arang'd:
And fastning in their eyes that heav'nly Maid,
How oft for fear her fairest colour chang'd!
Her looks, her worth, her goodly grace, and state
Comparing with her present wretched fate,
Pitie whets just revenge, and loves fire kindles hate.
Long at the gate the thoughtfull Intellect
Staid with his fearfull Queen, and daughter fair;
But when the Knights were past their dimme aspect,
They follow them with vowes, and many a prayer:
At last they climbe up to the Castles height;
From which they view'd the deeds of every Knight,
And markt the doubtfull end of this intestine fight.
As when a youth, bound for the Belgick warre,
Takes leave of friends upon the Kentish shore;
Now are they parted, and he sail'd so farre,
They see not now, and now are seen no more:
Yet farre off viewing the white trembling sails,
The tender mother soon plucks off her veils,
And shaking them aloft, unto her sonne she hails.
Mean time these Champions march in fit aray,
Till both the armies now were come in sight:
A while each other boldly viewing stay,
With short delayes whetting fierce rage and spight.
Sound now ye trumpets, sound alarums loud;
Heark how their clamours whet their anger proud:
See, yonder are they met in midst of dustie cloud.
So oft the South with civil enmitie
Musters his watrie forces 'gainst the West;
The rowling clouds come tumbling up the skie,
In dark folds wrapping up their angry guest:
At length the flame breaks from th' imprisoning cold,
With horrid noise tearing the limber mold;
While down in liquid tears the broken vapours roll'd.
First did that warlike Maid her self advance;
And riding from amidst her companie,
About her helmet wav'd her mighty lance,
Daring to fight the proudest enemie:
Porneios soon his ready spear addrest,
And kicking with his heel his hastie beast,
Bent his sharp-headed lance against her dainty breast.
In vain the broken staffe sought entrance there,
Where Love himself oft entrance sought in vain:
But much unlike the Martial Virgins spear,
Which low dismounts her foe on dustie plain,
Broaching with bloudy point his breast before:
Down from the wound trickled the bubbling gore,
And bid pale death come in at that red gaping doore.
There lies he cover'd now in lowly dust,
And foully wallowing in clutter'd bloud,
Breathing together out his life and lust,
Which from his breast swamme in the steaming floud:
In maids his joy; now by a maid defi'd,
His life he lost, and all his former pride:
With women would he live, now by a woman di'd.
Aselges, struck with such a heavie sight,
Greedie to venge his brothers sad decay,
Spurr'd forth his flying steed with fell despight,
And met the virgin in the middle way:
His spear against her head he fiercely threw,
Which to that face performing homage due,
Kissing her helmet, thence in thousand shivers flew.
The wanton boy had dreamt that latest night,
That he had learnt the liquid aire dispart,
And swimme along the heav'ns with pineons light;
Now that fair maid taught him this nimble art:
For from his saddle farre away she sent,
Flying along the emptie element;
That hardly yet he knew whither his course was bent.
The rest that saw with fear the ill successe
Of single fight, durst not like fortune trie;
But round beset her with their numerous presse:
Before, beside, behinde they on her flie,
And every part with coward odds assail:
But she redoubling strokes as thick as hail,
Drove farre their flying troops, and thresht with iron flail.
As when a gentle greyhound set around
With little curres, which dare his way molest,
Snapping behinde; soon as the angrie hound
Turning his course, hath caught the busiest,
And shaking in his fangs hath welnigh slain;
The rest fear'd with his crying, runne amain;
And standing all aloof whine, houl, and bark in vain.
The subtil Dragon, that from farre did view
The waste and spoil made by this maiden Knight,
Fell to his wonted guile; for well he knew
All force was vain against such wondrous might:
A craftie swain well taught to cunning harms,
Call'd false Delight, he chang'd with hellish charms;
That true Delight he seem'd, the self-same shape and arms.
The watchfull'st sight no difference could descrie;
The same his face, his voice, his gate the same:
Thereto his words he feign'd; and coming nigh
The Maid, that fierce pursues her martiall game,
He whets her wrath with many a guilefull word,
Till she lesse carefull did fit time afford:
Then up with both his hands he lifts his balefull sword.
You powerfull heav'ns! and thou their Governour!
With what eyes can you view this dolefull sight?
How can you see your fairest Conquerour
So nigh her end by so unmanly slight?
The dreadfull weapon through the aire doth glide;
But sure you turn'd the harmfull edge aside:
Else must she there have fall'n, and by that traitour di'd.
Yet in her side deep was the wound impight;
Her flowing life the shining armour stains:
From that wide spring long rivers took their flight,
With purple streams drowning the silver plains:
Her cheerfull colour now grows wanne and pale,
Which oft she strives with courage to recall,
And rouze her fainting head, which down as oft would fall.
All so a Lilie, prest with heavie rain,
Which fills her cup with showers up to the brinks;
The wearie stalk no longer can sustain
The head, but low beneath the burden sinks:
Or as a virgin Rose her leaves displayes,
Whom too hot scorching beams quite disarayes;
Down flags her double ruffe, and all her sweet decayes.
Th' undanted Maid, feeling her feet denie
Their wonted dutie, to a tree retir'd;
Whom all the rout pursue with deadly crie:
As when a hunted Stag, now welnigh tir'd,
Shor'd by an oak, 'gins with his head to play;
The fearfull hounds dare not his horns assay,
But running round about, with yelping voices bay.
And now perceiving all her strength was spent,
Lifting to listning heav'n her trembling eyes,
Thus whispring soft, her soul to heav'n she sent;
Thou chastest Love, that rul'st the wandring skies,
More pure then purest heavens by thee moved;
If thine own love in me thou sure hast proved;
If ever thou my self, my vows, my love hast loved.
Let not this Temple of thy spotlesse love
Be with foul hand and beastly rage defil'd:
But when my spirit shall his camp remove,
And to his home return, too long exil'd;
Do thou protect it from the ravenous spoil
Of ranc'rous enemies, that hourely toil
Thy humble votarie with loathsome spot to foil.
With this few drops fell from her fainting eyes,
To dew the fading roses of her cheek;
That much high Love seem'd passion'd with those cries;
Much more those streams his heart and patience break:
Straight he the charge gives to a winged Swain,
Quickly to step down to that bloudie plain,
And aid her wearie arms, and rightfull cause maintain.
Soon stoops the speedie Herauld through the aire,
Where chaste Agneia and Encrates fought:
See, see, he cries, where your Parthenia fair,
The flower of all your armie, hemm'd about
With thousand enemies, now fainting stands,
Readie to fall into their murdring hands:
Hie ye, oh hie ye fast; the highest Love commands.
They casting round about their angrie eye,
The wounded Virgin almost sinking spi'd:
They prick their steeds, which straight like lightning flie:
Their brother Continence runnes by their side;
Fair Continence, that truely long before
As his hearts liege, this Ladie did adore:
And now his faithfull love kindled his hate the more.
Encrates and his Spouse with flashing sword
Assail the scatter'd troops, that headlong flie;
While Continence a precious liquor pour'd
Into the wound, and suppled tenderly:
Then binding up the gaping orifice,
Reviv'd the spirits, that now she 'gan to rise,
And with new life confront her heartlesse enemies.
So have I often seen a purple flower
Fainting through heat, hang down her drooping head;
But soon refreshed with a welcome shower,
Begins again her lively beauties spread,
And with new pride her silken leaves display;
And with the Sunne doth now more gently play,
Lay out her swelling bosome to the smiling day.
Now rush they all into the flying trains;
Bloud fires their bloud, and slaughter kindles fight:
The wretched vulgar on the purple plains
Fall down as thick, as when a rustick wight
From laden oaks the plenteous akorns poures,
Or when the blubbring ayer sadly lowres,
And melts his sullen brow, and weeps sweet April showers.
The greedy Dragon, that aloof did spie
So ill successe of this renewed fray;
More vext with losse of certain victorie,
Depriv'd of so assur'd and wished prey,
Gnashed his iron teeth for grief and spite:
The burning sparks leap from his flaming sight,
And forth his smoking jawes steams out a smouldring night.
Straight thither sends he in a fresh supply,
The swelling band that drunken Methos led,
And all the rout his brother Gluttonie
Commands, in lawlesse bands disordered:
So now they bold restore their broken fight,
And fiercely turn again from shamefull flight;
While both with former losse sharpen their raging spite.
Freshly these Knights assault these fresher bands,
And with new battell all their strength renew:
Down fell Geloios by Encrates hands,
Agneia Moechus and Anagnus slew;
And spying Methos fenc't in's iron vine,
Pierc't his swoln panch: there lies the grunting swine,
And spues his liquid soul out in his purple wine.
As when a greedy lion, long unfed,
Breaks in at length into the harmlesse folds;
(So hungry rage commands) with fearfull dread
He drags the silly beasts: nothing controlls
The victour proud; he spoils, devours, and tears:
In vain the keeper calls his shepherd peers:
Mean while the simple flock gaze on with silent fears:
Such was the slaughter these three Champions made;
But most Encrates, whose unconquer'd hands
Sent thousand foes down to th' infernall shade,
With uselesse limbes strewing the bloudie sands:
Oft were they succourd fresh with new supplies,
But fell as oft: the Dragon grown more wise
By former losse, began another way devise.
Soon to their aid the Cyprian band he sent,
For easie skirmish clad in armour light:
Their golden bowes in hand stood ready bent,
And painted quivers (furnisht well for fight)
Stuck full of shafts, whose head foul poyson stains;
Which dipt in Phlegethon by hellish swains,
Bring thousand painfull deaths, and thousand deadly pains.
Thereto of substance strange, so thinne, and slight,
And wrought by subtil hand so cunningly,
That hardly were discern'd by weaker sight;
Sooner the heart did feel, then eye could see:
Farre off they stood, and flung their darts around,
Raining whole clouds of arrows on the ground;
So safely others hurt, and never wounded wound.
Much were the Knights encumbred with these foes;
For well they saw, and felt their enemies:
But when they back would turn the borrow'd blows,
The light-foot troop away more swiftly flies,
Then do their winged arrows through the winde:
And in their course oft would they turn behinde,
And with their glancing darts their hot pursuers blinde.
As when by Russian Volgha's frozen banks
The false-back Tartars fear with cunning feigne,
And poasting fast away in flying ranks,
Oft backward turn, and from their bowes down rain
Whole storms of darts; so do they flying fight:
And what by force they lose, they winne by slight;
Conquerd by standing out, and conquerours by flight:
Such was the craft of this false Cyprian crue:
Yet oft they seem'd to slack their fearfull pace,
And yeeld themselves to foes that fast pursue;
So would they deeper wound in nearer space:
In such a fight he winnes, that fastest flies.
Flie, flie, chaste Knights, such subtil enemies:
The vanquisht cannot live, and conqu'rour surely dies.
The Knights opprest with wounds and travel past,
Began retire, and now were neare to fainting:
With that a winged Poast him speeded fast,
The Generall with these heavy newes acquainting:
He soon refresht their hearts that 'gan to tire.
But let out weary Muse a while respire:
Shade we our scorched heads from Phoebus parching fire.
[Boas (1909) 2:140-51]