1590
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book I. Canto II.

The Faerie Queene. Disposed into Twelve Books, fashioning XII. Morall Vertues.

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto II. (44 stanzas). — In this Canto we have recounted the separation, effected by the great enchanter into whose hands they had fallen, between the Redcross Knight and Una, that is between Holiness and Truth, and the deception of the former for a time by the foul witch Duessa, or Falsehood. It begins: — 'By this the northern waggoner had set | His sevenfold team behind the stedfast star | That was in ocean waves yet never wet....' Disappointed in the success of his first stratagem, Archimago proceeds to 'search his baleful books again;' and, taking 'that miscreated fair' and the other false spirit, — 'on whom he spread | A seeming body of the subtile air, | Like a young squire,' he places them together in bed, and, running with feigned horror to the knight, brings him to see them as they lay. He is hardly restrained from slaying them; but, as soon as it is dawn, leaving Una behind him, he sets off with the dwarf, half broken-hearted and weary of life.

"Una rises with the morn, and, finding them gone, sets out in pursuit of them upon her ass; but all in vain: — 'For him so far had borne his light-foot steed, | Pricked with wrath and fiery fierce disdain, | That him to follow was but fruitless pain....' Having thus gained his first point by dividing the two, Archimago 'Yet rests not so, but other means doth make, | How he may work unto her further smarts....' The Redcross Knight, however, or the true St. George, is by this time wandered far away....

"As soon as the lady [Duessa] perceives the stranger knight, she leaves off the mirth and dalliance with which she had before been entertaining her lover all the way, and bids him address himself to fight — 'his foe was nigh at hand.' The combat is painted with many vigorous strokes.... The Saracen then attacks the Redcross Knight with his sword: — 'repining courage yields | No foot to foe: the flashing fier flies, | As from a forge, out of their burning shields; | And streams of purple blood new die the verdant fields.' At last Sansfoy is slain; upon which the lady takes to flight, but is soon overtaken by the victor.

"Imploring his mercy, she describes herself as having been 'Born the sole daughter of an emperor; | He that the wide west under his rule has, | And high hath set his throne where Tiberis doth pass.' He, she continues, 'in the first flower of my freshest age,' betrothed me to the heir of a most mighty, rich, and sage king; but before 'the hoped day of spousal' this prince fell into the hands of his foes and was slain. They conveyed away his corpse and hid it from her; upon which she went forth to find it, and 'many years,' she says, — 'throughout the world I strayed, | A virgin widow, whose deep-wounded mind | With love long time did languish, as the stricken hind.' At last the Saracen met her wandering, and led her away with him by force; but could never win her love or corrupt her honour. He, Sansfoy, was the eldest of three brothers, of whom 'the bloody bold' Sansloy is the second, and Sansjoy the youngest. The knight is moved to pity, and assures the miserable Fidessa, as she calls herself; of his friendship and protection. 'So forth they rode, he feigning seemly mirth, and she coy looks....'

"'And, thinking of those branches green to frame | A girland for her dainty forethead fit, | He plucked a bough.' To his surprise and horror small drops of blood come from the rift and trickle down the tree, and a piteous yelling voice is heard beseeching him to refrain from tearing with guilty hands the tender sides of the living being in the rough rind embarred, or shut up. 'But fly,' added the voice, — 'ah! fly far hence away, for fear | Lest to you hap that happened to me here, | And to this wretched lady, my dear love; | O too dear love, love bought with death too dear!' The knight is confounded with amazement and dread: — 'Astoned he stood, and up his hair did hove:' at length, however, recovering his senses, he asks, 'What voice of damned ghost from Limbo lake, | Or guileful sprite wandering in empty air....'

"In reply the imprisoned or rather metamorphosed man, groaning deep, relates his history. His name, he states, was Fradubio, and the author of his transformation was the false sorceress Duessa. It may be noticed, by-the-bye, that in the character of this Duessa, Spenser is supposed by some of the commentators to glance, with less gallantry than might have been expected from a poet, at Mary Queen of Scots. In his youth, Fradubio goes on to relate, he had loved the gentle lady who now stands beside him, turned, like himself, into a tree. With her as once he rode, they encountered a knight having by his side a like fair lady, who was, however, really the foul Duessa, only disguised in 'forged beauty.' Each maintaining his own love far to exceed all other dames, they fought, and the stranger knight was slain; upon which his lady fell as prize to the victor.... By this contrivance the foolish Fradubio was persuaded to leave Fraelissa, who was forthwith turned where she stood 'to tree in mould;' and Duessa and he lived affectionately and happily together for some time, till, says he, — 'on a day (that day is every prime, | When witches wont do penance for their crime), | I chanc'd to see her in her proper hue....' Upon this he determined to take the first safe opportunity of slipping away from her; but she perceived his intention, and, besmearing his body with wicked herbs and ointments while he slept, so as to bereave him of his senses, brought him to this desert, and here planted him as another tree by Fraelissa's side, and in her sight. From this evil plight their doom was that they should not be relieved till they were 'bathed in a living well.' All this Duessa, for it is she who is now with the Redcross Knight and has assumed the name of Fidessa, hears, and well knows to be all true; but, while the knight thrusts the bleeding bough into the ground, she pretends to be dead with fear...." Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 1:121-27.



The guileful great Enchaunter parts
The Red-cross Knight from Truth:
Into whose stead fair Falshood steps,
And works him woful Ruth.

By this the Northern Waggoner had set
His sevenfold Teme behind the stedfast Star,
That was in Ocean Waves yet never wet,
But firm is fix'd, and sendeth Light from far
To all, that in the wide Deep wandring are:
And chearful Chaunticleer, with his Note shrill,
Had warned once, that Phoebus' fiery Carr
In haste was climbing up the Eastern Hill,
Full envious that Night so long his Room did fill.

When those accursed Messengers of Hell,
That feigning Dream, and that fair-forged Spright
Came to their wicked Master, and 'gan tell
Their bootless Pains, and ill succeeding Night:
Who all in Rage to see his skilful Might
Deluded so, 'gan threaten hellish Pain
And sad Proserpine's Wrath, them to affright.
But when he saw his Threatning was but vain,
He cast about, and search'd his baleful Books again.

Eftsoons he took that miscreated Fair,
And that false other Spright, on whom he spred
A seeming Body of the subtile Air,
Like a young Squire, in Loves and Lusty-hed;
His wanton Days that ever loosely led,
Without regard of Arms and dreaded Fight:
Those two he took, and in a secret Bed,
Cover'd with Darkness and misdeeming Night,
Them both together laid, to joy in vain Delight.

Forthwith he runs with feigned faithful hast
Unto his Guest, who after troublous Sights
And Dreams, 'gan now to take more found Repast;
Whom suddenly he wakes with tearful Frights,
As one a aghast with Feends or damned Sprights,
And to him calls; Rise, rise, unhappy Swain,
That here wex old in Sleep, whiles wicked Wights
Have knit themselves in Venus' shameful Chain;
Come see, where your false Lady doth her Honour stain.

All in amaze he suddenly up-start
With Sword in Hand, and with the old Men wend
Who soon him brought into a secret part,
Where that false Couple were full closely ment
In wanton Lust and leud Embracement:
Which when he saw, he burnt with jealous Fire,
The Eye of Reason was with Rage yblent,
And would have slain them in his furious Ire,
But hardly was restrained of that aged Sire.

Returning to his Bed in Torment great,
And bitter Anguish of his guilty sight,
He could not rest, but did his stout Heart eat,
And waste his inward Gall with deep Despight,
Irksom of Life, and too long lingring Night.
At last fair Hesperus in highest Sky
Had spent his Lamp, and brought forth dawning Light,
Then up he rose, and clad him hastily;
The Dwarf him brought his Steed, so both away do fly.

Now when the rosy-fingerd Morning fair,
Weary of aged Tithon's saffron Bed
Had spred her purple Robe through dewy Air,
And the high Hills Titan discovered,
The royal Virgin shook off drowsy-hed,
And rising forth out of her baser Bower,
Look'd for her Knight, who faraway was fled,
And for her Dwarf, that wont to wait each Hour;
Then 'gan she wail and weep, to see that woful stower.

And after him she rode with so much speed
As her slow Beast could make; but all in vain:
For him so far had borne his light-foot Steed,
Pricked with Wrath and fiery fierce Disdain,
That him to follow was but fruitless Pain
Yet she her weary Limbs would never rest,
But every Hill and Dale, each Wood and Plain
Did search, sore grieved in her gentle Breast,
He so ungently left her, whom she loved best.

But subtle Archimago, when his Guests
He saw divided into double parts,
And Una wandring in Woods and Forrests,
Th' end of his drift; he prais'd his devilish Arts,
That had such Might over true-meaning Hearts;
Yet rests not so, but other means doth make
How he may work unto her further Smarts:
For her he hated as the hissing Snake,
And in her many Troubles did most pleasure take.

He then devis'd himself how to disguise;
For by his mighty Science he could take
As many Forms and Shapes in seeming wile
As ever Proteus to himself could make;
Sometimes a Fowl, sometimes a Fish in Lake,
Now like a Fox, now like a Dragon fell,
That of himself he oft for fear would quake,
And oft would fly away. O who can tell
The hidden Power of Herbs, and Might of magick Spell?

But now seem'd best, the Person to put on
Of that good Knight, his late beguiled Guest;
In mighty Arms he was yclad anon,
And silver Shield; upon his Coward Breast
A bloody Cross, and on his craven Crest
A bunch of Hairs discolour'd diversly:
Full jolly, Knight he seem'd, and well address'd,
And when he sat upon his Courser free,
Saint George himself ye would have deemed him to be.

But he, the Knight, whose semblaunt he did bear,
The true Saint George was wandred far away,
Still flying, from his Thoughts and jealous Fear;
Will was his Guide, and Grief led him astray.
At last him chaunst to meet upon the way
A faithless Sarazin all arm'd to point,
In whose great Shield was writ, with Letters gay,
Sans Foy: Full large of Limb and every Joint
He was, and cared not for God or Man a point.

He had a fair Companion of his way,
A goodly Lady clad in scarlet Red,
Purfled with Gold and Pearl of rich assay,
And like a Persian Mitre on her Head
She wore, with Crowns and Owches garnished,
The which her lavish Lovers to her gave;
Her wanton Palfrey all was overspred
With tinsel Trappings, woven like a Wave,
Whose Bridle rung with golden Bells and Bosses brave.

With fair disport and courting dalliance
She entertain'd her Lover all the way:
But when she saw the Knight his Spear advance,
She soon left off her Mirth and wanton Play,
And bad her Knight address him to the Fray:
His Foe was nigh at hand. He prick'd with Pride,
And hope to win his Lady's Heart that day,
Forth spurred fast; adown his Courser's side
The red Blood trickling stain'd the way, as he did ride.

The Knight of the Red-cross when him he spy'd,
Spurring so hot with Rage dispiteous,
'Gan fairly couch his Spear, and towards ride:
Soon meet they both, both fell and furious,
That daunted with their Forces hideous,
Their Steeds do stagger, and amazed stand
And eke themselves too rudely rigorous,
Astonied with the stroke of their own Hand,
Do back rebut, and each to other yeildeth Land.

As when two Rams, stirr'd with ambitious Pride,
Fight for the Rule of the rich fleeced Flock,
Their horned Fronts so fierce on either side
Do meet, that, with the Terror of the Shock
Astonied, both stand sensless as a Block,
Forgetful of the hanging Victory:
So stood these Twain, unmoved as a Rock,
Both staring fierce, and holding idely
The broken Reliques of their former Cruelty.

The Sarazin sore daunted with the Buff,
Snatcheth his Sword, and fiercely to him flies;
Who well it wards, and quiteth Cuff with Cuff:
Each th' others equal Puissance envies,
And through their Iron hides with Cruelties
Does seek to pierce: repining Courage yields
No Foot to Foe. The flashing Fire flies,
As from a Forge, out of their burning Shields,
And streams of purple Blood new dye the verdant Fields.

Curse on that Cross (quoth then the Sarazin)
That keeps thy Body from the bitter fit;
Dead long ygoe I wote thou haddest bin,
Had not thee Charm from thee forewarned it:
But yet I warn thee now assured sit,
And hide thy Head. Therewith upon his Crest
With Rigour so outrageous he smit,
That a large share it hew'd out of the rest,
And glauncing down his Shield, from Blame him fairly blest.

Who thereat wondrous wroth, the sleeping Spark
Of native Vertue 'gan eftsoons revive,
And at his haughty Helmet making Mark,
So hugely struck, that it the Steel did rive,
And cleft his Head. He tumbling down alive,
With bloody Mouth his Mother Earth did kiss,
Greeting his Grave his grudging Ghost did strive
With the frail Flesh; at left it flitted is,
Whither the Souls do fly, of Men that live amiss.

The Lady, when she saw her Champion fall,
Like the old Ruins of a broken Tower,
Staid not to wail his woeful Funeral,
But from him fled away with all her Power;
Who after her as hastily 'gan scower,
Bidding the Dwarf with him to bring away
The Sarazin's Shield, sign of the Conqueror.
Her soon he overtook, and bad to stay,
For present cause was none of Dread her to dismay.

She turning back with rueful Countenaunce,
Cry'd, Mercy, Mercy, Sir, vouchsafe to show
On silly Dame, subject to hard mischaunce,
And to your mighty Will. Her Humblesse low
In so rich Weeds and seeming glorious show,
Did much emmove his stout heroick Heart,
And said, Dear Dame, your sudden Overthrow
Much rueth me; but now put fear apart,
And tell, both who ye be, and who that took your part.

Melting in Tears, then 'gan she thus lament;
The wretched Woman, whom unhappy Hour
Hath now made thrall to your Commandement,
Before that angry Heavens list to lower,
And Fortune false betray'd me to your Power,
Was, (O what now availeth that I was!)
Born the sole Daughter of an Emperor,
He that the wide West under his Rule has,
And high hath set his Throne, where Tiberis doth pass.

He in the first Flower of my freshest Age,
Betrothed me unto the only Heir
Of a most mighty King, most rich and sage;
Was never Prince so faithful and so fair,
Was never Prince so meek and debonair:
But e're my hoped day of Spousal shone,
My dearest Lord fell from high Honour's stair,
Into the hands of his accursed Fone,
And cruelly was slain, that shall I ever mone.

His blessed Body spoil'd of lively Breath,
Was afterward, I know not how, convey'd,
And from me hid; of whose most innocent Death,
When Tidings came to me, unhappy Maid,
O how great Sorrow my sad Soul assay'd!
Then forth I went his woeful Corse to find,
And many Years throughout the World I stray'd
A Virgin Widow, whose deep-wounded Mind
With Love, long time did languish as the striken Hind.

At last it chaunced this proud Sarazin
To meet me wandring, who perforce me led
With him away, but yet could never win
The Fort, that Ladies hold in sovereign Dread:
There lies he now with foul Dishonour dead.
Who whilst he liv'd, was called proud Sans foy,
The eldest of three Brethren; all three bred
Of one bad Sire, whose youngest is Sans joy,
And 'twixt them both was born the bloody bold Sans loy.

In this sad plight, friendless, unfortunate,
Now miserable I Fidessa swell,
Craving of you in pity of my State,
To do none ill, if please ye not do well.
He in great Passion all this while did dwell,
More busying his quick Eyes, her race to view,
Than his dull Ears, to hear what she did tell;
And said, Fair Lady, Heart of Flint would rew
The undeserved Woes and Sorrows which ye shew.

Henceforth in safe Assurance may ye rest,
Having both found a new Friend you to aid,
And lost an old Foe, that did you molest:
Better new Friend than an old Foe is said.
With change of Chear the seeming simple Maid
Let fall her eyne, as shamefac'd, to the Earth,
And yielding soft, in that the nought gain-said;
So forth they rode, he feigning seemly Mirth,
And she coy Looks; so Dainty, they say, maketh Dearth.

Long time they thus together travelled,
Till weary of their way, they came at last,
Where grew two goodly Trees, that fair did spred
Their Arms abroad, with grey Moss over-cast;
And their green Leaves trembling with every Blast,
Made a calm Shadow far in compass round:
The fearful Shepherd often there aghast
Under them never sat, ne wont there sound
His merry oten Pipe, but shun'd th' unlucky Ground.

But this good Knight soon as he them can spy,
For the cool Shade thither hastily got:
For golden Phoebus now that mounted high,
From fiery Wheels of his fair Chariot
Hurled his Beam so scorching cruel hot,
That living Creature mote it not abide;
And his new Lady it endured not.
There they alight, in hope themselves to hide
From the fierce Heat, and rest their weary Limbs a tide.

Fair seemly Pleasance each to other makes,
With goodly purposes there as they sit:
And in his falsed Fancy he her takes
To be the fairest Wight, that lived yet;
Which to express, he bends his gentle Wit,
And thinking of those Branches green to frame
A Garland for her dainty Forehead fit,
He pluck'd a Bough; out of whose Rift there came
Small drops of gory Blood, that trickled down the same.

Therewith a piteous yelling Voice was heard,
Crying, O spare with guilty Hands to tear
My tender Sides in this rough Rynd embard;
But fly, ah fly far hence away, for fear
Lest to you hap, that happned to me here,
And to this wretched Lady, my dear Love;
O too dear love, Love bought with Death too dear!
Aston'd he stood, and up his Hair did hove,
And with that sudden Horror could no Member move.

At last, when as the dreadful Passion
Was over past, and Manhood well awake,
Yet musing at the strange Occasion,
And doubting much his Sense, he thus bespake:
What Voice of damned Ghost from Limbo Lake,
Or guileful Spright wandring in empty Air,
Both which frail Men do oftentimes mistake,
Sends to my doubtful Ears these Speeches rare,
And rueful Plaints, me bidding guiltless Blood to spare?

Then groaning deep, nor damned Ghost, quoth he,
Nor guileful Spright to thee these words doth speak;
But once a Man, Fradubio, now a Tree;
Wretched Man, wretched Tree! whose Nature weak,
A cruel Witch her cursed Will to wreak,
Hath thus transform'd, and plac'd in open Plains,
Where Boreas doth blow full bitter bleak,
And scorching Sun does dry my secret Veins:
For tho a Tree I seem, yet Cold and Heat me pains.

Say on Fradubio then, or Man, or Tree;
Quoth then the Knight, by whose mischievous arts
Art thou mishaped thus, as now I see?
He oft finds Med'cine, who his Grief imparts;
But double Griefs afflict concealing Hearts,
As raging Flames who striveth to suppress.
The Author then (said he) of all my Smarts,
Is one Duessa, a false Sorceress,
That many errant Knights hath brought to wretchedness.

In prime of youthly Years, when Courage hot
The fire of Love and Joy of Chevalree
First kindled in my Breast, it was my Lot
To love this gentle Lady, whom ye see;
Now not a Lady, but a seeming Tree;
With whom as once I rode accompany'd,
Me chaunced of a Knight encountred be,
That had a like fair Lady by his tide,
Like a fair Lady, but did foul Duessa hide.

Whose forged Beauty he did take in hand,
All other Dames to have exceeded far;
I in defence of mine did likewise stand;
Mine, that did then shine as the Morning-Star
So both to Battle fierce arraunged are,
In which his harder Fortune was to fall
Under my Spear; such is the dye of War:
His Lady, left as a Prize martial,
Did yield her comely Person to be at my Call.

So doubly lov'd of Ladies unlike fair,
Th' one seeming such, the other such indeed,
One day in Doubt I cast for to compare,
Whether in Beauty's Glory did exceed:
A rosy Garland was the Victor's Meed;
Both seem'd to win, and both seem'd won to be,
So hard the Discord was to be agreed.
Fraelissa was as fair, as fair mote be,
And ever false Duessa seem'd as fair as she.

The wicked Witch now seeing all this while
The doubtful Ballance equally to sway,
What not by Right, she cast to Win by Guile,
And by her hellish Science rais'd straightway
A foggy Mist that overcast the day,
And a dull Blast, that breathing on her Face,
Dimmed her former Beauties shining Ray,
And with foul ugly Form did her disgrace:
Then was she fair alone, when none was fair in place.

Then cry'd she out, Fye, fye, deformed Wight,
Whose borrow'd Beauty now appeareth plain
To have before bewitched all Mens sight;
O leave her soon, or let her soon be slain.
Her loathly Visage viewingwith Disdain,
Eftsoons I thought her such, as she me told,
And would have kill'd her; but with feigned Pain,
The faire Witch did my wrathful Hand with-hold;
So left her, where she now is turn'd to tre-en Mould.

Then forth I took Duessa for my Dame,
And in the Witch unweening joy'd long time,
Ne ever wist, but that she was the same,
Till on a Day (that day is every Prime,
When Witches wont do Penance for their Crime)
I chaunst to see her in her proper Hew,
Bathing her self in Origane and Thyme
A filthy foul old Woman I did view,
That ever to have touch'd her, I did deadly rew.

Her neather Parts mishapen, monstruous,
Were hid in Water, that I could not see,
But they did seem more foul and hideous,
Than Woman's Shape Man would believe to be.
Then forth from her most beastly Company
I 'gan refrain, in Mind to nip away,
Soon as appear'd safe Opportunity:
For Danger great, if not assur'd Decay
I saw before mine Eyes, if I were known to stray.

The devilish Hag by chaunges of my Chear
Perceiv'd my Thought, and drown'd in sleepy Night,
With wicked Herbs and Ointments did besmear
My Body all, through Charms and Magick Might,
That all my Senses were bereaved quite:
Then brought she me into this desert Waste,
And by my wretched Lover's side me pight,
Where now inclos'd in wooden Walls full fast,
Banish'd from living Wights, our weary Days we waste.

But how long time, said then the Elfin Knight,
Are you in this misformed House to dwell?
We may not chaunge (quoth be) this evil Plight,
Till we be bathed in a living Well;
That is the term prescribed by the Spell.
O how, said he, mote I that Well out find,
That may restore you to your wonted Well?
Time and sufficed Fates to former kind
Shall us restore, none else from hence may us unbind.

The false Duessa, now Fidessa height,
Heard how in vain Fradubio did lament,
And knew well all was true. But the good Knight,
Full of sad Fear and ghastly Dreriment,
When all this Speech the living Tree had spent,
The bleeding Bough did thrust into the Ground,
That from the Blood he might be innocent,
And with fresh Clay did close the wooden Wound:
Then turning to his Lady, dead with Fear her found.

Her seeming dead he found with feigned Fear,
As all unweeting of that well she knew,
And pain'd himself with busy Care to rear
Her out of careless Swoone. Her Eye-lids blew
And dimmed sight with pale and deadly Hew,
At last she up 'gan lift: with trembling cheer
Her up he took, too simple and too true,
And oft her kist. At length all passed fear,
He set her on her Steed, and forward forth did bear.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 1:37-48]

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