1590
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book I. Canto III.

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

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto III. (44 Stanzas). — Here we return to follow the fortunes of forsaken Una, or Truth. The Canto thus begins — 'Nought is there under heaven's wide hollowness, | That moves more dear compassion of mind, | Than beauty brought to unworthy wretchedness....' Yet she, 'most faithful lady,' continues to seek for her lost knight — 'Through woods and wasteness wide him daily sought, | Yet wished tidings none of him unto her brought....' While she thus rests, a lion suddenly rushes out from the thickest part of the wood, and as soon as he sees the royal virgin makes for her with gaping mouth; but, as he drew nearer, struck and awed, he laid aside his fury, and, 'Instead thereof, he kissed her weary feet, | And licked her lily hands with fawning tongue.....' Shedding tears for pure affection, the maid utters a few words of sorrow, while 'the kingly beast upon her gazing stood' — 'At last, in close heart shutting up her pain, | Arose the virgin, born of heavenly brood, | And to her snowy palfrey got again.' The lion, however, will not leave her, but accompanies her as a guardian and servant wherever she goes.... 'A damsel spied slow-footing her before, | That on her shoulders sad a pot of water bore.' Una approaching inquires if there be any dwelling nigh at hand; but the rude wench, instead of answering, at sight of the lion throws down her pitcher and flies away....

"The old woman, of course, is Superstition, or Blind Devotion, as she is called in the argument of the Canto, figured under the guise of Popery. Una takes up her lodging in the cottage for the night — 'and at her feet the lion watch doth keep;' when, long before it was yet day, a violent knocking is heard at the door of one cursing and swearing for that he did not find ready entrance, seeing he bore on his back a heavy load of plunder. This is the stout and sturdy thief Kirk-rapine, who is wont to rob churches of their ornaments, priests of their habiliments, and the very boxes of the poor, and to bring all that he could get by right or wrong to this house and bestow it upon his paramour Abessa, daughter of the blind old woman, whose name, it is now intimated, was Corceca. Frightened by reason of the lion, the women dare not now rise to let him in as usual; upon which he breaks open the door, but is instantly encountered by the lion, who, — 'seizing cruel claws on trembling breast, | Under his lordly foot him proudly hath supprest....'

"When daylight comes Una and the lion rise up, and again fare forth. The two women follow them with howlings and curses. Returning from their lost labour, the old woman meets Archimago, who, in the guise of the Redcross Knight, is seeking for Una, and tells him her story. Having heard it, — 'he forward gan advance | His fair enchanted steed, and eke his charmed lance,' and soon overtakes the lady. He explains his having left her on the plea that he had gone to seek a felon strong, who 'to many knights did daily work disgrace....'

"They have not ridden far when they see another knight approaching... 'His look was stern, and seemed still to threat | Cruel revenge, which he in heart did hide: | And on his shield Sansloy in bloody lines was dyed.' When he comes up he attacks Archimago, whom he supposes to be the Redcross Knight, and, having soon thrown him bleeding to the ground, proceeds to dispatch him, notwithstanding Una's entreaties that he would spare his life — 'For he is one the truest knight alive, | Though conquered now he he on lowly land — ' when, rending away his helmet, he perceives, to his surprise, 'the hoary head of Archimago old.' Leaving the enchanter in a swoon, he comes to the virgin, and plucks her from her palfrey. It is in vain that the lion interposes; the noble beast is pierced by the strong and huge Sansloy through his lordly heart. Weeping and lamenting, poor Una is borne away on his courser by the victor — her ass affectionately following her at a distance" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 1:127-32.



Forsaken Truth long seeks her Love,
And makes the Lion mild,
Marrs blind Devotion's Mart, and falls
In hand of Leachour vild.

Nought is there under Heav'ns wide hollowness
That moves more dear Compassion of Mind,
Than Beauty brought t' unworthy Wretchedness
Through Envy's Snares or Fortune's Freaks unkind:
I, whether lately through her Brightness blind,
Or through Allegiance and fast Fealty,
Which I do owe unto all Woman-kind,
Feel my Heart pierc'd with so great Agony,
When such I see, that all for pity I could die.

And now it is empassioned so deep,
For fairest Una's sake, of whom I sing,
That my frail Eyes these Lines with Tears do steep,
To think how she through guileful handeling,
Though true as touch, though Daughter of a King,
Though fair as ever living Wight was fair,
Though nor in Word nor Deed ill meriting,
Is from her Knight divorced in Despair,
And her due Loves deriv'd to that vile Witch's share.

Yet she, most faithful Lady, all this while
Forsaken, woeful, solitary Maid,
Far from all People's Praise, as in exile,
In Wilderness and wastful Deserts stray'd,
To seek her Knight; who, subtilly betray'd
Through that late Vision, which th' Enchaunter wrought,
Had her abandon'd. She of nought afraid,
Through Woods and Wastness wide him daily sought;
Yet wished Tydings none of him unto her brought.

One day, nigh weary of the irksome way,
From her unhasty Beast she did alight,
And on the Grass her dainty Limbs did lay
In secret Shadow, far from all Mens sight:
From her fair Head her fillet she undight,
And laid her Stole aside. Her Angel's Face,
As the great Eye of Heaven shined bright,
And made a Sun-shine in the shady place;
Did never mortal Eye behold such heavenly Grace.

It fortuned, out of the thickest Wood
A ramping Lion rushed suddenly,
Hunting full greedy after salvage Blood.
Soon as the Royal Virgin he did spy,
With gaping Mouth at her ran greedily,
To have at once devour'd her tender Corse:
But to the Prey when as he drew more nigh,
His bloody Rage assuaged with Remorse,
And with the sight amaz'd, forgat his furious force.

Instead thereof he kiss'd her weary Feet,
And lick'd her lilly Hands with fauning Tongue.
As he her wronged Innocence did weet.
O! how can Beauty master the most strong,
And simple Truth subdue avenging Wrong!
Whose yielded Pride, and proud Submission,
Still dreading Death, when she had marked long,
Her Heart 'gan melt in great Compassion,
And drizling Tears did shed for pure Affection.

The Lion, Lord of every Beast in Field,
Quoth she, his princely Puissance doth abate,
And mighty Proud to humble Weak does yield,
Forgetful of the hungry Rage, which late
Him prick'd, in pity of my sad Estate;
But he my Lion, and my noble Lord,
How does he find in cruel Heart to hate
Her that him lov'd, and ever most ador'd,
As the God of my Life? Why hath he me abhor'd?

Redounding Tears did choke th' end of her Plaint,
Which softly echoed from the neighbour Wood;
And sad to see her sorrowful Constraint,
The kingly Beast upon her gazing stood;
With pity calm'd, down fell his angry Mood.
At last, in close Heart shutting up her Pain,
Arose the Virgin born of heavenly Brood,
And to her snowy Palfrey got again,
To seek her strayed Champion, if she might attain.

The Lion would not leave her desolate,
But with her went along, as a strong guard
Of her chaste Person, and a faithful Mate
Of her sad Troubles and Misfortunes hard:
Still when she slept, he kept both Watch and Ward;
And when she wak'd, he waited diligent,
With humble Service to her Will prepar'd:
From her fair Eyes he took Commaundement,
And ever by her Looks conceived her Intent.

Long she thus travelled through Desarts wide,
By which she thought her wandring Knight should pass,
Yet never shew of living Wight espy'd;
Till that at length she found the trodden Grass,
In which the Track of People's Footing was,
Under the steep foot of a Mountain hore:
The same she follows, till at last she has
A Damsel spy'd, slow footing her before,
That on her shoulders sad a Pot of Water bore.

To whom approching, she to her 'gan call,
To weet, if Dwelling-place were nigh at hand;
But the rude Wench her answer'd nought at all,
She could not hear, nor speak, nor understand;
Till seeing by her side the Lion stand,
With suddain fear her Pitcher down she threw,
And fled away: For never in that Land
Face of fair Lady she before did view,
And that dread Lion's Look her cast in deadly hew.

Full fast she fled, ne ever look'd behind,
As if her Life upon the Wager lay;
And home she came, whereas her Mother blind
Sate in eternal Night: nought could she say;
But suddain catching hold, did her dismay
With quaking Hands, and other signs of Fear;
Who full of ghastly Fright and cold Affray,
'Gan shut the Door. By this arrived there
Dame Una, weary Dame, and entrance did requere.

Which when none yielded, her unruly Page
With his rude Claws the Wicket open rent,
And let her in; where of his cruel Rage
Nigh dead with Fear, and faint Astonishment,
She found them both in darksome Corner pent;
Where that old Woman day and night did pray
Upon her Beads devoutly penitent;
Nine hundred Pater-Nosters every day,
And thrice nine hundred Ave's she was wont to say.

And to augment her painful Penance more,
Thrice every Week in Ashes she did sit,
And next her wrinkled Skin rough Sackcloth wore,
And thrice three times did fast from any bit:
But now for fear her Beads she did forget.
Whose needless dread for to remove away,
Fair Una framed Words and Count'nance fit:
Which hardly done, at length she 'gan them pray,
That in their Cottage small, that Night she rest her may.

The day is spent, and cometh drowsy Night,
When every Creature shrowded is in sleep;
Sad Una down her lays in weary plight,
And at her feet the Lion watch doth keep:
Instead of Rest, she does lament, and weep
For the late Loss of her dear loved Knight,
And sighs and groans, and evermore does steep
Her tender Breast in bitter Tears all Night;
All Night she thinks too long, and often looks for Light.

Now when Aldeboran was mounted high
Above the shiny Cassiopeia's Chair,
And all in deadly sleep did drowned lie,
One knocked at the Door, and in would fare;
He knocked fast, and often curs'd, and sware,
That ready Entrance was not at his call:
For on his Back a heavy Load he bare
Of nightly Stealths, and Pillage several,
Which he had got abroad by Purchase criminal.

He was to weet a stout and sturdy Thief,
Wont to rob Churches of their Ornaments,
And poor Mens Boxes of their due Relief,
Which given was to them for good Intents:
The holy Saints of their rich Vestiments
He did disrobe, when all Men careless slept,
And spoil'd the Priests of their Habiliments,
Whiles none the holy things in safety kept;
Then he by cunning sleights in at the Window crept.

And all that he by Right or Wrong could find,
Unto this House he brought, and did bestow
Upon the Daughter of this Woman blind,
Abessa, Daughter of Corceca slow,
With whom he Whoredom us'd, that few did know;
And fed her fat with Feast of Offerings,
And Plenty, which in all the Land did grow:
Ne spared he to give her Gold and Rings,
And now he to her brought part of his stolen things.

Thus, long the Door with Rage and Threats he bet,
Yet of those fearful Women none durst rise,
The Lion frayed them, him in to let:
He would no longer stay him to advise,
But open breaks the Door in furious wise,
And entring is; when that disdainful Beast
Encountring fierce, him suddain doth surprize,
And seizing cruel Claws on trembling Breast,
Under his Lordly Foot him proudly hath supprest.

Him booteth not resist, nor Succour call,
His bleeding Hart is in the Venger's Hand,
Who straight him rent in thousand pieces small,
And quite dismembred hath: The thirsty Land
Drunk up his Life; his Corse left on the strand.
His fearful Friends wear out the woful Night,
Ne dare to weep, nor seem to understand
The heavy Hap which on them is alight,
Afraid, lest to themselves the like mishappen might.

Now when broad Day the World discovered has,
Up Una rose, up rose the Lion eke,
And on their former Journey forward pass,
In ways unknown, her wandring Knight to seek,
With Pains far passing that long wandring Greek
That for his Love refused Deity;
Such were the Labours of this Lady meek,
Still seeking him, that from her still did fly,
Then furthest from her hope, when most she weened nigh.

Soon as she parted thence, the fearful Twain,
That blind old Woman and her Daughter dear,
Came forth, and finding Kirkrapine there slain,
For Anguish great they 'gan to rend their Hair,
And beat their Breasts, and naked Flesh to tear.
And when they both had wept and wail'd their fill,
Then forth they ran like two amazed Deer,
Half mad through Malice, and revenging Will,
To follow her, that was the causer of their Ill.

Whom overtaking, they 'gan loudly bray,
With hollow Howling, and lamenting Cry,
Shamefully at her railing all the way,
And her accusing of Dishonesty,
That was the Flower of Faith and Chastity;
And still amidst her railing, she did pray,
That Plagues, and Mischiefs, and long Misery
Might fall on her, and follow all the way,
And that in endless Error she might ever stray.

But when she saw her Prayers nought prevail,
She back returned with some Labour lost;
And in the way, as she did weep and wail,
A Knight her met in mighty Arms emboss'd,
Yet Knight was not for all his bragging boast,
But subtile Archimage, that Una sought
By Trains into new Troubles to have toss'd:
Of that old Woman Tidings he besought,
If that of such a Lady she could tellen ought.

There-with she 'gan her Passion to renew,
And cry, and curse, and rail, and rend her Hair,
Saying, That Harlot she too lately knew,
That caus'd her shed so many a bitter Tear
And so forth told the Story of her Fear:
Much seemed he to moan her hapless Chaunce,
And after, for that Lady did inquere;
Which being taught, he forward 'gan advaunce
His fair enchaunted Steed, and eke his charmed Launce.

Ere long he came where Una travel'd slow,
And that wild Champion waiting her beside:
Whom seeing such, for dread he durst not show
Himself too nigh at hand, but turned wide
Unto an Hill; from whence when she him spy'd,
By his like seeming Shield, her Knight by name
She ween'd it was, and towards him 'gan ride:
Approching nigh, she wist it was the same,
And with fair fearful humblesse towards him she came.

And weeping, said, Ah my long lacked Lord,
Where have ye been thus long out of my sight?
Much feared I to have been quite abhor'd,
Or ought have done, that ye displeasen might,
That should as death unto my dear Heart light:
For since mine Eye your joyous sight did miss,
My cheerful Day is turn'd to cheerless Night,
And eke my Night of Death the Shadow is;
But welcome now my Light, and shining Lamp of Bliss.

He thereto meeting, said, My dearest Dame,
Far be it from your Thought, and from my Will,
To think that Knighthood I so much should shame,
As you to leave, that have me loved still,
And chose in Fairy-Court of mere good-will,
Where noblest Knights were to be found on Earth:
The Earth shall sooner leave her kindly Skill
To bring forth Fruit, and make eternal Dearth,
Than I leave you, my Life, yborn of heavenly Birth.

And sooth to say, why I left you so long,
Was for to seek Adventure in strange Place,
Where Archimago said a Felon strong
To many Knights did daily work disgrace;
But Knight he now shall never more deface:
Good cause of mine excuse; that more ye please
Well to accept, and evermore embrace
My faithful Service, that by Land and Seas
Have vow'd you to defend, now then your Plaint appease.

His lovely words her seem'd due Recompence
Of all her passed Pains: one loving Hour
For many Years of Sorrow can dispense;
A Dram of Sweet is worth a Pound of Sour:
She has forgot, how many a woful stower
For him she late endur'd; she speaks no more
Of past: True is, that true Love hath no Power
To looken back; his Eyes be fix'd before:
Before her stands her Knight, for whom she toil'd so sore.

Much like, as when the beaten Mariner,
That long hath wandred in the Ocean wide,
Oft soust in swelling Thetis' saltish Tear,
And long time having tann'd his tawney Hide
With blustring Breath of Heaven, that none can bide,
And scorching Flames of fierce Orion's hound;
Soon as the Port from far he has espy'd,
His cheerful Whistle merrily doth sound,
And Nereus crowns with Cups; his Mates him pledg around:

Such Joy made Una, when her Knight she found;
And eke th' Enchaunter joyous seem'd no less
Than the glad Merchant, that does view from ground
His Ship far come from watry Wilderness;
He hurles out Vows, and Neptune oft doth bless:
So forth they past, and all the way they spent
Discoursing of her dreadful late Distress,
In which he ask'd her, what the Lion ment:
Who told her all that fell in Journy as she went.

They had not ridden far, when they might see
One pricking towards them with hasty heat,
Full strongly arm'd, and on a Courser free
That through his fierceness foamed all with Sweat,
And the sharp Iron did for Anger eat,
When his hot Rider spur'd his chauffed Side;
His Look was stern, and seemed still to threat
Cruel Revenge, which he in Heart did hide,
And on his Shield Sans-loy in bloody Lines was dy'd.

When nigh he drew unto this gentle Pair,
And saw the Red-cross, which the Knight did bear,
He burnt in Fire, and 'gan eftsoons prepare
Himself to Battle with his couched Spear.
Loth was that other, and did faint through fear
To taste th' untryed Dint of deadly Steel;
But yet his Lady did so well him cheer,
That hope of new good hap he 'gan to feel;
So bent his Spear, and spurn'd his Horse with iron Heel.

But that proud Paynim forward came so fierce,
And full of Wrath, that with his sharp-head Spear
Through vainly crossed Shield he quite did pierce;
And, had his Staggering Steed not shrunk for fear,
Through Shield and Body eke he should him bear:
Yet so great was the puissance of his Push,
That from his Saddle quite he did him bear:
He tumbling rudely down to Ground did rush,
And from his gored Wound a Well of Blood did gush.

Dismounting lightly from his lofty Steed,
He to him lept, in mind to reave his Life,
And proudly said, Lo there the worthy Meed
Of him that slew Sans-foy with bloody Knife;
Henceforth his Ghost, freed from repining Strife,
In peace may passen over Lethe Lake,
When mourning Altars, purg'd with Enemies Life,
The black infernal Furies doen aslake:
Life from Sans-foy thou took'st, Sans-loy shall from thee take.

There-with in haste his Helmet 'gan unlace,
Till Una cry'd, O hold that heavy Hand,
Dear Sir, wherever that thou be in place:
Enough is, that thy Foe doth vanquish'd stand
Now at thy mercy; Mercy not withstand:
For he is one the truest Knight alive,
Though conquered now he lie on lowly Land;
And whilst him Fortune favour'd, Fair did thrive
In bloody Field: therefore of Life him not deprive.

Her piteous words might not abate his Rage:
But rudely rending up his Helmet, would
Have slain him straight: but when he sees his Age,
And hoary Head of Archimago old,
His hasty Hand he doth amazed hold,
And half ashamed, wondred at the sight:
For, the old Man well knew he, tho untold,
In Charms and Magick to have wondrous Might,
Ne ever wont in Field, ne in round Lists to fight.

And said, Why Archimago, luckless Sire!
What do I see? What hard mishap is this,
That hath thee hither brought to taste mine Ire?
Or thine the Fault, or mine the Error is,
Instead of Foe, to wound my Friend amiss?
He answered nought, but in a Traunce still lay,
And on those guileful dazed Eyes of his
The Cloud of Death did sit. Which doen away,
He left him lying so, ne would no longer stay:

But to the Virgin comes, who all this while
Amazed stands, her self so mock'd to see
By him, who has the Guerdon of his Guile,
For so misfeigning her true Knight to be:
Yet is she now in more perplexity,
Left in the Hand of that same Paynim bold,
From whom her booteth not at all to flie:
Who, by her cleanly Garment catching hold,
Her from her Palfrey pluck'd, her Visage to behold.

But her fierce Servant, full of kingly Awe
And high Disdain, when as his sovereign Dame
So rudely handled by her Foe he saw,
With gaping Jaws full greedy at him came,
And ramping on his Shield, did ween the same
Have reft away with his sharp rending Claws:
But he was stout, and Lust did now inflame
His Courage more, that from his griping Paws
He hath his Shield redeem'd, and forth his Sword he draws.

O then too weak and feeble was the Force
Of salvage Beast, his Puissance to withstand;
For he was strong, and of so mighty Corse,
As ever wielded Spear in warlike Hand,
And Feats of Arms did wisely understand.
Eftsoons he pierced through his chauffed Chest
With thrilling Point of deadly Iron Brand,
And launc'd his Lordly Heart; with Death opprest,
He roar'd aloud, whiles Life forsook his stubborn Breast.

Who now is left to keep the forlorn Maid
From raging Spoil of lawless Victor's Will?
Her faithful Gard remov'd, her Hope dismay'd,
Her self a yielded Prey to save or spill.
He now Lord of the Field, his Pride to fill,
With foul Reproaches, and disdainful Spight
Her vilely entertains, and (will or nill)
Bears her away upon his Courser light:
Her Prayers nought prevail, his Rage is more of might.

And all the way, with great lamenting Pain,
And piteous Plaints she filleth his dull Ears,
That stony Heart could riven have in twain,
And all the way she wets with flowing Tears:
But he, enrag'd with Rancor, nothing hears.
Her servile Beast yet would not leave her so,
But follows her far off, ne ought he fears
To be partaker of her wandring Woe;
More mild in beastly Kind, than that her beastly Foe.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 1:49-60]

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