1590
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book I. Canto IV.

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

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto IV. (51 Stanzas). — In this great Canto, leaving Una, we again find ourselves in company of the Redcross Knight. It begins: — 'Young knight whatever, that dost arms profess, | And through long labours huntest after fame, | Beware of fraud, beware of fickleness....' He has been brought by Duessa within sight of a great and magnificent building: — 'The house of mighty prince it seemed to be; | And towards it a broad highway that led, | All bare through people's feet which hither travelled.' Multitudes in fact were constantly travelling thither both by day and by night; but only a few ever returned, who had with difficulty made their escape, and, bringing with them beggary or disgrace, ever after 'Like loathsome Lazars by the hedges lay.' Duessa professes to be weary, and exhorts her companion to quicken his steps, the day also being near its close. 'A stately palace built of squared brick, | Which cunningly was without mortar laid....'

"As the Elfin Knight and Duessa advance to the presence, 'a gentle husher, Vanity by name,' makes room for them to pass on, and brings them to the lowest step of the throne, where they kneel and make obeisance. 'With lofty eyes, half loth to look so low, | She thanked them in her disdainful wise....' Great attention is paid on all hands both to the knight and Duessa, especially to the latter, who has been well known in that court in former days. Queen Lucifera herself, however, does not deign to notice the strangers. And now comes the magnificent description, not to be abridged, of her going forth in state: — 'Sudden upriseth from her stately place | The royal dame, and for her coach doth call: | All hurtlen forth....'

"In this manner they all ride forth, 'To take the solace of the open air, | And in fresh flowering fields themselves to sport;' Duessa taking her place next to the chair of Lucifera as one of the train; but the knight keeps at a distance. Then, — 'having solaced themselves a space, | With pleasance of the breathing fields yfed, | They back returned to the princely place.' Here they find a new errant knight arrived, upon whose heathenish shield is writ 'with letters red' the name Sansjoy. The sight of his brother Sansfoy's shield in the possession of the 'Fairy champion's page' instantly kindles his fury; and he and the Red Cross Knight are only prevented from fighting immediately by the Queen's command that they should defer the settlement of their quarrel till the morrow: — 'That night they pass in joy and jollity, | Feasting and courting both in bower and hall....' Afterwards, in the middle of the night, when all are asleep, Duessa makes her way to the Paynim's lodging or apartment; and the Canto concludes with a conversation between them on the chances and hopes of the morrow's fight. She offers to accept his love in lieu of that of his dead brother; and he expresses all confidence of victory, and assures her of revenge" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 1:132-40.



To Sinful House of Pride, Duessa
Guides the faithful Knight:
Where, Brother's Death to wreak, Sans-joy
Doth challenge him to fight.

Young Knight, whatever that dost Arms profess,
And thro long Labours huntest after Fame,
Beware of Fraud, beware of Fickleness,
In Choice and Change of thy dear loved Dame;
Lest thou of her believe too lightly blame,
And rash misweening do thy Heart remove;
For unto Knight there is no greater Shame,
Than Lightness and Inconstancy in Love;
That doth this Red-cross Knight's ensample plainly prove.

Who after that he had fair Una lorne,
Through light misdeeming of her Loyalty,
And false Duessa in her stead had borne,
Called Fidess', and so suppos'd to be;
Long with her travell'd, till at last they see
A goodly Building, bravely garnished,
The House of mighty Prince it seem'd to be:
And cowards it a broad high way that led,
All bare through Peoples Feet, which thither travelled.

Great Troops of People travell'd thitherward
Both Day and Night, of each Degree and Place;
But few returned, having 'scaped hard,
With baleful Beggary, or foul Disgrace,
Which ever after, in most wretched Case,
Like loathsome Lazars, by the Hedges lay.
Thither Duessa bade him bend his Pace;
For she is weary of the toilsom way,
And also nigh consumed is the lingring Day.

A stately Palace built of squared Brick,
Which cunningly was without Mortar laid,
Whose Walls were high, but nothing strong, nor thick;
And golden Foil all over them displaid;
That purest Sky with Brightness they dismaid:
High lifted up were many lofty Towers,
And goodly Galleries far overlaid,
Full of fair Windows, and delightful Bowers;
And on the top a Dial told the timely Hours

It was a goodly Heap for to behold,
And spake the Praises of me Workman's Wit;
But full great Pity, that so fair a Mold
Did on so weak Foundation ever fit:
For on a sandy Hill, that still did flit,
And fall away, it mounted was full high,
That every Breath of Heaven shaked it;
And all the hinder parts, that few could spy,
Were ruinous and old, but painted cunningly.

Arrived there, they passed in forth right;
For still, to all, the Gates stood open wide,
Yet charge of them was to a Porter hight
Call'd Malvenu, who entrance none deny'd:
Thence to the Hall, which was on every side
With rich Array and costly Arras dight,
Infinite sorts of People did abide
There waiting long, to win the wished Sight
Of her, that was the Lady of that Palace bright.

By them they pass, all gazing on them round,
And to the Presence mount; whose glorious View
Their frail amazed Senses did confound:
In living Princes Court none ever knew
Such endless Riches, and so sumptuous Shew;
Ne Persia' self, the Nurse of pompous Pride,
Like ever saw. And there a noble Crew
Of Lords and Ladies stood on every side,
Which with their Presence fair the Place much beautify'd.

High above all, a Cloth of State was spred,
And a rich Throne, as bright as sunny Day,
On which there sat most brave embellished
With Royal Robes and gorgeous Array,
A Maiden Queen, that shone as Titan's Ray,
In glistring Gold, and peerless precious Stone:
Yet her bright blazing Beauty did assay
To dim the Brightness of her glorious Throne,
As envying her self, that too exceeding shone.

Exceeding shone, like Phoebus' fairest Child,
That did presume his Father's fiery Wain,
And flaming Mouths of Steeds unwonted wild,
Through highest Heaven with weaker hand to rein;
Proud of such Glory and Advancement vain
While flashing Beams do daze his feeble Eyen,
He leaves the Welkin-way most beaten plain,
And wrapt with whirling wheels, enflames the Skyen,
With Fire not made to burn, but fairly for to shine.

So proud she shined in her Princely State,
Looking to Heaven; for Earth she did disdain,
And sitting high; for lowly she did hate:
Lo! underneath her scornful Feet, was lain
A dreadful Dragon with an hideous Train:
And in her Hand she held a Mirrour bright,
Wherein her Face she often viewed fain,
And in her self-lov'd semblance took delight,
For she was wondrous fair, as any living Wight.

Of griesly Pluto she the Daughter was,
And sad Proserpina the Queen of Hell;
Yet did she think her peerless Worth to pass
That Parentage, with Pride so did she swell:
And thundring Jove, that high in Heaven doth dwell,
And wield the World, she claimed for her Sire,
Or if that any else did Jove excel:
For to the highest she did still aspire,
Or, if ought higher were than that, did it desire.

And proud Lucifera Men did her call,
That made her self a Queen, and crown'd to be;
Yet rightful Kingdom she had none at all,
Ne Heritage of native sovereignty,
But did usurp with Wrong and Tyranny
Upon the Scepter, which she now did hold:
Ne rul'd her Realms with Laws, but Policy,
And strong Advizement of six Wizards old,
That with their Counsels bad her Kingdom did uphold.

Soon as the Elfin Knight in Presence came,
And false Duessa, seeming Lady fair,
A gentle Usher, Vanity by name,
Made room, and Passage for them did prepare;
So goodly brought them to the lowest Stair
Of her high Throne; where they, on humble Knee
Making Obeisance, did the Cause declare,
Why they were come, her Royal State to see,
To prove the wide Report of her great Majesty.

With lofty Eyes, half loth to look so low,
She thanked them in her disdainful wise,
Ne other Grace vouchsafed them to show,
Of Princess worthy, scarce them bad arise.
Her Lords and Ladies all this while devise
Themselves to setten forth to Straungers sight:
Some frounce their curled Hair in courtly guise,
Some pranke their Ruffes, and others trimly dight
Their gay Attire: each others greater Pride does spight.

Goodly they all that Knight do entertain,
Right glad with him to have increas'd their Crew:
But to Duess' each one himself did pain
All Kindness and fair Courtesy to shew;
For in that Court whilome her well they knew:
Yet the stout Fairy 'mongst the middest Croud,
Thought all their Glory vain in knightly view,
And that great Princess too exceeding proud,
That to strange Knight no better Countenance allow'd.

Suddain upriseth from her stately Place
The royal Dame, and for her Coach doth call:
All hurlen forth, and she with Princely pace,
As fair Aurora in her purple Pall,
Out of the East the dawning Day doth call.
So forth she comes: her Brightness broad doth blaze;
The heaps of People thronging in the Hall,
Do ride each other, upon her to gaze:
Her glorious Glitter and Light doth all Mens Eyes amaze.

So forth she comes, and to her Coach does climb,
Adorned all with Gold and Garlands gay,
That seem'd as fresh as Flora in her Prime;
And strove to match, in royal rich Array,
Great Juno's golden Chair, the which they say
The Gods stand gazing on, when she does ride
To Jove's high House through Heavens brass-paved way,
Drawn of fair Peacocks, that excel in Pride,
And full of Argus' Eyes their Tails disspredden wide.

But this was drawn of six unequal Beasts,
On which her six sage Counsellors did ride,
Taught to obey their bestial Beheasts,
With like Conditions to their kinds apply'd:
Of which the first, that all the rest did guide,
Was sluggish Idleness, the Nurse of Sin;
Upon a slothful Ass he chose to ride,
Array'd in Habit black, and amis thin,
Like to an holy Monk, the Service to begin.

And in his Hand his Portress still he bare,
That much was worn, but therein little red:
For of Devotion he had little care,
Still drown'd in Sleep, and most of his days dead;
Scarce could he once uphold his heavy Head,
To looken whether it were Night or Day.
May seem the Wain was very evil led,
When such an one had guiding of the way,
That knew not, whether right he went, or else astray.

From worldly Cares himself he did esloin,
And greatly shunned manly Exercise;
For every Work he challenged Essoin,
For Contemplation sake: yet otherwise,
His life he led in lawless Riotise;
By which he grew to grievous Malady:
For, in his lustless Limbs through evil Guise
A shaking Fever reign'd continually:
Such one was Idleness, first of this Company.

And by his side rode loathsome Gluttony,
Deformed Creature, on a filthy Swine,
His Belly was up-blown with Luxury,
And eke with Fatness swollen were his eyne:
And like a Crane, his Neck was long and fine,
With which he swallowed up excessive Feast,
For want whereof poor People oft did pine;
And all the way, most like a brutish Beast,
He spewed up his Gorge that all did him detest.

In green Vine Leaves he was right fitly clad,
For other Clothes he could not wear for Heat;
And on his Head an Ivy Garland had,
From under which fast trickled down the Sweat:
Still as he rode, he some-what still did eat,
And in his Hand did bear a Bouzing-Can,
Of which he supt so oft, that on his Seat
His drunken Corse he scarce upholden can;
In Shape and Life, more like a Monster than a Man.

Unfit he was for any worldly thing,
And eke unable once so stir or go,
Not meet to be of Counsel to a King,
Whose Mind in Meat and Drink was drowned so,
That from his Friend he seldom knew his Foe;
Full of Diseases was his Carcass blue,
And a dry Dropsy through his Flesh did flow;
Which by mis-diet daily greater grew:
Such one was Gluttony, the second of that Crew.

And next to him rode lustful Lechery
Upon a bearded Goat, whose rugged Hair
And whally Eyes (the sign of Jealousy)
Was like the Person self, whom he did bear:
Who rough, and black, and filthy did appear,
Unseemly Man to please fair Ladies Eye;
Yet he, of Ladies oft was loved dear,
When fairer Faces were bid standen by:
O! who does know the bent of Womens fantasy?

In a green Gown he clothed was full fair,
Which underneath did hide his Filthiness,
And in his Hand a burning Heart he bare,
Full of vain Follies and new-fangleness:
For, he was false, and fraught with Fickleness,
And learned had to love with secret Looks,
And well could daunce and sing with ruefulness,
And Fortunes tell, and read in loving Books,
And thousand other ways to bait his fleshly Hooks.

Inconstant Man that loved all he saw,
And lusted after all that he did love;
Ne would his looser Life be ty'd to Law,
But joy'd weak Womens Hearts to tempt and prove,
If from their loyal Loves he might them move;
Which Lewdness fill'd him with reproachful Pain
Of that foul Evil which all Men reprove,
That rots the Marrow, and consumes the Brain:
Such one was Lechery, the third of all this Train.

And greedy Avarice by him did ride,
Upon a Camel loaden all with Gold;
Two iron Coffers hung on either side,
With precious Metal, full as they might hold,
And in his Lap an heap of Coin he told:
For of his wicked Pelf his God he made,
And unto Hell himself for Money sold;
Accursed Usury was all his Trade,
And right and wrong ylike in equal Ballance weigh'd.

His Life was nigh unto Death's Door yplac'd,
And thread-bare Coat and cobled Shoes he ware,
Ne scarce good Morsel all his Life did taste,
But both from Back and Belly still did spare,
To fill his Bags, and Riches to compare:
Yet Child ne Kinsman living had he none
To leave them to; but thorough daily Care
To get, and nightly Fear to lose his own,
He led a wretched Life unto himself unknown.

Most wretched Wight, whom nothing might suffice,
Whose greedy Lust did lack in greatest Store,
Whose Need had end, but no end Covetise,
Whose Wealth was Want, whose Plenty made him poor,
Who had enough, yet wished evermore:
A vile Disease, and eke in Foot and Hand
A grievous Gout tormented him full sore,
That well he could not touch, nor go, nor stand;
Such one was Avarice, the fourth of this fair Band.

And next to him malicious Envy rode
Upon a ravenous Wolf, and Still did chaw
Between his cankred Teeth a venemous Tode,
That all the Poison ran about his Jaw;
But inwardly he chawed his own Maw
At Neighbour's Wealth, that made him ever sad;
For Death it was, when any good he saw,
And wept, that cause of Weeping none he had:
But when he heard of Harm, he wexed wondrous glad.

All in a Kirtle of discolour'd Say
He clothed was, ypainted full of Eyes
And in his Bosom secretly there lay
An hateful Snake, the which his Tail upties
In many Folds, and mortal Sting implies.
Still as he rode, he gnash'd his Teeth, to see
Those heaps of Gold with griple Covetise,
And grudged at the great Felicity
Of proud Lucifera, and his own Company.

He hated all good Works and vertuous Deeds,
And him no less, that any like did use:
And who with gracious Bread the Hungry feeds,
His Alms, for want of Faith, he doth accuse;
So every Good to Bad he doth abuse:
And eke the Verse of famous Poet's Wit
He does backbite, and spightful Poison spues
From leprous Mouth, on all that ever writ:
Such one vile Envy was, that first in row did sit.

And him besides rides fierce revenging Wrath,
Upon a Lion, loth for to be led;
And in his Hand a burning Brond he hath,
The which he brandisheth about his Head;
His Eyes did hurle forth Sparkles fiery red,
And stared stern on all that him beheld,
As Ashes pale of hew and seeming dead;
And on his Dagger still his Hand he held;
Trembling through hasty Rage, when Choler in him swell'd.

His ruffin Raiment all was stain'd with Blood
Which he had spilt, and all to Rags yrent,
Through unadvised Rashness woxen wood;
For of his Hands he had no government,
Ne car'd for Blood in his avengement:
But when the furious Fit was overpast,
His cruel Facts he often would repent;
Yet wilful Man he never would forecast,
How many Mischiefs should ensue his heedless hast.

Full many Mischiefs follow cruel Wrath;
Abhorred Bloodshed and tumultuous Strife,
Unmanly Murder, and unthrifty Scath,
Bitter Despight, with Rancour's rusty Knife,
And fretting Grief the Enemy of Life;
All these, and many Evils moe haunt Ire,
The swelling Spleen, and Phrenzy raging rife,
The shaking Palsey, and Saint Frauncis' Fire:
Such one was Wrath, the last of this ungodly Tire.

And after all, upon the Waggon Beam
Rode Satan, with a smarting Whip in hand,
With which he forward lash'd the lazy Team,
So oft as Sloth still in the Mire did stand.
Huge Routs of People did about them band,
Shouting for Joy; and still before their way
A foggy Mist had covered all the Land;
And underneath their Feet, all scattered lay
Dead Skuls and Bones of Men, whose Life had gone astray.

So forth they marchen in this goodly sort,
To take the solace of the open Air,
And in fresh flowring Fields themselves to sport.
Emongst the rest rode that false Lady fair,
The foul Duessa, next unto the Chair
Of proud Lucifera, as one o' th' train:
But that good Knight would not so nigh repair,
Himself estraunging from their joyance vain,
Whose Fellowship seem'd far unfit for warlike Swain.

So having solaced themselves a space,
With pleasaunce of the breathing Fields yfed,
They back returned to the Princely Place;
Whereas an errant Knight in Arms ycled,
And heath'nish Shield, wherein with Letters red
Was writ Sans-joy, they new arrived find:
Enflam'd with Fury and fierce Hardy-hed,
He seem'd in Heart to harbour Thoughts unkind,
And nourish bloody Vengeance in his bitter Mind.

Who when the shamed Shield of slain Sans-foy
He spy'd with that same Fairy Champion's Page,
Bewraying him, that did of late destroy
His eldest Brother, burning all with Rage
He to him leapt, and that same envious gage
Of Victor's Glory from him snatch'd away:
But th' Elfin Knight, which ought that warlike wage,
Disdain'd to lose the Meed he won in Fray,
And him rencountring fierce, rescu'd the noble Prey.

There-with they gan to hurlen greedily,
Redoubted Battail ready to darrain,
And clash their Shields, and shake their Swords on high,
That with their air they troubled all the Train
Till that great Queen upon eternal Pain
Of high Displeasure that ensewen might,
Commaunded them their Fury to refrain,
And if that either to that Shield had right,
In equal Lists they should the Morrow next it fight.

Ah dearest Dame (quoth then the Paynim bold)
Pardon the Error of inraged Wight,
Whom great Grief made forget the Reins to hold
Of Reason's Rule, to see this recreant Knight,
No Knight, but Treachour full of false Despight
And shameful Treason, who through Guile hath slain
The prowest Knight that ever Field did fight,
Even stout Sans-foy (O! who can then refrain?)
Whose Shield he bears re'nverst, the more to heap Disdain.

And to augment the Glory of his Guile,
His dearest Love the fair Fidessa loe
Is there possessed of the Traitor vile,
Who reaps the Harvest sowen by his Foe,
Sowen in bloody Field, and bought with Woe:
That Brother's Hand shall dearly well requight,
So be, O Queen, you equal Favour show.
Him little answer'd th' angry Elfin Knight;
He never meant with Words, but Swords, to plead his Right.

But threw his Gauntlet as a sacred Pledge,
His Cause in Combat the next day to try;
So been they parted both, with Hearts on edge,
To be aveng'd each on his Enemy.
That Night they pass in Joy and Jollity,
Feasting and Courting both in Bower and Hall;
For Steward was excessive Gluttony,
That of his Plenty poured forth to all;
Which doen, the Chamberlain Sloth did to rest them call.

Now when as darksome Night had all display'd
Her cole-black Curtain over brightest Sky,
The warlike Youths on dainty Couches laid,
Did chace away sweet Sleep from sluggish Eye,
To muse on means of hoped Victory.
But when as Morpheus had with leaden Mace
Arrested all that courtly Company,
Up-rose Duessa from her Resting-place,
And to the Paynim's Lodging comes with silent Pace.

Whom broad awake she finds, in troublous fit,
Forecasting how his Foe he might annoy,
And him amoves with Speeches seeming fit:
Ah dear Sans-joy, next dearest to Sans-foy,
Cause of my new Grief, Cause of my new Joy,
Joyous to see his Image in mine Eye,
And griev'd to think how Foe did him destroy,
That was the Flower of Grace and Chevalry;
Lo, his Fidessa, to thy secret Faith I fly.

With gentle words he 'gan her fairly greet,
And bad say on the Secret of her Heart.
Then sighing soft, I learn that little Sweet
Oft tempred is (quoth he) with muchel Smart:
For, since my Breast was launc'd with lovely Dart
Of dear Sans-foy, I never joyed Hour,
But in eternal Woes my weaker Heart
Have wasted, loving him with all my Power,
And for his sake have felt full many an heavy Stower.

At last, when Perils all I weened past,
And hop'd to reap the Crop of all my Care,
Into new Woes unweeting I was cast
By this false Faytor, who unworthy ware
His worthy Shield, whom he with guileful Snare
Entrapped slew, and brought to shameful Grave.
Me silly Maid away with him he bare,
And ever since hath kept in darksome Cave,
For that I would not yield, that to Sans-foy I gave.

But since fair Sun hath spers'd that lowring Cloud,
And to my loathed Life now shews some Light,
Under your Beams I will me safely shroud,
From dreaded Storm of his disdainful Spight:
To you th' Inheritance belongs by Right
Of Brother's praise, to you eke 'longs his Love;
Let not his Love, let not his restless Spright
Be unreveng'd, that calls to you above
From wandring Stygian Shores, where it doth endless move.

Thereto said he, Fair Dame, be nought dismay'd
For Sorrows past; their Grief is with them gone:
Ne yet of present Peril be affraid;
For needless Fear did never vantage none,
And helpless Hap it booteth not to mone.
Dead is Sans-foy, his vital Pains are past,
Though grieved Ghost for Vengeance deep do grone:
He lives, that shall him pay his Duties last,
And guilty Elfin Blood shall sacrifice in hast.

O! but I fear the fickle Freaks (quoth she)
Of Fortune false, and odds of Arms in Field.
Why Dame (quoth he) what odds can ever be,
Where both do fight alike, to win, or yield?
Yea, but (quoth she) he bears a charmed Shield,
And eke enchaunted Arms, that none can pierce,
Ne none can wound the Man that does them wield.
Charm'd or Enchaunted (answered he then fierce)
I no whit reck, ne you the like need to reherse.

But fair Fidessa, sithence Fortune's Guile,
Or Enemy's Power hath now captived you,
Return from whence ye came, and rest awhile
Till Morrow next, that I the Elf subdue,
And with Sans-foy's dead Dowry you endue.
Ay me, that is a double Death (she said)
With proud Foes sight my Sorrow to renew:
Where ever yet I be, my secret Aid
Shall follow you. So passing forth, she him obey'd.

[Works, ed Hughes (1715) 1:61-73]

[Continue]