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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book I. Canto VIII.

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

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto VIII. (50 stanzas). — They travel along together, Una and Arthur, until they are brought by their guide, the dwarf, to the castle where the Redcross Knight lies confined. Advancing on foot with his squire, the prince finds the gates all shut and no one within either 'toward the same nor answer comer's call....' Duessa also comes forth after him, 'high-mounted on her many-headed beast,' every head crowned and flaming with a fiery tongue. The prince at once flies at the giant, who, aiming a blow at him with his dreadful club, misses his object, and instead strikes the earth with such force that he throws up a furrow in the driven clay of three yards in depth, nor can he again recover the use of his weapon, 'so buried in the ground,' before his agile adversary has smitten off his left arm.

"Duessa now strikes in with her dreadful beast; but the monster is valiantly opposed by the squire, till his senses are overpowered by some enchanted liquid sprinkled upon him by the witch from her golden cup, under the effect of which he falls down, and the cruel beast has planted its bloody claws on his neck, when the knight comes up and sends it roaring off with the loss of one of its seven heads. But now the giant strikes the knight to the ground, and it does not appear how he would have ever risen again had it not been that the fall by chance loosens the covering of his shield; — 'The light whereof, that heaven's light did pass, | Such blazing brightness through the air threw | That eye mote not the same endure to view.' The giant draws back, and the beast, becoming stark blind, tumbles down with Duessa on its back, who cries for help to the giant, but in vain — 'for, since that glancing sight, | He hath no power to hurt nor to defend; | As, where the Almighty's lightning brand does light. | It dims the dazed eyne, and daunts the senses quite.'

"The knight, seeing him thus disabled, first smites off his right leg by the knee, on which he falls to the earth like an aged tree cut down, or an undermined castle; and then he despatches him as he lies prostrate and helpless. Duessa casts to the ground her golden cup, and throws her 'crowned mitre' rudely from her; but the lightfooted squire takes care to prevent her making her escape. Una, indeed, running up, after addressing the squire ... particularly entreats that they do not 'let that wicked woman scape away.'

"The witch having been given in charge to the squire, the prince by himself enters the castle, where, however, still no living creature is to be seen: — 'Then gall he loudly through the house to call; | But no man eared to answer to his cry: | There reigned a solemn silence over all; | Nor voice was heard, nor wight was seen in bower or hall!...' In this way Spenser sets before us, in his ingenious and splendid picture-writing, the moral truth that Pride (Orgoglio) is the foster-child of, or, in other words, is nourished by, Ignorance. Other questions have the same success; and at last the prince stepping up to the old man takes the keys from his arm, and opens the several doors for himself....

"In the end he comes to the dungeon where the Redcross Knight has been confined now for the space of three weary months. His call having been answered by 'an hollow, dreary, murmuring voice,' the prince, when he can find no key that will open the iron door, rends it in his fury and indignation. Having entered, however, his foot can find no floor, 'But all a deep descent, as dark as hell, | That breathed ever forth a filthy baneful smell...' and so he soon finds means to have the miserable prisoner brought up to the fresh air and the light of day. We shall not linger over either the joy of Una, or the punishment of Duessa, who, upon being stripped naked, is found to be a very different description of person from what she had seemed when arrayed in her royal robes and purple pall, and is, after a few severe words from Una, allowed to take her departure to the wilderness, where, 'flying fast from heaven's hated face,' she endeavours to hide her shame among the rocks and caves" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 1:158-62.



Fair Virgin, to redeem her Dear,
Brings Arthur to the Fight:
Who slays that Giant, wounds the Beast,
And strips Duessa quite.

Ay me! how many Perils do enfold
The righteous Man, to make him daily fall?
Were not, that heavenly Grace doth him uphold,
And stedfast Truth acquit him out of all.
Her Love is firm, her Care continual,
So oft as he, through his own foolish Pride,
Or Weakness, is to sinful Bands made thrall:
Else should this Red-cross Knight in Bands have dy'd,
For whose Deliv'rance the this Prince doth thither guide.

They sadly travel'd thus, until they came
Nigh to a Castle builded strong and high:
Then cry'd the Dwarf, Lo! yonder is the same
In which my Lord, my Liege, doth luckless lie,
Thrall to that Giant's hateful Tyranny:
Therefore, dear Sir, your mighty Powers assay.
The noble Knight alighted by and by
From lofty Steed, and bade the Lady stay,
To see what end of Fight should him befal that day.

So with the Squire, th' admirer of his Might,
He marched forth towards that Castle-Wall;
Whose Gates he found fast shut, ne living Wight
To ward the same, nor answer Comer's Call.
Then took the Squire an Horn of Bugle small,
Which hung adown his side in twisted Gold,
And Tassels gay. Wide Wonders over all
Of that same Horn's great Vertues weren told,
Which had approved been in Uses manifold.

Was never Wight that heard that shrilling Sound,
But trembling Fear did feel in every Vein;
Three Miles it might be easy heard around,
And Echoes three answer'd it self again:
No false Enchauntment, nor deceitful Train
Might once abide the Terror of that Blast,
But presently was void and wholly vain:
No Gate so strong, no Lock so firm and fast,
But with that piercing Noise flew open quite, or brast.

The same before the Giant's Gate he blew,
That all the Castle quaked from the Ground.
And every Door of free-will open flew.
The Giant self dismayed with that Sound
(Where he with his Duessa dalliance found)
In haste came rushing forth from inner Bower,
With staring Count'nance stern, as one astoun'd,
And staggering Steps, to weet what suddain Stower
Had wrought that Horror strange, and dar'd his dreaded Power.

And after him the proud Duessa came,
High mounted on her many-headed Beast,
And every Head with fiery Tongue did flame,
And every Head was crowned on his Creast,
And bloody-mouthed with late cruel Feast.
That when the Knight beheld, his mighty Shield
Upon his manly Arm he soon address'd,
And at him fiercely flew, with Courage fill'd,
And eager Greediness through every Member thrill'd.

There-with the Giant buckled him to fight,
Inflam'd with scornful Wrath and high Disdain;
And lifting up his dreadful Club on height,
All arm'd with ragged Snubs and knotty Grain,
Him thought at first Encounter to have slain.
But wise and wary was that noble Peer,
And lightly leaping from so monstrous Main,
Did fair avoid the Violence him near;
It booted nought, to think, such Thunderbolts to bear.

Ne Shame he thought to shun so hideous might:
The idle Stroke, enforcing furious way,
Missing the Mark of his misaimed Sight,
Did fall to ground, and with his heavy Sway,
So deeply dinted in the driven Clay,
That three yards deep a Furrow up did throw:
The sad Earth wounded with so sore Assay,
Did groan full grievous underneath the Blow,
And trembling with strange Fear, did like an Earthquake show.

As when almighty Jove, in wrathful Mood,
To wreak the Guilt of mortal Sins is bent,
Hurls forth his thundring Dart with deadly Food,
Enroll'd in Flames, and smouldring Dreariment,
Thro riven Clouds and molten Firmament;
The fierce three-forked Engine making way,
Both lofty Towers, and highest Trees hath rent,
And all that might his angry Passage stay,
And shooting in the Earth, casts up a Mount of Clay.

His boistrous Club, so bury'd in the ground,
He could hot rearen up again so light,
But that the Knight him at avantage found,
And whiles he strove his cumbred Club to quight
Out of the Earth, with Blade all burning bright
He smote off his left Arm, which like a Block
Did fall to ground, depriv'd of native Might:
Large Streams of Blood out of the trunked Stock
Forth gushed, like fresh-water Stream from riven Rock.

Dismayed with so desperate deadly Wound,
And eke impatient of unwonted Pain,
He loudly bray'd with beastly yelling Sound,
That all the Fields rebellowed again;
As great a Noise, as when in Cymbrian Plain
An Herd of Bulls, whom kindly Rage doth sting,
Do for the milky Mother's Want complain,
And fill the Fields with troublous bellowing,
The neighbour Woods around wish hollow murmuring.

That when his dear Duessa heard, and saw
The evil Stound that danger'd her Estate,
Unto his Aid she hastily did draw
Her dreadful Beast; who swoln with Blood of late,
Came ramping forth with proud presumptuous Gate,
And threaten'd all his Heads like flaming Brands.
But him the Squire made quickly to retreat,
Encountring fierce with single Sword in hand,
And 'twixt him and his Lord did like a Bulwark stand.

Then proud Duessa, full of wrathful Spight,
And fierce Disdain to be affronted so,
Enforc'd her Purple Beast with all her Might
That stop out of the way to overthrow,
Scorning the Let of so unequal Foe:
But nathemore would that courageous Swain
To her yield Passage, 'gainst his Lord to go,
But with outrageous Strokes did him restrain,
And with his Body barr'd the way atwixt them twain.

Then took the angry Witch her golden Cup,
Which still she bore, replete with magick Arts;
Death and Despair did many thereof sup,
And secret Poison thro their inward Parts,
Th' eternal Bale of heavy-wounded Hearts:
Which after Charms and some Enchauntments said.
She lightly sprinkled on his weaker Parts;
Therewith his sturdy Courage soon was quaid,
And all his Senses were with sudden Dread dismay'd.

So down he fell before the cruel Beast,
Who on his Neck his bloody Claws did seize,
That Life nigh crush'd out of his panting Breast;
No Power he had to stir, nor Will to rise.
That when the careful Knight 'gan well avise,
He lightly left the Foe with whom he fought
And to the Beast 'gan turn his Enterprise;
For wondrous Anguish in his Heart it wrought,
To see his loved Squire into such thraldom brought.

And high advancing his blood-thirsty Blade,
Strook one of those deformed Heads so sore,
That of his puissance proud ensample made;
His monstrous Scalp down to his Teeth it tore,
And that misformed Shape mix-shaped more.
A Sea of Blood gush'd from the gaping Wound,
That her gay Garments stain'd with filthy Gore,
And overflowed all the Field around;
That over shoes in Blood he waded on the ground.

Thereat he roared for exceeding Pain,
That to have heard, great Horror would have bred;
And scourging th' empty Air with his long Train,
Through great Impatience of his grieved Head,
His gorgeous Rider from her lofty Sted
Would have cast down, and trod in dirty Mire,
Had not the Giant soon her succoured;
Who, all enrag'd with Smart and frantick Ire,
Came hurtling in full fierce, and forc'd the Knight retire.

The Force, which wont in two to be disperst,
In one alone left Hand he now unites,
Which is through Rage more strong than both were erst,
With which his hideous Club aloft he dites,
And at his Foe with furious Rigour smites,
That strongest Oak might seem to overthrow:
The Stroke upon his Shield so heavy lites,
That to the ground it doubleth him full low,
What mortal Wight could ever bear so monstrous Blow?

And in his Fall, his Shield that cover'd was,
Did loose his Veil by Chance, and open flew:
The Light whereof, that Heaven's Light did pass,
Such blazing Brightness through the Aer threw,
That Eye mote not the same endure to view.
Which when the Giant spy'd with staring Eye,
He down let fall his Arm, and soft withdrew
His Weapon huge, that heaved was on high,
For to have slain the Man, that on the ground did lie.

And eke the fruitful-headed Beast, amaz'd
At flashing Beams of that sun-shiny Shield,
Became stark blind, and all his Senses daz'd,
That down he tumbled on the dirty Field,
And seem'd himself as conquered to yield.
Whom when his Maistress proud perceiv'd to fall,
Whilst yet his feeble Feet for Faintness reel'd,
Unto the Giant loudly she 'gan call,
O help, Orgoglio, help, or else we perish all.

At her so piteous Cry was much amov'd
Her Champion stout, and for to aid his Friend:
Again his wonted angry Weapon prov'd;
But all in vain: for he has read his end
In that bright Shield, and all their Forces spend
Themselves in vain: for, since that glauncing Sight,
He hath no power to hurt, nor to defend:
As where th' almighty's lightning Brond does light,
It dims the dazed Eyen, and daunts the Senses quight.

Whom when the Prince to Battel new address'd,
And threatning high his dreadful Stroke did see,
His sparkling Blade about his Head he bless'd,
And smote off quite his right Leg by the Knee,
That down he tumbled; as an aged Tree,
High growing on the top of rocky Clift,
Whose Heart-strings with keen Steel nigh hewen be,
The mighty Trunk half rent, with ragged rift
Doth roll adown the Rocks, and fall with fearful Drift.

Or as a Castle reared high and round,
By subtle Engines and malicious Slight
Is undermined from the lowest Ground,
And her Foundation forc'd, and feebled quite,
At last down falls, and with her heaped hight
Her hasty Ruin does more heavy make,
And yields it self unto the Victor's Might;
Such was this Giant's Fall, that seem'd to shake
The stedfast Globe of Earth, as it for fear did quake.

The Knight, then lightly leaping to the Prey,
With mortal Steel him smote again so sore,
That headless his unwieldy Body lay,
All wallow'd in its own foul bloody Gore,
Which flowed from his Wounds in wondrous store:
But soon as Breath out of his Breast did pass,
That huge great Body which the Giant bore,
Was vanish'd quite, and of that monstrous Mass
Was nothing left, but like an empty Bladder was.

Whose grievous Fall, when false Duessa spy'd,
Her golden Cup she cast unto the Ground,
And crowned Mitre rudely threw aside:
Such piercing Grief her stubborn Heart did wound,
That she could not endure that doleful Stound;
But leaving all behind her, fled away.
The light-foot Squire her quickly turn'd around,
And by hard means enforcing her to stay,
So brought unto his Lord, as his deserved Prey.

The Royal Virgin, which beheld from far
In pensive Plight, and sad Perplexity,
The whole Atchievement of this doubtful War,
Came running fast to greet his Victory,
With sober Gladness, and mild Modesty,
And with sweet joyous Chear him thus bespake:
Fair Branch of Nobless, Flower of Chevalry,
That with your Worth the World amazed make,
How shall I 'quite the Pains ye suffer for my sake?

And you fresh Bud of Vertue springing fast,
Whom these sad Eyes saw nigh unto Death's door,
What hath poor Virgin, for such peril past,
Wherewith you to reward? Accept therefore
My simple self, and Service evermore;
And he that high does sit, and all things see
With equal Eyes, their Merits to restore,
Behold what ye this Day have done for me;
And what I cannot 'quite, requite with Usury.

But sith the Heavens, and your fair Handling,
Have made you Maister of the Field this Day,
Your Fortune maister eke with governing,
And well begun, end all so well, I pray
Ne let that wicked Woman scape away;
For she it is that did my Lord bethrall,
My dearest Lord, and deep in Dungeon lay,
Where he his better Days hath wasted all;
O hear how piteous he to you for Aid does call!

Forthwith he gave in charge unto his Squire,
That scarlet Whore to keepen carefully;
Whiles he himself with greedy great Desire
Into the Castle entred forcibly,
Where living Creature none he did espy.
Then 'gan he loudly through the House to call
But no Man car'd to answer to his Cry.
There reign'd a solemn Silence over all,
Nor Voice was heard, nor Wight was seen in Bower or Hall.

At last, with creeping crooked Pace forth came
An old old Man, with Beard as white as Snow,
That on a Staff his feeble Steps did frame,
And guide his weary Gate both to and fro;
For his Eye-sight him failed long ygo:
And on his Arm a Bunch of Keys he bore,
The which unused Rust did overgrow;
Those were the Keys of every inner Door,
But he could not them use, but kept them still in store.

But very uncouth Sight was to behold
How he did fashion his untoward Pace:
For as he forward mov'd his footing old,
So backward still was turn'd his wrinkled Face:
Unlike to Men, who ever as they trace,
Both Feet and Face one way are wont to lead.
This was the antient Keeper of that Place,
And Foster-Father of the Giant dead;
His Name Ignaro did his Nature right aread.

His reverend Hairs and holy Gravity
The Knight much honour'd, as beseemed well,
And gently ask'd, where all the People be,
Which in that stately Building wont to dwell:
Who answer'd him full soft, he could not tell.
Again he ask'd, where that same Knight was laid,
Whom great Orgoglio with his Puissance fell
Had made his caytive Thrall; again he said,
He could not tell: ne ever other Answer made.

Then asked he, which way he in might pass;
He could not tell, again he answered.
Thereat the curteous Knight displeased was,
And said, Old Sire, it seems thou hast not read
How ill it fits with that same silver Head
In vain to mock, or mock'd in vain to be:
But if thou be, as thou art pourtrayed
With Nature's Pen, in Ages grave degree,
Aread in graver wise, what I demand of thee.

His Answer likewise was, he could not tell.
Whose sensless Speech, and doted Ignorance
Whenas the noble Prince had marked well,
He guest his Nature by his Countenance,
And calm'd his Wrath with goodly Temperance,
Then to him stepping, from his Arm did reach
Those Keys, and made himself free Enterance.
Each Door he open'd without any breach;
There was no Bar to stop, nor Foe him to impeach.

There all within full rich array'd he found,
With royal Arras and resplendent Gold;
And did with store of every thing abound,
That greatest Princes Presence might behold.
But all the Floor (too filthy to be told)
With Blood of guiltless Babes, and Innocents true,
Which there were slain, as Sheep out of the Fold,
Defiled was, that dreadful was to view,
And sacred Ashes over it was strowed new.

And there beside of Marble Stone was built
An Altar, carv'd with cunning Imagery,
On which true Christians Blood was often spilt,
And holy Martyrs often doen to die,
With cruel Malice and strong Tyranny:
Whose blessed Sprites from underneath the Stone
To God for Vengeance cry'd continually,
And with great Grief were often heard to groan,
That hardest Heart would bleed, to hear their piteous Moan.

Through every Room he sought, and every Bower,
But no where could he find that woful Thrall;
At last he came unto an iron Door,
That fast was lock'd, but Key found not at all
Amongst that Bunch, to open it withal;
But in the same a little Grate was pight,
Through which he sent his Voice, and loud did call
With all his Power, to weet if living Wight
Were housed there within, whom he enlargen might.

Therewith an hollow, dreary, murmuring Voice
These piteous Plaints and Dolours did resound;
O who is that, which brings me happy Choice
Of Death, that here lie dying every Stound,
Yet live perforce in baleful Darkness bound?
For now three Moons have changed thrice their Hue,
And have been thrice hid underneath the Ground,
Since I the Heaven's chearful Face did view:
O welcome thou, that dost of Death bring Tidings true.

Which when that Champion heard, with piercing Point
Of Pity dear his Heart was thrilled sore,
And trembling Horrour ran through every Joint.
For ruth of gentle Knight so foul forlore:
Which shaking off, he rent that iron Door
With furious Force, and Indignation fell;
Where entred in, his Foot could find no Floor,
But all a deep Descent, as dark as Hell,
That breathed ever forth a filthy baneful Smell.

But neither Darkness foul, nor filthy Bands,
Nor noyous Smell his purpose could with-hold,
(Entire Affection hateth nicer Hands)
But that with constant Zeal, and Courage bold,
After long Pains and Labours manifold,
He found the means that Prisoner up to rear;
Whose feeble Thighs unable to uphold
His pined Corse, him scarce to Light could bear,
A rueful Spectacle of Death and ghastly Drear.

His sad dull Eyes deep sunk in hollow Pits
Could not endure th' unwonted Sun to view;
His bare thin Cheeks for want of better Bits,
And empty Sides deceived of their Due,
Could make a stony Heart his hap to rue;
His rawbone Arms, whose mighty brawned Bowers
Were wont to rive Steel Plates, and Helmets hew,
Were clean consum'd, and all his vital Powers
Decay'd, and all his Flesh shrunk up like wither'd Flowers.

Whom when his Lady saw, to him she ran
With hasty Joy: to see him, made her glad,
And sad to view his Visage pale and wan,
Who earst in Flowers of freshest Youth was clad.
Tho when her Well of Tears she wasted had,
She said, Ah dearest Lord! what evil Star
On you hath frown'd, and pour'd his Influence bad,
That of your self ye thus berobbed are,
And this misseeming Hue your manly Looks doth mar?

But welcome now, my Lord, in Weal or Woe,
Whose Presence I have lack'd too long aday;
And fie on Fortune mine avowed Foe,
Whose wrathful Wreaks themselves do now allay,
And for these Wrongs shall treble Penance pay
Of treble Good: Good grows of Evils prief.
The cheerless Man, whom Sorrow did dismay,
Had no delight to treaten of his Grief;
His long endured Famine needed more Relief.

Fair Lady, then said that victorious Knight,
The things that grievous were to do, or bear,
Them to renew, I wote, breeds no Delight,
Best Musick breeds Delight in loathing Ear:
But th' only Good, that grows of passed Fear,
Is to be wise, and ware of like again.
This Day's Ensample hath this Lesson dear
Deep written in my Heart with Iron Pen,
"That Bliss may not abide in State of mortal Men."

Henceforth, Sir Knight, take to you wonted Strength,
And maister these Mishaps with patient Might;
Lo! where your Foe lies stretch'd in monstrous Length:
And, lo! that wicked Woman in your Sight,
The Root of all your Care, and wretched Plight,
Now in your Power, to let her live, or die.
To do her die (quoth Una) were despight,
And shame t' avenge so weak an Enemy;
But spoil her of her scarlet Robe, and let her fly.

So, as she bade, that Witch they disarray'd,
And robb'd of royal Robes, and purple Pall,
And Ornaments that richly were display'd;
Ne spared they to strip her naked all.
Then when they had despoil'd her Tire and Call,
Such as she was, their Eyes might her behold,
That her mis-shaped Parts did them appall,
A loathly, wrinkled Hag, ill-favour'd, old,
Whose secret Filth, good Manners biddeth not be told.

Her crafty Head was altogether bald,
And (as in hate of honourable Eld)
Was overgrown with Scurf and filthy Scald;
Her Teeth out of her rotten Gums were fell'd,
And her sour Breath abominably smell'd;
Her dried Dugs, like Bladders lacking wind,
Hung down, and filthy Matter from them well'd;
Her wrizled Skin, as rough as Maple Rind,
So scabby was, that wou'd have loath'd all Womankind.

Her neather Parts, the shame of all her kind,
My chaster Muse for shame doth blush to write:
But at her Rump she growing had behind
A Fox's Tail, with Dung all foully dight.
And eke her Feet most monstrous were in sight;
For one of them was like an Eagle's Claw,
With griping Talents arm'd to greedy Fight,
The other like a Bear's uneven Paw:
More ugly Shape yet never living Creature saw.

Which when the Knights beheld, amaz'd they were,
And wonder'd at so foul deformed Wight.
Such then (said Una) as she seemeth here,
Such is the face of Falshood, such the sight
Of foul Duessa, when her borrowed Light
Is laid away, and Counterfesaunce known.
Thus when they had the Witch disrobed quite,
And all her filthy Feature open shown,
They let her go at will, and wander Ways unknown.

She flying fast from Heaven's hated face,
And from the World that her discover'd wide,
Fled to the wastful Wilderness apace,
From living Eyes her open shame to hide,
And lurk'd in Rocks and Caves long unespy'd.
But that fair Crew of Knights, and Una fair,
Did in that Castle afterwards abide,
To rest themselves, and weary Powers repair,
Where store they found of all, that dainty was and rare.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 1:115-27]

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