1590
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book I. Canto XII.

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

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto XII. (42 stanzas). — The point at which the narrative has now arrived does not leave much to be related in this concluding Canto of the Book, except only the usual winding up of a story of true love. 'Behold,' exclaims the poet, — 'I see the haven nigh at hand, | To which I mean my weary course to bend | Veer the mainsheet, and bear up with the land, | The which afore is fairly to be kenned.' It is hardly yet day when the king and queen and all the people assemble, at the sound of 'triumphant trumpets,' to rejoice over the destruction of the great national enemy. First come a goodly band of tall young men bearing branches of laurel in their hands; 'Unto that doughty conqueror they came, | And, him before themselves prostrating low, | Their lord and patron loud did him proclaim....'

"The king rewards the victorious champion 'with princely gifts of ivory and gold,' and, fondly embracing his daughter, kisses her again and again.... After he has been royally feasted, however, the knight declares that he may not yet think of ease or rest, being bound to return to the great Fairy Queen, and to serve her for six years against the proud paynim king, her enemy. In these circumstances the king in the first instance only proposes that he should come back at the end of the six years to accomplish the marriage vowed with Una.... Even 'her own dear-loved knight' wonders at her beauty; 'oft had he seen her fair, but never so fair dight.'

"But just as she has bent her low before her sire, and is about to speak, comes running in a messenger with letters, affecting the utmost haste, importance, and agitation. The writing when opened by the king, to whom the man delivers it with profound obeisance — kissing the ground whereon the royal foot was set — turns out to be a complaint and protestation addressed to the 'most mighty King of Eden fair,' from Fidessa, calling herself daughter of the Emperor of the West, in which she warns him not to link his daughter in wedlock to the Redcross Knight, who has already, she declares, plighted his right hand to another love, namely, to herself — 'sad maid, or rather widow sad.'

"This occasions some consternation at first; but the knight's explanation of how he had been inveigled by this Fidessa, or more properly Duessa, 'the falsest dame on ground,' soon sets all right; and the exposure of the treachery is completed by the discovery that the messenger, 'clothed with simpleness,' is, as suggested by the wise Una, no other than the old enchanter Archimago, who is thereupon chained and thrown into a dungeon. It appears now to have been suddenly agreed on all hands that the marriage should take place forthwith; and the ceremony is accordingly performed by the king himself....

"They long, we are told, enjoyed each other's company; but at last the knight, not forgetful of his oath, returned to his Fairy Queen, and 'Una left to mourn.' 'And now,' concludes the poet, 'Now, strike your sails, ye jolly mariners, | For we be come unto a quiet road, | Where we must land some of our passengers, | And light this weary vessel of her load...'" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 1:181-84.



Fair Una to the Redcross Knight
Betrothed is with Joy:
Though false Duessa it to barr,
Her false Sleights do employ.

Behold I see the Haven nigh at hand,
To which I mean my weary Course to bend;
Vere the main Shete, and bear top with the Land,
The which afore is fairly to be kend,
And seemeth safe from Storms, that may offend:
There this fair Virgin, weary of her way,
Must landed be, now at her Journey's end;
There eke my feeble Bark awhile may stay,
Till merry Wind and Weather call her thence away.

Scarcely had Phoebus, in the glooming East,
Yet harnessed his fiery-footed Teem,
Ne rear'd above the Earth his flaming Creast,
When the last deadly Smoak aloft did steem,
That Sign of last out-breathed Life did seem,
Unto the Watchman on the Castle-wall;
Who thereby dead that baleful Beast did deem,
And to his Lord and Lady loud 'gan call,
To tell how he had seen the Dragon's fatal Fall.

Up rose with hasty Joy, and feeble Speed
That aged Sire, the Lord of all that Land,
And looked forth, to weet if true indeed
Those Tidings were, as he did understand:
Which whenas true by trial he out-fond,
He bade to open wide his brazen Gate,
Which long time had been shut, and out of hond
Proclaimed Joy and Peace through all his State;
For dead now was their Foe, which them forraied late.

Then 'gan triumphant Trumpets sound on high,
That sent to Heaven th' ecchoed Report
Of their new Joy, and happy Victory,
'Gainst him, that had them long opprest with Tort,
And fast imprisoned in sieged Fort.
Then all the People, as in solemn Feast,
To him assembled with one full Consort,
Rejoicing at the Fall of that great Beast,
From whose eternal Bondage now they were releast.

Forth came that ancient Lord and aged Queen,
Array'd in antique Robes down to the Ground,
And sad Habiliments right well beseen;
A noble Crew about them waited round
Of sage and sober Peers, all gravely gown'd;
Whom far before did march a goodly Band
Of tall young Men, all able Arms to sound,
But now they Laurel Branches bore in hand;
Glad Sign of Victory and Peace in all their Land.

Unto that doughty Conquerour they came,
And him before, themselves prostrating low,
Their Lord and Patron loud did him proclaim,
And at his Feet their Laurel Boughs did throw.
Soon after them, all dauncing on a row
The comely Virgins came, with Girlands dight,
As fresh as flowers in Meadow green do grow,
When Morning Dew upon their Leaves doth light
And in their Hands sweet Tymbrels all upheld on hight.

And them before, the Fry of Children young
Their wanton Sports and childish Mirth did play,
And to the Maidens sounding Tymbrels sung
In well attuned Notes, a joyous Lay,
And made delightful Musick all the way,
Until they came where that fair Virgin stood;
As fair Diana, in fresh-Summer's Day,
Beholds her Nymphs, enrang'd in shady Wood,
Some wrestle some do run, some bathe in crystal Flood:

So she beheld those Maidens Merriment
With chearful View; who, when to her they came,
Themselves to ground with gracious Humbless bent,
And her ador'd by honourable Name,
Lifting to Heaven her everlasting Fame:
Then on her Head they set a Girland green,
And crowned her 'twixt Earnest and 'twixt Game;
Who in her Self-resemblance well beseen,
Did seem such as she was, a goodly maiden Queen.

And after, all the rascal Many ran,
Heaped together in rude Rabblement,
To see the Face of that victorious Man,
Whom all admired, as from Heaven sent,
And gaz'd upon with gaping Wonderment.
But, when they came where that dead Dragon lay,
Stretch'd on the Ground in monstrous large Extent,
The sight with idle Fear did them dismay,
Ne durst approach him nigh, to touch, or once assay.

Some fear'd, and fled; some fear'd, and well it feign'd;
One that would wiser seem than all the rest,
Warn'd him not touch; for, yet perhaps remain'd
Some lingring Life within his hollow Brest,
Or in his Womb might lurk some hidden Nest
Of many Dragonets, his fruitful Seed:
Another said, that in his Eyes did rest
Yet sparkling fire, and bade thereof take heed;
Another said, he saw him move his Eyes indeed.

One Mother, when as her fool-hardy Child
Did come too near, and with his Talants play,
Half dead through fear, her little Babe revil'd,
And to her Gossips 'gan in counsel say;
How can I tell, but that his Talants may
Yet scratch my Son, or rend his tender Hand?
So diversly themselves in vain they fray;
Whiles some more bold, to measure him nigh stand.
To prove how many Acres he did spread of Land.

Thus flocked all the Folk him round about,
The whiles that hoary King, with all his Train,
Being arrived, where that Champion stout
After his Foe's Defeasance did remain,
Him goodly greets, and fair does entertain
With Princely Gifts of Ivory and Gold,
And thousand Thanks him yields for all his Pain.
Then, when his Daughter dear he does behold,
Her dearly doth embrace, and kisseth manifold.

And after to his Palace he them brings,
With Shaumes, and Trumpets, and with Clarions sweet;
And all the way the joyous People sings,
And with their Garments strows the paved Street:
Whence mounting up, they find Purveyance meet
Of all that Royal Princes Court became,
And all the Floor was underneath their Feet
Bespred with costly Scarlet of great Name,
On which they lowly sit, and fitting Purpose frame.

What needs me tell their Feast and goodly Guise,
In which was nothing riotous nor vain?
What needs of dainty Dishes to devise,
Of comely Services, or courtly Train?
My narrow Leaves cannot in them contain
The large Discourse of Royal Princes State.
Yet was their Manner then but bare and plain:
For th' antique World Excess and Pride did hate;
Such proud luxurious Pomp is swollen up but late.

Then when with Meats and Drinks of every kind
Their fervent Appetites they quenched had,
That ancient Lord 'gan fit Occasion find
Of strange Adventures, and of Perils sad,
Which in his Travel him befallen had,
For to demaund of his renowned Guest:
Who then with Utt'rance grave, and Count'nance sad,
From point to point, as is before exprest,
Discours'd his Voyage long, according his Request.

Great Pleasures mix'd with pitiful Regard,
That godly King and Queen did passionate,
Whiles they his pitiful Adventures heard,
That oft they did lament his luckless State,
And often blame the too importune Fate,
That heap'd on him so many wrathful Wreaks:
For never gentle Knight, as he of late,
So tossed was in Fortune's cruel Freaks;
And all the while salt Tears bedew'd the Hearers Cheeks.

Then said the Royal Pere in sober wise;
Dear Son, great been the Evils which ye bore
From first to last, in your late Enterprise,
That I no'te, whether praise, or pity more;
For never living Man (I ween) so sore
In Sea of deadly Dangers was distrest;
But sith now safe ye seized have the Shore,
And well arrived are (high God be blest)
Let us devise of Ease, and everlasting Rest.

Ah, dearest Lord, said then that doughty Knight,
Of Ease or Rest I may not yet devise;
For by the Faith which I to Arms have plight,
I bounden am, straight after this Emprize
(As that your Daughter can ye well advise)
Back to return to that great Fairy Queen,
And her to serve six Years in warlike wise,
'Gainst that proud Paynim King that works her Teen:
Therefore I ought crave pardon, till I there have been.

Unhappy falls that hard Necessity
(Quoth he) the Troubler of my happy Peace;
And vowed Foe of my Felicity;
Ne I against the same can justly preace:
But sith that Band we cannot now release,
Nor doen undo, (for Vows may not be vain)
Soon as the Term of those six Years shall cease,
Ye then shall hither back return again,
The Marriage to accomplish vow'd betwixt you twain.

Which, for my part, I covet to perform,
In sort as thro the World I did proclaim,
That whoso kill'd that Monster (most deform)
And him in hardy Battel overcame,
Should have mine only Daughter to his Dame,
And of my Kingdom Heir apparent be:
Therefore, sith now to thee pertains the same,
By due Desert of noble Chevalry,
Both Daughter and eke Kingdom, lo, I yield to thee.

Then forth he called that his Daughter fair,
The fairest Un', his only Daughter dear,
His only Daughter, and his only Heir;
Who forth proceeding with sad sober Chear,
As bright as doth the Morning Star appear
Out of the East, with flaming Locks bedight,
To tell the dawning Day is drawing near,
And to the World does bring long-wished Light ;
So fair and fresh that Lady shew'd her self in sight.

So fair and fresh, as freshest Flower in May;
For she had laid her mournful Stole aside,
And, Widow-like sad Wimple thrown away,
Wherewith her heavenly Beauty she did hide,
Whiles on her weary Journey she did ride;
And on her now a Garment she did wear,
All lilly white, withouten Spot or Pride,
That seem'd like Silk and Silver woven near;
But neither Silk nor Silver therein did appear.

The blazing Brightness of her Beauty's Beam,
And glorious Light of her sunshiny Face
To tell, were as to strive against the Stream.
My ragged Rimes are all too rude and base,
Her heavenly Lineaments for to enchace:
Ne wonder; for her own dear loved Knight,
All were she daily with himself in place,
Did wonder much at her celestial Sight;
Oft had he seen her fair, but never so fair dight.

So fairly dight, when she in Presence came,
She to her Sire made humble Reverence,
And bowed low, that her right well became,
And added Grace unto her Excellence:
Who with great Wisdom and grave Eloquence,
Thus 'gan to say — But e'er he thus had said,
With flying Speed, and seeming great Pretence,
Came running in, much like a Man dismaid,
A Messenger with Letters, which his Message said.

All in the open Hall amazed stood
At Suddenness of that unwary Sight,
And wondred at his breathless hasty Mood.
But he for nought would stay his Passage right,
Till fast before the King he did alight,
Where falling flat, great Humbless he did make,
And kiss'd the Ground, whereon his Foot was pight;
Then to his Hands that Writ he did betake,
Which he disclosing, read thus, as the Paper spake.

To thee, most mighty King of Eden fair,
Her Greeting sends in these sad Lines address'd,
The woeful Daughter, and forsaken Heir
Of that great Emperor of all the West;
And bids thee be advised for the best,
E'er thou thy Daughter link in holy Band
Of Wedlock, to that new unknowen Guest:
For he already plighted his right Hand
Unto another Love, and to another Land.

To me, sad Maid, or rather Widow sad,
He was affianced long time before,
And sacred Pledges be both gave, he had,
False erraunt Knight, infamous, and forswore:
Witness the burning Altars, which he swore,
And guilty Heavens of his bold Perjury;
Which though he hath polluted oft and yore,
Yet I to them for Judgment just do fly,
And them conjure t'avenge this shameful Injury.

Theresore, sith mine he is, or free or bond,
Or false or true, or living or else dead,
Withhold, O Sovereign Prince, your hasty Hond
From knitting League with him, I you aread;
Ne ween my Right with Strength adown to tread,
Through Weakness of my Widowhed, or Woe;
For Truth is strong, his rightful Cause to plead,
And shall find Friends, if need requireth so:
So bids thee well to fare, thy neither Friend nor Foe,
Fidessa.

When he these bitter biting Words had red,
The Tidings strange did him abashed make,
That still he sate long time astonished
As in great muse, ne word to Creature spake.
At last, his solemn Silence thus he brake,
With doubtful Eyes safe fixed on his Guest;
Redoubted Knight, that for mine only sake
Thy Life and Honour late adventurest,
Let nought be hid from me, that ought to be exprest.

What mean these bloody Vows, and idle Threats,
Thrown out from womanish impatient Mind?
What Heavens? what Altars? whet enraged Heats
Here heaped up with Terms of Love unkind,
My Conscience clear with guilty Bands would bind?
High God be witness, that I guiltless am.
But if your self, Sir Knight, ye faulty find,
Or wrapped be in Loves of former Dame,
With Crime do not it cover, but disclose the same.

To whom the Redcross Knight this Answer sent,
My Lord, my King, be nought hereat dismaid,
Till well ye wote by grave Intendiment,
What Woman, and wherefore doth me upbraid
With Breach of Love, and Loyalty betray'd.
It was in my Mishaps, as hitherward
I lately travel'd, that unwares I stray'd
Out of my way, through Perils strange and hard;
That Day should fail me, e'er I had them all declar'd.

There did I find, or rather I was found
Of this false Woman, that Fidessa hight,
Fidessa hight the falsest Dame on ground
Most false Duessa, royal richly dight,
That easy was to inveagle weaker Sight:
Who, by her wicked Arts, and wily Skill,
Too false and strong for earthly Skill or Might
Unwares me wrought unto her wicked Will,
And to my Foe betray'd, when least I feared Ill.

Then stepped forth the goodly Royal Maid,
And on the Ground her self prostrating low,
With sober Countenance thus to him said;
O pardon me, my Sovereign Lord, to show
The secret Treasons, which of late I know
To have been wrought by that false Sorceress!
She only, she it is, that earst did throw
This gentle Knight into so great Distress,
That Death him did await in daily Wretchedness.

And now it seems, that she suborned hath
This crafty Messenger with Letters vain,
To work new Woe and improvided Scath,
By breaking of the Band betwixt us twain;
Wherein she used hath the practick Pain
Of this false Footman, cloak'd with Simpleness:
Whom if ye please for to discover plain,
Ye shall him Archimago find, I guess,
The falsest Man alive, who tries shall find no less.

The King was greatly moved at her Speach,
And all with sudden Indignation fraight,
Bade on that Messenger rude Hands to reach.
Eftsoons the Guard, which on his State did wait,
Attach'd that Faitor false, and bound him strait.
Who, seeming sorely chauffed at his Band,
As chained Bear, whom cruel Dogs do bait,
With idle Force did fain them to withstand,
And often Semblance made to scape out of their Hand.

But they him laid full low in Dungeon deep,
And bound him Hand and Foot with Iron Chains.
And with continual Watch did warely keep;
Who then would think, that by his subtile Trains
He could escape foul Death or deadly Pains?
Thus when that Prince's Wrath was pacify'd,
He 'gan renew the late forbidden Banes,
And to the Knight his Daughter dear he ty'd
With Sacred Rites, and Vows for ever to abide.

His own two Hands the Holy Knots did knit,
That none but Death for ever can divide;
His own two Hands, for such a Turn most fit,
The housling Fire did kindle and provide,
And Holy Water thereon sprinkled wide;
At which, a bushy Teade a Groom did light,
And sacred Lamp in secret Chamber hide,
Where it should not be quenched day nor night,
For fear of evil Fates, but burnen ever bright.

Then 'gan they sprinkle all the Posts with Wine,
And made great Feast, to solemnize that Day;
They all perfum'd with Frankincense Divine,
And precious Odours fetch'd from far away,
That all the House did sweat with great Array:
And all the while sweet Musick did apply
Her curious Skill, the warbling Notes to play,
To drive away the dull Melancholy;
The whiles one sung a Song of Love and Jollity.

During the which there was an heavenly Noise
Heard sound through all the Palace pleasantly,
Like as it had been many an Angel's Voice,
Singing before th' eternal Majesty,
In their trinal Triplicities on high;
Yet wist no Creature, whence that heavenly Sweet
Proceeded: yet each one felt secretly
Himself thereby reft of his Senses meet,
And ravished with rare Impression in his Sprite.

Great Joy was made that Day of Young and Old,
And solemn Feast proclaim'd throughout the Land,
That their exceeding Mirth may not be told:
Suffice it, here by Signs to understand
The usual Joys at knitting of Love's Band.
Thrice happy Man the Knight himself did hold,
Possessed of his Lady's Heart and Hand;
And ever, when his Eye did her behold,
Her Heart did seem to melt in Pleasures manifold.

Her joyous Presence and sweet Company
In full Content he there did long enjoy,
Ne wicked Envy, ne vile Jealousy
His dear Delights were able to annoy:
Yet swimming in that Sea of blissful Joy,
He nought forgot, how he whilom had sworn,
In case he could that Monstrous Beast destroy,
Unto his Fairy-Queen back to return:
The which he shortly did, and Una left to mourn.

Now strike your Sails, ye jolly Mariners;
For we be come unto a quiet Rode,
Where we must land some of our Passengers,
And light this weary Vessel of her Load.
Here she awhile may make her safe Abode,
Till she repaired have her Tackles spent,
And Wants supply'd. And then again abroad
On long Voyage whereto she is bent;
Well may she speed, and fairly finish her Intent.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 1:174-84

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