1590
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book III. Canto III.

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

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto III. (62 stanzas). — 'Most sacred fire,' exclaims the poet, in commencing the continuation of the story of Britomart, 'Most sacred fire that burnest mightily | In living breasts, ykindled first above | Amongst the eternal spheres and lamping sky, | And thence poured into men, which men call Love'.... He then proceeds to relate how Glauce, finding all her efforts and experiments vain, at last advised that application should be made to Merlin, the fabricator of the mirror; and how thereupon she and Britomart, disguising themselves 'in strange and base array,' set out together for Maridunum, now Cayr-Merdin (Caermarthen), where 'the wise Merlin whilome wont (they say) | To make his won, low underneath the ground'.... The place is a hideous cavern under a rock, lying a little space 'From the swift Barry, tumbling down apace | Amongst the woody hills of Dynevowre' — that is Dynevor Castle, near Caermarthen, formerly the chief seat of the Princes of South Wales. But, continues the poet, 'dare thou not, I charge, in any case | To enter into that same baleful bower, | For fear the cruel fiends should thee unwares devour'....

"The cause is said to he this: a short time before his death Merlin had set his spirits at work to fabricate a brazen wall which he designed to erect around the city of Caermarthen; meanwhile the Lady of the Lake, whom he had long loved, sending for him in haste, he bound them not to slacken their labour till he should come back. But the luckless magician was destined never to revisit his ancient home: — 'through that false lady's train | He was surprised, and buried under bier, | Ne ever to his work returned again.' Or, as the story is told in the old romance of La Morte d'Arthur: — 'The Lady of the Lake and Merlin departed; and by the way as they went Merlin showed to her many wonders, and came into Cornwall. And always Merlin hung about the lady, for to have her favour; and she was ever passing weary of him, and fain would have been delivered of him; for she was afraid of him, because he was a devil's son, and she could not put him away by no means. And so upon a time it happened that Merlin shewed to her in a rock wherein was a great wonder, and wrought by enchantment, which went under a stone; so, by her subtile craft and working, she made Merlin to go under that stone, to let him wit of the marvels there. But she wrought so there for him that he came never out, for all the craft that he could do.' There, accordingly, it is believed that he remains till this hour.... It is said that he was no son of mortal sire, but the offspring of 'a fair lady nun,' Matilda, daughter to Pubidius, Lord of Mathtraval (one of the three provinces into which Wales was divided by Roderic the Great), and cousin to King Ambrosius, conceived in her 'by false illusion of a guileful sprite.'

"Britomart and Glance, after some hesitation, entering (the maid first, made courageous by love) the dread magician's cave, found him deeply intent about one of his wondrous works, 'And writing strange characters in the ground, | With which the stubborn fiends he to his service bound.' He had been aware both that they were coming and what was their object; and he only smiled at Glauce's attempts to conceal from him who they were, and to dissemble by 'womanish guile' her knowledge of Britomart's real ailment. Bursting forth at length into a laugh, he exclaimed — 'Glauce, what needs this colourable word | To cloak the cause that hath itself bewrayed? | Ne ye, fur Britomartis, thus arrayed, | More hidden are than sun in cloudy vale.' On this, we are told — 'The doubtful maid, seeing herself descried, | Was all abashed, and her pure ivory | Into a clear carnation sudden dyed' ... but the old nurse boldly demanded of the prophet, that, seeing he knew all, he would not withhold pity and relief. He paused awhile, and then his spirit broke forth: 'Most noble virgin, that by fatal lore | Hast learned to love, let no whit thee dismay | The hard begin that meets thee in the door, | And with sharp fits thy tender heart oppresseth sore: | For so must all things excellent begin.'

"And then he told her that from her womb should spring a famous progeny of the ancient Trojan blood, that should 'revive the sleeping memory | Of those same antique peers, the heaven's brood, | Which Greek and Asian rivers stained with their blood' and re-establish the power of the Britons, broken and enfeebled by long wars against a foreign foe from a distant land. The man ordained to be the spouse of Britomart, he afterwards informed them, was Arthegal he dwelt in the Land of Fairy, yet was no fairy's son, nor related at all to the race of the elfs, but of earthly lineage, having only been in infancy stolen from his cradle by the fairies, and imagining himself to be the offspring of an elf and a thy. He was in truth the son of Gorlois, Prince of Cornwall, and brother to Cador, now reigning in that kingdom, and renowned for his warlike fats from the rising to the setting sun. It was ordained that Britomart should bring him back to his native soil, and that both he and she should give great proof of their valour, until Arthegal should be cut off too early by the treachery of secret foes.

"But his son by Britomart (apparently the same who is called Aurelius Conan by the old British historians) should remain the living representation of his sire; and should take from his cousin Constantius (or Constantine, son of Cador) the crown that had of right belonged to his father Arthegal. He, after a reign in which he should fight three great battles with the Saxons, two of them ending in the defeat of the intruders, the third 'in fair accordance,' that is, apparently, in an agreement or peace on equal terms, should be succeeded by his son Voltipore 'in kingdom, but not in felicity.' Voltipore's son Midge, however, should avenge the misfortunes of his father — Malgo, who should reduce to subjection 'the six islands, comprovincial in ancient times unto great Britany,' namely, Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway, and Dacia (that is, Denmark); all which his son Careticus should well defend from the Saxon foe; till great Gormond (King of Africa), after having subdued Ireland, 'and therein fixed his throne,' should come over with a multitude of his Norveyses (or Norwegians) to assist the latter — when their united bands, said Merlin, shall sack and slay, and commit such devastation, that 'the green grass that groweth they shall bren, | That even the wild beast shall die in starved den.'

"In the rest of his address he continued the history, of the wars between the Saxons and Britons to the time of Cadwallader, and his expulsion, towards the close of the seventh century, to Armorica, or the Lesser Britain. 'Then,' he concluded, 'woe, and woe, and everlasting woe, | Be to the Briton babe that shall be born | To live in tharldom of his father's foe! | Late king, now captive; late lord, now forlorn'.... But, he afterwards added, in reply to the further inquiries of Britomart, the thraldom of the Britons was limited to a certain term; after twice four hundred years they should be restored to their former rule and sovereignty; and then he sketched the remainder of the English story through the Danish invasions, the Norman Conquest, the Welsh revolts, to the acquisition of the crown by Henry VII. of the Welsh House of Tudor. From that time henceforth should be peace and eternal union between the two nations; — 'Then shall a royal virgin reign, which shall | Stretch her white rod over the Belgic shore. | And the great Castle smite so sore withal, | That it shall make him shake, and shortly learn to fall: | But yet the end is not.' The allusions here are explained as being to Queen Elizabeth's protection of the revolted Netherlanders, and her shaking the power of the Castilian (or Spanish) King. At those last words the Magician paused, 'as overcomen of the spirit's power;' but he soon recovered, and dismissed the two women with his usual cheerful looks.

"When they had returned home, it was suggested by the always ready Glauce, that they should disguise themselves in armour, and go and join King Arthur, now making war upon the Saxon brethren, Octa and Oza (or Eosa, as the name is written by Geoffrey of Monmouth); and this plan they executed by means of a suit of armour belonging to Angela, Queen of the Angles (a fictitious personage), which had a few days before been taken by the Britons, and suspended by King Ryence in his principal church with this, and with a spear which stood beside it, long before made by King Bladud by magic art, and possessed of wondrous virtues, the old woman arrayed Britomart, and then, 'Another harness which did hang thereby | About herself she dight, that the young maid | She might in equal arms accompany, | And as her squire attend her carefully'.... Nor did they rest till they came to Fairy Land, as Merlin had directed them; there Britomart and the Redcross Knight having met, as has already been told, for some time journeyed and held discourse together; till at length, their ways separating, they bid each other affectionately adieu — the Redcross Knight turning off in another direction, Britomart continuing to ride forward. Arthegal is supposed to be designed for Spenser's patron, Arthur Lord Grey of Wilton" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 2:21-27.



Merlin bewrays, to Britomart,
The State of Artegall;
And shews the famous Progeny
Which from them springen shall.

Oh! sacred Fire, that burnest mightily
In living Breasts, ykindled first above,
Emongst th' eternal Spheres and ramping Sky,
And thence pour'd into Men, which Men call Love;
Not that same, which doth base Affections move
In brutish Minds, and filthy Lust inflame;
But that sweet Fit, that doth true Beauty love,
And chuseth Virtue for his dearest Dame,
Whence spring all noble Deeds and never-dying Fame:

Well did Antiquity a God thee deem,
That over mortal Minds hast so great might,
To order them, as best to thee doth seem,
And all their Actions to direct aright;
The fatal purpose of divine Foresight
Thou doest effect in destined Descents,
Through deep Impression of thy secret Might,
And stirredst up th' Heroes high intents,
Which the late World admires for wondrous Moniments.

But thy dread Darts in none do triumph more,
Ne braver proof in any of thy Power
Shewd'st thou, than in this Royal Maid of yore,
Making her seek an unknown Paramour,
From the World's end, through many a bitter Stower:
From whose two Loins thou afterwards did raise
Most famous Fruits of matrimonial Bower,
Which through the Earth have spread their living Praise,
That Fame in Tromp of Gold eternally displays.

Begin then, O my dearest sacred Dame
Daughter of Phoebus and of Memory,
That doest ennoble with immortal Name
The warlike Worthies, from Antiquity,
In thy great Volume of Eternity:
Begin, O Clio, and recount from hence
My glorious Sovereign's goodly Auncestry,
Till that by due Degrees and long Pretence,
Thou have it lastly brought unto her Excellence.

Full many ways within her troubled Mind,
Old Glauce call, to cure this Lady's Grief:
Full many ways she sought, but none could find,
Nor Herbs, nor Charms, nor Counsel, that is chief
And choicest Med'cine for sick Heart's Relief:
For-thy, great Care she took, and greater Fear,
Lest that it should her turn to foul Reprief,
And sore Reproach, when so her Father dear
Should of his dearest Daughter's hard Misfortune hear.

At last, she her avis'd, that he, which made
That Mirror, wherein the sick Damosel
So strangely viewed her strange Lover's Shade,
To weet, the learned Merlin, well could tell,
Under what Coast of Heaven the Man did dwell,
And by what means his Love might best be wrought:
For, though beyond the Africk Ismaell,
Or th' Indian Peru he were, she thought
Him forth through infinite Endeavour to have sought.

Forthwith themselves disguising both in strange
And base Attire, that none might them bewray,
To Maridunum, that is now by chaunge
Of name Cayr-Merdin call'd, they took their way:
There the wise Merlin whilom wont, they say,
To make his wonne, low underneath the Ground,
In a deep Delve, far from the view of Day,
That of no living Wight he mote be found,
When so he counsel'd with his Sprights encompast round.

And if thou ever happen that same way
To travel, go to see that dreadful Place:
It is an hideous hollow Cave, they say,
Under a Rock that lies a little space
From the swift Barry, tombling down apace,
Emongst the woody Hills of Dyneuowre;
But dare thou not, I charge, in any case,
To enter into that same baleful Bower,
For fear the cruel Fiends should thee unwares devour.

But standing high aloft, low lay thine Ear,
And there such ghastly Noise of iron Chains,
And brazen Caudrons thou shalt rombling hear,
Which thousand Sprights with long enduring Pains
Do toss, that it will stun thy feeble Brains;
And oftentimes great Groans, and grievous Stounds,
When too huge Toil and Labour them constrains:
And oftentimes loud Strokes, and ringing Sounds
From under that deep Rock most horribly rebounds.

The cause some say is this: A little while
Before that Merlin died, he did intend,
A brazen Wall in compass to compile
About Cairmardin, and did it commend
Unto these Sprights, to bring to perfect end.
During which work, the Lady of the Lake
Whom long he lov'd, for him in haste did send,
Who thereby forc'd his Workmen to forsake,
Them bound till his return, their Labour not to slake.

In the mean time, through that false Lady's Train,
He was surpriz'd, and buried under Bere,
Ne ever to his Work return'd again:
Nath'less those Fiends may not their Work forbear,
So greatly his Commandement they fear,
But there do toil and travail Day and Night,
Until that brazen Wall they up do rear:
For, Merlin had in Magick more insight,
Than ever him before or after living Wight.

For, he by words could call out of the Sky
Both sun end Moon, and make them him obey:
The Land to Sea, and Sea to Main-land dry,
And darksom Night he eke could turn to Day:
Huge Hosts of Men he could alone dismay,
And Hosts of Men of meanest things could frame,
When so him list his Enemies to fray:
That to this day, for Terror of his Fame,
The Fiends do quake, when any him to them does name.

And, sooth, Men say that he was not the Son
Of mortal Sire, or other living Wight;
But wondrously begotten, and begun
By false Illusion of a guileful Spright,
On a fair Lady Nun, that whilom hight
Matilda, Daughter to Pubidius,
Who was the Lord of Marthravall by right,
And Coosen unto King Ambrosius:
Whence he indued was with Skill so marvellous.

They here arriving, stay'd awhile without,
Ne durst adventure rashly in to wend,
But of their first intent 'gan make new doubt
For dread of Danger, which it might portend:
Until the hardy Maid (with Love to Friend)
First entering, the dreadful Mage there found
Deep busied 'bout Work of wondrous End,
And writing strange Characters in the Ground,
With which the stubborn Fiends he to his Service bound.

He nought was moved at their Entrance bold;
For, of their coming well he wist afore:
Yet list them bid their Business unfold,
As if ought in this World in secret store
Were from him hidden, or unknown of yore.
Then Glauce thus; Let not it thee offend,
That we thus rashly through thy darksom Door,
Unwares have press'd: for, either fatal end,
Or other mighty cause, us two did hither send.

He bad tell on: And then she thus began;
Now have three Moons with borrow'd Brother's Light,
Thrice shined fair, and thrice seem'd dim and wan,
Sith a sore Evil, which this Virgin bright
Tormenteth, and doth plonge in doleful Plight,
First rooting took: but what thing it mote be,
Or whence it sprong, I cannot read aright;
But this I read, that but if remedy
Thou her afford, full shortly I her dead shall see.

Therewith th' Enchaunter softly 'gan to smile
At her smooth Speeches, weeting inly well,
That she to him dissembled womanish Guile,
And to her said: Beldame, by that ye tell,
More need of Leach-craft hath your Damozel,
Than of my Skill: who help may have elsewhere,
In vain seeks Wonders out of Magick Spell.
Th' old Woman wox half blank, those words to hear;
And yet was loth to let her purpose plain appear.

And to him said: If any Leach's Skill,
Or other learned means could have redrest
This my dear Daughter's deep engraffed Ill,
Certes I should be loth thee to molest:
But this sad Evil, which doth her infest,
Doth course of natural Cause far exceed,
And housed is within her hollow Breast,
That either seems some cursed Witch's Deed,
Or evil Spright, that in her doth such Torment breed.

The Wisard could no longer bear her Bord,
But bursting forth in Laughter, to her said:
Glauce, what needs this colourable word,
To cloke the Cause, that hath it self bewray'd?
Ne ye, fair Britomartis, thus array'd,
More hidden are, than Sun in cloudy Veil;
Whom thy good Fortune, having Fate obey'd,
Hath hither brought, for Succour to appeal;
The which the Powers to thee are pleased to reveal.

The doubtful Maid, seeing her self descry'd,
Was all abash'd, and her pure Ivory
Into a clear Carnation suddain dy'd:
As fair Aurora, rising hastily,
Doth by her blushing tell, that she did lie
All Night in old Tithonus' frozen Bed,
Whereof she seems ashamed inwardly.
But her old Nurse was nought disheartened,
But 'vantage made of that, which Merlin had ared.

And said; Sith then thou knowest all our Grief,
(For what dost not thou know?) of Grace I pray,
Pity our Plaint, and yield us meet Relief.
With that, the Prophet still awhile did stay,
And then his Spirit thus 'gan forth display;
Most noble Virgin, that by fatal Lore
Hast learn'd to love, let no whit thee dismay
The hard Begin', that meets thee in the Dore,
And with sharp Fits thy tender Heart oppresseth sore.

For, so must all things excellent begin,
And eke enrooted deep must be that Tree,
Whose big embodied Branches shall not lin,
Till they to Heaven's height forth stretched be.
For from thy Womb a famous Progeny
Shall spring, out of the antient Trojan Blood,
Which shall revive the sleeping Memory
Of those same antique Peers, the Heavens Brood,
Which Greece and Asian Rivers stained with their Blood.

Renowned Kings, and sacred Emperors,
Thy fruitful Off-spring, shall from thee descend;
Brave Captains, and most mighty Warriours,
That shall their Conquests through all Lands extend,
And their decayed Kingdoms shall amend:
The feeble Britons, broken with long War,
They shall uprear, and mightily defend
Against their foreign Foe, that comes from far,
Till universal Peace compound all civil Jar.

It was not, Britomart, thy wandring Eye,
Glauncing unwares in charmed Looking-glass,
But the straight Course of heavenly Destiny,
Led with eternal Providence, that has
Guided thy Glaunce, to bring his Will to pass:
Ne is thy Fate, ne is thy Fortune ill,
To love the prowest Knight, that ever was.
Therefore submit thy Ways unto his Will,
And do by all due means thy Destiny fulfil.

But read (said Glauce) thou Magician,
What means shall she out-seek, or what ways take?
How shall she know, how shall she find the Man?
Or what needs her to toil, sith Fates can make
Way for themselves, their purpose to partake?
Then Merlin thus; Indeed the Fates are firm,
And may not shrink, though all the World do shake:
Yet ought Mens good Endeavours them confirm,
And guide the heavenly Causes to their constant Term.

The Man, whom Heavens have ordain'd to be
The Spouse of Britomart, is Arthegal:
He wonneth in the Land of Fairy,
Yet is no Fairy born, ne sib at all
To Elves, but sprong of Seed terrestrial,
And whilom by false Fairies stoln away,
Whiles yet in Infant Cradle he did crall;
Ne other to himself is known this day,
But that he by an Elf was gotten of a Fay.

But sooth he is the son of Gorlois,
And Brother unto Cador, Cornish King,
And for his warlike feats renowned is,
From where the Day out of the Sea doth spring,
Until the closure of the Evening.
From thence, him firmly bound with faithful Band,
To this his native Soil thou back shalt bring,
Strongly to aid his Country, to withstand
The Power of foreign Paynims, which invade thy Land.

Great Aid thereto, his mighty Puissance,
And dreaded Name, shall give in that sad day;
Where also proof of thy prow Valiaunce
Thou then shalt make, t' increase thy Lover's prey:
Long time ye both in Arms shall bear great sway,
Till thy Womb's burden thee from them do call,
And his last Fate him from thee take away,
Too rathe cut off by practice criminal
Of secret Foes, that him shall make in Mischief fall.

Where thee yet shall he leave, for Memory
Of his late Puissance, his Image dead,
That living him in all activity
To thee shall represent. He from the Head
Of his Coosin Constantius without dread
Shall take the Crown, that was his Father's right,
And therewith crown himself in th' other's stead:
Then shall he issue forth with dreadful Might,
Against his Saxon Foes in bloody Field to fight.

Like as a Lion, that in drowsy Cave
Hath long time slept, himself so shall he shake:
And coming forth, shall spread his Banner brave
Over the troubled South, that it shall make
The warlike Mertians for fear to quake:
Thrice shall he fight with them, and twice shall win,
But the third time shall fair Accordance make;
And if he then with Victory can lin
He shall his Days with Peace bring to his earthly Inn.

His Son, hight Vortipore, shall him succeed
In Kingdom, but not in Felicity;
Yet shall he long time war with happy speed,
And with great Honour many Battles try:
But at the last to th' Importunity
Of froward Fortune shall be forc'd to yield.
But his Son Malgo shall full mightily
Avenge his Father's loss with Spear and Shield,
And his proud Foes discomfit in victorious Field.

Behold the Man, and tell me, Britomart,
If ay more goodly Creature thou didst see;
How like a Giant in each manly part,
Bears he himself with portly Majesty,
That one of the old Heroes seems to be!
He the six Islands, comprovincial
In antient times unto Great Britanny.
Shall to the same reduce, and to him call
Their sundry Kings to do their Homage several.

All which his Son Careticus awhile
Shall well defend, and Saxons Power suppress,
Until a stranger King from unknown Soil
Arriving, him with Multitude oppress:
Great Gormond, having with huge mightiness
Ireland subdu'd, and therein fix'd his Throne,
Like a swift Otter, fell through emptiness,
Shall overswim the Sea with many one
Of his Norveyses, to assist the Britons Fone.

He in his Fury all shall over-run,
And holy Church with faithless Hands deface,
That thy sad People utterly fordone,
Shall to the utmost Mountains fly apace:
Was never so great Waste in any place,
Nor so foul Outrage doen by living Men;
For, all thy Cities they shall sack and rase,
And the green Grass, that groweth, they shall bren,
That even the wild Beast shall die in starved Den.

Whiles thus the Britons do in Languor pine,
Proud Etheldred shall from the North arise,
Serving th' ambitious Will of Augustine;
And passing Dee with hardy Enterprise,
Shall back repulse the valiant Brockwel twice,
And Bangor with massacred Martyrs fill;
But the third time shall rue his Foolhardise:
For Cadwan, pitying his People's Ill,
Shall stoutly him defeat, and thousand Saxons kill.

But after him, Cadwallin mightily
On his Son Edwin all those Wrongs shall wreak;
Ne shall avail the wicked Sorcery
Of false Pellite, his purposes to break,
But him shall slay, and on a Gallows bleak
Shall give th' Enchaunter his unhappy Hire:
Then shall the Britons, late dismay'd and weak,
From their long Vassalage 'gin to respire.
And on their Paynim Foes avenge their rankled Ire.

Ne shall he yet his Wrath so mitigate,
Till both the Sons of Edwin he have slain,
Offrick and Osrick, Twins unfortunate,
Both slain in Battle upon Layburn Plain,
Together with the King of Louthiane,
Hight Adin, and the King of Orkeny,
Both joint partakers of the fatal Pain:
But Penda, fearful of like Destiny,
Shall yield himself his Liegeman, and swear Fealty.

Him shall he make his fatal Instrument,
T' afflict the other Saxon unsubdu'd;
He marching forth with Fury insolent
Against the good King Oswald, who indu'd
With heavenly Power, and by Angels rescu'd,
All holding Crosses in their Hands on high,
Shall him defeat withouten Blood imbru'd:
Of which, that field for endless Memory,
Shall Heuenfield be call'd to all Posterity.

Whereat Cadwallin wroth, shall forth issue,
And an huge Host into Northumber lead,
With which he godly Oswald shall subdue,
And crown with Martyrdom his sacred Head.
Whose Brother Oswin, daunted with like dread,
With Price of Silver shall his Kingdom buy;
And Penda, seeking him adown to tread,
Shall tread adown, and do him foully die,
But shall with Gifts his Lord Cadwallin pacify.

Then shall Cadwallin die; and then the Reign
Of Britons eke with him at once shall die;
Ne shall the good Cadwallader with Pain,
Or Power, be able it to remedy,
When the full time prefix'd by Destiny,
Shall be expir'd of Britons Regiment.
For, Heaven it self shall their Success envy,
And them with Plagues and Murrins pestilent
Consume, till all their warlike Puissance be spent.

Yet after all these Sorrows, and huge Hills
Of dying People, during eight Years space,
Cadwallader not yielding to his Ills,
From Armoick where long in wretched case
He liv'd, returning to his native Place,
Shall be by Vision stay'd from his intent:
For, th' Heavens have decreed, to displace
The Britons, for their Sins due Punishment,
And to the Saxons over-give their Government.

Then Woe, and Woe, and everlasting Woe,
Be to the Briton Babe that shall he born,
To live in Thraldom of his Father's Foe;
Late King, now Captive, late Lord, now forlorn,
The World's Reproach, the cruel Victor's Scorn;
Banish'd from Princely Bower to wastful Wood:
O! who shall help me to lament, and mourn
The Royal Seed, the antique Trojan Blood!
Whose Empire longer here than ever any stood.

The Damzel was full deep empassioned,
Both for his Grief, and for her People's sake,
Whose future Woes so plain he fashioned;
And sighing sore, at length him thus bespake:
Ah! but will Heaven's Fury never slake,
Nor Vengeance huge relent it self at last?
Will not long Misery late Mercy make,
But shall their Name for ever be defac'd,
And quite from th' Earth their Memory be ras'd?

Nay but the term (said he) is limited,
That in this Thraldom Britons shall abide,
And the just Revolution measured,
That they as Strangers shall be notify'd.
For twice four hundred shall be full supply'd,
Ere they to former Rule restor'd shall be,
And their importune Fates all satisfy'd:
Yet during this their most Obscurity,
Their Beams shall oft break forth, that Men them fair may see.

For Rhodorick, whose Sirname shall be Great,
Shall of himself a brave Ensample shew,
That Saxon Kings his Friendship shall intreat;
And Howel Dha shall goodly well indue
The salvage Minds with Skill of Just and True;
Then Griffyth Conan also shall up-rear
His dreaded Head, and th' old Sparks renew
Of native Courage, that his Foes shall fear,
Lest back again the Kingdom he from them should bear.

Ne shall the Saxon selves all peaceably
Enjoy the Crown, which they from Britons won.
First ill, and after ruled wickedly:
For, ere two hundred Years be full out-run,
There shall a Raven far from rising Sun,
With his wide Wings upon them fiercely fly,
And bid his faithless Chickens overrun
The fruitful Plains, and with fell Cruelty,
In their avenge, tread down the Victour's Surquedry.

Yet shall a third both these, and thine subdue:
There shall a Lion from the Sea-bord Wood
Of Neustria come roaring, with a Crew
Of hungry Whelps, his battailous bold Brood,
Whose Claws were newly dip'd in cruddy Blood;
That from the Danish Tyrant's Head shall rend
Th' usurped Crown, as if that he were Wood,
And the Spoil of the Country conquered
Emongst his young ones shall divide with Bountyhed.

Tho, when the Term is full accomplished,
There shall a Spark of Fire, which hath long while
Been in his Ashes raked up and hid,
Be freshly kindled in the fruitful Isle
Of Mona, where it lurked in exile;
Which shall break forth into bright burning Flame,
And reach into the House that bears the stile
Of Royal Majesty and Sovereign Name:
So shall the Briton Blood their Crown again reclaim.

Thenceforth eternal Union shall be made
Between the Nations different afore,
And sacred Peace shall lovingly persuade
The warlike Minds, to learn her goodly Lore,
And Civil Arms to exercise no more:
Then shall a Royal Virgin reign, which shall
Stretch her white Rod over the Belgick Shore,
And the great Castle smite so sore withal,
That it shall make him shake, and shortly learn to fall.

But yet the end is not. There Merlin stay'd,
As overcomen of the Spirit's Power,
Or other ghastly Spectacle dismay'd,
That secretly he saw, yet n'ote discover:
Which sudden Fit, and half extatick Stour,
When the two fearful Women saw, they grew
Greatly confused in Behaviour.
At last the Fury past, to former Hue
She turn'd again, and chearful Looks as earst did shew.

Then, when themselves they well instructed had
Of all, that needed them to be inquir'd,
They both conceiving hope of Comfort glad,
With lighter Hearts unto their Home retir'd,
Where they in secret Counsel close conspir'd
How to effect so hard an Enterprize,
And to possess the purpose they desir'd:
Now this, now that, 'twixt them they did devise,
And divers Plots did frame, to mask in strange devise.

At last the Nourse in her fool-hardy Wit
Conceiv'd a bold Devise, and thus bespake;
Daughter, I deem that Counsel ay most fit,
That of the time doth due Advantage take:
Ye see that good King Uther now doth make
Strong War upon the Paynim Brethren, hight
Octa and Oza, whom he lately brake
Beside Cayr Verolame, in victorious Fight,
That now all Britanny doth burn in Armes bright.

That therefore nought our Passage may impeach,
Let us in feigned Arms our selves disguise,
And our weak Hands, whom Need new Strength shall teach
The dreadful Spear and Shield to exercise.
Ne certes, Daughter, that same warlike Wise,
I ween, would you misseem; for ye been tall,
And large of Limb, t' atchieve an hard Emprise,
Ne ought ye want, but Skill, which Practice small
Will bring, and shortly make you a Maid martial.

And sooth, it ought your Courage much inflame,
To hear so often, in that Royal House,
From whence to none inferiour ye came:
Bards tell of many Women valorous,
Which have full many Feats adventurous
Perform'd, in Paragon of proudest Men:
The bold Bunduca, whose victorious
Exploits made Rome to quake, stout Guendolen,
Renowned Martia, and redoubted Emmilen.

And that which more than all the rest may sway,
Late day's Ensample, which these Eyes beheld,
In the last Field before Menevia,
Which, Uther with those foreign Pagans held,
I saw a Saxon Virgin, the which fell'd
Great Ulfin thrice upon the bloody Plain;
And had not Carados her Hand withheld
From rash Revenge, she had him surely slain:
Yet Carados himself from her escap'd with pain.

Ah! read, quoth Britomart, how is she hight?
Fair Angela, quoth she, Men do her call,
No whit less fair, than terrible in fight:
She hath the leading of a martial
And mighty People, dreaded more than all
The other Saxons, which do for her sake
And love, themselves of her Name Angles call.
Therefore, fair Infant, her Ensample make
Unto thy self, and equal Courage to thee take.

Her hearty words so deep into the blind
Of the young Damzel sunk, that great desire
Of warlike Arms in her forthwith they tin'd,
And generous stout Courage did inspire;
That she resolv'd, unweeting to her Sire,
Advent'rous Knighthood on her self to don,
And counsel'd with her Nurse her Maid's Attire
To turn into a massy Habergeon,
And bad her all things put in readiness anon.

Th' old Woman nought, that needed, did omit;
But all things did conveniently purvey:
It fortuned (so time their turn did fit)
A Band of Britons riding on Forray
Few days before, had gotten a great Prey
Of Saxon Goods, emongst the which was seen
A goodly Armour, and full rich Array,
Which 'long'd to Angela, the Saxon Queen,
All fretted round with Gold, and goodly well beseen.

The same, with all the other Ornaments,
King Ryence caused to be hanged high
In his chief Church, for endless Moniments
Of his Success and gladful Victory:
Of which her self avising readily
In th' Evening late old Glauce thither led
Fair Britomart, and that same Armory
Down taking, her therein apparelled,
Well as she might, and with brave Bauldrick garnished.

Beside those Arms, there stood a mighty Spear,
Which Bladud made by magick Art of yore,
And us'd the same in Battle ay to bear;
Sith which it had been here preserv'd in store,
For his great Vertues proved long afore;
For never Wight so fast in Sell could sit,
But him perforce unto the Ground it bore.
Both Spear she took, and Shield, which hong by it;
Both Spear and Shield of great Pow'r, for her Purpose fit.

Thus when she had the Virgin all array'd,
Another Harness, which did hang thereby,
About her self she dight, that the young Maid
She might in equal Arms accompany,
And as her Squire attend her carefully.
Tho to their ready Steeds they clomb full light,
And thro back Ways that none might them espy,
Cover'd with secret Cloud of silent Night,
Themselves they forth convey'd, and passed forward right.

Ne rested they, till that to Fairy-Lond
They came, as Merlin them directed late:
Where meeting with the Redcross Knight, she fond
Of divers things Discourse, to dilate,
But most of Arthegall, and his Estate.
At last their Ways so fell, that they mote part;
Then each to other well affectionate,
Friendship professed with unfeigned Heart,
The Redcross Knight divers'd; but forth rode Britomart.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 2:398-413]

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