1590
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Faerie Queene. Book III. Canto VIII.

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

Edmund Spenser


George L. Craik: "Canto VIII. (52 stanzas). — The sight of Florimel's girdle, which he takes as evidence of her death, drives the witch's son to distraction; upon which his mother boldly sets to work to fabricate by her art a lady of snow so like that it will be next to impossible to find out that she is not the one that has been lost. The snow, gathered by herself in a shady glade of the Riphaean hills, she tempers 'with fine mercury, and virgin wax that never yet was sealed,' and with the whole mingles an infusion of vermilion so as to produce a lively sanguine. Then.... 'in the stead | Of life, she put a spright to rule the carcass dead.' The spirit is one that long ago had fallen from heaven with the Prince of Darkness, one that was fraught above all others with fawning guile, 'And all the wiles of women's wit knew passing well.' The witch's son has no doubt that it is Florimel, and makes himself very happy, though the spirit continues to maintain a coy demeanour. At length one day, while they are walking in the woods together, they are seen by the vaunting Braggadoccio, who boldly seizing the lady sets her on Trompart's steed, and rides off with her. But he is soon forced to resign her to 'an armed knight upon a courser strong,' whom they meet, and out of whose hands Braggadoccio is glad to escape by a characteristic stratagem with his person safe, though with the loss of his love.

"The knight supposes that it is Florimel he has found; but that lady is far away, undergoing great distresses and fortunes strange. Her first danger has been from the passion kindled in the old fisherman, when, on awakening from his sleep, he beheld that marvellous beauty of hers, 'Which with rare light his boat did beautify.' 'O!' exclaims the poet, 'O! ye brave knights, that boast this lady's love, | Where be ye now!'... But, in the absence of all these her old adorers, heaven does not leave her without succour. It chances in her extremity that Proteus, shepherd of the seas, passes near, 'Along the foamy waves driving his finny drove;' and he, at her cries, steering to the place his swift chariot, — 'Which, with a team of scaly phocas bound, | Was drawn upon the waves that foamed him around—' soon rescues her from the brutal fisherman. When she first looked up and beheld her deliverer, 'For shame, but more for fear of his grim sight, | Down in her lap she hid her face, and loudly shright:' but Proteus did his best to recomfort her: 'Her up betwixt his rugged hands he reared, | And with his frory lips full softly kist, | Whiles the cold icicles from his rough beard | Dropped adown upon her ivory breast'....

"The fisherman, after dragging him for some time behind his chariot through the waves, he at last casts ashore; but Florimel he takes with him to his bower, a cave hollowed out under a mighty rock at the bottom of the sea: 'There was his won; ne living wight was seen, | Save one old nymph, hight Panope, to keep it clean.' Florimel steadily resists all the sea-god's allurements, and is proof against all the various disguises he assumes to win her love: 'Sometimes he boasted that a god he hight; | But she a mortal creature loved best: | Then he would make himself a mortal wight; | But then she said she loved none but a Fairy knight.... | Down in a dungeon deep he let her fall, | And threatened there to make her his eternal thrall.' And here for the present the poet leaves her....

"Meanwhile Satyrane, — 'having ended with that Squire of Dames | A long discourse of his adventures vain, | The which himself than ladies more defames,—' has returned with his new companion to the road in which he was proceeding when he encountered the giantess. They have not gone far when they perceive 'a knight fair pricking on the plain, | As if he were on some adventure bent,' whom, 'Both by the burning heart which on his breast | He bare, and by the colours in his crest,' Satyrane soon discovers to be his friend Sir Paridel. When they have saluted, Paridel tells him that mirth has been turned to mourning at Fairy Court by the news of the destruction of Marinel and the departure of Florimel to find him; 'and after her,' he adds, 'are gone | All the brave knights, that doen in arms excel, | To saveguard her ywandered all alone: | Amongst the rest my lot (unworthy) is to be one. | Ah! gentle knight, said then Sir Satyrane, | Thy labour all is lost; I greatly dread, | That hast a thankless service on thee ta'en, | And offerest sacrifice unto the dead'.... He then relates what he had seen, the monster devouring her palfrey, adding that he had besides found her golden girdle cast away.

"Paridel, however, though he admits, with deepest sorrow, that 'the lady's safety is sore to be drad,' like a true-hearted knight, will not give up his quest; and Satyrane then also declares that he will not be long behind him. For the present they both agree, on the proposal of the Squire of Dames, to seek shelter for the night in a castle which they see a little way off. But when they come up to the gate, very much to their surprise, and contrary to all the usages of chivalry, they are refused admission: 'Wondrous sore | Thereat displeased they were, till that young squire | Gan them inform the cause why that same door | Was shut to all which lodging did desire: | The which to let you weet will further time require'" Spenser and his Poetry (1845; 1871) 2:51-54.



The Witch creates a snowy La-
dy, like to Florimel;
Who wrong'd by Carle, by Proteus sav'd,
Is sought by Paridel.

So oft as I this History record,
My Heart doth melt with mere Compassion,
To think, how causless of her own accord
This gentle Damzel whom I write upon,
Should plonged be in such Affliction,
Without all hope of Comfort or Relief;
That sure I ween, the hardest Heart of Stone,
Would hardly find to aggravate her Grief;
For Misery craves rather Mercy, than Reprief.

But that accursed Hag, her Hostess late,
Had so enrankled her malicious Heart,
That she desir'd th' abridgment of her Fate,
Or long enlargement of her painful Smart.
Now when the Beast, which by her wicked Art
Late forth she sent, she back returning spy'd,
Ty'd with her broken Girdle; it, a part
Of her rich Spoils, whom he had earst destroy'd,
She ween'd, and wondrous Gladness to her Heart apply'd.

And with it running, hast'ly to her Son,
Though with that sight him much to have reliev'd;
Who thereby deeming sure the thing was done,
His former Grief with Fury fresh reviv'd,
Much more than earst, and would have algates riv'd
The Heart out of his Breast: for, sith her dead
He surely demp'd, himself he thought depriv'd
Quite of all hope, wherewith he long had fed
His foolish Malady, and long time had misled.

With thought whereof, exceeding mad he grew,
And in his Rage his Mother would have slain,
Had she not fled into a secret Mew,
Where she was wont her Sprights to entertain,
The Masters of her Art: there was she fain
To call them all in order to her Aid,
And them conjure upon eternal Pain,
To counsel her so carefully dismay'd,
How she might heal her Son, whose Senses were decay'd.

By their Advice, and her own wicked Wit,
She there devis'd a wondrous Work to frame,
Whose like on Earth was never framed yet,
That even Nature's self envy'd the same,
And grudg'd to see the Counterfeit should shame
The Thing it self. In hand she boldly took
To make another like the former Dame,
Another Florimel, in Shape and Look
So lively and so like, that many it mistook.

The Substance, whereof she the Body made,
Was purest Snow in massy Mould congeal'd,
Which she had gather'd in a shady Glade
Of the Riphoean Hills, to her reveal'd
By errant Sprights, but from all Men conceal'd:
The same she tempred with fine Mercury,
And Virgin Wax, that never yet was seal'd;
And mingled them with perfect Vermily,
That like a lively Sanguine it seem'd to the Eye.

Instead of Eyes, two burning Lamps she set
In silver Sockets, shining like the Skies,
And a quick moving Spirit did aret
To stir and roll them, like a Woman's Eyes:
Instead of yellow Locks she did devise,
With golden Wire to weave her curled Head;
Yet golden Wire was not so yellow thrice
As Florimel's fair Hair: and in the stead
Of Life, she put a Spright to rule the Carcase dead.

A wicked Spright yfraught with fawning Guile,
And fair Resemblance above all the rest,
Which with the Prince of Darkness fell some while,
From Heaven's Bliss and everlasting Rest;
Him needed not instruct, which way were best
Himself to fashion likest Florimel,
Ne how to speak, ne how to use his Gest:
For, he in Counterfeisance did excel;
And all the Wiles of Womens Wit knew passing well.

Him shaped thus she deck'd in Garments gay,
Which Florimel had left behind her late,
That whoso then her saw, would surely say,
It was her self whom it did imitate,
Or fairer than her self, if ought algate
Might fairer be. And then she forth her brought
Unto her Son, that lay in feeble State;
Who seeing her 'gan straight upstart, and thought
She was the Lady self, whom he so long had sought.

Tho, fast her clipping 'twixt his Armes twain,
Extreamly joyed in so happy sight,
And soon forgot his former sickly Pain:
But she, the more to seem such as she hight,
Coily rebutted his Embracement light;
Yet still with gentle Countenance retain'd
Enough to hold a Fool in vain Delight:
Him long she so with Shadows entertain'd,
As her Creatress had in Charge to her ordain'd;

Till on a day, as he disposed was
To walk the Woods with that his Idol fair,
Her to disport, and idle time to pass,
In th' open freshness of the gentle Air,
A Knight that way there chanced to repair;
Yet Knight he was not, but a boastful Swain,
That Deeds of Arms had ever in despair,
Proud Braggadochio, that in vaunting vain
His Glory did repose, and Credit did maintain.

He seeing with that Chorle so fair a Wight,
Decked with many a costly Ornament,
Much marvelled thereat, as well he might,
And thought that Match a foul disparagement:
His bloody Spear eftsoons be boldly bent
Against the silly Clown, who dead through Fear,
Fell straight to ground in great Astonishment.
Villain, said he, this Lady is my Dear;
Die, if thou it gainsay: I will away her bear.

The fearful Chorle durst not gainsay, nor do,
But trembling stood, and yielded him the Prey;
Who finding little Leisure her to woo,
On Trompart's Steed her mounted without stay,
And without Rescue led her quite away.
Proud Man himself then Braggadochio deem'd,
And next to none, after that happy Day,
Being possessed of that Spoil, which seem'd
The fairest Wight on ground, and most of Men esteem'd.

But when he saw himself free from pursuit,
He 'gan make gentle purpose to his Dame,
With Terms of Love and Leudness dissolute;
For, he could well his glozing Speeches frame
To such vain uses, that him best became:
But she thereto would lend but light regard;
As seeming sorry, that she ever came
Into his Power, that used her so hard,
To reeve her Honour, which she more than Life prefer'd.

Thus as they two of Kindness treated long,
There them by chance encountred on the way
An armed Knight, upon a Courser strong,
Whose trampling Feet upon the hollow Lay
Seemed to thunder, and did nigh affray
That Capon's Courage: yet he looked grim,
And feign'd to chear his Lady in dismay;
Who seem'd for Fear to quake in every Limb,
And her to save from Outrage, meekly prayed him.

Fiercely that Stranger forward came, and nigh
Approaching, with bold Words, and bitter Threat,
Bade that same Boaster, as he mote, on high
To leave to him that Lady for Excheat,
Or bide him Battle without further Treat.
That Challenge did too peremptory seem,
And fill'd his Senses with Abashment great;
Yet seeing nigh him Jeopardy extream,
He it dissembled well, and light seem'd to esteem:

Saying, Thou foolish Knight, that ween'st with Words
To steel away that I with Blows have won,
And brought through Points of many perilous Swords:
But if thee list to see thy Courser run,
Or prove thy self, this sad Encounter shun,
And seek else without Hazard of thy Head.
At those proud words that other Knight begun
To wex exceeding wroth, and him ared
To turn his Steed about, or sure he should be dead.

Sith then, said Braggadochio, needs thou wilt
Thy days abridge, through Proof of Puissance,
Turn we our Steeds, that both an equal Tilt
May meet again, and each take happy chance.
This said, they both a Furlong's moutenance
Retir'd their Steeds, to run in even Race;
But Braggadochio with his bloody Lance
Once having turn'd, no more return'd his Face,
But Left his Love to loss, and fled himself apace.

The Knight, him seeing fly, had no regard
Him to pursue, but to the Lady rode;
And having her from Trompart lightly rear'd,
Upon his Courser set the lovely Load,
And with her fled away without abode.
Well weened he, that fairest Florimel
It was, with whom in Company he yode,
And so her self did always to him tell;
So made him think himself in Heaven, that was in Hell.

But Florimel her self was far away,
Driven to great Distress by Fortune strange,
And taught the careful Mariner to play,
Sith late mischaunce had her compell'd to change
The Land for Sea, at random there to range:
Yet there that cruel Queen Avengeress,
Not satisfy'd so far her to estrange
From courtly Bliss and wonted Happiness,
Did heap on her new Waves of weary Wretchedness.

For, being fled into the Fisher's Boat,
For Refuge from the Monster's Cruelty,
Long so she on the mighty Main did float,
And with the Tide drove forward carelesly:
For, th' Air was mild, and cleared was the Sky,
And all his Winds Dan Aeolus did keep
From stirring up their stormy Enmity,
As pitying to see her wail and weep;
But all the while the Fisher did securely sleep.

At last, when drunk with Drousiness, he woke,
And saw his Drover drive along the Stream,
He was dismay'd, and thrice his Breast he stroke,
For marvel of that Accident extream;
But when he saw that blazing Beauty's Beam,
Which with rare Light his Boat did beautify,
He marvell'd more, and thought he yet did dream,
Not well awak'd, or that some Extasy
Assotted had his Sense, or dazed was his Eye.

But when her well avizing, he perceiv'd.
To be no Vision, nor fantastick Sight,
Great Comfort of her Presence he conceiv'd,
And felt in his old Courage new delight
To 'gin awake, and stir his frozen Spright:
Tho, rudely ask'd her, how she thither came.
Ah! said she, rather, I n'ote read aright,
What hard Misfortune brought me to the same;
Yet am I glad that here I now in safety am.

But thou, good Man, sith far in Sea we be,
And the great Waters 'gin apace to swell,
That now no more we can the Main-Land see,
Have care, I pray, to guide the Cock-boat well,
Lest worse on Sea than us on Land befel.
Thereat th' old Man did nought but fondly grin,
And said, his Boat the way could wisely tell:
But his deceitful Eyes did never lin
To look on her fair Face, and mark her snowy Skin.

The sight whereof, in his congealed Flesh,
Infix'd such secret Sting of greedy Lust,
That the dry wither'd Stock it 'gan refresh,
And kindled Heat, that soon in Flame forth brust:
The driest Wood is soonest burnt to dust.
Rudely to her he leap'd, and his rough Hand
Where ill became him, rashly would have thrust;
But she with angry Scorn him did withstond,
And shamefully reproved for his Rudeness fond.

But, he that never Good nor Manners knew,
Her sharp Rebuke full little did esteem;
Hard is to teach an old Horse amble true.
The inward Smoke, that did before but steem,
Broke into open Fire and Rage extreme;
And now he Strength 'gan add unto his Will,
Forcing to do that did him foul misseem:
Beastly he threw her down, ne car'd to spill
Her Garments gay with Scales of Fish, that all did fill.

The silly Virgin strove him to withstand,
All that she might, and him in vain revil'd;
She struggled strongly both with Foot and Hand,
To save her Honour from that Villain vild,
And cry'd to Heaven, from human Help exil'd.
O ye brave Knights, that boast this Lady's Love,
Where be ye now, when she is nigh defil'd
Of filthy Wretch? well may she you reprove
Of Falshood, or of Sloth, when most it may behove.

But if that thou, Sir Satyrane, didst weet,
Or thou, Sir Peridure, her sorry State,
How soon would ye assemble many a Fleet
To fetch from Sea, that ye at Land lost late?
Towers, Cities, Kingdoms ye would ruinate,
In your Avengement and dispiteous Rage,
Ne ought your burning Fury mote abate;
But if Sir Calidore could it presage,
No living Creature could his Cruelty assuage.

But sith that none of all her Knights is nigh,
See how the Heavens, of voluntary Grace,
And sovereign Favour towards Chastity,
Do Succour send to her distressed case:
So much high God doth Innocence embrace?
It fortuned, whilst thus she stiffly strove,
And the wide Sea importuned long space
With shrilling Shrieks, Proteus abroad did rove,
Along the foamy Waves, driving his finny Drove.

Proteus is Shepherd of the Seas of yore,
And hath the Charge of Neptune's mighty Herd;
An aged Sire with Head all frory hore,
And sprinkled Frost upon his dewy Beard:
Who when those pitiful Out-cries he heard
Through all the Seas so ruefully resound,
His Chariot swift in hast he thither steer'd;
Which, with a Team of scaly Phoca's bound,
Was drawn upon the Waves, that foamed him around.

And coming to that Fisher's wandring Boat,
That went at will, withouten Card or Sail,
He therein saw that irksome sight, which smote
Deep Indignation and Compassion frail
Into his Heart at once: Straight did he hale
The greedy Villain from his hoped Prey,
Of which he now did very little fail,
And with his Staff that drives his Herd astray,
Him bet so sore, that Life and Sense did much dismay.

The whiles the piteous Lady up did rise,
Ruffled and foully ray'd with filthy Soil,
And blubbred Face with Tears of her fair Eyes;
Her Heart nigh broken was with weary Toil,
To save her self from that outrageous Spoil:
But when she looked up, to weet what Wight
Had her from so infamous Fact assoil'd,
For shame, but more for fear of his grim Sight,
Down in her Lap she hid her Face, and loudly shright.

Her self not saved yet from Danger dread
She thought, but chang'd from one to other Fear;
Like as a fearful Partridge, that is fled
From the sharp Hawk, which her attached near,
And falls to ground, to seek for Succour there,
Whereas the hungry Spannels she does spy,
With greedy Jaws her ready for to tear:
In such Distress and sad Perplexity
Was Florimel, when Proteus she did see thereby.

But he endeavoured with Speeches mild,
Her to recomfort, and accourage bold,
Bidding her fear no more her Foeman vild,
Nor doubt himself; and who he was, her told.
Yet all that could not from Affright her hold,
Ne to recomfort her at all prevail'd;
For, her faint Heart was with the frozen Cold
Benumb'd so inly, that her Wits nigh fail'd,
And all her Senses with Abashment quite were quail'd.

Her up betwixt his rugged Hands he rear'd,
And with his frory Lips full softly kiss'd,
Whiles the cold Isicles from his rough Beard
Dropped adown upon her ivory Breast;
Yet he himself so busily address'd,
That her out of Astonishment he wraught,
And out of that same Fisher's filthy Nest
Removing her, into his Chariot brought,
And there with many gentle Terms he fair besought.

But that old Leachour, which with bold Assault
That Beauty durst presume to violate,
He cast to punish for his heinous Fault;
Then took he him yet trembling sith of late,
And ty'd behind his Chariot, to aggrate
The Virgin, whom he had abus'd so sore:
So dragg'd him through the Waves in scornful State,
And after cast him up upon the Shore;
But Florimel with him unto his Bower he bore.

His Bower is in the bottom of the Main,
Under a mighty Rock, 'gainst which do rave
The roaring Billows in their proud Disdain;
That with the angry working of the Wave,
Therein is eaten out an hollow Cave,
That seems rough Mason's hand with Engines keen
Had long while laboured it to engrave:
There was his Wonne; ne living Wight was seen,
Save one old Nymph, hight Panope, to keep it clean.

Thither he brought the sorry Florimel,
And entertained her the best he might;
And Panope her entertain'd eke well,
As an immortal mote a mortal Wight,
To win her liking unto his delight:
With flattring words he sweetly wooed her.
And offered fair Gifts t' allure her sight;
But she both Offers and the Offerer
Despis'd, and all the fawning of the Flatterer.

Daily he tempted her with this or that,
And never suffred her to be at rest:
But evermore she him refused flat,
And all his feigned Kindness did detest;
So firmly she had sealed up her Breast.
Sometimes he boasted, that a God he hight;
But she a mortal Creature loved best:
Then he would make himself a mortal Wight;
But then she said she lov'd none, but a Fairy Knight.

Then like a Fairy Knight himself he dress'd;
For, every Shape on him he could endue:
Then like a King he was to her express'd,
And offred Kingdoms unto her in view,
To be his Leman and his Lady true.
But when all this he nothing saw prevail,
With harder means he cast her to subdue,
And with sharp Threats her often did assail,
So thinking for to make her stubborn Courage quail.

To dreadful Shapes he did himself transform,
Now like a Giant, now like to a Fiend,
Then like a Centaur, then like to a Storm,
Raging within the Waves: Thereby he ween'd
Her Will to win unto his wished end.
But when with Fear, nor Favour, nor with all
He else could do, he saw himself esteem'd,
Down in a Dungeon deep he let her fall,
And threatned there to make her his eternal Thrall.

Eternal Thraldom was to her more liefe,
Than loss of Chastity, or change of Love:
Die had she rather in tormenting Grief,
Than any should of Falseness her reprove,
Or Looseness, that she lightly did remove.
Most virtuous Virgin, Glory be thy Meed,
And Crown of Heavenly Praise with Saints above,
Where most sweet Hymns of this thy famous Deed
Are still emongst them sung, that far my Rimes exceed.

Fit Song, of Angels caroled to be;
But yet what so my feeble Muse can frame,
Shall be t' advance thy goodly Chastity,
And to enrol thy memorable Name
In th' Heart of every honourable Dame,
That they they vertuous Deeds may imitate,
And be partakers of thy endless Fame.
It irkes me leave thee in this woful State,
To tell of Satyrane, where I him left of late.

Who having ended with that Squire of Dames
A long Discourse of his Adventures vain,
The which himself, than Ladies more defames,
And finding not th' Hyaena to be slain,
With that same Squire, returned back again
To his first Way. And as they forward went,
They spy'd a Knight fair pricking on the Plain,
As if he were on some Adventure bent,
And in his Port appeared manly Hardiment.

Sir Satyrane him towards did address,
To weet what Wight he was, and what his Quest:
And coming nigh, eftsoons he 'gan to guess
Both by the burning Heart, which on his Breast
He bare, and by the Colours in his Crest,
That Paridel it was. Tho to him yode,
And him saluting, as beseemed best,
'Gan first inquire of Tidings far abroad;
And afterwards on what Adventure now he rode.

Who thereto answering, said; The Tidings bad,
Which now in Fairy Court all Men do tell,
Which turned hath great Mirth to Mourning sad,
Is the late Ruin of proud Marinel,
And suddain Parture of fair Florimel,
To find him forth: and after her are gone
All the brave Knights, that doen in Arms excel,
To safeguard her, ywandred all alone;
Emongst the rest, my Lot (unworthy!) to be one.

Ah! gentle Knight, said then Sir Satyrane,
Thy Labour all is lost, I greatly dread,
That hast a thankless Service on thee ta'ne,
And offrest Sacrifice unto the Dead:
For dead, I surely doubt, thou mayst aread
Henceforth for ever Florimel to be,
That all the noble Knights of Maidenhead,
Which her ador'd, may sore repent with me,
And all fair Ladies may for ever sorry be.

Which Words, when Paridel had heard, his Hue
'Gan greatly change, and seem'd dismay'd to be;
Then said, Fair Sir, how may I ween it true,
That ye do tell in such Uncertainty?
Or speak ye of Report, or did ye see
Just Cause of Dread, that makes ye doubt so sore?
For, perdy else how mote it ever be,
That ever Hand should dare for to engore
Her noble Blood? the Heavens such Cruelty abhor.

These Eyes did see, that they will ever rue
T' have seen, quoth he, when-as a monstrous Beast
The Palfry, whereon she did travel, slew,
And of his Bowels made a bloody Feast;
Which speaking Token sheweth at the least
Her certain Loss, if not her sure Decay:
Besides, that more Suspicion increast,
I found her golden Girdle cast astray,
Distain'd with Dirt and Blood, as Relick of the Prey.

Ay me, said Paridel, the Signs be sad,
And but God turn the same to good Soothsay,
That Lady's Safety is sore to be drad:
Yet will I not forsake my forward Way,
Till Trial do more certain Truth bewray.
Fair Sir, quoth he, well may it you succeed,
Ne long shall Satyrane behind you stay,
But to the rest, which in this Quest proceed,
My Labour add, and be Partaker of their Speed.

Ye noble Knights, said then the Squire of Dames,
Well may ye speed in so praise-worthy Pain:
But sith the Sun now 'gins to slake his Beams,
In dewy Vapours of the western Main,
And loose the Team out of his weary Wain;
Mote not mislike you also to abate
Your zealous Haste, till Morrow next again
Both Light of Heaven, and Strength of Men relate:
Which if ye please, to yonder Castle turn your Gate.

That Counsel pleased well; so all yfere
Forth marched to a Castle them before,
Where soon arriving, they restrained were
Of ready Entrance, which ought evermore
To errant Knights be common: wondrous sore
Thereat displeas'd they were, till that young Squire
'Gan them inform the Cause, why that same Door
Was shut to all, which Lodging did desire;
The which to let you weet, will further time require.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 2:474-87]

[Continue]