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FROM

ENGLISH POETRY

EDMUND SPENSER.

1553–1598.

FAËRY QUEEN.

A GENTLE knight was pricking o'er the plain, Yclad in mighty arms and silver shield, Wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain, The cruel marks of many a bloody field; Yet arms till that time did he never wield: His angry steed did chide his foaming bit, As much disdaining to the curb to yield: Full jolly knight he seem'd, and fair did sit, · As one for knightly jousts and fierce encounters fit. But on his breast a bloody cross he bore, The dear remembrance of his dying Lord, For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore, And dead (as living) ever him adored : Upon his shield the like was also scored, For sovereign hope, which in his help he had : Right faithful true he was in deed and word; But of his cheer did seem too solemn sad: Yet nothing did he dread; but ever was ydrad. Upon a great adventure he was bound, That greatest Gloriana to him gave, That greatest glorious queen of fairy land, To win him worship, and her grace to have, Which of all earthly things he most did crave, And ever as he rode, his heart did yearn To prove his puissance in battle brave Upon his foe, and his new force to learn; Upon his foe, a dragon horrible and stem. VOL. I.B

A lovely lady rode him fair beside,
Upon a lowly ass more white than snow;
Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide
Under a veil, that wimpled was full low,
And over all a black stole did she throw,
As one that inly mourn'd: so was she sad,
And heavy sat upon her palfrey slow;
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
And by her in a line a milk white lamb she led.

So pure and innocent, as that same lamb,
She was in life and every virtuous lore,
And by descent from royal lineage came
Of ancient kings and queens, that had of yore
Their sceptres stretcht from east to western shore,
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernal fiend with foul uproar
Forewasted all their land and them expell’d:
Whom to avenge she had this knight from far com-

pell’d.
Behind her far away a dwarf did lag,
That lazy seem'd in being ever last,
Or wearied with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his back. Thus as they past
The day with clouds was sudden overcast,
And angry Jove an hideous storm of rain
Did pour into his leman's lap so fast,
That every wight to shroud it did constrain, [fain.
And this fair couple eke to shroud themselves were
Enforced to seek some covert nigh at hand,
A shady grove not far away they spied,
That promised aid the tempest to withstand;
Whose lofty trees, yclad with summer's pride,
Did spread so broad, they heaven's light did hide,
Not pierceable with power of any star:
And all within were paths and alleys wide,
With footing worn, and leading inward far:
Fair harbour, that them seems; so in they entered are.

And forth they pass, with pleasure forward led,
Joying to hear the birds' sweet harmony,
Which therein shrouded from the tempest's dread,
Seem'd in their song to scorn the cruel sky.
Much can they praise the trees so strait and high,
The sailing Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,
The vine-prop Elm, the Poplar never dry,
The builder Oak, sole king of forests all,
The Aspin good for staves, the Cypress funeral,
The Laurel, meed of mighty conquerors
And poets sage, the Fir that weepeth still,
The Willow, worn of forlorn paramours,
The Yew, obedient to the bender's will,
The Birch for shafts, the Sallow for the mill,
The Myrrh sweet bleeding in the bitter wound,
The warlike Beech, the ash for nothing ill,
The fruitful Olive, and the Plantain round,
The carver Holme, the Maple seldom inward sound:.
Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Until the blustering storm is overblown,
When, weening to return, whence they did stray
They cannot find that path which first was shown,
But wander to and fro in ways unknown,
Furthest from end then, when they nearest ween,
That makes them doubt their wits be not their own :
So many paths, so many turnings seen, [been.
That which of them to take, in divers doubts they

*

Nought is there under Heaven's wide hollowness,
That moves more dear compassion of mind,
Than beauty brought t'unworthy wretchedness,
Through envy's snares, or fortune's freaks unkind.
I, whether lately through her brightness blind,
Or through allegiance and fast feälty,
Which I do owe unto all womankind,
Feel my heart pierced with so great agony,
When such I see, that all for pity I could die.

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