The Faerie Queene


His loves and lignage Arthur tells:

the Knights knit friendly hands:

Sir Trevisan flies from Despayre,

whom Redcrosse Knight withstands.


O goodly golden chaine,[*] wherewith yfere

The vertues linked are in lovely wize:

And noble mindes of yore allyed were,

In brave poursuit of chevalrous emprize,

That none did others safety despize, 5

Nor aid envy to him, in need that stands,

But friendly each did others prayse devize,

How to advaunce with favourable hands, As this good Prince redeemd the Redcrosse knight from bands.


Who when their powres empaird through labour long, 10

With dew repast they had recured well,

And that weake captive wight now wexed strong,

Them list no lenger there at leasure dwell,

But forward fare, as their adventures fell,

But ere they parted, Una faire besought 15

That straunger knight his name and nation tell;

Least so great good, as he for her had wrought, Should die unknown, and buried be in thanklesse[*] thought.


Faire virgin (said the Prince) ye me require

A thing without the compas of my wit: 20

For both the lignage and the certain Sire,

From which I sprong, from me are hidden yit.

For all so soone as life did me admit

Into this world, and shewed heavens light,

From mothers pap I taken was unfit: 25

And streight deliver'd to a Faery knight,[*] To be upbrought in gentle thewes and martiall might.


Unto old Timon he me brought bylive,

Old Timon, who in youthly yeares hath beene

In warlike feates th'expertest man alive, 30

And is the wisest now on earth I weene;

His dwelling is low in a valley greene,

Under the foot of Rauran mossy hore,[*]

From whence the river Dee[*] as silver cleene,

His tombling billowes roll with gentle rore: 35 There all my dayes he traind me up in vertuous lore.


Thither the great magicien Merlin came,

As was his use, ofttimes to visit me:

For he had charge my discipline to frame,[*]

And Tutours nouriture to oversee. 40

Him oft and oft I askt in privitie,

Of what loines and what lignage I did spring:

Whose aunswere bad me still assured bee,

That I was sonne and heire unto a king, As time in her just terme[*] the truth to light should bring. 45


Well worthy impe, said then the Lady gent,

And pupill fit for such a Tutours hand.

But what adventure, or what high intent

Hath brought you hither into Faery land,

Aread Prince Arthur, crowne of Martiall band? 50

Full hard it is (quoth he) to read aright

The course of heavenly cause, or understand

The secret meaning of th' eternall might, That rules mens wayes, and rules the thoughts of living wight.


For whether he through fatall deepe foresight 55

Me hither sent, for cause to me unghest,

Or that fresh bleeding wound,[*] which day and night

Whilome doth rancle in my riven brest,

With forced fury[*] following his behest,

Me hither brought by wayes yet never found; 60

You to have helpt I hold myself yet blest.

Ah curteous knight (quoth she) what secret wound Could ever find,[*] to grieve the gentlest hart on ground?


Deare dame (quoth he) you sleeping sparkes awake,[*]

Which troubled once, into huge flames will grow, 65

Ne ever will their fervent fury slake,

Till living moysture into smoke do flow,

And wasted life do lye in ashes low.

Yet sithens silence lesseneth not my fire,

But told[*] it flames, and hidden it does glow; 70

I will revele what ye so much desire: Ah Love, lay down thy bow, the whiles I may respire.


It was in freshest flowre of youthly yeares,

When courage first does creepe in manly chest,

Then first the coale of kindly heat appeares 75

To kindle love in every living brest;

But me had warnd old Timons wise behest,

Those creeping flames by reason to subdew,

Before their rage grew to so great unrest,

As miserable lovers use to rew, 80 Which still wex old in woe, whiles woe still wexeth new.


That idle name of love, and lovers life,

As losse of time, and vertues enimy,

I ever scornd, and joyd to stirre up strife,

In middest of their mournfull Tragedy, 85

Ay wont to laugh, when them I heard to cry,

And blow the fire, which them to ashes brent:

Their God himselfe, griev'd at my libertie,

Shot many a dart at me with fiers intent, But I them warded all with wary government. 90


But all in vaine: no fort can be so strong,

Ne fleshly brest can armed be so sound,

But will at last be wonne with battrie long,

Or unawares at disadvantage found:

Nothing is sure, that growes on earthly ground: 95

And who most trustes in arme of fleshly might,

And boasts in beauties chaine not to be bound,

Doth soonest fall in disaventrous fight, And yeeldes his caytive neck to victours most despight.


Ensample make[*] of him your haplesse joy, 100

And of my selfe now mated, as ye see;

Whose prouder vaunt that proud avenging boy

Did soone pluck downe and curbd my libertie.

For on a day, prickt forth with jollitie

Of looser life, and heat of hardiment, 105

Raunging the forest wide on courser free,

The fields, the floods, the heavens with one consent Did seeme to laugh on me, and favour mine intent.


For-wearied with my sports, I did alight

From loftie steed, and downe to sleepe me layd; 110

The verdant gras my couch did goodly dight,

And pillow was my helmet faire displayd:

Whiles every sence[*] the humour sweet embayd,

And slombring soft my hart did steale away,

Me seemed, by my side a royall Mayd 115

Her daintie limbes full softly down did lay: So faire a creature yet saw never sunny day.


Most goodly glee and lovely blandishment

She to me made, and bad me love her deare;

For dearely sure her love was to me bent, 120

As when just time expired should appeare.

But whether dreames delude, or true it were,

Was never hart so ravisht with delight,

Ne living man like words did ever heare,

As she to me delivered all that night; 125 And at her parting said, She Queene of Faeries hight.


When I awoke, and found her place devoyd,

And nought but pressed gras, where she had lyen,

I sorrowed all so much as earst I joyd,

And washed all her place with watry eyen. 130

From that day forth I lov'd that face divine;

From that day forth I cast in carefull mind

To seeke her out with labour, and long tyne,

And never vowd to rest till her I find, Nine monethes I seeke in vain, yet ni'll that vow unbind. 135


Thus as he spake, his visage wexed pale,

And chaunge of hew great passion did bewray;

Yet still he strove to cloke his inward bale,

And hide the smoke that did his fire display,

Till gentle Una thus to him gan say; 140

O happy Queene of Faeries, that has found

Mongst many, one that with his prowesse may

Defend thine honour, and thy foes confound: True Loves are often sown, but seldom grow on ground.


Thine, O then, said the gentle Recrosse knight, 145

Next to that Ladies love,[*] shal be the place,

O fairest virgin, full of heavenly light,

Whose wondrous faith exceeding earthly race,

Was firmest fixt[*] in mine extremest case.

And you, my Lord, the Patrone of my life, 150

Of that great Queene may well gaine worthy grace:

For onely worthy you through prowes priefe, Yf living man mote worthie be, to be her liefe.


So diversly discoursing of their loves,

The golden Sunne his glistring head gan shew, 155

And sad remembraunce now the Prince amoves

With fresh desire his voyage to pursew;

Als Una earnd her traveill to renew.

Then those two knights, fast friendship for to bynd,

And love establish each to other trew, 160

Gave goodly gifts, the signes of gratefull mynd, And eke the pledges firme, right hands together joynd.


Prince Arthur gave a boxe of Diamond sure,

Embowd with gold and gorgeous ornament,

Wherein were closd few drops of liquor pure, 165

Of wondrous worth, and vertue excellent,

That any wound could heale incontinent:

Which to requite, the Redcrosse knight him gave

A booke,[*] wherein his Saveours testament

Was writ with golden letters rich and brave; 170 A worke of wondrous grace, and able soules to save.


Thus beene they parted, Arthur on his way

To seeke his love, and th' other for to fight

With Unaes foe, that all her realme did pray.

But she now weighing the decayed plight, 175

And shrunken synewes of her chosen knight,

Would not a while her forward course pursew,

Ne bring him forth in face of dreadfull fight,

Till he recovered had his former hew: For him to be yet weake and wearie well she knew. 180


So as they traveild, lo they gan espy

An armed knight[*] towards them gallop fast,

That seemed from some feared foe to fly,

Or other griesly thing, that him aghast.

Still as he fled, his eye was backward cast, 185

As if his feare still followed him behind;

Als flew his steed, as he his bands had brast,

And with his winged heeles did tread the wind, As he had beene a fole of Pegasus[*] his kind.


Nigh as he drew, they might perceive his head 190

To be unarmd, and curld uncombed heares

Upstaring stiffe, dismayd with uncouth dread;

Nor drop of bloud in all his face appeares

Nor life in limbe: and to increase his feares

In fowle reproch of knighthoods faire degree, 195

About his neck an hempen rope he weares,

That with his glistring armes does ill agree; But he of rope or armes has now no memoree.


The Redcrosse knight toward him crossed fast,

To weet, what mister wight was so dismayd: 200

There him he finds all sencelesse and aghast,

That of him selfe he seemd to be afrayd;

Whom hardly he from flying forward stayd,

Till he these wordes to him deliver might;

Sir knight, aread who hath ye thus arayd, 205

And eke from whom make ye this hasty flight: For never knight I saw in such misseeming plight.


He answerd nought at all, but adding new

Feare to his first amazment, staring wide

With stony eyes, and hartlesse hollow hew, 210

Astonisht stood, as one that had aspide

Infernall furies, with their chaines untide.

Him yet againe, and yet againe bespake

The gentle knight; who nought to him replide,

But trembling every joint did inly quake, 215 And foltring tongue at last these words seemd forth to shake.


For Gods deare love, Sir knight, do me not stay;

For loe he comes, he comes fast after mee.

Eft looking back would faine have runne away;

But he him forst to stay, and tellen free 220

The secret cause of his perplexitie:

Yet nathemore by his bold hartie speach

Could his bloud-frosen hart emboldned bee,

But through his boldnesse rather feare did reach, Yet forst, at last he made through silence suddein breach. 225


And am I now in safetie sure (quoth he)

From him, that would have forced me to dye?

And is the point of death now turnd fro mee,

That I may tell this haplesse history?

Feare nought: (quoth he) no daunger now is nye. 230

Then shall I you recount a ruefull cace,

(Said he) the which with this unlucky eye

I late beheld, and had not greater grace[*] Me reft from it, had bene partaker of the place.


I lately chaunst (would I had never chaunst) 235

With a faire knight to keepen companee,

Sir Terwin hight, that well himselfe advaunst

In all affaires, and was both bold and free,

But not so happy as mote happy bee:

He lov'd, as was his lot, a Ladie gent, 240

That him againe lov'd in the least degree:

For she was proud, and of too high intent, And joyd to see her lover languish and lament.


From whom returning sad and comfortlesse,

As on the way together we did fare, 245

We met that villen (God from him me blesse)

That cursed wight, from whom I scapt whyleare,

A man of hell, that cals himselfe Despaire:

Who first us greets, and after faire areedes[*]

Of tydings strange, and of adventures rare: 250

So creeping close, as Snake in hidden weedes, Inquireth of our states, and of our knightly deedes.


Which when he knew, and felt our feeble harts

Embost with bale, and bitter byting griefe,

Which love had launched with his deadly darts, 255

With wounding words and termes of foule repriefe,

He pluckt from us all hope of due reliefe,

That earst us held in love of lingring life;

Then hopelesse hartlesse, gan the cunning thiefe

Perswade us die, to stint all further strife: 260 To me he lent this rope, to him a rustie knife.


With which sad instrument of hasty death,

That wofull lover, loathing lenger light,

A wide way made to let forth living breath.

But I more fearfull, or more luckie wight, 265

Dismayd with that deformed dismall sight,

Fled fast away, halfe dead with dying feare:[*]

Ne yet assur'd of life by you, Sir knight,

Whose like infirmitie[*] like chaunce may beare: But God[*] you never let his charmed speeches heare. 270


How may a man (said he) with idle speach

Be wonne, to spoyle the Castle of his health?[*]

I wote[*] (quoth he) whom triall late did teach,

That like would not for all this worldes wealth:

His subtill tongue, like dropping honny, mealt'h[*] 275

Into the hart, and searcheth every vaine;

That ere one be aware, by secret stealth

His powre is reft, and weaknesse doth remaine. O never Sir desire to try his guilefull traine.


Certes (said he) hence shall I never rest, 280

Till I that treacherours art have heard and tride;

And you Sir knight, whose name mote I request,

Of grace do me unto his cabin guide.

I that hight Trevisan (quoth he) will ride,

Against my liking backe, to do you grace: 285

But not for gold nor glee[*] will I abide

By you, when ye arrive in that same place For lever had I die, then see his deadly face.


Ere long they come, where that same wicked wight

His dwelling has, low in an hollow cave, 290

Farre underneath a craggie clift ypight,

Darke, dolefull, drearie, like a greedy grave,

That still for carrion carcases doth crave:

On top whereof aye dwelt the ghastly Owle,[*]

Shrieking his balefull note, which ever drave 295

Far from that haunt all other chearefull fowle; And all about it wandring ghostes did waile and howle.


And all about old stockes and stubs of trees,

Whereon nor fruit nor leafe was ever seene,

Did hang upon the ragged rocky knees; 300

On which had many wretches hanged beene,

Whose carcases were scattered on the greene,

And throwne about the clifts. Arrived there,

That bare-head knight for dread and dolefull teene,

Would faine have fled, ne durst approchen neare, 305 But th' other forst him stay, and comforted in feare.


That darkesome cave they enter, where they find

That cursed man, low sitting on the ground,

Musing full sadly in his sullein mind;

His griesie lockes, long growen, and unbound, 310

Disordred hong about his shoulders round,

And hid his face; through which his hollow eyne

Lookt deadly dull, and stared as astound;

His raw-bone cheekes, through penurie and pine, Were shronke into his jawes, as[*] he did never dine. 315


His garment nought but many ragged clouts,

With thornes together pind and patched was,

The which his naked sides he wrapt abouts;

And him beside there lay upon the gras

A drearie corse,[*] whose life away did pas, 320

All wallowed in his owne yet luke-warme blood,

That from his wound yet welled fresh alas;

In which a rustie knife fast fixed stood, And made an open passage for the gushing flood.


Which piteous spectacle, approving trew 325

The wofull tale that Trevisan had told,

When as the gentle Redcrosse knight did vew,

With firie zeale he burnt in courage bold,

Him to avenge, before his bloud were cold,

And to the villein said, Thou damned wight, 330

The author of this fact we here behold,

What justice can but judge against thee right,[*] With thine owne bloud to price[*] his bloud, here shed in sight.


What franticke fit (quoth he) hath thus distraught

Thee, foolish man, so rash a doome to give? 335

What justice[*] ever other judgement taught,

But he should die, who merites not to live?

None else to death this man despayring drive,

But his owne guiltie mind deserving death.

Is then unjust[*] to each his due to give? 340

Or let him die, that loatheth living breath? Or let him die at ease, that liveth here uneath?


Who travels by the wearie wandring way,[*]

To come unto his wished home in haste,

And meetes a flood, that doth his passage stay, 345

Is not great grace to helpe him over past,

Or free his feet that in the myre sticke fast?

Most envious man, that grieves at neighbours good,

And fond, that joyest in the woe thou hast,

Why wilt not let him passe, that long hath stood 350 Upon the banke, yet wilt thy selfe not passe the flood?


He there does now enjoy eternall rest

And happy ease, which thou dost want and crave,

And further from it daily wanderest:

What if some little paine the passage have, 355

That makes fraile flesh to feare the bitter wave?

Is not short paine well borne, that brings long ease,

And layes the soule to sleepe in quiet grave?

Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas, Ease after warre, death after life does greatly please. 360


The knight much wondred at his suddeine wit,[*]

And said, The terme of life is limited,

Ne may a man prolong, nor shorten it;

The souldier may not move from watchfull sted,

Nor leave his stand, untill his Captaine bed. 365

Who life did limit by almightie doome

(Quoth he)[*] knowes best the termes established;

And he, that points the Centonell his roome, Doth license him depart at sound of morning droome.


Is not his deed, what ever thing is donne 370

In heaven and earth? did not he all create

To die againe? all ends that was begonne.

Their times in his eternall booke of fate

Are written sure, and have their certaine date.

Who then can strive with strong necessitie, 375

That holds the world in his still chaunging state,

Or shunne the death ordaynd by destinie? When houre of death is come, let none aske whence, nor why.


The lenger life, I wote the greater sin,

The greater sin, the greater punishment: 380

All those great battels, which thou boasts to win,

Through strife, and blood-shed, and avengement,

Now praysd, hereafter deare thou shalt repent:

For life must life, and blood must blood repay.

Is not enough thy evill life forespent? 385

For he that once hath missed the right way, The further he doth goe, the further he doth stray.


Then do no further goe, no further stray,

But here lie downe, and to thy rest betake,

Th' ill to prevent, that life ensewen may. 390

For what hath life, that may it loved make,

And gives not rather cause it to forsake?

Feare, sicknesse, age, losse, labour, sorrow, strife,

Paine, hunger, cold, that makes the hart to quake;

And ever fickle fortune rageth rife, 395 All which, and thousands mo do make a loathsome life.


Thou wretched man, of death hast greatest need,

If in true ballance thou wilt weigh thy state:

For never knight, that dared warlike deede,

More lucklesse disaventures did amate: 400

Witnesse the dungeon deepe, wherein of late

Thy life shut up, for death so oft did call;

And though good lucke prolonged hath thy date,[*]

Yet death then would the like mishaps forestall, Into the which hereafter thou maiest happen fall. 405


Why then doest thou, O man of sin, desire

To draw thy dayes forth to their last degree?

Is not the measure of thy sinfull hire[*]

High heaped up with huge iniquitie,

Against the day of wrath, to burden thee? 410

Is not enough, that to this Ladie milde

Thou falsed hast thy faith with perjurie,

And sold thy selfe to serve Duessa vilde, With whom in all abuse thou hast thy selfe defilde?


Is not he just, that all this doth behold 415

From highest heaven, and beares an equall eye?

Shall he thy sins up in his knowledge fold,

And guilty be of thine impietie?

Is not his law, Let every sinner die:

Die shall all flesh? what then must needs be donne, 420

Is it not better to doe willinglie,

Then linger, till the glasse be all out ronne? Death is the end of woes: die soone, O faeries sonne.


The knight was much enmoved with his speach,

That as a swords point through his hart did perse, 425

And in his conscience made a secret breach,

Well knowing true all that he did reherse,

And to his fresh remembraunce did reverse

The ugly vew of his deformed crimes,

That all his manly powres it did disperse, 430

As he were charmed[*] with inchaunted rimes, That oftentimes he quakt, and fainted oftentimes.


In which amazement, when the Miscreant

Perceived him to waver weake and fraile,

Whiles trembling horror did his conscience dant, 435

And hellish anguish did his soule assaile,

To drive him to despaire, and quite to quaile,

He shew'd him painted in a table[*] plaine,

The damned ghosts, that doe in torments waile,

And thousand feends that doe them endlesse paine 440 With fire and brimstone, which for ever shall remaine.


The sight whereof so throughly him dismaid,

That nought but death before his eyes he saw,

And ever burning wrath before him laid,

By righteous sentence of th' Almighties law. 445

Then gan the villein him to overcraw,

And brought unto him swords, ropes, poison, fire,

And all that might him to perdition draw;

And bad him choose, what death he would desire: For death was due to him, that had provokt Gods ire. 450


But when as none of them he saw him take,

He to him raught a dagger sharpe and keene,

And gave it him in hand: his hand did quake,

And tremble like a leafe of Aspin greene,

And troubled bloud through his pale face was seene 455

To come, and goe with tidings from the heart,

As it a running messenger had beene.

At last resolv'd to worke his finall smart, He lifted up his hand, that backe againe did start.


Which whenas Una saw, through every vaine 460

The crudled cold ran to her well of life,

As in a swowne: but soone reliv'd againe,

Out of his hand she snatcht the cursed knife,

And threw it to the ground, enraged rife,

And to him said, Fie, fie, faint harted knight, 465

What meanest thou by this reprochfull strife?

Is this the battell, which thou vauntst to fight With that fire-mouthed Dragon,[*] horrible and bright?


Come, come away, fraile, seely, fleshly wight,

Ne let vaine words bewitch thy manly hart, 470

Ne divelish thoughts dismay thy constant spright.

In heavenly mercies hast thou not a part?

Why shouldst thou then despeire, that chosen art?[*]

Where justice growes, there grows eke greater grace,

The which doth quench the brond of hellish smart, 475

And that accurst hand-writing[*] doth deface. Arise, Sir knight, arise, and leave this cursed place.


So up he rose, and thence amounted streight.

Which when the carle beheld, and saw his guest

Would safe depart for all his subtill sleight, 480

He chose an halter from among the rest,

And with it hung himselfe, unbid unblest.

But death he could not worke himselfe thereby;

For thousand times he so himselfe had drest,[*]

Yet nathelesse it could not doe him die, 485 Till he should die his last, that is, eternally.