The Faerie Queene


The faithfull knight in equall field

subdewes his faithlesse foe,

Whom false Duessa saves, and for

his cure to hell does goe.


THE noble hart, that harbours vertuous thought,

And is with child of glorious great intent,

Can never rest, untill it forth have brought

Th' eternall brood of glorie excellent.

Such restlesse passion did all night torment 5

The flaming corage of that Faery knight,

Devizing, how that doughtie turnament

With greatest honour he atchieven might; Still did he wake, and still did watch for dawning light.


At last the golden Orientall gate, 10

Of greatest heaven gan to open faire,

And Phoebus fresh, as bridegrome to his mate,

Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie haire:

And hurls his glistring beams through gloomy aire.

Which when the wakeful Elfe perceiv'd, streightway 15

He started up, and did him selfe prepaire,

In sunbright armes, and battailous array: For with that Pagan proud he combat will that day.


And forth he comes into the commune hall,

Where earely waite him many a gazing eye, 20

To weet what end to straunger knights may fall.

There many Minstrales maken melody,

To drive away the dull melancholy,

And many Bardes, that to the trembling chord

Can tune their timely voyces[*] cunningly, 25

And many Chroniclers that can record Old loves,[*] and warres for Ladies doen by many a Lord.


Soone after comes the cruell Sarazin,

In woven maile[*] all armed warily,

And sternly lookes at him, who not a pin 30

Does care for looke of living creatures eye.

They bring them wines of Greece and Araby,[*]

And daintie spices fetcht from furthest Ynd,[*]

To kindle heat of corage privily:

And in the wine a solemne oth they bynd 35 T' observe the sacred lawes of armes, that are assynd.


At last forth comes that far renowmed Queene,

With royall pomp and Princely majestie;

She is ybrought unto a paled greene,[*]

And placed under stately canapee, 40

The warlike feates of both those knights to see.

On th' other side in all mens open vew

Duessa placed is, and on a tree

Sans-foy his[*] shield is hangd with bloody hew: Both those[*] the lawrell girlonds to the victor dew. 45


A shrilling trompet sownded from on hye,

And unto battaill bad them selves addresse:

Their shining shieldes about their wrestes they tye,

And burning blades about their heads do blesse,

The instruments of wrath and heavinesse: 50

With greedy force each other doth assayle,

And strike so fiercely, that they do impresse

Deepe dinted furrowes in the battred mayle; The yron walles to ward their blowes are weak and fraile.


The Sarazin was stout, and wondrous strong, 55

And heaped blowes like yron hammers great;

For after bloud and vengeance he did long.

The knight was fiers, and full of youthly heat,

And doubled strokes, like dreaded thunders threat:

For all for prayse and honour he did fight. 60

Both stricken strike, and beaten both do beat,

That from their shields forth flyeth firie light, And helmets hewen deepe show marks of eithers might.


So th' one for wrong, the other strives for right;

As when a Gryfon[*] seized of his pray, 65

A Dragon fiers encountreth in his flight,

Through widest ayre making his ydle way,

That would his rightfull ravine rend away;

With hideous horror both together smight,

And souce so sore that they the heavens affray: 70

The wise Soothsayer seeing so sad sight, Th' amazed vulgar tels of warres and mortall fight.


So th' one for wrong, the other strives for right,

And each to deadly shame would drive his foe:

The cruell steele so greedily doth bight 75

In tender flesh that streames of bloud down flow,

With which the armes, that earst so bright did show,

Into a pure vermillion now are dyde:

Great ruth in all the gazers harts did grow,

Seeing the gored woundes to gape so wyde, 80 That victory they dare not wish to either side.


At last the Paynim chaunst to cast his eye,

His suddein eye, flaming with wrathful fyre,

Upon his brothers shield, which hong thereby:

Therewith redoubled was his raging yre, 85

And said, Ah wretched sonne of wofull syre,

Doest thou sit wayling by blacke Stygian lake,

Whilest here thy shield is hangd for victors hyre,

And sluggish german[*] doest thy forces slake To after-send his foe, that him may overtake? 90


Goe caytive Elfe, him quickly overtake,

And soone redeeme from his long wandring woe;

Goe guiltie ghost, to him my message make,

That I his shield have quit from dying foe.

Therewith upon his crest he stroke him so, 95

That twise he reeled, readie twise to fall;

End of the doubtfull battell deemed tho

The lookers on, and lowd to him gan call The false Duessa, Thine the shield, and I, and all.


Soone as the Faerie heard his Ladie speake,[*] 100

Out of his swowning dreame he gan awake,

And quickning faith, that earst was woxen weake,

The creeping deadly cold away did shake:

Tho mov'd with wrath, and shame, and Ladies sake,

Of all attonce he cast avengd to bee, 105

And with so' exceeding furie at him strake,

That forced him to stoupe upon his knee; Had he not stouped so, he should have cloven bee.


And to him said, Goe now proud Miscreant,

Thy selfe thy message do to german deare; 110

Alone he wandring thee too long doth want:

Goe say, his foe thy shield with his doth beare.

Therewith his heavie hand he high gan reare,

Him to have slaine; when loe a darkesome clowd[*]

Upon him fell: he no where doth appeare, 115

But vanisht is. The Elfe him calls alowd, But answer none receives: the darkness him does shrowd.


In haste Duessa from her place arose,

And to him running said, O prowest knight,

That ever Ladie to her love did chose, 120

Let now abate the terror of your might,

And quench the flame of furious despight,

And bloudie vengeance; lo th' infernall powres,

Covering your foe with cloud of deadly night,

Have borne him hence to Plutoes balefull bowres. 125 The conquest yours, I yours, the shield, the glory yours.


Not all so satisfide, with greedie eye

He sought all round about, his thristie blade

To bath in bloud of faithlesse enemy;

Who all that while lay hid in secret shade: 130

He standes amazed, how he thence should fade.

At last the trumpets Triumph sound on hie,

And running Heralds humble homage made,

Greeting him goodly with new victorie, And to him brought the shield, the cause of enmitie. 135


Wherewith he goeth to that soveraine Queene,

And falling her before on lowly knee,

To her makes present of his service seene:

Which she accepts, with thankes, and goodly gree,

Greatly advauncing his gay chevalree. 140

So marcheth home, and by her takes the knight,

Whom all the people follow with great glee,

Shouting, and clapping all their hands on hight, That all the aire it fils, and flyes to heaven bright.


Home is he brought, and laid in sumptuous bed: 145

Where many skilfull leaches him abide,

To salve his hurts, that yet still freshly bled.

In wine and oyle they wash his woundes wide,

And softly can embalme on every side.

And all the while, most heavenly melody 150

About the bed sweet musicke did divide,

Him to beguile of griefe and agony: And all the while Duessa wept full bitterly.


As when a wearie traveller that strayes

By muddy shore of broad seven-mouthed Nile, 155

Unweeting of the perillous wandring wayes,

Doth meete a cruell craftie Crocodile,

Which in false griefe hyding his harmefull guile,

Doth weepe full sore, and sheddeth tender teares:[*]

The foolish man, that pitties all this while 160

His mournefull plight, is swallowed up unawares, Forgetfull of his owne, that mindes anothers cares.


So wept Duessa untill eventide,

That shyning lampes in Joves high house were light:

Then forth she rose, ne lenger would abide, 165

But comes unto the place, where th' Hethen knight

In slombring swownd nigh voyd of vitall spright,

Lay cover'd with inchaunted cloud all day:

Whom when she found, as she him left in plight,

To wayle his woefull case she would not stay, 170 But to the easterne coast of heaven makes speedy way.


Where griesly Night,[*] with visage deadly sad,

That Phoebus chearefull face durst never vew,

And in a foule blacke pitchie mantle clad,

She findes forth comming from her darkesome mew, 175

Where she all day did hide her hated hew.

Before the dore her yron charet stood,

Alreadie harnessed for journey new;

And coleblacke steedes yborne of hellish brood, That on their rustie bits did champ, as they were wood. 180


Who when she saw Duessa sunny bright,

Adornd with gold and jewels shining cleare,

She greatly grew amazed at the sight,

And th' unacquainted light began to feare:

For never did such brightnesse there appeare, 185

And would have backe retyred to her cave,

Until the witches speech she gan to heare,

Saying, Yet, O thou dreaded Dame, I crave Abide, till I have told the message which I have.


She stayd, and foorth Duessa gan proceede 190

O thou most auncient Grandmother of all,

More old then Jove, whom thou at first didst breede,

Or that great house of Gods caelestiall,

Which wast begot in Daemogorgons hall,

And sawst the secrets of the world unmade, 195

Why suffredst thou thy Nephewes deare to fall

With Elfin sword, most shamefully betrade? Lo where the stout Sansjoy doth sleepe in deadly shade.


And him before, I saw with bitter eyes

The bold Sansfoy shrinke underneath his speare; 200

And now the pray of fowles in field he lyes,

Nor wayld of friends, nor layd on groning beare,[*]

That whylome was to me too dearely deare.

O what of Gods[*] then boots it to be borne,

If old Aveugles sonnes so evill heare? 205

Or who shall not great Nightes children scorne, When two of three her Nephews are so fowle forlorne?


Up then, up dreary Dame, of darknesse Queene,

Go gather up the reliques of thy race,

Or else goe them avenge, and let be seene, 210

That dreaded Night in brightest day hath place,

And can the children of faire light deface.

Her feeling speeches some compassion moved

In hart, and chaunge in that great mothers face:

Yet pittie in her hart was never proved 215 Till then: for evermore she hated, never loved.


And said, Deare daughter rightly may I rew

The fall of famous children borne of mee,

And good successes,[*] which their foes ensew:

But who can turne the streame of destinee, 220

Or breake the chayne[*] of strong necessitee,

Which fast is tyde to Joves eternall seat?

The sonnes of Day he favoureth, I see,

And by my ruines thinkes to make them great: To make one great by others losse, is bad excheat.[*] 225


Yet shall they not escape so freely all;

For some shall pay the price of others guilt:

And he the man that made Sansfoy to fall,

Shall with his owne bloud[*] price that he has spilt.

But what art thou, that telst of Nephews kilt? 230

I that do seeme not I, Duessa am,

(Quoth she) how ever now in garments gilt,

And gorgeous gold arrayd I to thee came; Duessa I, the daughter of Deceipt and Shame.


Then bowing downe her aged backe, she kist 235

The wicked witch, saying; In that faire face

The false resemblance of Deceipt I wist

Did closely lurke; yet so true-seeming grace

It carried, that I scarce in darkesome place

Could it discerne, though I the mother bee 240

Of falshood, and roote of Duessaes race.

O welcome child, whom I have longd to see, And now have seene unwares. Lo now I go with thee.


Then to her yron wagon she betakes,

And with her beares the fowle welfavourd witch: 245

Through mirkesome aire her readie way she makes.

Her twyfold Teme, of which two blacke as pitch,

And two were browne, yet each to each unlich,

Did softly swim away, ne ever stampe,

Unlesse she chaunst their stubborne mouths to twitch; 250

Then foming tarre, their bridles they would champe, And trampling the fine element would fiercely rampe.


So well they sped, that they be come at length

Unto the place, whereas the Paynim lay,

Devoid of outward sense, and native strength, 255

Coverd with charmed cloud from vew of day

And sight of men, since his late luckelesse fray.

His cruell wounds with cruddy bloud congeald

They binden up so wisely, as they may,

And handle softly, till they can be healed: 260 So lay him in her charet close in night concealed.


And all the while she stood upon the ground,

The wakefull dogs did never cease to bay,[*]

As giving warning of th' unwonted sound,

With which her yron wheeles did them affray, 265

And her darke griesly looke them much dismay:

The messenger of death, the ghastly Owle[*]

With drery shriekes did also her bewray;

And hungry Wolves continually did howle, At her abhorred face, so filthy and so fowle. 270


Thence turning backe in silence soft they stole,

And brought the heavie corse with easie pace

To yawning gulfe of deepe Avernus hole.[*]

By that same hole an entrance darke and bace

With smoake and sulphure hiding all the place, 275

Descends to hell: there creature never past,

That backe returned without heavenly grace;

But dreadfull Furies which their chaines have brast, And damned sprights sent forth to make ill men aghast.


By that same way the direfull dames doe drive 280

Their mournefull charet, fild with rusty blood,

And downe to Plutoes house are come bilive:

Which passing through, on every side them stood

The trembling ghosts with sad amazed mood,

Chattring their yron teeth, and staring wide 285

With stonie eyes; and all the hellish brood

Of feends infernall flockt on every side, To gaze on earthly wight that with the Night durst ride.


They pas the bitter waves of Acheron,

Where many soules sit wailing woefully, 290

And come to fiery flood of Phlegeton,

Whereas the damned ghosts in torments fry,

And with sharpe shrilling shriekes doe bootlesse cry,

Cursing high Jove, the which them thither sent.

The house of endlesse paine is built thereby, 295

In which ten thousand sorts of punishment The cursed creatures doe eternally torment.


Before the threshold dreadfull Cerberus[*]

His three deformed heads did lay along,

Curled with thousand adders venemous, 300

And lilled forth his bloudie flaming tong:

At them he gan to reare his bristles strong,

And felly gnarre, until Dayes enemy

Did him appease; then downe his taile he hong

And suffred them to passen quietly: 305 For she in hell and heaven had power equally.


There was Ixion turned on a wheele,[*]

For daring tempt the Queene of heaven to sin;

And Sisyphus an huge round stone did reele

Against an hill, ne might from labour lin; 310

There thirsty Tantalus hong by the chin;

And Tityus fed a vulture on his maw;

Typhoeus joynts were stretched on a gin,

Theseus condemnd to endlesse slouth by law, And fifty sisters water in leake vessels draw. 315


They all beholding worldly wights in place,

Leave off their worke, unmindfull of their smart,

To gaze on them; who forth by them doe pace,

Till they be come unto the furthest part;

Where was a Cave ywrought by wondrous art, 320

Deepe, darke, uneasie, dolefull, comfortlesse,

In which sad Aesculapius[*] farre apart

Emprisond was in chaines remedilesse, For that Hippolytus rent corse he did redresse.


Hippolytus a jolly huntsman was 325

That wont in charett chace the foming Bore:

He all his Peeres in beauty did surpas,

But Ladies love as losse of time forbore:

His wanton stepdame loved him the more,

But when she saw her offred sweets refused, 330

Her love she turnd to hate, and him before

His father fierce of treason false accused, And with her gealous termes his open eares abused.


Who all in rage his Sea-god syre besought,

Some cursed vengeaunce on his sonne to cast, 335

From surging gulf two monsters straight were brought,

With dread whereof his chasing steedes aghast,

Both charet swift and huntsman overcast.

His goodly corps on ragged cliffs yrent,

Was quite dismembred, and his members chast 340

Scattered on every mountaine, as he went, That of Hippolytus was left no moniment.


His cruell step-dame seeing what was donne,

Her wicked dayes with wretched knife did end,

In death avowing th' innocence of her sonne, 345

Which hearing, his rash Syre began to rend

His haire, and hastie tongue that did offend.

Tho gathering up the relicks of his smart,

By Dianes meanes, who was Hippolyts frend,

Them brought to Aesculape, that by his art 350 Did heale them all againe, and joyned every part.


Such wondrous science in mans wit to raine

When Jove avizd, that could the dead revive,

And fates expired[*] could renew againe,

Of endlesse life he might him not deprive, 355

But unto hell did thrust him downe alive,

With flashing thunderbolt ywounded sore:

Where long remaining, he did alwaies strive

Himselfe with salves to health for to restore, And slake the heavenly fire, that raged evermore. 360


There auncient Night arriving, did alight

From her nigh wearie waine, and in her armes

To Aesculapius brought the wounded knight:

Whom having softly disarayd of armes,

Tho gan to him discover all his harmes, 365

Beseeching him with prayer, and with praise,

If either salves, or oyles, or herbes, or charmes

A fordonne wight from dore of death mote raise, He would at her request prolong her nephews daies.


Ah Dame (quoth he) thou temptest me in vaine, 370

To dare the thing, which daily yet I rew,

And the old cause of my continued paine

With like attempt to like end to renew.

Is not enough, that thrust from heaven dew

Here endlesse penance for one fault I pay, 375

But that redoubled crime with vengeance new

Thou biddest me to eeke? can Night defray The wrath of thundring Jove that rules both night and day?


Not so (quoth she) but sith that heavens king

From hope of heaven hath thee excluded quight, 380

Why fearest thou, that canst not hope for thing;

And fearest not, that more thee hurten might,

Now in the powre of everlasting Night?

Goe to then, O thou farre renowmed sonne

Of great Apollo, shew thy famous might 385

In medicine, that else hath to thee wonne Great paines, and greater praise,[*] both never to be donne.


Her words prevaild: And then the learned leach

His cunning hand gan to his wounds to lay,

And all things else, the which his art did teach: 390

Which having seene, from thence arose away

The mother of dread darknesse, and let stay

Aveugles sonne there in the leaches cure,

And backe returning tooke her wonted way,

To runne her timely race, whilst Phoebus pure, 395 In westerne waves his weary wagon did recure.


The false Duessa leaving noyous Night,

Returnd to stately pallace of Dame Pride;

Where when she came, she found the Faery knight

Departed thence, albe his woundes wide 400

Not throughly heald, unreadie were to ride.

Good cause he had to hasten thence away;

For on a day his wary Dwarfe had spide

Where in a dongeon deepe huge numbers lay Of caytive wretched thrals, that wayled night and day. 405


A ruefull sight, as could be seene with eie;

Of whom he learned had in secret wise

The hidden cause of their captivitie,

How mortgaging their lives to Covetise,

Through wastfull Pride and wanton Riotise, 410

They were by law of that proud Tyrannesse,

Provokt with Wrath, and Envies false surmise,

Condemned to that Dongeon mercilesse, Where they should live in woe, and die in wretchednesse.


There was that great proud king of Babylon,[*] 415

That would compell all nations to adore,

And him as onely God to call upon,

Till through celestiall doome throwne out of dore,

Into an Oxe he was transform'd of yore:

There also was king Croesus,[*] that enhaunst 420

His hart too high through his great riches store;

And proud Antiochus,[*] the which advaunst His cursed hand gainst God and on his altars daunst.


And them long time before, great Nimrod[*] was,

That first the world with sword and fire warrayd; 425

And after him old Ninus[*] farre did pas

In princely pompe, of all the world obayd;

There also was that mightie Monarch[*] layd

Low under all, yet above all in pride,

That name of native syre did fowle upbrayd, 430

And would as Ammons sonne be magnifide, Till scornd of God and man a shamefull death he dide.


All these together in one heape were throwne,

Like carkases of beasts in butchers stall.

And in another corner wide were strowne 435

The antique ruines of the Romaines fall:

Great Romulus[*] the Grandsyre of them all,

Proud Tarquin,[*] and too lordly Lentulus,[*]

Stout Scipio,[*] and stubborne Hanniball,[*]

Ambitious Sylla,[*] and sterne Marius,[*] 440 High Caesar, great Pompey,[*] and fierce Antonius.[*]


Amongst these mightie men were wemen mixt,

Proud wemen, vaine, forgetfull of their yoke:

The bold Semiramis,[*] whose sides transfixt

With sonnes own blade, her fowle reproches spoke; 445

Faire Sthenoboea,[*] that her selfe did choke

With wilfull cord, for wanting of her will;

High minded Cleopatra,[*] that with stroke

Of Aspes sting her selfe did stoutly kill: And thousands moe the like, that did that dongeon fill; 450


Besides the endlesse routs of wretched thralles,

Which thither were assembled day by day,

From all the world after their wofull falles

Through wicked pride, and wasted wealthes decay.

But most of all, which in the Dongeon lay, 455

Fell from high Princes courts, or Ladies bowres;

Where they in idle pompe, or wanton play,

Consumed had their goods, and thriftlesse howres, And lastly throwne themselves into these heavy stowres.


Whose case when as the carefull Dwarfe had tould, 460

And made ensample of their mournefull sight

Unto his maister, he no lenger would

There dwell in perill of like painefull plight,

But early rose, and ere that dawning light

Discovered had the world to heaven wyde, 465

He by a privie Posterne tooke his flight,

That of no envious eyes he mote be spyde: For doubtlesse death ensewd, if any him descryde.


Scarse could he footing find in that fowle way,

For many corses, like a great Lay-stall, 470

Of murdred men which therein strowed lay,

Without remorse, or decent funerall:

Which all through that great Princesse pride did fall

And came to shamefull end. And them beside

Forth ryding underneath the castell wall, 475

A donghill of dead carkases he spide, The dreadfull spectacle of that sad house of Pride.