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The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto 12 Post by :henry Category :Poems Author :Edmund Spenser Date :March 2011 Read :2377

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The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto 12


Faire Una to the Redcrosse knight,
betrouthed is with joy:
Though false Duessa it to barre
her false sleights doe imploy.


BEHOLD I see the haven nigh at hand,
To which I meane my wearie course to bend;
Vere the maine shete,(*) and beare up with the land,
The which afore is fairely to be kend,
And seemeth safe from storms that may offend; 5
There this faire virgin wearie of her way
Must landed be, now at her journeyes end:
There eke my feeble barke a while may stay
Till merry wind and weather call her thence away.


Scarsely had Phoebus in the glooming East 10
Yet harnessed his firie-footed teeme,
Ne reard above the earth his flaming creast;
When the last deadly smoke aloft did steeme
That signe of last outbreathed life did seeme
Unto the watchman on the castle wall, 15
Who thereby dead that balefull Beast did deeme,
And to his Lord and Ladie lowd gan call,
To tell how he had seene the Dragons fatall fall.


Uprose with hastie joy, and feeble speed
That aged Sire, the Lord of all that land, 20
And looked forth, to weet if true indeede
Those tydings were, as he did understand,
Which whenas true by tryall he out found,
He bad to open wyde his brazen gate,
Which long time had bene shut, and out of hond(*) 25
Proclaymed joy and peace through all his state;
For dead now was their foe which them forrayed late.


Then gan triumphant Trompets sound on hie,
That sent to heaven the ecchoed report
Of their new joy, and happie victorie 30
Gainst him, that had them long opprest with tort,
And fast imprisoned in sieged fort.
Then all the people, as in solemne feast,
To him assembled with one full consort,
Rejoycing at the fall of that great beast, 35
From whose eternall bondage now they were releast.


Forth came that auncient Lord and aged Queene,
Arayd in antique robes downe to the ground,
And sad habiliments right well beseene;
A noble crew about them waited round 40
Of sage and sober Peres, all gravely gownd;
Whom farre before did march a goodly band
Of tall young men,(*) all hable armes to sownd,
But now they laurell braunches bore in hand;
Glad signe of victorie and peace in all their land. 45


Unto that doughtie Conquerour they came,
And him before themselves prostrating low,
Their Lord and Patrone loud did him proclame,
And at his feet their laurell boughes did throw.
Soone after them all dauncing on a row 50
The comely virgins came, with girlands dight,
As fresh as flowres in medow greene do grow,
When morning deaw upon their leaves doth light:
And in their hands sweet Timbrels all upheld on hight.


And them before, the fry of children young 55
Their wanton sports and childish mirth did play,
And to the Maydens(*) sounding tymbrels sung,
In well attuned notes, a joyous lay,
And made delightfull musicke all the way,
Untill they came, where that faire virgin stood; 60
As faire Diana in fresh sommers day,
Beholds her Nymphes enraung'd in shadie wood,
Some wrestle, some do run, some bathe in christall flood:


So she beheld those maydens meriment
With chearefull vew; who when to her they came, 65
Themselves to ground with gracious humblesse bent,
And her ador'd by honorable name,
Lifting to heaven her everlasting fame:
Then on her head they set a girland greene,
And crowned her twixt earnest and twixt game; 70
Who in her self-resemblance well beseene,(*)
Did seeme such, as she was, a goodly maiden Queene.


And after, all the raskall many(*) ran,
Heaped together in rude rablement,
To see the face of that victorious man: 75
Whom all admired, as from heaven sent,
And gazd upon with gaping wonderment.
But when they came where that dead Dragon lay,
Stretcht on the ground in monstrous large extent,
The sight with idle feare did them dismay, 80
Ne durst approch him nigh, to touch, or once assay.


Some feard, and fled; some feard and well it faynd;
One that would wiser seeme then all the rest,
Warnd him not touch, for yet perhaps remaynd
Some lingring life within his hollow brest, 85
Or in his wombe might lurke some hidden nest
Of many Dragonets, his fruitfull seed;
Another said, that in his eyes did rest
Yet sparckling fire, and bad thereof take heed;
Another said, he saw him move his eyes indeed. 90


One mother, when as her foolehardie chyld
Did come too neare, and with his talants play,
Halfe dead through feare, her little babe revyld,
And to her gossips gan in counsell say;
How can I tell, but that his talants may 95
Yet scratch my sonne, or rend his tender hand?
So diversly themselves in vaine they fray;
Whiles some more bold, to measure him nigh stand,
To prove how many acres he did spread of land.


Thus flocked all the folke him round about, 100
The whiles that hoarie king, with all his traine,
Being arrived where that champion stout
After his foes defeasance did remaine,
Him goodly greetes, and faire does entertaine
With princely gifts of yvorie and gold, 105
And thousand thankes him yeelds for all his paine.
Then when his daughter deare he does behold,
Her dearely doth imbrace, and kisseth manifold.


And after to his Pallace he them brings,
With shaumes, and trompets, and with Clarions sweet; 110
And all the way the joyous people sings,
And with their garments strowes the paved street:
Whence mounting up, they find purveyance meet
Of all that royall Princes court became,
And all the floore was underneath their feet 115
Bespred with costly scarlot of great name,(*)
On which they lowly sit, and fitting purpose frame.(*)


What needs me tell their feast and goodly guize,(*)
In which was nothing riotous nor vaine?
What needs of dainty dishes to devize, 120
Of comely services, or courtly trayne?
My narrow leaves cannot in them containe
The large discourse of royall Princes state.
Yet was their manner then but bare and plaine:
For th' antique world excesse and pride did hate; 125
Such proud luxurious pompe is swollen up but late.


Then when with meates and drinkes of every kinde
Their fervent appetites they quenched had,
That auncient Lord gan fit occasion finde,
Of straunge adventures, and of perils sad, 130
Which in his travell him befallen had,
For to demaund of his renowmed guest:
Who then with utt'rance grave, and count'nance sad,
From point to point, as is before exprest,
Discourst his voyage long, according his request. 135


Great pleasures mixt with pittiful regard,
That godly King and Queene did passionate,
Whiles they his pittifull adventures heard,
That oft they did lament his lucklesse state,
And often blame the too importune fate, 140
That heaped on him so many wrathfull wreakes:
For never gentle knight, as he of late,
So tossed was in fortunes cruell freakes;
And all the while salt teares bedeawd the hearers cheaks.


Then sayd the royall Pere in sober wise; 145
Deare Sonne, great beene the evils which ye bore
From first to last in your late enterprise,
That I note whether prayse, or pitty more:
For never living man, I weene, so sore
In sea of deadly daungers was distrest; 150
But since now safe ye seised have the shore,
And well arrived are, (high God be blest)
Let us devize of ease and everlasting rest.


Ah, dearest Lord, said then that doughty knight,
Of ease or rest I may not yet devize, 155
For by the faith, which I to armes have plight,
I bounden am streight after this emprize,
As that your daughter can ye well advize,
Backe to returne to that great Faerie Queene,
And her to serve six yeares in warlike wize, 160
Gainst that proud Paynim king(*) that workes her teene
Therefore I ought crave pardon, till I there have beene.


Unhappie falles that hard necessitie,
(Quoth he) the troubler of my happie peace,
And vowed foe of my felicitie; 165
Ne I against the same can justly preace:
But since that band ye cannot now release,
Nor doen undo(*); (for vowes may not be vaine,)
Soone as the terme of those six yeares shall cease,
Ye then shall hither backe returne againe, 170
The marriage to accomplish vowd betwixt you twain.


Which for my part I covet to performe,
In sort as(*) through the world I did proclame,
That whoso kild that monster most deforme,
And him in hardy battaile overcame, 175
Should have mine onely daughter to his Dame,
And of my kingdome heyre apparaunt bee:
Therefore since now to thee perteines the same,
By dew desert of noble chevalree,
Both daughter and eke kingdome, lo, I yield to thee. 180


Then forth he called that his daughter faire,
The fairest Un' his onely daughter deare,
His onely daughter, and his onely heyre;
Who forth proceeding with sad sober cheare,
As bright as doth the morning starre appeare 185
Out of the East, with flaming lockes bedight,
To tell that dawning day is drawing neare,
And to the world does bring long wished light:
So faire and fresh that Lady shewd her selfe in sight.


So faire and fresh, as freshest flowre in May; 190
For she had layd her mournefull stole aside,
And widow-like sad wimple throwne away,
Wherewith her heavenly beautie she did hide,
Whiles on her wearie journey she did ride;
And on her now a garment she did weare, 195
All lilly white, withoutten spot, or pride,
That seemd like silke and silver woven neare,
But neither silke nor silver therein did appeare.


The blazing brightnesse of her beauties beame,
And glorious light of her sunshyny face, 200
To tell, were as to strive against the streame;
My ragged rimes are all too rude and bace,
Her heavenly lineaments for to enchace.
Ne wonder; for her owne deare loved knight,
All were she(*) dayly with himselfe in place, 205
Did wonder much at her celestiall sight:
Oft had he seene her faire, but never so faire dight.


So fairely dight, when she in presence came,
She to her Sire made humble reverence,
And bowed low, that her right well became, 210
And added grace unto her excellence:
Who with great wisedome and grave eloquence
Thus gan to say. But eare he thus had said,
With flying speede, and seeming great pretence
Came running in, much like a man dismaid, 215
A Messenger with letters, which his message said.


All in the open hall amazed stood
At suddeinnesse of that unwarie sight,
And wondred at his breathlesse hastie mood.
But he for nought would stay his passage right, 220
Till fast before the king he did alight;
Where falling flat, great humblesse he did make,
And kist the ground, whereon his foot was pight;
Then to his hands that writ he did betake,
Which he disclosing, red thus, as the paper spake. 225


To thee, most mighty king of Eden faire,
Her greeting sends in these sad lines addrest,
The wofull daughter, and forsaken heire
Of that great Emperour of all the West;
And bids thee be advized for the best, 230
Ere thou thy daughter linck in holy band
Of wedlocke to that new unknowen guest:
For he already plighted his right hand
Unto another love, and to another land.


To me sad mayd, or rather widow sad, 235
He was affiaunced long time before,
And sacred pledges he both gave, and had,
False erraunt knight, infamous, and forswore:
Witnesse the burning Altars, which he swore,
And guiltie heavens of his bold perjury, 240
Which though he hath polluted oft of yore,
Yet I to them for judgement just do fly,
And them conjure t'avenge this shamefull injury.


Therefore since mine he is, or free or bond,
Or false or trew, or living or else dead, 245
Withhold, O soveraine Prince, your hasty hond
From knitting league with him, I you aread;
Ne weene my right with strength adowne to tread,
Through weaknesse of my widowhed, or woe;
For truth is strong her rightfull cause to plead, 250
And shall find friends, if need requireth soe.
So bids thee well to fare, Thy neither friend, nor foe, _Fidessa_.


When he these bitter byting wordes had red,
The tydings straunge did him abashed make,
That still he sate long time astonished, 255
As in great muse, ne word to creature spake.
At last his solemne silence thus he brake,
With doubtfull eyes fast fixed on his guest;
Redoubted knight, that for mine onely sake
Thy life and honour late adventurest, 260
Let nought be hid from me, that ought to be exprest.


What meane these bloody vowes, and idle threats,
Throwne out from womanish impatient mind?
What heavens? what altars? what enraged heates
Here heaped up with termes of love unkind, 265
My conscience cleare with guilty bands would bind?
High God be witnesse, that I guiltlesse ame.
But if your selfe, Sir knight, ye faultie find,
Or wrapped be in loves of former Dame,
With crime do not it cover, but disclose the same. 270


To whom the Redcrosse knight this answere sent
My Lord, my King, be nought hereat dismayd,
Till well ye wote by grave intendiment,
What woman, and wherefere doth me upbrayd
With breach of love, and loyalty betrayd. 275
It was in my mishaps, as hitherward
I lately traveild, that unwares I strayd
Out of my way, through perils straunge and hard;
That day should faile me, ere I had them all declard.


There did I find, or rather I was found 280
Of this false woman, that Fidessa hight,
Fidessa hight the falsest Dame on ground,
Most false Duessa, royall richly dight,
That easy was to invegle weaker sight:
Who by her wicked arts, and wylie skill, 285
Too false and strong for earthly skill or might,
Unwares me wrought unto her wicked will,
And to my foe betrayd, when least I feared ill.


Then stepped forth the goodly royall Mayd,
And on the ground her selfe prostrating low, 290
With sober countenaunce thus to him sayd;
O pardon me, my soveraigne Lord, to show
The secret treasons, which of late I know
To have bene wroght by that false sorceresse.
She onely she it is, that earst did throw 295
This gentle knight into so great distresse,
That death him did awaite in dayly wretchednesse.


And now it seemes, that she suborned hath
This craftie messenger with letters vaine,
To worke new woe and unprovided scath, 300
By breaking of the band betwixt us twaine;
Wherein she used hath the practicke paine
Of this false footman, clokt with simplenesse,
Whom if ye please for to discover plaine,
Ye shall him Archimago find, I ghesse, 305
The falsest man alive; who tries shall find no lesse.


The king was greatly moved at her speach,
And, all with suddein indignation fraight,
Bad on that Messenger rude hands to reach.
Eftsoones the Gard, which on his state did wait, 310
Attacht that faitor false, and bound him strait:
Who seeming sorely chauffed at his band,
As chained Beare, whom cruell dogs do bait,(*)
With idle force did faine them to withstand,
And often semblaunce made to scape out of their hand. 315


But they him layd full low in dungeon deepe,
And bound him hand and foote with yron chains
And with continual watch did warely keepe:
Who then would thinke, that by his subtile trains
He could escape fowle death or deadly paines? 320
Thus when that princes wrath was pacifide,
He gan renew the late forbidden bains,
And to the knight his daughter dear he tyde,
With sacred rites and vowes for ever to abyde.


His owne two hands the holy knots did knit, 325
That none but death for ever can devide;
His owne two hands, for such a turne most fit,
The housling fire(*) did kindle and provide,
And holy water thereon sprinckled wide;
At which the bushy Teade a groome did light, 330
And sacred lamp in secret chamber hide,
Where it should not be quenched day nor night,
For feare of evill fates, but burnen ever bright.


Then gan they sprinckle all the posts with wine,
And made great feast to solemnize that day; 335
They all perfumde with frankencense divine,
And precious odours fetcht from far away,
That all the house did sweat with great aray:
And all the while sweete Musicke did apply
Her curious skill, the warbling notes to play, 340
To drive away the dull Melancholy;
The whiles one sung a song of love and jollity.


During the which there was an heavenly noise
Heard sound through all the Pallace pleasantly,
Like as it had bene many an Angels voice 345
Singing before th' eternall Majesty,
In their trinall triplicities(*) on hye;
Yet wist no creature whence that heavenly sweet
Proceeded, yet eachone felt secretly
Himselfe thereby reft of his sences meet, 350
And ravished with rare impression in his sprite.


Great joy was made that day of young and old,
And solemne feast proclaimd throughout the land,
That their exceeding merth may not be told:
Suffice it heare by signes to understand 355
The usuall joyes at knitting of loves band.
Thrise happy man the knight himselfe did hold,
Possessed of his Ladies hart and hand,
And ever, when his eye did her behold,
His heart did seeme to melt in pleasures manifold. 360


Her joyous presence, and sweet company
In full content he there did long enjoy;
Ne wicked envie, ne vile gealosy,
His deare delights were able to annoy:
Yet swimming in that sea of blissfull joy, 365
He nought forgot how he whilome had sworne,
In case he could that monstrous beast destroy,
Unto his Faerie Queene backe to returne;
The which he shortly did, and Una left to mourne.


Now strike your sailes ye jolly Mariners, 370
For we be come unto a quiet rode,
Where we must land some of our passengers,
And light this wearie vessell of her lode.
Here she a while may make her safe abode,
Till she repaired have her tackles spent,(*) 375
And wants supplide. And then againe abroad
On the long voyage whereto she is bent:
Well may she speede and fairely finish her intent.



I. _The Plot_: The death of the dragon is announced by the watchman on the tower of the city, and Una's parents, the King and Queen, accompanied by a great throng, come forth rejoicing at their deliverance. The Knight and Una are conducted with great honors into the palace. On the eve of their betrothal, Archimago suddenly appears as Duessa's messenger and claims the Knight. Their wicked attempt is frustrated, and the pair are happily betrothed. After a long time spent in Una's society, the Knight sets out to engage in the further service of the Faerie Queene.

II. _The Allegory_: Holiness, by conquering the devil, frees the whole human race from the tyranny of sin. It is embarrassed by the unexpected appearance of the consequences of its past sins, but makes a manly confession. In spite of hypocritical intrigues (Archimago) and false slanders (Duessa), Holiness is united to Truth, thus forming a perfect character. The champion of the church militant responds cheerfully to the calls of duty and honor.

2. Reformed England, having destroyed the brutal power of Rome, is firmly united to the truth in spite of the intrigues of the Pope to win it back to allegiance. It then goes forth against the King of Spain in obedience to the command of Queen Elizabeth.

3. VERE THE MAINE SHETE, shift the mainsail, BEARE UP WITH THE LAND, direct the ship toward land.

25. OUT OF HOND, at once.

43. OF TALL YOUNG MEN. An allusion to Queen Elizabeth's Pensioners, a band of the tallest and handsomest young men, of the best families and fortunes, that could be found (Warton). ALL HABLE ARMES TO SOWND, all proper to wield armes.

57. TO THE MAYDENS, to the accompaniment of the maidens' timbrels.

71. IN HER SELF-RESEMBLANCE WELL BESEENE, looking well in her resemblance to her proper self, i.e. a king's daughter.

73. THE RASKALL MANY, the crowd of common people.

116. OF GREAT NAME, of great celebrity, i.e. value.

117. FITTING PURPOSE FRAME, held fitting conversation.

xiv. Kitchin and Percival think this whole passage a clever compliment to the parsimony of the Queen's court.

161. THAT PROUD PAYNIM KING, probably a reference to Philip of Spain.

168. NOR DOEN UNDO, nor undo what has been done.

173. IN SORT AS, even as.

205. ALL WERE SHE, although she had been. IN PLACE, in various places.

313. BAIT. In Spenser's time bear-baiting was a favorite pastime of the people and received royal patronage.

328. THE HOUSLING FIRE, the sacramental fire. Spenser seems here to have in mind, not the Christian _housel_ or Eucharist, but the Roman marriage rites with their symbolic fire and water.

347. TRINALL TRIPLICITIES, the threefold three orders of the celestial hierarchy according to the scholastic theologians. They were as follows: (1) Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; (2) Dominations, Virtues, Powers; (3) Princedoms, Archangels, and Angels. Cf. Dante's _Paradiso_, xxviii, Tasso's _Jerusalem Delivered_, xviii, 96, and Milton's _Paradise Lost_, v, 748.

375. HER TACKLES SPENT, her worn-out rigging.


(Canto XII)

1. Contrast the tone of this canto with the preceding two. 2. When does Spenser drop into a lighter, humorous vein? 3. Find allusions to sixteenth century customs, e.g. that of sitting on rush-strewn floors. 4. How was the Redcross Knight received by the King? 5. Compare Una's costume with that described in the first canto. Why this change? 6. What hint of the significance of her name in xxi? 7. What is the effect of Archimago's appearance? (For dramatic surprise.) 8. What is the effect of Duessa's letter? (Suspense of fear.) 9. Observe the confusion of Christian and Pagan rites in this canto. 10. Where does Spenser make happy use of maritime figures? 11. Explain the allegory of this canto.

(The end)
Edmund Spenser's poem: Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto 12

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