Sacred Texts  Sagas & Legends  England  Index  Previous  Next 

Cant. IIII.

To sinfull house of Pride, Duessa
guides the faithfull knight,
Where brothers death to wreak Sansioy
doth chalenge him to fight.

YOung knight, what euer that dost armes professe,
   And through long labours huntest after fame,
   Beware of fraud, beware of ficklenesse,
   In choice, and change of thy deare loued Dame,
   Least thou of her beleeue too lightly blame,
   And rash misweening doe thy hart remoue:
   For vnto knight there is no greater shame,
   Then lightnesse and inconstancie in loue;
That doth this Redcrosse knights ensample plainly proue.

Who after that he had faire Vna lorne,
   Through light misdeeming of her loialtie,
   And false Duessa in her sted had borne,
   Called Fidess', and so supposd to bee;
   Long with her traueild, till at last they see
   A goodly building, brauely garnished,
   The house of mightie Prince it seemd to bee:
   And towards it a broad high way that led,
All bare through peoples feet, which thither traueiled.

Great troupes of people traueild thitherward
   Both day and night, of each degree and place,
   But few returned, hauing scaped hard,
   With balefull beggerie, or foule disgrace,
   Which euer after in most wretched case,
   Like loathsome lazars, by the hedges lay.
   Thither Duessa bad him bend his pace:
   For she is wearie of the toilesome way,
And also nigh consumed is the lingring day.

A stately Pallace built of squared bricke,
   Which cunningly was without morter laid,
   Whose wals were high, but nothing strong, nor thick,
   And golden foile all ouer them displaid,
   That purest skye with brightnesse they dismaid:
   High lifted vp were many loftie towres,
   And goodly galleries farre ouer laid,
   Full of faire windowes, and delightfull bowres;
And on the top a Diall told the timely howres.

It was a goodly heape for to behould,
   And spake the praises of the workmans wit;
   But full great pittie, that so faire a mould
   Did on so weake foundation euer sit:
   For on a sandie hill, that still did flit,
   And fall away, it mounted was full hie,
   That euery breath of heauen shaked it:
   And all the hinder parts, that few could spie,
Were ruinous and old, but painted cunningly.

Arriued there they passed in forth right;
   For still to all the gates stood open wide,
   Yet charge of them was to a Porter hight
   Cald Maluenú, who entrance none denide:
   Thence to the hall, which was on euery side
   With rich array and costly arras dight:
   Infinite sorts of people did abide
   There waiting long, to win the wished sight
Of her, that was the Lady of that Pallace bright.

By them they passe, all gazing on them round,
   And to the Presence mount; whose glorious vew
   Their frayle amazed senses did confound:
   In liuing Princes court none euer knew
   Such endlesse richesse, and so sumptuous shew;
   Ne Persia selfe, the nourse of pompous pride
   Like euer saw. And there a noble crew
   Of Lordes and Ladies stood on euery side
Which with their presence faire, the place much beautifide.

High aboue all a cloth of State was spred,
   And a rich throne, as bright as sunny day,
   On which there sate most braue embellished
   With royall robes and gorgeous array,
   A mayden Queene, that shone as Titans ray,
   In glistring gold, and peerelesse pretious stone:
   Yet her bright blazing beautie did assay
   To dim the brightnesse of her glorious throne,
As enuying her selfe, that too exceeding shone.

Exceeding shone, like Phoebus fairest childe,
   That did presume his fathers firie wayne,
   And flaming mouthes of steedes vnwonted wilde
   Through highest heauen with weaker hand to rayne;
   Proud of such glory and aduancement vaine,
   While flashing beames do daze his feeble eyen,
   He leaues the welkin way most beaten plaine,
   And rapt with whirling wheeles, inflames the skyen,
With fire not made to burne, but fairely for to shyne.

So proud she shyned in her Princely state,
   Looking to heauen; for earth she did disdayne,
   And sitting high; for lowly she did hate:
   Lo vnderneath her scornefull feete, was layne
   A dreadfull Dragon with an hideous trayne,
   And in her hand she held a mirrhour bright,
   Wherein her face she often vewed fayne,
   And in her selfe-lou'd semblance tooke delight;
For she was wondrous faire, as any liuing wight.

Of griesly Pluto she the daughter was,
   And sad Proserpina the Queene of hell;
   Yet did she thinke her pearelesse wroth to pas
   That parentage, with pride so did she swell,
   And thundring Ioue, that high in heauen doth dwell,
   And wield the world, she claymed for her syre,
   Or if that any else did Ioue excell:
   For to the highest she did still aspyre,
Or if ought higher were then that, did it desyre.

And proud Lucifera men did her call,
   That made her selfe a Queene, and crownd to be,
   Yet rightfull kingdome she had none at all,
   Ne heritage of natiue soueraintie,
   But did vsurpe with wrong and tyrannie
   Vpon the scepter, which she now did hold:
   Ne ruld her Realmes with lawes, but pollicie,
   And strong aduizement of six wisards old,
That with their counsels bad her kingdome did vphold.

Soone as the Elfing knight in presence came,
   And false Duessa seeming Lady faire,
   A gentle Husher, Vanitie by name
   Made rowme, and passage for them did prepaire:
   So goodly brought them to the lowest staire
   Of her high throne, where they on humble knee
   Making obeyssance, did the cause declare,
   Why they were come, her royall state to see,
To proue the wide report of her great Maiestee.

With loftie eyes, halfe loth to looke so low,
   She thanked them in her disdainefull wise,
   Ne other grace vouchsafed them to show
   Of Princesse worthy, scarse them bad arise.
   Her Lordes and Ladies all this while deuise
   Themselues to setten forth to straungers sight:
   Some frounce their curled haire in courtly guise,
   Some prancke their ruffes, and others trimly dight
Their gay attire: each others greater pride does spight.

Goodly they all that knight do entertaine,
   Right glad with him to haue increast their crew:
   But to Duess' each one himselfe did paine
   All kindnesse and faire courtesie to shew;
   For in that court whylome her well they knew:
   Yet the stout Faerie mongst the middest crowd
   Thought all their glorie vaine in knightly vew,
   And that great Princesse too exceeding prowd,
That to strange knight no better countenance allowd.

Suddein vpriseth from her stately place
   The royall Dame, and for her coche doth call:
   All hurtlen forth, and she with Princely pace,
   As faire Aurora in her purple pall,
   Out of the East the dawning day doth call:
   So forth she comes: her brightnesse brode doth blaze;
   The heapes of people thronging in the hall,
   Do ride each other, vpon her to gaze:
Her glorious glitterand light doth all mens eyes amaze.

So forth she comes, and to her coche does clyme,
   Adorned all with gold, and girlonds gay,
   That seemd as fresh as Flora in her prime,
   And stroue to match, in royall rich array,
   Great Iunoes golden chaire, the which they say
   The Gods stand gazing on, when she does ride
   To Ioues high house through heauens bras-paued way Drawne of faire Pecocks, that excell in pride,
And full of Argus eyes their tailes dispredden wide.

But this was drawne of six vnequall beasts,
   On which her six sage Counsellours did ryde,
   Taught to obay their bestiall beheasts,
   With like conditions to their kinds applyde:
   Of which the first, that all the rest did guyde,
   Was sluggish Idlenesse the nourse of sin;
   Vpon a slouthfull Asse he chose to ryde,
   Arayd in habit blacke, and amis thin,
Like to an holy Monck, the seruice to begin.

And in his hand his Portesse still he bare,
   That much was worne, but therein little red,
   For of deuotion he had little care,
   Still drownd in sleepe, and most of his dayes ded;
   Scarse could he once vphold his heauie hed,
   To looken, whether it were night or day:
   May seeme the wayne was very euill led,
   When such an one had guiding of the way,
That knew not, whether right he went, or else astray.

From worldy cares himselfe he did esloyne,
   And greatly shunned manly exercise,
   From euery worke he chalenged essoyne,
   For contemplation sake: yet otherwise,
   His life he led in lawlesse riotise;
   By which he grew to grieuous malady;
   For in his lustlesse limbs through euill guise
   A shaking feuer raignd continually:
Such one was Idlenesse, first of this company.

And by his side rode loathsome Gluttony,
   Deformed creature, on a filthie swyne,
   His belly was vp-blowne with luxury,
   And eke with fatnesse swollen were his eyne,
   And like a Crane his necke was long and fyne,
   With which he swallowd vp excessiue feast,
   For want whereof poore people oft did pyne;
   And all the way, most like a brutish beast,
   He spued vp his gorge, that all did him deteast.

In greene vine leaues he was right fitly clad;
   For other clothes he could not weare for heat,
   And on his head an yuie girland had,
   From vnder which fast trickled downe the sweat:
   Still as he rode, he somewhat still did eat,
   And in his hand did beare a bouzing can,
   Of which he supt so oft, that on his seat
   His dronken corse he scarse vpholden can,
In shape and life more like a monster, then a man.

Vnfit he was for any worldy thing,
   And eke vnhable once to stirre or go,
   Not meet to be of counsell to a king,
   Whose mind in meat and drinke was drowned so,
   That from his friend he seldome knew his fo:
   Full of diseases was his carcas blew,
   And a dry dropsie through his flesh did flow:
   Which by misdiet daily greater grew:
Such one was Gluttony, the second of that crew.

And next to him rode lustfull Lechery,
   Vpon a bearded Goat, whose rugged haire,
   And whally eyes (the signe of gelosy,)
   Was like the person selfe, whom he did beare:
   Who rough, and blacke, and filthy did appeare,
   Vnseemely man to please faire Ladies eye;
   Yet he of Ladies oft was loued deare,
   When fairer faces were bid standen by:
O who does know the bent of womens fantasy?

In a greene gowne he clothed was full faire,
   Which vnderneath did hide his filthinesse,
   And in his hand a burning hart he bare,
   Full of vaine follies, and new fanglenesse:
   For he was false, and fraught with ficklenesse,
   And learned had to loue with secret lookes,
   And well could daunce, and sing with ruefulnesse,
   And fortunes tell, and read in louing bookes,
And thousand other wayes, to bait his fleshly hookes.

Inconstant man, that loued all he saw,
   And lusted after all, that he did loue,
   Ne would his looser life be tide to law,
   But ioyd weake wemens hearts to tempt, and proue
   If from their loyall loues he might then moue;
   Which lewdnesse fild him with reprochfull paine
   Of that fowle euill, which all men reproue,
   That rots the marrow, and consumes the braine:
Such one was Lecherie, the third of all this traine.

And greedy Auarice by him did ride,
   Vpon a Camell loaden all with gold;
   Two iron coffers hong on either side,
   With precious mettall full, as they might hold,
   And in his lap an heape of coine he told;
   For of his wicked pelfe his God he made,
   And vnto hell him selfe for money sold;
   Accursed vsurie was all his trade,
And right and wrong ylike in equall ballaunce waide.

His life was nigh vnto deaths doore yplast,
   And thred-bare cote, and cobled shoes he ware,
   Ne scarse good morsell all his life did tast,
   But both from backe and belly still did spare,
   To fill his bags, and richesse to compare;
   Yet chylde ne kinsman liuing had he none
   To leaue them to; but thorough daily care
   To get, and nightly feare to lose his owne,
He led a wretched life vnto him selfe vnknowne.

Most wretched wight, whom nothing might suffise,
   Whose greedy lust did lacke in greatest store,
   Whose need had end, but no end couetise,
   Whose wealth was want, whose plẽty made him pore,
   Who had enough, yet wished euer more;
   A vile disease, and eke in foote and hand
   A grieuous gout tormented him full sore,
   That well he could not touch, nor go, nor stand:
Such one was Auarice, the fourth of this faire band.

And next to him malicious Enuie rode,
   Vpon a rauenous wolfe, and still did chaw
   Betweene his cankred teeth a venemous tode,
   That all the poison ran about his chaw;
   But inwardly he chawed his owne maw
   At neighbours wealth, that made him euer sad;
   For death it was, when any good he saw,
   And wept, that cause of weeping none he had,
But when he heard of harme, he wexed wondrous glad.

All in a kirtle of discolourd say
   He clothed was, ypainted full of eyes;
   And in his bosome secretly there lay
   An hatefull Snake, the which his taile vptyes
   In many folds, and mortall sting implyes.
   Still as he rode, he gnasht his teeth, to see
   Those heapes of gold with griple Couetyse,
   And grudged at the great felicitie
Of proud Lucifera, and his owne companie.

He hated all good workes and vertuous deeds,
   And him no lesse, that any like did vse,
   And who with gracious bread the hungry feeds,
   His almes for want of faith he doth accuse;
   So euery good to bad he doth abuse:
   And eke the verse of famous Poets witt
   He does backebite, and spightfull poison spues
   From leprous mouth on all, that euer writt:
Such one vile Enuie was, that fift in row did sitt.

And him beside rides fierce reuenging VVrath,
   Vpon a Lion, loth for to be led;
   And in his hand a burning brond he hath,
   The which he brandisheth about his hed;
   His eyes did hurle forth sparkles fiery red,
   And stared sterne on all, that him beheld,
   As ashes pale of hew and seeming ded;
   And on his dagger still his hand he held,
Trembling through hasty rage, whẽ choler in him sweld.

His ruffin raiment all was staind with blood,
   Which he had spilt, and all to rags yrent,
   Through vnaduized rashnesse woxen wood;
   For of his hands he had no gouernement,
   Ne car'd for bloud in his auengement:
   But when the furious fit was ouerpast,
   His cruell facts he often would repent;
   Yet wilfull man he neuer would forecast,
How many mischieues should ensue his heedlesse hast.

Full many mischiefes follow cruell VVrath;
   Abhorred bloudshed, and tumultuous strife,
   Vnmanly murder, and vnthrifty scath,
   Bitter despight, with rancours rusty knife,
   And fretting griefe the enemy of life;
   All these, and many euils moe haunt ire,
   The swelling Splene, and Frenzy raging rife,
   The shaking Palsey, and Saint Fraunces fire:
Such one was VVrath, the last of this vngodly tire.

And after all, vpon the wagon beame
   Rode Sathan, with a smarting whip in hand,
   With which he forward lasht the laesie teme,
   So oft as Slowth still in the mire did stand.
   Huge routs of people did about them band,
   Showting for ioy, and still before their way
   A foggy mist had couered all the land;
   And vnderneath their feet, all scattered lay
Dead sculs & bones of men, whose life had gone astray.

So forth they marchen in this goodly sort,
   To take the solace of the open aire,
   And in fresh flowring fields themselues to sport;
   Emongst the rest rode that false Lady faire,
   The fowle Duessa, next vnto the chaire
   Of proud Lucifer', as one of the traine:
   But that good knight would not so nigh repaire,
   Him selfe estraunging from their ioyaunce vaine,
Whose fellowship seemd far vnfit for warlike swaine.

So hauing solaced themselues a space
   With pleasaunce of the breathing fields yfed
   They backe returned to the Princely Place;
   Whereas an errant knight in armes ycled,
   And heathnish shield, wherein with letters red
   Was writ Sans ioy, they new arriued find:
   Enflam'd with fury and fiers hardy-hed,
   He seemd in hart to harbour thoughts vnkind,
And nourish bloudy vengeaunce in his bitter mind.

Who when the shamed shield of slaine Sans foy
   He spide with that same Faery champions page,
   Bewraying him, that did of late destroy
   His eldest brother, burning all with rage
   He to him leapt, and that same enuious gage
   Of victors glory from him snatcht away:
   But th'Elfin knight, which ought that warlike wage,
   Disdaind to loose the meed he wonne in fray,
And him rencountring fierce, reskewd the noble pray.

Therewith they gan to hurtlen greedily,
   Redoubted battaile ready to darrayne,
   And clash their shields, and shake their swords on hy,
   That with their sturre they troubled all the traine;
   Till that great Queene vpon eternall paine
   Of high displeasure, that ensewen might,
   Commaunded them their fury to refraine,
   And if that either to that shield had right,
In equall lists they should the morrow next it fight.

Ah dearest Dame, (quoth then the Paynim bold,)
   Pardon the errour of enraged wight,
   Whom great griefe made forget the raines to hold
   Of reasons rule, to see this recreant knight,
   No knight, but treachour full of false despight
   And shamefull treason, who through guile hath slayn
   The prowest knight, that euer field did fight,
   Euen stout Sans foy (O who can then refrayn?)
Whose shield he beares renuerst, the more to heape disdayn.

And to augment the glorie of his guile,
   His dearest loue the faire Fidessa loe
   Is there possessed of the traytour vile,
   Who reapes the haruest sowen by his foe,
   Sowen in bloudy field, and bought with woe:
   That brothers hand shall dearely well requight
   So be, ô Queene, you equall fauour showe.
   Him litle answerd th'angry Elfin knight;
He neuer meant with words, but swords to plead his right.

But threw his gauntlet as a sacred pledge,
   His cause in combat the next day to try:
   So been they parted both, with harts on edge,
   To be aueng'd each on his enimy.
   That night they pas in ioy and iollity,
   Feasting and courting both in bowre and hall;
   For Steward was excessiue Gluttonie,
   That of his plenty poured forth to all:
Which doen, the Chamberlain Slowth did to rest them call.

Now whenas darkesome night had all displayd
   Her coleblacke curtein ouer brightest skye,
   The warlike youthes on dayntie couches layd,
   Did chace away sweet sleepe from sluggish eye,
   To muse on meanes of hoped victory.
   But whenas Morpheus had with leaden mace
   Arrested all that courtly company,
   Vp-rose Duessa from her resting place,
And to the Paynims lodging comes with silent pace.

Whom broad awake she finds, in troublous fit,
   Forecasting, how his foe he might annoy,
   And him amoues with speaches seeming fit:
   Ah deare Sans ioy, next dearest to Sans foy,
   Cause of my new griefe, cause of my new ioy,
   Ioyous, to see his ymage in mine eye,
   And greeu'd, to thinke how foe did him destroy,
   That was the flowre of grace and cheualrye;
Lo his Fidessa to thy secret faith I flye.

With gentle wordes he can her fairely greet,
   And bad say on the secret of her hart.
   Then sighing soft, I learne that litle sweet
   Oft tempred is (quoth she) with muchell smart:
   For since my brest was launcht with louely dart
   Of deare Sansfoy, I neuer ioyed howre,
   But in eternall woes my weaker hart
   Haue wasted, louing him with all my powre,
And for his sake haue felt full many an heauie stowre.

At last when perils all I weened past,
   And hop'd to reape the crop of all my care,
   Into new woes vnweeting I was cast,
   By this false faytor, who vnworthy ware
   His worthy shield, whom he with guilefull snare
   Entrapped slew, and brought to shamefull graue.
   Me silly maid away with him he bare,
   And euer since hath kept in darksome caue,
For that I would not yeeld, that to Sans-foy I gaue.

But since faire Sunne hath sperst that lowring clowd,
   And to my loathed life now shewes some light,
   Vnder your beames I will me safely shrowd,
   From dreaded storme of his disdainfull spight:
   To you th'inheritance belongs by right
   Of brothers prayse, to you eke longs his loue.
   Let not his loue, let not his restlesse spright
   Be vnreueng'd, that calles to you aboue
From wandring Stygian shores, where it doth endlesse moue.

Thereto said he, Faire Dame be nought dismaid
   For sorrowes past; their griefe is with them gone:
   Ne yet of present perill be affraid;
   For needlesse feare did neuer vantage none,
   And helplesse hap it booteth not to mone.
   Dead is Sans-foy, his vitall paines are past,
   Though greeued ghost for vengeance deepe do grone:
   He liues, that shall him pay his dewties last,
And guiltie Elfin bloud shall sacrifice in hast.

O but I feare the fickle freakes (quoth shee)
   Of fortune false, and oddes of armes in field.
   Why dame (quoth he) what oddes can euer bee,
   Where both do fight alike, to win or yield?
   Yea but (quoth she) he beares a charmed shield,
   And eke enchaunted armes, that none can perce,
   Ne none can wound the man, that does them wield.
   Charmd or enchaunted (answerd he then ferce)
I no whit reck, ne you the like need to reherce.

But faire Fidessa, sithens fortunes guile,
   Or enimies powre hath now captiued you,
   Returne from whence ye came, and rest a while
   Till morrow next, that I the Elfe subdew,
   And with Sans-foyes dead dowry you endew.
   Ay me, that is a double death (she said)
   With proud foes sight my sorrow to renew:
   Where euer yet I be, my secrete aid
Shall follow you. So passing forth she him obaid.

Next: Canto V