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The Rock of Reproach and the Wandering Islands

The next morning, before it was light, Sir Guyon, clad in his bright armour, and accompanied by the Palmer in his black dress, started once more on his journey to find the wicked enchantress, Acrasia, and the Bower

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of Bliss. At the river ford, they found a ferryman, whom Alma had commanded to be there with his well-rigged boat. They went on board, and he immediately launched his bark, and Lady Alma's country was soon left far behind.

For two days they sailed without even seeing land; but on the morning of the third day, they heard, far away, a hideous roaring that filled them with terror, and they saw the surges rage so high, they feared to be drowned.

Then said the boatman, "Palmer, steer aright, and keep an even course, for we must needs pass yonder way. That is the Gulf of Greediness, which swallows up all it can devour, and is in a constant turmoil."

On the other side, stood a hideous rock of mighty magnet stone, whose craggy cliffs were dreadful to behold. Great jagged reefs ran out into the water, and threatened, death to all who came near. Yet passers-by were unable to keep away, for trying to escape the devouring jaws of the Gulf of Greediness, they were dashed to pieces on the rock.

As they drew near this dreadful spot, the ferryman had to put forth all his strength and skill to row them past. On the one hand, they saw the horrible gulf, that looked as if it were sucking down all the sea into itself; and on the other hand, they saw the perilous rock, on whose sharp cliffs lay the ribs of many shattered vessels, together with the dead bodies of those who had recklessly flung themselves to destruction.

The name of the rock was the "Rock of Reproach." It was a dangerous and hateful place, to

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which no fish nor fowl ever came, but only screaming sea-gulls and cormorants, who sat waiting on the cliff to prey on the unhappy wretches whose extravagant and thriftless living had brought them to ruin.

Sir Guyon and his companions passed by this dangerous spot in safety, and the ferryman rowed them briskly over the dancing billows.

At last, far off, they spied many islands floating on every side among the waves. Then said the Knight, "Lo, I see the land, so, Sir Palmer, direct your course to it."

"Not so," said the ferryman, "lest we unknowingly run into danger; for those same islands, which now and then appear, are not firm land, nor have they any certain abiding-place; they are straggling plots, which run to and fro in the wide waters, wherefore they are called the 'Wandering Islands,' and are to be shunned, for they have drawn many a traveller into danger and distress. Yet from far off, they seem very pleasant, both fair and fruitful, the ground spread with soft, green grass, and the tall trees covered with leaves, and decked with white and red blossoms that might well allure passers-by. But whoever once sets his foot on those islands can never recover it, but evermore wanders, uncertain and unsure."

Sir Guyon and the Palmer listened to their pilot, as seemed fitting, and they passed on their way.

"Now," said the cautious boatman, when they had left behind them the Wandering Islands (or, listless idleness), "we must be careful to take good heed of our safety here, for a perilous passage lies before us.

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''Said then the Boteman, 'Palmer, stere aright,<BR>
 And keepe an even course; for yonder way<BR>
 We needes must pas (God doe us well acquight).'''
Click to enlarge

''Said then the Boteman, 'Palmer, stere aright,
And keepe an even course; for yonder way
We needes must pas (God doe us well acquight).'''


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[paragraph continues] There is a great quicksand, and a whirlpool of hidden danger; therefore, Sir Palmer, keep a steady hand, for the narrow way lies between them."

Scarcely had he spoken, when near at hand they spied the quicksand; it was almost covered with water, but they knew it at once by the waves round it and the discoloured sea. It was called the Quicksand of Unthriftiness.

Passing by, they saw a goodly ship, laden from far with precious merchandise, and well fitted as a ship could be, which through misadventure or carelessness had run herself into danger. The mariners and merchants, with much toil, laboured in vain to recover their prize and to save the rich wares from destruction, but neither toll nor trouble served to free her from the quicksand.

On the other side, they saw the dangerous pool that was called the Whirlpool of Decay, in which many had haplessly sunk, of whom no memory remained. The circling waters whirled round, like a restless wheel, eager to draw the boat into the outer limit of the labyrinth, and to drown the travellers. But the heedful ferryman rowed with all his might, so that they passed by in safety and left the dreaded danger behind.

Suddenly they saw in the midst of the ocean, the surging waters rise like a mountain, and the great sea puffed up, as though threatening to devour everything. The waves came rolling along, and the billows roared in fury, though there was not a breath of wind. At this, Sir Guyon, the Palmer, and the ferryman were greatly afraid, for they knew not what strange horror was approaching.

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