The Faerie Queene
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‘Great Lady of the greatest Isle, whose light
Like Phoebus lampe throughout the world doth shine’
The Faerie Queene was one of the most influential poems in the English language. Dedicating his work to Elizabeth I, Spenser brilliantly united Arthurian romance and Italian renaissance epic to celebrate the glory of the Virgin Queen. Each book of the poem recounts the quest of a knight to achieve a virtue: the Red Crosse Knight of Holinesse, who must slay a dragon and free himself from the witch Duessa; Sir Guyon, Knight of Temperance, who escapes the Cave of Mammon and destroys Acrasia’s Bowre of Bliss; and the lady-knight Britomart’s search for her Sir Artegall, revealed to her in an enchanted mirror. Although composed as a moral and political allegory, The Faerie Queene’s magical atmosphere captivated the imaginations of later poets from Milton to the Victorians.
This edition includes the letter to Raleigh, in which Spenser declares his intentions for his poem, the commendatory verses by Spenser’s contemporaries and his dedicatory sonnets to the Elizabethan court, and is supplemented by a table of dates and a glossary.
Marinell vpon the pretious shore. 18 The martiall Mayd stayd not him to lament, But forward rode, and kept her readie way Along the strond, which as she ouer-went, She saw bestrowed all with rich aray Of pearles and pretious stones of great assay, And all the grauell mixt with golden owre; Whereat she wondred much, but would not stay For gold, or perles, or pretious stones an howre, But them despised all; for all was in her powre. 19 Whiles thus he lay in deadly stonishment, Tydings
of spirite would depriue. 37 Tho when she had his execution stayd, She for that yron prison did enquire, In which her wretched loue was captiue layd: Which breaking open with indignant ire, She entred into all the partes entire. Where when she saw that lothly vncouth sight, Of men disguiz’d in womanishe attire, Her heart gan grudge, for very deepe despight Of so vnmanly maske, in misery misdight. 38 At last when as to her owne Loue she came, Whom like disguize no lesse deformed had,
helmes, and plates asunder brake, As they had potshares bene; for nought mote slake Their greedy vengeaunces, but goary blood, That at the last like to a purple lake Of bloudy gore congeal’d about them stood, Which from their riuen sides forth gushed like a flood. 38 At length it chaunst, that both their hands on hie, At once did heaue, with all their powre and might, Thinking the vtmost of their force to trie, And proue the finall fortune of the fight: But Calidore, that was more
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dismay, Had no delight to treaten of his griefe; His long endured famine needed more reliefe. 44 Faire Lady, then said that victorious knight, The things, that grieuous were to do, or beare, Them to renew, I wote, breeds no delight; Best musicke breeds delight in loathing eare: But th’onely good, that gtowes of passed feare, Is to be wise, and ware of like agein. This dayes ensample hath this lesson deare Deepe written in my heart with yron pen, That blisse may not abide in state of