Bob's Byway


1552 - 1599


( Excerpt from Book I, Canto I )

 * This excerpt from The Faerie Queene provides examples of an allegory, and the stanzaic form known as the Spenserian stanza.
A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
Ycladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,
Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine,
The cruell markes of many a bloudy fielde;
Yet armes till that time did he never wield:
His angry steede did chide his foming bitt,
As much disdayning to the curbe to yield:
Full jolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
    As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt.

 * The Faerie Queene is an allegory designed to set forth "a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline." The central characters are Gloriana, the queen of an imaginary ("faerie") court, who symbolizes Glory, and her suitor, Prince Arthur, who stands for Magnificence (Munificence), "which virtue is the perfection of all the rest." Besides these, the twelve moral virtues were to have been separately represented by twelve knights, each performing deeds and overcoming temptations according to his character. But as the poet's design was never finished, only half these virtues get representation, and the central characters receive rather less prominence than the six several virtues which are set forth in the six completed books. Each of these books, consisting of twelve cantos, is practically a complete story in itself. The first deals with the Knight of the Red Cross, or Holiness, who, clad in the armor of the Christian faith, is sent forth by his Queen as the Champion of Una (Truth) to deliver her parents, "who had been by a huge dragon many years shut up in a brasen castle." Beneath the moral allegory may be read also a political one, according to which Gloriana is Queen Elizabeth, Prince Arthur is Lord Leicester, Duessa is Mary Queen of Scots, etc. But after all, the poetry of the poem is worth far more than the elaborate allegory. The language and spelling are deliberately and sometimes falsely archaic.

    -- English Literature, by Alphonso Gerald Newcomer

But on his brest a bloudie Crosse he bore,
The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore,
And dead as living ever him ador'd:
Upon his shield the like was also scor'd,
For soveraine hope, which in his helpe he had:
Right faithfull true he was in deede and word,
But of his cheere did seeme too solemne sad;
    Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

Upon a great adventure he was bond,
That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
That greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie lond,
To winne him worship, and her grace to have,
Which of all earthly things he most did crave;
And ever as he rode, his hart did earne
To prove his puissance in battell brave
Upon his foe, and his new force to learne;
    Upon his foe, a Dragon horrible and stearne.

A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside,
Upon a lowly Asse more white then snow,
Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide
Under a vele, that wimpled was full low,
And over all a blacke stole she did throw,
As one that inly mournd: so was she sad,
And heavie sat upon her palfrey slow;
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
    And by her in a line a milke white lambe she lad.

So pure and innocent, as that same lambe,
She was in life and every vertuous lore,
And by descent from Royall lynage came
Of ancient Kings and Queenes, that had of yore
Their scepters stretcht from East to Westerne shore,
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernall feend with foule uprore
Forwasted all their land, and them expeld:
    Whom to avenge, she had this Knight from far compeld.

 * Whoever can endure unmixed delight, whoever can tolerate music and painting and poetry all in one, whoever wishes to be rid of thought and to let the busy anvils of the brain be silent for a time, let him read the "Faery Queen."

     ---James Russell Lowell

Behind her farre away a Dwarfe did lag,
That lasie seemd in being ever last,
Or wearied with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his backe. Thus as they past,
The day with cloudes was suddeine overcast,
And angry Jove an hideous storme of raine
Did poure into his Lemans lap so fast,
That every wight to shrowd it did constrain,
    And this faire couple eke to shroud them-selves were fain.

Enforst to seeke some covert nigh at hand,
A shadie grove not far away they spide,
That promist ayde the tempest to withstand:
Whose loftie trees yclad with sommers pride,
Did spred so broad, that heavens light did hide,
Not perceable with power of any starre:
And all within were pathes and alleies wide,
With footing worne, and leading inward farre:
    Faire harbour that them seemes; so in they entred arre.

To Allegory in the Glossary
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To Spenserian Stanza in the Glossary
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And foorth they passe, with pleasure forward led,
Joying to heare the birdes sweete harmony,
Which therein shrouded from the tempest dred,
Seemd in their song to scorne the cruell sky.
Much can they prayse the trees so straight and hy,
The sayling Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,
The vine-prop Elme, the Poplar never dry,
The builder Oake, sole king of forrests all,
    The Aspine good for staves, the Cypresse funerall.


Stanzas 1 through 6

 * This excerpt from Prothalamion provides examples of an occasional poem, a prothalamium, and a refrain.
Calm was the day, and through the trembling air,
Sweet-breathing Zephyrus did softly play--
A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay
Hot Titan's beams, which then did glister fair;
When I (whom sullen care,
Through discontent of my long fruitless stay
In Princes' court, and expectation vain
Of idle hopes, which still do fly away
Like empty shadows, did afflict my brain)
Walk'd forth to ease my pain
Along the shore of silver-streaming Thames;
Whose rutty bank, the which his river hems,
Was painted all with variable flowers,
And all the meads adorn'd with dainty gems,
Fit to deck maidens' bowers,
And crown their paramours
Against the bridal day, which is not long:
    Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.

 * In the text of this example, both the spelling and punctuation have been modernized to facilitate ease of reading.
There, in a meadow, by the river's side,
A flock of nymphs I chancèd to espy,
All lovely daughters of the flood thereby,
With goodly greenish locks all loose untied
As each had been a bride,
And each one had a little wicker basket
Made of fine twigs, entrailèd curiously,
In which they gather'd flowers to fill their flasket,
And with fine fingers, cropt full feateously
The tender stalks on high.
Of every sort, which in that meadow grew,
They gathered some; the violet, pallid blue,
The little daisy, that at evening closes,
The virgin lilly, and the primrose true,
With store of vermeil roses,
To deck their bridegromes' posies
Against the bridal day, which was not long:
    Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.

 * Prothalamion. termed a "Spousall Verse" by Spenser, was written in honor of the approaching double marriage of the Ladies Elizabeth and Katherine Somerset in 1596, apparently celebrating some visit of theirs to Essex House.

F. T. Palgrave, 1824-97, an English poet and critic, said of this poem, "Nowhere has Spenser more emphatically displayed himself as the very poet of Beauty; The Renaissance impulse in England is here to be seen at its highest and purest."

With that I saw two swans of goodly hue,
Come softly swimming down along the Lee;
Two fairer birds I yet did never see;
The snow which doth the top of Pindus strow,
Did never whiter show,
Nor Jove himself when he a swan would be
For love of Leda, whiter did appear;
Yet Leda was (they say) as white as he,
Yet not so white as these, nor nothing near;
So purely white they were
That even the gentle stream, the which them bare,
Seem'd foul to them, and bade his billows spare
To wet their silken feathers, least they might
Soil their fair plumes with water not so fair,
And mar their beauties bright
That shone as Heaven's light
Against their bridal day, which was not long:
    Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.

Eftsoons the nymphs, which now had flowers their fill,
Ran all in haste, to see that silver brood
As they came floating on the crystal flood;
Whom when they saw, they stood amazèd still
Their wondering eyes to fill;
Them seem'd they never saw a sight so fair
Of fowls, so lovely, that they sure did deem
Them heavenly born, or to be that same pair
Which through the sky draw Venus' silver team;
For sure they did not seem
To be begot of any earthly seed,
But rather Angels or of Angels' breed;
 * In the original text, Spenser spelled "summer's heat" as "Somers-heat," apparently intended as an ornamental pun on Somerset, the surname of the sisters whose pending double wedding inspired the writing of this poem.
Yet were they bred of summer's heat, they say,   *
In sweetest season, when each flower and weed
The earth did fresh array;:
So fresh they seem'd as day,
Ev'n as their bridal day, which was not long:
    Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.

Then forth they all out of their baskets drew,
Great store of flowers, the honour of the field,
That to the sense did fragrant odours yield,
All which upon those goodly birds they threw,
And all the waves did strew,
That like old Peneus' waters they did seem
When down along by pleasant Tempe's shore
Scatter'd with flowers, through Thessaly they stream,
That they appear, through lillies' plenteous store,
Like a bride's chamber-floor.
Two of those nymphs, meanwhile, two garlands bound
Of freshest flowers which in that mead they found,
The which presenting all in trim array,
Their snowy foreheads therewithall they crown'd;
Whilst one did sing this lay
Prepared against that day,
Against their bridal day, which was not long:
    Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.

To Occasional Poem in the Glossary
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To Prothalamium in the Glossary
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To Refrain in the Glossary
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"Ye gentle birds! the world's fair ornament,
And Heaven's glory, whom this happy hour
Doth lead unto your lovers' blissful bower,
Joy may you have, and gentle heart's content
Of your love's couplement;
And let fair Venus, that is queen of love,
With her heart-quelling son upon you smile,
Whose smile, they say, hath virtue to remove
All love's dislike, and friendship's faulty guile
For ever to assoil.
Let endless peace your steadfast hearts accord,
And blessèd plenty wait upon your board;
And let your bed with pleasures chaste abound,
That fruitful issue may to you afford
Which may your foes confound,
And make your joys redound
Upon your bridal day, which is not long:
    Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song."


Stanzas 1 through 6

 * This excerpt provides an example of an epithalamium.
Ye learned sisters, which have oftentimes
Beene to me ayding, others to adorne,
Whom ye thought worthy for your gracefull rymes,
That even the greatest did not greatly scorne
 * In this excerpt the author's original spellings have been retained.
To heare theyr names sung in your simple layes,
  But joyèd in theyr praise;
And when ye list your owne mishaps to mourne,
Which death, or love, or fortunes wreck did rayse,
Your string could soone to sadder tenor turne,
And teach the woods and waters to lament
  Your doleful dreriment:
Now lay those sorrowfull complaints aside,
And having all your heads with girland crownd,
Helpe me mine owne loves prayses to resound;
Ne let the same of any be envíde:
So Orpheus did for his owne bride:
So I unto my selfe alone will sing;
The woods shall to me answer, and my Eccho ring.

Early before the worlds light giving lampe
His golden beame upon the hils doth spred,
Having disperst the nights unchearefull dampe,
Doe ye awake, and with fresh lustyhed,
Go to the bowre of my belovèd love,
  My truest turtle dove,
Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake,
And long since ready forth his maske to move,
With his bright Tead that flames with many a flake,
And many a bachelor to waite on him,
  In theyr fresh garments trim.
Bid her awake therefore, and soone her dight,
For lo! the wishèd day is come at last,
That shall, for al the paynes and sorrowes past,
Pay to her usury of long delight:
  And whylest she doth her dight,
Doe ye to her of joy and solace sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.

Bring with you all the Nymphes that you can heare,
Both of the rivers and the forrests greene,
And of the sea that neighbours to her neare,
Al with gay girlands goodly wel beseene.
And let them also with them bring in hand
  Another gay girland,
For my fayre love of lillyes and of roses,
Bound truelove wize with a blew silke riband.
And let them make great store of bridale poses,
And let them eeke bring store of other flowers,
  To deck the bridale bowers.
And let the ground whereas her foot shall tread,
For feare the stones her tender foot should wrong,
Be strewed with fragrant flowers all along,
And diapred lyke the discolored mead.
Which done, doe at her chamber dore awayt,
  For she will waken strayt;
The whiles doe ye this song unto her sing
The woods shall to you answer, and your Eccho ring.

Ye Nymphes of Mulla, which with carefull heed
The silver scaly trouts doe tend full well,
And greedy pikes which use therein to feed,
(Those trouts and pikes all others doo excell)
And ye likewise which keepe the rushy lake,
  Where none doo fishes take,
Bynd up the locks the which hang scatterd light,
And in his waters which your mirror make,
Behold your faces as the christall bright,
That when you come whereas my love doth lie,
  No blemish she may spie.
And eke ye lightfoot mayds which keepe the deere
That on the hoary mountayne use to towre,
And the wylde wolves which seeke them to devoure,
With your steele darts doo chace from comming neer,
  Be also present heere,
To helpe to decke her and to help to sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.

Wake now, my love, awake! for it is time,
The Rosy Morne long since left Tithones bed,
All ready to her silver coche to clyme,
And Phoebus gins to shew his glorious hed.
Hark how the cheerefull birds do chaunt theyr laies,
  And carroll of loves praise!
The merry Larke hir mattins sings aloft,
The thrush replyes, the mavis descant playes,
The Ouzell shrills, the Ruddock warbles soft,
So goodly all agree, with sweet consent,
  To this dayes merriment.
Ah! my deere love, why doe ye sleepe thus long,
When meeter were that ye should now awake,
T'awayt the comming of your joyous make,
And hearken to the birds love-learnèd song,
  The deawy leaves among?
For they of joy and pleasance to you sing,
That all the woods them answer, and theyr eccho ring.

My love is now awake out of her dreame,
And her fayre eyes, like stars that dimmèd were
With darksome cloud, now shew theyr goodly beams
More bright then Hesperus his head doth rere.
Come now, ye damzels, daughters of delight,
  Helpe quickly her to dight.
But first come ye, fayre Houres, which were begot,
In Joves sweet paradice, of Day and Night,
Which doe the seasons of the year allot,
And al that ever in this world is fayre
  Doe make and still repayre.
And ye three handmayds of the Cyprian Queene,
The which doe still adorne her beauties pride,
To Epithalamium in the Glossary
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Helpe to addorne my beautifullest bride:
And as ye her array, still throw betweene
  Some graces to be seene:
And as ye use to Venus, to her sing,
The whiles the woods shal answer, and your eccho ring.