Book 1, Canto 1 of The Faerie Queen


A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,

Y cladd 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.



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 an 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.



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 themselves 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.



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.



The Laurell, meed of mightie Conquerours

And Poets sage, the Firre that weepeth still,

The Willow worne of forlorne Paramours,

The Eugh obedient to the benders will,

The Birch for shaftes, the Sallow for the mill,

The Mirrhe sweete bleeding in the bitter wound,

The warlike Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,

The fruitfull Olive, and the Platane round,

The carver Holme, the Maple seeldom inward sound.



Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,

Untill the blustring storme is overblowne;

When weening to returne, whence they did stray,

They cannot find that path, which first was showne,

But wander too and fro in wayes unknowne,

Furthest from end then, when they neerest weene,

That makes them doubt, their wits be not their owne:

So many pathes, so many turnings seene,

That which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.


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