The Faerie Queene

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Author: Edmund Spenser  | Date: 1596

CANTO VIII

Prince Arthure and Sir Artegall

Free Samient from feare:

They slay the Soudan, drive his wife

Adicia to despaire.

I. NOUGHT under heaven so strongly doth allure

The sence of man, and all his minde possesse,

As beauties lovely baite, that doth procure

Great warriours oft their rigour to represse,

And mighty hands forget their manlinesse;

Drawne with the powre of an heart-robbing eye,

And wrapt in fetters of a golden tresse,

That can with melting pleasaunce mollifye

Their hardned hearts, enur’d to bloud and cruelty.

II. So whylome learnd that mighty Jewish swaine,

Each of whose lockes did match a man in might,

To lay his spoiles before his lemans traine:

So also did that great Oetean Knight

For his loves sake his Lions skin undight;

And so did warlike Antony neglect

The worlds whole rule for Cleopatras sight.

Such wondrous powre hath wemens faire aspect

To captive men, and make them all the world reject.

III. Yet could it not sterne Artegall retaine,

Nor hold from suite of his avowed quest,

Which he had undertane to Gloriane;

But left his love, albe her strong request,

Faire Britomart in languor and unrest,

And rode him selfe uppon his first intent,

Ne day nor night did ever idly rest;

Ne wight but onely Talus with him went,

The true guide of his way and vertuous government.

IV. So travelling, he chaunst far off to heed

A Damzell, flying on a palfrey fast

Before two Knights that after her did speed

With all their powre, and her full fiercely chast

In hope to have her overhent at last:

Yet fled she fast, and both them farre outwent,

Carried with wings of feare, like fowle aghast,

With locks all loose, and rayment all to-rent;

And ever as she rode her eye was backeward bent.

V. Soone after these he saw another Knight,

That after those two former rode apace

With speare in rest, and pickt with all his might:

So ran they all, as they had bene at bace,

They being chased that did others chase.

At length he saw the hindmost overtake

One of those two, and force him turne his face;

However loth he were his way to slake,

Yet mote he algates now abide, and answere make.

VI. But th’ other still pursu’d the fearefull Mayd;

Who still from him as fast away did flie,

Ne once for ought her speedy passage stayd,

Till that at length she did before her spie

Sir Artegall; to whom she straight did hie

With gladfull hast, in hope of him to get

Succour against her greedy enimy:

Who seeing her approch gan forward set

To save her from her feare, and him from force to let.

VII. But he, like hound full greedy of his pray,

Being impatient of impediment,

Continu’d still his course, and by the way

Thought with his speare him quight have overwent.

So both together, ylike felly bent,

Like fiercely met. But Artegall was stronger,

And better skild in Tilt and Turnament,

And bore him quite out of his saddle, longer

Then two speares length: So mischiefe overmatcht the

wronger.

VIII. And in his fall misfortune him mistooke;

For on his head unhappily he pight,

That his owne waight his necke asunder broke,

And left there dead. Meane-while the other Knight

Defeated had the other faytour quight,

And all his bowels in his body brast:

Whom leaving there in that dispiteous plight,

He ran still on, thinking to follow fast

His other fellow Pagan which before him past.

IX. Instead of whom finding there ready prest

Sir Artegall, without discretion

He at him ran with ready speare in rest;

Who, seeing him come still so fiercely on,

Against him made againe. So both anon

Together met, and strongly either strooke

And broke their speares; yet neither has forgon

His horses backe, yet to and fro long shooke

And tottred, like two towres which through a tempest

quooke.

X. But, when againe they had recovered sence,

They drew their swords, in mind to make amends

For what their speares had fayld of their pretence:

Which when the Damzell, who those deadly ends

Of both her foes had seene, and now her frends

For her beginning a more fearefull fray,

She to them runnes in hast, and her haire rends,

Crying to them their cruell hands to stay,

Untill they both doe heare what she to them will say.

XI. They stayd their hands, when she thus gan to speake:

"Ah gentle Knights! what meane ye thus unwise

Upon your selves anothers wrong to wreake?

I am the wrong’d, whom ye did enterprise

Both to redresse, and both redrest likewise:

Witnesse the Paynims both, whom ye may see

There dead on ground. What doe ye then devise

Of more revenge? if more, then I am shee

Which was the roote of all: end your revenge on mee."

XII. Whom when they heard so say, they lookt about

To weete if it were true as she had told;

Where when they saw their foes dead out of doubt,

Eftsoones they gan their wrothfull hands to hold,

And Ventailes reare each other to behold.

Tho when as Artegall did Arthure vew,

So faire a creature and so wondrous bold,

He much admired both his heart and hew,

And touched with intire affection nigh him drew;

XIII. Saying, "Sir Knight, of pardon I you pray,

That all unweeting have you wrong’d thus sore,

Suffring my hand against my heart to stray;

Which if ye please forgive, I will therefore

Yeeld for amends my selfe yours evermore,

Or what so penaunce shall by you be red."

To whom the Prince: "Certes me needeth more

To crave the same; whom errour so misled,

As that I did mistake the living for the ded.

XIV. "But, sith ye please that both our blames shall die,

Amends may for the trespasse soone be made,

Since neither is endamadg’d much thereby."

So can they both them selves full eath perswade

To faire accordaunce, and both faults to shade,

Either embracing other lovingly,

And swearing faith to either on his blade,

Never thenceforth to nourish enmity,

But either others cause to maintaine mutually.

XV. Then Artegall gan of the Prince enquire,

What were those knights which there on ground were layd,

And had receiv’d their follies worthy hire,

And for what cause they chased so that Mayd?

"Certes I wote not well," (the Prince then sayd)

"But by adventure found them faring so,

As by the way unweetingly I strayd:

And lo! the Damzell selfe, whence all did grow,

Of whom we may at will the whole occasion know."

XVI. Then they that Damzell called to them nie,

And asked her what were those two her fone,

From whom she earst so fast away did flie:

And what was she her selfe so woe-begone,

And for what cause pursu’d of them attone.

To whom she thus: "Then wote ye well, that I

Doe serve a Queene that not far hence doth wone,

A Princesse of great powre and majestie,

Famous through all the world, and honor’d far and nie.

XVII. "Her name Mercilla most men use to call

That is a mayden Queene of high renowne,

For her great bounty knowen over all

And soveraine grace, with which her royall crowne

She doth support, and strongly beateth downe

The malice of her foes, which her envy

And at her happinesse do fret and frowne;

Yet she her selfe the more doth magnify,

And even to her foes her mercies multiply.

XVIII. "Mongst many which maligne her happy state,

There is a mighty man, which wonnes hereby,

That with most fell despight and deadly hate

Seekes to subvert her Crowne and dignity,

And all his powre doth thereunto apply:

And her good Knights, of which so brave a band

Serves her as any Princesse under sky,

He either spoiles, if they against him stand,

Or to his part allures, and bribeth under hand.

XIX. "Ne him sufficeth all the wrong and ill,

Which he unto her people does each day;

But that he seekes by traytrous traines to spill

Her person, and her sacred selfe to slay:

That, O ye Heavens, defend! and turne away

From her unto the miscreant him selfe;

That neither hath religion nor fay,

But makes his God of his ungodly pelfe,

And Idols serves: so let his Idols serve the Elfe!

XX. "To all which cruell tyranny, they say,

He is provokt, and stird up day and night

By his bad wife that hight Adicia;

Who counsels him, through confidence of might,

To breake all bonds of law and rules of right:

For she her selfe professeth mortall foe

To Justice, and against her still doth fight,

Working to all that love her deadly woe,

And making all her Knights and people to doe so.

XXI. "Which my liege Lady seeing, thought it best

With that his wife in friendly wise to deale,

For stint of strife and stablishment of rest

Both to her selfe and to her common-weale,

And all forepast displeasures to repeale.

So me in message unto her she sent,

To treat with her, by way of enterdeale,

Of finall peace and faire attonement

Which might concluded be by mutuall consent.

XXII. "All times have wont safe passage to afford

To messengers that come for causes just:

But this proude Dame, disdayning all accord,

Not onely into bitter termes forth brust,

Reviling me and rayling as she lust,

But lastly, to make proofe of utmost shame,

Me like a dog she out of dores did thrust,

Miscalling me by many a bitter name,

That never did her ill, ne once deserved blame.

XXIII. "And lastly, that no shame might wanting be,

When I was gone, soone after me she sent

These two false Knights, whom there ye lying see,

To be by them dishonoured and shent:

But, thankt be God, and your good hardiment,

They have the price of their owne folly payd."

So said this Damzell, that hight Samient;

And to those knights for their so noble ayd

Her selfe most gratefull shew’d, and heaped thanks repayd.

XXIV. But they now having throughly heard and seene

Al those great wrongs, the which that mayd complained

To have bene done against her Lady Queene

By that proud dame which her so much disdained,

Were moved much thereat; and twixt them fained

With all their force to worke avengement strong

Uppon the Souldan selfe, which it mayntained,

And on his Lady, th’ author of that wrong,

And uppon all those Knights that did to her belong.

XXV. But, thinking best by counterfet disguise

To their deseigne to make the easier way,

They did this complot twixt them selves devise:

First, that Sir Artegall should him array

Like one of those Knights which dead there lay;

And then that Damzell, the sad Samient,

Should as his purchast prize with him convay

Unto the Souldans court, her to present

Unto his scornefull Lady that for her had sent.

XXVI. So as they had deviz’d, Sir Artegall

Him clad in th’ armour of a Pagan knight,

And taking with him, as his vanquisht thrall,

That Damzell, led her to the Souldans right:

Where soone as his proud wife of her had sight,

Forth of her window as she looking lay,

She weened streight it was her Paynim Knight,

Which brought that Damzell as his purchast pray;

And sent to him a Page that mote direct his way.

XXVII. Who bringing them to their appointed place,

Offred his service to disarme the Knight;

But he refusing him to let unlace,

For doubt to be discovered by his sight,

Kept himselfe still in his straunge armour dight:

Soone after whom the Prince arrived there,

And sending to the Souldan in despight

A bold defyance, did of him requere

That Damsell whom he held as wrongfull prisonere.

XXVIII. Wherewith the Souldan all with furie fraught,

Swearing and banning most blasphemously,

Commaunded straight his armour to be brought;

And, mounting straight upon a charret hye,

(With yron wheeles and hookes arm’d dreadfully,

And drawne of cruell steedes which he had fed

With flesh of men, whom through fell tyranny

He slaughtred had, and ere they were halfe ded

Their bodies to his beastes for provender did spred.)

XXIX. So forth he came, all in a cote of plate

Burnisht with bloudie rust; whiles on the greene

The Briton Prince him readie did awayte,

In glistering armes right goodly well-beseene,

That shone as bright as doth the heaven sheene:

And by his stirrup Talus did attend,

Playing his pages part, as he had beene

Before directed by his Lord; to th’ end

He should his flale to final execution bend.

XXX. Thus goe they both together to their geare,

With like fierce minds, but meanings different;

For the proud Souldan, with presumpteous cheare

And countenance sublime and insolent

Sought onely slaughter and avengement;

But the brave Prince for honour and for right,

Gainst tortious powre and lawlesse regiment,

In the behalfe of wronged weake did fight:

More in his causes truth he trusted then in might.

XXXI. Like to the Thracian Tyrant, who they say

Unto his horses gave his guests for meat,

Till he himselfe was made their greedie pray,

And torne in pieces by Alcides great;

So thought the Souldan, in his follies threat,

Either the Prince in peeces to have torne

With his sharp wheeles, in his first rages heat,

Or under his fierce horses feet have borne,

And trampled downe in dust his thoughts disdained scorne.

XXXII. But the bold child that perill well espying,

If he too rashly to his charet drew,

Gave way unto his horses speedie flying,

And their resistlesse rigour did eschew:

Yet, as he passed by, the Pagan threw

A shivering dart with so impetuous force,

That had he not it shun’d with heedful vew,

It had himselfe transfixed or his horse,

Or made them both one masse withouten more remorse.

XXXIII. Oft drew the Prince unto his charret nigh,

In hope some stroke to fasten on him neare,

But he was mounted in his seat so high,

And his wingfooted coursers him did beare

So fast away that, ere his readie speare

He could advance, he farre was gone and past:

Yet still he him did follow every where,

And followed was of him likewise full fast,

So long as in his steedes the flaming breath did last.

XXXIV. Againe the Pagan threw another dart,

Of which he had with him abundant store

On every side of his embatteld cart,

And of all other weapons lesse or more,

Which warlike uses had deviz’d of yore:

The wicked shaft, guyded through th’ ayrie wyde

By some bad spirit that it to mischiefe bore,

Stayd not, till through his curat it did glyde,

And made a griesly wound in his enriven side.

XXXV. Much was he grieved with that haplesse throe,

That opened had the welspring of his blood;

But much the more, that to his hatefull foe

He mote not come to wreake his wrathfull mood:

That made him rave, like to a Lyon wood,

Which being wounded of the huntsmans hand

Cannot come neare him in the covert wood,

Where he with boughes hath built his shady stand,

And fenst himselfe about with many a flaming brand.

XXXVI. Still when he sought t’ approch unto him ny

His charret wheeles about him whirled round,

And made him backe againe as fast to fly;

And eke his steedes, like to an hungry hound

That hunting after game hath carrion found,

So cruelly did him pursew and chace,

That his good steed, all were he much renound

For noble courage and for hardie race,

Durst not endure their sight, but fled from place

to place.

XXXVII. Thus long they trast and traverst to and fro,

Seeking by every way to make some breach;

Yet could the Prince not nigh unto him goe,

That one sure stroke he might unto him reach,

Whereby his strengthes assay he might him teach.

At last from his victorious shield he drew

The vaile, which did his powrefull light empeach,

And comming full before his horses vew,

As they upon him prest, it plaine to them did shew.

XXXVIII. Like lightening flash that hath the gazer burned

So did the sight thereof their sense dismay,

That backe againe upon themselves they turned,

And with their ryder ranne perforce away:

Ne could the Souldan them from flying stay

With raynes or wonted rule, as well he knew:

Nought feared they what he could do or say,

But th’ onely feare that was before their vew,

From which like mazed deare dismayfully they flew.

XXXIX. Fast did they fly as them their feete could beare

High over hilles, and lowly over dales,

As they were follow’d of their former feare.

In vaine the Pagan bannes, and sweares, and rayles

And backe with both his hands unto him hayles

The resty raynes, regarded now no more:

He to them calles and speakes, yet nought avayles;

They heare him not, they have forgot his lore,

But go which way they list, their guide they have forlore.

XL. As when the firie-mouthed steedes, which drew

The Sunnes bright wayne to Phaetons decay,

Soone as they did the monstrous Scorpion vew

With ugly craples crawling in their way,

The dreadfull sight did them so sore affray,

That their well-knowen courses they forwent;

And, leading th’ ever-burning lampe astray,

This lower world nigh all to ashes brent,

And left their scorched path yet in the firmament.

XLI. Such was the furie of these head-strong steeds,

Soone as the infants sunlike shield they saw,

That all obedience both to words and deeds

They quite forgot, and scornd all former law:

Through woods, and rocks, and mountaines they did draw

The yron charet, and the wheeles did teare,

And tost the Paynim without feare or awe;

From side to side they tost him here and there,

Crying to them in vaine that nould his crying heare.

XLII. Yet still the Prince pursew’d him close behind.

Oft making offer him to smite, but found

No easie meanes according to his mind:

At last they have all overthrowne to ground

Quite topside turvey, and the Pagan hound

Amongst the yron hookes and graples keene

Torne all to rags, and rent with many a wound;

That no whole peece of him was to be seene,

But scattred all about, and strow’d upon the greene.

XLIII. Like as the cursed son of Theseus,

That following his chace in dewy morne,

To fly his stepdames loves outrageous,

Of his owne steedes was all to peeces torne,

And his faire limbs left in the woods forlorne;

That for his sake Diana did lament,

And all the wooddy Nymphes did wayle and mourne:

So was this Souldan rapt and all to-rent,

That of his shape appear’d no litle moniment.

XLIV. Onely his shield and armour, which there lay,

Though nothing whole, but all to-brusd and broken,

He up did take, and with him brought away,

That mote remaine for an eternall token

To all mongst whom this storie should be spoken,

How worthily, by heavens high decree,

Justice that day of wrong her selfe had wroken;

That all men, which that spectacle did see,

By like ensample mote for ever warned bee.

XLV. So on a tree before the Tyrants dore

He caused them be hung in all mens sight,

To be a moniment for evermore.

Which when his Ladie from the castles hight

Beheld, it much appald her troubled spright:

Yet not, as women wont, in dolefull fit

She was dismayd, or faynted through affright,

But gathered unto her her troubled wit,

And gan eftsoones devize to be aveng’d for it.

XLVI. Streight downe she ranne, like an enraged cow

That is berobbed of her youngling dere,

With knife in hand, and fatally did vow

To wreake her on that mayden messengere,

Whom she had causd be kept as prisonere

By Artegall, misween’d for her owne Knight,

That brought her backe: And, comming present there,

She at her ran with all her force and might,

All flaming with revenge and furious despight.

XLVII. Like raging Ino, when with knife in hand

She threw her husbands murdred infant out;

Or fell Medea, when on Colchicke strand

Her brothers bones she scattered all about;

Or as that madding mother, mongst the rout

Of Bacchus Priests, her owne deare flesh did teare:

Yet neither Ino, nor Medea stout,

Nor all the Moenades so furious were,

As this bold woman when she saw that Damzell there.

XLVIII. But Artegall, being thereof aware,

Did stay her cruell hand ere she her raught;

And, as she did her selfe to strike prepare,

Out of her fist the wicked weapon caught:

With that, like one enfelon’d or distraught,

She forth did rome whether her rage her bore,

With franticke passion and with furie fraught;

And, breaking forth out at a posterne dore,

Unto the wyld wood ranne, her dolours to deplore.

XLIX. As a mad bytch, when as the franticke fit

Her burning tongue with rage inflamed hath,

Doth runne at randon, and with furious bit

Snatching at every thing doth wreake her wrath

On man and beast that commeth in her path.

There they doe say that she transformed was

Into a Tygre, and that Tygres scath

In crueltie and outrage she did pas,

To prove her surname true, that she imposed has.

L. Then Artegall, himselfe discovering plaine,

Did issue forth gainst all that warlike rout

Of knights and armed men, which did maintaine

That Ladies part, and to the Souldan lout:

All which he did assault with courage stout,

All were they nigh an hundred knights of name,

And like wyld Goates them chaced all about,

Flying from place to place with cowheard shame;

So that with finall force them all he overcame.

LI. Then caused he the gates be opened wyde;

And there the Prince, as victour of that day,

With tryumph entertayn’d and glorifyde,

Presenting him with all the rich array

And roiall pompe, which there long hidden lay,

Purchast through lawlesse powre and tortious wrong

Of that proud Souldan whom he earst did slay.

So both, for rest, there having stayd not long,

Marcht with that mayd; fit matter for another song.

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Chicago: Edmund Spenser, "Canto VIII," The Faerie Queene Original Sources, accessed January 31, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8P66C1YCEMTR4KV.

MLA: Spenser, Edmund. "Canto VIII." The Faerie Queene, Original Sources. 31 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8P66C1YCEMTR4KV.

Harvard: Spenser, E, 'Canto VIII' in The Faerie Queene. Original Sources, retrieved 31 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8P66C1YCEMTR4KV.