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Letter of the Authors expounding his
whole intention in the course of this worke: which
To the Right noble, and Valorous, Sir Walter Raleigh knight, Lo. Wardein of the Stanneryes, and her Maiesties liefetenaunt of the County of Cornewayll.
SIr knowing how doubtfully all Allegories may be construed, and this booke of mine, which I haue entituled the Faery Queene, being a continued Allegory, or darke conceit, I have thought good aswell for auoyding of gealous opinions and misconstructions, as also for your better light in reading therof, (being so by you commanded,) to discouer vnto you the general intention and meaning, which in the whole course thereof I haue fashioned, without expressing of any paricular purposes or by-accidents therein occasioned. The generall end therefore of all the booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline: Which for that I conceived shoulde be most plausible and pleasing, being coloured with an historicall fiction, the which the most part of men delight to read, rather for variety of matter, then for profite of the ensample: I chose the historye of king Arthure, as most fitte for the excellency of his person, being made famous by many mens former workes, and also furthest from the daunger of enuy, and suspition of present time. In which I have followed all the antique Poets historicall, first Homere, who in the Persons of Agamemnon and Vlysses hath ensampled a good gouernour and a vertuous man, the one in his Ilias, the other in his Odysseis: then Virgil, whose like intention was to doe in the person of Aeneas: after him Ariosto comprised them both in his Orlando: and lately Tasso disseuered them againe, and formed both parts in two persons, namely that part which they in Philosophy call Ethice, or vertues of a priuate man, coloured in his Rinaldo: The other named Politice in his Godfredo. By ensample of which excellente Poets, I labour to pourtraici in Arthure, before he was king, the image of a braue knight, perfected in the twelue priuate morall vertues, as Aristotle hath deuised, the which is the purpose of these first twelue bookes: which if I finde to be well accepted, I may be perhaps encoraged, to frame the other part of polliticke vertues in his person, after that hee came to be king. To some I know this Methode will seeme displeasaunt, which had rather haue good discipline deliuered plainly in way of pre
cepts, or sermoned at large, as they use, then thus clowdily enwrapped in Allegoricall deuises. But such, me seeme, should be satisfide with the vse of these dayes, seeing all things accounted by their showes, and nothing esteemed of, that is not delightfull and pleasing to commune sence. For this cause is Xenophon preferred before Plato, for that the one in the exquisite depth of his iudgement, formed a Commune welth such as it should be, but the other in the person of Cyrus and the Persians fashioned a gouernement such as might best be: So much more profitable and gratious is doctrine by ensample, then by rule. So haue I laboured to doe in the person of Arthure: whome I conceive after his long educa tion by Timon, to whom he was by Merlin deliuered to be brought up, so soone as he was borne of the Lady Igrayne, to haue seene in a dream or vision the Faery Queen, with whose excellent beauty rauished, he awaking resolued to seeke her out, and so being by Merlin armed, and by Timon throughly instructed, he went to seeke her forth in Faerye land. In that Faery Queene I meane glory in my generall intention, but in my particular I conceive the most excellent and glorious person of our soueraine the Queene, and her kingdome in Faery land. And yet in some places els, Idoe otherwise shadow her. For considering she beareth two persons, the one of a most royall Queene or Empresse, the other of a most vertuous and beautifull Lady, this latter part in some places I doe expresse in Belphabe, fashioning her name according to your owne excellent conceipt of Cynthia, (Phabe and Cynthia being both names of Diana.) So in the person of Prince Arthure I sette forth magnificence in particular, which vertue for that (according to Aristotle and the rest) it is the perfection of all the rest, and conteineth in it them all, therefore in the whole course I mention the deedes of Arthure applyable to that vertue, which I write of in that booke. But of the xii. other vertues, I make xii. other knights the patrones, for the more variety of the history: Of which these three bookes contayn three, The first of the knight of the Redcrosse, in whome I expresse Holynes: The seconde of Sir Guyon, in
he could not succeed in that enterprise, which being forthwith put vpon him with dewe furni tures thereunto, he seemed the goodliest man in al that company, and was well liked of the Lady. And eftesoones taking on him knighthood, and mounting on that straunge Courser, he went forth with her on that aduenture: where beginthe first booke, vz.
whome I sette forth Temperaunce: The third of Britomartis a Lady knight, in whome I picture Chastity. But because the beginning of the whole worke seemeth abrupte and as depending upon other antecedents, it needs that ye know the occasion of these three knights seuerall aduentures. For the Methode of a Poet historical is not such, as of an Historiographer. For an Historio-neth grapher discourseth of affayres orderly as they A gentle knight was pricking on the playne. &c. were donne, accounting as well the times as the actions, but a Poet thrusteth into the The second day ther came in a Palmer bearing middest, euen where it most concerneth him, an Infant with bloody hands, whose Parents he and there recoursing to the thinges forepaste, complained to haue bene slayn by an Enchaunand diuining of thinges to come, maketh a pleas-teresse called Acrasia: and therfore craued of ing Analysis of all. The beginning therefore of the Faery Queene, to appoint him some knight, my history, if it were to be told by an Historio- to performe that aduenture, which being assigned grapher, should be the twelfth booke, which is the to Sir Guyon, he presently went forth with that last, where I deuise that the Faery Queene kept same Palmer: which is the beginning of the her Annuall feaste xii. dayes, vppon which xii. second booke and the whole subiect thereof. The seuerall dayes, the occasions of the xii. seuerall third day there came in, a Groome who com aduentures hapned, which being undertaken by plained before the Faery Queene, that a vile Enxii. seuerall knights, are in these xii books seuer- chaunter called Busirane had in hand a most ally handled and discoursed. The first was this. faire Lady called Amoretta, whom he kept in most In the beginning of the feast, there presented him grieuous torment, because she would not yield selfe a tall clownishe younge man, who falling him the pleasure of her body. Whereupon Sir before the Queen of Faries desired a boone (as the Scudamour the louer of that Lady presently tooke manner then was) which during that feast she on him that aduenture. But being unable to per might not refuse: which was that hee might haue forme it by reason of the hard Enchantments, the atchieuement of any aduenture, which during after long sorrow, in the end met with Brito that feaste should happen, that being graunted, martis, who succoured him, and reskewed his he rested him on the floore, vnfitte through his rusticity for a better place. Soone after entred a faire Ladye in mourning weedes, riding on a white Asse, with a dwarfe behind her leading a warlike steed, that bore the Armes of a knight, and his speare in the dwarfes hand. Shee falling before the Queene of Faeries, complayned that her father and mother an ancient King and Queene, Thus much Sir, I haue briefly ouerronne to had bene by an huge dragon many years shut up direct your understanding to the wel-head of the in a brasen Castle, who thence suffred them not History, that from thence gathering the whole to yssew: and therefore besought the Faery intention of the conceit, ye may as in a handfull Queene to assygne her some one of her knights to gripe al the discourse, which otherwise may take on him that exployt. Presently that clownish happily seeme tedious and confused. So humbly person upstarting, desired that aduenture:crauing the continuaunce of your honorable whereat the Queene much wondering, and the fauour towards me, and th'eternall establishment Lady much gainesaying, yet he earnestly impor- of your happines, Í humbly take leaue. tuned his desire. In the end the Lady told him that vnlesse that armour which she brought, would serue him (that is the armour of a Christian man specified by Saint Paul v. Ephes.) that
But by occasion hereof, many other aduentures are intermedled, but rather as Accidents, then intendments. As the loue of Britomart, the ouer. throw of Marinell, the misery of Florimell, the vertuousnes of Belphabe, the lasciuiousnes of Hellenora, and many the like.
23. Ianuary. 1589. Yours most humbly affectionate. Ed. Spenser.
Behold her Princely mind aright, and write thy
Meane while she shall perceiue, how farre her
Aboue the reach of all that liue, or such as wrote of yore:
And thereby will excuse and fauour thy good will: Whose vertue can not be exprest, but by an Angels quill.
Of me no lines are lou'd, nor letters are of price,
Of all which speake our English tongue, but those of thy deuice.
To the learned Shepheard.
Ollyn I see by thy new taken taske, some sacred fury hath enricht thy braynes, That leades thy muse in haughtie verse to maske, and loath the layes that longs to lowly swaynes. That lifts thy notes from Shepheardes vnto kings,
So like the liuely Larke that mounting sings.
Thy louely Rosolinde seemes now forlorne,
and all thy gentle flockes forgotten quight, Thy changed hart now holdes thy types in scorne, those prety pypes that did thy mates delight. Those trustie mates, that loued thee so well, Whom thou gau'st mirth: as they gaue thee the
Alow and grace our Collyns flowing quill.
And fare befall that Faerie Queene of thine, in whose faire eyes loue linckt with vertue sits: Enfusing by those bewties fiers deuyne,
such high conceites into thy humble wits, As raised hath poore pastors oaten reede, From rusticke tunes, to chaunt heroique deedes. So mought thy Redcrosse knight with happy hand victorious be in that faire lands right: Which thou doest vaile in Type of Faery land Elyzas blessed field, that Albion hight. That shieldes her friends, and warres her mightie foes,
Yet still with people, peace, and plentie flowes.
Runst paying tribute to the Ocean seas,
Whose hand strowes Palme and neuer-dying bayes,
And deepe conceites now singes in Faeries deedes.
Raue Muses march in triumph and with
Hen stout Achilles
W And what revenges heard of Helens rape looke vpon a worke of rare deuise
Thinking by sleight the fatall warres to scape,
To seeme a shepeheard then he made his choice,
The which a workman setteth out to view,
I here pronounce this workmanship is such,
And when your tast shall tell you this is trew,
To the right honourable Sir Christopher Hatton,
'Hose prudent heads, that with theire counsels
So Maro oft did Casars cares allay.
So you great Lord, that with your counsell sway
With like delightes sometimes may eke delay,
Which for their titles sake may find more
To the right honourable the Lo. Burleigh Lo. high
To you right noble Lord, whose carefull brest
The burdein of this kingdomes gouernement,
The labor of lost time, and wit vnstayd:
And the dim vele, with which from comune vew
the Earle of Oxenford,
To the right Honourable
The ripe fruit of an vrd in
Which by thy countenaunce doth craue to bee
of England. &c.
And eke thine owne long liuing memory,
And also for the loue, which thou doest beare
That loues and honours thee, as doth behoue.