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His will she feard; for him she surely thought
To be a man, such as indeed he seemed;
And much the more, by that he lately wrought,
When her from deadly thraldome he redeemed,
For which no service she too much esteemed :
Yet dread of shame and doubt of fowle dishonor
Made her not yeeld so much as due she deemed.
Yet Britomart attended duly on her,
As well became a Knight, and did to her all honor.
It so befell one evening that they came
Unto a Castell, lodged there to bee,
Where many a Knight, and many a lovely Dame,
Was then assembled deedes of armes to see :
Amongst all which was none more faire then shee,
That many of them mov'd to eye her sore.
The custome of that place was such, that hee,
Which had no Love nor Lemman there in store,
Should either winne him one, or lye
ithout the dore.
Amongst the rest there was a jolly Knight,
Who, being asked for his Love, avow'd
That fairest Amoret was his by right,
And offred that to justifie alowd.
The warlike Virgine, seeing his so prowd
And boastfull chalenge, wexed inlie wroth,
But for the present did her anger shrowd;
And sayd, her Love to lose she was full loth,
But either he should neither of them have, or both.
So foorth they went, and both together giusted;
But that same younker soone was overthrowne, And made repent that he had rashly lusted For thing unlawfull that was not his owne : Yet since he seemed valiant, though unknowne, She, that no lesse was courteous then stout, Cast how to salve, that both the custome showne Were kept, and yet that Knight not locked out; That seem'd full hard t' accord two things so far in dout.
The Seneschall was cal'd to deeme the right;
Whom she requir'd, that first fayre Amoret
Might be to her allow'd, as to a Knight
That did her win and free from chalenge set:
Which straight to her was yeelded without let:
Then, since that strange Knights love from him was
She claim'd that to herselfe, as Ladies det,
He as a Knight might justly be admitted; So none should be out shut, sith all of Loves were fitted.
With that, her glistring helmet she unlaced;
Which doft, her golden lockes, that were upbound
Still in a knot, unto her heeles downe traced,
And like a silken veile in compasse round
About her backe and all her bodie wound:.
Like as the shining skie in Summers night,
What time the dayes with scorching heat abound,
Is creasted all with lines of firie light,
That it prodigious seemes in common peoples sight.
Such when those Knights and Ladies all about
Beheld her, all were with amazement smit,
And every one gan grow in secret dout
Of this and that, according to each wit:
Some thought that some enchantment faygned it;
Some, that Bellona in that warlike wise
To them appear'd, with shield and armour fit; Some, that it was a maske of strange disguise: So diversely each one did sundrie doubts devise.
But that young Knight, which through her gentle deed 15
Was to that goodly fellowship restor❜d,
Ten thousand thankes did yeeld her for her meed,
And, doubly overcommen, her ador'd:
So did they all their former strife accord;
And eke fayre Amoret, now freed from feare,
More franke affection did to her afford;
And to her bed, which she was wont forbeare,
Now freely drew, and found right safe assurance theare:
Where all that night they of their Loves did treat,
And hard adventures, twixt themselves alone,
That each the other gan with passion great
And griefull pittie privately bemone.
The morow next, so soone as Titan shone,
They both uprose and to their waies them dight:
Long wandred they, yet never met with one
That to their willes could them direct aright,
Or to them tydings tell that mote their harts delight.
Lo thus they rode, till at the last they spide
Two armed Knights that toward them did pace,
And ech of them had ryding by his side
A Ladie, seeming in so farre a space;
But Ladies none they were, albee in face
And outward shew faire semblance they did beare;
For under maske of beautie and good grace
Vile treason and fowle falshood hidden were,
That mote to none but to the warie wise appeare.
The one of them the false Duessa hight,
That now had chang'd her former wonted hew;
For she could d'on so manie shapes in sight,
As ever could Cameleon colours new;
So could she forge all colours, save the trew:
The other no whit better was then shee,
But that, such as she was, she plaine did shew,
Yet otherwise much worse, if worse might bee,
And dayly more offensive unto each degree:
Her name was Atè, mother of debate
And all dissention which doth dayly grow
Amongst fraile men, that many a publike state
And many a private oft doth overthrow.
Her false Duessa, who full well did know
To be most fit to trouble noble Knights
Which hunt for honor, raised from below
Out of the dwellings of the damned sprights,
Where she in darknes wastes her cursed daies and nights.
Hard by the gates of Hell her dwelling is;
There, whereas all the plagues and harmes abound
Which punish wicked men that walke amisse :
It is a darksome delve farre under ground,
With thornes and barren brakes environd round,
That none the same may easily out win;
Yet many waies to enter may be found,
But none to issue forth when one is in:
For discord harder is to end then to begin.
And all within, the riven walls were hung
With ragged monuments of times forepast,
All which the sad effects of discord sung:
There were rent robes and broken scepters plast;
Altars defyld, and holy things defast;
Disshivered speares, and shields ytorne in twaine;
Great Cities ransackt, and strong Castles rast;
Nations captíved, and huge armies slaine :
Of all which ruines there some relieks did remaine.
There was the signe of antique Babylon;
Of fatall Thebes; of Rome that raigned long;
Of sacred Salem; and sad Ilion,
For memorie of which on high there hong
The Golden Apple, cause of all their wrong,
For which the three faire goddesses did strive:
There also was the name of Nimrod strong;
Of Alexander, and his Princes five
Which shar'd to them the spoiles that he had got alive:
And there the relicks of the drunken fray,
The which amongst the Lapithees befell;
And of the bloodie feast, which sent away
So many Centaures drunken soules to hell,
That under great Alcides furie fell:
And of the dreadfull discord, which did drive
The noble Argonauts to outrage fell,
That each of life sought others to deprive,
All mindlesse of the Golden Fleece, which made them strive.
And eke of private persons many moe,
That were too long a worke to count them all; Some, of sworne friends that did their faith forgoe; Some, of borne brethren prov'd unnaturall ; Some, of deare Lovers foes perpetuall: Witnesse their broken bandes there to be seene, Their girlonds rent, their bowres despoyled all; The moniments whereof there byding beene, As plaine as at the first when they were fresh and greene.
Such was her House within; but all without,
The barren ground was full of wicked weedes, Which she herselfe had sowen all about, Now growen great, at first of little seedes, The seedes of evill wordes and factious deedes; Which, when to ripenesse due they growen arre, Bring forth an infinite increase that breedes Tumultuous trouble, and contentious jarre, The which most often end in bloudshed and in warre.
And those same cursed seedes doe also serve
To her for bread, and yeeld her living food:
For life it is to her, when others sterve
Through mischievous debate and deadly feood:
That she may sucke their life and drinke their blood,
With which she from her childhood had beene fed:
For she at first was borne of hellish brood,
And by infernall Furies nourished;
That by her monstrous shape might easily be red.
Her face most fowle and filthy was to see,
With squinted eyes contrárie wayes intended,
And loathly mouth, unmeete a mouth to bee,
That nought but gall and venim comprehended,
And wicked wordes that God and man offended:
Her lying tongue was in two parts divided,
And both the parts did speake, and both contended;
And as her tongue so was her hart descided,
That never thoght one thing, but doubly stil was guided.