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THE FIRST BOOKE

OF

THE FAERIE QUEENE,

CONTAYNING

THE LEGEND OF THE KNIGHT OF THE RED CROSSE, OR

OF HOLINESSE.

i Lo! I, the man whose Muse whylome did maske,

As time her taught, in lowly shephards weeds,
Am now enforst, a farre unfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine oaten reeds,
And sing of knights and ladies gentle deeds;
Whose praises having slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds 2

To blazon broade emongst her learned throng: Fierce warres and faithfull loves shall moralize my

song

2 Helpe then, O holy virgin, chiefe of nyne, Thy weaker novice to performe thy will ; Lay forth out of thine everlasting scryne

3

1 tl'eeds, clothes.

2 Areeds, counsels, incites. 8 Scryne, box for books or papers (scrinium).

The antique rolles, which there lye hidden still,
Of Faerie knights, and fayrest Tanaquill 1
Whom that most noble Briton Prince so long
Sought through the world, and suffered so much ill,

That I must rue his undeserved wrong:
O, helpe thou my weake wit, and sharpen my dull tong!

3

3 And thou, most dreaded impe2 of highest Iove,

Faire Venus sonne, that with thy cruell dart
At that good knight so cunningly didst rove,
That glorious fire it kindled in his hart ;
Lay now thy deadly heben 4 bowe apart,
And, with thy mother mylde, come to mine ayde;
Come, both; and with you bring triumphant Mart,

In loves and gentle iollities arraid,
After his murdrous spoyles and bloudie rage allayd.

4 And with them eke, O Goddesse heavenly bright,

Mirrour of grace, and maiestie divine,
Great Ladie of the greatest Isle, whose light
Like Phoebus lampe throughout the world doth

shine,
Shed thy faire beames into my

feeble

eyne, And raise my thoughtes, too humble and too vile, To thinke of that true glorious type of thine,

The argument of mine afflicted 5 stile: The which to heare vouchsafe, 0 dearest Dread, a CANTO I.

while.

1 Tanaquill is another name for Gloriana, the Faerie Queene. 2 Impe, child. 3 Rove, shoot.

5 Aflicted, low, or humble. 4 Heben, ebony.

6 Dread, object of reverence.

The Patrone of true Holinesse

Foule Errour doth defeate;
Hypocrisie, him to entrappe,

Doth to his home entreate.

1 A GENTLE Knight was pricking on the plaine,
Ycladd 1 in mightie armes and silver shielde,
Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine,
The cruell markes of many a bloody 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 iolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
As one for knightly giusts 2 and fierce encounters fitt.

1 Ycladd, clad.

2 Giusts, jousts, tournaments.

I. 5.

Yet armes till that time did he never wield.] St. George, the hero of this legend, though of royal Saxon blood, had been brought up as a ploughman, having been stolen away in his infancy by a fairy. (Canto X. 65, 66.) When come to the age of man, he presented himself, "a tall, clownish young man,” at the court of the Fairy Queen, and desired the achievement of some adventure. The first which offered itself was that of the dragon, but his rustic appearance was made an objection to his attempting such an exploit, and he was required, as a test of his fitness, to try on a suit of armor, -- the “whole armor" of a Christian soldier, described by Paul in the sixth chapter of the Ephesians. Having successfully undergone this probation, he was accepted, and, immediately taking on him the vows of knighthood, set forth on his enterprise. See pp. 8, 9. C.

2 And on his brest a bloodie 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.?

3 Upon a great adventure he was bond,
That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
That greatest glorious queene of Faery lond,
To winne him worshippe, and her grace to have,
Which of all earthly thinges he most did crave :
And ever, as he rode, his hart did earne 3
To prove his puissance in battell brave

Upon his foe, and his new force to learne;
Upon his foe, a Dragon horrible and stearne.

4 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 4 was full low;
And over all a blacke stole shee did throw :
As one that inly mournd, so was she sad,
And heavie sate upon her palfrey slow;

Seemed in heart some hidden care she had ; And by her in a line a milke-white lambe she lad.

1 Cheere, countenance.
2 Ydrad, dreaded.

3 Earne, yearn.
4 Wimpled, drawn about her.

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