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THE FIFTH BOOKE
THE FAERIE QUEENE,
THE LEGEND OF Artegall, or of iustice.
1 So oft as I with state of present time The image of the antique world compare, as mans age was in his freshest prime, And the first blossome of faire vertue bare; Such oddes I finde twixt those, and these which are, As that, through long continuance of his course, seemes the world is runne quite out of square From the first point of his appointed sourse; And, being once amisse, growes daily wourse and
For from the golden age, that first was named,
And men themselves, the which at first were framed
Of earthly mould, and form'd of flesh and bone,
1 I. e. at length.
Are now transformed into hardest stone; Such as behind their backs (so backward bred) Were throwne by Pyrrha and Deucalione: And if then those may any worse be red, They into that ere long will be degendered.
3 Let none then blame me, if, in discipline Of vertue and of civill uses lore,
I doe not forme them to the common line
And all men sought their owne, and none no more; When Iustice was not for most meed out-hyred, But simple Truth did rayne, and was of all admyred
4 For that which all men then did vertue call,
Is wandred farre from where it first was pight,2
Of all this lower world toward his dissolution.
For whoso list into the heavens looke,
1 Use, custom.
2 Pight, placed.
V. 1. For whoso list, &c.] In this and the succeeding stanza, the effects of the precession of the equinoxes are correctly stated.
Shall find that from the point where they first tooke Their setting forth, in these few thousand yeares They all are wandred much; that plaine appeares; For that same golden fleecy Ram, which bore Phrixus and Helle from their stepdames feares, Hath now forgot where he was plast of yore, And shouldred hath the Bull which fayre Europa
6 And eke the Bull hath with his bow-bent horne
So hardly butted those two Twinnes of love, That they have crusht the Crab, and quite him borne
Into the great Nemean Lions grove.
So now all range, and doe at randon rove
Out of their proper places farre away,
7 Ne is that same great glorious lampe of light,
In better case, ne keepes his course more right,
The points where the ecliptic cuts the equator have a retrograde motion from east to west of about fifty seconds in a year. The equinoctial points were first fixed in the time of Hipparchus, since which time they have gone back nearly thirty degrees, which is the space occupied by each sign in the zodiac, so that the sun is now in the constellation Aries at the period of the year when he was formerly in Taurus, in Taurus when ne was formerly in Gemini, &c. H.
For since the terme of fourteene hundred yeres, That learned Ptolomae his hight did take, He is declyned from that marke of theirs Nigh thirtie minutes to the southerne lake; That makes me feare in time he will us quite forsake
■ And if to those Ægyptian wisards old
(Which in star-read' were wont have best insight) Faith may be given, it is by them told
That since the time they first tooke the sunnes hight,
Foure times his place he shifted hath in sight,
And next to him old Saturne, that was wont be best.
For during Saturnes ancient raigne it's sayd
1 Star-read, knowledge of the stars.
VII. 8.- · Nigh thirtie minutes, &c.] This refers to the diminution of the obliquity of the ecliptie, by which the sun recedes from the pole, and approaches the equator. The quantity of this diminution, however, is incorrectly stated, and it is probable that "thirtie" is a misprint for thirteen, which was very nearly the exact amount in Spenser's time. H.
VIII. 5. Foure times, &c.] Herodotus states that the priests of Egypt informed him that the sun had, during the space of eleven thousand three hundred and forty years, four times altered his regular course, having been twice observed to rise where he now sets, and to go down twice where he now rises. H.
Of force, ne fraud in wight was to be found; No warre was knowne, no dreadfull trompets sound;
Peace universall rayn'd mongst men and beasts: And all things freely grew out of the ground: Iustice sate high udor'd with solemne feasts, And to all people did divide her dred beheasts;
10 Most sacred Vertue she of all the rest,
Resembling God in his imperiall might ;
11 Dread soverayne Goddesse, that doest highest si
A3 thy great iustice praysed over all;
1 Bedight, arranged, ordered.
2 Read, subject.
XI. 1.- Dread soverayne Goddesse, &c.] Addressed to Queen Elizabeth. H.