« PreviousContinue »
maketh a pleasing analysis of all. The beginning therefore of my historie, if it were to be told by an Historiographer, should be the twelfth booke, which is the last; where I devise that the Faery Queene kept her annuall feast twelve daies ; uppon which twelve severall dayes, the occasions of the twelve severall adventures hapned, which being undertaken by XII severall knights, are in these twelve books severally handled and discoursed.
The first was this. In the beginning of the feast, there presented him selfe a tall clownish younge man, who falling before the Queene of Faeries desired a boone (as the manner then was) which during that feast she might not refuse : which was that hee might have the atchievement of any adventure, which during that feast should happen ; that being granted, he rested him selfe on the floore, unfit through his rusticitie for a better place. Soone after entred a faire Ladie 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. She falling before the Queene of Faeries, complayned that her father and mother, an ancient King and Queene, had bene by an huge dragon many yeers shut up in a brazen Castle, who thence suffered them not to issew : and therefore besought the Faery Queene to assigne her some one of her knights to take on him that exployt. Presently that clownish person upstarting, desired that adventure ; whereat the Queene much wondering, and the Lady much gaine-saying, yet he earnestly importuned his desire. In the end the Lady told him, that unlesse that armour which she brought would serve him (that is, the armour of a Christian man specified by Saint Paul, V. Ephes.) that he could not succeed in that enterprise : which being forth with put upon him with due furnitures 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 adventure : where beginneth the first booke, viz.
A gentle knight was pricking on the playne, etc. The second day there came in a Palmer bearing an Infant with bloody hands, whose Parents he complained to have bene slaine by an enchauntresse called Acrasia : and therefore craved of the Faery Queene, to appoint him some knight to performe that adventure, which being assigned to Sir Guyon, he presently went foorth with the same Palmer : which is the beginning of the second booke and the whole subject thereof. The third day there came in a Groome, who complained before the Faery Queene, that a vile Enchaunter, called Busirane, had in hand a most faire Lady, called Amoretta, whom he kept in most grevious torment. Whereupon Sir Scudamour, the lover of that Lady, presently tooke on him that adventure. But beeing unable to performe it by reason of the hard Enchauntments, after long sorrow, in the end met with Britomartis, who succoured him, and reskewed his love.
But by occasion hereof, many other adventures are intermedled; but rather as accidents then intendments. As the love of Britomart, the overthrow of Marinell
, the miserie of Florimell, the vertuousness of Belphoebe ; and many the like.
Thus much, Sir, I have briefly-over-run to direct your understanding to the wel-head of the History, that from thence gathering the whole intention of the conceit, ye may as in a handfull gripe all the discourse, which otherwise may happely seem tedious and confused. So humbly craving the continuance of your honourable favour towards me, and th' eternall establishment of your happines, I humbly take leave. Yours most humbly affectionate,
EDM. SPENSER. 23 Januarie, 1589.
To the Right Noble and Valorous Knight,
SIR WALTER RALEIGH,
Lord Wardein of the Stanneryes, and Lieftenaunt of. Cornewaile
To thee that art the sommers Nightingale,
Thy soveraigne Goddesses most deare delight,
That may thy tunefull eare unseason quite ?
In whose high thoughts Pleasure hath built her bowre,
My rimes I know unsavory and sowre,
Flow from thy fruitfull head, of thy Loves praise ;
When so thee list thy loftie Muse to raise :
THE MOST HIGH, MIGHTIE, AND MAGNIFICENT
RENOWNED FOR PIETIE, VERTVE, AND ALL GRATIOVS GOVERNMENT
BY THE GRACE OF GOD
Queene of England, France, and Ireland, and of Virginia
Defender of the Faith etc.
HER MOST HUMBLE SERVAUNT
EDM VND SPENSER
DOTH IN ALL HUMILITIE
DEDICATE, PRESENT, AND CONSECRATE
THESE HIS LABOVRS
TO LIVE WITH THE ETERNITIE OF HER FAME.