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Hereof this gentle Knight unweeting1 was;
And, lying downe upon the sandie graile,2
Dronke of the streame, as cleare as christall glas:
Eftsoones 3 his manly forces gan to fayle,
And mightie strong was turnd to feeble frayle.
His chaunged powres at first themselves not felt;
Till crudled cold his corage gan assayle,
And cheareful blood in fayntnes chill did melt, Which, like a fever fit, through all his bodie swelt.5
Yet goodly court he made still to his Dame,
Pourd out in loosnesse on the grassy grownd,
Both careless of his health, and of his fame:
Till at the last he heard a dreadfull sownd,
Which through the wood loud bellowing did rebownd,
That all the earth for terror seemd to shake,
And trees did tremble. Th' Elfe, therewith astownd, Upstarted lightly from his looser Make,
And his unready weapons gan in hand to take.
But ere he could his armour on him dight,
Or gett his shield, his monstrous enimy
With sturdie steps came stalking in his sight,
An hideous Geaunt, horrible and hye,
That with his tallnesse seemd to threat the skye;
The ground eke groned under him for dreed:
His living like saw never living eye,
Ne durst behold; his stature did exceed
The hight of three the tallest sonnes of mortall seed.
1 Unweeting, ignorant. Graile, gravel.
3 Eftsoones, immediately.
4 Crudled, congealed. • Swelt, caused a sensation of faintness. Make, companion.
The greatest Earth his uncouth mother was,
And blustring Æolus his boasted syre;
Who with his breath, which through the world doth pas,
Her hollow womb did secretly inspyre,
And fild her hidden caves with stormie yre,
That she conceiv'd; and trebling the dew time,
In which the wombes of wemen do expyre,'
Brought forth this monstrous masse of earthly slyme,
Puft up with emptie wynd, and fild with sinfull cryme.
So growen great, through arrogant delight
Of th' high descent whereof he was yborne,
And through presumption of his matchlesse might,
All other powres and knighthood he did scorne.
Such now he marcheth to this man forlorne,
And left to losse ; his stalking steps are stayde
Upon a snaggy 2 oke, which he had torne
Out of his mothers bowelles, and it made
His mortall mace, wherewith his foemen he dismayde.
That, when the Knight he spyde, he gan advaunce
With huge force and insupportable mayne,3
And towardes him with dreadfull fury praunce;
Who haplesse, and eke hopelesse, all in vaine
Did to him pace sad battaile to darrayne,4
Disarmd, disgraste,5 and inwardly dismayde;
And eke so faint in every ioynt and vayne,
Through that fraile fountain, which him feeble made,
That scarsely could he weeld his bootlesse single blade.
1 Expyre, bring forth.
2 Snaggy, knotted. 3 Mayne, strength.
4 Darrayne, prepare
Disgraste, enfeebled, or debauched.
The Geaunt strooke so maynly 1 mercilesse,
That could have overthrowne a stony towre;
And, were not hevenly grace that did him blesse,
He had beene pouldred 2 all, as thin as flowre:
But he was wary of that deadly stowre,3
And lightly lept from underneath the blow:
Yet so exceeding was the villeins powre,
That with the winde it did him overthrow,
And all his sences stoond, that still he lay full low.
As when that divelish yron engin, wrought
In deepest hell, and framd by Furies skill,
With windy nitre and quick sulphur fraught,
And ramd with bollet rownd, ordaind to kill,
Conceiveth fyre; the heavens it doth fill
With thundring noyse, and all the ayre doth choke,
That none can breath, nor see, nor heare at will,
Through smouldry cloud of duskish stincking smoke;
That th' only breath him daunts, who hath escapt the stroke.
So daunted when the Geaunt saw the Knight,
His heavie hand he heaved up on hye,
And him to dust thought to have battred quight,
Untill Duessa loud to him gan crye;
"O great Orgoglio, greatest under skye,
'Maynly, strongly. 2 Pouldred, beaten to powder. 3 Stowre, peril.
XII. 8. — It did him overthrow.] The knight, a prey to the seductions of Falsehood, and enervated by draughts from the fountain of Selfindulgence, becomes an easy conquest to his adversary.
XIV. 5. — Orgoglio.] Orgoglio is an Italian word, meaning Pride, or Arrogance.
O! hold thy mortall hand for Ladies sake;
Hold for my sake, and doe him not to dye,
But vanquisht thine eternall bondslave make,
And me, thy worthy meed, unto thy leman take.”
He hearkned, and did stay from further harmes,
To gayne so goodly guerdon as she spake :
So willingly she came into his armes,
Who her as willingly to grace did take,
And was possessed of his newfound Make.1
Then up he tooke the slombred sencelesse corse;
And, ere he could out of his swowne awake,
Him to his castle brought with hastie forse,
And in a dongeon deepe him threw without remorse.
From that day forth Duessa was his deare,
And highly honourd in his haughtie eye:
He gave her gold and purple pall to weare,
And triple crowne set on her head full hye,
And her endowd with royall maiestye:
Then, for to make her dreaded more of men,
And peoples hartes with awfull terror tye,
A monstrous Beast ybredd in filthy fen
He chose, which he had kept long time in darksome den.
1 Make, companion.
2 Tye, subdue.
To grace did take.] Received her into favor.
XVI. 1. — From that day forth, &c.] This description of Duessa and of the "monstrous Beast" is evidently suggested by the scarlet woman and the seven-headed dragon, in the Apocalypse; and from this circumstance and the triple crown the poet is supposed to typify the Romish church, and by the captivity of the knight, the subjection of the Christian church to the dominion of the pope.
Such one it was, as that renowmed snake
Which great Alcides in Stremona slew,
Long fostred in the filth of Lerna lake:
Whose many heades out-budding ever new
Did breed him endlesse labor to subdew.
But this same Monster much more ugly was;
For seven great heads out of his body grew,
An yron brest, and back of scaly bras,
And all embrewd in blood his eyes did shine as glas.
His tayle was stretched out in wondrous length,
That to the hous of hevenly gods it raught1;
And with extorted powre, and borrow'd strength,
The everburning lamps from thence it braught,
And prowdly threw to ground, as things of naught;
And underneath his filthy feet did tread
The sacred thinges, and holy heastes foretaught. Upon this dreadfull Beast with sevenfold head He sett the false Duessa, for more aw and dread.
The wofull Dwarfe, which saw his Maisters fall,
(Whiles he had keeping of his grasing steed,)
And valiant Knight become a caytive 2 thrall;
1 Raught, reached.
2 Caytive, captive.
XVII. 2. Stremona.] Stremona is probably Thrace, from the river Strymon, separating that country from Macedonia; but Lerna was in Argolis. There are frequent mistakes of this kind, arising, probably, from the fact that the poet wrote where he had not access to books of reference.
XVIII. 7.- Holy heastes foretaught.] The divine precepts previously taught and reverenced.