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TO THE MOST HIGH MIGHTIE AND MAGNIFICENT
RENOWMED FOR PIETIE VERTVE AND ALL
BY THE GRACE OF GOD QVEENE OF ENGLAND
FRAVNCE AND IRELAND AND OF VIRGINIA
DEFENDOVR OF THE FAITH &c.
HER MOST HUMBLE SERVAUNT
DOTH IN ALL HUMILITIE
DEDICATE PRESENT AND CONSECRATE
THESE HIS LABOVRS
TO LIVE WITH THE ETERNITIE OF HER FAME.
A LETTER OF THE AUTHOR'S,
EXPOUNDING HIS WHOLE INTENTION IN THE COURSE OF THIS WORKE; WHICH, FOR THAT IT GIVETH GREAT LIGHT TO THE READER, FOR THE BETTER UNDERSTANDING IS HEREUNTO ANNEXED.
SIR, knowing how doubtfully all Allegories may be construed, and this Booke of mine, which I have entituled "The Faery Queene," being a continued Allegory, or darke Conceit, I have thought good as well for avoyding of gealous opinions and misconstructions, as also for your better light in reading thereof, (being so by you commanded,) to discover unto you the general intention and meaning, which in the whole course thereof I have fashioned, without expressing of any particular purposes, or by-accidents, therein occasioned. The general end therefore of all the Booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline: which for that I conceived shoulde be most plau
sible and pleasing, being coloured with an historical fiction, the which the most part of men delight to read, rather for variety of matter then for profite of the ensample, I chose the Historye of King Arthure, as most fitte for the excellency of his person, being made famous by many mens former workes, and also furthest from the daunger of envy, and suspition of present time. In which I have followed all the antique poets historicall; first Homere, who in the persons of Agamemnon and Ulysses hath ensampled a good governour and a vertuous man, the one in his Ilias, the other in his Odysseis; then Virgil, whose like intention was to doe in the person of Æneas; after him Ariosto comprised them both in his Orlando; and lately Tasso dissevered them again, and formed both parts in two persons, namely that part which they in philosophy call Ethice, or vertues of a private man, coloured in his Rinaldo; the other named Politice in his Godfredo. By ensample of which excellente poets, I labour to pourtraict in Arthure, before he was king, the image of a brave Knight, perfected in the twelve private Morall Vertues, as Aristotle hath devised; the which is the purpose of these first twelve bookes: which if I finde to be well accepted, I may be perhaps encoraged to frame the other part of Polliticke Vertues in his person, after that hee came to be king. To some I know this methode will seem displeasaunt, which had rather have good discipline delivered plainly in way of precepts, or sermoned at large, as they use, then thus clowdily enwrapped in allegorical devises. But such, me seeme, should be satisfide with the use of these days, seeing all things accounted by their showes, and nothing esteemed of, that is not delightfull and pleasing to commune sence. For this cause is Xenophon preferred before Plato, for that the one, in the exquisite depth of his iudgement, formed a communewelth, such as it should be;
but the other in the person of Cyrus, and the Persians, fashioned a government, such as might best be; so much more profitable and gratious is doctrine by ensample, then by rule. So have I laboured to do in the person of Arthure: whom I conceive, after his long education by Timon, to whom he was by Merlin delivered to be brought up, so soone as he was borne of the Lady Igrayne, to have seene in a dream or vision the Faery Queene, with whose excellent beauty ravished, he awaking resolved to seeke her out; and so being by Merlin armed, and by Timon throughly instructed, he went to seeke her forth in Faerye land. In that Faery Queene I meane Glory in my generall intention, but in my particular I conceive the most excellent and glorious person of our soveraine the Queene, and her kingdom in Faery Land. And yet, in some places els, I do otherwise shadow her. For considering she beareth two persons, the one of a most royal Queene or Empress, the other of a most vertuous and beautifull Lady, this latter part in some places I doe express in Belphœbe, fashioning her name according to your owne excellent conceipt of Cynthia : Phoebe and Cynthia being both names of Diana. So in the person of Prince Arthure I sette forth Magnificence in particular; which Vertue, for that (according to Aristotle and the rest) it is the perfection of all the rest, and conteineth in it them all, therefore in the whole course I mention the deeds of Arthure applyable to that Vertue, which I write of in that Booke. But of the xii. other Vertues, I make xii. other Knights the patrones, for the more variety of the history Of which these three Bookes contayn three.
The first of the Knight of the Redcrosse, in whom I expresse Holynes: The seconde of Sir Guyon, in whome I sette forth Temperaunce: The third of Britomartis a Lady Knight, in whome I picture Chastity. But, because the be