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The Patron of true Holinesse
Foule Errour doth defeate;
Hypocrisie, him to entrappe,
Doth to his home entreate.
A GENTLE Knight was pricking on the plaine,
Ycladd1 in mightie armes and silver shielde,
Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine,
The cruel 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 2 knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
As one for knightly giusts3 and fierce encounters fitt.
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:
1 Ycladd, clad. 2 Iolly, handsome. 3 Giusts, tournaments.
I. 1. - A gentle Knight.] Spenser comes at once to the action of the poem, and describes the Red-cross knight as having already entered upon the adventure assigned him by the Faerie Queene, which was to slay the dragon which laid waste the kingdom of Una's father. The Red-cross knight is St. George, the patron saint of England, and represents holiness or Christian purity, and is clothed in the "whole armor of God," described by St. Paul in the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
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 1 did seeme too solemne sad;
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.2
Upon a great adventure he was bond,
That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
(That greatest glorious queene of Faerie 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.
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 whimpled 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.
So pure and innocent, as that same lambe,
She was in life and every vertuous lore;
And by descent from royall lynage came
Of ancient kinges and queenes, that had of yore
1 Cheere, air, or mien.
• Ydrad, dreaded.
3 Earne, yearn.
Whimpled, gathered, or plaited
Their scepters stretcht from east to westerne shore, And all the world in their subjection held; Till that infernal Feend with foule uprore Forwasted all their land, and them expeld; Whom to avenge, she had this Knight from far compeld.
Behind her farre away a Dwarfe did lag,
That lasie seemd, in being ever last,
Or wearied with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his backe. Thus as they past,
The day with cloudes was suddeine overcast,
And angry Iove an hideous storme of raine
Did poure into his lemans lap so fast,
That everie wight to shrowd it did constrain;
And this faire couple eke to shroud themselves were fain.'
Enforst to seeke some covert nigh at hand,
A shadie grove not farr away they spide,
That promist ayde the tempest to withstand;
Whose loftie trees, yclad with sommers pride,
Did spred so broad, that heavens light did hide,
Not perceable with power of any starr:
And all within were pathes and alleies wide,
With footing worne, and leading inward farr:
Faire harbour that them seems; so in they entred ar.
And foorth they passe, with pleasure forward led,
loying to heare the birdes sweete harmony,
Which, therein shrouded from the tempest dred,
Seemd in their song to scorne the cruell sky.
1 Fain, glad.
V. 8.- Forwasted.] Much wasted. The prefix for is an intensive, from the Saxon and German ver.
Much can they praise the trees so straight and hy,
The sayling pine; the cedar proud and tall;
The vine-propp elme; the poplar never dry;
The builder oake, sole king of forrests all;
The aspine good for staves; the cypresse funerall;
The laurell, meed of mightie conquerours
And poets sage; the firre that weepeth still;
The willow, worne of forlorne paramours;
The eugh, obedient to the benders will;
The birch for shaftes; the sallow for the mill;
The mirrhe sweete-bleeding in the bitter wound;
The warlike beech; the ash for nothing ill;
The fruitfull olive; and the platane round;
The carver holme; the maple seeldom inward sound.
Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Untill the blustring storme is overblowne;
When, weening to returne whence they did stray,
They cannot finde that path, which first was showne,
But wander too and fro in waies unknowne,
Furthest from end then, when they neerest weene,
That makes them doubt their wits be not their owne:
So many pathes, so many turnings seene,
That, which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.
At last resolving forward still to fare,
Till that some end they finde, or in or out,
That path they take, that beaten seemd most bare,
1 Eugh, yew.
VIII. 5.- Can they praise.] Much they praised. This form of expression is frequently used by Spenser. Some, however, consider 'can' to be put for 'gan,' or 'began.'
And like to lead the labyrinth about;
Which when by tract they hunted had throughout,
At length it brought them to a hollowe cave,
Amid the thickest woods. The Champion stout
Eftsoones dismounted from his courser brave,
And to the Dwarfe a while his needlesse spere he
"Be well aware," quoth then that Ladie milde,
"Least suddaine mischiefe ye too rash provoke:
The danger hid, the place unknowne and wilde,
Breedes dreadfull doubts: oft fire is without smoke,
And perill without show: therefore your stroke,
Sir Knight, with-hold, till further tryall made."
“Ah Ladie,” sayd he, "shame were to revoke
The forward footing for an hidden shade:
Vertue gives her selfe light through darknesse for to wade."
"Yea but," quoth she, "the perill of this place
I better wot then you: Though nowe too late
To wish you backe returne with foule disgrace,
Yet wisedome warnes, whilest foot is in the gate,
To stay the steppe, ere forced to retrate.
This is the wandring wood, this Errours den,
A monster vile, whom God and man does hate:
Therefore I read 2 beware." "Fly, fly," quoth then
The fearefull Dwarfe; "this is no place for living men.
But full of fire and greedy hardiment,3
The youthfull Knight could not for ought be staide;
Eftsoones, immediately. 2 Read, advise. 3 Hardiment, boldness.
Needlesse spere.] The spear was used only on horseback.
XII. 7.- Shame were to revoke, &c.] It were a shame to hesitate to go on, on account of a doubtful or hidden danger.