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  • Title: Faerie Queene (Selection)
  • Author: Edmund Spenser
  • Editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Editor: Michael Best
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    Faerie Queene (Selection)

    From The Faerie Queene, Book 2, Canto X
    1A chronicle of Briton kings
    From Brute to Uther's reign,
    And rolls of elfin emperors,
    Till time of Gloriane.
    5Who now shall give unto me words and sound
    Equal unto this haughty enterprise?
    Or who shall lend me wings, with which from ground
    Lowly verse may loftily arise
    And lift itself unto the highest skies?
    10More ample spirit than hitherto was wont
    Here needs me, whiles the famous ancestries
    Of my most dreaded Sovereign I recount,
    By which all earthly princes she doth far surmount.
    Ne under sun, that shines so wide and fair,
    15Whence all that lives does borrow life and light,
    Lives aught that to her lineage may compare,
    Which though from earth it be derivèd right,
    Yet doth itself stretch forth to heavens height,
    And all the world with wonder overspread;
    20A labor huge, exceeding far my might.
    How shall frail pen, with fear disparagèd,
    Conceive such sovereign glory and great bountihood?
    Argument worthy of Mœonian quill,
    Or rather worthy of great Phoebus' rote,
    25Whereon the ruins of great Ossa hill,
    And triumphs of Phlegræan Jove he wrote,
    That all the Gods admired his lofty note.
    But if some relish of that heavenly lay
    His learnèd daughters would to me report,
    30To deck my song withal I would assay,
    Thy name, ô sovereign Queen, to blazon far away.
    Thy name, ô sovereign Queen, thy realm and race,
    From this renownèd prince derivèd are,
    Who mightily upheld that royal mace
    35Which now thou bear'st, to thee descended far
    From mighty kings and conquerors in war;
    Thy fathers and great-grandfathers of old,
    Whose noble deeds above the northern star
    Immortal fame forever hath enrolled,
    40As in that old man's book they were in order told.
    [The earliest years of Britain]
    The land, which warlike Britons now possess
    And therein have their mighty empire raised,
    In antique times was savage wilderness,
    Unpeopled, unmanured, unproved, unpraised,
    45Ne was it island then, ne was it paysed
    Amid the ocean waves, ne was it sought
    Of merchants far for profits therein 'praised,
    But was all desolate, and of some thought
    By sea to have been from the Celtic mainland brought.
    50Ne did it then deserve a name to have,
    Till that the venturous mariner that way
    Learning his ship from those white rocks to save,
    Which all along the southern sea-coast lay
    Threatening unheedy wreck and rash decay,
    55For safety's sake that same his sea-mark made,
    And named it Albion. But later day,
    Finding in it fit ports for fishers' trade,
    'Gan more the same frequent, and further to invade.
    But far inland a savage nation dwelt,
    60Of hideous giants and half beastly men
    That never tasted grace, nor goodness felt,
    But like wild beasts lurking in loathsome den,
    And flying fast as roebuck through the fen,
    All naked without shame or care of cold,
    65By hunting and by spoiling livèd then;
    Of stature huge, and eke of courage bold,
    That sons of men amazed their sternness to behold.
    But whence they sprung, or how they were begot,
    Uneath is to assure; uneath to wene
    70That monstrous error, which doth some assot,
    That Dioclesian's fifty daughters shene
    Into this land by chance have driven been,
    Where companing with fiends and filthy sprites
    Through vain illusion, of their lust unclean,
    75They brought forth giants and such dreadful wights
    As far exceeded men in their immeasured mights.
    [Brute (Brutus) arrives on the island]
    They held this land, and with their filthiness
    Polluted this same gentle soil long time
    That their own mother loathed their beastliness,
    80And 'gan abhor her brood's unkindly crime,
    All were they born of her own native slime;
    Until that Brutus, anciently derived
    From royal stock of old Assarac's line,
    Driven by fatal error, here arrived,
    85And them of their unjust possession deprived.
    But ere he had establishèd his throne,
    And spread his empire to the utmost shore,
    He fought great battles with his savage fone
    In which he them defeated evermore,
    90And many giants left on groaning floor;
    That well can witness yet unto this day
    The western Hogh, besprinkled with the gore
    Of mighty Göemot, whom in stout fray
    Corineus conquered, and cruelly did slay.
    . . .
    95Thus Brute this realm unto his rule subdued,
    And reignèd long in great felicity;
    Loved of his friends, and of his foes eschewed,
    He left three sons, his famous progeny,
    Born of fair Inogene of Italy;
    100'Mongst whom he parted his imperial state,
    And Locrine left chief Lord of Brittay.
    At last ripe age bade him surrender late
    His life, and long good fortune unto final fate.
    Locrine was left the sovereign lord of all;
    105But Albanact had all the northern part,
    Which of himself Albania he did call;
    And Camber did possess the western quart,
    Which Severn now from Logris doth depart;
    And each his portion peaceably enjoyed,
    110Ne was there outward breach nor grudge in heart
    That once their quiet government annoyed,
    But each his pains to others profit still employed.
    [Spenser then lists further kings, up to the time of Bladud, Leyr's predecessor.]
    Next him King Leyr in happy peace long reigned,
    115But had no issue male him to succeed,
    But three fair daughters which were well up-trained,
    In all that seemèd fit for kingly seed;
    'Mongst whom his realm he equally decreed
    To have divided. Tho when feeble age
    120Nigh to his utmost date he saw proceed,
    He called his daughters, and with speeches sage
    Inquired which of them most did love her parentage.
    The eldest, Gonorill, 'gan to protest
    That she much more than her own life him loved;
    125And Regan greater love to him professed
    Than all the world, whenever it were proved;
    But Cordelia said she loved him, as behooved;
    Whose simple answer, wanting colors fair
    To paint it forth, him to displeasance moved,
    130That in his crown he counted her no heir
    But twixt the other twain his kingdom whole did share.
    So wedded th'one to Maglan king of Scots,
    And th'other to the king of Cambria,
    And twixt them shared his realm by equal lots;
    135But without dower the wise Cordelia
    Was sent to Aganip of Celtica.
    Their agèd sire, thus easèd of his crown,
    A private life led in Albania
    With Gonorill, long had in great renown,
    140That naught him grieved to been from rule deposèd down.
    But true it is, that when the oil is spent
    The light goes out and wick is thrown away;
    So when he had resigned his regiment,
    His daughter 'gan despise his drooping day,
    145And weary wax of his continual stay.
    Tho to his daughter Regan he repaired,
    Who him at first well usèd every way;
    But when of his departure she despaired,
    Her bounty she abated, and his cheer impaired.
    150The wretched man 'gan then avise too late,
    That love is not where most it is professed;
    Too truly tried in his extremest state,
    At last resolved likewise to prove the rest,
    He to Cordelia himself addressed,
    155Who with entire affection him received
    As for her sire and king her seemèd best;
    And after all an army strong she leaved,
    To war on those which him had of his realm bereaved.
    So to his crown she him restored again,
    160In which he died, made ripe for death by eld,
    And after willed it should to her remain,
    Who peaceably the same long time did weld;
    And all men's hearts in due obedience held
    Till that her sister's children, waxen strong
    165Through proud ambition, against her rebelled,
    And, overcome, kept in prison long
    Till weary of that wretched life, herself she hung.
    [Further kings, to the time of Gorboduc and his sons Ferrex and Porrex, all ending up one way or another in civil wars]
    Then 'gan the bloody brethren both to reign;
    But fierce Cundah 'gan shortly to envy
    170His brother Morgan, pricked with proud disdain
    To have a peer in part of sovereignty,
    And kindling coals of cruel enmity,
    Raised war, and him in battle overthrew;
    Whence as he to those woody hills did fly,
    175Which hight of him Glamorgan, there him slew.
    Then did he reign alone, when he none equal knew.
    His son Rivallo his dead room did supply,
    In whose sad time blood did from heaven rain;
    Next great Gurgustus, then faire Cæcily
    180In constant peace their kingdom did contain,
    After whom Lago, and Kinmarke did reign,
    And Gorbogud, till far in years he grew;
    Then his ambitious sons unto them twain
    Arraught the rule, and from their father drew,
    185Stout Ferrex and stern Porrex him in prison threw.
    But O, the greedy thirst of royal crown
    That knows no kindred, nor regards no right,
    Stirred Porrex up to put his brother down;
    Who, unto him assembling foreign might,
    190Made war on him, and fell himself in fight;
    Whose death t'avenge, his mother merciless,
    Most merciless of women, Wyden hight,
    Her other son fast sleeping, did oppress
    And with most cruel hand him murdered pitiless.
    195Here ended Brutus' sacred progeny,
    Which had seven hundred years this scepter borne
    With high renown and great felicity.
    The noble branch from th'antique stock was torn
    Through discord, and the royal throne forlorn.
    200Thenceforth this realm was into factions rent
    Whilst each of Brutus boasted to be born,
    That in the end was left no monument
    Of Brutus, nor of Briton's glory ancient.