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3 And thou most dreaded impe of highest Jove,

Faire Venus sonne, that with thy cruell dart
At that good knight so cunningly didst rove,
That glorious fire it kindled in his hart,
Lay now thy deadly heben bowe apart,
And with thy mother milde come to mine ayde;
Come both, and with you bring triumphant Mart,
In loves and gentle jollities arraid,
After his murdrous spoiles and bloudy rage allayd.

4 And with them eke, O Goddesse heavenly bright,

Mirrour of grace and Majestie divine,
Great Lady of the greatest Isle, whose light
Like Phoebus lampe throughout the world doth shine,
Shed thy faire beames into my feeble eyne,
And raise my thoughts, too humble and too vile,
To thinke of that true glorious type of thine,
The argument of mine afflicted stile:
The which to heare, vouchsafe, O dearest dread, a while.

coxes

CANTO 1.

The patron of true Holinesse

foule Errour doth defeate ; Hypocrisie bim to entrappe

doth to his bome entreate.

I A GENTLE Knight was pricking on the plaine,

Ycladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,
Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine,
The cruel markes of many a bloudy 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 jolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt.

2 And on his brest a bloudie 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:
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 did seeme too solemne sad;
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

3 Upon a great adventure he was bond,

That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
That greatest glorious Queene of Faery lond,
To winne him worshippe, and her grace to have,
Which of all earthly things he most did crave;
And ever as he rode, his hart did earne
To prove his puissance in battell brave
Upon his foe, and his new force to learne;
Upon his foe, a Dragon horrible and stearne.

4 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 wimpled was full low,
And over all a blacke stole she 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.

5 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 Kings and Queenes, that had of yore
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.

6 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 Jove 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.

7 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 starre:
And all within were pathes and alleies wide,
With footing worne, and leading inward farre :
Faire harbour that them seems; so in they entred arre,

8 And foorth they passe, with pleasure forward led,

Joying to heare the birdes sweete harmony,
Which therein shrouded from the tempest dred,
Seemd in their song to scorne the cruell sky.
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,

9 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 fruitful olive, and the platane round,
The carver holme, the maple seeldom inward sound.

10 Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,

Untill the blustring storme is overblowne;
When, weening to returne, whence they did stray,
They cannot find 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.

11 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,
And like to lead the labyrinth about;
Which when by tract they hunted had throughout,
At length it brought them to a hollow cave
Amid the thickest woods. The Champion stout
Eftsoones dismounted from his courser brave,
And to the Dwarfe awhile his needlesse spere he gave.

12 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, (said he,) shame were to revoke
The forward footing for an hidden shade:
Vertue gives her selfe light, through darkenesse for to wade.

13 Yea but (quoth she,) the perill of this place

I better wot then you, though now 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 beware. Fly fly (quoth then
The fearefull Dwarfe) this is no place for living men.

14 But, full of fire and greedy hardiment,

The youthfull knight could not for ought be staide,
But forth unto the darksome hole he went,
And looked in: his glistring armor made
A litle glooming light, much like a shade,
By which he saw the ugly monster plaine,
Halfe like a serpent horribly displaide,
But th' other halfe did womans shape retaine,
Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine.

15 And as she lay upon the durtie ground,

Her huge long taile her den all overspred,
Yet was in knots and many boughtes upwound,
Pointed with mortall sting. Of her there bred
A thousand yong ones, which she dayly fed,
Sucking upon her poisnous dugs, eachone
Of sundry shapes, yet all ill favored :
Soone as that uncouth light upon them shone,
Into her mouth they crept, and suddain all were gone.

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