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52 Which whenas Una saw, through every vaine
The crudled cold ran to her well of life,
As in a swoone: but soone reliv'd againe,
Out of his hand she snatcht the cursed knife,
And threw it to the ground, enraged rife,
And to him said; Fie, fie, faint harted knight,
What meanest thou by this reprochfull strife ?
Is this the battell, which thou vauntst to fight
With that fire-mouthed dragon, horrible and bright?
53 Come, come away, fraile, feeble, fleshly wight,
Ne let vaine words bewitch thy manly hart,
Ne divelish thoughts dismay thy constant spright.
In heavenly mercies hast thou not a part?
Why shouldst thou then despeire, that chosen art?
Where justice growes, there grows eke greater grace,
The which doth quench the brond of hellish smart,
And that accurst hand-writing doth deface. Arise, sir knight, arise, and leave this cursed place. 54 So up he rose, and thence amounted streight.
Which when the carle beheld, and saw his guest
Would safe depart, for all his subtill sleight,
He chose an halter from among the rest,
And with it hung him selfe, unbid, unblest.
But death he could not worke himselfe thereby;
For thousand times he so himselfe had drest,
Yet nathelesse it could not doe him die,
Till he should die his last, that is eternally.
Her faithfull knight faire Una brings
to house of Holinesse,
Where he is taught repentance, and
the way to heavenly blesse.
1 What man is he, that boasts of fleshly might
And vaine assurance of mortality,
Which, all so soone as it doth come to fight
Against spirituall foes, yields by and by,
Or from the field most cowardly doth fly?
Ne let the man ascribe it to his skill,
That thorough grace hath gained victory.
If any strength we have, it is to ill,
But all the good is Gods, both power and eke will.
2 By that, which lately hapned, Una saw
That this her knight was feeble, and too faint;
And all his sinews woxen weake and raw,
Through long enprisonment, and hard constraint,
Which he endured in his late restraint,
That yet he was unfit for bloody fight :
Therefore to cherish him with diets daint,
She cast to bring him, where he chearen might,
Till he recovered had his late decayed plight.
3 There was an auncient house not far away,
Renowmd throughout the world for sacred lore,
And pure unspotted life: so well, they say
It governd was, and guided evermore,
Through wisedome of a matrone grave and hore;
Whose onely joy was to relieve the needes
Of wretched soules, and helpe the helpelesse pore:
All night she spent in bidding of her bedes,
And all the day in doing good and godly deedes.
4 Dame Caelia men did her call, as thought
From heaven to come, or thither to arise;
The mother of three daughters, well upbrought
In goodly thewes, and godly exercise :
The eldest two, most sober, chast, and wise,
Fidelia and Speranza virgins were
Though spousd, yet wanting wedlocks solemnize;
But faire Charissa to a lovely fere
Was lincked, and by him had many pledges dere.
5 Arrived there, the dore they find fast lockt;
For it was warely watched night and day,
For feare of many foes: but when they knockt,
The porter opened unto them streight way.
He was an aged syre, all hory gray,
With lookes full lowly cast, and gate full slow,
Wont on a staffe his feeble steps to stay,
Hight Humiltà. They passe in, stouping low;
For streight and narrow was the way which he did show.
6 Each goodly thing is hardest to begin;
But, entred in, a spacious court they see,
Both plaine, and pleasaunt to be walked in;
Where them does meete a francklin faire and free,
And entertaines with comely courteous glee;
His name was Zele, that him right well became;
For in his speeches and behaviour hee
Did labour lively to expresse the same, And gladly did them guide, till to the hall they came. 7 There fairely them receives a gentle squire,
Of milde demeanure and rare courtesie,
Right cleanly clad in comely sad attire;
In word and deede that shew'd great modestie,
And knew his good to all of each degree,
Hight Reverence. He them with speeches meet
Does faire entreat; no courting nicetie,
But simple true, and eke unfained sweet,
As might become a squire so great persons to greet.
8 And afterwards them to his dame he leades,
That aged dame, the lady of the place,
Who all this while was busy at her beades :
Which doen, she up arose with seemely grace,
And toward them full matronely did pace.
Where when that fairest Una she beheld,
hom well she knew to spring from heavenly race, Her heart with joy unwonted inly sweld, As feeling wondrous comfort in her weaker eld.
9 And her embracing said, 0 happy earth,
Whereon thy innocent feet doe ever tread,
Most vertuous virgin borne of heavenly berth,
That, to redeeme thy woefull parents head
From tyrans rage and ever-dying dread,
Hast wandred through the world now long a day,
Yet ceasest not thy weary soles to lead ;
What grace hath thee now hither brought this way? Or doen thy feeble feet unweeting hither stray ? 10 Strange thing it is an errant knight to see
Here in this place, or any other wight,
That hither turnes his steps. So few there bee
That chose the narrow path, or seeke the right :
All keepe the broad high way, and take delight
rather for to go astray,
And be partakers of their evill plight,
Then with a few to walke the rightest way;
O foolish men, why haste ye to your owne decay?
11 Thy selfe to see, and tyred limbes to rest,
O matrone sage (quoth she) I hither came;
And this good knight his way with me addrest,
Led with thy prayses, and broad-blazed fame,
That up to heaven is blowne. The auncient dame
Him goodly greeted in her modest guise,
And entertaynd them both, as best became,
With all the court’sies that she could devise,
Ne wanted ought to shew her bounteous or wise.
12 Thus as they gan of sundry things devise,
Loe two most goodly virgins came in place,
Alinked arme in arme in lovely wise,
With countenance demure, and modest grace,
They numbred even steps and equall pace :
Of which the eldest, that Fidelia hight,
Like sunny beames threw from her christall face
That could have dazd the rash beholders sight,
And round about her head did shine like heavens light,
13 She was araied all in lilly white,
And in her right hand bore a cup of gold,
With wine and water fild up to the hight,
In which a serpent did himselfe enfold,
That horrour made to all that did behold;
But she no whit did chaunge her constant mood:
And in her other hand she fast did hold
A booke, that was both signd and seald with blood : Wherein darke things were writ, hard to be understood.
14 Her younger sister, that Speranza hight,
Was clad in blew, that her beseemed well;
Not all so chearefull seemed she of sight,
As was her sister; whether dread did dwell,
Or anguish in her hart, is hard to tell :
Upon her arme a silver anchor lay,
Whereon she leaned ever, as befell:
And ever up to heaven, as she did pray,
Her stedfast eyes were bent, ne swarved other way.
15 They, seeing Una, towards her gan wend,
Who them encounters with like courtesie;
Many kind speeches they betweene them spend,
And greatly joy each other well to see :
Then to the knight with shamefast modestie
They turne themselves, at Unaes meeke request,
And him salute with well beseeming glee;
Who faire them quites, as him beseemed best,
And goodly gan discourse of many a noble gest.