Page images

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 sat 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 infernall feend with foule uprore

Forwasted all their land, and them expeld;
Whom to avenge, she had this knight from far compeid.

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-prop 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,
Th 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 wayes 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 triall 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 ser nt 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.

16 Their dam upstart, out of her den effraide,

And rushed forth, hurling her hideous taile
About her cursed head, whose folds displaid
Were stretcht now forth at length without entraile.
She lookt about, and seing one in mayle,
Armed to point, sought backe to turne againe ;
For light she hated as the deadly bale,

Ay wont in desert darknes to remaine, Where plain none might her see, nor she see any plaine. 17 Which when the valiant Elfe perceiv'd, he lept

As lyon fierce upon the flying pray,
And with his trenchand blade her boldly kept
From turning backe, and forced her to stay:
Therewith enrag'd she loudly gan to bray,
And turning fierce, her speckled taile advaunst,
Threatning her angry sting, him to dismay:

Who nought aghast his mightie hand enhaunst:
The stroke down from her head unto her shoulder glaunst.

18 Much daunted with that dint her sence was dazd;

Yet kindling rage, her selfe she gathered round,
And all attonce her beastly body raizd
With doubled forces high above the ground:
Tho wrapping up her wrethed sterne arownd,
Lept fierce upon his shield, and her huge traine
All suddenly about his body wound,

That hand or foot to stirre he strove in vaine :
God helpe the man so wrapt in Errours endlesse traine.

19 His lady sad to see his sore constraint,

Cride out, Now now Sir knight, shew what-ye bee,
Add faith unto your force, and be not faint:
Strangle her, else she sure will strangle thee.
That when he heard, in great perplexitie,
His gall did grate for griefe and high disdaine,
And knitting all his force got one hand free,

Wherewith he grypt her gorge with so great paine, That soone to loose her wicked bands did her constraine. 20 Therewith she spewd out of her filthy maw

A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,
Full of great lumps of flesh and gobbets raw,
Which stunck so vildly, that it forst him slacke
His grasping hold, and from her turne him backe:
Her vomit full of bookes and papers was,
With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke,

And creeping sought way in the weedy gras: ller filthy parbreake all the place defiled has.

21 As when old father Nilus gins to swell

With timely pride above the Aegyptian vale,
His fattie waves do fertile slime outwell,
And overflow each plaine and lowly dale :
But, when his later spring gins to avale,
Huge heapes of mudd he leaves, wherin there breed
Ten thousand kindes of creatures, partly male

And partly female, of his fruitful seed;
Such ugly monstrous shapes elswhere may no man reed.

22 The same so sore annoyed has the knight,

That welnigh choked with the deadly stinke,
His forces faile, ne can no lenger fight.
Whose corage when the feend perceiv'd to shrinke,
She poured forth out of her hellish sinke
Her fruitfull cursed spawne of serpents small,
Deformed monsters, fowle, and blacke as inke,

Which swarming all about his legs did crall,
And him encombred sore, but could not hurt at all,

23 As gentle shepheard in sweete even-tide,

When ruddy Phoebus gins to welke in west,
High on an hill, his flocke to vewen wide,
Markes which doe byte their hasty supper best,
A cloud of combrous gnattes doe him molest,
All striving to infixe their feeble stinges,
That from their noyance he no where can rest,

But with his clownish hands their tender wings
He brusheth oft, and oft doth mar their murmurings.

« PreviousContinue »