THE MOST HIGH, MIGHTIE, AND MAGNIFICENT
RENOWNED FOR PIETIE, VERTVE, AND ALL GRATIOVS GOVERNMENT
BY THE GRACE OF GOD
Queen of England, Fraunce and Ireland, and of Virginia,
Defender of the Faith etc.
HER MOST HUMBLE SERVAUNT
DOTH IN ALL HUMILITIE
DEDICATE, PRESENT, AND CONSECRATE THESE HIS LABOVRS
TO LIVE WITH THE ETERNITIE OF HER FAME.
* * * * *
THE FIRST BOOKE OF
THE FAERIE QUEENE
THE LEGENDE OF THE KNIGHT OF THE RED
CROSSE, OR OF HOLINESSE
Lo I the man,[*] whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far unfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing of Knights and Ladies[*] gentle deeds; 5
Whose prayses having slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broade emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loves shall moralize my song.
Helpe then, O holy Virgin chiefe of nine,[*] 10
Thy weaker Novice to performe thy will;
Lay forth out of thine everlasting scryne
The antique rolles, which there lye hidden still,
Of Faerie knights[*] and fairest Tanaquill,[*]
Whom that most noble Briton Prince[*] so long 15
Sought through the world, and suffered so much ill,
That I must rue his undeserved wrong:
O helpe thou my weake wit, and sharpen my dull tong.
And thou most dreaded impe of highest Jove,[*]
Faire Venus sonne, that with thy cruell dart 20
At that good knight so cunningly didst rove,
That glorious fire it kindled in his hart,
Lay now thy deadly Heben bow apart,
And with thy mother milde come to mine ayde;
Come both, and with you bring triumphant Mart,[*] 25
In loves and gentle jollities arrayd,
After his murdrous spoiles and bloudy rage allayd.
And with them eke, O Goddesse heavenly bright,[*]
Mirrour of grace and Majestie divine,
Great Lady of the greatest Isle, whose light 30
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:[*] 35
The which to heare, vouchsafe, O dearest dred,[*] a-while.
LINE 1. LO I THE MAN…. An imitation of the opening lines of Vergil’s Aeneid:–
“Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulatus avena
Gratum opus agricolis, at nunc horrentia Martis.”
Referring to his Shepheards Calender (1579) Spenser thus gracefully indicates his change from pastoral to epic poetry.
5-9. KNIGHTS AND LADIES. The poet here imitates the opening of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso.
10. O HOLY VIRGIN CHIEFE OF NINE, refers to Clio, the muse of history. Spenser should have invoked Calliope, the muse of poetry.
14. OF FAERIE KNIGHTS, the the champions of Gloriana, the queen of Faerieland. FAIREST TANAQUILL, a British princess, daughter of Oberon, king of Faerieland. In the allegory she is Queen Elizabeth.
15. THAT MOST NOBLE BRITON PRINCE is Prince Arthur, the perfect knight, who is in love with Gloriana. In the allegory the Earl of Leicester is probably meant, though by one tradition Sir Philip Sidney is identified with Prince Arthur.
19. IMPE OF HIGHEST JOVE, Cupid, the god of love, and son of Jupiter and Venus. He is represented as armed with an ebony bow (l. 23).
25. TRIUMPHANT MART, Mars, the god of war. The spelling is that of the Italians and Chaucer.
28. O GODDESSE HEAVENLY BRIGHT, Queen Elizabeth (aged 56), who was fond of such extravagant flattery, and expected it of all her courtiers.
31. PHOEBUS LAMPE, Apollo, the sun-god.
34. GLORIOUS TYPE OF THINE, the Lady Una, who stands for Truth in the allegory.
35. THE ARGUMENT OF MINE AFFLICTED STILE, the subject of my humble pen. “Afflicted” has the original Latin sense of “cast down.”
36. O DEAREST DRED, O beloved object of reverence; a common salutation of royalty.