Spencer's The Faerie Queene
The Mutabilitie Cantos
Ioue, to Natur's Bar,
bold Alteration pleades
Large Euidence: but Nature soone
her righteous Doome arades.
Ah! whither doost thou now thou greater Muse
Me from these woods & pleasing forrests bring?
And my fraile spirit (that dooth oft refuse
This too high flight, vnfit for her weake wing)
Lift vp aloft, to tell of heauens King
(Thy soueraine Sire) his fortunate successe,
And victory, in bigger noates to sing,
Which he obtain'd against that Titanesse,
That him of heauens Empire sought to dispossesse.
Yet sith I needs must follow thy behest,
Doe thou my weaker wit with skill inspire,
Fit for this turne ; and in my sable brest
Kindle fresh sparks of that immortall fire,
Which learned minds inflameth with desire
Of heauenly things: for, who but thou alone,
That art yborne of heauen and heauenly Sire,
Can tell things doen in heauen so long ygone:
So farre past memory of man that may be knowne.
Now, at the time that was before agreed,
The Gods assembled all on Arlo hill;
As well those that are sprung of heauenly seed,
As those that all the other world doe fill,
And rule both sea and land vnto their will:
Onely th'infernall Powers might not appeare;
Aswell for horror of their count'naunce ill,
As for th'vnruly fiends which they did feare;
Yet Pluto and Proserpina were present there.
And thither also came all other creatures,
What-euer life or motion doe retaine,
According to their sundry kinds of features;
That Arlo scarsly could them all containe;
So full they filled euery hill and Plaine:
And had not Natures Sergeant (that is Order)
Them well disposed by his busie paine,
And raunged farre abroad in euery border,
They would haue caused much confusion and disorder.
Then forth issewed (great goddesse) great dame Nature,
With goodly port and gracious Maiesty;
Being far greater and more tall of stature
Then any of the gods or Powers on hie:
Yet certes by her face and physnomy,
Whether she man or woman inly were,
That could not any creature well descry:
For, with a veile that wimpled euery where,
Her head and face was hid, that mote to none appeare
That some doe say was so by skill deuized,
To hide the terror of her vncouth hew,
From mortall eyes that should be sore agrized;
For that her face did like a Lion shew,
That eye of wight could not indure to view:
But others tell that it so beautious was,
And round about such beames of splendor threw,
That it the Sunne a thousand times did pass,
Ne could be seene, but like an image in a glass.
That well may seemen true: for, well I weene
That this same day, when she on Arlo sat,
Her garment was so bright and wondrous sheene,
That my fraile wit cannot deuize to what
It to compare, nor finde like stuffe to that,
As those three sacred Saints, though else most wise,
Yet on mount Thabor quite their wits forgat,
When they their glorious Lord in strange disguise
Transfigur'd sawe; his garments so did daze their eyes.
In a fayre Plaine vpon an equall Hill,
She placed was in a pauilion;
Not such as Craftes-men by their idle skill
Are wont for Princes states to fashion:
But th'earth her self of her owne motion,
Out of her fruitfull bosome made to growe
Most dainty trees; that, shooting vp anon,
Did seeme to bow their bloosming heads full lowe,
For homage vnto her, and like a throne did shew.
So hard it is for any liuing wight,
All her array and vestiments to tell,
That old Dan Geffrey (in whose gentle spright
The pure well head of Poesie did dwell)
In his Foules parley durst not with it mel,
But it transferd to Alane, who he thought
Had in his Plaint of kindes describ'd it well:
Which who will read set forth so as it ought,
Go seek he out that Alane where he may be sought.
And all the earth far vnderneath her feete
Was dight with flowres, that voluntary grew
Out of the ground, and sent forth odours sweet;
Tenne thousand mores of sundry sent and hew,
That might delight the smell, or please the view:
The which, the Nymphes, from all the brooks thereby
Had gathered, which they at her foot-stoole threw;
That richer seem'd then any tapestry,
That Princes bowres adorne with painted imagery.
And Mole himselfe, to honour her the more,
Did deck himself in freshest faire attire,
And his high head, that seemeth alwaies hore
With hardned frosts of former winters ire,
He with an Oaken girlond now did tire,
As if the loue of some new Nymph late seene,
Had in him kindled youthfull fresh desire,
And made him change his gray attire to greene;
Ah gentle Mole! such ioyance hath thee well beseene.
Was neuer so great ioyance since the day,
That all the gods whylome assembled were,
On Hæmus hill in their diuine array,
To celebrate the solemne bridall cheare,
Twixt Peleus, and dame Thetis pointed there;
Where Phoebus self, that god of Poets hight,
They say did sing the spousall hymne full cleere,
That all the gods were rauisht with delight
Of his celestiall song, & Musicks wondrous might.
This great Grandmother of all creatures bred
Great Nature, euer young yet full of eld,
Still moouing, yet vnmoued from her sted;
Vnseene of any, yet of all beheld;
Thus sitting in her throne as I haue teld,
Before her came dame Mutabilitie;
And being lowe before her presence feld,
With meek obaysance and humilitie,
Thus gan her plaintif Plea, with words to amplifie;
To thee ô greatest goddesse, onely great,
An humble suppliant loe, I lowely fly
Seeking for Right, which I of thee entreat;
Who Right to all dost deale indifferently,
Damning all Wrong and tortious Iniurie,
Which any of thy creatures doe to other
(Oppressing them with power, vnequally)
Sith of them all thou art the equall mother,
And knittest each to each, as brother vnto brother.
To thee therefore of this same Ioue I plaine,
And of his fellow gods that faine to be,
That challenge to themselues the whole worlds raign;
Of which, the greatest part is due to me,
And heauen it selfe by heritage in Fee:
For, heauen and earth I both alike do deeme,
Sith heauen and earth are both alike to thee;
And, gods no more then men thou doest esteeme:
For, euen the gods to thee, as men to gods do seeme.
Then weigh, ô soueraigne goddesse, by what right
These gods do claime the worlds whole souerainty;
And that is onely dew vnto thy might
Arrogate to themselues ambitiously:
As for the gods owne principality,
Which Ioue vsurpes vniustly; that to be
My heritage, Ioue's self cannot deny,
From my great Grandsire Titan, vnto mee,
Deriv'd by dew descent; as is well knowen to thee.
Yet mauger Ioue, and all his gods beside,
I doe possesse the worlds most regiment;
As, if ye please it into parts diuide,
And euery parts inholders to conuent,
Shall to your eyes appeare incontinent.
And first, the Earth (great mother of vs all)
That only seems vnmov'd and permanent,
And vnto Mutability not thrall;
Yet is she chang'd in part, and eeke in generall.
For, all that from her springs, and is ybredde,
How-euer fayre it flourish for a time,
Yet see we soone decay; and, being dead
To turne again vnto their earthly slime:
Yet, out of their decay and mortall crime,
We daily see new creatures to arize;
And of their Winter spring another Prime,
Vnlike in forme, and chang'd by strange disguise:
So turne they still about, and change in restlesse wise.
As for her tenants; that is, man and beasts,
The beasts we daily see massacred dy,
As thralls and vassalls vnto mens beheasts:
And men themselues doe change continually,
From youth to eld, from wealth to pouerty,
From good to bad, from bad to worst of all.
Ne doe their bodies only flit and fly:
But eeke their minds (which they immortall call)
Still change and vary thoughts, as new occasions fall.
Ne is the water in more constant case;
Whether those same on high, or these belowe.
For, th'Ocean moueth stil, from place to place;
And euery Riuer still doth ebbe and flowe:
Ne any Lake, that seems most still and slowe,
Ne Poole so small, that can his smoothnesse holde,
When any winde doth vnder heauen blowe;
With which, the clouds are also tost and roll'd;
Now like great Hills; &, streight, like sluces, them vnfold.
So likewise are all watry liuing wights
Still tost, and turned, with continuall change
Neuer abyding in their stedfast plights.
The fish, still floting, doe at randon range,
And neuer rest; but euermore exchange
Their dwelling places, as the streames them carrie:
Ne haue the watry foules a certaine grange,
Wherein to rest, ne in one stead do tarry;
But flitting still doe flie, and still their places vary.
Next is the Ayre: which who feeles not by sense
(For, of all sense it is the middle meane)
To flit still? and, with subtill influence
Of his thin spirit, all creatures to maintaine,
In state of life? O weake life! that does leane
On thing so tickle as th'vnsteady ayre;
Which euery howre is chang'd, and altred cleane
With euery blast that bloweth fowle or faire:
The faire doth it prolong; the fowle doth it impaire.
Therein the changes infinite beholde,
Which to her creatures euery minute chaunce;
Now, boyling hot: streight, friezing deadly cold:
Now, faire sun-shine, that makes all skip and daunce:
Streight, bitter storms and balefull countenance,
That makes them all to shiuer and to shake:
Rayne, hayle, and snowe do pay them sad penance,
And dreadfull thunder-claps (that make them quake)
With flames & flashing lights that thousand changes make.
Last is the fire: which, though it liue for euer,
Ne can be quenched quite; yet, euery day,
Wee see his parts, so soone as they do seuer,
To lose their heat, and shortly to decay;
So, makes himself his owne consuming pray.
Ne any liuing creatures doth he breed:
But all, that are of others bredd, doth slay;
And, with their death, his cruell life dooth feed;
Nought leauing, but their barren ashes, without seede.
Thus, all these fower (the which the ground-work bee
Of all the world, and of all liuing wights)
To thousand sorts of Change we subiect see:
Yet are they chang'd (by other wondrous slights)
Into themselues, and lose their natiue mights;
The Fire to Aire, and th'Ayre to Water sheere,
And Water into Earth : yet Water fights
With Fire, and Aire with Earth approaching neere:
Yet all are in one body, and as one appeare.
So, in them all raignes Mutabilitie;
How-euer these, that Gods themselues do call,
Of them doe claime the rule and souerainty:
As, Vesta, of the fire æthereall;
Vulcan, of this, with vs so vsuall;
Ops, of the earth; and Iuno of the Ayre;
Neptune, of Seas; and Nymphes, of Riuers all.
For, all those Riuers to me subiect are:
And all the rest, which they vsurp, be all my share.
Which to approuen true, as I haue told,
Vouchsafe, ô goddesse, to thy presence call
The rest which doe the world in being hold:
As, times and seasons of the yeare that fall:
Of all the which, demand in generall,
Or iudge thy selfe, by verdit of thine eye,
Whether to me they are not subiect all.
Nature did yeeld thereto; and by-and-by,
Bade Order call them all, before her Maiesty.
So, forth issew'd the Seasons of the yeare;
First, lusty Spring, all dight in leaues of flowres
That freshly budded and new bloosmes did beare
(In which a thousand birds had built their bowres
That sweetly sung, to call forth Paramours):
And in his hand a iauelin he did beare,
And on his head (as fit for warlike stoures)
A guilt engrauen morion he did weare;
That as some did him loue, so others did him feare.
Then came the iolly Sommer, being dight
In a thin silken cassock coloured greene,
That was vnlyned all, to be more light:
And on his head a girlond well beseene
He wore, from which as he had chauffed been
The sweat did drop; and in his hand he bore
A boawe and shaftes, as he in forrest greene
Had hunted late the Libbard or the Bore,
And now would bathe his limbes, with labor heated sore.
Then came the Autumne all in yellow clad,
As though he ioyed in his plentious store,
Laden with fruits that made him laugh, full glad
That he had banisht hunger, which to-fore
Had by the belly oft him pinched sore.
Vpon his head a wreath that was enrold
With eares of corne, of euery sort he bore:
And in his hand a sickle he did holde,
To reape the ripened fruits the which the earth had yold.
Lastly, came Winter cloathed all in frize,
Chattering his teeth for cold that did him chill,
Whil'st on his hoary beard his breath did freese;
And the dull drops that from his purpled bill
As from a limbeck did adown distill.
In his right hand a tipped staffe he held,
With which his feeble steps he stayed still:
For, he was faint with cold, and weak with eld;
That scarse his loosed limbes he hable was to weld.
These, marching softly, thus in order went,
And after them, the Monthes all riding came;
First, sturdy March with brows full sternly bent,
And armed strongly, rode vpon a Ram,
The same which ouer Hellespontus swam:
Yet in his hand a spade he also hent,
And in a bag all sorts of seeds ysame,
Which on the earth he strowed as he went,
And fild her womb with fruitfull hope of nourishment.
Next came fresh Aprill full of lustyhed,
And wanton as a Kid whose horne new buds:
Vpon a Bull he rode, the same which led
Europa floting through th'Argolick fluds:
His hornes were gilden all with golden studs
And garnished with garlonds goodly dight
Of all the fairest flowres and freshest buds
Which th'earth brings forth, and wet he seem'd in sight
With waues, through which he waded for his loues delight.
Then came faire May, the fayrest mayd on ground,
Deckt all with dainties of her seasons pryde,
And throwing flowres out of her lap around:
Vpon two brethrens shoulders she did ride,
The twinnes of Leda; which on eyther side
Supported her like to their soueraine Queene.
Lord! how all creatures laught, when her they spide,
And leapt and daunc't as they had rauisht beene!
And Cupid selfe about her fluttred all in greene.
And after her, came iolly Iune, arrayd
All in greene leaues, as he a Player were;
Yet in his time, he wrought as well as playd,
That by his plough-yrons mote right well appeare:
Vpon a Crab he rode, that him did beare
With crooked crawling steps an vncouth pase,
And backward yode, as Bargemen wont to fare
Bending their force contrary to their face,
Like that vngracious crew which faines demurest grace.
Then came hot Iuly boyling like to fire,
That all his garments he had cast away:
Vpon a Lyon raging yet with ire
He boldly rode and made him to obay:
It was the beast that whylome did forray
The Nemaean forrest, till th'Amphytrionide
Him slew, and with his hide did him array;
Behinde his back a sithe, and by his side
Vnder his belt he bore a sickle circling wide.
The sixt was August, being rich arrayd
In garment all of gold downe to the ground:
Yet rode he not, but led a louely Mayd
Forth by the lilly hand, the which was cround
With eares of corne, and full her hand was found;
That was the righteous Virgin, which of old
Liv'd here on earth, and plenty made abound;
But, after Wrong was lov'd and Iustice solde,
She left th'vnrighteous world and was to heauen extold.
Next him, September marched eeke on foote;
Yet was he heauy laden with the spoyle
Of haruests riches, which he made his boot,
And him enricht with bounty of the soyle:
In his one hand, as fit for haruests toyle,
He held a knife-hook; and in th'other hand
A paire of waights, with which he did assoyle
Both more and lesse, where it in doubt did stand,
And equall gaue to each as Iustice duly scann'd.
Then came October full of merry glee:
For, yet his noule was totty of the must,
Which he was treading in the wine-fats see,
And of the ioyous oyle, whose gentle gust
Made him so frollick and so full of lust:
Vpon a dreadfull Scorpion he did ride,
The same which by Dianaes doom vniust
Slew great Orion: and eeke by his side
He had his ploughing share, and coulter ready tyde.
Next was Nouember, he full grosse and fat,
As fed with lard, and that right well might seeme;
For, he had been a fatting hogs of late,
That yet his browes with sweat, did reek and steem,
And yet the season was full sharp and breem;
In planting eeke he took no small delight:
Whereon he rode, not easie was to deeme;
For it a dreadfull Centaure was in sight,
The seed of Saturne, and faire Nais, Chiron hight,
And after him, came next the chill December:
Yet he through merry feasting which he made,
And great bonfires, did not the cold remember;
His Sauiours birth his mind so much did glad:
Vpon a shaggy-bearded Goat he rode,
The same wherewith Dan Ioue in tender yeares,
They say, was nourisht by th'I[d]oean mayd;
And in his hand a broad deepe boawle he beares;
Of which, he freely drinks an health to all his peeres.
Then came old Ianuary, wrapped well
In many weeds to keep the cold away;
Yet did he quake and quiuer like to quell,
And blowe his nayles to warme them if he may:
For, they were numbd with holding all the day
An hatchet keene, with which he felled wood,
And from the trees did lop the needlesse spray:
Vpon an huge great Earth-pot steane he stood;
From whose wide mouth, there flowed forth the Romane floud.
And lastly, came cold February, sitting
In an old wagon, for he could not ride;
Drawne of two fishes for the season fitting,
Which through the flood before did softly slyde
And swim away: yet had he by his side
His plough and harnesse fit to till the ground,
And tooles to prune the trees, before the pride
Of hasting Prime did make them burgein round:
So past the twelue Months forth, & their dew places found.
And after these, there came the Day, and Night,
Riding together both with equall pace,
Th'one on a Palfrey blacke, the other white;
But Night had couered her vncomely face
With a blacke veile, and held in hand a mace,
On top whereof the moon and stars were pight,
And sleep and darknesse round about did trace:
But Day did beare, vpon his scepters hight,
The goodly Sun, encompast all with beames bright.
Then came the Howres, faire daughters of high Ioue,
And timely Night, the which were all endewed
With wondrous beauty fit to kindle loue;
But they were Virgins all, and loue eschewed,
That might forslack the charge to them fore-shewed
By mighty Ioue; who did them Porters make
Of heauens gate (whence all the gods issued)
Which they did dayly watch, and nightly wake
By euen turnes, ne euer did their charge forsake.
And after all came Life, and lastly Death;
Death with most grim and griesly visage seene,
Yet is he nought but parting of the breath;
Ne ought to see, but like a shade to weene,
Vnbodied, vnsoul'd, vnheard, vnseene.
But Life was like a faire young lusty boy,
Such as they faine Dan Cupid to haue beene,
Full of delightfull health and liuely ioy.
Deckt all with flowres, and wings of gold fit to employ.
When these were past, thus gan the Titanesse;
Lo, mighty mother, now be iudge and say,
Whether in all thy creatures more or lesse
CHANGE doth not raign & beare the greatest sway:
For, who sees not, that Time on all doth pray?
But Times do change and moue continually.
So nothing here long standeth in one stay:
Wherefore, this lower world who can deny
But to be subiect still to Mutabilitie?
Then thus gan Ioue; Right true it is, that these
And all things else that vnder heauen dwell
Are chaung'd of Time, who doth them all disseise
Of being : But, who is it (to me tell)
That Time himselfe doth moue and still compell
To keepe his course? Is not that namely wee
Which poure that vertue from our heauenly cell,
That moues them all, and makes them changed be?
So them we gods doe rule, and in them also thee.
To whom, thus Mutability: The things
Which we see not how they are mov'd and swayd,
Ye may attribute to your selues as Kings,
And say they by your secret powre are made:
But what we see not, who shall vs perswade?
But were they so, as ye them faine to be,
Mov'd by your might, and ordred by your ayde;
Yet what if I can proue, that euen yee
Your selues are likewise chang'd, and subiect vnto mee?
And first, concerning her that is the first,
Euen you faire Cynthia, whom so much ye make
Ioues dearest darling, she was bred and nurst
On Cynthus hill, whence she her name did take:
Then is she mortall borne, how-so ye crake;
Besides, her face and countenance euery day
We changed see, and sundry forms partake,
Now hornd, now ro&utild;d, now bright, now brown & gray:
So that as changefull as the Moone men vse to say.
Next, Mercury, who though he lesse appeare
To change his hew, and alwayes seeme as one;
Yet, he his course doth altar euery yeare,
And is of late far out of order gone:
So Venus eeke, that goodly Paragone,
Though faire all night, yet is she darke all day;
And Phoebus self, who lightsome is alone,
Yet is he oft eclipsed by the way,
And fills the darkned world with terror and dismay.
Now Mars that valiant man is changed most:
For, he some times so far runs out of square,
That he his way doth seem quite to haue lost,
And cleane without his vsuall sphere to fare;
That euen these Star-gazers stonisht are
At sight thereof, and damne their lying bookes:
So likewise, grim Sir Saturne oft doth spare
His sterne aspect, and calme his crabbed lookes:
So many turning cranks these haue, so many crookes.
But you Dan Ioue, that only constant are,
And King of all the rest, as ye do clame,
Are you not subiect eeke to this misfare?
Then let me aske you this withouten blame,
Where were ye borne? some say in Crete by name,
Others in Thebes, and others other-where;
But wheresoeuer they comment the same,
They all consent that ye begotten were,
And borne here in this world, ne other can appeare.
Then are ye mortall borne, and thrall to me,
Vnlesse the kingdome of the sky yee make
Immortall, and vnchangeable to bee;
Besides, that power and vertue which ye spake,
That ye here worke, doth many changes take,
And your owne natures change: for, each of you
That vertue haue, or this, or that to make,
Is checkt and changed from his nature trew,
By others opposition or obliquid view.
Besides, the sundry motions of your Spheares,
So sundry waies and fashions as clerkes faine,
Some in short space, and some in longer yeares;
What is the same but alteration plaine?
Onely the starrie skie doth still remaine:
Yet do the Starres and Signes therein still moue,
And euen it self is mov'd, as wizards saine.
But all that moueth, doth mutation loue:
Therefore both you and them to me I subiect proue.
Then since within this wide great Vniuerse
Nothing doth firme and permanent appeare,
But all things tost and turned by transuerse:
What then should let, but I aloft should reare
My Trophee, and from all, the triumph beare?
Now iudge then (O thou greatest goddesse trew!)
According as thy selfe doest see and heare,
And vnto me addoom that is my dew;
That is the rule of all, all being rul'd by you.
So hauing ended, silence long ensewed,
Ne Nature to or fro spake for a space,
But with firme eyes affixt, the ground still viewed.
Meane while, all creatures, looking in her face,
Expecting th'end of this so doubtfull case,
Did hang in long suspence what would ensew,
To whether side should fall the soueraigne place:
At length, she looking vp with chearefull view,
The silence brake, and gaue her doome in speeches few.
I well consider all that ye haue sayd,
And find that all things stedfastnes doe hate
And changed be: yet being rightly wayd
They are not changed from their first estate;
But by their change their being doe dilate:
And turning to themselues at length againe,
Doe worke their owne perfection so by fate:
Then ouer them Change doth not rule and raigne;
But they raigne ouer change, and doe their states maintaine.
Cease therefore daughter further to aspire,
And thee content thus to be rul'd by me:
For thy decay thou seekst by thy desire;
But time shall come that all shall changed bee,
And from thenceforth, none no more change shall see.
So was the Titaness put downe and whist,
And Ioue confirm'd in his imperiall see.
Then was that whole assembly quite dismist,
And Natur's selfe did vanish, whither no man wist.
On to Canto VIII
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