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1guize:behavior. This stanza is one ofma

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Canto Twelve


For never living man, I weene, so sore

In sea of deadly daungers was distrest;

But since now safe ye seised1 have the shore,

And well arrived are, (high God be blest)

Let us devize of ease and everlasting rest.”


“Ah dearest Lord,” said then that doughty knight,

“Of ease or rest I may not yet devize;

For by the faith, which I to armes have plight,

I bownden am streight after this emprize,

As that your daughter can ye well advize,

Backe to retourne to that great Faery Queene,

And her to serve sixe yeares in warlike wize,

Gainst that proud Paynim king, that works her teene:2

Therefore I ought crave pardon, till I there have beene.”3


“Unhappy falls that hard necessity,”

(Quoth he) “the troubler of my happy peace,

And vowed foe of my felicity;

Ne I against the same can justly preace:4

But since that band ye cannot now release,

Nor doen undoe; (for vowes may not be vayne)

Soone as the terme of those six yeares shall cease,

Ye then shall hether backe retourne agayne,

The marriage to accomplish vowd betwixt you twayn.


“Which for my part I covet to performe,

In sort as5 through the world I did proclame,

That who so kild that monster most deforme,

And him in hardy battayle overcame,

Should have mine onely daughter to his Dame,6

And of my kingdome heyre apparaunt bee:


seised: reached.

teene: sorrow.

3 This deferral of the wedding in order to

serve Gloriana comes as a surprise to us as

well as to Una’s family, though we received

hints of it before (see ix.17.1–3) and apparently Una knew about it. Its duration of

six years resembles the six years that Jacob

was forced to serve to win Leah, his first

wife, before he could marry Rachel, the


girl he really wanted. Medievals interpreted

Leah as the active life and Rachel as the

contemplative life, thus arguing the

chronological priority of the active life; see

Gen. 29.17–30. Gloriana is clearly an aspect

of the active life and Una, as religious truth,

is an aspect of the contemplative life.

4 preace: press.

5 In sort as: according to what.

6 to his Dame: for his wife.


The Faerie Queene: Book One

Therefore since now to thee perteynes the same,

By dew desert of noble chevalree,

Both daughter and eke kingdome, lo I yield to thee.”1


Then forth he called that his daughter fayre,

The fairest Un’ his onely daughter deare,

His onely daughter, and his only hayre;

Who forth proceeding with sad sober cheare,2

As bright as doth the morning starre appeare

Out of the East, with flaming lockes bedight,

To tell that dawning day is drawing neare,

And to the world does bring long wished light;

So faire and fresh that Lady shewd her selfe in sight.


So faire and fresh, as freshest flowre in May;

For she had layd her mournefull stole aside,

And widow-like sad wimple3 throwne away,

Wherewith her heavenly beautie she did hide,

Whiles on her wearie journey she did ride;

And on her now a garment she did weare,

All lily white, withoutten spot, or pride,4

That seemd like silke and silver woven neare,5

But neither silke nor silver therein did appeare.


The blazing brightnesse of her beauties beame,

And glorious light of her sunshyny face6

To tell, were as to strive against the streame.

My ragged rimes are all too rude and bace,

Her heavenly lineaments for to enchace.7

Ne wonder; for her own deare loved knight,

All were she8 daily with himselfe in place,

Did wonder much at her celestiall sight:

Oft had he seene her faire, but never so faire dight.


A formulaic romance situation.

sad sober cheare: serious, sober countenance.


wimple: veil. In her new gown, she symbolizes the spotless bride of the Lamb in

Rev. 19.7–8, 21.2, and 11. Accordingly,

Redcrosse now typifies Christ as the Bridegroom, the Lamb.



pride: ostentatious ornament.

neare: closely.


Una’s brightness here links her to the

Woman Clothed with the Sunne (Rev.

12.1), of whom she is sometimes seen as a



I.e., to be a setting for her lineaments.


all were she: although she was.


Canto Twelve


So fairely dight, when she in presence came,

She to her Syre made humble reverence,

And bowed low, that her right well became,

And added grace unto her excellence:

Who with great wisedome, and grave eloquence

Thus gan to say. But eare he thus had sayd,1

With flying speede, and seeming great pretence,

Came running in, much like a man dismayd,

A Messenger with letters, which his message sayd.


All in the open hall amazed stood,

At suddeinnesse of that unwary2 sight,

And wondred at his breathlesse hasty mood.

But he for nought would stay his passage right,3

Till fast4 before the king he did alight;

Where falling flat, great humblesse he did make,

And kist the ground, whereon his foot was pight;

Then to his handes that writt he did betake,

Which he disclosing, read thus, as the paper spake.5


“To thee, most mighty king of Eden fayre,6

Her greeting sends in these sad lines addrest,

The wofull daughter, and forsaken heyre

Of that great Emperour of all the West;

And bids thee be advised for the best,

Ere thou thy daughter linck in holy band

Of wedlocke to that new unknowen guest:

For he already plighted his right hand

Unto another love, and to another land.


Anacoluthon, or breaking off in the middle of a sentence. As 36.6–7 makes clear,

Una’s father is about to “bid” the banns of

marriage when he is interrupted.

2 unwary: unexpected.

3 right: direct.

4 fast: close.

5 I.e., Archimago presents the letter to the

king, who unfolds it and reads it aloud.

Duessa’s letter exaggerates the seriousness of


her relationship with Redcrosse: though he

did sleep with her—a fact that has apparently been concealed from Una’s parents up

to now—Redcrosse never promised her

anything; there was no altar, no betrothal,

and no vow that we know of, and Duessa is

not likely to have required one. See 32.9

and note.

6 This confirms our impression from vii.44

that Una’s parents symbolize, and in a sense

are, Adam and Eve.


The Faerie Queene: Book One


“To me sad mayd, or rather widow sad,

He was affyaunced long time before,

And sacred pledges he both gave, and had,

False erraunt knight, infamous, and forswore:

Witnesse the burning Altars, which1 he swore,

And guilty heavens of his bold perjury,

Which though he hath polluted oft of yore,

Yet I to them for judgement just doe fly,

And them conjure t’avenge this shamefull injury.2


“Therefore since mine he is, or3 free or bond,

Or false or trew, or living or else dead,

Withhold, O soverayne Prince, your hasty hond

From knitting league with him, I you aread;

Ne weene my right with strength adowne to tread,

Through weakenesse of my widowhed, or woe:

For truth is strong, her rightfull cause to plead,

And shall finde friends, if need requireth soe.

So bids thee well to fare, Thy neither friend, nor foe, Fidessa.”


When he these bitter byting wordes had red,

The tidings straunge did him abashed make,

That still he sate long time astonished

As in great muse, ne word to creature spake.

At last his solemne silence thus he brake,

With doubtfull eyes fast fixed on his guest;

“Redoubted knight, that for myne only sake

Thy life and honor late adventurest,

Let nought be hid from me, that ought to be exprest.


“What meane these bloody vowes, and idle threats,

Throwne out from womanish impatient mynd?

What hevens? what altars? what enraged heates

Here heaped up with termes of love unkynd,

My conscience cleare with guilty bands would bynd?

High God be witnesse, that I guiltlesse ame.


which: on which.

I.e., I fly for just judgment to the altars

and the heavens by which he swore (to

marry me), although he has been untrue to


his vow before, and I entreat them to

avenge this shameful injury.

3 or: whether.

Canto Twelve


But if your selfe, Sir knight, ye faulty fynd,

Or wrapped be in loves of former Dame,

With cryme doe not it cover, but disclose the same.”


To whom the Redcrosse knight this answere sent,

“My Lord, my king, be nought hereat dismayd,

Till well ye wote by grave intendiment,1

What woman, and wherefore doth me upbrayd

With breach of love, and loialty betrayd.

It was in my mishaps, as hitherward

I lately traveild, that unwares I strayd

Out of my way, through perils straunge and hard;

That day should faile me, ere I had them all declard.


“There did I find, or rather I was fownd

Of this false woman, that Fidessa hight,

Fidessa hight the falsest Dame on grownd,

Most false Duessa, royall richly dight,

That easy was t’inveigle2 weaker sight:

Who by her wicked arts, and wiely skill,

Too false and strong for earthly skill or might,

Unwares me wrought unto her wicked will,

And to my foe betrayd, when least I feared ill.”3


Then stepped forth the goodly royall Mayd,

And on the ground her selfe prostrating low,

With sober countenaunce thus to him sayd;

“O pardon me, my soveraine Lord, to sheow

The secret treasons, which of late I know

To have bene wrought by that false sorceresse.

Shee onely she it is, that earst did throw

This gentle knight into so great distresse,

That death him did awaite in daily wretchednesse.



intendiment: consideration.

t’inveigle: to deceive.

3 Redcrosse claims that Duessa was conspiring with Orgoglio all along—something we

have not heard before. Duessa seems to

have been totally absent from Redcrosse’s

supposedly complete autobiography (stanzas

15–16). Una did not intervene. This omis-

sion represents a sin, which is why Spenser

arranges to expose him—but a venial sin,

for apparently children can legitimately lie

to parents and keep them in the dark about

love affairs. See Priscilla’s lies, engineered by

Calidore, to her father about what she was

up to in the forest (VI.iii.16–19), and, for a

source, ACH note ad loc.


The Faerie Queene: Book One


“And now it seemes, that she suborned hath

This crafty messenger with letters vaine,

To worke new woe and improvided scath,1

By breaking of the band betwixt us twaine;

Wherein she used hath the practicke paine2

Of this false footman, clokt with simplenesse,

Whome if ye please for to discover plaine,

Ye shall him Archimago find, I ghesse,

The falsest man alive; who tries shall find no lesse.”


The king was greatly moved at her speach,

And all with suddein indignation fraight,3

Bad on that Messenger rude hands to reach.

Eftsoones the Gard, which on his state did wait,

Attacht that faytor4 false, and bound him strait:

Who seeming sorely chauffed at his band,

As chained beare, whom cruell dogs doe bait,

With ydle force did faine them to withstand,

And often semblaunce made to scape out of their hand.


But they him layd full low in dungeon deepe,

And bound him hand and foote with yron chains.

And with continual watch did warely keepe;

Who then would thinke, that by his subtile trains

He could escape fowle death or deadly pains?5

Thus when that Princes wrath was pacifide,

He gan renew the late forbidden bains,6

And to the knight his daughter deare he tyde,

With sacred rites and vowes for ever to abyde.


His owne two hands the holy knotts did knitt,

That none but death for ever can divide;

His owne two hands, for such a turne most fitt,


improvided scath: unforeseen harm.

practicke paine: cunning efforts.


fraight: filled.


attacht that faytor: arrested that impostor.


His foretold escape is modeled on Rev.

20.2–3, the imprisonment and subsequent

escape of the dragon or Satan before he is

finally consigned to the lake of fire (Rev.


20.7–10). See ACH note. Here it is prophesied that Archimago will do something

that the dragon does in Rev., and he does

it; see II.i.1ff.


bains: banns of marriage; the repeated

announcements, for the purpose of allowing time for any objections to be raised,

that so-and-so will marry so-and-so at a

specific time.

Canto Twelve


The housling1 fire did kindle and provide,

And holy water thereon sprinckled wide;

At which the bushy Teade2 a groome did light,

And sacred lamp in secret chamber hide,

Where it should not be quenched day nor night,

For feare of evill fates, but burnen ever bright.


Then gan they sprinckle all the posts with wine,

And made great feast to solemnize that day;

They all perfumde with frankincense divine,

And precious odours fetcht from far away,

That all the house did sweat3 with great aray:

And all the while sweete Musicke did apply

Her curious4 skill, the warbling notes to play,

To drive away the dull Melancholy;

The whiles one sung a song of love and jollity.


During the which there was an heavenly noise

Heard sownd through all the Pallace pleasantly,

Like as it had bene many an Angels voice,

Singing before th’eternall majesty,

In their trinall triplicities5 on hye;

Yett wist no creature, whence that hevenly sweet6

Proceeded, yet eachone felt secretly

Himselfe thereby refte of his sences meet,

And ravished with rare impression in his sprite.


housling: sacramental. Yet fire and water

are only used in classical weddings, not

Christian. See ACH and M&P notes. Another problem with this ritual is that it

sounds more like an actual marriage than a

betrothal. Spenser shows great interest in

the betrothal period as a stage in a love affair. There was no separate ritual for betrothal in early modern England, aside from

proclaiming the banns, which is really part

of the wedding.


Teade: torch.

3 all the house did sweat: the state of a

house that has been sprinkled with something—here, perfume.

4 curious: in physical sense, elaborate, intricate.


trinall triplicities: the nine orders of

angels, a bit of traditional angelology mentioned chiefly for the sound of the words.

The mysterious echo of the angels’ song to

God within the secular love song symbolizes the interpenetration of earthly married

love with Christian love of God; see also

Spenser, Amoretti, 68; and Epithalamion,

64–70. This beautiful image may represent

an erotic analogue to the Te Deum, or so

called Ambrosian Hymn, in both the

Catholic Mass and the Anglican Holy

Communion. There angels are stated to

join their voices with the human singers, or

vice versa, singing “Holy, holy, holy . . .”


6 sweet: sweet sound.


The Faerie Queene: Book One


Great joy was made that day of young and old,

And solemne feast proclaymd throughout the land,

That their exceeding merth may not be told:

Suffice it heare by signes to understand

The usuall joyes at knitting of loves band.

Thrise happy man the knight himselfe did hold,

Possessed of his Ladies hart and hand,

And ever, when his eie did her behold,

His heart did seeme to melt in pleasures manifold.


Her joyous presence and sweet company

In full content he there did long enjoy,

Ne wicked envy, ne vile gealosy

His deare delights were hable to annoy:

Yet swimming in that sea of blisfull joy,

He nought forgott, how he whilome had sworne,

In case he could that monstrous beast destroy,

Unto his Faery Queene backe to retourne:

The which he shortly did, and Una left to mourne.


Now strike your sailes yee jolly Mariners,

For we be come unto a quiet rode,

Where we must land some of our passengers,

And light this weary vessell of her lode.

Here she a while may make her safe abode,

Till she repaired have her tackles spent,

And wants supplide. And then againe abroad

On the long voiage whereto she is bent:

Well may she speede and fairely finish her intent.

Finis Lib. I.

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