The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 11

Original Text: 
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, 2nd edn. (R. Field for W. Ponsonbie, 1596). STC 23082. Facsimile: The Faerie Queene 1596, Volume 1, Introduction by Graham Hough (London: Scolar Press, 1976). PR 2358 A2H6 1976 Robarts Library.
The knight with that old Dragon fights
     two dayes incessantly:
The third him overthrowes, and gayns
     most glorious victory.
1High time now gan it wex for Una faire,
2To think of those her captive Parents deare,
3And their forwasted kingdome to repaire:
4Whereto whenas they now approched neare,
5With hartie words her knight she gan to cheare,
6And in her modest manner thus bespake;
7Deare knight, as deare, as ever knight was deare,
8That all these sorrowes suffer for my sake,
9High heaven behold the tedious toyle, ye for me take.
10Now are we come unto my native soyle,
11And to the place, where all our perils dwell;
12Here haunts that feend, and does his dayly spoyle,
13Therefore henceforth be at your keeping well,
14And ever ready for your foeman fell.
15The sparke of noble courage now awake,
16And strive your excellent selfe to excell;
17That shall ye evermore renowmed make,
18Above all knights on earth, that batteill undertake.
19And pointing forth, lo yonder is (said she)
20The brasen towre in which my parents deare
21For dread of that huge feend emprisond be,
22Whom I from far see on the walles appeare,
23Whose sight my feeble soule doth greatly cheare:
24And on the top of all I do espye
25The watchman wayting tydings glad to heare,
26That O my parents might I happily
27Unto you bring, to ease you of your misery.
28With that they heard a roaring hideous sound,
29That all the ayre with terrour filled wide,
30And seemd uneath to shake the stedfast ground.
31Eftsoones that dreadfull Dragon they espide,
32Where stretcht he lay upon the sunny side
33Of a great hill, himselfe like a great hill.
34But all so soone, as he from far descride
35Those glistring armes, that heaven with light did fill,
38And to an hill her selfe with draw aside,
39From whence she might behold that battailes proof
40And eke be safe from daunger far descryde:
41She him obayd, and turnd a little wyde.
42Now O thou sacred Muse, most learned Dame,
44The Nourse of time, and everlasting fame,
45That warlike hands ennoblest with immortall name;
46O gently come into my feeble brest,
47Come gently, but not with that mighty rage,
48Wherewith the martiall troupes thou doest infest,
49And harts of great Hero{:e}s doest enrage,
50That nought their kindled courage may aswage,
51Soone as thy dreadfull trompe begins to sownd;
52The God of warre with his fiers equipage
53That doest awake, sleepe never he so sownd,
54And scared nations doest with horrour sterne astownd.
56Till I of warres and bloudy Mars do sing,
57And Briton fields with Sarazin bloud bedyde,
58Twixt that great faery Queene and Paynim king,
59That with their horrour heaven and earth did ring,
60A worke of labour long, and endlesse prayse:
61But now a while let downe that haughtie string,
62And to my tunes thy second tenor rayse,
63That I this man of God his godly armes may blaze.
64By this the dreadfull Beast drew nigh to hand,
65Halfe flying, and halfe footing in his hast,
66That with his largenesse measured much land,
67And made wide shadow under his huge wast;
68As mountaine doth the valley overcast.
69Approching nigh, he reared high afore
70His body monstrous, horrible, and vast,
71Which to increase his wondrous greatnesse more,
72Was swolne with wrath, and poyson, and with bloudy gore.
73And over all with brasen scales was armd,
74Like plated coate of steele, so couched neare,
75That nought mote perce, ne might his corse be harmd
76With dint of sword, nor push of pointed speare;
77Which as an Eagle, seeing pray appeare,
78His aery plumes doth rouze, full rudely dight,
79So shaked he, that horrour was to heare,
80For as the clashing of an Armour bright,
81Such noyse his rouzed scales did send unto the knight.
82His flaggy wings when forth he did display,
83Were like two sayles, in which the hollow wynd
84Is gathered full, and worketh speedy way:
85And eke the pennes, that did his pineons bynd,
86Were like mayne-yards, with flying canvas lynd,
87With which whenas him list the ayre to beat,
88And there by force unwonted passage find,
89The cloudes before him fled for terrour great,
90And all the heavens stood still amazed with his threat.
91His huge long tayle wound up in hundred foldes,
92Does overspred his long bras-scaly backe,
94And thicke entangled knots adown does slacke,
95Bespotted as with shields of red and blacke,
96It sweepeth all the land behind him farre,
97And of three furlongs does but litle lacke;
98And at the point two stings in-fixed arre,
99Both deadly sharpe, that sharpest steele exceeden farre.
100But stings and sharpest steele did far exceed
101The sharpnesse of his cruell rending clawes;
102Dead was it sure, as sure as death in deed,
103What ever thing does touch his ravenous pawes,
104Or what within his reach he ever drawes.
105But his most hideous head my toung to tell,
106Does tremble: for his deepe devouring jawes
109And that more woundrous was, in either jaw
110Three ranckes of yron teeth enraunged were,
111In which yet trickling bloud and gobbets raw
112Of late devoured bodies did appeare,
113That sight whereof bred cold congealed feare:
114Which to increase, and all atonce to kill,
115A cloud of smoothering smoke and sulphur seare
116Out of his stinking gorge forth steemed still,
117That all the ayre about with smoke and stench did fill.
118His blazing eyes, like two bright shining shields,
119Did burne with wrath, and sparkled living fyre;
120As two broad Beacons, set in open fields,
121Send forth their flames farre off to every shyre,
122And warning give, that enemies conspyre,
123With fire and sword the region to invade;
124So flam'd his eyne with rage and rancorous yre:
125But farre within, as in a hollow glade,
126Those glaring lampes were set, that made a dreadfull shade.
127So dreadfully he towards him did pas,
128Forelifting up aloft his speckled brest,
129And often bounding on the brused gras,
130As for great joyance of his newcome guest.
131Eftsoones he gan advance his haughtie crest,
133And shoke his scales to battell readie drest;
134That made the Redcrosse knight nigh quake for feare,
135As bidding bold defiance to his foeman neare.
136The knight gan fairely couch his steadie speare,
137And fiercely ran at him with rigorous might:
138The pointed steele arriving rudely theare,
139His harder hide would neither perce, nor bight,
140But glauncing by forth passed forward right;
141Yet sore amoved with so puissant push,
142The wrathfull beast about him turned light,
143And him so rudely passing by, did brush
144With his long tayle, that horse and man to ground did rush.
145Both horse and man up lightly rose againe,
146And fresh encounter towards him addrest:
147But th'idle stroke yet backe recoyld in vaine,
148And found no place his deadly point to rest.
149Exceeding rage enflam'd the furious beast,
150To be avenged of so great despight;
151For never felt his imperceable brest
152So wondrous force, from hand of living wight;
153Yet had he prov'd the powre of many a puissant knight.
154Then with his waving wings displayed wyde,
155Himselfe up high he lifted from the ground,
156And with strong flight did forcibly divide
157The yielding aire, which nigh too feeble found
158Her flitting partes, and element unsound,
159To beare so great a weight: he cutting way
160With his broad sayles, about him soared round:
161At last low stouping with unweldie sway,
162Snatcht up both horse and man, to beare them quite away.
163Long he them bore above the subject plaine,
165Till struggling strong did him at last constraine,
166To let them downe before his flightes end:
169His wearie pounces all in vaine doth spend,
171Which comming downe to ground, does free it selfe by fight.
175And three mens strength unto the stroke he layd;
176Wherewith the stiffe beame quaked, as affrayd,
177And glauncing from his scaly necke, did glyde
178Close under his left wing, then broad displayd.
179The percing steele there wrought a wound full wyde,
180That with the uncouth smart the Monster lowdly cryde.
181He cryde, as raging seas are wont to rore,
182When wintry storme his wrathfull wreck does threat,
183The rolling billowes beat the ragged shore,
184As they the earth would shoulder from her seat,
185And greedie gulfe does gape, as he would eat
186His neighbour element in his revenge:
187Then gin the blustring brethren boldly threat,
188To move the world from off his stedfast henge,
189And boystrous battell make, each other to avenge.
190The steely head stucke fast still in his flesh,
191Till with his cruell clawes he snatcht the wood,
192And quite a sunder broke. Forth flowed fresh
193A gushing river of blacke goarie blood,
194That drowned all the land, whereon he stood;
195The streame thereof would drive a water-mill.
196Trebly augmented was his furious mood
197With bitter sense of his deepe rooted ill,
198That flames of fire he threw forth from his large nosethrill.
199His hideous tayle then hurled he about,
200And therewith all enwrapt the nimble thyes
201Of his froth-fomy steed, whose courage stout
202Striving to loose the knot, that fast him tyes,
203Himselfe in streighter bandes too rash implyes,
204That to the ground he is perforce constraynd
205To throw his rider: who can quickly ryse
206From off the earth, with durty bloud distaynd,
207For that reprochfull fall right fowly he disdaynd.
208And fiercely tooke his trenchand blade in hand,
209With which he stroke so furious and so fell,
210That nothing seemd the puissance could withstand:
211Upon his crest the hardned yron fell,
212But his more hardned crest was armd so well,
213That deeper dint therein it would not make;
214Yet so extremely did the buffe him quell,
215That from thenceforth he shund the like to take,
216But when he saw them come, he did them still forsake.
217The knight was wrath to see his stroke beguyld,
218And smote againe with more outrageous might;
219But backe againe the sparckling steele recoyld,
220And left not any marke, where it did light;
221As if in Adamant rocke it had bene pight.
222The beast impatient of his smarting wound,
223And of so fierce and forcible despight,
225But his late wounded wing unserviceable found.
226Then full of griefe and anguish vehement,
227He lowdly brayd, that like was never heard,
228And from his wide devouring oven sent
229A flake of fire, that flashing in his beard,
230Him all amazd, and almost made affeard:
231The scorching flame sore swinged all his face,
232And through his armour all his bodie seard,
233That he could not endure so cruell cace,
234But thought his armes to leave, and helmet to unlace.
236Whom famous Poetes verse so much doth vaunt,
237And hath for twelve huge labours high extold,
238So many furies and sharpe fits did haunt,
239When him the poysoned garment did enchaunt
240With Centaures bloud, and bloudie verses charm'd,
241As did this knight twelve thousand dolours daunt,
242Whom fyrie steele now burnt, that earst him arm'd,
243That erst him goodly arm'd, now most of all him harm'd.
244Faint, wearie, sore, emboyled, grieved, brent
245With heat, toyle, wounds, armes, smart, and inward fire
246That never man such mischiefes did torment;
247Death better were, death did he oft desire,
248But death will never come, when needes, require.
249Whom so dismayd when that his foe beheld,
250He cast to suffer him no more respire,
251But gan his sturdie sterne about to weld,
252And him so strongly stroke, that to the ground him feld.
253It fortuned (as faire it then befell)
254Behind his backe unweeting, where he stood,
255Of auncient time there was a springing well,
256From which fast trickled forth a silver flood,
257Full of great vertues, and for med'cine good.
258Whylome, before that cursed Dragon got
259That happie land, and all with innocent blood
262For unto life the dead it could restore,
263And guilt of sinfull crimes cleane wash away,
264Those that with sicknesse were infected sore,
265It could recure, and aged long decay
266Renew, as one were borne that very day.
268And th'English Bath, and eke the german Spau,
270Into the same the knight backe overthrowen, fell.
271Now gan the golden Phoebus for to steepe
272His fierie face in billowes of the west,
273And his faint steedes watred in Ocean deepe,
275When that infernall Monster, having kest
276His wearie foe into that living well,
277Can high advance his broad discoloured brest,
278Above his wonted pitch, with countenance fell,
279And clapt his yron wings, as victor he did dwell.
280Which when his pensive Ladie saw from farre,
281Great woe and sorrow did her soule assay,
282As weening that the sad end of the warre,
283And gan to highest God entirely pray,
284That feared chance from her to turne away;
285With folded hands and knees full lowly bent
286All night she watcht, ne once adowne would lay
287Her daintie limbs in her sad dreriment,
288But praying still did wake, and waking did lament.
289The morrow next gan early to appeare,
290That Titan rose to runne his daily race;
291But early ere the morrow next gan reare
292Out of the sea faire Titans deawy face,
293Up rose the gentle virgin from her place,
294And looked all about, if she might spy
295Her loved knight to move his manly pace:
296For she had great doubt of his safety,
297Since late she saw him fall before his enemy.
298At last she saw, where he upstarted brave
299Out of the well, wherein he drenched lay;
301Where he hath left his plumes all hoary gray,
302And deckt himselfe with feathers youthly gay,
304His newly budded pineons to assay,
305And marveiles at himselfe, still as he flies:
306So new this new-borne knight to battell new did rise.
307Whom when the damned feend so fresh did spy,
308No wonder if he wondred at the sight,
309And doubted, whether his late enemy
310It were, or other new supplied knight.
311He, now to prove his late renewed might,
312High brandishing his bright deaw-burning blade,
313Upon his crested scalpe so sore did smite,
314That to the scull a yawning wound it made:
315The deadly dint his dulled senses all dismaid.
316I wote not, whether the revenging steele
317Were hardned with that holy water dew,
318Wherein he fell, or sharper edge did feele,
319Or his baptized hands now greater grew;
320Or other secret vertue did ensew;
321Else never could the force of fleshly arme,
322Ne molten metall in his bloud embrew:
323For till that stownd could never wight him harme,
324By subtilty, nor slight, nor might, nor mighty charme.
325The cruell wound enraged him so sore,
326That loud he yelded for exceeding paine;
327As hundred ramping Lyons seem'd to rore,
328Whom ravenous hunger did thereto constraine:
329Then gan he tosse aloft his stretched traine,
331That to his force to yeelden it was faine;
332Ne ought his sturdie strokes might stand afore,
333That high trees overthrew, and rocks in peeces tore.
334The same advauncing high above his head,
335With sharpe intended sting so rude him smot,
336That to the earth him drove, as stricken dead,
338The mortall sting his angry needle shot
339Quite through his shield, and in his shoulder seasd,
340Where fast it stucke, ne would there out be got:
341The griefe thereof him wondrous sore diseasd,
342Ne might his ranckling paine with patience be appeasd.
343But yet more mindfull of his honour deare,
344Then of the grievous smart, which him did wring,
345From loathed soile he gan him lightly reare,
346And strove to loose the farre infixed sting:
347Which when in vaine he tryde with struggeling,
348Inflam'd with wrath, his raging blade he heft,
349And strooke so strongly, that the knotty string
350Of his huge taile he quite a sunder cleft,
351Five joynts thereof he hewd, and but the stump him left.
352Hart cannot thinke, what outrage, and what cryes
353With foule enfouldred smoake and flashing fire,
354The hell-bred beast threw forth unto the skyes,
355That all was covered with darknesse dire:
356Then fraught with rancour, and engorged ire,
357He cast at once him to avenge for all,
358And gathering up himselfe out of the mire,
359With his uneven wings did fiercely fall,
360Upon his sunne-bright shield, and gript it fast withall.
361Much was the man encombred with his hold,
362In feare to lose his weapon in his paw,
363Ne wist yet, how his talants to unfold;
365To plucke a bone, then from his cruell claw
366To reave by strength the griped gage away:
367Thrise he assayd it from his foot to draw,
368And thrise in vaine to draw it did assay,
369It booted nought to thinke, to robbe him of his pray.
370Tho when he saw no power might prevaile,
371His trustie sword he cald to his last aid,
372Wherewith he fiercely did his foe assaile,
373And double blowes about him stoutly laid,
374That glauncing fire out of the yron plaid;
375As sparckles from the Andvile use to fly,
376When heavie hammers on the wedge are swaid;
377Therewith at last he forst him to unty
378One of his grasping feete, him to defend thereby.
379The other foot, fast fixed on his shield,
380Whenas no strength, nor stroks mote him constraine
381To loose, ne yet the warlike pledge to yield,
382He smot thereat with all his might and maine,
383That nought so wondrous puissance might sustaine;
384Upon the joynt the lucky steele did light,
385And made such way, that hewd it quite in twaine;
386The paw yet missed not his minisht might,
387But hong still on the shield, as it at first was pight.
388For griefe thereof, and divelish despight,
389From his infernall fournace forth he threw
390Huge flames, that dimmed all the heavens light,
391Enrold in duskish smoke and brimstone blew;
392As burning Aetna from his boyling stew
393Doth belch out flames, and rockes in peeces broke,
394And ragged ribs of mountaines molten new,
395Enwrapt in coleblacke clouds and filthy smoke,
396That all the land with stench, and heaven with horror choke.
397The heate whereof, and harmefull pestilence
399A little backward for his best defence,
400To save his bodie from the scorching fire,
401Which he from hellish entrailes did expire.
402It chaunst (eternall God that chaunce did guide)
403As he recoyled backward, in the mire
404His nigh forwearied feeble feet did slide,
405And downe he fell, with dread of shame sore terrifide.
407Loaden with fruit and apples rosie red,
408As they in pure vermilion had beene dide,
409Whereof great vertues over all were red:
410For happie life to all, which thereon fed,
411And life eke everlasting did befall:
412Great God it planted in that blessed sted
413With his almightie hand, and did it call
414The tree of life, the crime of our first fathers fall.
415In all the world like was not to be found,
416Save in that soile, where all good things did grow,
417And freely sprong out of the fruitfull ground,
418As incorrupted Nature did them sow,
419Till that dread Dragon all did overthrow.
421Whereof who so did eat, eftsoones did know
422Both good and ill: O mornefull memory:
423That tree through one mans fault hath doen us all to dy.
424From that first tree forth flowd, as from a well,
425A trickling streame of Balme, most soveraine
426And daintie deare, which on the ground still fell,
427And overflowed all the fertill plaine,
428As it had deawed bene with timely raine:
429Life and long health that gratious ointment gave,
430And deadly woundes could heale, and reare again
431The senselesse corse appointed for the grave.
432Into that same he fell: which did from death him save.
433For nigh thereto the ever damned beast
434Durst not approch, for he was deadly made,
435And all that life preserved, did detest:
436Yet he it oft adventur'd to invade.
437By this the drouping day-light gan to fade,
438And yeeld his roome to sad succeeding night,
439Who with her sable mantle gan to shade
440The face of earth, and wayes of living wight,
441And high her burning torch set up in heaven bright.
442When gentle Una saw the second fall
443Of her deare knight, who wearie of long fight,
444And faint through losse of bloud, mov'd not at all,
445But lay as in a dreame of deepe delight,
446Besmeard with pretious Balme, whose vertuous might
447Did heale his wounds, and scorching heat alay,
448Againe she stricken was with sore affright,
449And for his safetie gan devoutly pray;
450And watch the noyous night, and wait for joyous day.
451The joyous day gan early to appeare,
453Of aged Tithone gan her selfe to reare,
454With rosie cheekes, for shame as blushing red;
455Her golden lockes for haste were loosely shed
456About her eares, when Una her did marke
457Clymbe to her charet, all with flowers spred,
458From heaven high to chase the chearelesse darke;
459With merry note her loud salutes the mounting larke.
460Then freshly up arose the doughtie knight,
461All healed of his hurts and woundes wide,
462And did himselfe to battell readie dight;
463Whose early foe awaiting him beside
464To have devourd, so soone as day he spyde,
465When now he saw himselfe so freshly reare,
466As if late fight had nought him damnifyde,
467He woxe dismayd, and gan his fate to feare;
468Nathlesse with wonted rage he him advaunced neare.
469And in his first encounter, gaping wide,
470He thought attonce him to have swallowd quight,
471And rusht upon him with outragious pride;
472Who him r'encountring fierce, as hauke in flight,
473Perforce rebutted backe. The weapon bright
474Taking advantage of his open jaw,
475Ran through his mouth with so importune might,
476That deepe emperst his darksome hollow maw,
477And back retyrd, his life bloud forth with all did draw.
479That vanisht into smoke and cloudes swift;
480So downe he fell, that th'earth him underneath
481Did grone, as feeble so great load to lift;
482So downe he fell, as an huge rockie clift,
483Whose false foundation waves have washt away,
484With dreadfull poyse is from the mayneland rift,
485And rolling downe, great Neptune doth dismay;
486So downe he fell, and like an heaped mountaine lay.
487The knight himselfe even trembled at his fall,
488So huge and horrible a masse it seem'd;
489And his deare Ladie, that beheld it all,
490Durst not approch for dread, which she misdeem'd,
491But yet at last, when as the direfull feend
492She saw not stirre, off-shaking vaine affright,
493She nigher drew, and saw that joyous end:
494Then God she praysd, and thankt her faithfull knight,
495That had atchiev'd so great a conquest by his might.


36] blith: joyfully; cf. stanza xv, below. Back to Line
37] yede: go; in Middle English properly the preterite. Back to Line
43] Faire ympe of Phoebus: Spenser's authority for taking Phoebus (Apollo) as parent of the Muse(s) is Natalis Comes, Mythologiae; cf. Epithalamion, line 121. his aged bride: Memory. Back to Line
55] Spenser alludes to a projected episode in the poem, probably the war with the "Souldan" in Book V. Back to Line
93] boughts: coils. Back to Line
107] like the griesly mouth of hell. In the mystery plays and in illustrated books of devotion hell-mouth was often represented as the gaping gullet of a dragon. Back to Line
108] ravin: prey. Back to Line
132] chauffed: irritated, angered. Back to Line
164] Ewghen: of yew. Back to Line
167] hagard: untrained. Back to Line
168] aboue his hable might: more than he can manage. Back to Line
170] trusse: seize and carry off. Back to Line
172] disseized: deprived. gryping grosse: heavy grip. Back to Line
173] thrillant: piercing. Back to Line
174] embosse: plunge. Back to Line
224] stye: ascend. Back to Line
235] that great Champion: Hercules. The Centaur Nessus, dying from Hercules' arrow, gave to Hercules' wife Deianira a robe smeared with his blood, telling her it was a love-charm. When Deianira gave it to her husband to win him back from Iole, it ate into his flesh, and in agony he perished on a funeral pyre he had made for himself on Mount Oeta. Back to Line
260] hot: was called. Back to Line
261] The well of life. See Revelation 22:1. Back to Line
267] Silo: the pool of Siloam, John 9:7. Back to Line
269] Cephise: the river Cephissus in Boeotia, called "beautiful" by the ancient poets. Hebrus: a river of Thrace, into which the head of Orpheus was thrown. Back to Line
274] journall: daily. Back to Line
300] As Eagle fresh. Cf. Psalm 103:5: "... thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." Back to Line
303] eyas hauke: a newly fledged hawk. Back to Line
330] buxome: yielding. Back to Line
337] have him life behot: have held hope for his life. Back to Line
364] Cerberus: the watch-dog of Hades, pictured with three heads. Back to Line
398] noyd: pained. Back to Line
406] a goodly tree. See Revelation 22:2. Back to Line
420] Another like faire tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 2:9. Back to Line
452] Aurora. See note to Epithalamion, line 75. Back to Line
478] So downe he fell. Cf. Revelation 14:8: "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Millar MacLure
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1: 90.