The Faerie Queene, Book II, Canto 12

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.
380Whereas the Bowre of Blisse was situate;
381A place pickt out by choice of best alive,
382That natures worke by art can imitate:
383In which what ever in this worldly state
384Is sweet, and pleasing unto living sense,
386Was poured forth with plentifull dispence,
387And made there to abound with lavish affluence.
388Goodly it was enclosed round about,
389Aswell their entred guests to keepe within,
390As those unruly beasts to hold without;
391Yet was the fence thereof but weake and thin;
393But wisdomes powre, and temperaunces might,
394By which the mightiest things efforced bin:
395And eke the gate was wrought of substaunce light,
396Rather for pleasure, then for battery or fight.
397Yt framed was of precious yvory,
398That seemd a worke of admirable wit;
399And therein all the famous history
401Her mighty charmes, her furious loving fit,
402His goodly conquest of the golden fleece,
403His falsed faith, and love too lightly flit,
404The wondred Argo, which in venturous peece
405First through the Euxine seas bore all the flowr of Greece.
406Ye might have seene the frothy billowes fry
407Under the ship, as thorough them she went,
408That seemd the waves were into yvory,
409Or yvory into the waves were sent;
410And other where the snowy substaunce sprent
411With vermell, like the boyes bloud therein shed,
412A piteous spectacle did represent,
413And otherwhiles with gold besprinkeled;
414Yt seemd th'enchaunted flame, which did Cre{:u}sa wed.
415All this, and more might in that goodly gate
416Be red; that ever open stood to all,
417Which thither came: but in the Porch there sate
418A comely personage of stature tall,
419And semblaunce pleasing, more then naturall,
420That travellers to him seemd to entize;
421His looser garment to the ground did fall,
422And flew about his heeles in wanton wize,
423Not fit for speedy pace, or manly exercize.
425Not that celestiall powre, to whom the care
426Of life, and generation of all
427That lives, pertaines in charge particulare,
428Who wondrous things concerning our welfare,
430And oft of secret ill bids us beware:
432Yet each doth in him selfe it well perceive to bee.
433Therefore a God him sage Antiquity
435But this same was to that quite contrary,
436The foe of life, that good envyes to all,
437That secretly doth us procure to fall,
438Through guilefull semblaunts, which he make us see.
439He of this Gardin had the governall,
440And Pleasures porter was devizd to bee,
441Holding a staffe in hand for more formalitee.
443And strowed round about, and by his side
445As if it had to him bene sacrifide;
446Wherewith all new-come guests he gratifide:
447So did he eke Sir Guyon passing by:
448But he his idle curtesie defide,
449And overthrew his bowle disdainfully;
450And broke his staffe, with which he charmed semblants sly.
451Thus being entred, they behold around
452A large and spacious plaine, on every side
454Mantled with greene, and goodly beautifide
455With all the ornaments of Floraes pride,
456Wherewith her mother Art, as halfe in scorne
457Of niggard Nature, like a pompous bride
458Did decke her, and too lavishly adorne,
459When forth from virgin bowre she comes in th'early morne.
460Thereto the Heavens alwayes Joviall,
461Lookt on them lovely, still in stedfast state,
462Ne suffred storme nor frost on them to fall,
463Their tender buds or leaves to violate,
464Nor scorching heat, nor cold intemperate
465T'afflict the creatures, which therein did dwelle
466But the milde aire with season moderate
467Gently attempred, and disposd so well,
468That still it breathed forth sweet spirit and holesome smell.
469More sweet and holesome, then the pleasaunt hill
471A gyaunt babe, her selfe for griefe did kill;
472Or the Thessalian Tempe, where of yore
475When ever they their heavenly bowres forlore;
476Or sweet Parnasse, the haunt of Muses faire;
477Or Eden selfe, if ought with Eden mote compaire.
478Much wondred Guyon at the faire aspect
479Of that sweet place, yet suffred no delight
480To sincke into his sence, nor mind affect,
481But passed forth, and lookt still forward right,
482Bridling his will, and maistering his might:
483Till that he came unto another gate,
484No gate, but like one, being goodly dight
485With boughes and braunches, which did broad dilate
486Their clasping armes, in wanton wreathings intricate.
487So fashioned a Porch with rare device,
488Archt over head with an embracing vine,
489Whose bounches hanging downe, seemed to entice
490All passers by, to tast their lushious wine,
491And did themselves into their hands incline,
492As freely offering to be gathered:
494Some as the Rubine, laughing sweetly red,
495Some like faire Emeraudes, not yet well ripened.
496And them amongst, some were of burnisht gold,
497So made by art, to beautifie the rest,
498Which did themselves emongst the leaves enfold,
499As lurking from the vew of covetous guest,
500That the weake bowes, with so rich load opprest,
501Did bow adowne, as over-burdened.
502Under that Porch a comely dame did rest,
503Clad in faire weedes, but fowle disordered,
504And garments loose, that seemd unmeet for womanhed.
505In her left hand a Cup of gold she held,
506And with her right the riper fruit did reach,
507Whose sappy liquor, that with fulnesse sweld,
510That so faire wine-presse made the wine more sweet:
511Thereof she usd to give to drinke to each,
512Whom passing by she happened to meet:
513It was her guise, all Straungers goodly so to greet.
514So she to Guyon offred it to tast;
515Who taking it out of her tender hond,
516The cup to ground did violently cast,
517That all in peeces it was broken fond,
518And with the liquor stained all the lond:
519Whereat Excesse exceedingly was wroth,
520Yet no'te the same amend, ne yet withstond,
521But suffered him to passe, all were she loth.
522Who nought regarding her displeasure forward goth.
523There the most daintie Paradise on ground,
524It selfe doth offer to his sober eye,
525In which all pleasures plenteously abound,
526And none does others happinesse envye;
527The painted flowres, the trees upshooting hye,
528The dales for shade, the hilles for breathing space,
529The trembling groves, the Christall running by;
530And that, which all faire workes doth most aggrace,
531The art, which all that wrought, appeared in no place.
532One would have thought, (so cunningly, the rude,
533And scorned parts were mingled with the fine,)
535Art, and that Art at nature did repine;
536So striving each th'other to undermine,
537Each did the others worke more beautifie;
539So all agreed through sweete diversitie,
540This Gardin to adorne with all varietie.
541And in the midst of all, a fountaine stood,
542Of richest substaunce, that on earth might bee,
543So pure and shiny, that the silver flood
544Through every channell running one might see;
545Most goodly it with curious imageree
546Was over-wrought, and shapes of naked boyes,
547Of which some seemd with lively jollitee,
548To fly about, playing their wanton toyes,
549Whilest others did them selves embay in liquid joyes.
550And over all, of purest gold was spred,
551A trayle of yvie in his native hew:
552For the rich mettall was so coloured,
553That wight, who did not well avis'd it vew,
554Would surely deeme it to be yvie trew:
555Low his lascivious armes adown did creepe,
556That themselves dipping in the silver dew,
557Their fleecy flowres they tenderly did steepe,
558Which drops of Christall seemd for wantones to weepe.
559Infinit streames continually did well
560Out of this fountaine, sweet and faire to see,
562And shortly grew to so great quantitie,
563That like a little lake it seemd to bee:
564Whose depth exceeded not three cubits hight,
565That through the waves one might the bottom see,
566All pav'd beneath with Jaspar shining bright,
567That seemd the fountaine in that sea did sayle upright.
568And all the margent round about was set,
569With shady Laurell trees, thence to defend
570The sunny beames, which on the billowes bet,
571And those which therein bathed, mote offend.
572As Guyon hapned by the same to wend,
573Two naked Damzelles he therein espyde,
574Which therein bathing, seemed to contend,
575And wrestle wantonly, ne car'd to hyde,
576Their dainty parts from vew of any, which them eyde.
577Sometimes the one would lift the other quight
578Above the waters, and then downe againe
579Her plong, as over maistered by might,
580Where both awhile would covered remaine,
581And each the other from to rise restraine;
582The whiles their snowy limbes, as through a vele,
583So through the Christall waves appeared plaine:
585And th'amarous sweet spoiles to greedy eyes revele.
586As that faire Starre, the messenger of morne,
587His deawy face out of the sea doth reare:
589Of th'Oceans fruitfull froth, did first appeare:
590Such seemed they, and so their yellow heare
591Christalline humour dropped downe apace.
592Whom such when Guyon saw, he drew him neare,
593And somewhat gan relent his earnest pace,
594His stubborne brest gan secret pleasaunce to embrace.
595The wanton Maidens him espying, stood
596Gazing a while at his unwonted guise;
597Then th'one her selfe low ducked in the flood,
598Abasht, that her a straunger did a vise:
599But th'other rather higher did arise,
600And her two lilly paps aloft displayd,
601And all, that might his melting hart entise
602To her delights, she unto him bewrayd:
603The rest hid underneath, him more desirous made.
604With that, the other likewise up arose,
605And her faire lockes, which formerly were bownd
606Up in one knot, she low adowne did lose:
607Which flowing long and thick, her cloth'd arownd,
608And th'yvorie in golden mantle gownd:
609So that faire spectacle from him was reft,
610Yet that, which reft it, no lesse faire was fownd:
611So hid in lockes and waves from lookers theft,
612Nought but her lovely face she for his looking left.
613Withall she laughed, and she blusht withall,
614That blushing to her laughter gave more grace,
615And laughter to her blushing, as did fall:
616Now when they spide the knight to slacke his pace,
617Them to behold, and in his sparkling face
618The secret signes of kindled lust appeare,
619Their wanton meriments they did encreace,
620And to him beckned, to approch more neare,
621And shewd him many sights, that courage cold could reare.
622On which when gazing him the Palmer saw,
623He much rebukt those wandring eyes of his,
624And counseld well, him forward thence did draw.
625Now are they come nigh to the Bowre of blis
626Of her fond favorites so nam'd amis:
627When thus the Palmer; Now Sir, well avise;
628For here the end of all our travell is:
629Here wonnes Acrasia, whom we must surprise,
630Else she will slip away, and all our drift despise.
631Eftsoones they heard a most melodious sound,
632Of all that mote delight a daintie eare,
633Such as attonce might not on living ground,
634Save in this Paradise, be heard elswhere:
635Right hard it was, for wight, which did it heare,
636To read, what manner musicke that mote bee:
637For all that pleasing is to living eare,
638Was there consorted in one harmonee,
639Birdes, voyces, instruments, windes, waters, all agree.
640The joyous birdes shrouded in chearefull shade,
641Their notes unto the voyce attempred sweet;
642Th'Angelicall soft trembling voyces made
643To th'instruments divine respondence meet:
644The silver sounding instruments did meet
645With the base murmure of the waters fall:
646The waters fall with difference discreet,
647Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call:
648The gentle warbling wind low answered to all.
649There, whence that Musick seemed heard to bee,
650Was the faire Witch her selfe now solacing,
651With a new Lover, whom through sorceree
652And witchcraft, she from farre did thither bring:
653There she had him now layd a slombering,
654In secret shade, after long wanton joyes:
655Whilst round about them pleasauntly did sing
656Many faire Ladies, and lascivious boyes,
657That ever mixt their song with light licentious toyes.
658And all that while, right over him she hong,
659With her false eyes fast fixed in his sight,
660As seeking medicine, whence she was stong,
662And oft inclining downe with kisses light,
663For feare of waking him, his lips bedewd,
664And through his humid eyes did sucke his spright,
665Quite molten into lust and pleasure lewd;
666Wherewith she sighed soft, as if his case she rewd.
668Ah see, who so faire thing doest faine to see,
669In springing flowre the image of thy day;
670Ah see the Virgin Rose, how sweetly shee
671Doth first peepe forth with bashfull modestee,
672That fairer seemes, the lesse ye see her may;
673So see soone after, how more bold and free
674Her bared bosome she doth broad display;
675Loe see soone after, how she fades, and falles away.
676So passeth, in the passing of a day,
677Of mortall life the leafe, the bud, the flowre,
678Ne more doth flourish after first decay,
679That earst was sought to decke both bed and bowre,
680Of many a Ladie, and many a Paramowre:
681Gather therefore the Rose, whilest yet is prime,
682For soone comes age, that will her pride deflowre:
683Gather the Rose of love, whilest yet is time,
684Whilest loving thou mayst loved be with equall crime.
685He ceast, and then gan all the quire of birdes
686Their diverse notes t'attune unto his lay,
687As in approvance of his pleasing words.
688The constant paire heard all, that he did say,
689Yet swarved not, but kept their forward way,
690Through many covert groves, and thickets close,
691In which they creeping did at last display
692That wanton Ladie, with her lover lose,
693Whose sleepie head she in her lap did soft dispose.
694Upon a bed of Roses she was layd,
695As faint through heat, or dight to pleasant sin,
696And was arayd, or rather disarayd,
697All in a vele of silke and silver thin,
698That hid no whit her alablaster skin,
699But rather shewd more white, if more might bee:
701Nor the fine nets, which oft we woven see
702Of scorched deaw, do not in th'aire more lightly flee.
703Her snowy brest was bare to readie spoyle,
704Of hungry eies, which n'ote therewith be fild,
705And yet through languour of her late sweet toyle,
706Few drops, more cleare then Nectar, forth distild,
707That like pure Orient perles adowne it trild,
708And her faire eyes sweet smyling in delight,
709Moystened their fierie beames, with which she thrild
710Fraile harts, yet quenched not; like starry light
711Which sparckling on the silent waves, does seeme more bright.
712The young man sleeping by her, seemd to bee
713Some goodly swayne of honorable place,
714That certes it great pittie was to see
715Him his nobilitie so foule deface;
716A sweet regard, and amiable grace,
717Mixed with manly sternnesse did appeare
718Yet sleeping, in his well proportiond face,
719And on his tender lips the downy heare
720Did now but freshly spring, and silken blossomes beare.
721His warlike armes, the idle instruments
722Of sleeping praise, were hong upon a tree,
724Was fowly ra'st, that none the signes might see;
725Ne for them, ne for honour cared hee,
726Ne ought, that did to his advauncement tend,
727But in lewd loves, and wastfull luxuree,
728His dayes, his goods, his bodie he did spend:
730The noble Elfe, and carefull Palmer drew
731So nigh them, minding nought, but lustfull game,
732That suddein forth they on them rusht, and threw
735So held them under fast, the whiles the rest
736Fled all away for feare of fowler shame.
737The faire Enchauntresse, so unwares opprest,
738Tryde all her arts, and all her sleights, thence out to wrest.
739And eke her lover strove: but all in vaine;
740For that same net so cunningly was wound,
741That neither guile, nor force might it distraine.
742They tooke them both, and both them strongly bound
743In captive bandes, which there they readie found:
744But her in chaines of adamant he tyde;
745For nothing else might keepe her safe and sound;
746But Verdant (so he hight) he soone untyde,
747And counsell sage in steed thereof to him applyde.
748But all those pleasant bowres and Pallace brave,
749Guyon broke downe, with rigour pittilesse;
750Ne ought their goodly workmanship might save
751Them from the tempest of his wrathfulnesse,
752But that their blisse he turn'd to balefulnesse:
753Their groves he feld, their gardins did deface,
754Their arbers spoyle, their Cabinets suppresse,
755Their banket houses burne, their buildings race,
756And of the fairest late, now made the fowlest place.
757Then led they her away, and eke that knight
758They with them led, both sorrowfull and sad:
759The way they came, the same retourn'd they right,
760Till they arrived, where they lately had
761Charm'd those wild-beasts, that rag'd with furie mad.
762Which now awaking, fierce at them gan fly,
763As in their mistresse reskew, whom they lad;
764But them the Palmer soone did pacify.
765Then Guyon askt, what meant those beastes, which there did ly.
766Said he, These seeming beasts are men indeed,
767Whom this Enchauntresse hath transformed thus,
768Whylome her lovers, which her lusts did feed,
769Now turned into figures hideous,
770According to their mindes like monstruous.
771Sad end (quoth he) of life intemperate,
772And mournefull meed of joyes delicious:
773But Palmer, if it mote thee so aggrate,
774Let them returned be unto their former state.
775Streight way he with his vertuous staffe them strooke,
776And streight of beasts they comely men became;
777Yet being men they did unmanly looke,
778And stared ghastly, some for inward shame,
779And some for wrath, to see their captive Dame:
780But one above the rest in speciall,
782Repined greatly, and did him miscall,
783That had from hoggish forme him brought to naturall.
784Said Guyon, See the mind of beastly man,
785That hath so soone forgot the excellence
786Of his creation, when he life began,
787That now he chooseth, with vile difference,
788To be a beast, and lacke intelligence.
789To whom the Palmer thus, The donghill kind
790Delights in filth and foule incontinence:
791Let Grill be Grill, and have his hoggish mind,
792But let us hence depart, whilest wether serves and wind.


379] "The second day ther came in a Palmer bearing an Infant with bloody hands, whose Parents he complained to have bene slayne by an Enchaunteresse called Acrasia: and therfore craved of the Faery Queene to appoint him some knight, to performe that adventure, which being assigned to Sir Guyon, he presently went forth with that same Palmer: which is the beginning of the second booke and the whole subject thereof" ("Letter to Ralegh"). Having successfully resisted the assaults of ire and concupiscence, passed through the temptations of the Cave of Mammon, sojourned for a time in the House of Alma, and passed over dangerous seas, Guyon, with his Palmer (who represents reason and providential care), arrives in the realm of Acrasia, whose Bower is surrounded by wild beasts, her transformed victims. Spenser's description of the Bower owes a good deal to Tasso's description of the abode of the enchantress Armida in Gerusalemne Liberata, XIV-XVI. Both Armida and Acrasia are derived from the allegorical interpretations of Homer's Circe, Odyssey, X. Back to Line
385] aggrate: please. Back to Line
392] fortilage: fortress. Back to Line
400] Jason was the captain of the Argonauts, who captured the Golden Fleece from Colchis, east of the Black (Euxine) Sea. Medea, daughter of the king of Colchis and (like Acrasia) an enchantress, fell in love with Jason and aided him; in order to delay her father's pursuit of the Argonauts, she slew her brother Absyrtes and strewed his limbs behind them (xlv.6). Jason abandoned her for the daughter of the king of Corinth (Spenser's "Creusa"), and in her rage Medea murdered her rival with a poisoned garment, which caught fire when worn, and destroyed her own children. See Euripides' Medea, xlvii.l. Back to Line
424] Genius: Spenser's account of the true Genius is based on Natalis Comes, Mythologiae, where he is described as presiding over generation and the care of all life. Back to Line
429] phantomes. According to Natalis Comes, Genius guides men by "spectra et imagines." Back to Line
431] our Selfe. Genius is born "with us" (Comes); Virgil's name for a man's attendant spirit is Manes. Back to Line
434] Agdistes: the name comes through Natalis Comes, from other sources; "Agdistis" was originally a Phrygian Mother-goddess. Back to Line
442] Genius was worshipped with gardens of flowers and libations of wine (Natalis Comes). Back to Line
444] mazer: hardwood. Back to Line
453] plesauns: gardens. Back to Line
470] Rhodope: an allusion to an obscure myth, referred to by Ovid and Plutarch, of a nymph of Thrace who, having borne a giant to Neptune, compared herself to Juno and was for her presumption turned unto a mountain. Back to Line
473] Daphne: a nymph, daughter of the river Peneus in the Vale of Tempe, who, pursued by Apollo, was turned unto a laurel. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, I, 452-567. Back to Line
474] Ida: a mountain near Troy, from which, in the IIiad, Zeus watches the Trojan war. Back to Line
493] Hyacine: jacinth. Back to Line
508] scruzd: squeezed. breach: crushing. Back to Line
509] empeach: injury. Back to Line
534] ensude: imitated. Back to Line
538] in fine: in the end. Back to Line
561] laver: basin. Back to Line
584] unhele: disclose. Back to Line
588] the Cyprian goddess: Venus. Back to Line
661] depasturing: feeding on. Back to Line
667] The rose-song is paraphrased from Tasso, Cer. Lib., XVI, 14-15 . Back to Line
700] Arachne: the Lydian maiden who challenged Athena to a contest in weaving. Back to Line
723] old moniments: the achievements of his family inscribed on his coat of arms. Back to Line
729] blend: blind. Back to Line
733] A subtile net: like the net in which Vulcan caught Venus and Mars. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, IV, 171-84. Back to Line
734] formally: expressly, especially. Back to Line
781] Grille. In Plutarch's dialogue concerning reason in brutes, Gryllus, one of the companions of Ulysses, transformed into a hog by Circe, refuses to be restored to human shape. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Millar MacLure
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1: 99.