The Faerie Queene, Book III, Canto 6

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 birth of faire Belphoebe and
     Of Amoret is told.
The Gardins of Adonis fraught
     With pleasures manifold.
2Ye wonder, how this noble Damozell
4Sith that in salvage forests she did dwell,
5So farre from court and royall Citadell,
6The great schoolmistresse of all curtesy:
7Seemeth that such wild woods should far expell
8All civill usage and gentility,
9And gentle sprite deforme with rude rusticity.
10But to this faire Belphoebe in her berth
11The heavens so favourable were and free,
12Looking with myld aspect upon the earth,
13In th'Horoscope of her nativitee,
14That all the gifts of grace and chastitee
15On her they poured forth of plenteous horne;
16Jove laught on Venus from his soveraigne see,
17And Phoebus with faire beames did her adorne,
19Her berth was of the wombe of Morning dew,
21And all her whole creation did her shew
22Pure and unspotted from all loathly crime,
23That is ingenerate in fleshly slime.
24So was this virgin borne, so was she bred,
25So was she trayned up from time to time,
27Till to her dew perfection she was ripened.
30A Faerie was, yborne of high degree,
31She bore Belphoebe, she bore in like cace
32Faire Amoretta in the second place:
33These two were twinnes, and twixt them two did share
34The heritage of all celestiall grace.
35That all the rest it seem'd they robbed bare
36Of bountie, and of beautie, and all vertues rare.
37It were a goodly storie, to declare,
38By what straunge accident faire Chrysogone
39Conceiv'd these infants, and how them she bare,
40In this wild forrest wandring all alone,
41After she had nine moneths fulfild and gone:
42For not as other wemens commune brood,
43They were enwombed in the sacred throne
44Of her chaste bodie, nor with commune food,
45As other wemens babes, they sucked vitall blood.
46But wondrously they were begot, and bred
47Through influence of th'heavens fruitfull ray,
48As it in antique bookes is mentioned.
49It was upon a Sommers shynie day,
50When Titan faire his beames did display,
51In a fresh fountaine, farre from all mens vew,
52She bath'd her brest, the boyling heat t'allay;
53She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew,
54And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.
55Till faint through irkesome wearinesse, adowne
56Upon the grassie ground her selfe she layd
57To sleepe, the whiles a gentle slombring swowne
58Upon her fell all naked bare displayd;
59The sunne-beames bright upon her body playd,
60Being through former bathing mollifide,
61And pierst into her wombe, where they embayd
62With so sweet sence and secret power unspide,
63That in her pregnant flesh they shortly fructifide.
65So straunge ensample of conception;
66But reason teacheth that the fruitfull seades
67Of all things living, through impression
68Of the sunbeames in moyst complexion,
69Doe life conceive and quickned are by kynd:
70So after Nilus inundation,
71Infinite shapes of creatures men do fynd,
72Informed in the mud, on which the Sunne hath shynd.
73Great father he of generation
74Is rightly cald, th'author of life and light;
77With heate and humour, breedes the living wight.
78So sprong these twinnes in wombe of Chrysogone,
79Yet wist she nought thereof, but sore affright,
80Wondred to see her belly so upblone,
81Which still increast, till she her terme had full outgone.
82Whereof conceiving shame and foule disgrace,
83Albe her guiltlesse conscience her cleard,
84She fled into the wildernesse a space,
85Till that unweeldy burden she had reard,
86And shund dishonor, which as death she feard:
87Where wearie of long travell, downe to rest
88Her selfe she set, and comfortably cheard;
89There a sad cloud of sleepe her overkest,
90And seized every sense with sorrow sore opprest.
91It fortuned, faire Venus having lost
92Her little sonne, the winged god of love,
93Who for some light displeasure, which him crost,
94Was from her fled, as flit as ayerie Dove,
95And left her blisfull bowre of joy above,
96(So from her often he had fled away,
97When she for ought him sharpely did reprove,
98And wandred in the world in strange aray,
100Him for to seeke, she left her heavenly hous,
101The house of goodly formes and faire aspects,
102Whence all the world derives the glorious
103Features of beautie, and all shapes select,
104With which high God his workmanship hath deckt;
105And searched every way, through which his wings
106Had borne him, or his tract she mote detect:
107She promist kisses sweet, and sweeter things
108Unto the man, that of him tydings to her brings.
109First she him sought in Court, where most he used
110Whylome to haunt, but there she found him not;
111But many there she found, which sore accused
112His falsehood, and with foule infamous blot
113His cruell deedes and wicked wyles did spot:
114Ladies and Lords she every where mote heare
115Complayning, how with his empoysned shot
116Their wofull harts he wounded had whyleare,
117And so had left them languishing twixt hopt and feare.
118She then the Citties sought from gate to gate,
119And every one did aske, did he him see;
120And every one her answerd, that too late
121He had him seene, and felt the crueltie
122Of his sharpe darts and whot artillerie;
123And every one threw forth reproches rife
124Of his mischievous deedes, and said, That hee
125Was the disturber of all civill life,
126The enimy of peace, and author of all strife.
127Then in the countrey she abroad him sought,
128And in the rurall cottages inquired,
129Where also many plaints to her were brought,
130How he their heedlesse harts with love had fyred,
131And his false venim through their veines inspyred;
132And eke the gentle shepheard swaynes, which sat
133Keeping their fleecie flockes, as they were hyred,
134She sweetly heard complaine, both how and what
135Her sonne had to them doen; yet she did smile thereat.
136But when in none of all these she him got,
137She gan avize, where else he mote him hyde:
138At last she her bethought, that she had not
139Yet sought the salvage woods and forrests wyde,
140In which full many lovely Nymphes abyde,
141Mongst whom might be, that he did closely lye,
142Or that the love of some of them him tyde:
143For thy she thither cast her course t'apply,
144To search the secret haunts of Dianes company.
145Shortly unto the wastefull woods she came,
146Whereas she found the Goddesse with her crew,
148Sitting beside a fountaine in a rew,
149Some of them washing with the liquid dew
150From offtheir dainty limbes the dustie sweat,
151And soyle which did deforme their lively hew;
152Others lay shaded from the scorching heat;
153The rest upon her person gave attendance great.
154She having hong upon a bough on high
155Her bow and painted quiver, had unlaste
156Her silver buskins from her nimble thigh,
158After her heat the breathing cold to taste;
159Her golden lockes, that late in tresses bright
160Embreaded were for hindring of her haste,
161Now loose about her shoulders hong undight,
162And were with sweet Ambrosia all besprinckled light.
163Soone as she Venus saw behind her backe,
164She was asham'd to be so loose surprized,
165And woxe halfe wroth against her damzels slacke,
166That had not her thereof before avized,
167But suffred her so carelesly disguized
168Be overtaken. Soone her garments loose
170Well as she might, and to the Goddesse rose,
171Whiles all her Nymphes did like a girlond her enclose.
173And shortly asked her, what cause her brought
174Into that wildernesse for her unmeet,
175From her sweete bowres, and beds with pleasures fraught:
176That suddein change she strange adventure thought.
177To whom halfe weeping, she thus answered,
178That she her dearest sonne Cupido sought,
179Who in his frowardnesse from her was fled;
180That she repented sore, to have him angered.
181Thereat Diana gan to smile, in scorne
182Of her vaine plaint, and to her scoffmg sayd;
183Great pittie sure, that ye be so forlorne
184Of your gay sonne, that gives ye so good ayd
186But she was more engrieved, and replide;
187Faire sister, ill beseemes it to upbrayd
188A dolefull heart with so disdainfull pride;
189The like that mine, may be your paine another tide.
190As you in woods and wanton wildernesse
191Your glory set, to chace the salvage beasts,
192So my delight is all in joyfulnesse,
193In beds, in bowres, in banckets, and in feasts:
194And ill becomes you with your loftie creasts,
195To scorne the joy, that Jove is glad to seeke;
196We both are bound to follow heavens beheasts,
197And tend our charges with obeisance meeke:
198Spare, gentle sister, with reproch my paine to eeke.
199And tell me, if that ye my sonne have heard,
200To lurk emongst your Nymphes in secret wize;
201Or keepe their cabins: much I am affeard,
202Lest he like one of them him selfe disguize,
203And turne his arrowes to their exercize:
204So may he long himselfe full easie hide:
205For he is faire and fresh in face and guize,
206As any Nymph (let not it be envyde.)
207So saying every Nymph full narrowly she eyde.
208But Phoebe therewith sore was angered,
209And sharply said; Goe Dame, goe seeke your boy,
211He comes not here, we scorne his foolish joy,
212Ne lend we leisure to his idle toy:
213But if I catch him in this company,
215The Gods doe dread, he dearely shall abye:
216Ile clip his wanton wings, that he no more shall fly.
217Whom when as Venus saw so sore displeased,
218She inly sory was, and gan relent,
219What she had said: so her she soone appeased,
220With sugred words and gentle blandishment,
221Which as a fountaine from her sweet lips went,
222And welled goodly forth, that in short space
223She was well pleasd, and forth her damzels sent,
224Through all the woods, to search from place to place,
225If any tract of him or tydings they mote trace.
226To search the God of love, her Nymphes she sent
227Throughout the wandring forrest every where:
228But after them her selfe eke with her went
229To seeke the fugitive, both farre and nere.
230So long they sought, till they arrived were
231In that same shadie covert, whereas lay
232Faire Crysogone in slombry traunce whilere:
233Who in her sleepe (a wondrous thing to say)
234Unwares had borne two babes, as faire as springing day.
235Unwares she them conceiv'd, unwares she bore:
236She bore withouten paine, that she conceived
237Withouten pleasure: ne her need implore
239They were through wonder nigh of sense bereaved,
240And gazing each on other, nought bespake:
241At last they both agreed, her seeming grieved
242Out of her heavy swowne not to awake,
243But from her loving side the tender babes to take.
244Up they them tooke, each one a babe uptooke,
245And with them carried, to be fostered;
246Dame Phoebe to a Nymph her babe betooke,
247To be upbrought in perfect Maydenhed,
249But Venus hers thence farre away convayd,
250To be upbrought in goodly womanhed,
251And in her litle loves stead, which was strayd,
252Her Amoretta cald, to comfort her dismayd.
253She brought her to her joyous Paradize,
255So faire a place, as Nature can devize:
257Or it in Gnidus be, I wote not well;
258But well I wote by tryall, that this same
259All other pleasant places doth excell,
260And called is by her lost lovers name,
261The Gardin of Adonis, farre renowmd by fame.
262In that same Gardin all the goodly flowres,
263Wherewith dame Nature doth her beautifie,
264And decks the girlonds of her paramoures,
266Of all things, that are borne to live and die,
267According to their kindes. Long worke it were,
268Here to account the endlesse progenie
269Of all the weedes, that bud and blossome there;
270But so much as doth need, must needs be counted here.
271It sited was in fruitfull soyle of old,
273The one of yron, the other of bright gold,
274That none might thorough breake, nor over-stride:
275And double gates it had, which opened wide,
276By which both in and out men moten pas;
277Th'one faire and fresh, the other old and dride:
279Old Genius, the which a double nature has.
280He letteth in, he letteth out to wend,
281All that to come into the world desire;
282A thousand thousand naked babes attend
283About him day and night, which doe require,
284That he with fleshly weedes would them attire:
285Such as him list, such as eternall fate
286Ordained hath, he clothes with sinfull mire,
287And sendeth forth to live in mortall state,
288Till they againe returne backe by the hinder gate.
289After that they againe returned beene,
290They in that Gardin planted be againe;
291And grow afresh, as they had never seene
292Fleshly corruption, nor mortall paine.
294And then of him are clad with other hew,
295Or sent into the chaungefull world againe,
296Till thither they returne, where first they grew:
297So like a wheele around they runne from old to new.
298Ne needs there Gardiner to set, or sow,
299To plant or prune: for of their owne accord
300All things, as they created were, doe grow,
302Which first was spoken by th'Almightie lord,
303That bad them to increase and multiply:
304Ne doe they need with water of the ford,
305Or of the clouds to moysten their roots dry;
307Infinite shapes of creatures there are bred,
308And uncouth formes, which none yet ever knew,
309And every sort is in a sundry bed
310Set by it selfe, and ranckt in comely rew:
311Some fit for reasonable soules t'indew,
312Some made for beasts, some made for birds to weare,
313And all the fruitfull spawne of fishes hew
314In endlesse rancks along enraunged were,
315That seem'd the Ocean could not containe them there.
316Daily they grow, and daily forth are sent
317Into the world, it to replenish more;
318Yet is the stocke not lessened, nor spent,
319But still remaines in everlasting store,
320As it at first created was of yore.
321For in the wide wombe of the world there lyes,
322In hatefull darkenesse and in deepe horrore,
324The substances of natures fruitfull progenyes.
325All things from thence doe their first being fetch,
326And borrow matter, whereof they are made,
327Which when as forme and feature it does ketch,
328Becomes a bodie, and doth then invade
329The state of life, out of the griesly shade.
330That substance is eterne, and bideth so,
331Ne when the life decayes, and forme does fade,
332Doth it consume, and into nothing go,
333But chaunged is, and often altred to and fro.
335But th'only forme and outward fashion;
336For every substance is conditioned
337To change her hew, and sundry formes to don,
338Meet for her temper and complexion:
339For formes are variable and decay,
340By course of kind, and by occasion;
341And that faire flowre of beautie fades away,
342As doth the lilly fresh before the sunny ray.
343Great enimy to it, and to all the rest,
344That in the Gardin of Adonis springs,
345Is wicked Time, who with his scyth addrest,
346Does mow the flowring herbes and goodly things,
347And all their glory to the ground downe flings,
348Where they doe wither, and are fowly mard:
349He flyes about, and with his flaggy wings
350Beates downe both leaves and buds without regard,
351Ne ever pittie may relent his malice hard.
352Yet pittie often did the gods relent,
353To see so faire things mard, and spoyled quight:
355The losse of her deare brood, her deare delight;
356Her hart was pierst with pittie at the sight,
357When walking through the Gardin, them she saw,
358Yet no'te she find redresse for such despight.
359For all that lives, is subject to that law:
360All things decay in time, and to their end do draw.
361But were it not, that Time their troubler is,
362All that in this delightfull Gardin growes,
363Should happie be, and have immortall blis:
364For here all plentie, and all pleasure flowes,
365And sweet love gentle fits emongst them throwes,
366Without fell rancor, or fond gealosie;
368Each bird his mate, ne any does envie
369Their goodly meriment, and gay felicitie.
370There is continuall spring, and harvest there
371Continuall, both meeting at one time:
372For both the boughes doe laughing blossomes beare,
374And eke attonce the heavy trees they clime,
375Which seeme to labour under their fruits lode:
376The whiles the joyous birdes make their pastime
377Emongst the shadie leaves, their sweet abode,
378And their true loves without suspition tell abrode.
379Right in the middest of that Paradise,
381A gloomy grove of mirtle trees did rise,
382Whose shadie boughes sharpe steele did never lop,
383Nor wicked beasts their tender buds did crop,
384But like a girlond compassed the hight,
385And from their fruitfull sides sweet gum did drop,
386That all the ground with precious deaw bedight,
387Threw forth most dainty odours, and most sweet delight.
388And in the thickest covert of that shade,
389There was a pleasant arbour, not by art,
390But of the trees owne inclination made,
391Which knitting their rancke braunches part to part,
392With wanton yvie twyne entrayld athwart,
394Fashiond above within their inmost part,
395That neither Phoebus beams could through them throng,
398To which sad lovers were transformd of yore;
399Fresh Hyacinthus, Phoebus paramoure,
400And dearest love,
401Foolish Narcisse, that likes the watry shore,
402Sad Amaranthus, made a flowre but late,
405To whom sweet Poets verse hath given endlesse date.
406There wont faire Venus often to enjoy
407Her deare Adonis joyous company,
408And reape sweet pleasure of the wanton boy;
409There yet, some say, in secret he does ly,
410Lapped in flowres and pretious spycery,
411By her hid from the world, and from the skill
412Of Stygian Gods, which doe her love envy;
413But she her selfe, when ever that she will,
414Possesseth him, and of his sweetnesse takes her fill.
415And sooth it seemes they say: for he may not
416For ever die, and ever buried bee
417In balefull night, where all things are forgot;
418All be he subject to mortalitie,
419Yet is eterne in mutabilitie,
420And by succession made perpetuall,
421Transformed oft, and chaunged diverslie:
422For him the Father of all formes they call;
423Therefore needs mote he live, that living gives to all.
424There now he liveth in eternall blis,
425Joying his goddesse, and of her enjoyd:
426Ne feareth he henceforth that foe of his,
427Which with his cruell tuske him deadly cloyd:
428For that wilde Bore, the which him once annoyd,
429She firmely hath emprisoned for ay,
430That her sweet love his malice mote avoyd,
431In a strong rocky Cave, which is they say,
432Hewen underneath that Mount, that none him losen may.
433There now he lives in everlasting joy,
434With many of the Gods in company,
435Which thither haunt, and with the winged boy
436Sporting himselfe in safe felicity:
437Who when he hath with spoiles and cruelty
438Ransackt the world, and in the wofull harts
439Of many wretches set his triumphes hye,
440Thither resorts, and laying his sad darts
441Aside, with faire Adonis playes his wanton parts.
442And his true love faire Psyche with him playes,
443Faire Psyche to him lately reconcyld,
445With which his mother Venus her revyld,
446And eke himselfe her cruelly exyld:
447But now in stedfast love and happy state
448She with him lives, and hath him borne a chyld,
450Pleasure, the daughter of Cupid and Psyche late.
451Hither great Venus brought this infant faire,
452The younger daughter of Chrysogonee,
453And unto Psyche with great trust and care
454Committed her, yfostered to bee,
455And trained up in true feminitee:
456Who no lesse carefully her tendered,
457Then her owne daughter Pleasure, to whom shee
458Made her companion, and her lessoned
459In all the lore of love, and goodly womanhead.


1] In the book of Chastity, the climactic adventure is the rescue of Amoret ("th' ensample of true love" and "feminitee") from the House of Busirane (courtly lust) by Britomart (Chastity). Belphoebe, who resembles the virgin Diana the huntress and is also a "mirror" of the "rare chastitee" of Queen Elizabeth, is worshipped by Arthur's squire Timias. In this canto Spenser not only accounts for the qualities of Belphoebe and Amoret but creates a cosmological myth of generation. Back to Line
3] compile: acquire. Back to Line
18] Graces. "three sisters, the daughters of Jupiter (whose names are Aglaia, Thalia, Euphrosyne . . .), otherwise called Charites, that is thanks. Whom the Poets feyned to be the Goddesses of al bountie and comelines'' (E.K.). Cf. "Aprill," line 109, and VI, x, xxii-xxiii. Back to Line
20] Prime: sunrise. Back to Line
26] bounti-hed: generosity. Back to Line
28] Chrysogonee: "golden-horn." Back to Line
29] Amphisa: "double nature," i.e., both mortal and supernatural. Back to Line
64] This stanza is a paraphrase of Ovid, Metamorphoses, I, 417-31. Back to Line
75] his faire sister: the moon. Plutarch, in his essay on Isis and Osiris, calls the moon the mother of the world. Back to Line
76] tempred right/With heate and humour: "ubi temperiem sumpsere umorque calorque concipiunt" (Ovid, Metamorphoses, I, 430). Back to Line
99] bewray: find out. Back to Line
147] embrewed: blood-stained. Back to Line
157] lancke: slender. Back to Line
169] The picture of Diana surprised and angry is a reminiscence of the story of Actaeon, who, coming upon the virgin-huntress bathing, was turned into a stag and hunted to death by his own hounds. comprized: drew together. Back to Line
172] Cytherea. Venus is so called because she had an important sanctuary in Cythera. Back to Line
185] ill mote ye bene apayd: ill may you be requited. Back to Line
210] in Mars his bed: a reference to the notorious love of Venus and Mars. Back to Line
214] Stygian lake: in Hades. Back to Line
238] Lucinaes aide: Lucina is the name for Juno in her aspect as goddess of childbirth. Back to Line
248] red: called. Back to Line
254] wonnes: lives. Back to Line
256] Paphos, Cythera, and Gnidos were sanctuaries of the love-goddess. Back to Line
265] seminarie: seed-place. Back to Line
272] The walls and gates are conventional features of "earthly paradises" in classical and mediaeval tradition; the "gold" and "iron" may possibly refer to the first and last ages of man. The common source for the "double gates" and for the whole idea of a place of passage is the vision of Er in Plato's Republic, X. Back to Line
278] Genius. See notes to F.Q., II, xii, xlvii. Back to Line
293] Cf. Virgil, Æniad, VI, 743-51, where some few of the souls in Elysium "abide in the joyous fields" but most, "when they have rolled time's wheel through a thousand years," return to bodies. Spenser also has in mind the Pythagorean doctrine of transmigration, as set forth by Ovid, Metamorphoses, XV, 165-72. Back to Line
301] See Genesis 1:28. Back to Line
306] imply: contain. Back to Line
323] Chaos: the rude unordered mass (rudis indigestaque moles), which Ovid (Metamorphoses, l, 5-9) describes as the primal condition of matter. Back to Line
334] "Nothing perishes in the whole universe; it does but vary and renew its form." Ovid, Metamorphoses, XV, 254-55. Back to Line
354] their great mother Venus: here the creator and preserver of all living things; this conception of Venus comes from a number of sources, but directly from Natalis Comes, Mythologiae. Back to Line
367] Each lover openly enjoys his beloved. Back to Line
373] the wanton Prime: the lush springtime. Back to Line
380] a stateIy Mount. The Garden is the Earthly Paradise, with its mountain, a blend of the Garden of Eden with various classical elysiums, as described by Natalis Comes, Mythologiae, 3, 19. Back to Line
393] Caprifole: honeysuckle. Back to Line
396] Aeolus: god of the winds. Back to Line
397] The myths of Hyacinthus, beloved of Apollo, who was killed accidentally by a discus, and of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in water, pined away, and died, are recounted by Ovid, Metamorphoses, X, 162 ff. and III, 402 ff. Amaranthus means "unfading," hence a symbol of immortality. Back to Line
403] purple gore. The plant love-lies-a-bleeding, of the genus amaranthus, has a purple-red bloom. Back to Line
404] probably a reference to Thomas Watson's (the "sweet Poet") paraphrase of Tasso's Aminta (1585). Back to Line
444] The myth of Venus' love for the youth Adonis, who was killed by a boar (xlviii, 5, below) is related by Ovid, Metamorphoses, X, 524 ff. Adonis, from whose blood the goddess caused the anemone to spring, was primarily a fertility-god, and his festival was celebrated by songs of mourning (cf. Ezekiel 8:14, where Adonis=Thammuz, and Milton, Paradise Lost, III, 446-52), and by the setting out of pots of rapidly withering plants, called ''the gardens of Adonis.'' upbrayes: reproaches. Back to Line
449] The story of Cupid and Psyche, as told by Apuleius, Metamorphoses ("The Golden Ass"), IV-VI, and here curtly summarized, was usually allegorized as the trials of the soul (psyche) and her union with pure love to produce "eternal joy and gladness." aggrate: gratify. Back to Line
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RPO poem Editors: 
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3RP 1: 106.