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He fair the knight saluted, louting low,
Who fair him quitted, as that courteous was,
And after asked him if he did know
Of strange adventures which abroad did pass.
“Ah my dear son,’ quoth he, “how should, alas !
Silly old man, that lives in hidden cell,
Bidding his beads all day for his trespass,
Tidings of war and worldly trouble tell?
With holy father sits not with such things to mell.
But if of danger, which hereby doth dwell,
And homebred evil ye desire to hear,
Of a strange man I can you tidings tell,
That wasteth all this country far and near.”
“Of such,” said he, “I chiefly do inquire;
And shall thee well reward to show the place,
In which that wicked wight his days doth wear:
For to all knighthood it is foul disgrace,
That such a cursed creature lives so long a space.”
‘Far hence,’ quoth he, “in wasteful wildernesse,
His dwelling is, by which no living wight
May ever pass, but thorough great distress.”
‘Now,” said the lady, ‘draweth toward night;
And well I wote that of your later fight
Ye all forwearied be ; for what so strong,
But, wanting rest, will also want of might?
The sun, that measures heaven all day long;
At night doth bait his steeds the ocean waves among.
Then with the sum, take, sir, your timely rest,
And with new day new work at once begin;
Untroubled night, they say, gives counsel best.’
“Right well, Sir Knight, ye have advised bin:’
Quoth then that aged man; ‘the way to win
Is wisely to advise: now day is spent;
Therefore with me ye may take up your inn,
For this same night.” The knight was well content;
So with that godly father to his home they went.
A little lowly hermitage it was,
Down in a dale, hard by a forest's side,
Far from resort of people, that did pass
In travel to and fro; a little wide
There was a holy chapel edified,
Wherein the hermit duly wont to say
His holy things each morn and eventide :
Thereby a chrystal stream did gently play,
Which from a sacred fountain welled forth away.
Arrived there, the little house they fill,
Ne look for entertainment, where none was ;
Rest is their feast, and all things at their will :
The noblest mind the best contentment has.
With fair discourse the evening so they pass;
For that old man of pleasing words had store,
And well could file his tongue as smooth as glass:
He told of saints and popes, and evermore
He strow'd an Ave-Mary after and before.
The drooping night thus creepeth on them fast,
And the sad humor loading their eyelids,
As messenger of Morpheus, on them cast
Sweet slumbering dew, the which to sleep them bids,
Unto their lodgings then his guests he rids;
Where, when all drown'd in deadly sleep he finds,
He to his study goes ; and there amidst
His magic books, and arts of sundry kinds,
He seeks out mighty charms to trouble sleepy minds.
DESCRIPTION OF PRINCE ARTHUR.
At last she chanced by good hap to meet
A goodly knight, fair marching by the way
Together with his squire, arrayed meet:
His glittering armour shined far away, -
Like glancing light of Phoebus' brightest ray;
From top to toe no place appeared bare
That deadly dint of steel endanger may:
Athwart his breast a bauldric brave he ware,
That shined, like twinkling stars, with stones most pre-
And in the midst thereof one precious stone
Of wondrous worth and eke of wondrous might,
Shaped like a lady's head, exceeding shone,
Like Hesperus among the lesser lights,
And strove for to amaze the weaker sights;
Thereby his mortal blade full comely hung
In ivory sheath, yearved with curious slights;
Whose hilts were burnished gold, and handle strong
Of mother pearl, and buckled with a golden tongue.
His haughty helmet, horrid all with gold,
Both glorious brightness and great terrour bred;
For all the crest a dragon did enfold
With greedy paws, and over all did spread
His golden wings; his dreadful hideous head
Close couched on the beaver, seemed to throw
From flaming mouth bright sparkles fiery red,
That sudden horror to faint hearts did show :
And scaly tail was stretched adown his back full low.
Upon the top of all his lofty crest
A bunch of hairs discolor'd diversely,
With sprinkled pearl, and gold full richly dressed,
Did shake and seem to dance for jollity,
Like to an almond tree, ymounted high
On top of green Selinis all alone, -
With blossoms brave bedecked daintily:
Whose tender locks do tremble every one,
At every little breath, that under heaven is blown.
Whoso in pomp of proud estate (quoth she)
Does swim, and bathes himself in courtly bliss,
Shall waste his days in dark obscurity,
And in oblivion ever buried is:
Where ease abounds it's eath to do amiss;
But who his limbs with labours, and his mind
Behaves with cares, cannot so easy miss.-
Abroad in arms, at home in studious kind,
Who seeks with painful toil shall honor soonest find.
In woods, in waves, in wars she wonts to dwell,
And will be found with peril and with pain;
Nor can the man that moulds in idle cell
Unto her happy mansion attain;
Before her gate high God did sweat ordain,
And wakeful watches ever to abide :
But easy is the way, and passage plain
To pleasure's palace ; it may soon be spied,
And day and night her doors to all stand open wide.
MERCY LEADS THE KNIGHT FROM THE HOLY HOSPITAL TO THE MOUNT OF HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATION.
THERE she awhile him stays, himself to rest,
That to the rest more able he might be;
During which time, in every good behest,
And godly work of alms and charity,
She him instructed with great industry.
Shortly therein so perfect he became,
That, from the first unto the last degree,
His mortal life he learned had to frame,
In holy righteousness, without rebuke or blame.
Thence forward by that painful way they pass
Forth to an hill, that was both steep and high;
On top whereof a sacred chapel was,
And eke a little hermitage thereby,
Wherein an aged holy man did lie,
That day and night said his devotion,
Ne other worldly business did apply;
His name was Heavenly Contemplation;
Of God and goodness was his meditation.
Great grace that old, old man to him given had,
For God he often saw from Heaven's height:
All were his earthly eien both blunt and bad,
And through great age had lost their kindly sight,
Yet wondrous quick and persaunt was his spright,
As eagle's eye, that can behold the sun.
That hill they scale with all their power and might,
That his frail limbs, nigh weary and fordone,
Gan fail; but by her help the top at last he won.
There they do find that godly aged sire,
With snowy locks adown his shoulders shed;
As hoary frost with spangles doth attire
The mossy branches of an oak half dead.
Each bone might through his body well be red
And every sinew seen, through his long fast;
For nou # he cared his carcass long unfed;
His j was full of spiritual repast,
And pined his flesh to keep his body low and chaste.
Who, when these two approaching he espied,
At their first presence grew aggrieved sore,
That forced him lay his heavenly thoughts aside;
And had he not that dame respected more,
Whom highly he did reverence and adore,
He would not once have moved for the knight.
They him saluted, standing far afore ;
Who, well them greeting, humbly did requite,
And asked to what end they clomb that tedious height?
What end,' quoth she, should cause us take such pain,
But that same end, which every living wight
Should make his mark, high Heaven to attain 2
Is not from hence the way, that leadeth right
To that most glorious house, that glistreth bright
With burning stars and ever-living fire,
Whereof the keys are to thy hand behight
By wise Fidelia? She doth thee require
To show it to this Knight, according his desire.”
‘Thrice happy man,’ said then the father grave,
‘Whose staggering steps thy steady hand doth lead,
And shows the way his sinful soul to save!
Who better can the way to heaven aread,
Than thou thyself, that was both born and bred
In heavenly throne, where thousand angels shine 2
Thou doest the prayers of the righteous seed
Present before the majesty divine,
And his avenging wrath to clemency incline.
Yet since thou bidst, thy pleasure shall be done.
Then come, thou man of earth, and see the way,
That never yet was seen of Faries' son ;
That never leads the traveller astray,
But, after labours long and sad delay,
Brings them to joyous rest and endless bliss.
But first thou must a season fast and pray,
Till from her bands the spright assoiled is,
And have her strength recured from frail infirmities.’
That done, he leads him to the highest mount;
Such one, as that same mighty man of God,
(That blood-red billows, like a walled front,
On either side disparted with his rod,
Till that his army dry-foot through them yod,)
Dwelt forty days upon; where, writ in stone,
With bloody letters by the hand of God,
The bitter doom of death and baleful moan
He did receive, whiles flashing fire around him shone.
Or like that sacred hill, whose head full high,
Adorned with fruitful olives all around,
Is, as it were for endless memory
Of that dear Lord, who oft thereon was found,
Forever with a flowering girlond crown'd:
Or like that famous mount, that is for ay
Through famous poets' verse each where renowned,
On which the thrice three learned ladies play,
Their heavenly notes, and make full many a lovely lay.
From thence far off he unto him did show
A little path, that was both steep and long,
Which to a goodly city led his view;
Whose walls and towers were builded high and strong,
Of pearl and precious stone, that earthly tongue
Cannot describe, nor wit of man can tell;
Too high a ditty for my simple song!
The city of the Great King hight it well,
Wherein eternal peace and happiness doth dwell.