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Of ancient kings and queens, that had of yore
Their sceptres stretcht from east to western shore,
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernal Fiend with foul uproar
Forwasted all their land, and them expelled ;
Whom to avenge, she had this Knight from far compelled.
Behind her far away a Dwarf did lag,
That lazy seemed, in being ever last
Or weariéd with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his back. Thus as they past,
The day with clouds was sudden overcast,
And angry Jove an hideous storm of rain
Did pour into his leman's lap so fast,
That every wight to shroud it did constrain;
And this fair couple eke to shroud themselves were fain.
Enforced to seek some cover nigh at hand,
A shady grove not far away they spied,
That promised aid the tempest to withstand;
Whose lofty trees, yclad with summer's pride,
Did spread so broad, that heaven's light did hide,
Not pierceable with power of any star:
And all within were paths and alleys wide,
With footing worn, and leading inward far:
Fair harbour that them seems; so in they entered are
And forth they pass, with pleasure forward led,
Joying to hear the birds' sweet harmony,
Which, therein shrouded from the tempest dread,
Seemed in their song to scorn the cruel sky.
Much can they praise the trees so straight and high,
The sailing pine; the cedar proud and tall;
The vine-prop elm, the poplar never dry;
The builder oak, sole king of forests all;
The aspen good for staves; the cypress funeral ;
The laurel, meed of mighty conquerors
And poets sage; the fir that weepeth still ;
The willow, worn of forlorn paramours;
The yew, obedient to the bender's will;
The birch for shafts; the sallow for the mill;
The myrrh sweet-bleeding in the bitter wound:
The warlike beech; the ash for nothing ill;
The fruitful olive; and the plantain round;
The carver holme; the maple seldom inward sound.
Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Until the blustering storm is overblown;
When, weening to return whence they did stray,
They cannot find that path, which first was shown,
But wander to and fro in ways unknown,
Furthest from end then, when they nearest ween,
That makes them doubt their wits be not their own :
So many paths, so many turnings seen,
That, which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.
At last resolving forward still to fare,
Till that some end they find, or in or out,
That path they take, that beaten seemed most bare,
And like to lead the labyrinth about ;
Which when by tract they hunted had throughout,
At length it brought them to a hollow cave,
Amid the thickest woods. The Champion stout
Eftsoons* dismounted from his courser brave,
And to the Dwarf a while his needless spear he gave.
“ Be well aware," quoth then that Lady mild,
“ Lest sudden mischief ye too rash provoke :
The danger hid, the place unknown and wild,
Breeds dreadful doubts : oft fire is without smoke,
And peril without show: therefore your stroke,
Sir Knight, with-hold, till further trial made."
“ Ah Lady," said he, “ shame were to revoke
The forward footing for an hidden shade:
Virtue gives her self light through darkness for to wade."
“ Yea but," quoth she, “the peril of this place
I better wot than you: Though now too late
To wish you back return with foul disgrace,
Yet wisdom warns, whilst foot is in the gate,
To stay the step, ere forced to retrate.
This is the Wandering Wood, this Error's Den,
A monster vile, whom God and man does hate :
Therefore I readt beware."_" Fly, fly," quoth then The fearful dwarf; "this is no place for living men."
ADVENTURE OF UNA WITH THE Lion.
Yet she, most faithful lady, all this while
Forsaken, woeful, solitary maid,
Far from all people's press, as in exile,
In wilderness and wasteful deserts strayed,
To seek her knight; who, subtily betrayed
Through t'nat late vision which th' enchanter wrought,
Had her abandoned; she of nought afraid
Through woods and wasteness wide him daily sought; Yet wished tidings none of him unto her brought.
One day, nigh weary of the irksome way,
From her unhasty beast she did alight;
And on the grass her dainty limbs did lay,
In secret shadow, far from all men's sight;
From her fair head her fillet she undight,
And laid her stole aside: her angel's face,
As the great eye of heaven, shined bright,
And made a sunshine in the shady place;
Did never mortal eye behold such heavenly grace.
It fortuned, out of the thickest wood
A ramping lion rushed suddenly,
Hunting full greedy after savage blood :
Soon as the royal virgin he did spy,
With gaping mouth at her ran greedily,
To have at once devour'd her tender corse :
But to the prey when as he drew more nigh,
His bloody rage assuaged with remorse,
And with the sight amazed forgat his furious force.
Instead thereof he kiss'd her weary feet,
And lick'd her lily hands with fawning tongue;
As he her wronged innocence did meet.
O how can beauty master the most strong,
And simple truth subdue avenging wrong!
Whose yielded pride and proud submission,
Still dreading death, when she had marked long,
Her heart gan melt in great compassion,
And drizzling tears did shed for pure
affection. “ The lion, lord of every beast in field,” Quoth she, “his princely puissance doth abate, And mighty proud to bumble weak does yield, Forgetful of the hungry rage, which late Him prick’d, in pity of my sad estate: But he, my lion, and my noble lord, How does he find in cruel heart to hate
Her that him loved, and ever most adored,
As the God of my life? why hath he me abhorred!"
Redounding tears did choke th' end of her plaint,
Which softly echoed from the neighbour wood;
And, sad to see her sorrowful constraint,
The kingly beast upon her gazing stood :
With pity calm'd down fell his angry
mood. At last, in close heart shutting up her pain, Arose the virgin born of heav'nly brood,
And to her snowy palfrey got again,
To seek her strayed champion if she might attain.
The lion would not leave her desolate,
But with her went along, as a strong guara
Of her chaste person, and a faithful mate
Of her sad troubles and misfortunes hard :