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A Letter of the Authors expounding his whole intention in the course of this worke: which for that it giuethgiveth great light to the Reader, for the better vnderstandingunderstanding is hereunto annexed.
To the Right noble, and Valorous, Sir Walter Raleigh knight, Lo. Wardein of the Stanneryes, and her MaiestiesMajesties liefetenaunt of the County of Cornewayll.
SIir knowing how doubtfully all Allegories may be construed, and this booke of mine, which I hauehave entituled the Faery Queene, being a continued Allegory, or darke conceit, I hauehave thought good aswell for auoydingavoyding of gealous opinions and miscõstructions,misconstructions, as also for your better light in reading therof, (being so by you cõmandedcommanded,) to discouerdiscover vntounto you the general intention &and meaning, which in the whole course thereof I hauehave fashioned, without expressing of any particular purposes or by accidents therein occasioned. The generall end therefore of all the booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline: Which for that I conceiuedconceived shoulde be most plausible and pleasing, being coloured with an historicall fiction, the which the most part of men delight to read, rather for variety of matter, 13. then: thanthenthan for profite of the ensample: I chose the historye of king Arthure, as most fitte for the excellency of his person, being made famous by many mens former workes, and also furthest from the daunger of enuyenvy, and suspition of present time. In which I hauehave followed all the antique Poets historicall, first Homere, who in the Persons of Agamemnon and VlyssesUlysses hath ensampled a good gouernourgovernour and a vertuous man, the one in his Ilias, the other in his Odysseis: then Virgil, whose like intention was to doe in the person of Aeneas: after him Ariosto comprised them both in his Orlando: and lately Tasso disseuereddissevered them againe, and formed both parts in two persons, namely that part which they in Philosophy call Ethice, or vertues of a priuateprivate man, coloured in his Rinaldo: The other named Politice in his Godfredo. By ensample of which excellente Poets, I labour to pourtraict in Arthure, before he was king, the image of a brauebrave knight, perfected in the tweluetwelve priuate private morall vertues, as Aristotle hath deuiseddevised, the which is the purpose of these first tweluetwelve bookes: which if I finde to be well accepted, I may be perhaps encoraged, to frame the other part of polliticke vertues in his person, after that hee came to be king. To some I know this Methode will seeme displeasaunt, which had rather hauehave good discipline deliuereddelivered plainly in way of precepts, or sermoned at large, as they vseuse, 32. then: thanthenthan thus clowdily enwrapped in Allegoricall deuisesdevises. But such, me seeme, should be satisfide with the vseuse of these dayes, seeing all things accounted by their showes, and nothing esteemed of, that is not delightfull and pleasing to commune sence. For this cause is Xenophon preferred before Plato, for that the one in the exquisite depth of his iudgementjudgement, formed a Commune welth such as it should be, but the other in the person of Cyrus and the Persians fashioned a gouernement governement such as might best be: So much more profitable and gratious is doctrine by ensample, 40. then: thanthenthan by rule. So hauehave I laboured to doe in the person of Arthure: whome I conceiueconceive after his long education by Timon, to whom he was by Merlin deliuereddelivered to be brought vpup, so soone as he was borne of the Lady Igrayne, to hauehave seene in a dream or vision the Faery Queen, with whose excellent beauty rauishedravished, he awaking resoluedresolved to seeke her out, and so being by Merlin armed, and by Timon throughly instructed, he went to seeke her forth in Faerye land. In that Faery Queene I meane glory in my generall intention, but in my particular I conceiueconceive the most excellent and glorious person of our souerainesoveraine the Queene, and her kingdome in Faery land. And yet in some places els, I doe otherwise shadow her. For considering she beareth two persons, the one of a most royall Queene or Empresse, the other of a most vertuous and beautifull Lady, this latter part in some places I doe expressezpresse in Belphœbe, fashioning her name according to your owne excellent conceipt of Cynthia, (Phæbe and Cynthia being both names of Diana).Diana.) So in the person of Prince Arthure I sette forth magnificence in particular, which vertue for that (according to Aristotle and the rest) it is the perfection of all the rest, and conteineth in it them all, therefore in the whole course I mention the deedes of Arthure applyableapp’yable to that vertue, which I write of in that booke. But of the xii. other vertues, I make xii. other knight the patrones, for the more variety of the history: Of which these three bookes contayn three. The first of the knight of the Redcrosse, in whome I expresse Holynes: The seconde of Sir Guyon, in whome I sette forth Temperaunce: The third of Britomartis a Lady knight, in whome I picture Chastity. But because the beginning of the whole worke seemeth abrupte and as depending vponupon other antecedents, it needs that ye know the occasion of these three knights seuerall severall aduenturesadventures. For the Methode of a Poet historical is not such, as of an Historiographer. For an Historiographer discourseth of affayres orderly as they were donne, accounting as well the times as the actions, but a Poet thrusteth into the middest, eueneven where it most concerneth him, and there recoursing to the thinges forepaste, and diuiningdivining of thinges to come, maketh a pleasing Analysis of all. The beginning therefore of my history, if it were to be told by an Historiographer should be the twelfth booke which is the last, where I deuisedevise that the Faery Queene kept her Annuall feaste xii. dayes, vpponuppon which xii. seuerallseverall dayes, the occasions of the xii. seuerallseverall aduenturesadventures hapned, which being vndertaken undertaken by xii. seuerallseverall knights, are in these xii books seuerallyseverally handled and discoursed. The first was this. In the beginning of the feast, there presented him selfe a tall clownishe younge man, who falling before the Queen of Faries desired a boone (as the manner then was) which during that feast she might not refuse: which was that hee might hauehave the atchieuement of any aduentureadventure, which during that feaste should happen, that being graunted, he rested him on the floore, vnfitte unfitte through his rusticity for a better place. Soone after entred a faire Ladye in mourning weedes, riding on a white Asse, with a dwarfe behind her leading a warlike steed, that bore the Armes of a knight, and his speare in the dwarfes hand. Shee falling before the Queene of Faeries, complayned that her father and mother an ancient King and Queene, had bene by an huge dragon many years shut vpup in a brasen Castle, who thence suffred them not to yssew: and therefore besought the Faery Queene to assygne her some one of her knights to take on him that exployt. Presently that clownish person vpstartingupstarting, desired that aduentureadventure: whereat the Queene much wondering, and the Lady much gainesaying, yet he earnestly importuned his desire. In the end the Lady told him that vnlesseunlesse that armour which she brought, would serueserve him (that is the armour of a Christian man specified by Saint Paul v. Ephes.) that he could not succeed in that enterprise, which being forthwith put vponupon him with dewe furnitures thereunto, he seemed the goodliest man in al that company, and was well liked of the Lady. And eftesoones taking on him knighthood, and mounting on that straunge Courser, he went forth with her on that aduentureadventure: where beginneth the first booke, vz.
A gentle knight was pricking on the playne. &cetc.
The second day ther came in a Palmer bearing an Infant with bloody hands, whose Parents he complained to hauehave bene slayn by an Enchaunteresse called Acrasia: and therfore crauedcraved of the Faery Queene, to appoint him some knight, to performe that aduentureadventure, 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 subiectsubject thereof. The third day there came in, a Groome who complained before the Faery Queene, that a vile Enchaunter called Busirane had in hand a most faire Lady called Amoretta, whom he kept in most grieuousgrievous torment, because she would not yield him the pleasure of her body. Whereupon Sir Scudamour the louerlover of that Lady presently tooke on him that aduentureadventure. But being vnableunable to performe it by reason of the hard Enchauntments, after long sorrow, in the end met with Britomartis, who succoured him, and reskewed his louelove.
But by occasion hereof, many other aduenturesadventures are intermedled, but rather as Accidents, then intendments. As the louelove of Britomart, the ouerthrowoverthrow of Marinell, the misery of Florimell, the vertuousnes of Belphœbe, the lasciuiousneslasciviousnes of Hellenora, and many the like.
Thus much Sir, I hauehave briefly ouerronneoverronne to direct your vnderstandingunderstanding to the wel-head of the History, that from thence gathering the whole intention of the conceit, ye may as in a handfull gripe al the discourse, which otherwise may happily seeme tedious and confused. So humbly crauingcraving the continuaunce of your honorable fauourfavour towards me, and th’eternall establishment of your happines, I humbly take leaueleave.
Yours most humbly affectionate Ed. Spenser.
53. express] 1611; ezpresse 1590
55. Diana).] this edn.; Diana.) 1590
59. applyable] this edn.; app’yable 1590
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Off: That a large share it hewd out of the rest, (blest. And glauncing downe his shield, from blame him fairely (FQ I.ii.18.8-9) On: That a large share it hewd out of the rest, And glauncing downe his shield, from blame him fairely blest.

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Off: Sweet slõbring deaw, the which to sleep them biddes: (FQ I.i.36.4)

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Off: And all the world in their subiection held, Till that infernall feend with foule vprore (FQ I.i.5.6-7) On: And all the world in their subjection held, Till that infernall feend with foule uprore

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Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine (FQ I.i.14.9) 14.9. Most lothsom] this edn.; Mostlothsom 1590

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And shall thee well rewarde to shew the place, (FQ I.i.31.5) 5. thee] 1590; you 15961609

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To my long approoved and singular good frende, Master G.H. (Letters I.1) 1. long aprooved: tried and true, found trustworthy over a long period