The Ladies for the girdle striuestrive
of famous Florimell:
Scudamour comming to Cares house,
doth sleepe from him expell.
It hath bene through all ages euerever seene,
That with the praise of armes and cheualriechevalrie,
The prize of beautie still hath ioynedjoyned beene;
And that for reasons speciall priuitieprivitie:
For either doth on other much relie.
For he me seemes most fit the faire to serueserve,
That can her best defend from villenie;
And she most fit his seruiceservice doth deseruedeserve,
That fairest is and from her faith will neuernever
So fitly now here commeth next in place,
After the proofe of prowesse ended well,
The controuersecontroverse of beauties souerainesoveraine grace;
In which to her that doth the most excell,
Shall fall the girdle of faire Florimell:
That many wish to win for glorie vaine,
And not for vertuous vseuse, which some doe tell
That glorious belt did in it selfe containe,
Which Ladies ought to louelove, and seeke for to obtaine.
That girdle gauegave the vertue of chast louelove,
And wiuehoodwivehood true, to all that did it beare;
But whoseuerwhosever contrarie doth proueprove,
Might not the same about her middle weare,
But it would loose, or else a sunderasunder teare.
Whilome it was (as Faeries wont report)
Dame Venus girdle, by her steemed deare,
What time she vsdusd to liuelive in wiuelywively sort;
But layd aside, when so she vsdusd her looser sport.
Her husband Vulcan whylome for her sake,
When first he louedloved her with heart entire,
This pretious ornament they say did make,
And wrought in Lemno with vnquenchedunquenched fire:
And afterwards did for her louesloves first hire,
GiueGive it to her, for euerever to remaine,
Therewith to bind lasciuiouslascivious desire,
And loose affections streightly to restraine;
Which vertue it for euerever after did retaine.
The same one day, when she her selfe disposd
To visite her belouedbeloved Paramoure,
The God of warre, she from her middle loosd,
And left behind her in her secret bowre,
mount, where many an howre
She with the pleasant Graces wont to play.
There Florimell in her first ages flowre
Was fostered by those Graces, (as they say)
And brought with her frõfrom thence that goodly belt away.
That goodly belt was
hight by name,
And as her life by her esteemed deare.
No wonder then, if that to winne the same
So many Ladies sought, as shall appeare;
For pearelesse she was thought, that did it beare.
And now by this their feast all being ended,
The iudgesjudges which thereto selected were,
Into the Martian field adowne descended,
To deeme this doutfull case, for which they all cõtendedcontended.
But first was question made, which of those Knights
That lately turneyd, had the wager wonne:
There was it iudgedjudged by those worthie wights,
That Satyrane the first day best had donne:
For he last ended, hauinghaving first begonne.
The second was to Triamond behight,
For that he sau’dsav’d the victour from fordonne:
For Cambell victour was in all mens sight,
Till by mishap he in his foemens hand did light.
The third dayes prize vntounto that straunger Knight,
Whom all men term’d Knight of the Hebene speare,
To Britomart was giuengiven by good right;
For that with puissant stroke she downe did beare
Knight, that victour was whileare,
And all the rest, which had the best afore,
And to the last vnconquer’dunconquer’d did appeare;
For last is deemed best. To her therefore
The fayrest Ladie was adiudgdadjudgd for Paramore.
But thereat greatly grudged Arthegall,
And much repynd, that both of victors meede,
And eke of honour she did him forestall.
Yet mote he not withstand, what was decreede;
But inly thought of that despightfull deede
Fit time t’awaite auengedavenged for to bee.
This being ended thus, and all agreed,
Then next ensew’d the Paragon to see
Of beauties praise, and yeeld the fayrest her due fee.
Then first Cambello brought vntounto their view
His faire Cambina, coueredcovered with a veale;
Which being once withdrawne, most perfect hew
And passing beautie did eftsoones reuealereveale,
That able was weake harts away to steale.
Next did Sir Triamond
vntounto their sight
The face of his deare Canacee
Whose beauties beame eftsoones did shine so bright,
That daz’d the eyes of all, as with exceeding light.
And after her did Paridell produce
His false Duessa, that she might be seene,
Who with her forged beautie did seduce
The hearts of some, that fairest her did weene;
As diuersediverse wits affected diuersdivers beene.
Then did Sir Ferramont
vntounto them shew
His Lucida, that was full faire and sheene,
And after these an hundred Ladies moe
Appear’d in place, the which each other did outgoe.
All which who so dare thinke for to enchace,
Him needeth sure a golden pen I weene,
To tell the feature of each goodly face.
For since the day that they created beene,
So many heauenlyheavenly faces were not seene
Assembled in one place: ne he that thought
For Chian folke to pourtraict beauties Queene,
By view of all the fairest to him brought,
So many faire did see, as here he might hauehave sought.
At last the most redoubted Britonesse,
Amoret did open shew;
Whose face discouereddiscovered, plainely did expresse
The heauenlyheavenly pourtraict of bright Angels hew.
Well weened all, which her that time did vew,
That she should surely beare the bell away,
Till Blandamour, who thought he had the trew
And very Florimell, did her display:
The sight of whom once seene did all the rest dismay.
For all afore that seemed fayre and bright,
Now base and contemptible did appeare,
Compar’d to her, that shone as Phebes light,
Amongst the lesser starres in eueningevening cleare.
All that her saw with wonder rauishtravisht weare,
And weend no mortall creature she should bee,
But some celestiall shape, that flesh did beare:
Yet all were glad there Florimell to see;
Yet thought that Florimell was not so faire as shee.
As guilefull Goldsmith that by secret skill,
With golden foyle doth finely ouerover spred
Some baser metall, which commend he will
VntoUnto the vulgar for good gold insted,
He much more goodly glosse thereon doth shed,
To hide his falshood, 15.6. then: thanthenthan if it were trew:
So hard, this Idole was to be ared,
That Florimell her selfe in all mens vew
She seem’d to passe: so forged things do fairest shew.
Then was that golden belt by doome of all
Graunted to her, as to the fayrest Dame.
Which being brought, about her middle small
They thought to gird, as best it her became;
But by no meanes they could it thereto frame.
For euerever as they fastned it, it loos’d
And fell away, as feeling secret blame.
Full oft about her wast she it enclos’d;
And it as oft was from about her wast disclos’d.
That all men wondred at the vncouthuncouth sight,
And each one thought, as to their fancies came.
But she her selfe did thinke it doen for spight,
And touched was with secret wrath and shame
Therewith, as thing deuiz’ddeviz’d her to defame.
Then many other Ladies likewise tride,
About their tender loynes to knit the same;
But it would not on none of them abide,
But when they thought it fast, eftsoones it was vntideuntide.
Which when that scornefull Squire of Dames did vew,
He lowdly gan to laugh, and thus to iestjest;
Alas for pittie that so faire a crew,
As like can not be seene from East to West,
Cannot find one this girdle to inuestinvest.
Fie on the man, that did it first inuentinvent,
To shame vsus all with this,
Let neuernever Ladie to his louelove assent,
That hath this day so many so vnmanlyunmanly shent.
Thereat all Knights gan laugh, and Ladies lowre:
Till that at last the gentle Amoret
Likewise assayd, to proueprove that girdles powre;
And hauinghaving it about her middle set,
Did find it fit, withouten breach or let.
Whereat the rest gan greatly to enuieenvie:
But Florimell exceedingly did fret,
And snatching from her hand halfe angrily
The belt againe, about her bodie gan it tie.
Yet nathemore would it her bodie fit;
Yet nathelesse to her, as her dew right,
It yeelded was by them, that iudgedjudged it:
And she her selfe adiudgedadjudged to the Knight,
That bore the Hebene speare, as wonne in fight.
But Britomart would not thereto assent,
Ne her owne Amoret forgoe so light
For that strange Dame, whose beauties wonderment
She lesse esteem’d, 20.9. then: thanthenthan th’others vertuous gouermentgoverment.
Whom when the rest did see her to refuse,
They were full glad, in hope themseluesthemselves to get her:
Yet at her choice they all did greatly muse.
But after that the IudgesJudges did arret her
VntoUnto the second best, that lou’dlov’d her better;
That was the
SaluageSalvage Knight: but he was gone
In great displeasure, that he could not get her.
Then was she iudgedjudged
Triamond his one;
Canacee, and other none.
Satyran she was adiudgedadjudged,
Who was right glad to gaine so goodly meed:
But Blandamour thereat full greatly grudged,
And litle prays’d his labours euillevill speed,
That for to winne the saddle, lost the steed.
Ne lesse thereat did Paridell complaine,
And thought t’appeale from that, which was decreed,
To single combat with Sir Satyrane.
Thereto him Ate stird, new discord to maintaine.
And eke with these, full many other Knights
She through her wicked working did incense,
Her to demaund, and chalenge as their rights,
DeseruedDeserved for their perils recompense.
Amongst the rest with boastfull vaine pretense
Stept Braggadochio forth, and as his thrall
Her claym’d, by him in battell wonne long sens:
Whereto her selfe he did to witnesse call;
Who being askt, accordingly confessed all.
Thereat exceeding wroth was Satyran;
And wroth with Satyran was Blandamour;
And wroth with Blandamour was Eriuan;
And at them both Sir Paridell did loure.
So all together stird vpup strifull stoure,
And readie were new battell to darraine.
Each one profest to be her paramoure,
And vow’d with speare and shield it to maintaine;
Ne IudgesJudges powre, ne reasons rule mote them restraine.
Which troublous stirre when Satyrane
He gan to cast how to appease the same,
And to accord them all, this meanes deuiz’ddeviz’d:
First in the midst to set that fayrest Dame,
To whom each one his chalenge should disclame,
And he himselfe his right would eke releasse:
Then looke to whom she voluntarie came,
He should without disturbance her possesse:
Sweete is the louelove that comes alone with willingnesse.
They all agreed, and then that snowy Mayd
Was in the middest plast among them all;
All on her gazing wisht, and vowd, and prayd,
And to the Queene of beautie close did call,
That she vntounto their portion might befall.
Then when she long had lookt vponupon each one,
As though she wished to hauehave pleasd them all,
At last to Braggadochio selfe alone
She came of her accord, in spight of all his fone.
Which when they all beheld they chaft and rag’d,
And woxe nigh mad for very harts despight,
That from reuengerevenge their willes they scarse asswag’d:
Some thought from him her to hauehave reft by might;
Some proffer made with him for her to fight.
But he nought car’d for all that they could say:
For he their words as wind esteemed light.
Yet not fit place he thought it there to stay,
But secretly from thence that night her bore away.
They which remaynd, so soone as they perceiu’dperceiv’d,
That she was gone, departed thence with speed,
And follow’d them, in mind her to hauehave
From wight vnworthieunworthie of so noble meed.
In which poursuit how each one did succeede,
Shall else be told in order, as it fell.
But now of Britomart it here doth neede,
The hard aduenturesadventures and strange haps to tell;
Since with the rest she went not after Florimell.
For soone as she them saw to discord set,
Her list no longer in that place abide;
But taking with her louelylovely
VponUpon her first aduentureadventure forth did ride,
To seeke her lou’dlov’d, making blind louelove her guide.
VnluckieUnluckie Mayd to seeke her enemie,
VnluckieUnluckie Mayd to seeke him farre and wide,
Whom, when he was vntounto her selfe most nie,
She through his late disguizemẽtdisguizement could him not descrie.
So much the more her griefe, the more her toyle:
Yet neither toyle nor griefe she once did spare,
In seeking him, that should her paine assoyle;
Whereto great comfort in her sad misfare
Was Amoret, companion of her care:
Who likewise sought her louerlover long miswent,
The gentle Scudamour, whose hart whileare
That stryfull hag with gealous discontent
Had fild, that he to fell reuengreveng was fully bent.
Bent to reuengerevenge on blamelesse Britomart
The crime, which cursed Ate kindled earst,
The which like thornes did pricke her gealous hart,
And through his soule like poysned arrow perst,
That by no reason it might be reuerstreverst,
For ought that Glauce could or doe or say.
For aye the more that she the same reherst,
The more it gauld, and grieu’dgriev’d him night and day,
That nought but dire reuengerevenge his anger mote defray.
So as they trauelledtravelled, the drouping night
CoueredCovered with cloudie storme and bitter showre,
That dreadfull seem’d to eueryevery
VponUpon them fell, before her timely howre;
That forced them to seeke some couertcovert bowre,
Where they might hide their heads in quiet rest,
And shrowd their persons from that stormie stowre.
Not farre away, not meete for any guest
They spide a little cottage, like some poore mans nest.
VnderUnder a steepe hilles side it placed was,
There where the mouldred earth had cav’d the banke;
And fast beside a little brooke did pas
Of muddie water, that like puddle stanke,
By which few crooked sallowes grew in ranke:
Whereto approaching nigh, they heard the sound
Of many yron hammers beating ranke,
And answering their wearie turnes around,
That seemed some blacksmith dwelt in that desert groũd.ground.
There entring in, they found the goodman selfe
Full busily vntounto his worke ybent;
Who was to weet a wretched wearish elfe,
With hollow eyes and rawbone cheekes forspent,
As if he had in prison long bene pent:
Full blacke and griesly did his face appeare,
Besmeard with smoke that nigh his eye-sight blent;
With rugged beard, and hoarie shagged heare,
The which he neuernever wont to combe, or comely sheare.
Rude was his garment, and to rags all rent,
Ne better had he, ne for better cared:
With blistred hands emongst the cinders brent,
And fingers filthie, with long nayles vnparedunpared,
Right fit to rend the food, on which he fared.
His name was Care; a blacksmith by his trade,
That neither day nor night, from working spared,
But to small purpose yron wedges made;
Those be vnquietunquiet thoughts, that carefull minds inuadeinvade.
In which his worke he had sixe seruantsservants prest,
About the Andvile standing euermoreevermore,
With huge great hammers, that did neuernever rest
From heaping stroakes, which thereon soused sore:
All sixe strong groomes, but one 36.5. then: thanthenthan other more;
For by degrees they all were disagreed;
So likewise did the hammers which they bore,
Like belles in greatnesse orderly succeed,
That he which was the last, the first did farre exceede.
He like a monstrous Gyant seem’d in sight,
Farre passing Bronteus, or Pynacmon great,
The which in Lipari doe day and night
Frame thunderbolts for
So dreadfully he did the anduileandvile beat,
That seem’d to dust he shortly would it driuedrive:
So huge his hammerham mer and so fierce his heat,
That seem’d a rocke of Diamond it could riuerive,
And rend a sunderasunder quite, if he thereto list striuestrive.
Sir Scudamour there entring, much admired
The manner of their worke and wearie paine;
And hauinghaving long beheld, at last enquired
The cause and end thereof: but all in vaine;
For they for nought would from their worke refraine,
Ne let his speeches come vntounto their eare.
And eke the breathfull bellowes blew amaine,
Like to the Northren winde, that none could heare,
Those Pensifenesse did mouemove; &and
Sighes the bellows weare.
Which when that warriour saw, he said no more,
But in his armour layd him downe to rest:
To rest he layd him downe vponupon the flore,
(Whylome for ventrous Knights the bedding best)
And thought his wearie limbs to hauehave redrest.
And that old aged Dame, his faithfull Squire,
Her feeble ioyntsjoynts layd eke a downe to rest;
That needed much her weake age to desire,
After so long a trauelltravell, which them both did tire.
There lay Sir Scudamour long while expecting,
When gentle sleepe his heauieheavie eyes would close;
Oft chaunging sides, and oft new place electing,
Where better seem’d he mote himselfe repose;
And oft in wrath he thence againe vproseuprose;
And oft in wrath he layd him downe againe.
But wheresoeuerwheresoever he did himselfe dispose,
He by no meanes could wished ease obtaine:
So eueryevery place seem’d painefull, and ech changing vaine.
And euermoreevermore, when he to sleepe did thinke,
The hammers sound his senses did molest;
And euermoreevermore, when he began to winke,
The bellowes noyse disturb’d his quiet rest,
Ne suffred sleepe to settle in his brest.
And all the night the dogs did barke and howle
About the house, at sent of stranger guest:
And now the crowing Cocke, and now the Owle
Lowde shriking him afflicted to the very sowle.
And if by fortune any litle nap
VponUpon his heauieheavie eye-lids chaunst to fall,
Eftsoones one of those villeins him did rap
VponUpon his headpeece with his yron mall;
That he was soone awaked therewithall,
And lightly started vpup as one affrayd;
Or as if one him suddenly did call.
So oftentimes he out of sleepe abrayd,
And then lay musing long, on that him ill apayd.
So long he muzed, and so long he lay,
That at the last his wearie sprite opprest
With fleshly weaknesse, which no creature may
Long time resist, gauegave place to kindly rest,
That all his senses did full soone arrest:
Yet in his soundest sleepe, his dayly feare
His ydle braine gan busily molest,
And made him dreame those two disloyall were:
The things that day most minds, at night
doe most appeare.
With that, the wicked carle the maister Smith
A paire of redwhot yron tongs did take
Out of the burning cinders, and therewiththerewith,
VnderUnder his side him nipt, that forst to wake,
He felt his hart for very paine to quake,
And started vpup
auengedavenged for to be
On him, the which his quiet slomber brake:
Yet looking round about him none could see;
Yet did the smart remaine, though he himselfe did flee.
In such disquiet and hartfretting payne,
He all that night, that too long night did passe.
And now the day out of the Ocean mayne
Began to peepe aboueabove this earthly masse,
With pearly dew sprinkling the morning grasse:
Then vpup he rose like heauieheavie lumpe of lead,
That in his face, as in a looking glasse,
The signes of anguish one mote plainely read,
And ghesse the man to be dismayd with gealous dread.
VntoUnto his lofty steede he clombe anone,
And forth vponupon his former voiage fared,
And with him eke that aged Squire attone;
Who whatsoeuerwhatsoever perill was prepared,
Both equall paines and equall perill shared:
The end whereof and daungerous euentevent
Shall for another canticle be spared.
But here my wearie teeme nigh ouerover spent
Shall breath it selfe awhile, after so long a went.