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Elizabethan English Poetry

Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Qveene

16th century, Elizabethan English deliberately looking back to Middle English forms. Numerous printed copies.

Never was a heart so ravished, nor a man graced by such words as she spoke to me all that night, and at her parting she told me that she was called the Queene of Faeries.

Prince Arthur tells a strange story as he feasts with Una and the Red Cross Knight in the now deserted castle of the giant Orgoglio. The Prince has just defeated its giant owner and freed the Red Cross Knight from his prison and from three months of near-starvation.

Taken from his natural parents as a baby, Prince Arthur spent his childhood – he explains – in the household of a ‘Faery knight’ not really knowing where he had come from. Merlin would visit him as a tutor now and again but all this old druid would reveal concerning Prince Arthur’s lineage was that he was the son of a king. But then one night a new visitor came to see the young prince. Me seemed, by my side a royall Mayd her daintie limbes full softly down did lay; so faire a creature yet saw never sunny day.

It was not an ordinary night. On this particular occasion Prince Arthur had been riding hard through a forest all day and, tired out, lay down to sleep on the forest floor.'

'Like Sir Thopas, looking for his Elf-Queen,' said Miranda.

'Exactly, and we know that Spenser revered Chaucer,' agreed Quintin. 'During the night Prince Arthur dreamed – or did he only dream? He was not sure – that this woman lay beside him. In the morning he had so fallen in love with her that: was never heart so ravished with delight, ne living man like words did ever heare, as she to me delivered all that night; and at her parting said, she Queene of Faeries hight [was called].

All that remained in the morning was her impression on the grass. From that day forth I cast in carefull mind, to seek her out with labour, and long tyne, and never vow to rest, till her I find, nine monethes I seeke in vaine yet ni’ll that vow unbind.

Prince Arthur has vowed to search all of Faeryland for his Faerie Queene.

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto IX.

See for yourself

Edmund Spenser – Wikipedia

The Faerie Queene – Wikipedia


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