Elizabethan English Poetry
Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Qveene
16th century, Elizabethan English. Numerous printed copies.
Prince Arthur threw the lifeless corpse onto the ground, but it sprang back up to renewed life and renewed battle!
While Sir Guyon has been embarking upon a journey to Acrasia’s floating island on the Idle Lake, Prince Arthur has agreed to try to rid the castle of Alma of the foes that threaten her on every side. The leader of all these hostile forces is a captain who
... like a ghost he seem’d, whose grave clothes were unbound. Upon his head he wears a skull and he has two old hags in attendance.
Entering the fray riding on the back of a tiger, this phantom launches a hail of arrows towards Prince Arthur who defends himself against them and gallops, himself, into the attack. But the phantom, seeing his own peril, turns and flees more quickly than Prince Arthur can pursue, still shooting arrows from over the tiger’s tail. So Prince Arthur stops to let him empty his quiver; but one of the hags is chasing around, collecting all the spent arrows and returning them to the captain of all these deathly forces, so Prince Arthur turns his attention towards her, which attracts the attention in turn of the other hag who pulls Prince Arthur to the ground. Arthur’s squire comes to the rescue.
The squire seizes the hag while fending away the other one, allowing Prince Arthur to get to his feet. Despite his power, Prince Arthur would have been killed had his squire not swiftly come to his aid.
Meanwhile, the phantom has dismounted from his tiger and come over to finish off his foe. Prince Arthur takes advantage of this opportunity and hits him with an
yron mace. Despite
groveling to the ground’ the phantom picks himself up
...as hurt he had not bene. The phantom then picks up a large stone and casts it at Arthur. Prince Arthur stabs him through the chest; a wound that should have killed the phantom outright, but it has no effect at all. Arthur can see daylight through the injury!
Againe through both the sides he strooke him quight, that made his spright to grone full piteous; yet nathemore forth fled his groning spright, but freshly as at first, prepared himselfe to fight.
Amazed that his adversary seems unable to die, Prince Arthur throws away his sword and shield and grapples with the man, squeezing him in a bear hug until the breath is crushed from him. Arthur throws the corpse lifeless onto the ground, But back it springs, to renewed life and renewed battle!
For thy he gan some other wayes advize, how to take life from that dead-living swaine, whom still he marked freshly to arize from th’earth, and from her wombe new spirits to reprize. He then remembred well, that had bene sayd, how th’Earth his mother was, and him first bore; she eke so often, as his life decayd, did life with usury to him restore, and raysd him vp much stronger then before, so soon as he unto her wombe did fall...’
Puzzling how to take life from a creature that rises freshly from the earth and draws new spirit from each death, Prince Arthur remembers that, as had been said, the soil is his mother and as often as life decayed, she would restore life to him with interest and so he catches the captain up and squeezes the life out of him once more, then carries him above his head to the shore of the lake and throws him into the water.