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The Sarazins shield, signe of the conqueroure :
Her soone he overtooke, and bad to stay;
For present cause was none of dread her to dismay.
Shee turning backe, with ruefull countenaunce,
Cride “ Mercy, mercy, sir, vouchsafe to show
On silly dame, subiect to hard mischaunce,
And to your mighty will.” Her humblesse low
In so ritch weedes, and seeming glorious show,
Did much emmove his stout heroicke heart;
And said, “ Deare dame, your suddein overthrow
Much rueth me; but now put feare apart,
And tel, both who ye be, and who that tooke your part.”
Melting in teares, than gan shee thus lament;
“ The wretched woman, whom unhappy howre
Hath now made thrall to your commandëment,
Before that angry heavens list to lowre,
And fortune false betrade me to your powre,
Was, (O what now availeth that I was !)
Borne the sole daughter of an emperour;
He that the wide west under his rule has,
And high hath set his throne where Tiberis doth pas.
“ He, in the first flowre of my freshest age,
Betrothed me unto the onely haire
Of a most mighty king, most rich and sage;
Was never prince so faithfull and so faire,
Was never prince so meeke and debonaire !
But, ere my hoped day of spousall shone,
My dearest lord fell from high honors staire
Into the hands of hys accursed fone,
And cruelly was slaine; that shall I ever mone !
“ His blessed body, spoild of lively breath,
Was afterward, I know not how, convaid,
And fro me hid; of whose most innocent death
When tidings came to mee, unhappy maid,
O, how great sorrow my sad soule assaid !
Then forth I went his woefull corse to find,
And many yeares throughout the world I straid,
A virgin widow; whose deepe-wounded mind
With love long time did languish, as the striken hind.
" At last it chaunced this proud Sarazin
To meete me wandring; who perforce me led
With him away; but yet could never win
The fort, that ladies hold in soveraigne dread.
There lies he now with foule dishonor dead,
Who, whiles he livde, was called proud Sansfoy,
The eldest of three brethren; all three bred
Of one bad sire, whose youngest is Sansioy ;
And twixt them both was born the bloudy bold Sansloy.
“ In this sad plight, friendlesse, unfortunate,
Now miserable I Fidessa dwell,
Craving of you, in pitty of my state,
To doe none ill, if please ye not doe well.”
He in great passion all this while did dwell,
More busying his quicke eies, her face to view,
Then his dull eares, to heare what shee did tell;
And said, “ Faire lady, hart of flint would rew
The undeserved woes and sorrowes, which ye shew.
“ Henceforth in safe assuraunce may ye rest,
Having both found a new friend you to aid
And lost an old foe that did you molest:
Better new friend then old foe is said."
With chaunge of chear the seeming-simple maid
Let fal her eien, as shamefast, to the earth,
And yeelding soft, in that she nought gainsaid.
So forth they rode, he feining seeinely merth,
And shee coy lookes : so dainty, they say, maketh derth.
Long time they thus together traveiled;
Til, weary of their way, they came at last
Where grew two goodly trees, that fair did spred
Their armes abroad, with gray mosse overcaste;
And their greene leaves, trembling with every blast,
Made a calme shadowe far in compasse round:
The fearfull shepheard, often there aghast,
Under them never sat, ne wont there sound
His mery oaten pipe; but shund th' unlucky ground.
But this good knight, soone as he them can spie,
For the coole shade him thither hastly got;
For golden Phoebus, now ymounted hie,
From fiery wheeles of his faire chariot
Hurled his beame so scorching cruell hot,
That living creature mote it not abide;
And his new lady it endured not.
There they alight, in hope themselves to hide
From the fierce heat, and rest their weary limbs a tide.
Faire-seemely pleasaunce each to other makes,
With goodly purposes, there as they sit ;
And in liis falsed fancy he her takes
To be the fairest wight, that lived yit;
Which to expresse, he bends his gentle wit;
And, thinking of those braunches greene to frame
A girlond for her dainty forehead fit,
He pluckt a bough ; out of whose rifte there came
Smal drops of gory bloud, that trickled down the same.
Therewith a piteous yelling voice was heard,
Crying, “ O spare with guilty hands to teare
My tender sides in this rough rynd embard ;
But fly, ah ! fly far hence away, for feare
Least to you hap, that happened to me .heare,
And to this wretched lady, my deare love ;
O too deare love, love bought with death too deare !"
Astond he stood, and up his heare did hove :
And with that suddein horror could no member move.
At last whenas the dreadfull passion
Was overpast, and manhood well awake;
Yet musing at the straunge occasion,
And doubting much his sence, he thus bespake :
“ What voice of damned ghost from Limbo lake,
Or guilefull spright wandring in empty aire,
(Both which fraile men doe oftentimes mistake,)
Sends to my doubtful eares these speaches rare,
And ruefull plaints, me bidding guiltlesse blood to spare ?"
Then, groning deep; “ Nor damned ghost," quoth he,
“ Nor guileful sprite, to thee these words doth speake;
But once a man Fradubio, now a tree;
Wretched man, wretched tree! whose nature weake
A cruell witch, her cursed will to wreake,
Hath thus transformd, and plast in open plaines
Where Boreas doth blow full bitter bleake,
And scorching sunne does dry my secret vaines ;
For though a tree I seeme, yet cold and heat me paines.”
“ Say on, Fradubio, then, or man or tree,”
Quoth then the knight ; “ by whose mischievous arts
Art thou misshaped thus, as now I see?
He oft finds med'cine who his griefe imparts ;
But double griefs afflict concealing harts ;
As raging flames who striveth to suppresse.”
" The author then,” said he, “ of all my smarts,
Is one Duessa, a false sorceresse,
That many errant knights hath broght to wretchednesse.
“ In prime of youthly yeares, when corage hott
The fire of love and ioy of chevalree
First kindled in my brest, it was my lott
To love this gentle lady, whome ye see
Now not a lady, but a seeming tree;
With whome as once I rode accompanyde,
Me chaunced of a knight encountred bee,
That had a like faire lady by his syde ;
Lyke a faire lady, but did fowle Duessa hyde
“ Whose forged beauty he did take in band
All other dames to have exceded farre;
I in defence of mine did likewise stand,
Mine, that did then shine as the morning starre.
So both to batteill fierce arraunged arre;
In which his harder fortune was to fall
Under my speare ; such is the dye of warre.
His lady, left as a prise martiall,
Did yield her comely person to be at my call.
“ So doubly lov'd of ladies unlike faire,
Th' one seeming such, the other such indeede
One day in doubt I cast for to campare
Whether in beauties glorie did exceede ;
A rosy girlond was the victors meede.
Both seemde to win, and both seemde won to bee ;
So hard the discord was to be agreede.
Frælissa was as faire, as faire mote bee,
And ever false Duessa seemde as faire as shee.
“The wicked witch, now seeing all this while
The doubtfull ballaunce equally to sway,
What not by right, she cast to win by guile;
And, by her hellish science, raisd streight way
A foggy mist that overcast the day,
And a dull blast that breathing on her face
Dimmed her former beauties shining ray,
And with foule ugly forme did her disgrace :
Then was she fayre alone, when none was faire in place.
“ Then cride she out, Fye, fye, deformed wigli,
Whose borrowed beautie now appeareth plaine
To have before bewitched all mens sight:
O leave her soone, or let her soone be siame!'
Her loathly visage viewing with disdaine,
Eftsoones I thought her such as she me told,
And would have kild her; but with faigned paine
The false witch did my wrathfull hand withhold :
So left her, where she now is turned to treën mould.
“ Thensforth I tooke Duessa for my dame,
And in the witch unweeting ioyd long time;
Ne ever wist, but that she was the same :
Till on a day (that day is everie prime,
When witches wont do penance for their crime,)
I chaunst to see her in her proper hew,
Bathing her selfe in origane and thyme :
A filthy foule old woman I did vew,
That ever to have toucht her I did deadly rew.
“ Her neather partes misshapen monstruous,
Were hidd in water, that I could not see;
But they did seeme more foule and hideous,
Then womans shape man would beleeve to bee.
Thensforth from her most beastly companie
I gan refraine, in minde to slipp away,
Soone as appeard safe opportunitie:
For danger great, if not assurd decay,
I saw before mine eyes, if I were knowne to stray.
“ The divelish hag, by chaunges of my cheare,
Perceiv'd my thought; and, drownd in sleepie night,
With wicked herbes and oyntments did besmeare
My body, all through charmes and magicke might,
That all my senses were bereaved quight:
Then brought she me into this desert waste,
And by my wretched lovers side me pight;
Where now enclosd in wooden wals full faste,
Banisht from living wights, our wearie daies we waste."
“ But how long time,” said then the Elfin knight,
“ Are you in this misformed hous to dwell ?”
“ We may not chaunge," quoth he, " this evill plight.
Till we be bathed in a living well :
That is the terme prescribed by the spell."
“ O how,” sayd he, “ mote I that well out find,
That may restore you to your wonted well ?”
“ Time and suffised fates to former kynd
Shall us restore; none else from hence may us unbynd.”