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without partialitie; for seing that of men we neyther hunt for reward, nor yitt for vane glorie, we litill pass by the approbatioun of such as seldome judge weill of God and of his workis. Lett not thairfoar the Readir wonder, albeit that our style vary and speik diverslie of men, according as thei have declared thameselves sometymes ennemymes and sometymes freindis, sometymes fervent, sometymes cold, sometymes constant, and sometymes changeable in the cause of God and of his holy religioun: for, in this our simplicitie, we suppoise that the Godlie shall espy our purpose, which is, that God may be praised for his mercy schawin," this present age may be admonished to be thankfull for Goddis benefittis offerred, and the posteritie to cum may be instructed how wonderouslie hath the light of Christ Jesus prevailled against darkness in this last and most corrupted
BY EDMUND SPENSER (1589)
A LETTER OF THE AUTHORS
To the Right Noble, and Valorous, Sir Walter Raleigh,
Knight, Lord Wardein of the Stanneryes, and Her
Majesties Liefetenaunt of the County of Cornewayll CYIR, knowing how doubtfully all allegories may be con
strued, and this booke of mine, which I have en
tituled the Faery Queene, being a continued allegory, or darke conceit, I have thought good, as well for avoyding of gealous opinions and misconstructions, as also for your better light in reading thereof, (being so by you commanded,) to discover unto you the general intention and meaning, which in the whole course thereof I have 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
Edmund Spenser was born in London about 1552, and died there in 1599. He was the meatest of the non-dramatic poets of the age of Elizabeth; and the “Faerie Queene" is the longest and most famous of his works. The first three books were published in 1590, the second three in 1596;. of the remaining, six which he had planned some fragments were issued after his death. The poem is a combination of allegory and romance; and in this prefatory letter to Raleigh the poet himself explains the plan of the work and its main allegorical signification.
fore of alls thereintessing of course theral intentou com
person in vertuous and gentle discipline: which for that I conceived 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 then 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 envy, and suspition of present time. In which I have followed all the antique poets historicall: first Homere, who in the persons of Agamemnon and Ulysses hath ensampled a good governour 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 Æneas; after him Ariosto comprised them both in his Orlando; and lately Tasso dissevered them againe, and formed both parts in two persons, namely that part which they in philosophy call Ethice, or vertues of a private 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 brave knight, perfected in the twelve private morall vertues, as Aristotle hath devised, the which is the purpose of these first twelve 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 have good discipline delivered plainly in way of precepts, or sermoned at large, as they use, then thus clowdily enwrapped in allegoricall devises. But such, me seeme, should be satisfide with the use 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 judgement, formed a commune welth such as it should be, but the other in the person of Cyrus and the Persians fashioned a governement, such as might best be: so much more profitable and gratious is doctrine by ensample, then by rule. So have I laboured to doe in the person of Arthure: whome I conceive, after his long edu. cation by Timon, to whom he was by Merlin delivered to be brought up, so soone as he was borne of the Lady Igrayne, to have seene in a dream or vision the Faery Queen, with whose excellent beauty ravished, he awaking resolved to seeke her out, and so being by Merlin armed, and by Timon thoroughly 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 conceive the most excellent and glorious person of our soveraine 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 vertu. ous and beautiful lady, this latter part in some places I doe expresse in Belphabe, fashioning her name according your owne excellent conceipt of Cynthia, (Phæbe and Cynthia being both names of 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 applyable to that vertue which I write of in that booke. But of the xii. other vertues I make xii. other knights 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 upon other antecedents, it needs that ye know the occasion of these three knights severall adventures. 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, even where it most concerneth him, and there recoursing to the thinges forepaste, and divining of thinges to come, maketh a pleasing analysis of all.