Elizabethan English Poetry

Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Qveene

16th century, Elizabethan English. Numerous printed copies.

And now, once again, the maiden Britomatis will be taken for a knight and will be forced to give a good account of herself with her sword and with her lance.

Britomatis rides out onto the shore and gazes at the gems and pearls and precious stones littering the beach. Shortly vpon that shore there heaped was, exceeding riches and all pretious [precious] things. The spoyle of all the world... gold, amber, yuorie [ivory], perles.... A knight is waiting in the far distance and now begins to approach her. She closes her visor, lowers her lance and urges her horse into a preparatory canter across the gem-strewn sand.

Yes, Britomatis is a woman. She fell into a hopeless love in her fatherís castle in South Wales and wasted away until she shortly like a pyned ghost became, which long hath waited by the Stygian strond. She starved herself until she looked like an emaciated ghost that has been waiting for a long time beside the shore of the river Styx, which the dead have to cross in order to get to the underworld, in ancient Greek myth. Seeking the help of Merlin, she took the armour of an Anglian woman that was lying in her fatherís church and thus disguised, rode with her nurse by secret ways into Faerieland. ...and through back wayes, that none might them espy, covered with secret cloud of silent night, themselves they forth conveyed, and passed forward right. Ne rested they, till that to Faery lond they came, as Merlin them directed late...

And now, in an Otherworld, she will be taken for a knight and will once again be forced to give a good account of herself with her sword and with her lance.

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book III, Cantos II–IV.


Piccadilly Line, Earl's Court.


Edmund Spenser – Wikipedia

The Faerie Queene – Wikipedia



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