An interactive outline of Book 1 of The Faerie Queene

Canto I

The Patron of true Holinesse

foule Errour doth defeate;

Hypocrisie him to entrappe

doth to his home entreate.

Cast of characters (1-6)


A GENTLE Knight was pricking on the plaine,

Ycladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,

Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine,

The cruel markes of many'a bloudy fielde;

Yet armes till that time did he never wield:

His angry steede did chide his foming bitt,

As much disdayning to the curbe to yield:

Full jolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,

As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt.


And on his brest a bloudie Crosse he bore,

The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,

For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore,

And dead as living ever him ador'd:

Upon his shield the like was also scor'd,

For soveraine hope, which in his helpe he had:

Right faithfull true he was in deede and word,

But of his cheere did seeme too solemne sad;

Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.


Upon a great adventure he was bond,

That greatest Gloriana to him gave,

That greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie lond,

To winne him worship, and her grace to have,

Which of all earthly things he most did crave;

And ever as he rode, his hart did earne

To prove his puissance in battell brave

Upon his foe, and his new force to learne;

Upon his foe, a Dragon horrible and stearne.


A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside,

Upon a lowly Asse more white then snow,

Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide

Under a vele, that wimpled was full low,

And over all a blacke stole she did throw,

As one that inly mournd: so was she sad,

And heavie sat upon her palfrey slow;

Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,

And by her in a line a milke white lambe she lad.


So pure and innocent, as that same lambe,

She was in life and every vertuous lore,

And by descent from Royall lynage came

Of ancient Kings and Queenes, that had of yore

Their scepters stretcht from East to Westerne shore,

And all the world in their subjection held;

Till that infernall feend with foule uprore

Forwasted all their land, and them expeld:

Whom to avenge, she had this Knight from far compeld.


Behind her farre away a Dwarfe did lag,

That lasie seemd in being ever last,

Or wearied with bearing of her bag

Of needments at his backe. Thus as they past,

The day with cloudes was suddeine overcast,

And angry Jove an hideous storme of raine

Did poure into his Lemans lap so fast,

That everie wight to shrowd it did constrain,

And this faire couple eke to shroud themselves were fain.

Error episode (7-28) +

Entering Wandring Wood (7-11)

Enforst to seeke some covert nigh at hand,

A shadie grove not far away they spide,

That promist ayde the tempest to withstand:

Whose loftie trees yclad with sommers pride

Did spred so broad, that heavens light did hide,

Not perceable with power of any starre:

And all within were pathes and alleies wide,

With footing worne, and leading inward farre:

Faire harbour that them seemes; so in they entred arre.


And foorth they passe, with pleasure forward led,

Joying to heare the birdes sweete harmony,

Which therein shrouded from the tempest dred,

Seemd in their song to scorne the cruell sky.

Much can they prayse the trees so straight and hy,

The sayling Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,

The vine-prop Elme, the Poplar never dry,

The builder Oake, sole king of forrests all,

The Aspine good for staves, the Cypresse funerall.


The Laurell, meed of mightie Conquerours

And Poets sage, the firre that weepeth still,

The Willow worne of forlorne Paramours,

The Eugh obedient to the benders will,

The Birch for shaftes, the Sallow for the mill,

The Mirrhe sweete bleeding in the bitter wound,

The warlike Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,

The fruitfull Olive, and the Platane round,

The carver Holme, the Maple seeldom inward sound.


Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,

Untill the blustring storme is overblowne;

When weening to returne, whence they did stray,

They cannot finde that path, which first was showne,

But wander too and fro in wayes unknowne,

Furthest from end then, when they neerest weene,

That makes them doubt their wits be not their owne:

So many pathes, so many turnings seene,

That which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.


At last resolving forward still to fare,

Till that some end they finde or in or out,

That path they take, that beaten seemd most bare,

And like to lead the labyrinth about;

Which when by tract they hunted had throughout,

At length it brought them to a hollow cave

Amid the thickest woods. The Champion stout

Eftsoones dismounted from his courser brave,

And to the Dwarfe awhile his needlesse spere he gave.

Den of Error (12-15)

Be well aware, quoth then that Ladie milde,

Least suddaine mischiefe ye too rash provoke:

The danger hid, the place unknowne and wilde,

Breedes dreadfull doubts: Oft fire is without smoke,

And perill without show: therefore your stroke,

Sir Knight, with-hold, till further triall made.

Ah Ladie, (said he) shame were to revoke

The forward footing for an hidden shade:

Vertue gives her selfe light, through darkenesse for to wade.


Yea but (quoth she) the perill of this place

I better wot then you, though now too late

To wish you backe returne with foule disgrace,

Yet wisedome warnes, whilest foot is in the gate,

To stay the steppe, ere forced to retrate.

This is the wandring wood, this Errours den,

A monster vile, whom God and man does hate:

Therefore I read beware. Fly fly (quoth then

The fearefull Dwarfe) this is no place for living men.


But full of fire and greedy hardiment,

The youthfull knight could not for ought be staide,

But forth unto the darksome hole he went,

And looked in: his glistring armor made

A litle glooming light, much like a shade,

By which he saw the ugly monster plaine,

Halfe like a serpent horribly displaide,

But th'other halfe did womans shape retaine,

Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine.


And as she lay upon the durtie ground,

Her huge long taile her den all overspred,

Yet was in knots and many boughtes upwound,

Pointed with mortall sting. Of her there bred

A thousand yong ones, which she dayly fed,

Sucking upon her poisnous dugs, eachone

Of sundry shapes, yet all ill favored:

Soone as that uncouth light upon them shone,

Into her mouth they crept, and suddain all were gone.

Fight with Error (16-28)

Their dam upstart, out of her den effraide,

And rushed forth, hurling her hideous taile

About her cursed head, whose folds displaid

Were stretcht now forth at length without entraile.

She lookt about, and seeing one in mayle

Armed to point, sought backe to turne againe;

For light she hated as the deadly bale,

Ay wont in desert darknesse to remaine,

Where plain none might her see, nor she see any plaine.


Which when the valiant Elfe perceiv'd, he lept

As Lyon fierce upon the flying pray,

And with his trenchand blade her boldly kept

From turning backe, and forced her to stay:

Therewith enrag'd she loudly gan to bray,

And turning fierce, her speckled taile advaunst,

Threatning her angry sting, him to dismay:

Who nought aghast his mightie hand enhaunst:

The stroke down from her head unto her shoulder glaunst.


Much daunted with that dint, her sence was dazd,

Yet kindling rage, her selfe she gathered round,

And all attonce her beastly body raizd

With doubled forces high above the ground:

Tho wrapping up her wrethed sterne arownd,

Lept fierce upon his shield, and her huge traine

All suddenly about his body wound,

That hand or foot to stirre he strove in vaine:

God helpe the man so wrapt in Errours endlesse traine.


His Lady sad to see his sore constraint,

Cride out, Now now Sir knight, shew what ye bee,

Add faith unto your force, and be not faint:

Strangle her, else she sure will strangle thee.

That when he heard, in great perplexitie,

His gall did grate for griefe and high disdaine,

And knitting all his force got one hand free,

Wherewith he grypt her gorge with so great paine,

That soone to loose her wicked bands did her constraine.


Therewith she spewd out of her filthy maw

A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,

Full of great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw,

Which stunck so vildly, that it forst him slacke

His grasping hold, and from her turne him backe:

Her vomit full of bookes and papers was,

With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke,

And creeping sought way in the weedy gras:

Her filthy parbreake all the place defiled has.


As when old father Nilus gins to swell

With timely pride above the Aegyptian vale,

His fattie waves do fertile slime outwell,

And overflow each plaine and lowly dale:

But when his later spring gins to avale,

Huge heapes of mudd he leaves, wherein there breed

Ten thousand kindes of creatures, partly male

And partly female of his fruitful seed;

Such ugly monstrous shapes elswhere may no man reed.


The same so sore annoyed has the knight,

That welnigh choked with the deadly stinke,

His forces faile, ne can no lenger fight.

Whose corage when the feend perceiv'd to shrinke,

She poured forth out of her hellish sinke

Her fruitfull cursed spawne of serpents small,

Deformed monsters, fowle, and blacke as inke,

With swarming all about his legs did crall,

And him encombred sore, but could not hurt at all.


As gentle Shepheard in sweete even-tide,

When ruddy Phoebus gins to welke in west,

High on an hill, his flocke to vewen wide,

Markes which do byte their hasty supper best,

A cloud of combrous gnattes do him molest,

All striving to infixe their feeble stings,

That from their noyance he no where can rest,

But with his clownish hands their tender wings

He brusheth oft, and oft doth mar their murmurings.


Thus ill bestedd, and fearefull more of shame,

Then of the certeine perill he stood in,

Halfe furious unto his foe he came,

Resolv'd in minde all suddenly to win,

Or soone to lose, before he once would lin

And strooke at her with more then manly force,

That from her body full of filthie sin

He raft her hatefull head without remorse;

A streame of cole black bloud forth gushed from her corse.


Her scattred brood, soone as their Parent deare

They saw so rudely falling to the ground,

Groning full deadly, all with troublous feare,

Gathred themselves about her body round,

Weening their wonted entrance to have found

At her wide mouth: but being there withstood

They flocked all about her bleeding wound,

And sucked up their dying mothers blood,

Making her death their life, and eke her hurt their good.


That detestable sight him much amazde,

To see th' unkindly Impes, of heaven accurst,

Devoure their dam; on whom while so he gazd,

Having all satisfide their bloudy thurst,

Their bellies swolne he saw with fulnesse burst,

And bowels gushing forth: well worthy end

Of such as drunke her life, the which them nurst;

Now needeth him no lenger labour spend,

His foes have slaine themselves, with whom he should contend.


His Ladie seeing all that chaunst, from farre

Approcht in hast to greet his victorie,

And said, Faire knight, borne under happy starre,

Who see your vanquisht foes before you lye:

Well worthie be you of that Armorie,

Wherin ye have great glory wonne this day,

And proov'd your strength on a strong enimie,

Your first adventure: many such I pray,

And henceforth ever wish that like succeed it may.


Then mounted he upon his Steede againe,

And with the Lady backward sought to wend;

That path he kept which beaten was most plaine,

Ne ever would to any by-way bend,

But still did follow one unto the end,

The which at last out of the wood them brought.

So forward on his way (with God to frend)

He passed forth, and new adventure sought;

Long way he travelled, before he heard of ought.

Archimago episode (29-55) +

Meeting and greeting (29-33)

At length they chaunst to meet upon the way

An aged Sire, in long blacke weedes yclad,

His feete all bare, his beard all hoarie gray

And by his belt his booke he hanging had;

Sober he seemde, and very sagely sad,

And to the ground his eyes were lowly bent,

Simple in shew, and voyde of malice bad,

And all the way he prayed, as he went,

And often knockt his brest, as one that did repent.


He faire the knight saluted, louting low,

Who faire him quited, as that courteous was:

And after asked him, if he did know

Of straunge adventures, which abroad did pas.

Ah my deare Sonne (quoth he) how should, alas,

Silly old man, that lives in hidden cell,

Bidding his beades all day for his trespas,

Tydings of warre and worldly trouble tell?

With holy father sits not with such things to mell.


But if of daunger which hereby doth dwell,

And homebred evil ye desire to heare,

Of a straunge man I can you tidings tell,

That wasteth all this countrey farre and neare.

Of such (said he) I chiefly do inquere,

And shall you well reward to shew the place,

In which that wicked wight his dayes doth weare:

For to all knighthood it is foule disgrace,

That such a cursed creature lives so long a space.


Far hence (quoth he) in wastfull wildernesse

His dwelling is, by which no living wight

May ever passe, but thorough great distresse.

Now (sayd the Lady) draweth toward night,

And well I wote, that of your later fight

Ye all forwearied be: for what so strong,

But wanting rest will also want of might?

The Sunne that measures heaven all day long,

At night doth baite his steedes the Ocean waves emong.


Then with the Sunne take Sir, your timely rest,

And with new day new worke at once begin:

Untroubled night they say gives counsell best.

Right well Sir knight ye have advised bin,

(Quoth then that aged man;) the way to win

Is wisely to advise: now day is spent;

Therefore with me ye may take up your In

For this same night. The knight was well content:

So with that godly father to his home they went.

Rest at Hermitage (34-36)

A little lowly Hermitage it was,

Downe in a dale, hard by a forests side,

Far from resort of people, that did pas

In travell to and froe: a little wyde

There was an holy Chappell edifyde,

Wherein the Hermite dewly wont to say

His holy things each morne and eventyde:

Thereby a Christall streame did gently play,

Which from a sacred fountaine welled forth alway.


Arrived there, the little house they fill,

Ne looke for entertainement, where none was:

Rest is their feast, and all things at their will:

The noblest mind the best contentment has.

With faire discourse the evening so they pas:

For that old man of pleasing wordes had store,

And well could file his tongue as smooth as glas,

He told of Saintes and Popes, and evermore

He strowd an Ave-Mary after and before.


The drouping Night thus creepeth on them fast,

And the sad humour loading their eye liddes,

As messenger of Morpheus on them cast

Sweet slombring deaw, the which to sleepe them biddes.

Unto their lodgings then his guestes he riddes:

Where when all drownd in deadly sleepe he findes,

He to this study goes, and there amiddes

His Magick bookes and artes of sundry kindes,

He seekes out mighty charmes, to trouble sleepy mindes.

Conjuring sprites (37-38)

Then choosing out few words most horrible,

(Let none them read) thereof did verses frame,

With which and other spelles like terrible,

He bad awake blacke Plutoes griesly Dame,

And cursed heaven and spake reprochfull shame

Of highest God, the Lord of life and light;

A bold bad man, that dar'd to call by name

Great Gorgon, Prince of darknesse and dead night,

At which Cocytus quakes, and Styx is put to flight.


And forth he cald out of deepe darknesse dred

Legions of Sprights, the which like little flyes

Fluttring about his ever damned hed,

Awaite whereto their service he applyes,

To aide his friends, or fray his enimies:

Of those he chose out two, the falsest twoo,

And fittest for to forge true-seeming lyes;

The one of them he gave a message too,

The other by him selfe staide other worke to doo.

Sprite getting dream from Morpheus (39-44)

He making speedy way through spersed ayre,

And through the world of waters wide and deepe,

To Morpheus house doth hastily repaire.

Amid the bowels of the earth full steepe,

And low, where dawning day doth never peepe,

His dwelling is; there Tethys his wet bed

Doth ever wash, and Cynthia still doth steepe

In silver deaw his ever-drouping hed,

Whiles sad Night over him her mantle black doth spred.


Whose double gates he findeth locked fast,

The one faire fram'd of burnisht Yvory,

The other all with silver overcast;

And wakeful dogges before them farre do lye,

Watching to banish Care their enimy,

Who oft is wont to trouble gentle Sleepe.

By them the Sprite doth passe in quietly,

And unto Morpheus comes, whom drowned deepe

In drowsie fit he findes: of nothing he takes keepe.


And more, to lulle him in his slumber soft,

A trickling streame from high rock tumbling downe,

And ever-drizling raine upon the loft,

Mixt with a murmuring winde, much like the sowne

Of swarming Bees, did cast him in a swowne:

No other noyse, nor peoples troublous cryes,

As still are wont t'annoy the walled towne,

Might there be heard: but carelesse Quiet lyes,

Wrapt in eternall silence farre from enemyes.


The messenger approching to him spake,

But his wast wordes returnd to him in vaine:

So sound he slept, that nought mought him awake.

Then rudely he him thrust, and pusht with paine

Whereat he gan to stretch: but he againe

Shooke him so hard, that forced him to speake.

As one then in a dreame, whose dryer braine

Is tost with troubled sights and fancies weake,

He mumbled soft, but would not all his silence breake.


The Sprite then gan more boldly him to wake,

And threatned unto him the dreaded name

Of Hecate: whereat he gan to quake,

And lifting up his lumpish head, with blame

Halfe angry asked him, for what he came.

Hither (quoth he) me Archimago sent,

He that the stubborne Sprites can wisely tame,

He bids thee to him send for his intent

A fit false dreame, that can delude the sleepers sent.


The God obayde, and, calling forth straightway

A diverse dreame out of his prison darke,

Delivered it to him, and downe did lay

His heavie head, devoide of carefull carke,

Whose sences all were straight benumbed and starke.

He backe returning by the Yvorie dore,

Remounted up as light as chearefull Larke,

And on his litle winges the dreame he bore

In hast unto his Lord, where he him left afore.

RCK tempted by lustful dream and false Una (45-55)

Who all this while with charmes and hidden artes,

Had made a Lady of that other Spright,

And fram'd of liquid ayre her tender partes

So lively, and so like in all mens sight,

That weaker sence it could have ravisht quight:

The maker selfe, for all his wondrous witt,

Was nigh beguiled with so goodly sight:

Her all in white he clad, and over it

Cast a black stole, most like to seeme for Una fit.


Now when that ydle dreame was to him brought,

Unto that Elfin knight he bad him fly,

Where he slept soundly void of evill thought,

And with false shewes abuse his fantasy,

In sort as he him schooled privily:

And that new creature, borne without her dew,

Full of the makers guile, with usage sly

He taught to imitate that Lady trew,

Whose semblance she did carrie under feigned hew.


Thus well instructed, to their worke they hast,

And coming where the knight in slomber lay,

The one upon his hardy head him plast

And made him dreame of loves and lustfull play,

That nigh his manly hart did melt away,

Bathed in wanton blis and wicked joy:

Then seemed him his Lady by him lay,

And to him playnd, how that false winged boy,

Her chast hart had subdewd, to learne Dame Pleasures toy.


And she herselfe of beautie soveraigne Queene,

Fayre Venus seemde unto his bed to bring

Her, whom he waking evermore did weene,

To bee the chastest flowre, that ay did spring

On earthly braunch, the daughter of a king,

Now a loose Leman to vile service bound:

And eke the Graces seemed all to sing,

Hymen Iƶ Hymen dauncing all around,

Whilst freshest Flora her with Yvie girlond crownd.


In this great passion of unwonted lust,

Or wonted feare of doing ought amis,

He started up, as seeming to mistrust

Some secret ill, or hidden foe of his:

Lo there before his face his Lady is,

Under blake stole hyding her bayted hooke;

And as halfe blushing offred him to kis,

With gentle blandishment and lovely looke,

Most like that virgin true, which for her knight him took.


All cleane dismayd to see so uncouth sight,

And half enraged at her shamelesse guise,

He thought have slaine her in his fierce despight:

But hasty heat tempring with suffrance wise,

He stayde his hand, and gan himselfe advise

To prove his sense, and tempt her faigned truth.

Wringing her hands in womans pitteous wise,

Tho can she weepe, to stirre up gentle ruth,

Both for her noble bloud, and for her tender youth.


And said, Ah Sir, my liege Lord and my love,

Shall I accuse the hidden cruell fate,

And mightie causes wrought in heaven above,

Or the blind God, that doth me thus amate,

For hoped love to winne me certaine hate?

Yet thus perforce he bids me do, or die.

Die is my dew; yet rew my wretched state

You, whom my hard avenging destinie

Hath made judge of my life or death indifferently.


Your owne deare sake forst me at first to leave

My Fathers kingdome—There she stopt with teares;

Her swollen hart her speech seemd to bereave,

And then againe begun; My weaker yeares

Captiv'd to fortune and frayle worldly feares,

Fly to your fayth for succour and sure ayde:

Let me not dye in languor and long teares.

Why Dame (quoth he) what hath ye thus dismayd?

What frayes ye, that were wont to comfort me affrayd?


Love of your selfe, she saide, and deare constraint,

Lets me not sleepe, but wast the wearie night

In secret anguish and unpittied plaint,

Whiles you in carelesse sleepe are drowned quight.

Her doubtfull words made that redoubted knight

Suspect her truth: yet since no' untruth he knew,

Her fawning love with foule disdainefull spight

He would not shend; but said, Deare dame I rew,

That for my sake unknowne such griefe unto you grew.


Assure your selfe, it fell not all to ground;

For all so deare as life is to my hart,

I deeme your love, and hold me to you bound:

Ne let vaine feares procure your needlesse smart,

Where cause is none, but to your rest depart.

Not all content, yet seemd she to appease

Her mournefull plaintes, beguiled of her art,

And fed with words that could not chuse but please,

So slyding softly forth, she turned as to her ease.


Long after lay he musing at her mood,

Much griev'd to thinke that gentle Dame so light,

For whose defence he was to shed his blood.

At last, dull wearinesse of former fight

Having yrockt asleepe his irkesome spright,

That troublous dreame gan freshly tosse his braine,

With bowres, and beds, and Ladies deare delight:

But when he saw his labour all was vaine,

With that misformed spright he backe returnd againe.