An interactive outline of Book 1 of The Faerie Queene

Canto IV

To sinfull house of Pride, Duessa

guides the faithfull knight,

Where brother's death to wreak Sansjoy

doth chalenge him to fight.

Spenser's admonition (1)


YOUNG knight whatever that dost armes professe,

And through long labours huntest after fame,

Beware of fraud, beware of ficklenesse,

In choice, and change of thy deare loved Dame,

Least thou of her beleeve too lightly blame,

And rash misweening doe thy hart remove:

For unto knight there is no greater shame,

Then lightnesse and inconstancie in love;

That doth this Redcrosse knights ensample plainly prove.

Approaching the House of Pride (2-5)


Who after that he had faire Una lorne,

Through light misdeeming of her loialtie,

And false Duessa in her sted had borne,

Called Fidess', and so supposd to bee;

Long with her traveild, till at last they see

A goodly building, bravely garnished,

The house of mightie Prince it seemd to bee:

And towards it a broad high way that led,

All bare through peoples feet, which thither traveiled.


Great troupes of people traveild thitherward

Both day and night, of each degree and place,

But few returned, having scaped hard,

With balefull beggerie, or foule disgrace;

Which ever after in most wretched case,

Like loathsome lazars, by the hedges lay.

Thither Duessa bad him bend his pace:

For she is wearie of the toilesome way,

And also nigh consumed is the lingring day.


A stately Pallace built of squared bricke,

Which cunningly was without morter laid,

Whose wals were high, but nothing strong, nor thick,

And golden foile all over them displaid,

That purest skye with brightnesse they dismaid:

High lifted up were many loftie towres,

And goodly galleries farre over laid,

Full of faire windowes and delightful bowres;

And on the top a Diall told the timely howres.


It was a goodly heape for to behould,

And spake the praises of the workmans wit;

But full great pittie, that so faire a mould

Did on so weake foundation ever sit:

For on a sandie hill, that still did flit

And fall away, it mounted was full hie,

That every breath of heaven shaked it:

And all the hinder parts, that few could spie,

Were ruinous and old, but painted cunningly.

Entering the palace (6-7)


Arrived there, they passed in forth right;

For still to all the gates stood open wide:

Yet charge of them was to a Porter hight

Cald Malvenù, who entrance none denide:

Thence to the hall, which was on every side

With rich array and costly arras dight:

Infinite sorts of people did abide

There waiting long, to win the wished sight

Of her that was the Lady of that Pallace bright.


By them they passe, all gazing on them round,

And to the Presence mount; whose glorious vew

Their frayle amazed senses did confound:

In living Princes court none ever knew

Such endlesse richesse, and so sumptuous shew;

Ne Persia selfe, the nourse of pompous pride

Like ever saw. And there a noble crew

Of Lordes and Ladies stood on every side,

Which with their presence faire the place much beautifide.

Lucifera described (8-12)


High above all a cloth of State was spred,

And a rich throne, as bright as sunny day,

On which there sate most brave embellished

With royall robes and gorgeous array,

A mayden Queene, that shone as Titans ray,

In glistring gold, and peerelesse pretious stone:

Yet her bright blazing beautie did assay

To dim the brightnesse of her glorious throne,

As envying her selfe, that too exceeding shone.


Exceeding shone, like Phœbus fairest childe,

That did presume his fathers firie wayne,

And flaming mouthes of steedes unwonted wilde

Through highest heaven with weaker hand to rayne;

Proud of such glory and advancement vaine,

While flashing beames do daze his feeble eyen,

He leaves the welkin way most beaten plaine,

And rapt with whirling wheeles, inflames the skyen,

With fire not made to burne, but fairely for to shyne.


So proud she shyned in her Princely state,

Looking to heaven; for earth she did disdayne:

And sitting high; for lowly she did hate:

Lo underneath her scornefull feete was layne

A dreadfull Dragon with an hideous trayne,

And in her hand she held a mirrhour bright,

Wherein her face she often vewed fayne,

And in her selfe-lov'd semblance tooke delight;

For she was wondrous faire, as any living wight.


Of griesly Pluto she the daughter was,

And sad Proserpina the Queene of hell;

Yet did she thinke her pearlesse worth to pas

That parentage, with pride so did she swell;

And thundring Jove, that high in heaven doth dwell,

And wield the world, she claymed for her syre,

Or if that any else did Jove excell:

For to the highest she did still aspyre,

Or if ought higher were then that, did it desyre.


And proud Lucifera men did her call,

That made her selfe a Queene, and crownd to be,

Yet rightfull kingdome she had none at all,

Ne heritage of native soveraintie,

But did usurpe with wrong and tyrannie

Upon the scepter, which she now did hold:

Ne ruld her Realmes with lawes, but pollicie,

And strong advizement of six wisards old,

That with their counsels bad her kingdome did uphold.

RCK and Duessa's reception (13-15)


Soone as the Elfin knight in presence came,

And false Duessa seeming Lady faire,

A gentle Husher, Vanitie by name

Made rowme, and passage for them did prepaire:

So goodly brought them to the lowest staire

Of her high throne, where they on humble knee

Making obeyssance, did the cause declare,

Why they were come, her royall state to see,

To prove the wide report of her great Majestee.


With loftie eyes, halfe loth to looke so low,

She thanked them in her disdainefull wise;

Ne other grace vouchsafed them to show

Of Princesse worthy, scarse them bad arise.

Her Lordes and Ladies all this while devise

Themselves to setten forth to straungers sight:

Some frounce their curled haire in courtly guise,

Some prancke their ruffes, and others trimly dight

Their gay attire: each others greater pride does spight.


Goodly they all that knight do entertaine,

Right glad with him to have increast their crew:

But to Duess' each one himselfe did paine

All kindnesse and faire courtesie to shew;

For in that court whylome her well they knew:

Yet the stout Faerie mongst the middest crowd

Thought all their glorie vaine in knightly vew,

And that great Princesse too exceeding prowd,

That to strange knight no better countenance allowd.

Lucifera's coach, pulled by deadly sins (16-37) +

Lucifera's coach described (16-17)

Suddein upriseth from her stately place

The royall Dame, and for her coche did call:

All hurtlen forth, and she with Princely pace,

As faire Aurora in her purple pall,

Out of the east the dawning day doth call:

So forth she comes: her brightnesse brode doth blaze;

The heapes of people thronging in the hall,

Do ride each other, upon her to gaze:

Her glorious glitterand light doth all mens eyes amaze.


So forth she comes, and to her coche does clyme,

Adorned all with gold, and girlonds gay,

That seemd as fresh as Flora in her prime,

And strove to match, in royall rich array,

Great Junoes golden chaire, the which they say

The Gods stand gazing on, when she does ride

To Joves high house through heavens bras-paved way

Drawne of faire Pecocks, that excell in pride,

And full of Argus eyes their tailes dispredden wide.

Idlenesse (18-20)

But this was drawne of six unequall beasts,

On which her six sage Counsellours did ryde,

Taught to obay their bestiall beheasts,

With like conditions to their kinds applyde:

Of which the first, that all the rest did guyde,

Was sluggish Idlenesse the nourse of sin;

Upon a slouthful Asse he chose to ryde,

Arayd in habit blacke, and amis thin,

Like to an holy Monck, the service to begin.


And in his hand his Portesse still he bare,

That much was worne, but therein little red,

For of devotion he had little care,

Still drownd in sleepe, and most of his dayes ded;

Scarse could he once uphold his heavie hed,

To looken, whether it were night or day:

May seeme the wayne was very evill led,

When such an one had guiding of the way,

That knew not, whether right he went, or else astray.


From worldly cares himselfe he did esloyne,

And greatly shunned manly exercise,

From every worke he chalenged essoyne,

For contemplation sake: yet otherwise,

His life he led in lawlesse riotise;

By which he grew to grievous malady;

For in his lustlesse limbs through evill guise

A shaking fever raignd continually:

Such one was Idlenesse, first of this company.

Gluttony (21-23)

And by his side rode loathsome Gluttony,

Deformed creature, on a filthie swyne;

His belly was up-blowne with luxury,

And eke with fatnesse swollen were his eyne,

And like a Crane his necke was long and fyne,

With which he swallowed up excessive feast,

For want whereof poore people oft did pyne;

And all the way, most like a brutish beast,

He spued up his gorge, that all did him deteast.


In greene vine leaves he was right fitly clad;

For other clothes he could not weare for heat,

And on his head an yvie girland had,

From under which fast trickled downe the sweat:

Still as he rode, he somewhat still did eat,

And in his hand did beare a bouzing can,

Of which he supt so oft, that on his seat

His dronken corse he scarse upholden can,

In shape and life more like a monster, then a man.


Unfit he was for any worldly thing,

And eke unhable once to stirre or go,

Not meet to be of counsell to a king,

Whose mind in meat and drinke was drowned so,

That from his friend he seldome knew his fo:

Full of diseases was his carcas blew,

And a dry dropsie through his flesh did flow:

Which by misdiet daily greater grew:

Such one was Gluttony, the second of that crew.

Lechery (24-26)

And next to him rode lustfull Lechery,

Upon a bearded Goat, whose rugged haire,

And whally eyes (the signe of gelosy),

Was like the person selfe, whom he did beare:

Who rough, and blacke, and filthy did appeare,

Unseemely man to please faire Ladies eye;

Yet he of Ladies oft was loved deare,

When fairer faces were bid standen by:

O who does know the bent of womens fantasy?


In a greene gowne he clothed was full faire,

Which underneath did hide his filthinesse,

And in his hand a burning hart he bare,

Full of vaine follies, and new fanglenesse,

For he was false, and fraught with ficklenesse;

And learned had to love with secret lookes;

And well could daunce, and sing with ruefulnesse,

And fortunes tell, and read in loving bookes,

And thousand other wayes, to bait his fleshly hookes.


Inconstant man, that loved all he saw,

And lusted after all that he did love;

Ne would his looser life be tide to law,

But joyd weak wemens hearts to tempt and prove,

If from their loyall loves he might them move;

Which lewdnesse fild him with reprochfull paine

Of that fowle evill, which all men reprove,

That rots the marrow and consumes the braine:

Such one was Lecherie, the third of all this traine.

Avarice (27-29)

And greedy Avarice by him did ride,

Upon a Camell loaden all with gold;

Two iron coffers hong on either side,

With precious mettall full as they might hold;

And in his lap an heape of coine he told;

For of his wicked pelfe his God he made,

And unto hell him selfe for money sold;

Accursed usurie was all his trade,

And right and wrong ylike in equall ballaunce waide.


His life was nigh unto deaths doore yplast,

And thred-bare cote, and cobled shoes he ware,

Ne scarse good morsell all his life did tast,

But both from backe and belly still did spare,

To fill his bags, and richesse to compare;

Yet chylde ne kinsman living had he none

To leave them to; but thorough daily care

To get, and nightly feare to lose his owne,

He led a wretched life unto him selfe unknowne.


Most wretched wight, whom nothing might suffise,

Whose greedy lust did lacke in greatest store,

Whose need had end, but no end covetise,

Whose wealth was want, whose plenty made him pore,

Who had enough, yet wished ever more;

A vile disease, and eke in foote and hand

A grievous gout tormented him full sore,

That well he could not touch, nor go, nor stand;

Such one was Avarice, the fourth of this faire band.

Envy (30-32)

And next to him malicious Envie rode,

Upon a ravenous wolfe, and still did chaw

Betweene his cankred teeth a venemous tode,

That all the poison ran about his chaw;

But inwardly he chawed his owne maw

At neighbours wealth, that made him ever sad;

For death it was when any good he saw,

And wept, that cause of weeping none he had,

But when he heard of harme, he wexed wondrous glad.


All in a kirtle of discolourd say

He clothed was, ypainted full of eyes;

And in his bosome secretly there lay

An hatefull Snake, the which his taile uptyes

In many folds, and mortall sting implyes.

Still as he rode, he gnasht his teeth, to see

Those heapes of gold with griple Covetyse;

And grudged at the great felicitie

Of proud Lucifera, and his owne companie.


He hated all good workes and vertuous deeds,

And him no lesse, that any like did use,

And who with gracious bread the hungry feeds,

His almes for want of faith he doth accuse;

So every good to bad he doth abuse:

And eke the verse of famous Poets witt

He does backebite, and spightfull poison spues

From leprous mouth on all that ever writt:

Such one vile Envie was, that fifte in row did sitt.

Wrath (33-35)

And him beside rides fierce revenging Wrath,

Upon a Lion, loth for to be led;

And in his hand a burning brond he hath,

The which he brandisheth about his hed;

His eyes did hurle forth sparkles fiery red,

And stared sterne on all that him beheld,

As ashes pale of hew and seeming ded;

And on his dagger still his hand he held,

Trembling through hasty rage, when choler in him sweld.


His ruffin raiment all was staind with blood,

Which he had spilt, and all to rags yrent,

Through unadvized rashnesse woxen wood;

For of his hands he had no governement,

Ne car'd for bloud in his avengement:

But when the furious fit was overpast,

His cruell facts he often would repent;

Yet wilfull man he never would forecast,

How many mischieves should ensue his heedlesse hast.


Full many mischiefes follow cruell Wrath;

Abhorred bloodshed and tumultuous strife,

Unmanly murder, and unthrifty scath,

Bitter despight, with rancours rusty knife,

And fretting griefe the enemy of life;

All these, and many evils moe haunt ire,

The swelling Splene, and Frenzy raging rife,

The shaking Palsey, and Saint Fraunces fire:

Such one was Wrath, the last of this ungodly tire.

Satan, riding the wagon beam (36)

And after all, upon the wagon beame

Rode Sathan, with a smarting whip in hand,

With which he forward lasht the laesie teme,

So oft as Slowth still in the mire did stand.

Hugh routs of people did about them band,

Showting for joy, and still before their way

A foggy mist had covered all the land;

And underneath their feet, all scattered lay

Dead sculs and bones of men, whose life had gone astray.

Marching to flowering fields (37)

So forth they marchen in this goodly sort,

To take the solace of the open aire,

And in fresh flowring fields themselves to sport;

Emongst the rest rode that false Lady faire,

The foule Duessa, next unto the chaire

Of proud Lucifera, as one of the traine:

But that good knight would not so nigh repaire,

Him selfe estraunging from their joyaunce vaine,

Whose fellowship seemd far unfit for warlike swaine.

Sansjoy arrives at the House of Pride (38-51) +

An angry Sansjoy attacks RCK (38-39)

So having solaced themselves a space

With pleasaunce of the breathing fields yfed,

They backe retourned to the Princely Place;

Whereas an errant knight in armes ycled,

And heathnish shield, wherein with letters red

Was writ Sans joy, they new arrived find:

Enflam'd with fury and fiers hardy-hed

He seemd in hart to harbour thoughts unkind,

And nourish bloudy vengeaunce in his bitter mind.


Who when the shamed shield of slaine Sansfoy

He spide with that same Faery champions page,

Bewraying him, that did of late destroy

His eldest brother, burning all with rage

He to him leapt, and that same envious gage

Of victors glory from him snatcht away:

But th' Elfin knight, which ought that warlike wage

Disdaind to loose the meed he wonne in fray,

And him rencountring fierce, reskewd the noble pray.

Lucifera stops the fighting (40)

Therewith they gan to hurtlen greedily,

Redoubted battaile ready to darrayne,

And clash their shields, and shake their swords on hy,

That with their sturre they troubled all the traine;

Till that great Queene upon eternall paine

Of high displeasure that ensewen might,

Commaunded them their fury to refraine,

And if that either to that shield had right,

In equall lists they should the morrow next it fight.

Sansjoy's complaint (41-42)

Ah dearest Dame, (quoth then the Paynim bold,)

Pardon the error of enraged wight,

Whom great griefe made forget the raines to hold

Of reasons rule, to see this recreant knight,

No knight, but treachour full of false despight

And shamefull treason, who through guile hath slayn

The prowest knight that ever field did fight,

Even stout Sansfoy (O who can then refrayn?)

Whose shield he beares renverst, the more to heape disdayn.


And to augment the glorie of his guile,

His dearest love, the faire Fidessa, loe

Is there possessed of the traytour vile,

Who reapes the harvest sowen by his foe,

Sowen in bloudy field, and bought with woe:

That brothers hand shall dearely well requight,

So be, O Queene, you equall favour showe.

Him litle answerd th' angry Elfin knight;

He never meant with words, but swords to plead his right.

Agreement to fight tomorrow (43)

But threw his gauntlet as a sacred pledge,

His cause in combat the next day to try:

So been they parted both, with harts on edge

To be aveng'd each on his enimy.

That night they pas in joy and jollity,

Feasting and courting both in bowre and hall;

For Steward was excessive Gluttonie,

That of his plenty poured forth to all;

Which doen, the Chamberlain Slowth did to rest them call.

Duessa goes to Sansjoy (44-51)

Now whenas darkesome night had all displayed

Her coleblacke curtein over brightest skye,

The warlike youthes on dayntie couches layd,

Did chace away sweet sleepe from sluggish eye,

To muse on meanes of hoped victory.

But whenas Morpheus had with leaden mace

Arrested all that courtly company,

Up-rose Duessa from her resting place,

And to the Paynims lodging comes with silent pace.


Whom broad awake she finds, in troublous fit,

Forecasting, how his foe he might annoy,

And him amoves with speaches seeming fit:

Ah deare Sansjoy, next dearest to Sansfoy,

Cause of my new griefe, cause of my new joy,

Joyous, to see his ymage in mine eye,

And greev'd, to thinke how foe did him destroy,

That was the flowre of grace and chevalrye;

Lo his Fidessa to thy secret faith I flye.


With gentle wordes he can her fairely greet,

And bad say on the secret of her hart.

Then sighing soft, I learne that litle sweet

Oft tempred is (quoth she) with muchell smart:

For since my brest was launcht with lovely dart

Of deare Sans foy, I never joyed howre,

But in eternall woes my weaker hart

Have wasted, loving him with all my powre,

And for his sake have felt full many an heavie stowre.


At last when perils all I weened past,

And hop'd to reape the crop of all my care,

Into new woes unweeting I was cast,

By this false faytor, who unworthy ware

His worthy shield, whom he with guilefull snare

Entrapped slew, and brought to shamefull grave.

Me silly maid away with him he bare,

And ever since hath kept in darksome cave,

For that I would not yeeld, that to Sans foy I gave.


But since faire Sunne hath sperst that lowring clowd,

And to my loathed life now shewes some light,

Under your beames I will me safely shrowd,

From dreaded storme of his disdainfull spight:

To you th' inheritance belongs by right

Of brothers prayse, to you eke longs his love.

Let not his love, let not his restlesse spright,

Be unreveng'd, that calles to you above

From wandring Stygian shores, where it doth endlesse move.


Thereto said he, Faire Dame, be nought dismaid

For sorrowes past; their griefe is with them gone:

Ne yet of present perill be affraid;

For needlesse feare did never vantage none

And helplesse hap it booteth not to mone.

Dead is Sansfoy, his vitall paines are past,

Though greeved ghost for vengeance deepe do grone:

He lives, that shall him pay his dewties last,

And guiltie Elfin blood shall sacrifice in hast.


O but I feare the fickle freakes (quoth shee)

Of fortune false, and oddes of armes in field.

Why Dame (quoth he) what oddes can ever bee,

Where both do fight alike, to win or yield?

Yea but (quoth she) he beares a charmed shield,

And eke enchaunted armes, that none can perce,

Ne none can wound the man that does them wield.

Charmd or enchaunted (answerd he then ferce)

I no whit reck, ne you the like need to reherce.


But faire Fidessa, sithens fortunes guile,

Or enimies powre, hath now captived you,

Returne from whence ye came, and rest a while

Till morrow next, that I the Elfe subdew,

And with Sansfoyes dead dowry you endew.

Ay me, that is a double death (she said)

With proud foes sight my sorrow to renew:

Where ever yet I be, my secret aid

Shall follow you. So passing forth she him obaid.