Treasure Island

Edmund Spenser

(1552 - 13 January 1599 / London / England)

A Hymn In Honour Of Beauty


Ah whither, Love, wilt thou now carry me?
What wontless fury dost thou now inspire
Into my feeble breast, too full of thee?
Whilst seeking to aslake thy raging fire,
Thou in me kindlest much more great desire,
And up aloft above my strength dost raise
The wondrous matter of my fire to praise.

That as I erst in praise of thine own name,
So now in honour of thy mother dear,
An honourable hymn I eke should frame,
And with the brightness of her beauty clear,
The ravish'd hearts of gazeful men might rear
To admiration of that heavenly light,
From whence proceeds such soul-enchanting might.

Thereto do thou, great goddess, queen of beauty,
Mother of love, and of all world's delight,
Without whose sovereign grace and kindly duty
Nothing on earth seems fair to fleshly sight,
Do thou vouchsafe with thy love-kindling light
T' illuminate my dim and dulled eyne,
And beautify this sacred hymn of thine:

That both to thee, to whom I mean it most,
And eke to her, whose fair immortal beam
Hath darted fire into my feeble ghost,
That now it wasted is with woes extreme,
It may so please, that she at length will stream
Some dew of grace into my withered heart,
After long sorrow and consuming smart.

WHAT time this world's great Workmaster did cast
To make all things such as we now behold,
It seems that he before his eyes had plac'd
A goodly pattern, to whose perfect mould
He fashion'd them as comely as he could;
That now so fair and seemly they appear,
As nought may be amended anywhere.

That wondrous pattern, wheresoe'er it be,
Whether in earth laid up in secret store,
Or else in heaven, that no man may it see
With sinful eyes, for fear it to deflore,
Is perfect Beauty, which all men adore;
Whose face and feature doth so much excel
All mortal sense, that none the same may tell.

Thereof as every earthly thing partakes
Or more or less, by influence divine,
So it more fair accordingly it makes,
And the gross matter of this earthly mine,
Which clotheth it, thereafter doth refine,
Doing away the dross which dims the light
Of that fair beam which therein is empight.

For, through infusion of celestial power,
The duller earth it quick'neth with delight,
And lifeful spirits privily doth pour
Through all the parts, that to the looker's sight
They seem to please. That is thy sovereign might,
O Cyprian queen, which flowing from the beam
Of thy bright star, thou into them dost stream.

That is the thing which giveth pleasant grace
To all things fair, that kindleth lively fire,
Light of thy lamp, which, shining in the face,
Thence to the soul darts amorous desire,
And robs the hearts of those which it admire;
Therewith thou pointest thy son's poison'd arrow,
That wounds the life, and wastes the inmost marrow.

How vainly then do idle wits invent,
That beauty is nought else but mixture made
Of colours fair, and goodly temp'rament
Of pure complexions, that shall quickly fade
And pass away, like to a summer's shade;
Or that it is but comely composition
Of parts well measur'd, with meet disposition.

Hath white and red in it such wondrous power,
That it can pierce through th' eyes unto the heart,
And therein stir such rage and restless stour,
As nought but death can stint his dolour's smart?
Or can proportion of the outward part
Move such affection in the inward mind,
That it can rob both sense and reason blind?

Why do not then the blossoms of the field,
Which are array'd with much more orient hue,
And to the sense most dainty odours yield,
Work like impression in the looker's view?
Or why do not fair pictures like power shew,
In which oft-times we nature see of art
Excell'd, in perfect limning every part?

But ah, believe me, there is more than so,
That works such wonders in the minds of men;
I, that have often prov'd, too well it know,
And whoso list the like assays to ken,
Shall find by trial, and confess it then,
That beauty is not, as fond men misdeem,
An outward shew of things, that only seem.

For that same goodly hue of white and red,
With which the cheeks are sprinkled, shall decay,
And those sweet rosy leaves, so fairly spread
Upon the lips, shall fade and fall away
To that they were, even to corrupted clay;
That golden wire, those sparkling stars so bright,
Shall turn to dust; and lose their goodly light.

But that fair lamp, from whose celestial ray
That light proceeds, which kindleth lovers' fire,
Shall never be extinguish'd nor decay;
But when the vital spirits do expire,
Unto her native planet shall retire;
For it is heavenly born and cannot die,
Being a parcel of the purest sky.

For when the soul, the which derived was,
At first, out of that great immortal Spright,
By whom all live to love, whilom did pass
Down from the top of purest heaven's height
To be embodied here, it then took light
And lively spirits from that fairest star,
Which lights the world forth from his fiery car.

Which power retaining still or more or less,
When she in fleshly seed is eft enraced,
Through every part she doth the same impress,
According as the heavens have her graced,
And frames her house, in which she will be placed,
Fit for herself, adorning it with spoil
Of th' heavenly riches which she robb'd erewhile.

Thereof it comes that these fair souls, which have
The most resemblance of that heavenly light,
Frame to themselves most beautiful and brave
Their fleshly bower, most fit for their delight,
And the gross matter by a sovereign might
Tempers so trim, that it may well be seen
A palace fit for such a virgin queen.

So every spirit, as it is most pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
So it the fairer body doth procure
To habit in, and it more fairly dight
With cheerful grace and amiable sight.
For of the soul the body form doth take:
For soul is form, and doth the body make.

Therefore wherever that thou dost behold
A comely corpse, with beauty fair endued,
Know this for certain, that the same doth hold
A beauteous soul, with fair conditions thewed,
Fit to receive the seed of virtue strewed.
For all that fair is, is by nature good;
That is a sign to know the gentle blood.

Yet oft it falls that many a gentle mind
Dwells in deformed tabernacle drown'd,
Either by chance, against the course of kind,
Or through unaptness in the substance found,
Which it assumed of some stubborn ground,
That will not yield unto her form's direction,
But is deform'd with some foul imperfection.

And oft it falls, (ay me, the more to rue)
That goodly beauty, albe heavenly born,
Is foul abus'd, and that celestial hue,
Which doth the world with her delight adorn,
Made but the bait of sin, and sinners' scorn,
Whilst every one doth seek and sue to have it,
But every one doth seek but to deprave it.

Yet nathëmore is that fair beauty's blame,
But theirs that do abuse it unto ill:
Nothing so good, but that through guilty shame
May be corrupt, and wrested unto will:
Natheless the soul is fair and beauteous still,
However flesh{"e}s fault it filthy make;
For things immortal no corruption take.

But ye fair dames, the world's dear ornaments
And lively images of heaven's light,
Let not your beams with such disparagements
Be dimm'd, and your bright glory dark'ned quite;
But mindful still of your first country's sight,
Do still preserve your first informed grace,
Whose shadow yet shines in your beauteous face.

Loathe that foul blot, that hellish firebrand,
Disloyal lust, fair beauty's foulest blame,
That base affections, which your ears would bland,
Commend to you by love's abused name,
But is indeed the bondslave of defame;
Which will the garland of your glory mar,
And quench the light of your bright shining star.

But gentle Love, that loyal is and true,
Will more illumine your resplendent ray,
And add more brightness to your goodly hue,
From light of his pure fire; which, by like way
Kindled of yours, your likeness doth display;
Like as two mirrors, by oppos'd reflection,
Do both express the face's first impression.

Therefore, to make your beauty more appear,
It you behoves to love, and forth to lay
That heavenly riches which in you ye bear,
That men the more admire their fountain may;
For else what booteth that celestial ray,
If it in darkness be enshrined ever,
That it of loving eyes be viewed never?

But, in your choice of loves, this well advise,
That likest to yourselves ye them select,
The which your forms' first source may sympathize,
And with like beauty's parts be inly deckt;
For, if you loosely love without respect,
It is no love, but a discordant war,
Whose unlike parts amongst themselves do jar.

For love is a celestial harmony
Of likely hearts compos'd of stars' concent,
Which join together in sweet sympathy,
To work each other's joy and true content,
Which they have harbour'd since their first descent
Out of their heavenly bowers, where they did see
And know each other here belov'd to be.

Then wrong it were that any other twain
Should in love's gentle band combined be
But those whom Heaven did at first ordain,
And made out of one mould the more t' agree;
For all that like the beauty which they see,
Straight do not love; for love is not so light
As straight to burn at first beholder's sight.

But they, which love indeed, look otherwise,
With pure regard and spotless true intent,
Drawing out of the object of their eyes
A more refined form, which they present
Unto their mind, void of all blemishment;
Which it reducing to her first perfection,
Beholdeth free from flesh's frail infection.

And then conforming it unto the light,
Which in itself it hath remaining still,
Of that first Sun, yet sparkling in his sight,
Thereof he fashions in his higher skill
An heavenly beauty to his fancy's will;
And it embracing in his mind entire,
The mirror of his own thought doth admire.

Which seeing now so inly fair to be,
As outward it appeareth to the eye,
And with his spirit's proportion to agree,
He thereon fixeth all his fantasy,
And fully setteth his felicity;
Counting it fairer than it is indeed,
And yet indeed her fairness doth exceed.

For lovers' eyes more sharply sighted be
Than other men's, and in dear love's delight
See more than any other eyes can see,
Through mutual receipt of beam{"e}s bright,
Which carry privy message to the spright,
And to their eyes that inmost fair display,
As plain as light discovers dawning day.

Therein they see, through amorous eye-glances,
Armies of loves still flying to and fro,
Which dart at them their little fiery lances;
Whom having wounded, back again they go,
Carrying compassion to their lovely foe;
Who, seeing her fair eyes' so sharp effect,
Cures all their sorrows with one sweet aspect.

In which how many wonders do they rede
To their conceit, that others never see,
Now of her smiles, with which their souls they feed,
Like gods with nectar in their banquets free;
Now of her looks, which like to cordials be;
But when her words' embássade forth she sends,
Lord, how sweet music that unto them lends.

Sometimes upon her forehead they behold
A thousand graces masking in delight;
Sometimes within her eyelids they unfold
Ten thousand sweet belgards, which to their sight
Do seem like twinkling stars in frosty night;
But on her lips, like rosy buds in May,
So many millions of chaste pleasures play.

All those, O Cytherea, and thousands more
Thy handmaids be, which do on thee attend,
To deck thy beauty with their dainties' store,
That may it more to mortal eyes commend,
And make it more admir'd of foe and friend:
That in men's hearts thou may'st thy throne install,
And spread thy lovely kingdom over all.

Then Iö, triumph! O great Beauty's Queen,
Advance the banner of thy conquest high,
That all this world, the which thy vassals bene,
May draw to thee, and with due fealty
Adore the power of thy great majesty,
Singing this hymn in honour of thy name,
Compil'd by me, which thy poor liegeman am.

In lieu whereof grant, O great sovereign,
That she whose conquering beauty doth captive
My trembling heart in her eternal chain,
One drop of grace at length will to me give,
That I her bounden thrall by her may live,
And this same life, which first fro me she reaved,
May owe to her, of whom I it received.

And you, fair Venus' darling, my dear dread,
Fresh flower of grace, great goddess of my life,
When your fair eyes these fearful lines shall read,
Deign to let fall one drop of due relief,
That may recure my heart's long pining grief,
And shew what wondrous power your beauty hath,
That can restore a damned wight from death.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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