Edmund Spenser

(1552 - 13 January 1599 / London / England)

The Visions Of Petrarch - Poem by Edmund Spenser

Being one day at my window all alone,
So manie strange things happened me to see,
As much it grieueth me to thinke thereon.
At my right hand a Hynde appear'd to mee,
So faire as mote the greatest God delite;
Two eager dogs did her pursue in chace,
Of which the one was blacke, the other white:
With deadly force so in their cruell race
They pincht the haunches of that gentle beast,
That at the last, and in short time I spide,
Vnder a Rocke where she alas opprest,
Fell to the ground, and there vntimely dide.
Cruell death vanquishing so noble beautie,
Oft makes me wayle so hard a destinie.

After at sea a tall ship did appeare,
Made all of Heben and white Yuorie,
The sailes of golde, of silke the tackle were,
Milde was the winde, calme seem'd the sea to bee,
The skie eachwhere did show full bright and faire;
With rich treasures this gay ship fraigted was:
But sudden storme did so turmoyle the aire,
And tumbled vp the sea, that she (alas)
Strake on a rock, that vnder water lay,
And perished past all recouerie.
O how great ruth and sorrowfull assay,
Doth vex my sprite with perplexitie,
Thus in a moment to see lost and drown'd,
So great riches, as like cannot be found.

Then heauenly branches did I see arise
Out of the fresh and lustie Lawrell tree,
Amidst the yong greene wood: of Paradise
Some noble plant I thought my selfe to see:
Such store of birds therein yshrowded were,
Chaunting in shade their sundrie melodie,
That with their sweetnes I was rauish't nere.
While on the Lawrell fixed was mine eie,
The skie gan euerie where to ouercast,
And darkned was the welkin all about,
When sudden flash of heauens fire out brast,
And rent this royall tree quite by the roote,
Which makes me much and euer to complaine:
For no such shadow shalbe had againe.

Within this wood, out of a rocke did rise
A spring of water, mildly tumbling downe,
Whereto approched not in anie wise
The homely shepheard, nor the ruder clowne;
But manie Muses, and the Nymphes withall,
That sweetly in accord did tune their voyce
To the soft sounding of the waters fall,
That my glad hart thereat did much reioyce.
But while herein I tooke my chiefe delight,
I saw (alas) the gaping earth deuoure
The spring, the place, and all cleane out of sight.
Which yet aggreeues my hart euen to this houre,
And wounds my soule with rufull memorie,
To see such pleasures gon so suddenly.

I saw a Phoenix in the wood alone,
With purple wings, and crest of golden hewe;
Strange bird he was, whereby I thought anone,
That of some heauenly wight I had the vewe;
Vntill he came vnto the broken tree,
And to the spring, that late deuoured was.
What say I more? each thing at last we see
Doth passe away: the Phoenix there alas
Spying the tree destroid, the water dride,
Himself smote with his beake, as in disdaine,
And so foorthwith in great despight he dide:
That yet my heart burnes in exceeding paine,
For ruth and pitie of so haples plight.
O let mine eyes no more see such a sight.

At last so faire a Ladie did I spie,
That thinking yet on her I burne and quake;
On hearbs and flowres she walked pensiuely,
Milde, but yet loue she proudly did forsake:
White seem'd her robes, yet wouen so they were,
As snow and golde together had been wrought.
Aboue the wast a darke clowde shrouded her,
A stinging Serpent by the heele her caught;
Wherewith she languisht as the gathered floure,
And well assur'd she mounted vp to ioy.
Alas, on earth so nothing doth endure,
But bitter griefe and sorrowfull annoy:
Which make this life wretched and miserable,
Tossed with stormes of fortune variable.

When I beheld this tickle trustles state
Of vaine worlds glorie, flitting too and fro,
And mortall men tossed by troublous fate
In restles seas of wretchednes and woe,
I wish I might this wearie life forgoe,
And shortly turne vnto my happie rest,
Where my free spirite might not anie moe
Be vext with sights, that doo her peace molest.
And ye faire Ladie, in whose bounteous brest
All heauenly grace and vertue shrined is,
When ye these rythmes doo read, and vew the rest,
Loath this base world, and thinke of heauens blis:
And though ye be the fairest of Gods creatures,
Yet thinke, that death shall spoyle your goodly features.

Comments about The Visions Of Petrarch by Edmund Spenser

  • Susan Williams (1/7/2016 4:34:00 PM)

    Spenser had a serious reason for writing these seven allegorical poems with their symbolic and visionary imagery and their elements of Calvinistic and Protestant theology and morality and their elements of classical mythology. In these poems he picked out some vices that the true believer had to fight off. There was a lot of religious controversies at that time surrounding these vises but he viewed them through the lens of his own Protestant [true] beliefs. The allegorical lessons the reader was intended to learn from reading these poems were supposed to prepare him for death and judgment. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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