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"Epithalamion" by Edmund Spenser

The following is the complete text of Edmund Spenser's "Epithalamion." To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

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"Epithalamion" by Edmund Spenser



Ye learned sisters, which have oftentimes
Been to me aiding, others to adorn,
Whom ye thought worthy of your graceful rymes,
That even the greatest did not greatly scorn
To hear their names g in your simple lays,
But joyed in their praise,
And when ye list your own mishaps to mourn,
Which Death, or Love, or Fortune's wreck did raise,
Your string could soon to sadder tenor turn,
And teach the woods and waters to lament
Your doleful dreariment:
Now lay those sorrowful complaints aside;
And, having all your heads with garlands crowned,
Help me mine own Love's praises to resound;
Ne let the same of any be envide:
So Orpheus did for his own bride;
So I unto myself alone will sing;
The woods shall to me answer, and my echo ring.

Early, before the world's light-giving lamp
His golden beam upon the hills doth spread,
Having dispersed the nights uncheerful damp,
Do ye awake, and, with fresh lustihed,
Go to the bower of my beloved Love,
My truest turtle dove.
Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake,
And long since ready forth his mask to move,
With his bright tead [1] that flames with many a flake,
And many a bachelor to wait on him,
In their fresh garments trim.
Bid her awake therefore, and soon her dight,
For lo! the wished day is come at last,
That shall, for all the pains and sorrows past,
Pay to her usury of long delight:
And, whilst she doth her dight,
Do ye to her of joy and solace sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your echo ring.

Bring with you all the nymphs that you can hear,
Both of the rivers and the forests green,
And of the sea that neighbours to her near,
All with gay garlands goodly well beseen.
And let them also with them bring in hand
Another gay garland,
For my fair Love, of lilies and of roses,
Bound truelove-wise with a blue silk riband.
And let them make great store of bridal posies,
And let them eke bring store of other flowers,
To deck the bridal bowers;
And let the ground whereas her foot shall tread,
For fear the stones her tender foot should wrong,
Be strewed with fragrant flowers all along,
And diapered [2] like the discoloured mead.
Which done, do at her chamber door await,
For she will waken straight;
The whiles do ye this song unto her sing,
The woods shall to you answer, and your echo ring;.

Ye Nymphs of Mulla, which with careful heed
The silver scaly trouts do tend full well,
And greedy pikes which use therein to feed,
(Those trouts and pikes all others do excel,)
And ye likewise which keep the rushy lake,
Where none do fishes take,
Bynd up the locks the which hang scattered light,
And in his waters, which your mirror make,
Behold your faces as the christall bright,
That when you come whereas my Love doth lie,
No blemish she may spie.
And eke, ye lightfoot maids which keep the dere
That on the hoary mountain use to tower,
And the wild wolves, which seek them to devour,
With your steel darts do chace from coming near,
Be also present heere,
To help to decke her, and to help to sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your echo ring.

Wake now, my Love, awake! for it is time;
The rosy morn long since left Tithon's bed,
All ready to her silver coach to climb,
And Phoebus 'gins to show his glorious head.
Hark! how the cheerful birds do chant their lays,
And carol of Love's praise:
The merry lark her matins sings aloft;
The thrush replies; the mavis descant plays;
The ouzel shrills; the ruddock warbles soft;
So goodly all agree, with sweet consent,
To this days merriment.
Ah! my dear Love, why do ye sleep thus long,
When meeter were that ye should now awake,
T'await the coming of your joyous make,
And hearken to the birds' love-learned song,
The dewy leaves among!
For they of joy and pleasance to you sing,
That all the woods them answer, and their echo ring.

My love is now awake out of her dreams,
And her fair eyes, like stars that dimmed were
With darksome cloud, now show their goodly beams
More bright than Hesperus his head doth rear.
Come now, ye damsels, daughters of delight,
Help quickly her to dight:
But first come ye fair Hours, which were begot,
In Jove's sweet paradise, of Day and Night;
Which do the seasons of the year allot,
And all that ever in this world is fair
Do make and still repair:
And ye three handmaids of the Cyprian queen,
The which do still adorn her beauty's pride,
Help to adorn my beautifulest bride;
And, as ye her array, still throw between
Some graces to be scene;
And, as ye use to Venus, to her sing,
The whiles the woods shall answer, and your echo ring.

Now is my Love all ready forth to come:
Let all the virgins therefore well await,
And ye fresh boys, that tend upon her groom,
Prepare your selves, for he is coming straight.
Set all your things in seemely good aray,
Fit for so joyful day:
The joyfulst day that ever sun did see.
Fair ! show forth thy favourable ray,
And let thy lifull heat not fervent be,
For fear of burning her shiny face,
Her beauty to disgrace.
O fairest Phoebus! Father of the Muse!
If ever I did honour thee aright,
Or sing the thing that mote thy mind delight,
Do not thy servants simple boone refuse,
But let this day, let this one day, be mine;
Let all the rest be thine.
Then I thy soverayne praises loud will sing,
That all the woods shall answer, and their echo ring.

Harke! how the minstrils gin to shrill aloud
Their merry music that resounds from far,
The pipe, the tabor, and the trembling croud,
That well agree withouten breach or jar.
But, most of all, the damsels do delight,
When they their tymbrels smyte,
And thereunto do dance and carol sweet,
That all the senses they do ravish quite;
The whiles the boys run up and down the street,
Crying aloud with strong confused noise,
As if it were one voice,
"Hymen, Ioe Hymen, Hymen," they do shout;
That even to the heavens their shouting shrill
Doth reach, and all the firmament doth fill;
To which the people, standing all about,
As in approvance, do thereto applaud,
And loud advaunce her laud;
And evermore they "Hymen, Hymen," sing,
That all the woods them answer, and their echo ring.

Lo! where she comes along with portly pace,
Like Phoebe, from her chamber of the East,
Arising forth to run her mighty race,
Clad all in white, that seems a virgin best.
So well it her beseems that ye would weene
Some angel she had been.
Her long loose yellow locks like golden wire,
Sprinkled with pearl, and pearling flowers atweene,
Do like a golden mantle her attire;
And, being crowned with a garland green,
Seem like some maiden queen.
Her modest eyes, abashed to behold
So many gazers as on her do stare,
Upon the lowly ground affixed are;
Ne dare lift up her countenance too bold,
But blush to hear her praises g so loud,
So far from being proud.
Nathless [3] do ye still loud her praises sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your echo ring.

Tell me, ye merchants daughters, did ye see
So fair a creature in your town before;
So sweet, so lovely, and so mild as she,
Adorned with beauty's grace and virtues store?
Her goodly eyes like sapphires shining bright,
Her forehead ivory white,
Her cheeks like apples which the hath rudded,
Her lips like cherries, charming men to bite,
Her breast like to a bowl of cream uncrudded,
Her paps like lilies budded,
Her snowy neck like to a marble tower,
And all her body like a palace fair,
Ascending up, with many a stately stair,
To honors seat and chastities sweet bower.
Why stand ye still, ye virgins, in amaze,
Upon her so to gaze,
While ye forget your former lay to sing,
To which the woods did answer, and your echo ring?

But if ye saw that which no eyes can see,
The inward beauty of her lively spright,[4]
Garnished with heavenly gifts of high degree,
Much more then would ye wonder at that sight,
And stand astonished like to those which read
Medusa's mazeful head.
There dwells sweet Love, and constant chastity,
Unspotted faith, and comely womanhood,
Regard of honour, and mild modesty;
There Vertue reigns as queen in royal throne,
And giveth laws alone,
The which the base affections do obey,
And yeild their services unto her will;
Ne thought of thing uncomely ever may
Thereto approch to tempt her mind to ill.
Had ye once seen these her celestial treasures,
And unrevealed pleasures,
Then would ye wonder, and her praises sing,
That all the woods should answer, and your echo ring.

Open the temple gates unto my Love,
Open them wide, that she may enter in,
And all the posts adorn as doth behove,
And all the pillars deck with garlands trim,
For to receive this Saint with honour due,
That cometh in to you.
With trembling steps and humble reverence,
She cometh in, before th' Almighty's view;
Of her, ye virgins, learn obedience,
When so ye come into those holy places,
To humble your proud faces:
Bring her up to th' high altar, that she may
The sacred ceremonies there partake,
The which do endless matrimony make;
And let the roaring organs loudly play
The praises of the Lord in lively notes;
The whiles, with hollow throats,
The choristers the joyous anthem sing,
That all the woods may answer, and their echo ring.

Behold, whiles she before the altar stands,
Hearing the holy priest that to her speaks
And blesseth her with his two happy hands,
How the red roses flush up in her cheeks,
And the pure snow with goodly vermeil stain,
Like crimson dyed in grain:
That even the angels, which continually
About the sacred altar do remain,
Forget their service and about her fly,
Oft peeping in her face, that seems more fair
The more they on it stare.
But her sad eyes, still fastened on the ground,
Are governed with goodly modesty,
That suffers not one look to glance awry,
Which may let in a little thought unsound.
Why blush ye, Love, to give to me your hand,
The pledge of all our band?
Sing, ye sweet angels, Alleluia sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your echo ring.

Now all is done: bring home the bride again;
Bring home the triumph of our victory;
Bring home with you the glory of her gain,
With joyance bring her and with jollity.
Never had man more joyful day than this,
Whom heaven would heap with bliss;
Make feast therefore now all this live-long day;
This day for ever to me holy is.
Pour out the wine without restraint or stay,
Pour not by cups, but by the bellyfull,
Pour out to all that will,
And sprinkle all the posts and walls with wine,
That they may sweat, and drunken be withal.
Crown ye god Bacchus with a coronal,
And Hymen also crown with wreaths of vine;
And let the Graces dance unto the rest,
For they can do it best:
The whiles the maidens do their carol sing,
To which the woods shall answer, and their echo ring.

Ring ye the bells, ye young men of the town,
And leave your wonted labors for this day:
This day is holy; do ye write it down,
That ye forever it remember may.
This day the is in his chiefest height,
With Barnaby the bright,
From whence declining daily by degrees,
He somewhat loseth of his heat and light,
When once the Crab behind his back he sees.
But for this time it ill ordained was,
To choose the longest day in all the year,
And shortest night, when longest fitter were:
Yet never day so long, but late would pass.
Ring ye the bells, to make it wear away,
And bonfires make all day;
And dance about them, and about them sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your echo ring.

Ah! when will this long weary day have end,
And lend me leave to come unto my Love?
How slowly do the hours their numbers spend?
How slowly does sad Time his feathers move?
Hast thee, O fairest planet, to thy home,
Within the western foam:
Thy tired steeds long since have need of rest.
Long though it be, at last I see it gloom,
And the bright evening-star with golden crest
Appear out of the East.
Fair child of beauty! glorious lamp of love!
That all the hosts of heaven in ranks dost lead,
And guidest lovers through the nights dread,
How cheerfully thou lookest from above,
And seem'st to laugh atween thy twinkling light,
As joying in the sight
Of these glad many, which for joy do sing,
That all the woods them answer, and their echo ring!

Now cease, ye damsels, your delights fore-past;
Enough it is that all the day was yours:
Now day is done, and night is nighing fast;
Now bring the bride into the bridal bowers.
The night is come, now soon her disarray,
And in her bed her lay;
Lay her in lilies and in violets,
And silken curtains over her display,
And odoured sheets, and Arras coverlets.
Behold how goodly my fair Love does lie,
In proud humility!
Like unto Maia, whenas Jove her took
In Tempe, lying on the flowery grass,
'Twixt sleep and wake, after she weary was
With bathing in the Acidalian brook.
Now it is night, ye damsels may be gone,
And leave my Love alone,
And leave likewise your former lay to sing:
The woods no more shall answer, nor your echo ring.

Now welcome, night! thou night so long expected,
That long days labour doest at last defray,
And all my cares, which cruel Love collected,
Hast sumd in one, and cancelled for aye.
Spread thy broad wing over my Love and me,
That no man may us see;
And in thy sable mantle us enwrap,
From fear of peril and foul horror free.
Let no false treason seek us to entrap,
Nor any dread disquiet once annoy
The safety of our joy;
But let the night be calm and quietsome,
Without tempestuous storms or sad afray:
Like as when Jove with fair Alcmena lay,
When he begot the great Tirynthian groom;
Or like as when he with thyself did lie,
And begot Majesty:
And let the maids and youngmen cease to sing;
Ne let the woods them answer, nor their echo ring.

Let no lamenting cries, nor doleful tears,
Be heard all night within, nor yet without:
Ne let false whispers, breeding hidden fears,
Break gentle sleep with misconceived dout.
Let no deluding dreams, nor dreadful sights,
Make sudden sad affrights:
No let house-fires, nor lightnings helpless harms,
Ne let the Pouke, nor other evil sprights,[4]
Ne let mischievous witches with their charms,
Ne let hob-goblins, names whose sense we see not,
Fray us with things that be not:
Let not the screech-owl, nor the stork, be heard,
Nor the night-raven, that still deadly yells,
Nor damned ghosts, called up with mighty spells,
Nor grisly vultures, make us once afeard:
Ne let th' unpleasant quyre of frogs still croaking
Make us to wish they're choking.
Let none of these their dreary accents sing;
Ne let the woods them answer, nor their echo ring.

But let still Silence through night-watches keep,
That sacred Peace may in assurance reign,
And timely Sleep, when it is time to sleep,
May pour his limbs forth on your pleasant playne.
The whiles an hundred little winged loves,
Like divers-feathered doves,
Shall fly and flutter round about the bed,
And in the secret dark, that none reproves,
Their pretty stealthes shall work, and snares shall spread
To filch away sweet snatches of delight,
Concealed through covert night.
Ye sons of Venus, play your sports at will!
For greedy Pleasure, careless of your toys,
Thinks more upon her paradise of joys,
Then what ye do, albeit good or ill.
All night, therefore, attend your merry play,
For it will soon be day:
Now none doth hinder you, that say or sing;
Ne will the woods now answer, nor your echo ring.

Who is the same which at my window peeps?
Or whose is that fair face that shines so bright?
Is it not Cinthia, she that never sleeps,
But walks about high heaven all the night?
O fairest goddess! do thou not envy
My Love with me to spy:
For thou likewise didst love, though now unthought,
And for a fleece of wool, which privily
The Latmian Shepherd once unto thee brought,
His pleasures with thee wrought.
Therefore to us be favorable now;
And sith of womens' labours thou hast charge,
And generation goodly dost enlarge,
Incline thy will t' effect our wishful vow,
And the chast womb inform with timely seed,
That may our comfort breed:
Till which we cease our hopeful hap to sing;
Ne let the woods us answer, nor our echo ring.

And thou, great Juno! which with awful might
The laws of wedlock still dost patronize,
And the religion of the faith first plight
With sacred rites hast taught to solemnize,
And eke for comfort often called art
Of women in their smart;
Eternally bind thou this lovely band,
And all thy blessings unto us impart.
And thou, glad Genius! in whose gentle hand
The bridal bower and genial bed remain,
Without blemish or stain,
And the sweet pleasures of their loves delight
With secret aide dost succor and supply,
Till they bring forth the fruitful progeny,
Send us the timely fruit of this same night,
And thou, fair Hebe! and thou, Hymen free!
Grant that it may so be.
Till which we cease your further praise to sing,
Ne any woods shall answer, nor your echo ring.

And ye high heavens, the temple of the gods,
In which a thousand torches flaming bright
Do burn, that to us wretched earthly clods
In dreadful darkness lend desired light;
And all ye powers which in the same remain,
More than we men can fayne!
Pour out your blessing on us plentiously,
And happy influence upon us rain,
That we may raise a large posterity,
Which from the earth, which they may long possess
With lasting happiness,
Up to your haughty palaces may mount,
And, for the guerdon of their glorious merit,
May heavenly tabernacles there inherit,
Of blessed saints for to increase the count.
So let us rest, sweet Love, in hope of this,
And cease till then our timely joys to sing:
The woods no more us answer, nor our echo ring!

Song! made in lieu of many ornaments,
With which my Love should duly have been decked,
Which cutting off through hasty accidents,
Ye would not stay your due time to expect,
But promised both to recompense;
Be unto her a goodly ornament,
And for short time an endless monument!

1: torch
2: marked
3: nevertheless
4: spirit

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