Epithalamion by Edmund Spenser


Ye learned Sisters, which have oftentimes
Beene to me ayding, others to adorne
Whom ye thought worthy of your gracefull rymes,
That even the greatest did not greatly scorne
To heare theyr names sung in your simple layes, 5
But ioyed in theyr praise,
And when ye list your own mishaps to mourne,
Which death, or love, or fortunes wreck did rayse,
Your string could soone to sadder tenor turne,
And teach the woods and waters to lament 10
Your dolefull dreriment,
Now lay those sorrowfull complaints aside,
And having all your heads with girlands crownd,
Helpe me mine owne Loves prayses to resound:
Ne let the same of any be envide: 15
So Orpheus did for his owne bride;
So I unto my selfe alone will sing;
The woods shall to me answer, and my eccho ring.

Early, before the worlds light-giving lampe
His golden beame upon the hils doth spred, 20
Having disperst the nights unchearfull dampe,
Doe ye awake, and, with fresh lustyhed,
Go to the bowre of my beloved Love,
My truest turtle dove.
Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake, 25
And long since ready forth his maske to move,
With his bright tead* that flames with many a flake,
And many a bachelor to waite on him,
In theyr fresh garments trim.
Bid her awake therefore, and soone her dight**, 30
For loe! the wished day is come at last,
That shall for all the paynes and sorrowes past
Pay to her usury of long delight:
And whylest she doth her dight,
Doe ye to her of ioy and solace sing, 35
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.
[* Tead, torch.]
[** Dight, deck.]

Bring with you all the nymphes that you can heare,
Both of the rivers and the forrests greene,
And of the sea that neighbours to her neare,
All with gay girlands goodly wel beseene*. 40
And let them also with them bring in hand
Another gay girland,
For my fayre Love, of lillyes and of roses,
Bound truelove wize with a blew silke riband.
And let them make great store of bridale poses, 45
And let them eke bring store of other flowers,
To deck the bridale bowers:
And let the ground whereas her foot shall tread,
For feare the stones her tender foot should wrong,
Be strewd with fragrant flowers all along, 50
And diapred** lyke the discolored mead.
Which done, doe at her chamber dore awayt,
For she will waken strayt;
The whiles do ye this song unto her sing,
The woods shall to you answer, and your eccho ring;.
[* Beseene, adorned.]
[** Diapred, variegated.]

Ye Nymphes of Mulla, which with carefull heed 56
The silver scaly trouts do tend full well,
And greedy pikes which use therein to feed,
(Those trouts and pikes all others doe excell,)
And ye likewise which keepe the rushy lake, 60
Where none doo fishes take,
Bynd up the locks the which hang scatterd 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, 65
No blemish she may spie.
And eke, ye lightfoot mayds which keepe the dere
That on the hoary mountayne use to towre,
And the wylde wolves, which seeke them to devoure,
With your steele darts doe chace from coming neer,
Be also present heere, 71
To helpe to decke her, and to help to sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.

Wake now, my Love, awake! for it is time:
The rosy Morne long since left Tithons bed, 75
All ready to her silver coche to clyme,
And Phoebus gins to shew his glorious hed.
Hark! how the cheerefull birds do chaunt theyr laies,
And carroll of Loves praise:
The merry larke hir mattins sings aloft; 80
The thrush replyes; the mavis* descant** playes;
The [email protected] shrills; the ruddock$ warbles soft;
So goodly all agree, with sweet consent,
To this dayes meriment.
Ah! my deere Love, why doe ye sleepe thus long, 85
When meeter were that ye should now awake,
T’awayt the comming of your ioyous make,%
And hearken to the birds love-learned song,
The deawy leaves among!
For they of ioy and pleasance to you sing, 90
That all the woods them answer, and theyr eccho ring.
[* Mavis, song-thrush.]
[** Descant, variation.]
[@ Ouzell, blackbird.]
[$ Ruddock, redbreast.]
[% Make, mate.]

My love is now awake out of her dreame,
And her fayre eyes, like stars that dimmed were
With darksome cloud, now shew theyr goodly beams
More bright then Hesperus his head doth rere. 95
Come now, ye damzels, daughters of delight,
Helpe quickly her to dight.
But first come, ye fayre Houres, which were begot,
In Ioves sweet paradice, of Day and Night,
Which doe the seasons of the year allot, 100
And all that ever in this world is fayre
Do make and still repayre:
And ye three handmayds of the Cyprian Queene,
The which doe still adorn her beauties pride,
Helpe to adorne my beautifullest bride: 105
And, as ye her array, still throw betweene
Some graces to be scene;
And, as ye use to Venus, to her sing,
The whiles the woods shal answer, and your eccho ring.

Now is my Love all ready forth to come: 110
Let all the virgins therefore well awayt,
And ye fresh boyes, that tend upon her groome,
Prepare your selves, for he is comming strayt.
Set all your things in seemely good aray,
Fit for so ioyfull day, 115
The ioyfulst day that ever sunne did see.
Fair Sun! shew forth thy favourable ray,
And let thy lifull* heat not fervent be,
For feare of burning her sunshyny face,
Her beauty to disgrace. 120
O fayrest Phoebus! Father of the Muse!
If ever I did honour thee aright,
Or sing the thing that mote thy mind delight,
Doe not thy servants simple boone refuse,
But let this day, let this one day, be mine; 125
Let all the rest be thine.
Then I thy soverayne prayses loud wil sing,
That all the woods shal answer, and theyr eccho ring.
[* Lifull, life-full.]

Harke! how the minstrils gin to shrill aloud
Their merry musick that resounds from far, 130
The pipe, the tabor, and the trembling croud*,
That well agree withouten breach or iar.
But most of all the damzels doe delite,
When they their tymbrels smyte,
And thereunto doe daunce and carrol sweet, 135
That all the sences they doe ravish quite;
The whyles the boyes run up and downe the street,
Crying aloud with strong confused noyce,
As if it were one voyce,
“Hymen, Ioe Hymen, Hymen,” they do shout; 140
That even to the heavens theyr shouting shrill
Doth reach, and all the firmament doth fill;
To which the people, standing all about,
As in approvance, doe thereto applaud,
And loud advaunce her laud; 145
And evermore they “Hymen, Hymen,” sing,
That all the woods them answer, and theyr eccho ring.
[* Croud, violin]

Loe! where she comes along with portly pace,
Lyke Phoebe, from her chamber of the East,
Arysing forth to run her mighty race, 150
Clad all in white, that seems a virgin best.
So well it her beseems, that ye would weene
Some angell she had beene.
Her long loose yellow locks lyke golden wyre,
Sprinckled with perle, and perling flowres atweene,
Doe lyke a golden mantle her attyre, 156
And, being crowned with a girland greene,
Seem lyke some mayden queene.
Her modest eyes, abashed to behold
So many gazers as on her do stare, 160
Upon the lowly ground affixed are,
Ne dare lift up her countenance too bold,
But blush to heare her prayses sung so loud,–
So farre from being proud.
Nathlesse doe ye still loud her prayses sing, 165
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.

Tell me, ye merchants daughters, did ye see
So fayre a creature in your towne before;
So sweet, so lovely, and so mild as she,
Adornd with beautyes grace and vertues store? 170
Her goodly eyes lyke saphyres shining bright,
Her forehead yvory white,
Her cheekes lyke apples which the sun hath rudded,
Her lips lyke cherries, charming men to byte,
Her brest like to a bowl of creame uncrudded*, 175
Her paps lyke lyllies budded,
Her snowie necke lyke to a marble towre,
And all her body like a pallace fayre,
Ascending up, with many a stately stayre,
To honors seat and chastities sweet bowre. 180
Why stand ye still, ye virgins, in amaze,
Upon her so to gaze,
Whiles ye forget your former lay to sing,
To which the woods did answer, and your eccho ring?
[* Uncrudded, uncurdled.]

[Ver. 168.–In your towne. The marriage seems to have
taken place in Cork, and we might infer from this passage
that the heroine of the song was a merchant’s daughter. C.]

But if ye saw that which no eyes can see, 185
The inward beauty of her lively spright,
Garnisht with heavenly guifts of high degree,
Much more then would ye wonder at that sight,
And stand astonisht lyke to those which red*
Medusaes mazeful bed. 190
There dwells sweet Love, and constant Chastity,
Unspotted Fayth, and comely Womanhood,
Regard of Honour, and mild Modesty;
There Vertue raynes as quecne in royal throne,
And giveth lawes alone, 195
The which the base affections doe obay,
And yeeld theyr services unto her will;
Be thought of tilings uncomely ever may
Thereto approch to tempt her mind to ill.
Had ye once seene these her celestial threasures, 200
And unrevealed pleasures,
Then would ye wonder, and her prayses sing,
That all the woods should answer, and your eccho ring.
[* Red, saw.]

Open the temple gates unto my Love,
Open them wide that she may enter in, 205
And all the postes adorne as doth behove,
And all the pillours deck with girlands trim,
For to receyve this saynt with honour dew,
That commeth in to you.
With trembling steps and humble reverence, 210
She commeth in before th’Almighties view:
Of her, ye virgins, learne obedience,
When so ye come into those holy places,
To humble your proud faces.
Bring her up to th’high altar, that she may 215
The sacred ceremonies there partake,
The which do endlesse matrimony make;
And let the roring organs loudly play
The praises of the Loi’d in lively notes;
The whiles, with hollow throates, 220
The choristers the ioyous antheme sing,
That all the woods may answer, and their eccho ring.

Behold, whiles she before the altar stands,
Hearing the holy priest that to her speakes
And blesseth her with his two happy hands, 225
How the red roses flush up in her cheekes,
And the pure snow with goodly vermill stayne,
Like crimsin dyde in grayne:
That even the angels, which continually
About the sacred altar doe remaine, 230
Forget their service and about her fly,
Ofte peeping in her face, that seems more fayre
The more they on it stare.
But her sad* eyes, still fastened on the ground,
Are governed with goodly modesty, 235
That suffers not one look to glaunce awry,
Which may let in a little thought unsownd.
Why blush ye, Love, to give to me your hand,
The pledge of all our band?
Sing, ye sweet angels, Alleluya sing, 240
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.
[* Sad, serious]

Now al is done; bring home the bride againe;
Bring home the triumph of our victory;
Bring home with you the glory of her game,
With ioyance bring her and with iollity. 245
Never had man more ioyfull day than this,
Whom heaven would heape with blis.
Make feast therefore now all this live-long day;
This day for ever to me holy is.
Poure out the wine without restraint or stay,
Poure not by cups, but by the belly full,
Poure out to all that wull*,
And sprinkle all the posts and wals with wine,
That they may sweat, and drunken be withall.
Crowne ye god Bacchus with a coronall,
And Hymen also crowne with wreaths of vine;
And let the Graces daunce unto the rest,
For they can doo it best:
The whiles the maydens doe theyr carroll sing,
To which the woods shall answer, and theyr eccho ring.
[* Wull, will.]

Ring ye the bels, ye yong men of the towne,
And leave your wonted labors for this day:
This day is holy; doe ye write it downe,
That ye for ever it remember may.
This day the sunne is in his chiefest hight,
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 yeare,
And shortest night, when longest fitter weare:
Yet never day so long, but late would passe.
Ring ye the bels to make it weare away,
And bonefiers make all day; 275
And daunce about them, and about them sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.

[* Ver. 266.–Barnaby the bright. The difference between
the old and new style at the time this poem was written
was ten days. The summer solstice therefore fell on
St. Barnabas’s day, the 11th of June. C.]

Ah! when will this long weary day have end,
And lende me leave to come unto my Love?
How slowly do the houres theyr numbers spend? 280
How slowly does sad Time his feathers move?
Hast thee, O fayrest planet, to thy home,
Within the Westerne fome:
Thy tyred steedes long since have need of rest.
Long though it be, at last I see it gloome, 285
And the bright evening-star with golden creast
Appeare out of the East.
Fayre childe of beauty! glorious lampe of love!
That all the host of heaven in rankes doost lead,
And guidest lovers through the nights sad dread, 290
How chearefully thou lookest from above,
And seemst to laugh atweene thy twinkling light,
As ioying in the sight
Of these glad many, which for ioy do sing, 294
That all the woods them answer, and their eccho ring!

Now ceasse, ye damsels, your delights fore-past;
Enough it is that all the day was youres:
Now day is doen, and night is nighing fast;
Now bring the bryde into the brydall bowres.
The night is come; now soon her disaray, 300
And in her bed her lay;
Lay her in lillies and in violets,
And silken curteins over her display,
And odourd sheets, and Arras coverlets.
Behold how goodly my faire Love does ly, 305
In proud humility!
Like unto Maia, when as Iove her took
In Tempe, lying on the flowry gras,
Twixt sleepe and wake, after she weary was
With bathing in the Acidalian brooke. 310
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 eccho ring.

Now welcome, Night! thou night so long expected,
That long daies labour doest at last defray, 316
And all my cares, which cruell 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; 320
And in thy sable mantle us enwrap,
From feare of perrill and foule horror free.
Let no false treason seeke us to entrap,
Nor any dread disquiet once annoy
The safety of our ioy; 325
But let the night be calme and quietsome,
Without tempestuous storms or sad afray;
Lyke as when Iove with fayre Alemena lay,
When he begot the great Tirynthian groome;
Or lyke as when he with thy selfe did lie, 330
And begot Maiesty:
And let the mayds and yongmen cease to sing;
Ne let the woods them answer, nor theyr eccho ring.

Let no lamenting cryes, nor dolefull teares,
Be heard all night within, nor yet without: 335
Ne let false whispers, breeding hidden feares,
Breake gentle sleepe with misconceived dout.
Let no deluding dreames, nor dreadful sights,
Make sudden sad affrights:
No let house-fyres, nor lightnings helpless harmes, 340
Ne let the Pouke, nor other evill sprights,
Ne let mischievous witches with theyr charmes,
Ne let hob-goblins, names whose sence we see not,
Fray us with things that be not:
Let not the shriech-owle, nor the storke, be heard, 345
Nor the night-raven, that still deadly yels,
Nor damned ghosts, cald up with mighty spels,
Nor griesly vultures, make us once affeard:
Ne let th’unpleasant quyre of frogs still croking
Make us to wish theyr choking. 350
Let none of these theyr drery accents sing;
Ne let the woods them answer, nor theyr eccho ring.

[Ver. 341.–The Pouke (Puck is a generic term, signifying
fiend, or mischievous imp) is Robin Goodfellow. C.]

But let stil Silence trew night-watches keepe,
That sacred Peace may in assurance rayne,
And tymely Sleep, when it is tyme to sleepe, 355
May poure his limbs forth on your pleasant playne.
The whiles an hundred little winged Loves,
Like divers-fethered doves,
Shall fly and flutter round about the bed,
And in the secret darke, that none reproves, 360
Their prety stealthes shall worke, and snares shall spread
To filch away sweet snatches of delight,
Conceald through covert night.
Ye sonnes of Venus, play your sports at will!
For greedy Pleasure, carelesse of your toyes, 365
Thinks more upon her paradise of ioyes,
Then what ye do, albe it good or ill.
All night, therefore, attend your merry play,
For it will soone be day:
Now none doth hinder you, that say or sing; 370
Ne will the woods now answer, nor your eccho ring.

Who is the same which at my window peepes?
Or whose is that faire face that shines so bright?
Is it not Cinthia, she that never sleepes,
But walkes about high heaven al the night? 375
O fayrest goddesse! do thou not envy
My Love with me to spy:
For thou likewise didst love, though now unthought,
And for a fleece of wooll, which privily
The Latmian Shepherd* once unto thee brought, 380
His pleasures with thee wrought.
Therefore to us be favorable now;
And sith of wemens labours thou hast charge,
And generation goodly dost enlarge,
Encline thy will t’effect our wishfull vow, 385
And the chast womb informe with timely seed,
That may our comfort breed:
Till which we cease our hopefull hap to sing,
Ne let the woods us answer, nor our eccho ring.
[* I.e. Endymion.]

And thou, great Iuno! which with awful might 390
The lawes 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, 395
Eternally bind thou this lovely band,
And all thy blessings unto us impart.
And thou, glad Genius! in whose gentle hand
The bridale bowre and geniall bed remaine,
Without blemish or staine, 400
And the sweet pleasures of theyr loves delight
With secret ayde doost succour and supply,
Till they bring forth the fruitfull progeny,
Send us the timely fruit of this same night,
And thou, fayre Hebe! and thou, Hymen free! 405
Grant that it may so be.
Till which we cease your further prayse to sing,
Ne any woods shall answer, nor your eccho ring.

And ye high heavens, the temple of the gods,
In which a thousand torches flaming bright 410
Doe burne, that to us wretched earthly clods
In dreadful darknesse lend desired light,
And all ye powers which in the same remayne,
More than we men can fayne,
Poure out your blessing on us plentiously, 415
And happy influence upon us raine,
That we may raise a large posterity,
Which from the earth, which they may long possesse
With lasting happinesse,
Up to your haughty pallaces may mount, 420
And for the guerdon of theyr 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 tymely ioyes to sing: 425
The woods no more us answer, nor our eccho ring!

Song, made in lieu of many ornaments
With which my Love should duly have been dect,
Which cutting off through hasty accidents,
Ye would not stay your dew time to expect, 430
But promist both to recompens,
Be unto her a goodly ornament,
And for short time an endlesse moniment!