The Visions Of Bellay by Edmund Spenser

The Visions Of Bellay*

[* Eleven of these Visions of Bellay (all except the 6th, 8th, 13th, and 14th) differ only by a few changes necessary for rhyme from blank-verse translations found in Van der Noodt’s Theatre of Worldlings, printed in 1569; and the six first of the Visions of Petrarch (here said to have been “formerly translated”) occur almost word for word in the same publication, where the authorship appears to be claimed by one Theodore Roest. The Complaints were collected, not by Spenser, but by Ponsonby, his bookseller, and he may have erred in ascribing these Visions to our poet. C.]


It was the time when rest, soft sliding downe
From heavens hight into mens heavy eyes,
In the forgetfulnes of sleepe doth drowne
The carefull thoughts of mortall miseries.
Then did a ghost before mine eyes appeare,
On that great rivers banck that runnes by Rome;
Which, calling me by name, bad me to reare
My lookes to heaven whence all good gifts do come,
And crying lowd, “Loe! now beholde,” quoth hee,
“What under this great temple placed is:
Lo, all is nought but flying vanitee!”
So I, that know this worlds inconstancies,
Sith onely God surmounts all times decay,
In God alone my confidence do stay.


On high hills top I saw a stately frame,
An hundred cubits high by iust assize*,
With hundreth pillours fronting faire the same,
All wrought with diamond after Dorick wize.
Nor brick nor marble was the wall in view,
But shining christall, which from top to base
Out of her womb a thousand rayons** threw
On hundred steps of Afrike golds [email protected]
Golde was the parget,$ and the seeling bright
Did shine all scaly with great plates of golde;
The floore of iasp and emeraude was dight.%
O worlds vainesse! Whiles thus I did behold,
An earthquake shooke the hill from lowest seat,
And overthrew this frame with ruine great.

[* Assize, measure.]
[** Rayons, beams, rays.]
[@ I.e. enchased with gold.]
[$ Parget, varnish, plaster.]
[% Dight, composed.]


Then did a sharped spyre of diamond bright,
Ten feete each way in square, appeare to mee,
Iustly proportion’d up unto his hight,
So far as archer might his level see.
The top thereof a pot did seeme to beare,
Made of the mettall which we most do honour;
And in this golden vessel couched weare
The ashes of a mightie emperour:
Upon foure corners of the base were pight*,
To beare the frame, foure great lyons of gold;
A worthy tombe for such a worthy wight.
Alas! this world doth nought but grievance hold:
I saw a tempest from the heaven descend,
Which this brave monument with flash did rend.
[* Pight, placed.]


I saw raysde up on yvorie pillowes tall,
Whose bases were of richest mettalls warke,
The chapters* alablaster, the fryses christall,
The double front of a triumphall arke.
On each side purtraid was a Victorie,
Clad like a nimph, that wings of silver weares,
And in triumphant chayre was set on hie,
The auncient glory of the Romaine peares.
No worke it seem’d of earthly craftsmans wit,
But rather wrought by his owne industry
That thunder-dartes for Iove his syre doth fit.
Let me no more see faire thing under sky,
Sith that mine eyes have seene so faire a sight
With sodain fall to dust consumed quight.
[* Chapters, capitals.]


Then was the faire Dodonian tree far seene
Upon seaven hills to spread his gladsome gleame,
And conquerours bedecked with his greene,
Along the bancks of the Ausonian streame.
There many an auncient trophee was addrest*,
And many a spoyle, and many a goodly show,
Which that brave races greatnes did attest,
That whilome from the Troyan blood did flow.
Ravisht I was so rare a thing to vew;
When lo! a barbarous troupe of clownish fone**
The honour of these noble boughs down threw:
Under the wedge I heard the tronck to grone;
And since, I saw the roote in great disdaine
A twinne of forked trees send forth againe.

[* Addrest, hung on, arranged.]
[** Fone, foes.]


I saw a wolfe under a rockie cave
Noursing two whelpes; I saw her litle ones
In wanton dalliance the teate to crave,
While she her neck wreath’d from them for the nones*.
I saw her raunge abroad to seeke her food,
And roming through the field with greedie rage
T’embrew her teeth and clawes with lukewarm blood
Of the small heards, her thirst for to asswage.
I saw a thousand huntsmen, which descended
Downe from the mountaines bordring Lombardie,
That with an hundred speares her flank wide rened:
I saw her on the plaine outstretched lie,
Throwing out thousand throbs in her owne soyle**:
Soone on a tree uphang’d I saw her spoyle.

[* Nones, nonce.]
[** I.e. the mire made by her blood.]


I saw the bird that can the sun endure
With feeble wings assay to mount on hight;
By more and more she gan her wings t’assure,
Following th’ensample of her mothers sight.
I saw her rise, and with a larger flight
To pierce the cloudes, and with wide pinneons
To measure the most haughtie* mountaines hight,
Untill she raught** the gods owne mansions.
There was she lost; when suddaine I behelde,
Where, tumbling through the ayre in firie fold,
All flaming downe she on the plaine was felde,
And soone her bodie turn’d to ashes colde.
I saw the foule that doth the light dispise
Out of her dust like to a worme arise.
[* Haughtie, lofty.]
[** Raught, reached.]
[VII. 1-14.–
“A falcon, tow’ring in her pride of place,
Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and kill’d.” C.]


I saw a river swift, whose fomy billowes
Did wash the ground-work of an old great wall;
I saw it cover’d all with griesly shadowes,
That with black horror did the ayre appall:
Thereout a strange beast with seven heads arose,
That townes and castles under her brest did coure*,
And seem’d both milder beasts and fiercer foes
Alike with equall ravine to devoure.
Much was I mazde to see this monsters kinde
In hundred formes to change his fearefull hew;
When as at length I saw the wrathfull winde,
Which blows cold storms, burst out of Scithian mew,
That sperst these cloudes; and, in so short as thought,
This dreadfull shape was vanished to nought.
[* Coure, cover.]


Then all astonied with this mighty ghoast,
An hideous bodie, big and strong, I sawe,
With side* long beard, and locks down hanging loast**,
Sterne face, and front full of Saturnlike awe;
Who, leaning on the belly of a pot,
Pourd foorth a water, whose out gushing flood
Ran bathing all the [email protected] shore aflot,
Whereon the Troyan prince spilt Turnus blood;
And at his feete a bitch wolfe suck did yeeld
To two young babes: his left the palme tree stout,
His right hand did the peacefull olive wield.
And head with lawrell garnisht was about.
Sudden both palme and olive fell away,
And faire green lawrell branch did quite decay.
[* Side, long, trailing.]
[** Loast, loosed.]
[@ Creakie, indented with creeks.]


Hard by a rivers side a virgin faire,
Folding her armes to heaven with thousand throbs,
And outraging her cheekes and golden haire,
To falling rivers sound thus tun’d her sobs.
“Where is,” quoth she, “this whilom honoured face?
Where the great glorie and the auncient praise,
In which all worlds felicitie had place,
When gods and men my honour up did raise?
Suffisd’ it not that civill warres me made
The whole worlds spoile, but that this Hydra new,
Of hundred Hercules to be assaide,
With seven heads, budding monstrous crimes anew,
So many Neroes and Caligulaes
Out of these crooked shores must dayly rayse?”


Upon an hill a bright flame I did see,
Waving aloft with triple point to skie,
Which, like incense of precious cedar tree,
With balmie odours fil’d th’ayre farre and nie.
A bird all white, well feathered on each wing,
Hereout up to the throne of gods did flie,
And all the way most pleasant notes did sing,
Whilst in the smoake she unto heaven did stie*.
Of this faire fire the scattered rayes forth threw
On everie side a thousand shining beames:
When sudden dropping of a silver dew
(O grievous chance!) gan quench those precious flames;
That it, which earst** so pleasant sent did yeld,
Of nothing now but noyous sulphure smeld.
[* Stie, mount.]
[** Earst, at first.]


I saw a spring out of a rocke forth rayle*,
As cleare as christall gainst the sunnie beames;
The bottome yeallow, like the golden grayle*
That bright Pactolus washeth with his streames.
It seem’d that Art and Nature had assembled
All pleasure there for which mans hart could long;
And there a noyse alluring sleepe soft trembled,
Of manie accords, more sweete than mermaids song,
The seates and benches shone as yvorie,
And hundred nymphes sate side by side about;
When from nigh hills, with hideous outcrie,
A troupe of satyres in the place did rout,@
Which with their villeine feete the streame did ray,$
Threw down the seats, and drove the nymphs away.
[* Rayle, flow.]
[** Grayle, gravel.]
[@ Rout, burst.]
[$ Ray, defile.]


Much richer then that vessell seem’d to bee
Which did to that sad Florentine appeare,
Casting mine eyes farre off, I chaunst to see
Upon the Latine coast herselfe to reare.
But suddenly arose a tempest great,
Bearing close envie to these riches rare,
Which gan assaile this ship with dreadfull threat,
This ship, to which none other might compare:
And finally the storme impetuous
Sunke up these riches, second unto none,
Within the gulfe of greedie Nereus.
I saw both ship and mariners each one,
And all that treasure, drowned in the maine:
But I the ship saw after raisd’ againe.
[XIII. 1.–That vessell. See the second canto of the Purgatorio. C.]


Long having deeply gron’d these visions sad,
I saw a citie like unto that same
Which saw the messenger of tidings glad,
But that on sand was built the goodly frame:
It seem’d her top the firmament did rayse,
And, no lesse rich than faire, right worthie sure
(If ought here worthie) of immortall dayes,
Or if ought under heaven might firme endure.
Much wondred I to see so faire a wall:
When from the Northerns coast a storme arose,
Which, breathing furie from his inward gall
On all which did against his course oppose,
Into a clowde of dust sperst in the aire
The weake foundations of this citie faire.


At length, even at the time when Morpheus
Most trulie doth unto our eyes appeare,
Wearie to see the heavens still wavering thus,
I saw Typhaeus sister* comming neare;
Whose head, full bravely with a morion** hidd,
Did seeme to match the gods in maiestie.
She, by a rivers bancke that swift downe slidd,
Over all the world did raise a trophee hie;
An hundred vanquisht kings under her lay,
With armes bound at their backs in shamefull wize.
Whilst I thus mazed was with great affray,
I saw the heavens in warre against her rize:
Then downe she stricken fell with clap of thonder,
That with great noyse I wakte in sudden wonder.
[* I.e. (apparently) Change or Mutability. See the two cantos of the
Seventh Book of the Faerie Queene.]
[** Morion, steel cap.]