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An Hymne in Honovr of Love

Loue, that long since hast to thy mighty powre,
Perforce subdude my poore captiued hart,
And raging now therein with restlesse stowre,
Doest tyrannize in euerie weaker part;
Faine would I seeke to ease my bitter smart,
By any seruice I might do to thee,
Or ought that else might to thee pleasing bee.
And now t’asswage the force of this new flame,
And make thee more propitious in my need,
I meane to sing the praises of thy name,
And thy victorious conquests to areed;
By which thou madest many harts to bleed
Of mighty Victors, with wyde wounds embrewed,
And by thy cruell darts to thee subdewed.
Onely I feare my wits enfeebled late,
Through the sharpe sorrowes, which thou hast me bred,
Should faint, and words should faile me, to relate
The wondrous triumphs of thy great godhed.
But if thou woulds vouchsafe to ouerspred
Me with the shadow of thy gentle wing,
I should enabled be thy actes to sing[.]
Come then, ô come, thou mightie God of loue,
Out of thy siluer bowres and secret blisse,
Where thou doest sit in Venus lap aboue,
Bathing thy wings in her ambrosiall kisse,
That sweeter farre then any Nectar is;
Come softly, and my feeble breast inspire
With gentle furie, kindled of thy fire.
And ye sweet Muses, which haue often proued
The piercing points of his auengefull darts:
And ye faire Nimphs, which oft&etilde;times haue loued
The cruell worker of your kindly smarts,
Prepare your selues, and open wide your harts,
For to receiue the triumph of your glorie,
That made you merie oft, when ye were sorie.
And ye faire blossomes of youths wanton breed,
Which in the conquests of your beautie bost,
Wherewith your louers feeble eyes you feed,
But sterue their harts, that needeth nourture most,
Prepare your selues, to march amongst his host,
And all the way this sacred hymne do sing,
Made in the honor of your Soueraigne king.

Great god of might, that reignest in the mynd,
And all the bodie to thy hest doest frame,
Victor of gods, subduer of mankynd,
That doest the Lions and fell Tigers tame,
Making their cruell rage thy scornefull game,
And in thy roring taking great delight;
Who can expresse the glorie of thy might?
Or who aliue can perfectly declare,
The wondrous cradle of thine infancie?
When thy great mother Venus first thee bare,
Begot of Plentie and of Penurie,
Though elder then thine owne Natiuitie ;
And yet a chyld, renewing still thy yeares;
And yet the eldest of thy heauenly Peares.
For ere this worlds still moving mightie masse,
Out of great Chaos vgly prison crept,
In which his goodly face long hidden was
From heauens view, and in deepe darknesse kept,
Loue, that had now long time securely slept
In Venus lap, vnarmed then and naked,
Gan reare his head, by Clotho being waked.
And taking to him wings of his owne heate,
Kindled at first from heauens life-giuing fyre,
He gan to moue out of his idle seate,
VVeakly at first, but after with desyre
Lifted aloft, he gan to mount vp hyre,
And like fresh Eagle, make his hardie flight
Through all that great wide wast, yet wanting light.
Yet wanting light to guide his wandring way,
His owne faire mother, for all creatures sake,
Did lend him light from her owne goodly ray:
Then through the world his way he gan to take,
The world that was not till he did it make;
Whose sundrie parts he frõ them selues did seuer,
The which before had lyen confused euer,
The earth, the ayre, the water, and the fyre,
Then gan to raunge them selues in huge array,
And with contrary forces to conspyre
Each against other, by all meanes they may,
Threatning their owne confusion and decay:
Ayre hated earth, and water hated fyre,
Till Loue relented their rebellious yre.
He then them tooke, and tempering goodly well
Their contrary dislikes with loued meanes,
Did place them all in order, and compell
To keepe them selues within their sundrie raines,
Together linkt with Adamantine chaines;
Yet so, as that in euery liuing wight
They mixe themselues, & shew their kindly might.
So euer since they firmely haue remained,
And duly well obserued his beheast;
Through which now all these things that are contained
Within this goodly cope, both most and least
Their being haue, and dayly are increast,
Through secret sparks of his infused fyre,
Which in the barraine cold he doth inspyre.
Thereby they all do liue, and moued are
To multiply the likenesse of their kynd,
Whilest they seeke onely, without further care,
To quench the flame, which they in burning fynd:
But man, that breathes a more immortall mynd,
Not for lusts sake, but for eternitie,
Seekes to enlarge his lasting progenie.
For hauing yet in his deducted spright,
Some sparks remaining of that heauenly fyre,
He is enlumined with that goodly light,
Vnto like goodly semblant to aspyre:
Therefore in choice of loue, he doth desyre
That seemes on earth most heauenly, to embrace,
That same is Beautie, borne of heauenly race.
For sure of all, that in this mortall frame
Contained is, nought more diuine doth seeme,
Or that resembleth more th’immortall flame
Of heauenly light, then Beauties glorious beame.
What wonder then, if with such rage extreme
Fraile men, whose eyes seek heauenly things to see,
At sight thereof so much enrauisht bee?
Which well perceiuing that imperious boy,
Doth therwith tip his sharp empoisned darts;
Which glancing through the eyes with counenance coy,
Rest not, till they haue pierst the trembling harts,
And kindled flame in all their inner parts,
Which suckes the blood, and drinketh vp the lyfe
Of carefull wretches with consuming griefe.
Thenceforth they playne, & make full piteous mone
Vnto the author of their balefull bane;
The daies they waste, the nights they grieue and grone,
Their liues they loath, and heauens light disdaine;
No light but that, whose lampe doth yet remaine
Fresh burning in the image of their eye,
They deigne to see, and seeing it still dye.
The whylst thou tyrant Loue doest laugh & scorne
At their complaints, making their paine thy play;
Whlest they lye languishing like thrals forlorne,
The whyles thou doest triumph in their decay,
And otherwhyles, their dying to delay,
Thou doest emmarbel the proud heart of her,
whose loue before their life they doe prefer.
So hast thou often done (ay me the more)
To me thy vassall, whose yet bleeding hart,
With thousand wounds thou mangled hart so sore
That whole remaines scarce any little part,
Yet to augment the anguish of my smart,
Thou hast enfrosen her disdainefull brest,
That no one drop of pitie there doth rest.
Why then do I this honor vnto thee,
Thus to ennoble thy victorious name,
Since thou doest shew no fauour vnto mee,
Ne once moue ruth in that rebellious Dame,
Somewhat to slacke the rigour of my flame?
Certes small glory doest thou winne hereby,
To let her liue thus free, and me to dy.
But if thou be indeede, as men the call,
The worlds great Parent, the most kind preseruer
Of liuing wights, the soueraine Lord of all,
How falles it then, that with thy furious feruour,
Thou doest afflict as well the not deseruer,
As him that doeth thy louely heasts despize,
And on thy subiects most doest tyrannize?
Yet herein eke thy glory seemeth more,
By so hard handling those which best thee serue,
That ere thou doest them vnto grace restore,
Thou mayest well trie if they will euer swerue,
And mayest them make it better to deserue,
And hauing got it, may it more esteeme,
For things hard gotten, men more dearely deeme.
So hard those heauenly beauties be ensyred,
As things diuine least passions doe impresse,
The more of stedfast mynds to be admyred,
The more they stayed be on stedfastnesse:
But baseborne mynds such lamps regard the lesse,
Which at first blowing take not hastie fyre,
Such fancies feele no loue, but loose desyre.
For loue is Lord of truth and loialtie,
Lifting himselfe out of the lowly dust,
On golden plumes vp to the purest skie,
Aboue the reach of loathly sinfull lust,
Whose base affect through cowardly distrust
of his weake wings, dare not to heauen fly,
But like a moldwarpe in the earth doth ly.
His dunghill thoughts, which do themselues enure
To dirtie drosse, no higher dare aspyre,
Ne can his feeble earthly eyes endure
The flaming light of that celestiall fyre,
Which kindleth loue in generous desyre,
And makes him mount aboue the natiue might
Of heauie earth, vp to the heauens hight.
Such is the powre of that sweet passion,
That it all sordid basenesse doth expell,
And the refyned mynd doth newly fashion
Vnto a fairer forme, which now doth dwell
In his high thought, that would it selfe excell;
Which he beholding still with constant sight,
Admires the mirrour of so heauenly light.
Whose image printing in his deepest wit,
He thereon feeds his hungrie fantasy,
Still full, yet neuer satisfyde with it,
Like Tantale, that in store doth sterued ly:
So doth he pine in most satiety,
For nought may quench his infinite desyre,
Once kindled through that first conceiued fyre.
Thereon his mynd affixed wholly is,
Ne thinks on ought, but how it to attaine;
His care, his ioy, his hope is all on this,
That seemes in it all blisses to containe,
In sight whereof, all other blisse seemes vaine.
Thrise happie man, might he the same possesse;
He faines himselfe, and doth his fortune blesse.
And though he do not win his wish to end,
Yet thus farre happie he him selfe doth weene,
That heauens such happie grace did to him lend,
As thing on Earth so heauenly, to haue seene,
His harts enshrined faint, his heauens queene,
Fairer then fairest, in his fayning eye,
Whose sole aspect he counts felicitye.
Then forth he casts in his vnquiet thought,
What he may do, her fauour to obtain;
What braue exploit, what perill hardly wrought,
What puissant conquest, what aduenturous paine,
M[a]y please her best, and grace vnto him gaine:
He dreads no danger, nor misfortune feares,
His faith, his fortune, in his breast he beares.
Thou art his god, thou art his mightie guyde,
Thou being blind, letst him not see his feares,
But cariest him to that which he hath eyde,
Through seas, through flames, through thousand swords and speares:
Ne ought so strong that may his force withstand,
With which thou armest his resistless hand.
Witnesse Leander, in the Euxine waues,
And stout Æneas in the Troiane fyre,
Achilles preassing through the Phrygian glaiues,
And Orpheus daring to prouoke the yre
Of damned fiends, to get his loue retyre:
For both through heauen & hell thou makest way,
To win them worship which to thee obay.
And if by all these perils and these paines,
He may but purchase lyking in her eye,
What heauens of ioy, then to himselfe he faynes,
Eftsoones he wypes quite out of memory,
What euer ill before he did aby,
Had it bene death, yet would he die againe,
To liue thus happie as her grace to gaine.
Yet when he hath found fauour to his will,
He nathemore can so contented rest,
But forceth further on, and striueth still
T’approch more neare, till in her inmost brest,
He may enbosomd bee, and loued best;
And yet not best, but to be lou’d alone,
For loue can not endure a Paragone.
The feare whereof, ô how doth it torment
His troubled mynd with more than hellish paine!
And to his fayning fancie represent
Sights neuer seene, and thousand shadowes vaine,
To breake his sleepe, and waste his ydle braine;
Thou that hast neuer lou’d canst not beleeue,
Least part of th’euils which poore louers greeue.
The gnawing enuie, the hart-fretting feare,
The vaine surmizes, the distrustfull showes,
The false reports that flying tales doe beare,
The doubts, the daungers, the delayes, the woes,
The fayned friends, the vnassured foes,
With thousands more then any tongue can tell,
Doe make a louers life a wretches hell.
Yet is ther one more cursed then they all,
That canker worme, that monster Gelosie,
Which eates the hart, and feedes vpon the gall,
Turning all loues delight to miserie,
Through feare of loosing his felicitie.
Ah Gods, that euer ye that monster placed
In gentle loue, that all his ioyes defaced.
By these, ô Loue, thou doest thy entrance make,
Vnto thy heauen, and doest the more endeere,
Thy pleasures vnto those which them partake,
As after stormes when clouds begin to cleare,
The Sunne more bright & glorious doth appeare;
So thou thy folke, through paines of Purgatorie,
Dost beare vnto thy blisse, and heauens glorie.
There thou them placest in a Paradize
Of all delight, and ioyous happie rest,
Where they doe feede on Nectar heauenly Wize,
With Hercules and Hebe, and the rest
Of Venus dearlings, through her bountie blest,
And lie like Gods in yourie beds arayd,
With rose and lillies ouer them displayd.
There with thy daughter Pleasure they doe play
Their hurtlesse sports, without rebuke or blame,
And in her snowy bosome boldly lay
Their quiet heads, deuoyd of guilty shame:
After full ioyance of their gentle game,
Then her they crowne their Goddesse and their Queene,
And Decke with floures thy altars well beseene.
Ay me, deare Lord, that euer I might hope,
For all the paines and woes that I endure,
To come at length vnto the wished scope
Of my desire, or might my selfe assure,
That happie port for euer to recure.
Then would I thinke these paines no paines at all,
And all my woes to be but penance small.
Then would I sing of thine immortall praise
An heauenly Hymne, such as the Angels sing,
Boue all the gods, thee onely honoring,
My guide, my God, my victor, and my king;
Till then, dread Lord, vouchsafe to take of me
This simple song, thus fram’d in praise of thee.

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An Hymne in Honovr of Love - EDMUND SPENSER