Edmund Spenser

(1552 - 13 January 1599 / London / England)

Muiopotmos, Or The Fate Of The Butterflie


I SING of deadly dolorous debate,
Stir'd vp through wrathfull Nemesis despight,
Betwixt two mightie ones of great estate,
Drawne into armes, and proofe of mortall fight,
Through prowd ambition, and hartswelling hate,
Whilest neither could the others greater might
And sdeignfull scorne endure; that from small iarre
Their wraths at length broke into open warre.

The rote whereof and tragicall effect,
Vouchsafe, O thou the mournfulst Muse of nyne,
That wontst the tragick stage for to direct,
In funerall complaints and waylfull tyne,
Reueale to me, and all the meanes detect,
Through which sad Clarion did at last declyne
To lowest wretchednes; And is there then
Such rancor in the harts of mightie men?

Of all the race of siluer-winged Flies
Which doo possesse the Empire of the aire,
Betwixt the centred earth, and azure skies,
Was none more fauourable, nor more faire,
Whilst heauen did fauour his felicities,
Then Clarion, the eldest sonne and haire
Of Muscaroll, and in his fathers sight
Of all aliue did seeme the fairest wight.

With fruitfull hope his aged breast he fed
Of future good, which his young toward yeares,
Full of braue courage and bold hardyhed,
Aboue th' ensample of his equall peares,
Did largely promise, and to him forered,
(Whilst oft his heart did melt in tender teares)
That he in time would sure proue such an one,
As should be worthie of his fathers throne.

The fresh young flie, in whom the kindly fire
Of lustfull yong[th] began to kindle fast,
Did much disdaine to subject his desire
To loathsome sloth, or houres in ease to wast,
But ioy'd to range abroad in fresh attire;
Through the wide compas of the ayrie coast,
And with vnwearied wings each part t'inquire
Of the wide rule of his renowmed sire.

For he so swift and nimble was of flight,
That from this lower tract he dar'd to stie
Vp to the clowdes, and thence with pineons light,
To mount aloft vnto the Christall skie,
To vew the workmanship of heauens hight:
Whence downe descending he along would flie
Vpon the streaming riuers, sport to finde;
And oft would dare to tempt the troublous winde.
So on a Summers day, when season milde

With gentle calme the world had quieted,
And high in heauen Hyperionsfierie childe
Ascending, did his beames abroad dispred,
Whiles all the heauens on lower creatures smilde;
Yong Clarion with vaunted lustie head,
After his guize did cast abroad to fare;
And theretoo gan his furnitures prepare.
His breastplate first, that was of substance pure,
Before his noble heart he firmely bound,
That mought his life from yron death assure,

And ward his gentle corpes from cruell wound:
For it by arte was framed to endure
The bit of balefull steele and bitter stownd,
No lesse then that, which Vulcane made to sheild
Achilles life from fate of Troyan field.
And then about his shoulders broad he threw
An hairie hide of some wild beast, whom hee
In saluage forrest by aduenture slew,
And rest the spoyle his ornament to bee:
Which spredding all his backe with dreadfull vew,

Made all that him so horrible did see,
Thinke him Alcides with the Lyons skin,
When the Næmean Conquest he did win.
Vpon his head his glistering Burganet,
The which was wrought by wonderous deuice,
And curiously engrauen, he did set:
The mettall was of rare and passing price;
Not Bilbo steele, nor brasse from Corinth fet,
Nor costly Oricalche from strange Phoenice;
But such as could both Phoebus arrowes ward,

And th' hayling darts of heauen beating hard.
Therein two deadly weapons fixt he bore,
Strongly outlaunced towards either side,
Like two sharpe speares, his enemies to gore:
Like as a warlike Brigandine, applyde
To fight, layes forth her threatfull pikes afore,
The engines which in them sad death doo hyde:
So did this flie outstretch his fearefull hornes,
Yet so as him their terrour more adornes.

Lastly his shinie wings as siluer bright,
Painted with thousand colours, passing farre
All Painters skill, he did about him dight:
Not halfe so manie sundrie colours arre
In Iris bowe, ne heauen doth shine so bright,
Distinguished with manie a twinckling starre,
Nor Iunoes Bird in her ey-spotted traine
So many goodly colours doth containe.

Ne (may it be withouten perill spoken)
The Archer God, the son of Cytheree,
That ioyes on wretched louers to be wroken,
And heaped spoyles of bleeding harts to see,
Beares in his wings so manie a changefull token.
Ah my liege Lord, forgiue it vnto mee,
If ought against thine honour I haue tolde;
Yet sure those wings were fairer manifolde.

Full manie a Ladie faire, in Court full oft
Beholding them, him secretly enuide,
And wisht that two such fannes, so silken soft,
And golden faire, her Loue would her prouide;
Or that when them the gorgeous Flie had doft,0
Some one that would with grace be gratifide,
From him would steale them priuily away,
And bring to her so precious a pray.

Report is that dame Venus on a day
In spring when flowres doo clothe the fruitfull ground,
Walking abroad with all her Nymphes to play,
Bad her faire damzels flocking her arownd,
To gather flowres, her forhead to array:
Emongst the rest a gentle Nymph was found,
Hight Astery, excelling all the crewe
In curteous vsage, and vnstained hewe

Who beeing nimbler ioynted than the rest,
And more industrious, gathered more store
Of the fields honour, than the others best;
Which they in secret harts enuying sore,
Tolde Venus, when her as the worthiest
She praisd, that Cupide (as they heard before)
Did lend her secret aide, in gathering
Into her lap the children of the spring.
Wherof the Goddesse gathering iealous feare,

Not yet vnmindfull how not long agoe
Her sonne to Psyche secrete loue did beare,
And long it close conceal'd, till mickle woe
Thereof arose, and manie a rufull teare;
Reason with sudden rage did ouergoe,
And giuing hastie credit to th'accuser,
Was led away of them that did abuse her.
Eftsoones that Damzell by her heauenly might,
She turn'd into a winged Butterflie,
In the wide aire to make her wandring flight;

And all those flowres, with which so plenteouslie
Her lap she filled had, that bred her spright,
She placed in her wings, for memorie
Of her pretended crime, though crime none were:
Since which that flie them in her wings doth beare.
Thus the fresh Clarion being readie dight,
Vnto his iourney did himselfe addresse,
And with good speed began to take his flight:
Ouer the fields in his franke lustinesse,

And all the countrey wide he did possesse,
Feeding vpon their pleasures bounteouslie,
That none gainsaid, nor none him did enuie.
The woods, the riuers, and the meadowes green,
With his aire-cutting wings he measur'd wide,
Ne did he leaue the mountaines bare vnseene,
Nor the ranke grassie fennes delights vntride.
But none of these, how euer sweete they beene,
Mote please his fancie, nor him cause t'abide:
His choicefull sense with euerie change doth flit.

No common things may please a wauering wit.
To the gay gardins his vnstaid desire
Him wholly caried, to refresh his sprights:
There lauish Nature in her best attire,
Powres forth sweete odors, and alluring sights;
And Arte with her contending, doth aspire
T'excell the naturall, with made delights:
And all that faire or pleasant may be found,
In riotous excesse doth there abound.

There he arriuing, round about doth flie,
From bed to bed, from one to other border,
And takes suruey with curious busie eye,
Of euerie flowre and herbe there set in order;
Now this, now that he tasteth tenderly,
Yet none of them he rudely doth disorder,
Ne with his feete their silken leaues deface;
But pastures on the pleasures of each place.

And euermore with most varietie,
And change of sweetnesse (for all change is sweete)
He casts his glutton sense to satisfie,
Now sucking of the sap of herbe most meete,
Or of the deaw, which yet on them does lie,
Now in the same bathing his tender feete:
And then he pearcheth on some braunch thereby,
To weather him, and his moyst wings to dry.

And then againe he turneth to his play,
To spoyle the pleasure of that Paradise:
The wholsome Saluge, and Lauender still gray,
Ranke smelling Rue, and Cummin good for eyes,
The Roses raigning in the pride of May,
Sharpe Isope, good for greene wounds remedies,
Faire Marigoldes, and Bees alluring Thime,
Sweet Marioram, and Daysies decking prime.

Coole Violets, and Orpine growing still,
Embathed Balme, and chearfull Galingale,
Fresh Costmarie, and breathfull Camomill,
Red Poppie, and drink-quickning Setuale,
Veyne-healing Veruen, and hed-purging Dill,
Sound Sauorie, and Bazil hartie-hale,
Fat Colworts and comforting Perseline,0
Colde Lettuce, and refreshing Rosmarine.

And whatso else of virtue good or ill
Grewe in the Gardin, fetcht from farre away,
Of euerie one he takes, and tastes at will,
And on their pleasures greedily doth pray.
Then when he hath both plaid, and fed his fill,
In the warme Sunne he doth himselfe embay,
And there him rests in riotous siffisaunce
Of all his gladfulnes, and kingly ioyaunce.
What more felicitie can fall to creature

Than to enioy delight with libertie,
And to be Lord of all the workes of Nature,
To raine in th' aire from th' earth to highest skie,
To feed on flowres, and weeds of glorious feature,
To take what euer thing doth please the eie?
Who rests not pleased with such happines,
Well worthie he to taste of wretchednes.
But what on earth can long abide in state?
Or who can him assure of happie day;
Sith morning faire may bring fowle euening late,

And least mishap the most blisse alter may?
For thousand perills lie in close awaite
About vs daylie, to worke our decay;
That none, except a God, or God him guide,
May them auoyde, or remedie prouide.
And whatso heauens in their secrete doome
Ordained haue, how can fraile fleshly wight
Forecast, but it must needs to issue come?
The sea, the aire, the fire, the day, the night,
And th' armies of their creatures all and some

Do serue to them, and with importune might
Warre against vs the vassals of their will.
Who then can saue, what they dispose to spill?
Not thou, O Clarion, though fairest thou
Of all thy kinde, vnhappie happie Flie,
Whose cruell fate is wouen euen now
Of Ioues owne hand, to worke thy miserie:
Ne may thee helpe the manie hartie vow,
Which thy olde Sire with sacred pietie
Hath powred forth for thee, and th' altars sprent:

Nought may thee saue from heauens auengement.
It fortuned (as heauens had behight)
That in this gardin, where yong Clarion
Was wont to solace him, a wicked wight,
The foe of faire things, th' author of confusion,
The shame of Nature, the bondslaue of spight,
Had lately built his hatefull mansion;
And, lurking closely, in awayte now lay
How he might anie in his trap betray.

But when he spide the ioyous Butterflie
In this faire plot displacing too and fro,
Fearles of foes and hidden ieopardie,
Lord how he gan for to bestirre him tho,
And to his wicked worke each part applie:
His heate did earne against his hated foe,
And bowels so with ranckling poyson swelde,
That scarce the skin the strong contagion helde.

The cause why he this Flie so maliced,
Was (as in stories it is written found)
For that his mother which him bore and bred,
The most fine-fingred workwoman on ground,
Arachne, by his meanes was vanquished
Of Pallas, and in her owne skill confound,
When she with her for excellence contended,
That wrought her shame, and sorrow neuer ended.

For the Tritonian goddesse, hauing hard
Her blazed fame, which all the world had fil'd,
Came downe to proue the truth, and due reward
For her prais-worthie workmanship to yeild
But the presumptuous Damzel rashly dar'd
The Goddesse selfe to chalenge to the field,
And to compare with her in curious skill
Of workes with loome, with needle, and with quill.

Minerua did the chalenge not refuse,
But deign'd with her the paragon to make:
So to their worke they sit, and each doth chuse
What storie she will for her tapet take.
Arachne figur'd how Ioue did abuse
Europa like a Bull, and on his backe
Her through the sea did beare; so liuely seene,
That it true Sea, and true Bull ye would weene.

Shee seem'd still backe vnto the land to looke,
And her play-fellowes aide to call, and feare
The dashing of the waues, that vp she tooke
Her daintie feete, and garments gathered neare:
But (Lord) how she in euerie member shooke,
When as the land she saw no more appeare,
But a wilde wildernes of waters deepe:
Then gan she greatly to lament and weepe.

Before the Bull she pictur'd winged Loue,
With his yong brother Sport, light fluttering
Vpon the waues, as each had beene a Doue;
The one his bowe and shafts, the other Spring.
A burning Teade about his head did moue,
As in their Syres new loue both triumphing:
And manie Nymphes about them flocking round,
And manie Tritons, which did their hornes sound.

And round about, her worke she did empale
With a faire border wrought of sundrie flowres,
Enwouen with an Yuie winding trayle:0
A goodly worke, full fit for Kingly bowres,
Such as Dame Pallas, such as Enuie pale,
That al good things with venemous tooth deuowres,
Could not accuse. Then gan the Goddesse bright
Her selfe likewise vnto her worke to dight.

She made the storie of the old debate
Which she with Neptune did for Athens trie:
Twelue Gods doo sit around in royall state,
And Ioue in midst with awfull Maiestie,
To iudge the strife betweene them stirred late:
Each of the Gods by his like visnomie
Eathe to be knowen; but Ioue aboue them all,
By his great lookes and power Imperiall.

Before them stands the God of Seas in place,
Clayming that sea-coast Citie as his right,
And strikes the rockes with his three-forked mace;
Whenceforth issues a warlike steed in sight,
The signe by which he chalengeth the place,
That all the Gods, which saw his wondrous might
Did surely deeme the victorie his due:
But seldome seene, foriudgement proueth true.

Then to her selfe she giues her Aegide shield,
And steelhed speare, and morion on her hedd,
Such as she oft is seene in warlicke field:
Then sets she forth, how with her weapon dredd
She smote the ground, the which streight foorth did yield
A fruitfull Olyue tree, with berries spredd,
That all the Gods admir'd; then all the storie
She compast with a wreathe of Olyues hoarie.

Emongst these leaues she made a Butterflie,
With excellent deuice and wondrous flight,
Fluttring among the Oliues wantonly,
That seem'd to liue, so like it was in sight:
The veluet nap which on his wings doth lie,
The siken downe with which his backe is dight,
His broad outstretched hornes, his [h]ayrie thies,
His glorious colours, and his glittering eies.

Which when Arachne saw, as ouerlaid
And mastered with workmanship so rare,
She stood astonied long, ne ought gainesaid,
And with fast fixed eyes on her did stare,
And by her silence, signe of one dismaid,
The victorie did yeeld her as her share:
Yet she did inly fret, and felly burne,
And all her blood to poysonous rancor turne:

That shortly from the shape of womanhed,
Such as she was, when Pallas she attempted
, She grew to hideous shape of dryrihed,
Pined with griefe of folly late repented:
Eftsoones her white streight legs were altered
To crooked crawling shankes, of marrowe empted,
And her faire face to fowle and loathsome hewe
And her fine corpses to a bag of venim grewe.

This cursed creature, mindfull of that olde
Enfested grudge, the which his mother felt,
So soone as Clarion he did beholde,
His heart with vengefull malice inly swelt;
And weauing straight a net with manie a folde
About the caue, in which he lurking dwelt,
With fine small cords about it stretched wide,
So finely sponne, that scarce they could be spide.

Not anie damzell, which her vaunteth most
In skilfull knitting of soft silken twyne;
Nor anie skil'd in workmanship embost;
Nor anie skil'd in loupes of fingring fine,
Might in their diuers cunning euer dare,
With this so curious networke to compare.
Ne doo I thinke, that that same subtil gin,

The which the Lemnian God framde craftilie,
Mars sleeping with his wife to compasse in,
That all the Gods with common mockerie
Might laugh at them, and scorne their shamefull sin,
Was like to this. This same he did applie
For to entrap the careles Clarion,
That ran'gd each where without suspition.
Suspition of friend, nor feare of foe,
That hazarded his health, had he at all,
But walkt at will, and wandred too and fro,

In the pride of his freedome principall:
Litle wist he his fatall future woe,
But was secure, the liker he to fall.
He likest is to fall into mischaunce,
That is regardles of his gouernaunce.
Yet still Aragnoll (so his foe was hight)
Lay lurking couertly him to surprise,
And all his gins that him entangle might,
Drest in good order as he could deuise.
At length the foolish Flie without foresight,

As he that did all danger quite despise,
Toward those parts came flying careleslie
, Where hidden was his hatefull enemie.
Who, seeing him, with secrete ioy therefore
Did tickle inwardly in euerie vaine,
And his false hart fraught with all treasons store,
Was fil'd with hope, his purpose to obtaine:
Himselfe he close vpgathered more and more
Into his den, that his deceiptfull traine
By his there being might not be bewraid,

Ne anie noyse, ne anie motion made.
Like as a wily Foxe, that hauing spide,
Where on a sunnie banke the Lambes doo play,
Full closely creeping by the hinder side,
Lyes in ambushment of his hoped pray,
Ne stirreth limbe, till seeing readie tide,
He rusheth forth, and snatcheth quite away
One of the little yonglings vnawares:
So to his worke Aragnoll him prepares.

Who now shall giue vnto my heauie eyes
A well of teares, that all may ouerflow?
Or where shall I finde lamentable cryes,
And mournfull tunes enough my griefe to show?
Helpe O thou Tragick Muse, me to deuise
Notes sad enough t'expresse this bitter throw:
For loe, the drerie stownd is now arriued,
That of all happines hath vs depriued.

The luckles Clarion, whether cruell Fate,
Or wicked Fortune faultles him misled,
Or some vngracious blast out of the gate
Of Aeoles raine perforce him droue on hed,
Was (O sad hap and howre vnfortunate)
With violent swift flight forth caried
Into the cursed cobweb, which his foe
Had framed for his finall ouerthroe.

There the fond Flie entangled, strugled long,
Himselfe to free thereout; but all in vaine.
For striuing more, the more in laces strong
Himselfe he tide, and wrapt his winges twine
In lymie snares the subtill loupes among;
That in the ende he breathlesse did remaine,
And all his yougthly forces idly spent,
Him to the mercie of th' auenger lent.

Which when the greisly tyrant did espie,
Like a grimme Lyon rushing with fierce might
Out of his den, he seized greedilie
On the resistles pray, and with fell spight,
Vnder the left wing stroke his weapon slie
Into his heart, that his deepe groning spright
In bloodie streames foorth fled into the aire,
His bodie left the spectacle of care.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 07, 2010

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