A Gentle Knight Was Pricking On The Plain

Edmund Spenser, 1552? - 1599
From "The Faerie Queene", 1590

Canto I

The Patron of true Holiness
Foul Error doth defeat:
Hypocrisy him to entrap
Doth to his home entreat.

A gentle Knight was pricking on the plain,
Yclad in mighty arms and silver shield,
Wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain,
The cruel marks of many a bloody field;
Yet arms till that time did he never wield:
His angry steed did chide his foaming bit,
As much disdaining to the curb to yield:
Full jolly knight he seemed, and fair did sit,
As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fit.

But on his breast a bloody Cross he bore,
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore,
And dead as living ever Him ador'd:
Upon his shield the like was also scor'd,
For sovereign hope, which in his help he had:
Right faithful true he was in deed and word,
But of his cheer did seem too solemn sad;
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

Upon a great adventure he was bond,
That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
That greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie lond,
To win him worship, and her grace to have,
Which of all earthly things he did most crave;
And ever as he rode, his heart did yearn
To prove his puissance in battle brave
Upon his foe, and his new force to learn;
Upon his foe, a Dragon horrible and stern.

A lovely lady rode him fair beside,
Upon a lowly ass more white than snow,
Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide
Under a veil, that wimpled was full low,
And over all a black stole she did throw,
As one that inly mourned: so was she sad,
And heavy sat upon her palfrey slow:
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
And by her in a line a milk white lamb she lad.

So pure an innocent, as that same lamb,
She was in life and every virtuous lore,
And by descent from Royal lineage came
Of ancient Kings and Queens, that had of yore
Their sceptres stretched from East to Western shore,
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernal fiend with foul uproar,
Forwasted all their land, and them expelled:
Whom to avenge, she had this Knight from far compelled.

Behind her far away a Dwarfe did lag,
That lazy seemed in being ever last,
Or wearied with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his back. Thus as they past,
The day with clouds was sudden overcast,
And angry Jove an hideous storm of rain
Did pour into his leman's lap so fast,
That every wight to shroud it did constrain,
And this fair couple eke to shroud themselves were fain.

Enforst to seek some covert nigh at hand,
A shady grove not far away they spied,
That promised aid the tempest to withstand:
Whose lofty trees yclad with summer's pride,
Did spread so broad, that heaven's light did hide,
Not perceable with power of any star:
And all within were paths and alleys wide,
With footing worn, and leading inward far:
Fair harbour that them seems; so in they entered are.
And forth they pass, with pleasure forward led,
Joying to hear the birds' sweet harmony,
Which therein shrouded from the tempest dread,
Seemed in their song to scorn the cruel sky.
Much can they praise the trees so straight and high,
The sailing Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,
The vine-prop Elm, the Poplar never dry,
The builder Oak, sole king of forests all,
The Aspine good for staves, the Cypress funeral.
The Laurel, meed of mighty Conquerors
And Poets sage, the Fir that weepeth still,
The Willow worn of forlorn Paramours,
The Yew obedient to the bender's will,
The Birch for shafts, the Sallow for the mill,
The Mirrhe sweet bleeding in the bitter wound,
The warlike Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,
The fruitful Olive, and the Platane round,
The carver Holm, the Maple seldom inward sound.

pricking = riding fast.
ydrad = dreaded.
giusts = jousts.
leman's = lover's.
platane = plane-tree.
cheer = countenance.
perceable = penetrable.