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A LETTER OF THE AUTHORS,
expounding his whole intention in the course of this worke ; which, for that it giueth great light to the Reader, for the better
understanding is hereunto annexed.
TO THE RIGHT NOBLE AND VALOROUS
SIR WALTER RALEIGH, knight.
LO. WARDEIN OF THE STANNERYES AND HER MAIESTIES
LIEFTENAUNT OF THE COUNTY OF CORNEWA YLL.
Sir, knowing how doubtfully all Allegories may be construed, and this Booke of mine, which I haue entituled the Faery Queene, being a continued Allegory, or darke Conceit
, I haue thought good as well for auoyding of gealous opinions and misconstructions, as also for your better light in reading thereof, (being fo by you commanded,) to discouer unto you the general intention and meaning, which in the whole course thereof I haue fashioned, without expressing of any particular purposes, or byaccidents, therein occasioned. The general end therefore of all the Booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline: which for that I conceiued shoulde be most plausible and pleasing, being coloured with an historical fiction, the which the most part of men delight to read, rather for variety of matter then for profite of the ensample, I chose the Historye of King Arthure, as most fitte for the excellency of his person, being made famous by many mens former workes, and also furthest from the daunger of enuy, and fufpition of present time. In which I haue followed all the antique poets historicall.; firft Homere, who in the perfons of Agamemnon and Ulyffes hath ensampled a good gouernour and a vertuous man, the one in his Ilias, the other in his Odyffeis; thien Virgil, whose like intention was to doe in the person of Æneas; after him Ariosto comprised them both in his Orlando; and lately Tafso diffeuered them again, and formed both parts in two persons, namely that part which they in philofophy call Ethice, or vertues of a private man, coloured in his Rinaldo; the other named Politice in his Godfredo. By ensample of which excellente poets, I labour to pourtraict in Arthure, before he was king, the image of a braue Knight, perfected in the twelue priuate Morall Vertues, as Aristotle hath deuised; the which is the purpose of these firft twelue bookes: which if I finde to be well accepted, I may be perhaps encoraged to frame the other part of Polliticke Vertues in his person, after that hee came to be king. To some I know this methode will seem difpleafaunt, which had rather haue good discipline deliuered plainly in way of precepts, or sermoned at large, as they use, then thus clowdily enwrapped in allegorical deuifes. But such, me seeme, should be satisfide with the use of these days, seeing all things accounted by their showes, and nothing esteemed of, that is not delightfull and pleasing to commune fence. For this cause is Xenophon preferred before Plato, for that the one, in the exquifite depth of his judgement, formed a communewelth, such as it should be; but the other in the person of Cyrus, and the Persians, fashioned a gouernment, such as might beft be: so much more profitable and gratious is doctrine by ensample, then by rule. So haue I laboured to do in the perfon of Arthure: whom I conceiue, after his long education by Timon, to whom he was by Merlin deliuered to be brought up, so soone as he was borne of the Lady Igrayne, to haue feene in a dream or vision the Faery Queene, with whose excellent beauty rauifhed, he awaking refolued to seeke her out; and so being by Merlin armed, and by Timon throughly instructed, he went to seeke her forth in Faerye land. In that Faery Queene I meane Glory in my generall intention, but in
my particular I conceiue the most excellent and glorious person of our foueraine the Queene, and her kingdom in Faery Land. And yet, in some places els, I do otherwise fhadow her. For considering the beareth two persons, the one of a moft royal Queene or Empreffe, the other of a most vertuous and beautifull Lady, this latter part in some places I doe express in Belphebe, fashioning her name according to your owne excellent conceipt of Cynthia : Phoebe and Cynthia being both names of Diana. So in the person of Prince Arthure I sette forth Magnificence in particular; which Vertue, for that (according to Aristotle and the rest) it is the perfection of all the rest, and conteineth in it them all, therefore in the whole course I mention the deeds of Arthure applyable to that Vertue, which I write of in that Booke. But of the xii. other Vertues, I make xii. other Knights the patrones, for the more variety of the history: Of which these three Bookes contayn three.
The first of the Knight of the Redcroffe, in whom I expreffe Holynes : The seconde of Sir Guyon, in whome I sette forth Temperaunce : The third of Britomartis a Lady Knight, in whome I picture Chastity. But, because the beginning of the whole Worke seemeth abrupte and as depending upon other antecedents, it needs that ye know the occasion of these three Knights seuerall Aduentures. For the methode of a poet historical is not fuch, as of an historiographer. For an historiographer discourseth of affayres orderly as they were donne, accounting as well the times as the actions; but a poet thrusteth into the middeft, euen where it moft concerneth him, and there recoursing to the thinges forepaste, and diuining of thinges to come, maketh a pleasing analysis of all.
The beginning therefore of my History, if it were to be told by an historiographer should be the twelfth Booke, which is the last; where I deuife that the Faery Queene kept her annual feaste xii. days; uppon which xii. severall dayes, the occasions of the xii. seuerall Aduentures hapned, which, being undertaken by xii. seuerall Knights
, are in these xii. Books seuerally handled and discoursed. The first was this. In the beginning of the feast, there presented himselfe a tall clownishe younge man, who falling before the Queene of Faries desired a boone (as the manner then was) which during that feast she might not refuse; which was that hee might haue the atchiuement of any Aduenture, which during that feafte should happen. That being graunted, he rested him on the floore, unfitte through his rufticity for a better place. Soone after entred a faire Ladye in mourning weedes, riding on a white asse, with a Dwarfe behind her leading a warlike steed, that bore the arms of a Knight, and his speare in the Dwarfes hand. Shee, falling before the Queene of Faeries, complayned that her father and mother, an ancient King and Queene, had bene by an huge Dragon many years shut up in a brafen Castle, who thence suffred them not to yssew: and therefore bęsought the Faerie Queene to affygne her some one
of her Knights to take on him that exployt. Prefently that clownish person, upstarting, desired that Adventure: whereat the Queene much wondering, and the Lady much gainesaying yet he earnestly importuned his defire. In the end the Lady told him, that unlesse that armour which the brought, would serue him (that is, the armour of a Christian man specified by St. Paul, v. Ephef.) that he could not succeed in that enterprise : which being forthwith put upon him with dew furnitures thereunto, he seemed the goodliest man in al that company, and was well liked of the Lady. And eftesoones taking on him knighthood, and mounting on that ftrąunge courser, he went forth with her on that Adventure: where beginneth the first Booke, vis.
A gentle Knight was pricking on the playne. &c. The second day there came in a Palmer bearing an Infant with bloody hands, whose parents he complained to have bene Nayn by an Enchauntreffe called Acrafia : and therefore craved of the Faery Queene, to appoint him fome Knight to performe that Adventure; which being assigned to Sir Guyon, he presently went forth with that fame Palmer: which' is the beginning of the second Booke, and the whole subiect thereof. The third day there came in a Groome, who complained before the Faery Queene, that a vile Enchaunter, called Bufirane, had in hand a moft faire Lady, called Amoretta, whom he kept in most grievous torment, because she would not yield him the pleasure of her body. Whereupon Sir Scudamour, the lover of that Lady, prefently tooke on him that Adventure. But being unable to performe it by reason of the hard enchauntments, after long forrow, in the end met with Britomartis, who succoured him, and reskewed his Love.