An Hymne In Honour Of Beautie.

A poem by Edmund Spenser

Ah! whither, Love! wilt thou now carry mee?
What wontlesse fury dost thou now inspire
Into my feeble breast, too full of thee?
Whylest seeking to aslake thy raging fyre,
Thou in me kindlest much more great desyre,
And up aloft above my strength doth rayse
The wondrous matter of my fire to praise.

That as I earst in praise of thine owne name,
So now in honour of thy mother deare
An honourable hymne I eke should frame,
And, with the brightnesse of her beautie cleare,
The ravisht hearts of gazefull men might reare
To admiration of that heavenly light,
From whence proceeds such soule-enchanting might.

Therto do thou, great Goddesse! Queene of Beauty,
Mother of Love and of all worlds delight,
Without whose soverayne grace and kindly dewty
Nothing on earth seems fayre to fleshly sight,
Doe thou vouchsafe with thy love-kindling light
T'illuminate my dim and dulled eyne,
And beautifie this sacred hymne of thyne:

That both to thee, to whom I meane it most,
And eke to her whose faire immortall beame
Hath darted fyre into my feeble ghost,
That now it wasted is with woes extreame,
It may so please, that she at length will streame
Some deaw of grace into my withered hart,
After long sorrow and consuming smart.

To make al things such as we now behold,
It seems that he before his eyes had plast
A goodly paterne, to whose perfect mould
He fashiond them as comely as he could,
That now so faire and seemely they appeare
As nought may be amended any wheare.

That wondrous paterne, wheresoere it bee,
Whether in earth layd up in secret store,
Or else in heaven, that no man may it see
With sinfull eyes, for feare it do deflore,
Is perfect Beautie, which all men adore;
Whose face and feature doth so much excell
All mortal sence, that none the same may tell.

Thereof as every earthly thing partakes
Or more or lesse, by influence divine,
So it more faire accordingly it makes,
And the grosse matter of this earthly myne
Which closeth it thereafter doth refyne,
Doing away the drosse which dims the light
Of that faire beame which therein is empight*.
[* Empight, placed.]

For, through infusion of celestiall powre,
The duller earth it quickneth with delight,
And life-full spirits privily doth powre
Through all the parts, that to the lookers sight
They seeme to please; that is thy soveraine might,
O Cyprian queene! which, flowing from the beame
Of thy bright starre, thou into them doest streame.

That is the thing which giveth pleasant grace
To all things faire, that kindleth lively fyre;
Light of thy lampe; which, shyning in the face,
Thence to the soule darts amorous desyre,
And robs the harts of those which it admyre;
Therewith thou pointest thy sons poysned arrow,
That wounds the life and wastes the inmost marrow.

How vainely then do ydle wits invent
That Beautie is nought else but mixture made
Of colours faire, and goodly temp'rament
Of pure complexions, that shall quickly fade
And passe away, like to a sommers shade;
Or that it is but comely composition
Of parts well measurd, with meet disposition!

Hath white and red in it such wondrous powre,
That it can pierce through th'eyes unto the hart,
And therein stirre such rage and restlesse stowre*,
As nought but death can stint his dolours smart?
Or can proportion of the outward part
Move such affection in the inward mynd,
That it can rob both sense, and reason blynd?
[* Stowre, commotion.]

Why doe not then the blossomes of the field,
Which are arayd with much more orient hew,
And to the sense most daintie odours yield,
Worke like impression in the lookers vew?
Or why doe not faire pictures like powre shew,
In which oft-times we Nature see of Art
Exceld, in perfect limming every part?

But ah! beleeve me there is more then so,
That workes such wonders in the minds of men;
I, that have often prov'd, too well it know,
And who so list the like assayes to ken
Shall find by trial, and confesse it then,
That Beautie is not, as fond men misdeeme,
An outward shew of things that onely seeme.

For that same goodly hew of white and red
With which the cheekes are sprinckled, shall decay,
And those sweete rosy leaves, so fairly spred
Upon the lips, shall fade and fall away
To that they were, even to corrupted clay:
That golden wyre, those sparckling stars so bright,
Shall turne to dust, and lose their goodly light.

But that faire lampe, from whose celestiall ray
That light proceedes which kindleth lovers fire,
Shall never be extinguisht nor decay;
But, when the vitall spirits doe espyre,
Unto her native planet shall retyre;
For it is heavenly borne, and cannot die,
Being a parcell of the purest skie.

For when the soule, the which derived was,
At first, out of that great immortall Spright,
By whom all live to love, whilome did pas
Down from the top of purest heavens hight
To be embodied here, it then tooke light
And lively spirits from that fayrest starre
Which lights the world forth from his firie carre.

Which powre retayning still, or more or lesse,
When she in fleshly seede is eft* enraced**,
Through every part she doth the same impresse,
According as the heavens have her graced,
And frames her house, in which she will be placed,
Fit for her selfe, adorning it with spoyle
Of th'heavenly riches which she robd erewhyle.
[* Eft, afterwards.]
[** Enraced, implanted.]

Thereof it comes that these faire soules which have
The most resemblance of that heavenly light
Frame to themselves most beautifull and brave
Their fleshly bowre, most fit for their delight,
And the grosse matter by a soveraine might
Temper so trim, that it may well be seene
A pallace fit for such a virgin queene.

So every spirit, as it is most pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
So it the fairer bodie doth procure
To habit in, and it more fairely dight*
With chearfull grace and amiable sight:
For of the soule the bodie forme doth take;
For soule is forme, and doth the bodie make.
[* Dight, adorn.]

Therefore, where-ever that thou doest behold
A comely corpse*, with beautie faire endewed,
Know this for certaine, that the same doth hold
A beauteous soule with fair conditions thewed**,
Fit to receive the seede of vertue strewed;
For all that faire is, is by nature good;
That is a sign to know the gentle blood.
[* Corpse, body.]
[** i.e. endowed with fair qualities.]

Yet oft it falles that many a gentle mynd
Dwels in deformed tabernacle drownd,
Either by chaunce, against the course of kynd*,
Or through unaptnesse in the substance fownd,
Which it assumed of some stubborne grownd,
That will not yield unto her formes direction,
But is deform'd with some foule imperfection.
[* Kynd, nature.]

And oft it falles, (ay me, the more to rew!)
That goodly Beautie, albe heavenly borne,
Is foule abusd, and that celestiall hew,
Which doth the world with her delight adorne,
Made but the bait of sinne, and sinners scorne,
Whilest every one doth seeke and sew to have it,
But every one doth seeke but to deprave it.

Yet nathëmore is that faire Beauties blame,
But theirs that do abuse it unto ill:
Nothing so good, but that through guilty shame
May be corrupt*, and wrested unto will.
Nathelesse the soule is faire and beauteous still,
However fleshes fault it filthy make;
For things immortall no corruption take.
[* Corrupt, corrupted.]

But ye, faire Dames! the worlds deare ornaments,
And lively images of heavens light,
Let not your beames with such disparagements
Be dimd, and your bright glorie darkned quight;
But mindfull still of your first countries sight,
Doe still preserve your first informed grace,
Whose shadow yet shynes in your beauteous face.

Loath that foule blot, that hellish fiërbrand,
Disloiall lust, fair Beauties foulest blame,
That base affections, which your eares would bland*,
Commend to you by loves abused name,
But is indeede the bondslave of defame;
Which will the garland of your glorie marre,
And quench the light of your brightshyning starre.
[* Bland, blandish.]

But gentle Love, that loiall is and trew,
Wil more illumine your resplendent ray,
And add more brightnesse to your goodly hew
From light of his pure fire; which, by like way
Kindled of yours, your likenesse doth display;
Like as two mirrours, by opposd reflection,
Doe both expresse the faces first impression.

Therefore, to make your beautie more appeare,
It you behoves to love, and forth to lay
That heavenly riches which in you ye beare,
That men the more admyre their fountaine may;
For else what booteth that celestiall ray,
If it in darknesse be enshrined ever,
That it of loving eyes be vewed never?

But, in your choice of loves, this well advize,
That likest to your selves ye them select,
The which your forms first sourse may sympathize,
And with like beauties parts be inly deckt;
For if you loosely love without respect,
It is not love, but a discordant warre,
Whose unlike parts amongst themselves do iarre.

For love is a celestiall harmonie
Of likely* harts composd of** starres concent,
Which ioyne together in sweete sympathie,
To work each others ioy and true content,
Which they have harbourd since their first descent
Out of their heavenly bowres, where they did see
And know ech other here belov'd to bee.
[* Likely, similar.]
[** Composd of, combined by.]

Then wrong it were that any other twaine
Should in Loves gentle band combyned bee,
But those whom Heaven did at first ordaine,
And made out of one mould the more t'agree;
For all that like the beautie which they see
Straight do not love; for Love is not so light
As straight to burne at first beholders sight.

But they which love indeede looke otherwise,
With pure regard and spotlesse true intent,
Drawing out of the obiect of their eyes
A more refyned form, which they present
Unto their mind, voide of all blemishment;
Which it reducing to her first perfection,
Beholdeth free from fleshes frayle infection.

And then conforming it unto the light
Which in it selfe it hath remaining still,
Of that first sunne, yet sparckling in his sight,
Thereof he fashions in his higher skill
An heavenly beautie to his fancies will;
And it embracing in his mind entyre,
The mirrour of his owne thought doth admyre.

Which seeing now so inly faire to be,
As outward it appeareth to the eye,
And with his spirits proportion to agree,
He thereon fixeth all his fantasie,
And fully setteth his felicitie;
Counting it fairer then it is indeede,
And yet indeede her fairnesse doth exeede.

For lovers eyes more sharply sighted bee
Then other mens, and in deare loves delight
See more then any other eyes can see,
Through mutuall receipt of beamës bright,
Which carrie privie message to the spright,
And to their eyes that inmost faire display,
As plaine as light discovers dawning day.

Therein they see, through amorous eye-glaunces,
Annies of Loves still flying too and fro,
Which dart at them their litle fierie launces;
Whom having wounded, back againe they go,
Carrying compassion to their lovely foe;
Who, seeing her faire eyes so sharp effect,
Cures all their sorrowes with one sweete aspect.

In which how many wonders doe they reede
To their conceipt, that others never see!
Now of her smiles, with which their soules they feede,
Like gods with nectar in their bankets free;
Now of her lookes, which like to cordials bee;
But when her words embássade* forth she sends,
Lord, how sweete musicke that unto them lends!
[* Embássade, embassy.]

Sometimes upon her forhead they behold
A thousand graces masking in delight;
Sometimes within her eye-lids they unfold
Ten thousand sweet belgards*, which to their sight
Doe seeme like twinckling starres in frostie night;
But on her lips, like rosy buds in May,
So many millions of chaste pleasures play.
[* Belgards, fair looks.]

All those, O Cytherea! and thousands more,
Thy handmaides be, which do on thee attend,
To decke thy beautie with their dainties store,
That may it more to mortall eyes commend,
And make it more admyr'd of foe and frend;
That in mans harts thou mayst thy throne enstall, 265
And spred thy lovely kingdome over all.

Then Iö, tryumph! O great Beauties Queene,
Advance the banner of thy conquest hie,
That all this world, the which thy vassels beene,
May draw to thee, and with dew fëaltie
Adore the powre of thy great maiestie,
Singing this hymne in honour of thy name,
Compyld by me, which thy poor liegeman am!

In lieu whereof graunt, O great soveraine!
That she whose conquering beauty doth captíve 275
My trembling hart in her eternall chaine,
One drop of grace at length will to me give,
That I her bounden thrall by her may live,
And this same life, which first fro me she reaved,
May owe to her, of whom I it receaved.

And you, faire Venus dearling, my dear dread!
Fresh flowre of grace, great goddesse of my life,
When your faire eyes these fearfull lines shall read,
Deigne to let fall one drop of dew reliefe,
That may recure my harts long pyning griefe,
And shew what wondrous powre your beauty hath,
That can restore a damned wight from death.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'An Hymne In Honour Of Beautie.' by Edmund Spenser

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy