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The obvious sense, however, as in the case of Dante's Cerberus, I take to be monstrously varied, inconsistent with itself. The dream is to make the knight's mistress contradict her natural character.
Sir Guyon, crossing a desert, finds Mammon sitting amidst his gold in a
gloomy valley. Mammon, taking him down into his cave, tempts him with the treasures there, and also with those in the Garden of Proserpine
“Spenser's strength,” says Hazlitt, “is not strength of will or action, of bone and muscle, nor is it coarse and palpable; but it assumes a character of vastness and sublimity seen through the same visionary medium" (he has just been alluding to one), and blended with the appalling associations of preternatural agency. We need only turn in proof of this to the Cave of Despair, or the Cave of Mammon, or to the account of the change of Malbecco into Jealousy.”—Lectures, p. 77.
That house's form within was rude and strong, 13
Like a huge cave hewn out of rocky clift,
From whose rough vault the ragged branches hung
Embost with massy gold of glorious gift,
And with rich metal loaded every rift,
That heavy ruin they did seem to threat ;
And over them Arachne high did lift
Her cunning web, and spread her subtle net,
Enwrapped in foul smoke, and clouds more black than jet.
Both roof and floor, and walls were all of gold,
But overgrown with dust and old decay,
And hid in darkness, that none could behold
The hue thereof; for view of chearful day
Did never in that house itself display,
But a faint shadow of uncertain light ;
Such as a iamp, whose life does fade away;
Or as the moon, clothed with cloudy night,
Does show to him that walks in fear and sad affright.
In all that room was nothing to be seen,
But huge great iron chests and coffers strong,
All barr'd with double bands, that none could ween
Them to enforce by violence or wrong;
On every side they placed were along;
But all the ground with skulls was scattered,
And dead men's bones, which round about were flung,
Whose lives (it seemèd) whilome there were shed,
And their vile carcases now left unburied.
They forward pass, nor Guyon yet spake word,
Till that they came unto an iron door,
Which to them open'd of its own accord,
And showd of riches such exceeding store,
As eye of man did never see before,
Nor ever could within one place be found,
Though all the wealth which is, or was of yore,
Could gathered be through all the world around,
And that above were added to that under ground.
The charge thereof unto a covetous sprite
The Knight is led further on, and shown more treasures, and afterwards taken into the palace of Ambition ; but all in vain.
Mammon emmoved was with inward wrath ;
Yet forcing it to fain, him forth thence led,
Through griesly shadows, by a beaten path,
Into a garden goodly garnished
With herbs and fruits, whose kinds must not be read :
Not such as earth, out of her fruitful womb,
Throws forth to men, sweet and well-savored,
But direful deadly black, both leaf and bloom,
Fit to adorn the dead and deck the dreary tomb.
There mournful cypress grew in greatest store ;16
And trees of bitter gall; and heben sad;
Dead sleeping poppy: and black hellebore ;
Cold coloquintida ; and tetra mad;
Mortal samnitis; and cicuta bad,
With which the unjust Athenians made to die
Wise Socrates, who therefore quaffing glad
Pour'd out his life and last philosophy
To the fair Critias, his dearest belamy!
The garden of Proserpina this hight;17
And in the midst thereof a silver seat,
With a thick arbor goodly over-dight,
In which she often us’d from open heat
Herself to shroud, and pleasures to entreat:
Next thereunto did grow a goodly tree,
With branches broad dispread and body great,
Clothed with leaves, that none the wood might see,
And loaded all with fruit as thick as it might be.
Their fruit were golden apples, glistering bright,
That goodly was their glory to behold;
On earth like never grew, nor living wight
Like ever saw, but they from hence were sold ;18
For those, which Hercules with conquest bold
Got from great Atlas' daughters, hence began,
And planted there did bring forth fruit of gold ;
And those, with which th' Eubean young man wan
Swift Atalanta, when through craft he her out-ran.
Here also sprung that goodly golden fruit,
With which Acontius got his lover true,
Whom he had long time sought with fruitless suit;
Here eke that famous golden apple grew,
The which amongst the gods false Até threw;
For which the Idean ladies disagreed, 19
Till partial Paris deem'd it Venus' due,
And had of her fair Helen for his
That many noble Greeks and Trojans made to bleed.
The warlike elf much wonder'd at this tree
So fair and great, that shadowed all the ground;
And his broad branches, laden with rich fee,
Did stretch themselves without the utmost bound
Of this great garden, compass'd with a mound,
Which overhanging, they themselves did steep
In a black flood, which flow'd about it round.20
That is the river of Cocytus deep,
In which full many souls do endless wail and weep.
Which to behold, he climb'd up to the bank ;
And, looking down, saw many damnèd wights
In those sad waves which direfull deadly stank,21
Plungèd continually of cruel sprites,
That with their piteous cries and yelling shrights
They made the further shore resounden wide.
Amongst the rest of those same rueful sights,
One cursèd creature he by chance espied,
That drenched lay full deep under the garden side.
Deep was he drenched to the utmost chin,
Yet gaped still as coveting to drink
Of the cold liquor which he waded in :
And, stretching forth his hand, did often think
To reach the food which grew upon the brink;
But both the fruit from hand and flood from mouth
Did fly aback, and made him vainly swinck,
The whiles he starv'd with hunger and with droughth: He daily died, yet never thoroughly dyen couth. 22
The knight, him seeing labor so in vain,
Ask'd who he was, and what he meant thereoy!
Who groaning deep, thus answered him again;
“Most cursed of all creatures under sky,
Lo! Tantalus, I here tormented lie!
Of whom high Jove wont whilom feasted be!
Lo! here I now for want of food do die!
But, if that thou be such as I thee see, Of grace I pray thee give to eat and drink to me!”
“Nay, nay, thou greedy Tantalus,” quoth he; “ Abide the fortune of thy present fate ; And unto all that live in high degree, Example be of mind intemperate, To teach them how to use their present state.” Then 'gan the cursed wretch aloud to cry, Accusing highest Jove and gods ingrate :
And eke blaspheming Heaven bitterly, As author of injustice, there to let him die.
He look'd a little further, and espied
Another wretch whose carcase deep was drent
Within the river which the same did hide:
But both his hands, most filthy feculent,
Above the water were on high extent,
And fain'd to wash themselves incessantly,
Yet nothing cleaner were for such intent,
But rather fouler seemed to the eye;
So lost his labor vain, and idle industry.
The knight him calling, asked who he was ?
Who, lifting up his head, him answered thus :
“I Pilate am,23 the falsest judge, alas !
And most unjust; that, by unrightëous
And wicked doom, to Jews despiteous
Delivered up the Lord of Life to die,
And did acquit a murderer felonous;
The whilst my hands I wash'd in purity;
The whilst my soul was soild with foul iniquity.”
Infinite more tormented in like pain
He then beheld, too long here to be told :
Nor Mammon would there let him long remain,
For terror of the tortures manifold,
In which the damnèd souls he did behold,
But roughly him bespake: “ Thou fearful fool,
Why takest not of that same fruit of gold;
Nor sittest down on that same silver stool,
To rest thy weary person in the shady cool!”
All which he did to do him deadly fall
In frail intemperance through sinful bait;
To which if he inclinèd had at all,