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 vnderstanding is hereunto
To the Right noble, and Valorous, Sir Walter
Raleigh knight, Lo. Wardein of the Stanneryes, and
her Maiesties liefetenaunt of the County of Corne-
SIr knowing how doubtfully all Alle-
gories may be construed, and this
booke of mine, which I haue entitu-
led the Faery Queene, being a con-
tinued Allegory, or darke conceit, I
haue thought good aswell for auoy-
ding of gealous opinions and miscon-
structions, as also for your better
light in reading therof, (being so by
you commanded,) to discouer vnto you the general intention and
meaning, which in the whole course thereof I haue fashioned,
without expressing of any particular purposes or by-accidents
therein occasioned. The generall 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 histo-
ricall 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 suspition of present time. In which I haue followed all
the antique Poets historicall, first Homere, who in the Per-
sons of Agamemnon and Vlysses hath ensampled a good go-
uernour and a vertuous man, the one in his Ilias, the other
in his Odysseis: then Virgil, whose like intention was to doe
in the person of Aeneas: after him Ariosto comprised them
both in his Orlando: and lately Tasso disseuered them a-
gaine, and formed both parts in two persons, namely that
part which they in Philosophy call Ethice, or vertues of a
priuate 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 first 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 seeme displea-
saunt, which had rather haue good discipline deliuered plain-
ly in way of precepts, or sermoned at large, as they vse, then
thus clowdily enwrapped in Allegoricall deuises. But such,
me seeme, should be satisfide with the vse of these dayes, seeing
all things accounted by their showes, and nothing esteemed
of, that is not delightfull and pleasing to commune sence.
For this cause is Xenophon preferred before Plato, for that
the one in the exquisite depth of his iudgement, formed a
Commune welth such as it should be, but the other in the
person of Cyrus and the Persians fashioned a gouernement
such as might best be: So much more profitable and grati-
ous is doctrine by ensample, then by rule. So haue I laboured
to doe in the person of Arthure: whome I conceiue after his
long education by Timon, to whom he was by Merlin deli-
uered to be brought vp, so soone as he was borne of the Lady
Igrayne, to haue seene in a dream or vision the Faery Queen,
with whose excellent beauty rauished, he awaking resolued 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 soueraine the Queene, and her
kingdome in Faery land. And yet in some places els, I doe
otherwise shadow her. For considering she beareth two per-
sons, the one of a most royall Queene or Empresse, the other
of a most vertuous and beautifull Lady, this latter part in
some places I doe expresse in Belph be, fashioning her name
according to your owne excellent conceipt of Cynthia, (Ph -
be and Cynthia being both names of Diana.) So in the
person of Prince Arthure I sette forth magnificence in parti-
cular, 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 deedes
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 Redcrosse, in whome I expresse Holynes: The seconde
of Sir Guyon, in whome I sette forth Temperaunce: The
third of Britomartis a Lady knight, in whome I picture Cha-
stity. But because the beginning of the whole worke see-
meth abrupte and as depending vpon other antecedents, it
needs that ye know the occasion of these three knights seuerall
aduentures. For the Methode of a Poet historical is not
such, as of an Historiographer. For an Historiographer dis-
courseth of affayres orderly as they were donne, accounting as
well the times as the actions, but a Poet thrusteth into the
middest, euen where it most concerneth him, and there re-
coursing 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 Historiogra-
pher should be the twelfth booke which is the last, where I
deuise that the Faery Queene kept her Annuall feaste xii.
dayes, vppon which xii. seuerall dayes, the occasions of the
xii. seuerall aduentures hapned, which being vndertaken
by xii. seuerall knights, are in these xii books seuerally han-
dled and discoursed. The first was this. In the beginning
of the feast, there presented him selfe a tall clownishe younge
man, who falling before the Queen 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 atchieuement
of any aduenture, which during that feaste should happen,
that being graunted, he rested him on the floore, vnfitte
through his rusticity 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 Armes 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 vp in a brasen Ca-
stle, who thence suffred them not to yssew: and therefore be-
sought the Faery Queene to assygne her some one of her
knights to take on him that exployt. Presently that clownish
person vpstarting, desired that aduenture: whereat the
Queene much wondering, and the Lady much gainesaying,
yet he earnestly importuned his desire. In the end the Lady
told him that vnlesse that armour which she brought, would
serue him (that is the armour of a Christian man specified
by Saint Paul v. Ephes.) that he could not succeed in that
enterprise, which being forthwith put vpon him with dewe
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 straunge
Courser, he went forth with her on that aduenture: where
beginneth the first booke, vz.
A gentle knight was pricking on the playne. &c.
The second day ther came in a Palmer bearing an Infant
with bloody hands, whose Parents he complained to haue bene
slayn by an Enchaunteresse called Acrasia: and therfore cra-
ued of the Faery Queene, to appoint him some knight, to per-
forme that aduenture, which being assigned to Sir Guyon, he
presently went forth with that same Palmer: which is the
beginning of the second booke and the whole subiect thereof.
The third day there came in, a Groome who complained be-
fore the Faery Queene, that a vile Enchaunter called Busi-
rane had in hand a most faire Lady called Amoretta, whom
he kept in most grieuous torment, because she would not yield
him the pleasure of her body. Whereupon Sir Scudamour the
louer of that Lady presently tooke on him that aduenture.
But being vnable to performe it by reason of the hard En-
chauntments, after long sorrow, in the end met with Brito-
martis, who succoured him, and reskewed his loue.
But by occasion hereof, many other aduentures are inter-
medled, but rather as Accidents, then intendments. As the
loue of Britomart, the ouerthrow of Marinell, the misery of
Florimell, the vertuousnes of Belph be, the lasciuiousnes of
Hellenora, and many the like.
Thus much Sir, I haue briefly ouerronne to direct your vn-
derstanding to the wel-head of the History, that from thence
gathering the whole intention of the conceit, ye may as in a
handfull gripe al the discourse, which otherwise may happily
seeme tedious and confused. So humbly crauing the conti-
nuaunce of your honorable fauour towards me, and th'eter-
nall establishment of your happines, I humbly take leaue.
23. Ianuary. 1589.
Yours most humbly affectionate.
Ed. Spenser.