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Prince Arthur takes the enterprize
For Belgee for to fight:
He slayes in Belges right.
SOME clarkes doe doubt in their devicefull art
Whether this heavenly thing whereof I treat,
To weeten Mercie, be of Iustice part,
Or drawne forth from her by divine extreate :
This well I wote, that sure she is as great,
And meriteth to have as high a place,
Sith in th’Almighties everlasting seat
She first was bred, and borne of heavenly race ;
From thence pour'd down on men by influence of grace.
For if that Vertue be of so great might
Which from iust verdict will for nothing start,
But, to preserve inviolated right,
Oft spilles the principall to save the part;
So much more then that of
and art That seekes to save the subiect of her skill, Yet never doth from doome of right depart ;
As it is greater prayse to save then spill, And better to reforme then to cut off the ill.
Who then can thee, Mercilla, throughly prayse,
That herein doest all earthly Princes pas ?
What heavenly Muse shall thy great honour rayse
Up to the skies, whence first deriv'd it was,
And now on earth itselfe enlarged has,
From th’utmost brinke of the Armericke shore,
Unto the margent of the Molucas ?
Those nations farre thy Iustice doe adore;
But thine owne people do thy Mercy prayse much more.
Much more it praysed was of those two Knights,
The noble Prince and righteous Artegall,
When they had seene and heard her doome arights
Against Duessa, damned by them all;
But by her tempred without griefe or gall,
Till strong constraint did her thereto enforce:
And yet even then ruing her wilfull fall
With more then needfull naturall remorse,
And yeelding the last honour to her wretched corse.
During all which, those Knights continu'd there
Both doing and receiving curtesies
Of that great Ladie, who with goodly chere
Them entertayn’d, fit for their dignities,
Approving dayly to their noble eyes
Royall examples of her mercies rare
And worthie paterns of her clemencies;
Which till this day mongst many living are,
Who them to their posterities doe still declare.
Amongst the rest, which in that space befell,
There came two Springals of full tender yeares,
Farre thence from forrein land where they did dwell,
To seeke for succour of her and her Peares,
and intreatfull teares;
Sent by their Mother who, a Widow, was
Wrapt in great dolours and in deadly feares
By a strong Tyrant, who invaded has
Her land, and slaine her children ruefully, alas !
Her name was Belgè; who in former age
A Ladie of great worth and wealth had beene,
And Mother of a frutefull heritage,
Even seventeene goodly Sonnes; which who had seene
In their first flowre, before this fatall teene
Them overtooke and their faire blossomes blasted,
More happie Mother 'would her surely weene
Then famous Niobe, before she tasted
Latonaes childrens wrath that all her issue wasted.
But this fell Tyrant, through his tortious powre,
Had left her now but five of all that brood :
For twelve of them he did by times devoure,
And to his Idols sacrifice their blood,
Whylest he of none was stopped nor withstood :
For soothly he was one of matchlesse might,
Of horrible aspect and dreadfull mood,
And had three bodies in one wast empight,
And th'armes and legs of three to succour him in fight.
And sooth they say that he was borne and bred
Of Gyants race, the sonne of Geryon;
He that whylome in Spaine so sore was dred
For his huge powre and great oppression,
Which brought that land to his subiection,
Through his three bodies powre in one combyn'd;
And eke all strangers, in that region
Arryving, to his kyne for food assynd;
The fayrest kyne alive, but of the fiercest kynd:
For they were all, they say, of purple hew,
Kept by a cowheard, hight Eurytion,
A cruell carle, the which all strangers slew,
Ne day nor night did sleepe t'attend them on,
But walkt about them ever and anone
With his two-headed dogge that Orthrus hight;
Orthrus begotten by great Typhaon
And foule Echidna in the house of Night:
But Hercules them all did overcome in fight.
His sonne was this Geryoneo hight;
Who, after that his monstrous father fell
Under Alcides club, streight tooke his flight
From that sad land, where he his syre
And came to this, where Belgè then did dwell
And flourish in all wealth and happinesse,
Being then new made Widow, as befell,
After her noble Husbands late decesse;
Which gave beginning to her woe and wretchednesse.
Then this bold Tyrant, of her widowhed
Taking advantage and her yet fresh woes,
Himselfe and service to her offered,
Her to defend against all forrein foes
That should their powre against her right oppose :
Whereof she glad, now needing strong defence,
Him entertayn'd and did her Champion chose;
Which long he usd with carefull diligence,
The better to confirme her fearelesse confidence.
By meanes whereof she did at last commit
All to his hands, and gave him soveraine powre
To doe whatever he thought good or fit:
Which having got, he gan forth from that howre
To stirre up strife and many a tragicke stowre;
Giving her dearest children one by one
Unto a dreadfull Monster to devoure,
And setting up an Idole of his owne,
The image of his monstrous parent Geryone.
So tyrannizing and oppressing all,
The woefull Widow had no meanes now left,
But unto gratious great Mercilla call
For ayde against that cruell Tyrants theft,
Ere all her children he from her had reft:
Therefore these two, her eldest Sonnes, she sent
To seeke for succour of this Ladies gieft:
To whom their sute they humbly did present
In th' hearing of full many Knights and Ladies gent.