The Visions of Bellay

Edmund Spenser

Note on the Renascence Editions edition:

This html etext of The Visions of Bellay was prepared from Ernest de Sélincourt's Spenser's Minor Poems [Oxford, 1910] by Risa S. Bear at the University of Oregon. Click here for version of this text with woodcuts from A Theatre for Worldlings (very large file, slow loading). The text is in the public domain. Coding is copyright © The University of Oregon, March 1996. Please refer additions, corrections, or comments to the Publisher.

The Visions of Bellay.


IT was the time, when rest soft sliding downe
From heauens hight into mens heauy eyes,
In the forgetfulnes of sleepe doth drowne
The carefull thoughts of mortall miseries:
Then did a Ghost before mine eyes appeare,
On that great riuers banck, that runnes by Rome,
Which calling me by name bad me to reare
My lookes to heauen whence all good gifts do come,
And crying lowd, loe now beholde (quoth hee)
What vnder this great temple placed is:
Lo all is nought but flying vanitee.
So I that know this worlds inconstancies,
Sith onely God surmounts all times decay,
In God alone my confidence do stay.



On high hills top I saw a stately frame,
An hundred cubits high by iust assize,
With hundreth pillours fronting faire the same,
All wrought with Diamond after Dorick wize:
Nor brick, nor marble was the wall in view,
But shining Christall, which from top to base
Out of her womb a thousand rayons threw,
On hundred steps of Afrike golds enchase:
Golde was the parget, and the seeling bright
Did shine all scaly with great plates of golde;
The floore of Iasp and Emeraude was dight.
O worlds vainesse. Whiles thus I did behold,
An earthquake shooke the hill from lowest seat,
And ouerthrew this frame with ruine great.



Then did a sharped spyre of Diamond bright,
Ten feete each way in square, appeare to mee,
Iustly proportion'd vp vnto his hight,
So far as Archer might his leuel see:
The top thereof a pot did seeme to beare,
Made of the mettall, which we most do honour,
And in this golden vessell couched weare
The ashes of a mightie Emperour:
Vpon foure corners of the base were pight
To beare the frame, foure great Lyons of gold;
A worthy tombe for such a worthy wight.
Alas this world doth nought but grieuance hold.
I saw a tempest from the heauen descend,
Which this braue monument with flash did rend.



I saw raysde vp on yuorie pilloures tall,
Whose bases were of richest mettalls warke,
The chapters Alablaster, the fryses christall,
The double front of a triumphal Arke:
On each side purtraid was a Victorie,
Clad like a Nimph, that wings of siluer weares,
And in triumphant chayre was set on hie,
The auncient glory of the Romaine Peares.
No worke it seem'd of earthly craftsmans wit,
But rather wrought by his owne industry,
That thunder-dartes for Ioue his syre doth fit.
Let me no more see faire thing vnder sky,
Sith that mine eyes haue seene so faire a sight
With sodain fall to dust consumed quight.



Then was the faire Dodonian tree far seene,
Vpon seauen hills to spread his gladsome gleame,
And conqurours bedecked with his greene,
Along the bancks of the Ausonian streame:
There many an auncient Trophee was addrest,
And many a spoyle, and many a goodly show,
Which that braue races greatnes did attest,
That whilome from the Troyan blood did flow.
Rauisht I was so rare a thing to vew,
When lo a barbarous troupe of clownish fone
The honour of the noble boughs down threw,
Vnder the wedge I heard the tronck to grone;
And since I saw the roote in great disdaine
A twinne of forked trees send forth againe.



I saw a Wolfe vnder a rockie caue
Noursing two whelpes; I saw her litle ones
In wanton dalliance the teate to craue,
While she her neck wreath'd from them for the nones:
I saw her raunge abroad to seeke her food,
And roming through the field with greedie rage
T'embrew her teeth and clawes with lukewarm blood
Of the small heards, her thirst for to asswage.
I saw a thousand hunstmen, which descended
Downe from the mountaines bordring Lombardie,
That with an hundred speares her flank wide rended.
I saw her on the plaine outstretched lie,
Throwing out thousand throbs in her owne soyle:
Soone on a tree vphang'd I saw her spoyle.



I saw the Bird that can the Sun endure,
With feeble wings assay to mount on hight,
By more and more she gan her wings t'assure,
Following th' ensample of her mothers sight:
I saw her rise, and with a larger flight
Tp pierce the cloudes, and with wide pinneons
To measure the most haughtie mountaines hight,
Vntill she raught the Gods owne mansions:
There was she lost, when suddaine I behelde,
Where tumbling through the ayre in firie fold;
All flaming downe she on the plaine was felde,
And soone her bodie turn'd to ashes colde.
I saw the foule that doth the light dispise,
Out of her dust like to a worme arise.



I saw a riuer swift, whose fomy billowes
Did wash the ground work of an old great wall;
I saw it couer'd all with griesly shadowes,
That with black horror did the ayre appall:
Thereout a strange beast with seuen heads arose,
That townes and castles vnder her brest did coure,
And seem'd both milder beasts and fiercer foes
Alike with equall rauine to deuoure.
Much was I mazde, to see this monsters kinde
In hundred formes to change his fearfull hew,
When as at length I saw the wrathfull winde,
Which blows cold storms, burst out of Scithian mew,
That sperst these cloudes, and in so short as thought,
This dreadfull shape was vanished to nought.



Then all astonied with this mightie ghoast,
An hideous bodie big and strong I sawe,
With side long beard, and locks down hanging loast,
Sterne face, and front full of Saturnlike awe;
Who leaning on the belly of a pot,
Pourd foorth a water, whose out gushing flood
Ran bathing all the creakie shore aflot,
Whereon the Troyan prince spilt Turnus blood;
And at his feete a bitch wolfe suck did yeeld
To two young babes: his left the Palme tree stout,
His right hand did the peacefull Oliue wield,
And head with Lawrell garnisht was about.
Sudden both Palme and Oliue fell away,
And faire green Lawrell branch did quite decay.



Hard by a riuers side a virgin faire,
Folding her armes to heauen with a thousand throbs,
And outraging her cheekes and golden haire,
To falling riuers sound thus tun'd her sobs.
Where is (quoth she) this whilom honour'd face?
Where the great glorie and the auncient praise,
In which all worlds felicitie had place,
When Gods and men my honour vp did raise?
Suffisd' it not that ciuill warres me made
The whole worlds spoile, but that this Hydra new,
Of hundred Hercules to be assaide,
With seuen heads, budding monstrous crimes anew,
So many Neroes and Caligulaes
Out of these crooked shores must dayly rayse?



Vpon an hill a bright flame I did see,
Wauing aloft with triple point to skie,
Which like incense of precious Cedar tree,
With balmie odours fil'd th' ayre farre and nie.
A Bird all white, well feathered on each wing,
Hereout vp to the throne of Gods did flie,
And all the way most pleasant notes did sing,
Whilst in the smoake she vnto heauen did stie.
Of this faire fire the scattered rayes forth threw
On euerie side a thousand shining beames:
When sudden dropping of a siluer dew
(O grieuous chance) gan quench those precious flames;
That it which earst so pleasant sent did yeld,
Of nothing now but noyous sulphure smeld.



I saw a spring out of a rocke forth rayle,
As cleare as Christall gainst the Sunnie beames,
The bottome yeallow, like the golden grayle
That bright Pactolus washeth with his streames;
It seem'd that Art and Nature had assembled
All pleasure there, for which mans hart could long;
And there a noyse alluring sleepe soft trembled,
Of manie accords more sweete than Mermaids song:
The seates and benches shone as yuorie,
And hundred Nymphes sate side by side about;
When from nigh hills with hideous outcrie,
A troupe of Satyres in the place did rout,
Which with their villeine feete the streame did ray,
Threw down the seats, and droue the Nymphs away.



Much richer then that vessell seem'd to bee,
Which did to that sad Florentine appeare,
Casting mine eyes farre off, I chaunst to see,
Vpon the Latine Coast herself to reare:
But suddenly arose a tempest great,
Bearing close enuie to these riches rare,
Which gan assaile this ship with dreadfull threat,
This ship, to which none other might compare.
And finally the storme impetuous
Sunke vp these riches, second vnto none,
Within the gulfe of greedie Nereus.
I saw both ship and mariners each one,
And all that treasure drowned in the main:
But I the ship saw after raisd' againe.



Long hauing deeply gron'd these visions sad,
I saw a Citie like vnto that same,
Which saw the messenger of tidings glad;
But that on sand was built of goodly frame:
It seem'd her top the firmament did rayse,
And no lesse rich than faire, right worthie sure
(if ought here worthie) of immortall dayes,
Of if ought vnder heauen might firme endure.
Much wondred I to see so faire a wall:
When from the Northerne coast a storme arose,
Which breathing furie from his inward gall
On all, which did against his course oppose,
Into a clowde of dust sperst in the aire
The weake foundations of this Citie faire.



At length, euen at the time, when Morpheus
Most trulie doth vnto our eyes appeare,
Wearie to see the heauens still wauering thus,
I saw Typhæus sister comming neare;
Whose head full brauely with a morion hidd,
Did seeme to match the Gods in Maiestie.
She by a riuers bancke that swift down slidd,
Ouer all the world did raise a Trophee hie;
An hundred vanquisht Kings vnder her lay,
With armes bound at their backs in shamefull wize;
Whilst I thus mazed was with great affray,
I saw the heauens in warre against her rize:
Then down she stricken fell with clap of thonder,
That with great noyse I wakte in sudden wonder.


F I N I S.

Continue on to Petrarches Visions.

Renascence Editions