Stories from Old English Poetry/Adventures of the Fair Florimel

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Stories Old English Poetry-0090.jpg




WHAT voice shall do justice to the deeds of the renowned warrior-maiden, Britomart? For love of the brave Sir Arthegall, whom Merlin had long since prophesied would be her wedded lord, she had covered her yellow tresses with a plumed helmet, and hid the beating of her woman’s heart under a breast-plate of steel. So many conquests had she won in tourney and on the field, that her fame almost equaled that of the peerless Arthur, Prince of the Round Table, a knight whose friendship held her in proud esteem.

Now, as my tale opens, this warrior-maid rode briskly toward the sea, which washed an enchanted shore, where day after day the scornful Prince Marinell kept watch and ward that he might do battle with any one bold enough to venture upon its boundaries.

With him Britomart sought to measure lances in an encounter, because of all knights he was accounted one of the most difficult to overcome.

Marinell was the son of Cymoent (one of the daughters of Nereus) and an earth-born knight, who had loved the beautiful sea-nymph, and won her to be his bride. Hence the sea and land were equally the home of Marinell, and he could wander at will among the grottoes and fern forests in the depths of the ocean where his mother dwelt. Neptune had given him also, as his birthright, the whole control of the stretch of sandy shore toward which Britomart now set her horse’s head, and all the spoils which the waves threw thereon. So that he possessed untold wealth of pearl and amber, and all sorts of sea-treasures, besides stores of gold and ivory, precious stones, and rare woods, which had been washed upon the sand from hundreds of wrecked vessels, which the waves had broken in pieces, before they could reach the enchanted coast.

This fortunate Marinell was passionately beloved by his mother, the sea-nymph, Cymoent. In his infancy she had prayed that he might be an immortal like herself, but the gods had denied her prayer. Then she went weeping to Proteus, the merlin of the sea, and besought him to reveal to her her son’s destiny. Proteus, after much hesitation, bade Cymoent guard her son from all women. “For know, O Cymoent,” said the enchanter, “from a woman shall come all his danger, and his death-blow.”

On this, Cymoent had reared her boy in extremest hate of all womankind. She taught him to despise all their charms and to distrust all their words. So that hitherto he had hardly allowed himself speech with any woman or even looked twice into a female face.

Alas that all women were not as hard-hearted as the sea-prince! The lovely Florimel, sweetest and most innocent of maidens, the goddaughter of Venus, who had been reared by the Graces and Muses on Mount Helicon, had beheld the handsome Marinell from the windows of the castle not far distant from the sea, where she now had her dwelling-place. Often, with her attendant maidens, had she ridden near the beach, and often had dismounted to gather pebbles and sea-weed which the waves washed far in to shore. Again and again she had watched the scornful prince, who would not even glance at her, and like a tame white dove, which will fly as soon into the bosom of its enemy as into a hand ready to protect and cherish, so her heart had flown into the keeping of the black-browed prince. But when she had found that he would not notice or look on her, she was filled with shame and disappointment, and sought only to go away and hide herself from all eyes.

Angry at the indignity put upon all women by the indifference of Marinell, Britomart rode onward to avenge the wrong done to beauty and chivalry by his scorn of the lovely Florimel.

As the warrior-maid approached, Marinell beheld her coming, and his eyes flashed with the desire of meeting some warrior worthy of his prowess. Her sex he could not guess at, through the thick armor and closed visor which she wore; else might the remembrance of the prophecy which he knew threatened his life have made him fear to engage in battle with a woman.

“Hold, rash knight!” cried the prince, as Britomart rode briskly up toward the watery line which the ebbing waves left upon the gray sand. “By what right dost thou venture here? Knowest thou that this is a way forbidden to mortal knights? Fly, then, or with thy life pay for thy daring.”

“Let those fly who fear,” called Britomart in tones like the notes of a bugle, “I am no babe to be frightened by idle threats. And either I pass these waves or die beside them.”

With these bold words she ran at Marinell, who received her with so fierce a welcome that she reeled in her saddle for a second’s space; but recovering, she dashed aside his shield and dealt him so hard a blow upon the breast, that her lance’s head broke short off in the crevices of his armor, and he fell, a gory, lifeless heap, upon the wet sand. Without waiting to inquire into his hurts, Britomart rode swiftly across the beach, and spurred her horse’s feet in towards the main land.

Only for a little time did Marinell lie thus upon the beach. A courier of the sea, beholding him, carried the woful news to his mother, Cymoent. She heard the story with grief too great to be described. Calling her chariot, drawn by ten dolphins, which sported all the changing hues of the rainbow on their shining sides, she summoned a group of her sister-nymphs, and, gliding rapidly over the surface of the waters, came quickly to the sad shore.

Three times did Cymoent swoon over the body of her son. Thrice and thrice did she call on Neptune and Nereus, and all her sea-born kinsfolk, to revenge his death.

“False Proteus!” she cried, “no woman dealt this deep wound which his poor breast bears. You taught me to fear his death-blow from a woman, and I, credulous, feared love. But they that love do not always die. Better, a thousand times, love than death.”

Amid her grief she fancied she detected a faint heart-beat; and wrapping him in soft mantles, all the sea-nymphs bore him gently to the chariot, and conveyed him to the bower of Cymoent. Here in a cool chamber, arched overhead by billows through whose watery dome a soft green light suffused the place, they laid him upon a soft couch, spread on the pearly floor. Then they called Tryphon, the surgeon of the sea, to come and look upon the prince and see if any art of his could bring him back to life.


On the day following the adventures we have just related, three knights of Faery were riding along over the plain which spread down to the sea. He whose plumed crest rose high above his companions, was Arthur, Prince of the Round Table. On his left rode the noble Red Cross knight, Sir Guyon, a pattern of spotless knighthood. On his right rode Britomart, her visor open and her yellow hair flowing from her loosened helmet.

As the trio rode on in peaceful converse, they were all at once startled by the clatter of hoofs and the shrill cry of a woman. Looking up, they beheld a beautiful maiden mounted on a white palfrey, which she urged to its utmost speed, flying across the plain not more than a lancer’s throw in advance of them. Close upon her heels, in hot pursuit, came a hideous and grizzled old forester, who looked less like a man than a wolf.

When Arthur and Guyon beheld this sight, without waiting for debate or parley they each set spurs to their horses, and followed with all speed upon the forester’s track.

The path which the pursuer and pursued had taken, led into a thick wood full of all dangerous winding paths and hidden recesses, and hither the knights followed quickly, hoping to overtake the lady before she was helplessly lost in the intricacies of the forest. While they thus spurred onward, Britomart, feeling sure that the cause of injured beauty would not suffer while intrusted to such worthy lances, turned her course in another direction, and sought a castie where dwelt in chains the unfortunate Lady Amoret.

In the mean time the lady entered the forest, followed close by her pursuers. It was not long before Sir Guyon, overtaking the forester, dealt with him according to his deserts. Prince Arthur still rode on, hoping yet to recover trace of the maiden, whose track he had lost among the branching ways of the forest. But it soon began to grow dark; he could not hear or see aught of her, and at last, following a path which appeared to him to be the right one, he presently found himself at the opening of the forest in nearly the spot where he had first entered it.

Just at the wood’s verge he met a dwarf, fantastically dressed in rich garments, who was sobbing audibly and giving way to other loud expressions of grief.

“What aileth thee, pygmy?” asked the knight, drawing rein beside him.

“Has you lordship seen aught of a beautiful lady with streaming yellow hair, riding a milk-white palfrey, passing this way?” inquired the dwarf, earnestly addressing Prince Arthur.

“I have just followed such a lady into this forest, in the hope of lending her aid and succor,” answered he. “But I could not find her track, after I had lost sight of her.”

“It was my mistress, who is lost to me,” cried the dwarf, still weeping. “Since yester eve we can find nothing of her.”

“And who is your mistress?”

“None other than the Lady Florimel, foster sister to Cupid,” answered the dwarf. “She has long been enamored of Prince Marinell, and hearing yesterday that he had fallen in duel, she fell into deep grief, and suddenly rode off on her palfrey and has not since been heard from.”

Arthur gave him what comfort he might, and sent him back to his lady’s castle. He himself departed at once to stir up all the flower of knighthood to form a league that they might recover and bring pack the lost damsel.

In the mean time Florimel, (for it was indeed she) sped swifter and swifter through the in closing shades of the thick wood. Just as she emerged from its recesses into an open space which seemed to mark the limit of the forest, her horse, which had been so faithful in bearing her from her pursuers, sank down exhausted. Neither coaxing words, nor honeyed caresses, nor her severest threats could rouse him from his fatigue.

She looked around for shelter from the coming night, and found herself in a deep valley, sheltered between high hills. At a little distance the light of a curling smoke-wreath filled her with hope of a hospitable reception. Dragging toward the place her tired feet, she found a cottage, rudely made of sods and branches of trees. Timidly begging entrance here, a harsh voice bade her “come in.”

Inside the cottage sat a frightful old witch with withered face and knotted hair, mumbling strange charms, while she warmed her lean hands over a caldron which hung over her fire. When this uncanny hag beheld the lovely vision standing in her doorway, her blue eyes filled with pearly tears, her hair streaming round her shoulders, and her face pale with fear and weariness, she fancied Florimel to be one of the spirits of the air to whom she owed forced allegiance.

But with the sad accents of an earth-born maid Florimel told her sad story, and begged shelter for the night beside the comfortable fire. Even the witch’s withered heart was touched by her forlorn plight, and she bade her welcome, and gave her such coarse fare as her hut afforded.

While Florimel, a little refreshed by her rude meal and the warm fire, sat down to arrange her garments, torn by the rough branches and wet with the night dews, the door opened, and an uncouth clown appeared, whose face looked out from under a tangled covert of unkempt hair and matted beard, as a wild beast looks from his lair.

This was the witch’s son, whom, in spite of his ill looks, she loved, as the tiger loves her young, as the bear the unlicked cubs which nature teaches her to fight for.

The uncouth monster glared on Florimel as one whose eyes had never before seen a piece of gentle womanhood. She, uneasy and frightened at his gaze, asked for a place where she might rest from the day’s fatigues. Then the witch showed her a pile of soft skins, on which she sank exhausted, and in spite of fears and misgivings for her safety, she was soon fast shrouded in a dreamless sleep.

When day dawned she found the morning repast spread beside her. There were tender birds cooked in the hot embers, purple grapes, and luscious berries gathered in the forest. All these the churlish-looking youth had been out before daybreak to seek for her. With the gentlest speech which his rude lips knew how to frame, he urged these dainties upon Florimel, while she, fearing as much his love as his hate, could scarce eat, and trembled in every limb at the sound of his voice.

When the sun was half way up the sky, the monster departed to the wood to find other dainties for their guest, and Florimel sought her steed where she had left him the night before. To her great joy, he answered her voice with a glad whinny, and rose to his feet refreshed by the cool dews and the sweet herbage which he had eaten. The maiden mounted him at once, and as quickly as she could, made her way from the place where the ancient Hecate abode.

When the witch’s son found that the maiden had departed, his grief and rage were hideous to behold. He tore his matted hair, rent his flesh with his long nails, and howling like some savage beast, cast himself on the floor of the hut, refusing to rise or speak.

His mother, seeing him thus mad at the loss of Florimel, cast about for some means to overtake and bring her back to him. By her black arts she summoned to her aid a swift, horrible monster, with the keen scent of a blood-hound whom she commanded to follow Florimel and bring her back, without delay.

Florimel had scarcely issued from the thick wood which clothed the valley, and entered upon the barren plain which led to the shore where Marinell had once reigned, than she heard the loud baying of the monster, and, looking back, beheld him issuing from the wood. With gigantic strides he came on, his long, hairy arm extended to clutch his prey,and his parted mouth showing a wide row of gleaming teeth. Her heart seemed glued to her side with fear, and she had hardly voice to cheer on her horse toward the shining beech.

On the edge of the sea, in a sheltered cove where the water lay still and smooth, she saw a little shallop, in which a fisher, old and poor, lay fast asleep upon a pile of his unmended nets. As soon as she reached the edge, she threw herself from her palfrey, and wading through the shallow water, climbed into the little boat. The fisher’s slack grasp yielded her easily the slight oars, and in a moment she pushed herself out into the level sea.

Who can describe the howling rage of the vile monster when he found himself thus disappointed of his victim? With loud cries he threw himself upon the fair steed which had borne Florimel so bravely, and with his sharp claws tore him limb from limb, and set himself to feast upon his mangled sides.

While the creature thus gloated over his prey, it chanced that Sir Satyrane, one of the bravest of all the knights of Faery, at that moment rode along the shore. At one glance he saw the mangled steed of the maiden, and descried also her golden girdle lying coiled upon the sand.

As quickly as the red lightning rushes from the clouds on some hoary monarch of the forest, and rives its ancient trunk with its forked darts, so quickly did Sir Satyrane ride upon the horrid monster and fell him to the trembling earth.

But by the witch’s magic arts no sword had power to end his unclean life; and after many blows which would have put an end to him, if it had not been for the charms by which he was protected, the knight sent him howling back to his mistress.

Then picking up the girdle which Florimel had dropped off in the haste with which she had dismounted, the knight bore it sadly away, as a proof that its sweet owner had been devoured by a huge monster whom he had encountered on the sea-shore.


Now when the monster carried the news of Florimel’s escape to his mistress, the witch’s rage knew no bounds. At once she summoned to her counsel all the malicious imps and sprites who were wont to do her bidding, and sought their aid to frame something which should deceive her son, who still lay prone upon the earth, refusing to be consoled for the loss of Florimel.

By their advice and her own wicked devices, the witch formed a creature so like to Florimel, that no one looking on the false semblance could doubt it to be the true reality. This image was moulded of virgin wax, tinged with vermilion, to the color of soft flesh. Her hair was woven of fine threads of yellow gold; her eyes of sapphire, set to move in her head like twin stars; and in this lovely body she placed a wicked sprite of the air, who was skilled in all deceit, and knew how to chain the hearts of men in subtle bonds which could not be easily unriven.

To her ungainly son the witch presented this sprite as the lady to whom he had lost his heart. He was rapt with joy at seeing her, and more than filled with delight that she no longer shrank from his rude presence. Soon persuading her to walk abroad with him, he led her into the cool paths of the green wood which surrounded their dwelling.

Now it happened that when Sir Satyrane spread abroad the manner in which he had found the girdle of Florimel upon the sand, there was much grief among all the knights of Maidenhood, whom Prince Arthur had stirred up in league to find and rescue the lost maiden. And since Satyrane could lay no claim to her girdle, as he had not won it in any decisive combat, it was deemed fair that it should be put up as the prize, at a tournament, at which all knights, far and wide, should gather, to take part in the contest.

Thereupon, many gallant gentlemen, from all parts, were making haste to the place appointed, and numberless fair ladies rode with them to see the brave deeds which would be sure to appear. Through the very wood in which the witch’s son roamed with his fair semblance of a woman, rode a boastful knight, called Braggadochio, who was on his way to swell the lists at Sir Satyrane’s tourney. He came upon the clown, walking with his Florimel; and believing her the lady whom all the knights of Faery supposed dead, Braggadochio stopped his horse to challenge her rude guard as to his right to her.

The poor clown, half frightened from his wits by the knight’s manner, gave her up, without daring a remonstrance, and so soon lost the mage which had cost him so much grief to possess. Then Braggadochio rode on, swelling with pride and vainglory, that he bore, as his prize to the tourney, the fair lady who was the cause of all these preparations.

Hardly had this mock-valiant gone a single stage of his journey when he met Sir Blandamour, who was also on his way to join the knights. Without delay he challenged Braggadochio’s right to the lady whom he bore with him. The boasting knight at once accepted the challenge. But before they rode at each other in the encounter, he proposed to his opponent that they should turn their horse’s heads, and ride back a few yards in order that they might return, and ride at each other with greater force. To this Blandamour agreed, and when they had turned back to back, to ride a little apart, Braggadochio, sticking his spurs deep into his horse’s sides, rode away swifter than ever he had ridden before, leaving Sir Blandamour in possession of the fair cause of the dispute.

As Blandamour rode away with his prize, he was joined by a party of knights, all on their way to the meeting-place. Then, by her wicked arts, the sprite who inhabited the semblance of Florimel was able to stir up evil rancor, and breed all sorts of dissensions among them; so that all the time of their journey to the tournament, they were full of quarrelings, and hard words more bitter than blows, and many friendships were uprooted which had stood the buffetings of long years.

When they came to the place which Sir Satyrane had appointed, they found many brave Knights and dainty dames already assembled. The eye was dazzled with the many-hued silken streamers, the glitter of freshly polished armor, the gay trappings of the horses, and the bright-colored canopies which were draped over the seats where the ladies would sit to witness the affray. On a carved and glittering pole, reared aloft in the centre of the vast field where they were to strive for victory, hung the peerless girdle which was to be the prize.

This was a girdle of rare virtue, forged for Venus by her cyclops husband, out of the purest gold, inlaid with rare stones, and ornamented with fret-work, the like of which could be equaled by no earthly artificer. But its virtue lay in the fact that none but a woman of rarest goodness and most spotless heart could wear the ornament. If she who fastened it about her waist, hid in her soul aught that could sully its whiteness, or concealed a thought which was not manifestly noble and good, then the strange cestus unclasped and stole to her feet; and no fastening or clasping could ever force it to hold its place upon the person.

This very girdle Venus had given to Florimel when she was cradled on Mount Helicon, and the innocent girl had always worn it until the fatal day of its loss.

Now the first day of the tourney arrived, and the terms of the combat were declared. It was announced that he who was victorious on the third day, should be allowed to claim the fairest of all the dames as his lady, and that to her should belong the golden girdle which her knight’s valor had won.

Then all the hearts of the ladies fluttered with the hope of possessing so rich a prize, and the good right arm of every knight waxed stronger at the thought of laying the girdle at the feet of the lady whom he most admired.

The first day’s heralds sounded the charge. All day long the air was full of the din and dust of conflict; and when at evening the signal was given to close the fight, the stout Sir Satyrane sat alone in the field as victor over all the others. On the second day also Sir Satyrane fought gallantly, till at length Triamond, the sworn knight of Candace, won fortune to his lance’s side, and remained at last the conqueror of all the field.

The third and last day came. Again victory rested for a while upon Sir Satyrane’s spear, till near the very close, the peerless Britomart, breathless with haste, rode into the lists, and with her enchanted weapon, which none could overcome, bore off the glory of the day, and was declared of all the victor.

Then each knignt led forth his lady, and unveiled her face to view, that it might be chosen which was fairest of all the fair. Triamond led Candace, daughter of an Indian king; Britomart revealed the pure, sweet face of Lady Amoret, her beauty shining like an unclouded star, in spite of her long languishing in the dire prison from which she had just been released; Paridell displayed the wicked Duessa, whose false beauty was able to dazzle many eyes; and after scores of other lovely faces had been seen, Sir Blandamour unveiled the semblance of Florimel, whose deceit no one was yet able to detect. Indeed, so often does the vulgar mind prefer the false seeming to the simple truth, and permits itself to be deceived with glittering pretense, that even here the multitude cried out in admiration, and declared that Florimel was never before so radiantly fair.

But those who were not so easily beguiled, said that to their eyes no lady there was so lovely as the sad-eyed Amoret.

Then the umpires offered Florimel to Britomart, whom they supposed a valiant stranger knight. But she rather preferred to hold Amoret as her lady, and openly esteemed her the most beautiful of all. Then they proffered Florimel to Triamond, the second day's victor. But he had long since chosen the wise Candace to be his lady, and would have no other. Last came the umpires to Sir Satyrane, who eagerly accepted the maiden, and called himself most happy to be her liege and protector.

Then was the girdle brought out, and each lady essayed to try on the precious ornament. The base Duessa, the witty Candace, the fairy Cambina, charming Lucida, and many others, attempted to put on the magic cestus. But alas, what shame and confusion ensued, when it was found that from every waist it slipped away, and refused to clasp itself! At length came Amoret’s turn, and she binding the golden zone about her slender waist it fitted as if she had been its rightful mistress. Unclasping it, she handed it, last of all, to the false Florimel, whom each believed its real owner. How amazed were all the lookers-on to behold that as fast as Florimel could clasp it on, it coiled away and slid from her grasp, so that no force could fix it on her person.

At last, red with rage and shame, the false maiden dashed it under her feet, and declared the girdle had lost its charm, and was no longer true. Then so eager were many knights to believe that none but holy thoughts could dwell in so fair a temple, that they began to doubt the virtue of the divine cestus, and disbelieved in the charm which it was said to possess.

As the knights made ready to depart, a contest arose among some of the baser sort about the false Florimel. Already by her subtle arts she had begun to sow discord among them; and although Sir Satyrane had won her love in honorable combat, many of these disputed his right to her. Among these were Paridell, Blandamour, and Braggadochio, who urged his prior claim. At length Satyrane agreed to leave it to the lady’s choice; and moved by her own spritish fancy, she chose the braggart knight, whose temper was of the sort that pleased her best. So, leaving Sir Satyrane alone in his disappointment, she rode away with her chosen knight, and the whole party dispersed far and wide.


It becomes us now to return to the true Florimel, whom all this time we have left in the little boat with the fisherman, afloat upon the bosom of the sea. Several miles had the waves, assisted by the slight oars which the maiden wielded skillfully, borne them from the shore before the aged fisherman awakened. When at first he saw the vision in his boat, with holy face and golden hair, her zone unbound and her garment flowing loosely from her white throat, he believed her a creature of gentler mould than earth, and cowered in his side of the boat, fearing to address her, lest she proved some powerful spirit of the air. But soon, with tearful accents, Florimel told him her story, and how, pursued by such dire peril, she had sought shelter in his little shallop.

She told him of her royal birth, and promised him a dear reward in the future if he would set her on some safe shore. Then the old man, seeing the gleam of jewels on her round arms, and the rings on her fingers and in her dainty ears, and many signs of wealth about her, began to plot within himself to rob her, and afterwards to cast her body into the deep. When the black spirit of Avarice thus stirred within his breast, he seized the maiden with rude grasp and tried to tear off her jewels. She shrieked aloud with fear, and struggling in his grasp, called aloud on the spirits that guard injured innocence to succor her.

At her cry a strange sight appeared. On the crest of the waves was seen a pearly chariot, lined with pale amber, drawn by six finny creatures, whose scaly sides shed forth a translucent glow, like pale moonlight. Within was seated the enchanter Proteus, his white hair and beard flowing to his waist. He hastened on his finny steeds to the maiden’s rescue; and no sooner had he reached the boat than he drew Florimel into his chariot, and with one blow sank the frail shallop. Then seizing the ancient fisher, he belabored him lustily with his forked trident, and lashing him to the back of one of the scaly monster who spouted about him, he sent him to be cast upon the shore, more dead than alive from fear and punishment.

Florimel had fallen into a deep swoon, and Proteus bore her unconscious to his palace underneath the waves. There he gave her in charge to the aged sea-nymph, Panope, who bore her to a secluded chamber and attended her with gentle kindness.

When Florimel recovered, she found herself in a huge vaulted hall lined with opal and pearl. Corals, red and white, bore upon their branching arms cushioned couches, on one of which the weary maiden found herself reclining. A lamp hung from the arched ceiling, swaying with the motion of the sea-waves, and the gentle rocking of her couch invited soft slumbers to the eyes of Florimel when she should like to refresh herself with sleep.

Here many days did Florimel abide, waited on by Panope, who saw in the maiden’s beauty, as in a glass, the reflex of her own loveliness in those days of her youth when she had sported with the sea-nymphs, her sisters, before the time that Proteus had brought her hither to attend in his rock-built mansion.

Not now were all the troubles of Florimel a at an end. Proteus beheld how fair the maiden was, and forgetful of her mortal birth, he sought her for his bride. But she, fearing such a suitor, and remembering her love for Marinell, which she still cherished in despite of the story of his cruel death, told Proteus she could wed none but an earthly knight.

Proteus, who can take as many shapes as there are fancies, took at once the image of a mortal gentleman; and finding the maiden still averse, he tried in turn all different shapes, striving in each to win her heart.

At length, finding her always unwilling, he grew angry and threw her into a dreadful black and noisome dungeon underneath the bellowing waves.

This dungeon was built beneath a jagged rock, and was inclosed by no walls. But all about it swam fearful monsters whose wide mouths gaped to swallow whosoever should venture outside the limits of the rock. Here Florimel languished many weary days and nights, praying for death, and filling the waves with sound of her cries and groans.

In the mean time, by the great skill of Tryphon, Marinell had been restored to life and health. All the daughters of Nereus held great rejoicing, and Cymoent attended a great feast under the waters, where all the sea-gods were present at the festivities. Of this feast Marinell could not partake, because, being a son of earth, he could not eat at the table of the immortals. So while they sat at the feast, he wandered away and seated himself beside an overhanging rock near the dwelling of Proteus. While he thus sat musing, he heard a voice com- plaining thus:—

“Gods of the sea, if ye have any pity for a maid who suffers without cause, deliver me from this sad abode, where I lie nearing my death. Or if you have no power to help me hence, at least let me die, who living am naught but unhappy. Is this the punishment of my too great love for Marinell, who loved me not at all? If it be so, carry my last sigh to him, where he dwells among the immortals, and tell him that for love of him Florimel was glad to die.”

When Marinell heard these lamentings, his heart, before so hard, was touched with tender pity; and as he listened to her sobs and moans, which would have moved a heart of flinty stone, he began to devise how he might set free the maiden who languished in such a vile prison.

Straightway he went to his mother, Cymoent, and told her what captive was held by Proteus in his watery dungeon. With moving pity he besought her aid for Florimel. Cymoent, who could refuse him nothing, went at once to Neptune, to pray for the maiden’s release, and the sea-king forced Proteus to give her up.

Then Cymoent bore Florimel to her own bower under the waves, and nursed her with tenderest care, and each day Marinell drank in from her sweet eyes whole draughts of that fateful passion from which formerly the careful Cymoent had guarded him. The sea-nymph no longer feared the prophecy of Proteus, because Neptune had given his protection to the happy pair.

When she was recovered from her imprisonment, Marinell brought his lovely bride to Faery-land, and the day was fixed when the nuptials should be celebrated. All the court of Faery was bidden to attend, and great preparations were made for feast and tournament.

When the guests were well-nigh assembled, Braggadochio rode in with a veiled lady, and dismounting led her with him to the guest-hall. This lady was no less than the false Florimel whom before he had borne away from Sir Satyrane’s tourney. When she had taken off her veil, and all present had beheld her, there was much whispering and confusion among the guests. For all who looked on her, were ready to declare that this was their fair hostess, whom they had seen only a little time before, moving among the knights and dames as the bride of Prince Marinell. Even Marinell himself, suddenly entering, started back in amaze at beholding the false Florimel, knowing well he had just left his lovely wife in an inner hall.

But Athegall, the knight of Britomart, who was present to grace the tourney with brave deeds, cried out that this was no true lady, and no mate for Florimel.

“In proof of which,” he cried, “I challenge that Florimel herself be brought forth and set beside this other.”

Upon this they brought. forth the true Florimel adorned with all modest graces, the roses interlacing with lilies in her fair face. Her they placed beside the waxen figure “like a true saint beside an image set,” and all at once the enchanted damsel vanished, as a snow-wreath melteth into air, leaving nothing behind but the magic girdle of Florimel, which she had always borne about with her.

Then once more the charmed zone was fitted about its mistress’ waist, where it clung as if it would never part from it more.

And thus, as glorious day succeeds thick and gloomy night, did the troubled fortunes of Florimel give way to an unclouded wedded life whose happiness was unsurpassed in song or story.