by Edmund Spenser (1552 - 1599)

Behold, whiles she before the altar...
Language: English 
Behold, whiles she before the altar stands,
Hearing the holy priest that to her speakes
And blesseth her with his two happy hands, 
How the red roses flush up in her cheekes,
And the pure snow with goodly vermill stayne,
Like crimsin dyde in grayne:
That even the angels, which continually
About the sacred altar doe remaine, 
Forget their service and about her fly,
Ofte peeping in her face, that seems more fayre
The more they on it stare.
But her sad eyes, still fastened on the ground,
Are governed with goodly modesty, 
That suffers not one look to glaunce awry,
Which may let in a little thought unsownd.
Why blush ye, Love, to give to me your hand,
The pledge of all our band?
[Sing, ye sweet angels, Alleluya sing, 
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.]1

R. Vaughan Williams sets lines 18-19

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Confirmed with The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser, Volume V, edited by Francis J. Child, London: Imprinted for William Ponsonbie, dwelling in Paules Churchyard at the Signe of the Bishops Head, 1591.

Notes from text:
Sad, serious

1 Vaughan Williams: "Sing ye sweet angels, Alleluia / That all the woods them answer, and their echo ring."


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This text was added to the website: 2020-01-12
Line count: 19
Word count: 141