The Faerie Queene – Book II (Part I)

The Faerie Queene

Book II

Contayning
The Legende of the Sir Gvyon
Or
Of Temperaunce
Canto I
Guyon by Archimage abusd,
The Redcrosse knight awaytes,
Findes Mordant and Amauia slaine
With pleasures poisoned baytes.
Temperance
Giotto
source Wikiart
As soon as Archimago discovers that Redcrosse has departed, he uses secret means to escape from the dungeon.  There is nothing he likes better than tricking people and making them miserable and so he endeavours to ruin another life.  Coming upon a goodly knight, Guyon, accompanied by an old Palmer, Archimago leads him to a woman with rent clothes and dishevelled hair, and with his prompting, she reveals her rapist as the Redcrosse knight!  Guyon is astounded as he knows Redcrosse as an honourable knight, but there is nothing to it but to wreak revenge on his licentious behaviour.  He does not know, however that the woman is false Duessa who was found wandering by Archimago after Arthur had defeated Orgoglio.  
Yet as Guyon goes to attack Redcrosse, he has second thoughts upon seeing the cross on his shield, and begs his forgiveness.  He explains why they were almost foes, whereupon the Palmer approaches and blesses Redcrosse in his endeavours.  Plighting their goodwill, the knights go their own ways, Guyon and the Palmer meeting many challenges, until one day they come across a lamenting mother and child, but even more astounding, a bleeding woman with a baby playing in her lap and a corpse of a knight at her feet.  Removing the knife from her body and repairing her wounds, he inquires of her plight.  Her name is Amavia, and her husband Mordant left her pregnant to pursue exploits, but he is captured by the enchantress Acrasia, who lives in the Bower of Bliss and tempted him with immorality and pleasure.  Dressed as a pilgrim, she seeks her husband but he knows her not when she finds him.  They escape but not before Acrasia places a fatal curse on the man.  As Amavia finishes her story, she dies of grief and Guyon and the Palmer bury the couple, plotting revenge for the waste of these two lives.
Canto II
Babes bloudie hands may not be clensd,
the face of golden Meane.
Her sisters two Extremities:
striue her to banish cleane.

Allegory of Temperance (1685)
Luca Giordano
source Wikiart
Guyon, with compassion, attempts to wash the blood off the orphaned baby’s hands, yet they will not wash clean.  The Palmer explains that fountains and pools may have different properties and there is a story behind this one.  At this particular well, a nymph met Faunus, and fleeing and having no escape, Diana transformed her into a stone. The stone is shaped like a maid and the waters flow around like tears.  The baby’s hand cannot be cleansed by this well, but allows it to be a sacred symbol of his mother’s innocence.
Arriving at a castle inhabited by three women with different mothers, Guyon is welcomed by the middle sister, Medina, who leads him to a lovely bower.  However, the news of his arrival reaches the sisters who are entertaining their knights, Sir Hudibras and Sir Sans-loy, the latter who had tried to kidnap Una.  Before they can attack Guyon, they fall into battle among themselves, leaving Guyon to inquire as to what is happening.  When they see him, they fall upon him, but he defends himself quite adequately until Medina attempts to separate them with pleas and recriminations.  Finally they bow to her wise arguments and agree to dine with her, but the two sisters are unhappy.  Elissa refuses to eat, feeling the entertainment base, yet Perissa enjoys all in excess.  But Medina, with strong grace and behaviour, keeps all in check and inquires of Guyon’s purpose.  He is a knight of the Faerie Queene, on a mission with the Palmer to overcome false Acrasia. Then at Medina’s behest, he tells the story of Mordant and Amavia, until it is bedtime.
Canto III
Vaine Braggadocchio getting Guyons
horse is made the scorne
Of knighthood trew, and is of fayre
Bephoebe fowle forlorne.

Maidens picking flowers by a stream (1911)
John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart
Guyon names the orphaned child, Ruddymane, and leaves him with Medina to care for. Since his steed was stolen by a secret thief, he continues on foot to Acrasia.  But now the horse thief is revealed: Braggadocio, who comes upon a man, Trompart, and threatens him into becoming his servant, although we wonder if servant might be more clever than master?  They meet up with Archimago, who because of Braggadocio’s bearing, thinks he may be able to assist him in his search for Redcrosse and Guyon.  
He asks Trompart why his master has no sword, but the servant swears that he is a doughty knight even with only a spear.  Archimago suddenly blurts out his vengeful plan and the two promise to help, although Archimago is still concerned with Braggadocio’s lack of a sword.  In spite of Braggadocio’s bragging of his conquests without one, Archimago promises him King Arthur’s flaming sword, disappearing unexpectedly, severely scaring the master and servant.  With trepidation, they journey through a forest and discover a maiden, Belphoebe.  She is so astoundingly beautiful that to attempt to describe her would disgrace her beauty, and she is clad in lily white garments.  She inquires of Trompart if he has seen a deer which she had maimed, then seeing Braggadocio behind the bush where he’d crept in cowardice, thinking him game she moves to kill him yet is stayed by Trompart.  Braggadocio attempts flattery, asking why with her beauty she is not at court, yet Belphoebe instructs him that true honour is found in the woods doing honest labour.  When he tries to embrace her, she flees, and the two set off again, the poor horse disgusted with his ignoble burden.
Canto IV
Guyon does Furor bind in chaines,
and stops Occasion:
Deliuers Phedon, and therefore
by strife is rayld upon.

Temperantia (1872)
Edward Burke-Jones
source Wikiart
The Palmer continues to assist the horseless Guyon and lead him in the ways of temperance.  Together they approach a mad old man dragging a young man by the hair, and an old hag limping behind them shouting insults at the stripling and striking him with stones and her cane.  Her face was unpleasantly wrinkled and her hair hung down the front of her face, but a large bald patch was at the back.  Guyon is appalled and tries to free the youth, but the madman goes bezerk and the Palmer introduces him as Furor and the hag, his mother, as Occasion.  He cannot be killed by the sword, and it is best to subdue Occasion first, whereupon Guyon overpowers her, then binds Furor in chains.  
The captive man then begins to tell his story:  he once had a friend, Philemon, who betrayed him upon his pending marriage to Claribell, implying that his fiancée was not faithful.  He tricked him by setting up a scenario where Philemon seduced a maid, Pyrene, who was pretending to be Claribell (yes, this is the same plot as in Much Ado About Nothing). Enraged, the man killed Claribell, and when Pyrene confessed all, he also dispatched Philemon with poison.  The two find that the man’s name is Phaon from the house of Coradin, and the Palmer begins to counsel temperance, when they are interrupted by a squire, Atin, who is looking for Occasion for his own master Pyrocles, who loves battle and war.  The Palmer is shocked that someone would look for an occasion to fight since occasion will find you without the looking. Guyon agrees, and the squire, in pique, shoots a dart at them before running off.
Canto V
Pyrochles does with Guyon fight,
And Furors chayne vnbinds
Of whom sore hurt, for his reuenge
Attin Cymochles finds.

Two Knights Fighting in a Landscape (1824)
Eugene Delacroix
source Wikiart
Pyrochles makes an appearance, riding a blood-red horse and he summarily attacks Guyon.  Guyon is fortunate enough to wound the horse, whereupon Pyrochles must fight him on foot.  The two exchange staggering, intense blows until Guyon brings his foe to his knees, then lays him out until he cries mercy for his life.  Using temperance, Guyon mediates his rage until he concedes to spare his life if he will be loyal to him.  Pyrochles is embarrassed but Guyon says he need not be, only control his rage and lust for war as it does not benefit anyone, either friend or foe.  Pyrochles frees Occasion who wants him to fight Guyon again but Furor, when freed, begins battle with Pyrochles.  When he calls on Guyon for help, the Palmer stays him, saying Pyrochles deserves his fate, but Atin thinks his master is slain and runs to tell Pyrochles’ brother, Cymochles, who is known for his feats in battle and whose lover is Acrasia, keeper of the Bower of Bliss. Finding him being petted and tended by women in the bower, Atin taunts him to embarrassment and he rushes off to avenge his brother.
Canto VI
Guyon is of immodest Merth,
led into loose desire,
Fights with Cymochles, whiles his bro-
ther burnes in furious fire.

Young Woman in a Boat (1870)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
source Wikiart
Inflamed with rage, Cymochles comes to a river where a little boat adorned with boughs and arbours lies.
And therein sate a Ladie fresh and faire,
     Making sweet solace to her selfe alone;
     Sometimes she sung, as loud as larke in aire,
     Sometimes she laught, that nigh her breth was gone,
     Yet was there not with her else any one,
     That might to her moue cause of meriment:
     Matter of merth enough, though there were none
     She could deuise, and thousand waies inuent,
To feede her foolish humour, and vaine iolliment.
She agrees to ferry Cymochles across the river, but refuses Atin in spite of her passenger’s entreaties. Phædria, for that is her name, continues her frivolous behaviour by placing flowers in her hair and generally acting silly.  When questioned by him, she reveals they both serve Acrasia and finally she lands him on an island in Idle Lake.  With Cymochles lulled to sleep, she returns and picks up Guyon, (less the Palmer, to whom she refuses passage) who is at first polite to her, but when she begins her immodest merriment, “her dalliance he despised”.  When they land on the island, Guyon is frosted because he did not want to come there.  Cymochles awakes, finds the pair, and he battles Guyon, yet Phædria finally assuages their rage, entreating love and romance instead of war.  Guyon returns to shore and spies Atin, who soon sees a knight running for the lake.  It is Pyrochles, who thinks he is burning with fire though none can see it, and he launches himself into the lake. Atin jumps in to save him from drowning and they are both captured by the muddy waters and have to be rescued by Archimago.  Then with herbs, balms and a spell, Archimago quenches Furor’s fire.
Spell Fire
Konstantin Vasilyev
source Wikiart
There is a curious echo of appearance versus reality at Idle Lake.  The lake itself appears different to each of the characters and while Pyrochles claims he’s burning, no one can see the flames.  Is there an element of illusion that comes with intemperance?
✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ ✝ ✜ 
It’s a relief to pick up The Faerie Queene again and resume my posts.  For some reason, it seems like less effort this time.  
Phew, what drama!  The lessons of Temperance are quite easy to spot in these cantos. We’ll see how Books VII- XII progress and if Guyon is eventually tempted to intemperance.  He’s done quite well so far, better than Redcrosse I would judge, but the book is yet young.  And does Guyon ever regain his horse?
⇦  The Faerie Queen – Book I (Part II)   The Faerie Queen – Book II (Part II)  ⇨


Other Reading:

The Faerie Queene ~ Book I (Part II)

The Faerie Queene

Book 1
Contayning
The Legende of the Knight of the Red Crosse
Or
Of Holinesse

 

So far this is proving a much more difficult read than anticipated.  It does get easier as you get used to the style and delivery, but there is so much information and I do want to cover as much as I can in my reviews in case I never read it again.  I mean I want to read it again, but right now it’s rather exhausting.  Cantos I to VI introduced us to the Redcrosse Knight and Una, documenting Redcrosse’s descent into sin and Una’s unwavering faith in him.  The following cantos conclude Book I.

 

Canto VII
The Redcrosse knight is captive made
By Gyaunt proud opprest,
Prince Arthur meets with Vna great-
ly with those newes distrest.
When Duessa returns to the House of Pride to find Redcrosse gone, she hurries quickly after him and finds him near a fountain, resting in the shade. Using her manipulative wiles, she reproaches him for his dissertion and soon all is well between them. However, this fountain is not a regular fountain but a nymph cursed by the goddess Diana for laziness, and anyone who drinks of it will suffer faintness and lose his strength.  Is the spiritual lethargy of the nymph a parallel to the spiritual laziness of Redcrosse as he allows himself to be drawn further away from Truth?   In any case, of course Redcrosse drinks from the fountain and is soon content to sit chat though his strength fades and he becomes careless of his reputation.  Suddenly a great noise is heard and the earth trembles, as a giant, Orgoglio emerges from the wood.  Redcrosse has no time to take up his armour or weapons but Duessa pleads with the giant, promising them both as slaves in exchange for his good treatment.  He takes Duessa, seating her on a monster with seven heads, but throws Redcrosse into the dungeon.  The Dwarf, however, has seen all and gathering up his master’s armour and departs, whereupon he meets Una on the road flying from the lecherous Paynim.  Seeing the Dwarf, she nearly faints and the Dwarf, equally unhappy, must help her recover to tell his tale of Redcrosse. Although his words almost tear her heart in two, she gains control and they set off together, soon coming across a knight with a gorgous diamond shield, who wishes to help her.  After spurning his assistance, she finally relates her story of her father and mother being held captive by the dragon, her travels to the court of Gloriana, the Faerie Queene, for help, and her hero Redcrosse who has been diverted and now is captive of the giant.  This knight, whom we believe is King Arthur, pledges to help Una in her distress.
Canto VIII
Faire virgin to redeeme her deare
brings Arthur to the fight:
Who slayes the Gyant, wounds the beast,
and strips Duessa quight.
Una and Arthur search for Redcrosse and with the Dwarf’s help, soon arrive at the castle of the Giant. Bringing out a gold-tasselled magic horn, he blows, all the doors of the castle fly open, and the Giant investigates.  They fight, and as the giant, Orgoglio, misses with a club-strike, Arthur turns and lops off his arm.  Duessa, on her monster, rushes to his aid, but when she is blocked by Arthur’s squire, she puts a spell on him and sends her monster to finish him off.  Rushing to his aid, Arthur strikes off one of the heads of the monster and:
“His monstrous scalpe downe to his teeth it tore,
And that misformed shape mis-shaped more;
A sea of bloud gusht from the gaping wound,
That her gay garments staynd with filthy gore,
And ouerflowed all the field around;
That ouer shoes in bloud he waded on the ground.”
Enraged, the giant attacks again, knocking Arthur to the ground but, behold, the knight unveils his shield and everyone is hit with a most wondrous, brilliant brightness which dazes the giant and Arthur is able to cut off his leg, then his head, where on his death, Orgoglio vanishes.  Grief manifests in anger in Duessa as:
“Her golden cup she cast vnto the ground,
And crowned mitre rudely threw aside;
such percing griefe her stubborne hart did wound,
That she could not endure that dolefull stound, 
But leauing all behind her, fled away.”
But the squire halted her flight and brought her back to his master.  In contrast, Una is all composure and modesty:
“The royall Virgin, which beheld from farre,
In pensiue plight, and sad perplexitie,
The whole achieuement of this doutfull warre,
Came running fast to greet his victorie,
With sober gladnesse, and myld modestie,
And with sweet ioyous cheare him thus bespake;
Faeire brauch of noblesse, flowre of cheualrie,
That with your worth the world amazed make,
How shall I quite the paines, ye suffer for my sake?”
Arthur goes off in search of Redcrosse and discovers an old wizened man, the giant’s foster-father, with a ring of keys about him.  Strangely, he is always looking backwards instead of forwards, and will not answer any of Arthur’s questions.  Finally, in frustration, Arthur takes the keys and begins to search the dungeons finding the remains of children and the blood of Christians in its depths.  Redcrosse is discovered but he is wan and weak, although in spite of his appearance, Una is overjoyed to see him.  Instead of killing Duessa, they strip her of her garments and, when naked, they find she is an ugly old hag.  Spenser’s description is appalling:
“Her craftie head was altogether bald,
     And as in hate of honorable eld,
    Was ouergrowne with scurfe and filthy scald;
    Her teeth out of her rotten gummes were feld,
    And her sowre breath abhominably smeld;
    Her dried dugs, like bladders lacking wind,
    Hong downe, and filthy matter from them weld;
    Her wrizled skin as rough, as maple rind,
So scabby was, that would haue loathd all womankind.
Ugh!  Duessa flees to the wilds to hide herself and our knights and lady rest at the castle.
Canto IX
His loues and lignage Arthur tells
The knight knit friendly bands;
Sir Treuisan flies from Despayre,
Whom Redcrosse kight withstands.
Before they leave the castle, Una begs Arthur to share his history.  He was raised by an old man named Timon who, in his youth, was concerned with battles and bravery but later became wise, and he raised Arthur to know virtue.  Merlin was also his mentor, but the wizard would not disclose his parentage, only revealing that he was son and heir to a king.  Una wants to know why he is in Faery land, but Arthur does not know, only that he has a wound that bleeds and perhaps there is an eternal reason for his presence which he does not understand.  He has been looking for his lady-love, a Queen of the Faeries, whom he is not sure is real or a dream.  Una and Redcrosse wish him well in his journeys, they exchange gifts, Arthur giving a potion that can heal all wounds, and Redcrosse bestowing on his benefactor a book to save souls.  They then part, although Una is uncertain whether Redcrosse is fit for battle.
But heavens, what should come upon them but a fleeing Knight, looking behind him as if the hounds of hell were on his heels, with a rope hanging from his neck.  Redcrosse forces the Knight, Sir Trevisan, to stop and tell his story.  He was travelling with another knight, Sir Terwin, who was suffering from unrequited love.  One day they met with a terrible villain called Despaire, who played on their griefs and tried to convince them to kill themselves, Sir Terwin with a knife and the Knight with a rope.  With Terwin, Despaire succeeded, but the Knight, Trevisan, fled in terror.  Redcrosse is puzzled over the power of Despaire’s words, but the Knight explains the subtlety of Despaire, how he stealthily weakens one’s power.  Undaunted, they find the cave of Despaire and Redcrosse confronts him, whereupon Despaire gives a long speech on life and wonders why Redcrosse would want to prolong it, since it is full of suffering and the longer one lives the more chance he has to sin.  Death is the end of woes and shouldn’t we all welcome it?  Redcrosse is moved by the speech, so Despaire shows him damn’d ghosts and torments of hell-fire suffering.  Unable to bear it, Redcrosse is about to end his life when Una flies into the fray, snatching the knife from his hand, and chiding him for his weakness; she can see right through this monster.  Despaire, knowing he has lost the battle, attempts to kill himself, but he cannot die until the world has ended.
Una is awesome!
Canto X

Her faithfull knight faire Una brings
to house of Holinesse,
Where he is taught repentance, and
the way to heauenly blesse.

 

Una decides to take Redcrosse to the house of a woman named Caelia, a place of virtue and tranquility, where upon reaching it, they are guided inside by a happy franklin named Zele, and a squire.  Una and Caelia embrace, overjoyed to see each other, although Caelia is surprised to see Redcrosse, as few find them on this narrow path. Her daughters, Fidelia and Speranza, enter, the former in white and carrying a gold cup of wine and water, and the latter clad in blue, yet not so happy as her sister as she holds a silver anchor as she prays.  After a rest, Redcrosse is taken to be instructed by Fidelia in good virtuous conduct and the avoidance of sin.  Yet when the knight begins to despair at his poor behaviour, he is comforted by Speranza (hope), however he still desires death. Una, concerned at his mental state, finds a “Leech” called Patience, and thus Redcrosse begins the healing of his sin, while Amendment, Penance, Remorse, and Repentance subject him to painful, but purifying, experiences.  Una feels his every pain as she sees his struggles but patience wins out, and when his conscience is cured, they visit another sister, Charissa, who has just gone through childbirth. From her, Redcrosse learns of love and righteousness and also is schooled by another woman, Mercy, in the art of graciousness and liberality.

Redcrosse is taken to a Hospital of holiness where seven bearded men have given their lives and service to the heavenly king.  The eldest, the Guardian, has charge and government of the house; the Almer feeds the hungry; the master of the wardrobe distributes the clothes and if he has none, he’d gives his own; the man who assists prisoners and pays their ransom; the man who comforts the sick, especially at the end of their lives; the one who ensures that the dead have a proper burial; and a man who aids the widows and orphans, supplying their needs.  Redcrosse rests there awhile and then climbs a hill to a chapel where an old man, Contemplation, is praying ceaselessly. Grudgingly, Contemplation agrees to help Redcrosse and takes him to a glorious mountain from which they view the City of God.  It is Jerusalem, although Redcrosse notes that while Cleopolis, the city of the Faerie Queene is very fair, it is earthly and cannot compare to the heavenly realms.  Redcrosse is now ready to complete his task, and when he has, Contemplation instructs him to return and he will be dubbed Saint George.  Redcrosse does not feel equal to the task, but the old man reminds him of his promise.  When Redcrosse returns, Una is overjoyed to see him and they take leave of the House of Holiness.

 

Canto XI

The knight with that old Dragon fights
two dayes incessantly;
The third him ouerthrown, and gayns
most glorious victory.



Thinking of her parents, the two approach the kingdom, where they soon spy the dragon lying on a hill.  Noting their approach, he rouses himself, whereupon Redcrosse sends Una up a hill to watch the battle, and the narrator is so unsettled that he calls on his Muse for help with his narration.  The dragon is as vast as many tracts of land, his scaly body “swolne with wrath, & poyson, & with bloudy gore.”  His wings were like the sails of ships, his tail thick, long and pointed with stings, and his mouth and jaws ….. well, let Spenser tell it:

“….. But his most hideous head my toung to tell,
       Does tremble: for his deepe deuouring iawes
      Wide gaped, like the griesly mouth of hell,
Through which into this dark abisse all rauin fell.

And that more wondrous was, in either iaw
     Three ranckes of yron teeth enraunged were,
     In which yet trickling bloud and gobbets raw
     Of late deuoured bodies did appeare,
     That sight thereof bred cold congealed feare:
     Which to increase, and all atonce to kill,
     A cloud of smoothering smoke and sulphur scare
     Out of his stinking gorge forth steemed still,
That all the ayre about with smoke and stench did fill.”

Charging, he bounds almost in joy at his “guest”, and while Redcrosse tries to spear him, the weapon cannot pierce his scaly skin.  The dragon becomes annoyed that he cannot strike the knight and grasps Redcrosse and his horse, carrying them away, but finds them too heavy and lands upon the ground.  Redcrosse finally manages to gain a hit on the dragon’s wing, enraging the beast, who is unused to such treatment.  Bleeding profusely, the dragon hits Redcrosse’s horse and unseats the knight, who tries to strike the dragon on the head, but does not manage to wound the beast.  The dragon sends a stream of fire, searing Redcrosse in his armour.  “Faint, wearie, sore, emboyled, grieued, brent with heat and toil, sounds, armes, smart, & inward fire”, the knight is so injured that he wishes for death, finally falling backwards into something he never expected:

“… Behind his backe vnweeting, where he stood,
     Of auncient time there was a springing well,
     From which fast trickled forth a siluer flood,
     Full of great vertues, and for med’cine good.
     Whylome, before that cursed Dragon got 
     That happie land, and all with innocent blood
     Defyld those sacred waues, it rightly hot
The well of life, ne yet his vertues had forgot.”

Una fears for her knight’s life as he lays there overnight, and she prays for his recovery. How astounded she is in the morning to see him spring from the well, and not only is his body renewed and strengthened, his blade as well, but from what cause is not certain. He strikes the dragon on the skull, making a gaping wound.  The dragon hits Redcrosse with his tail, stabbing him in his shoulder, whereupon Redcrosse answers by amputating the dragon’s tail.  Infuriated, the dragon flies up, then down, grasping the knight’s shield with his claws, but Redcrosse manages to cut off the claws but the foot still holds.  The dragon shoots flames again, and Redcrosse retreats, slipping on some mud into another saviour from death, the tree of life.  Another night passes, with Una devotely praying, and Redcrosse again is renewed in the morning.  The dragon tried to devour Redcrosse with a wide open maw, but Redcrosse stabs him through the mouth, killing the beast, and its fall is so terrible that both Una and Redcrosse are stunned until he realizes his victory, and Una gives thanks to God.

 

Canto XII

Faire Una to the Redcrosse knight
betrouthed is with joy:
Though false Duessa it to barre
her false sleights doe imploy.

 

A watchman tells the King and Queen about the fall of the dragon.  The kingdom rejoices to be released from the terror of the beast, thanking Redcrosse and throwing laurels at his feet while dancing around.  Music fills the air as the maidens crown Una, a virgin fair.  Yet the people’s fear of the dragon keeps them from approaching to close to it, in case its death is not complete.  The king bestows Redcrosse with gifts of ivory and gold and thanks, kisses his daughter and brings both to the palace while the people sing and strew garments at their feet.  There is a feast where Redcrosse recounts his adventures.  The king sheds a tear, not knowing whether to bestow praise or pity on his deliverer but counsels rest.  Yet Redcrosse cannot accept any repose because he owes six years of his service to The Faerie Queene, but the king proclaims that when the six years are over Redcrosse will return to take Una’s hand in marriage and his kingdom. Una enters, appearing like a fresh flower as she’s shed the black garments and veil, and Redcrosse has never seen her more beautiful.  However, a messenger runs in, reading a letter from Duessa/Fidessa stating that Redcrosse is unable to marry Una as he is pledged to her.  Redcrosse sits astonished without a word, but finally the king demands an explanation.  Redcrosse proclaims his innocence, as he was tricked by the false and wicked woman, when he had strayed from the right path.  Una supports his story, and claims the messenger is Archimago himself.  They grab and bind him, and put him in the dungeon, then the king binds Una to Redcrosse with sacred vows and holy water.  The feasting commences, with music and jollity.  Redcrosse’s blissful time with Una lasts long, until he remembers his vow to The Faerie Queene and Una mourns his leaving.

Here is a chart of some of the characters and the symbolism within each, which I found very helpful:

 

Characters_           _Moral_       _Religious and      _Personal and
                                         Spirtual_           Political_

Redcross Knight Holiness Reformed England St George

Una Truth True Religion

Prince Arthur Magnificence, or Protestantism, or Lord Leicester
Private Virtue the Church Militant

Gloriana Glory Spirtual Beauty Queen Elizabeth

Archimago Hypocrisy The Jesuits Phillip II of Spain

Duessa Falsehood False Religion Mary Queen of Scots,
Church of Rome

Orgoglio Carnal Pride Antichrist Pope Sixtus V

The Lion Reason, Reformation by Force Henry VIII,
Natural Honor Civil Government

The Dragon Sin The Devil, Satan Rome and Spain

Sir Satyrane Natural Courage Law and Order Sir John Perrott
in Ireland

The Monster Avarice Greed of Romanism Romish Priesthood

Corceca Blind Devotion, Catholic Penance Irish Nuns
Superstition

Abessa Flagrant Sin Immorality Irish Nuns

Kirkrapine Church Robbery Religious State Irish Clergy
of Ireland and Laity

Sansfoy Infidelity

Sansjoy Joylessness Pagan Religion The Sultan and
the Saracens

Sansloy Lawlessness

The Dwarf Prudence,
Common Sense

Sir Trevisan Fear

The Squire Purity The Anglican Clergy

The Horn Truth The English Bible

Lucifera Pride, Vanity Woman of Babylon Church of Rome

source:  www.archive.org

Rather than summarize the allegory and symbolism, which other readers have done much more adequately than I, instead I’ll note some questions and observations that I had during the reading of Book I.

  • First, and perhaps most importantly, while Redcrosse was actually fighting “real” characters, in effect the fight was within himself.  This is a good lesson for everyone: as difficult as our practical struggles of life may be, our “fight” to gain a righteous character should feel much more arduous.  It’s also important to use discernment, which Redcrosse shows little of at the start, leading him into sin and problems.
  • While Una represents Truth, she does not have control of the situations.  She always hopes yet must lean upon God.
  • Prince Arthur:  okay, he represents private virtue and Protestantism, but he also does not know his true parents.  How does this affect his allegorical and symbolic significance?  Will a revelation occur later in the poem?
  • There is definite tension (and confusion) between appearance and reality until Redcrosse realizes his own human inadequacy and relies on spiritual guidance.
  • Redcrosse has overcome the Dragon, yet the dragon is “sin”, and we cannot be free from sin until we leave this world; will “sin” pop up again in future books?  I would think so.
  • Redcrosse’s three day battle with the dragon, parallels Christ’s three day crucifixion to resurrection, his bath in the well of life parallels Baptism, and his healing at the tree of life, the Eucharist.
  • If the poem is partly a treatise in favour of Protestantism and against Catholicism, why does the king use holy water as he binds the couple?
 

 

The Faerie Queene ~ Book I (Part I)

The Faerie Queene

Book 1
Contayning
The Legende of the Knight of the Red Crosse
Or
Of Holinesse
Canto I
The Patron of true Holinesse,
Foule Errour doth defeate:
Hypocrisie him to entrape,
Doth to his home entreate.
At the behest of the Faerie Queene, the Gentle Knight, or Redcrosse Knight, sets out with his companion, Una, a daughter of a king, who is riding an ass and leading a small lamb.  His quest is to slay a terrible Dragon, that is holding Una’s parents captive. Accompanied by a Dwarf as a servant, the travellers come upon a fierce storm and are forced to take shelter in a forest bower for the night.  When morning dawns, they fear that they have lost their way until they come upon a cave.  Una cautions the Knight, fraught with fearful doubts and premonitions of this den, but the Knight will not heed and enters, “full of fire and greedy hardiment”.  Inside he discovers a terrible monster, Error, surrounded by her young.  He commences a battle:
“Therewith she spewd out of her filthy maw
      A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,
      Full of great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw,
      Which stunck so vildly, that is forst him slacke
      His grasping hold, and from her turne him backe:
      Her vomit full of bookes and papers was,
      With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke,
      And creeping sought way in the weedy gras:
Her filthy parbreake all the place defiled has.”
At Una’s urging, he lops off the head of the monster, whereupon her young engorge themselves with her blood until they burst asunder.  (Are you feeling queasy yet?)  Una and the Knight proceed to look for the right path again, and wander until they come upon an old man, a hermit who takes them to an inn to sleep.  Unbeknownst to our pair, this hermit is the sorcerer, Archimago, and with his magic he conjures up two spirits to beguile our Knight.  One gives the Knight dreams of lust and the other takes the shape of Una offering a kiss when he wakes, yet the Knight resists the temptation.  
Canto II
The guilefull great Enchaunter parts
The Redcrosse Knight from Truth:
Into whose stead faire falsehood steps,
And workes him wofull ruth.


Nonplussed, Archimago puts a sprite in the guise of a young man into bed with Una, and takes the Knight to them upon his waking.  Furious that she has played him so false, the Knight rides off without his lady, and when she discovers his desertion, rides after him, both followed by Archimago disguised as the Redcrosse Knight.
Redcrosse comes across a Saracen Knight travelling with his lady, the daughter of an emperor.  They fight, Redcrosse kills the Knight, Sansfoy, and assumes responsibility for the lady, Fidessa.  Attempting to escape the heat of the sun, they seek the shade of some trees, but when the Knight breaks off a branch, to his horror blood drips from the stem.  A voice informs him that he has injured Fradubio, a knight who had been travelling with his lady, Fraelissa.  Meeting with another knight with his lady, Duessa, he’d fought the knight killing him and took Duessa to his care, not knowing that she was a witch.  Duessa casts a spell, making Fraelissa ugly but one night Fradubio saw Duessa as the monster she was and horrified, he fled but Duessa transformed him into a tree; the spell could only be lifted by him being bathed in “a living well”.  Unbeknownst to the Redcrosse Knight, his new companion is actually Duessa in disguise.
Canto III
Forsaken Truth long seekes he loue,
And makes the Lyon mylde,
Marres blind Deuotions mar, and fals
In hand of Leachour vylde.

Una and the Lion
Briton Rivière
source Wikipedia

Una still wanders, searching for her absent Knight and upon sleeping in the forest, is attacked by a Lion.  However, the Lion is arrested by her beauty and becomes her protector instead.  When they come across a girl carrying water, the girl flees but they follow her to her house and force themselves inside for shelter.  The girl, Abessa, has a blind Catholic mother, Corceca and as the house is asleep, her lover, who is a thief, breaks the door in whereupon the lion kills him, ripping him into tiny pieces.    Una leaves in the morning but the two women set out after her to accuse her of the crime, however they meet Archimago disguised as Redcrosse and inform him of the circumstances.  Archimago finds Una who is overjoyed to discover her “Knight”. Suddenly Sansloy, the brother of the slaughtered Sansfoy, approachs and fights with Archimago, nearly killing him until the magician reveals himself. Una, realizing Archimago’s perfidy, is caught by Sansloy, the Lion is killed by him and Una is at his mercy.
Canto IV
To sinfull house of Pride, Duessa
guides the faithfull knight,
Where brothers death to reak Sansloy
doth chalenge him to fight.
Redcrosse and Duessa/Fidessa come upon a lovely and princely palace, the sinful House of Pride; while it appears stately and magnificent, it is constructed in a weak and ruinous fashion, its foundation unstable.  They enter a large hall were numerous people are gathered and the lady of the palace sits on a throne, her beauty as bright as the sun, but her feet rest on a terrible Dragon.  The Knight and Witch are mistaken for royalty and taken to the front by Vanity, but Redcrosse is uncomfortable with the proceedings.  The lady Queen, Lucifera, daughter of Pluto and Prosperina, decides to take a ride in her chariot.  She is not royalty, but is counselled by six wizards and the chariot is pulled by six beasts which they ride.  The first advisor is Idleness, who rides a donkey and is lazy, lawless, and shaking with a fever; riding on a pig comes Gluttony, eating and drinking like one and is useless for anything; now, Lechery sate upon a bearded goat, disgusting looking but drawing weak women into his spell with his outward talents, yet he suffers the sexual disease of the philanderer; Avarice rides on a camel laden with gold which is his god, however he is ill-dressed, thin from want of food, and sad nonetheless; a ravenous wolf carries Envy with a serpent in his bosom, hate for virtue and joy for pain, he is jealous of his own company and despises Poets no less; Wrath rides on a lion, this counsellor completely lacking self-control and allowing anger to overcome him —- even while he regrets his ungovernable rage, he cannot overcome it and bloodshed and strife follow in his wake; and Sathan (Satan) sits on the wagon beam whipping them all. While Duessa stays close to Lucifera, Redcrosse stays back not wishing to be part of this unsettling sight, but Sansjoy arrives wanting to battle to revenge his brother.  The Queen tells them to fight on the morrow.  There is feasting that night but later Duessa creeps to Sansfoy’s chamber to pledge her loyalty to him.  
Canto V
The faithfull knight in equall field
subdewes his faithlesse foe,
Whom false Duessa saues, and for
 his cure to hell does go.


Both Redcrosse and Sansfoy prepare for their battle.  Both knights are strong and dangerous, but Sansfoy has his brother’s shield and memory to spur him on.  The victor is uncertain until Redcrosse finally is about to slay his enemy, however Sansfoy is covered in a cloud.  Puzzled, Redcrosse searches for his foe but the trumpet sounds his victory and he presents the shield of Sansjoy to the Queene, then goes to have his wounds tended.  A distraught Duessa leaves to find Night and ask why she has allowed her dear nephews (the three Sans– brothers) to be in peril.  Night is confused with her concern until she recognized her foul “sister” and she agrees to help Sansfoy.  They find the knight and take him to the Underworld, where Aesculapius, the god of medicine is exiled by Jove for bringing Hippolytus back to life.  Because of his sentence, he is hesitant to help them but finally acquiesces.  Redcrosse learns from the Dwarf that there are hundreds of bodies in the dungeons of the castle, many of them powerful rulers, all victims of Pride, and he leaves to escape that fate.  Duessa finds him gone when she returns.
Canto VI
From lawlesse lust by wondrous grace
fayre Una is releast:
Whom saluage nation does adore,
and learnes her wise beheast.


Una and the Satyrs – Art UK

Redcrosse is upset to have left Duessa behind, but he is even more conflicted over Una and her duplicity.  Una, however, is in a vile predicament as Sansloy means to have his lustful way with her.  In distress, she calls out for help and is answered by Fauns and Satyrs, who terrifies Sansloy so that he flees for his life.  They bow down before Una, then dance around her with gladness and joy, crowning her as Queen with an olive garland.  They take her to their leader, Sylvanus, who is amazed at their joy and Una’s beauty.  Staying with them for a time, she tried to deflect their worship, but when restrained, they worshiped her ass instead.  A knight, a satyr’s son named Satyrane, famed for his courage and his control over the beasts, helps Una to escape her admirers and continue her search for Redcrosse.  They meet a silly travelling pilgrim who informs them of Redcrosse’s death, whereupon Una nearly faints, but recovers to hear his story. The pilgrim informs them that the Paynim, Sansloy, is nearby, so Satyrane finds him and challenges him.  The two fight but when Sansloy sees Una he tries to pursue her but is prevented by his foe.  Una flees far from her lustful enemy, but the Pilgrim sees her go and pursues her.  Yikes!  It is not a pilgrim, but the evil Archimago!  What will happen to Una?

     “But for to tell her lamentable cace,
And eke this battels end, will need another place.”

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Oh, my!  This poem is very challenging and moves very slowly.  It’s obviously going to take much longer than anticipated, and I’m going to have to split my Book posts into part 1 and part 2, so as not to overwhelm myself and others.  Each of the six books has twelve cantos each, so if I split it 6/6, that should do it!  However, June does not seem to be an attainable finish date, nevertheless I will push ahead and see what transpires.
So far I’m really enjoying the poem.  I’m listening to the Librivox recording by Thomas Copeland while I read and it’s very helpful for understanding.  So far, I can see some similarities to Le Morte d’Arthur, but I also hear echoes of Dante.  There is really so much in this poem that can work on so many different levels.  Right now, I’m merely concentrating on understanding what’s happening but when I get more accustomed to it, I hope to be able to delve deeper.  And if I have any energy left after summarizing the cantos, perhaps I’ll even write about it too!