Saturday, May 17, 2014

Horrid all with gold - Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 7

King Arthur shows up! It just took seven cantos to go from mere chivalric romance to Arthurian romance!

I'm going to hazard an allegorical reading here. As Duessa is the daughter of Deceit and Shame, I'm assuming that she's Duplicity. Certainly that fits in with her actions. And so Duplicity puts the soul into peril. Again.

Duessa leads the knight to a fountain that saps the strength. where he is attacked by
An hideous Geunt, horrible and hye,
That with his tallnesse seemd to threat the skye;
As he has drunk from the fountain, he's no match for the Giant, who the poem makes a pretty fierce opponent as it is. Luckily (I guess) for the Redcrosse Knight, Duessa pleads for his life suggesting tha that Orgoglio not kill the knight but,
But vanquisht thine eternall bondslave make
Which is a better than being
pouldred all as thin as flowre.

Orgoglio (funny how Duessa knew his name) makes her his mistress, treating her quite well:
He gave her gold and purple pall to weare,
And triple crowne set on her head full hye,
An her endowd with royall majestye.
More allegory coming, though I haven't puzzled this one out yet. Duessa then rides a beast, much like a hydra, but it's not just a monster, because it
prowdly threw to ground, as things of naught;
And underneath his fithly feet did tread
The sacred thinges, and holy heastes foretaught
Hmmm… False Deceit rides a monster that stomps on holy things.

We then turn to Una who learns what really happened to the Redcrosse Knight. Given that she's already been told that he's been killed, it's sort of surprising that hearing that he's just been captured by a giant makes her faint. Three times. Keeps the Dwarf busy waking her up again.

Truth gets another protector. Other than the reference to Merlin creating his armor, the only way we know that it's King Arthur is in the quatrain at the beginning of the canto:
The Redcrosse knight is captive made
By Gyaunt proud opprest :
Prince Arthure meets with Una great-
ly with those newes distrust.
Or, not yet a king, since he's still Prince Arthur. He's clearly a Pendragon, as in the wonderful description of his armor, Spenser writes,
His haughtie Helmet, horrid all with gold,
Both glorious brightnesse and great terrour
For all the crest a Dragon did enfold
With greedie pawes, and over all did spredd
His golden wings:
The dragon-helmed prince, whose description runs for eight stanzas, trades aphorisms with Una, in which it is concluded that faith and reason are stronger than despair. She tells her story, and that of the Redcrosse knight. She describes Duessa as
Mine onely foe, mine onely deadly dread
which seems like a reasonable view for Truth to take of Deceit (if I've puzzled out Duessa's identity properly). And so the prince promises to help Una, telling her,
But be of cheare, and comfort to you take;
For till I have acquitt your capitve knight,
Assure your selfe I will not you forsake.
So it looks like Una has a protector and the Redcross Knight has a rescuer.

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