The Faerie Queene/Book I/Notes
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Canto I
- 3 Canto II
- 4 Canto III
- 5 Canto IV
- 6 Canto V
- 7 Canto VI
- 8 Canto VII
- 9 Canto VIII
- 10 Canto IX
- 11 Canto X
- 12 Canto XI
- 13 Canto XII
Line 1. Lo I the man.... An imitation of the opening lines of Vergil's Aeneid:—
"Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulatus avena
Gratum opus agricolis, at nunc horrentia Martis."
Referring to his Shepheards Calender (1579) Spenser thus gracefully indicates his change from pastoral to epic poetry.
5-9. Knights and Ladies. The poet here imitates the opening of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.
10. O holy virgin chiefe of nine, refers to Clio, the muse of history. Spenser should have invoked Calliope, the muse of poetry.
14. Of Faerie knights, the the champions of Gloriana, the queen of Faerieland. fairest Tanaquill, a British princess, daughter of Oberon, king of Faerieland. In the allegory she is Queen Elizabeth.
15. that most noble briton prince is Prince Arthur, the perfect knight, who is in love with Gloriana. In the allegory the Earl of Leicester is probably meant, though by one tradition Sir Philip Sidney is identified with Prince Arthur.
19. impe of highest jove, Cupid, the god of love, and son of Jupiter and Venus. He is represented as armed with an ebony bow (l. 23).
25. triumphant mart, Mars, the god of war. The spelling is that of the Italians and Chaucer.
28. O Goddesse heavenly bright, Queen Elizabeth (aged 56), who was fond of such extravagant flattery, and expected it of all her courtiers.
31. Phoebus lampe, Apollo, the sun-god.
34. glorious type of thine, the Lady Una, who stands for Truth in the allegory.
35. The argument of mine afflicted stile, the subject of my humble pen. "Afflicted" has the original Latin sense of "cast down."
36. O dearest dred, O beloved object of reverence; a common salutation of royalty.
- The Plot: At the bidding of Gloriana, the Redcross Knight undertakes to deliver Una's parents from a dragon who holds them captive. He sets out upon his quest attended by a dwarf and guided by Una, mounted on an ass and leading a lamb. They are driven by a storm into a forest, where they discover the cave of Error, who is slain by the Knight. They are then beguiled into the house of Archimago, an old enchanter. By his magic he leads the Knight in a dream to believe that Una is false to him, and thus separates them.
- The Allegory: 1. Holiness, the love of God, united with Truth, the knowledge of God, is to deliver man from the thraldom of the Devil. Together they are able to overthrow Error; but Hypocrisy deceitfully alienates Holiness from Truth by making the latter appear unworthy of love. 2. There is a hint of the intrigues of the false Roman church and the treacherous Spanish king, Philip II, to undermine the religious and political freedom of the English people. The English nation, following the Reformed church, overthrows the Catholic faith, but is deceived by the machinations of Spanish diplomacy.
Line 1. A gentle knight, the Redcross Knight, representing the church militant, and Reformed England. He is the young, untried champion of the old cause whose struggles before the Reformation are referred to in ll. 3, 4. His shield bore "a cross gules upon a field argent," a red cross on a silver ground. See The Birth of St. George in Percy's Reliques, iii, 3, and Malory's Morte d'Arthur, iii, 65.
15. For soveraine hope, as a sign of the supreme hope.
20. Greatest Gloriana, Queen Elizabeth. In other books of The Faerie Queene she is called Belphoebe, the patroness of chastity, and Britomart, the military genius of Britain.
27. A Dragon, "the great dragon, that old serpent, called the devil," Revelation, xii, 9, also Rome and Spain. Cf. legend of St. George and the dragon, and Fletcher's Purple Island, vii seq.
28. a lovely Ladie, Una, the personification of truth and true religion. Her lamb symbolizes innocence.
46. a Dwarfe, representing prudence, or common sense; according to Morley, the flesh.
56. A shadie grove, the wood of Error. "By it Spenser shadows forth the danger surrounding the mind that escapes from the bondage of Roman authority and thinks for itself."—Kitchin. The description of the wood is an imitation of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, i, 37, Chaucer's Assembly of Foules, 176, and Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, iii, 75. Morley sees in this grove an allegory of man's life, the trees symbolizing trade, pleasure, youth, etc.
69. The sayling Pine. Ships were built of pine.
70. the Loplar never dry, because it grows best in moist soil.
71. The builder Oake. In the Middle Ages most manor houses and churches were built of oak.
72. the Cypresse funerall, an emblem of death among the ancients, and sacred to Pluto. Sidney says that they were wont to dress graves with cypress branches in old times.
73. The Laurell. Victors at the Pythian games and triumphing Roman generals were crowned with laurel. It was also sacred to Apollo, the god of poetry, hence "meed of poets sage."
74. the Firre that weepeth still. The fir exudes resinous substance.
75. The Willow. "Willows: a sad tree, whereof such who have lost their love make their mourning garlands."—Fuller's Worthies, i, 153. Cf. Heywood's Song of the Green Willow, and Desdemona's song in Othello, IV, iii, 39.
76. The Eugh. Ascham in his Toxophilus tells us that the best bows were made of yew.
78. the Mirrhe, the Arabian myrtle, which exudes a bitter but fragrant gum. The allusion is to the wounding of Myrrha by her father and her metamorphosis into this tree.
79. The warlike Beech, because lances and other arms were made of it. the Ash for nothing ill. "The uses of the ash is one of the most universal: it serves the souldier, the carpenter, the wheelwright, cartwright, cooper, turner, and thatcher."—Evelyn's Sylva. The great tree Igdrasil in the northern mythology was an ash.
81. The carver Holme, or evergreen oak, was good for carving.
106. shame were to revoke, etc., it would be cowardly not to go forward for fear of some suspected unseen danger.
114. the wandring wood, i.e. which causes men to go astray.
123. monster. The description of the monster Error, or Falsehood, is based on Hesiod's Echidna, Theog. 301, and the locusts in Revelation, ix, 7-10. She is half human, half serpent, because error is partly true and partly false. Dante's Fraud and Milton's Sin are similar monsters.
126. full of vile disdaine, full of vileness that bred disgust in the beholder.
130. Of her there bred, etc., of her were born a thousand young ones. Her offspring are lies and rumors of many shapes.
141. Armed to point, completely armed. Cf. Fr. à point, to a nicety.
145. the valiant elfe, because he was the reputed son of an Elfin or Faerie, though really sprung from "an ancient race of Saxon kings." Three kinds of elves are mentioned in the Edda: the black dwarfs, and brownies, who both dwelt under ground, and the fair elves, who dwelt in Fairyland or Alfheim. "The difference between Spenser's elves and these Teutonic elves shows how he perverts Fairy mythology in the same way as he does Classical myths."—Percival.
168. His gall did grate for griefe, his anger was aroused on account of pain. In the old anatomy anger had its seat in the gallbladder. See Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, I, i, 2.
177. Her vomit full of bookes, etc. From 1570, when Pope Sixtus V issued his bull of deposition against Queen Elizabeth, to 1590, great numbers of scurrilous pamphlets attacking the Queen and the Reformed church had been disseminated by Jesuit refugees.
181. Nilus. Pliny believed that the mud of the Nile had the power of breeding living creatures like mice. Hist. Nat. ix, 84. So Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, II, vii, 29.
199. gentle shepheard. In this pastoral simile, Spenser imitates Homer's Iliad, ii, 469, and xvii, 641, and Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, xiv, 109.
208. Thus ill bestedd. There is a similar combat in the old romance Guy of Warwick, ix, between the hero and a man-eating dragon.
217. Her scattred brood. The poet here follows a belief as old as Pliny that the young of serpents fed on their mother's blood. In this entire passage the details are too revolting for modern taste.
232. the which them nurst. The antecedent of which is her. In the sixteenth century the was frequently placed before which, which was also the equivalent of who. Cf. the Lord's Prayer.
234. he should contend, he should have had to contend.
237. borne under happy starre. Belief in astrology was once common, and Spenser being a Pythagorean would hold the doctrine of the influence of the stars on human destiny.
239. that Armorie, the armor of the Christian warrior. Ephesians, vi, 13.
243. that like succeed it may, that like successful adventures may succeed it. The word order is inverted for the sake of the rhyme.
250. to frend, as his friend.
254. An aged Sire, the false enchanter, Archimago, or Hypocrisy, who is supposed to represent Pope Sixtus V or King Philip II of Spain. In general he stands for false religion or the Church of Rome. The character and adventure are taken from Orlando Furioso, ii, 12, in which there is a hypocritical hermit. The Knight at first takes Archimago to be a palmer, and inquires for the foreign news.
295. take up your In, take lodging.
301. a little wyde, a little way off.
315. an Ave-Mary, Hail Mary, a prayer to the Virgin. Cf. Luke, i, 28.
317. the sad humour, the heavy moisture, or "slombring deaw."
318. morpheus, the son of Somnus and god of sleep and dreams, who sprinkled the dew of sleep on the brow of mortals from his horn or wings or from a bough dipped in Lethe.
323. His Magick bookes and artes. Monks engaged in scientific investigation, such as Friar Roger Bacon, were popularly supposed to use cabalistic books, and to make compacts with the Devil by means of necromancy, or the black art, as in st. xxxvii. Before the close of the century Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, both based on the popular belief in magic, were presented on the London stage.
328. blacke Plutoes griesly Dame, Proserpine, the avenger of men, and inflicter of curses on the dead. She is identified with Shakespeare's Hecate, the goddess of sorcery, and with Milton's Cotytto, goddess of lust. To this latter sin the knight is tempted.
332. Great Gorgon, Demogorgon, whose name might not be uttered, a magician who had power over the spirits of the lower world. The poet is here imitating the Latin poets Lucan and Statius.
333. Cocytus, the river of wailing, and Styx, the river of hate, both in Hades. There were two others, Acheron, the river of sorrow, and Phlegethon, the river of fire.
335. Legions of Sprights. In this stanza and the preceding Spenser follows Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, xiii, 6-11, where the magician Ismeno, guarding the Enchanted Wood, conjures "legions of devils" with the "mighty name" (l. 332).
339. chose. Imitation of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, ii, 15, in which a false spirit is called up by a hypocritical hermit. The description of the House of Sleep in st. xxxix seq. is modelled on the same poet, Orlando Furioso, ii, 15 seq. The influence of Homer's Odyssey, xi, 16 is seen in st. xxxix, ll. 348 seq.
348. Tethys, the ocean. In classical mythology she is the daughter of Uranus (heaven) and Gaea (earth), and the wife of Oceanus.
349. Cynthia, the moon. The allusion is to the story of Diana and Endymion. See Lyly's play Endymion.
352. Whose double gates. Homer, Odyssey, xix, 562, and Vergil, Aeneid, vi, 893, give the House of Dreams a horn and an ivory gate. Spenser substitutes silver for horn, mirrors being overlaid with silver in his time. From the ivory gate issued false dreams; from the other, true ones.
361. slumber soft. This stanza shows Spenser's wonderful technique. His exquisite effects are produced, it will be noticed, partly by the choice of musical words and partly by the rhythmical cadence of the verse phrases. It is an example of perfect "keeping," or adaptation of sound to sense. Cf. Chaucer's description of the waterfalls in the Cave of Sleep in his Boke of the Duchesse, 162.
376. whose dryer braine, whose brain too dry. In the old physiology, a dry brain was the cause of slow and weak perception, and a moist brain of quickness.
378. all, entirely, altogether.
381. Hecate, queen of phantoms and demons in Hades, and mistress of witches on earth. See xxxvii.
387. the sleepers sent, the sleeper's sense.
405. most like to seeme, etc.. most likely fit to seem for (represent) Una. Like is an adv. A very awkward inversion.
411. borne without her dew, i.e. created by him in an unnatural manner.
425. Fayre Venus, the daughter of Jupiter, or Zeus, and the sea-nymph Dione. She is the same as Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
430. the Graces, Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia, daughters of Zeus and Aphrodite.
431. Hymen Iö Hymen, refrain of an old Roman nuptial song. Hymen, the son of Apollo and the Muse Urania, was the god of marriage.
432. freshest Flora, the goddess of flowers. She typified spring.
447. To prove his sense, etc. To test his perception and prove her feigned truth.
449. Tho can she weepe, then did she weep. Can here is the Northern dialect form for the middle English gan, past tense of ginnen, to begin, which was used as an auxiliary.
454. the blind God, Cupid, Eros, or Amor, the god of love.
478. Like other knights of romance, e.g. Sir Galahad and Sir Gareth in Malory's Morte d'Arthur, iii, 65, etc., the Redcross Knight does not yield to the temptation of the flesh, but overcomes it.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. Tell in your own words the story of this canto. 2. Which muse does Spenser invoke? 3. Who were the nine muses? 4. What is the difference between pastoral and epic poetry? 5. Illustrate by The Shepheards Calender and the The Faerie Queene. 6. Point out imitations of Homer, Vergil, Lucan, Statius, Ariosto, Tasso, and Chaucer. 7. Explain the reference to the religious questions and politics of Queen Elizabeth's reign. 8. Where does Spenser use classical mythology—mediæval legends? 9. What references to the Bible do you find? 10. Try to make a mental picture of the Knight—of Una—of Error—of Archimago. 11. Is Spenser's character drawing objective or subjective? 12. Is the description of the wood in VII true to nature? Could so many trees grow together in a thick wood? 13. Study the Rembrandt-like effects of light and shade in xiv. 14. What infernal deities are conjured up by Archimago?
16. Explain use of of in l. 75. 17. What part of speech is wandering l. 114? to viewen l. 201? parse which l. 232; him and spend l. 233; you and shew l. 276. 18. Find examples of Euphuistic hyperbole in IV, of alliteration in XIV. 19. Explain the use and form of eyne, edified, afflicted, weeds, Hebean, impe, compeld, areeds, blazon, ycladd.
I. The Plot: Deceived by Archimago's phantoms, the Redcross Knight suspects the chastity of Una, and flies at early dawn with his dwarf. He chances to meet the Saracen Sansfoy in company with the false Duessa. They do battle and Sansfoy is slain. Duessa under the name of Fidessa attaches herself to the Knight, and they ride forward. They stop to rest under some shady trees, On breaking a bough, the Knight discovers that the trees are two lovers, Fradubio and Fraelissa, thus imprisoned by the cruel enchantment of Duessa.
II. The Allegory: 1. Hypocrisy under a pious disguise is attractive to Holiness. Truth is also deceived by it, and shamefully slandered. Holiness having abandoned Truth, takes up with Falsehood, who is attended by Infidelity. Unbelief when openly assailing Holiness is overthrown, but Falsehood under the guise of Faith remains undiscovered. The fate of the man (Fradubio) is set forth who halts between two opinions,—False Religion (Duessa) and Heathen Philosophy, or Natural Religion (Fraelissa).
2. The Reformed Church, no longer under the guidance of Truth, rushes headlong into Infidelity, and unwittingly became the defender of the Romish Faith under the name of the True Faith. There is a hint of the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots and the libels of the Jesuits on Queen Elizabeth designed to bring back the English nation to Romish allegiance.
Line 1. the Northerne wagoner, the constellation Boötes.
2. his sevenfold teme, the seven stars of Ursa Major, or Charles's Wain. the stedfast starre, the Pole-star, which never sets.
6. chearefull Chaunticlere, the name of the cock in the fabliaux and beast epics, e.g. Roman de Renart and Reineke Fuchs.
7. Phœbus fiery carre, the sun.
11. that faire-forged spright, fair but miscreated spirit (I, xiv). Spenser took suggestions for this stanza from Ariosto and Tasso.
51. faire Hesperus, the evening star.
55. the rosy-fingred Morning. This beautiful epithet of Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, is borrowed from Homer, Hesiod, and other ancient poets.
56. aged Tithones, son of Laomedon, King of Troy. Aurora conferred upon him immortality without youth, hence the epithet "aged."
58. Titan, the sun-god in the Roman myths.
85. Proteus, a sea-god who was endowed with the power of prophecy. He could change himself into any shape in order to avoid having to prophesy. See Homer, Odyssey, iv, 366 seq., and Vergil, Georgics, iv, 387.
90. herbes. In the sixteenth century the belief in potions, magic formulas, etc., was still strongly rooted in the popular mind. The Spanish court and the priests were supposed to employ supernatural agencies against the Protestants.
105. A faithless Sarazin. Spenser uses the word Saracen in the general sense of pagan. During the Middle Ages the Saracen power was a menace to Europe, and the stronghold of infidelity. The names of the three Paynim brethren, Sansfoy, Sansjoy, and Sansloy,—faithless, joyless, and lawless,—suggest the point of view of Spenser's age.
109. a faire companion, the enchantress Duessa, or Falsehood, who calls herself Fidessa. In the allegory Spenser intended her to represent the Romish church and Mary Queen of Scots. Her character and appearance were suggested by the woman of Babylon, in Revelation, viii, 4, Ariosto's Alcina, and Tasso's Armida.
136. As when two rams. This figure is found in Vergil, Apollonius, Malory, Tasso, Dante, and other poets and romancers.
141. the hanging victory, the victory which hung doubtful in the balance.
144. The broken reliques, the shattered lances.
148. Each others equall puissaunce envies, each envies the equal prowess of the other.
149. through their iron sides, etc., through their armored sides with cruel glances, etc.
155. the bitter fit, the bitterness of death.
158. assured sitt, etc., sit firm (in the saddle), and hide (cover) thy head (with thy shield).
160. With rigour so outrageous, with force so violent.
161. That a large share, etc., that a large piece it (the sword) hewed, etc.
162. from blame him fairly blest. 1, fairly preserved him from hurt; 2, fairly acquitted him of blame. Him in (1) refers to the knight, in (2) to the Saracen. (1) is the better interpretation.
169. grudging. Because reluctant to part from the flesh.
196. daughter of an Emperour. Duessa represents the Pope, who exercised imperial authority in Rome, though the seat of the empire had been transferred to Constantinople in 476.
200. the only haire. The dauphin of France, the first husband of Mary Queen of Scots, afterwards King Francis II, son of Henry II. Duessa's story is full of falsehoods.
243. so dainty they say maketh derth, coyness makes desire. The knight is allured on by Duessa's assumed shyness.
251. ne wont there sound, nor was accustomed to sound there.
254. cool shade. The Reformed Church, weakened by Falsehood, is enticed by doubt and skepticism.
262. faire seemly pleasaunce, pleasant courtesies.
263. With goodly purposes, with polite conversation. This whole stanza refers to Mary's candidacy for the English throne and its dangers to Protestantism.
269. He pluckt a bough. In this incident Spenser imitates Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, vi, 26, in which Ruggiero addresses a myrtle which bleeds and cries out with pain. The conception of men turned into trees occurs also in Ovid, Vergil, Tasso, and Dante.
272. O spare with guilty hands, etc. Cf Vergil's account of Polydorus in Aeneid, iii, 41, in which a myrtle exclaims, Parce pias scelerare manus, etc.
284. from Limbo lake, here, the abode of the lost. With the Schoolmen, Limbo was a border region of hell where dwelt the souls of Old Testament saints, pious heathen, lunatics, and unbaptized infants. Cf. Milton's Paradise of Fools, Paradise Lost, iii, 495.
291. Fradubio, as it were "Brother Doubtful," one who hesitates between false religion and pagan religion, Duessa and Fraelissa (Morley). Fraelissa is fair but frail, and will not do to lean upon.
342. faire in place, fair in that place.
351. to treen mould, to the form of a tree. Treen is an adj. like wooden.
354. the same. Supply "as she appeared to be," i.e. fair and true.
357. proper hew. Witches had to appear in their "proper hew" one day in spring and undergo a purifying bath. The old romances make frequent mention of the enchanted herb bath.
370. by chaunges of my cheare, by my changed countenance or expression.
371. drownd in sleepie night. The phrase modifies "body," or is equivalent to "while I was drowned in sleep."
382. in a living well, in a well of running water. This well signifies the healing power of Christianity. John, iv, 14. In Spenser's story this well is never found, and the wretched couple are never restored to human shape.
404. all passed feare, all fear having passed.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. How does the knight feel and act while under Archimago's spell? 2. What becomes of Una? 3. How does Archimago plan to deceive her? 4. Tell the story of the lovers turned into trees. 5. Who was Sansfoy? 6. Describe the appearance and character of Duessa. 7. What did she have to do with Fradubio and Fraelissa? 8. What was the old belief about the penance of witches? 9. How only could the lovers be restored to their human shape? Was it done? 10. Who were St. George, Phoebus, Titan, Tithonius? 11. Explain the reference to Chaunticlere in l. 6.
15. Study the rich word-painting in the description of sunrise in VII. Find other examples of this poet's use of "costly" epithets.
17. Find example of tmesis (separation of prep. from ob.) in XLV.
18. What is the difference between the two wells in XLIII?
19. To whom do the pronouns in ll. 174, 175 refer?
I. The Plot: Una wandering in quest of her Knight is guarded by a Lion. With difficulty they gain entrance to the cottage of Corceca and her daughter Abessa, the paramour of Kirkrapine. The latter is killed by the Lion. Fleeing the next day, Una falls in with Archimago disguised as the Redcross Knight. They journey on and meet a second Saracen knight, Sansloy. In the fight which ensues Archimago is unhorsed and his deception unmasked. The Lion is slain, and Una becomes the captive of Sansloy.
II. The Allegory: 1. Truth finds temporary protection in Reason, or Natural Honor (Lion), and with its help puts a stop to the Robbing of Churches (Kirkrapine), which is connived at by Blind Devotion (Corceca) and Secret Sin (Abessa). Truth is then associated with Hypocrisy under the guise of Holiness, but it is soon unmasked by Lawlessness (Sansloy), with which Truth is forced into an unnatural alliance.
2. "The lion is said to represent Henry VIII, overthrowing the monasteries, destroying church-robbers, disturbing the dark haunts of idleness, ignorance and superstition."—Kitchin. The battle between Archimago and Sansloy refers to the contests of the Catholic powers with the Moslems. The whole canto also has a hint of the violence and lawlessness connected with the English conquest of Ireland.
Line 14. though true as touch, though true as if tested on the touchstone (by which true gold was distinguished from counterfeit).
18. And her due loves, etc., the love due to her diverted, etc.
27. Yet wished tydings, etc., yet none brought unto her the wished-for tidings of him. An awkward transposition.
34. the great eye of heaven, the sun. Cf. Paradise Lost, v. 171.
38. A ramping lyon. Reason or Natural Honor; also Henry VIII. According to the ancient belief, no lion would attack a true virgin or one of royal blood. Similar scenes are found in Sir Bevis of Hampton, The Seven Champions of Christendom, etc. Cf. I Henry IV, ii, 4. The allegory signifies that man guided merely by reason will recognize Truth and pay it homage.
51. Whose yeelded pride, etc., object of had marked, l. 52.
77. he kept both watch and ward, he kept awake and guarded her.
89. A damzell spyde, Abessa, who symbolizes Flagrant or Secret Sin.
99. her cast in deadly hew, threw her into a deathly paleness.
101. upon the wager lay, was at stake.
102. whereas her mother blynd, where her blind mother, Corceca, or Blind Devotion.
109. unruly Page. This refers to the violence with which Henry VIII forced Protestantism upon the people. In his Present State of Ireland (p. 645), Spenser speaks of the ignorance and blind devotion of the Irish Papists in the benighted country places.
116. Pater nosters, the Lord's Prayer; Aves, prayers to the Virgin.
136. Aldeboran, the Bull's Eye, a double star of the first magnitude in the constellation Taurus.
137. Cassiopeias chaire, a circumpolar constellation having a fancied resemblance to a chair.
139. One knocked at the dore, Kirkrapine, the plunderer of the Church. Spenser represents in him the peculiar vices of the Irish clergy and laity.
166. stay him to advize, stop to reflect.
172. him booteth not resist, it does him no good to resist. This whole passage refers, perhaps, to Henry VIII's suppression of the monasteries and convents in 1538-39.
185. that long wandring Greeke. Ulysses, or Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey, who wandered ten years and refused immortality from the goddess Calypso in order that he might return to Penelope.
XXII. Note the rhymes deare, heare, and teare (air). This 16th century pronunciation still survives in South Carolina. See Ellis's Early English Pronunciation, III, 868. This stanza reads like the description of an Irish wake.
238. Or ought have done, or have done something to displease you.
239. That should as death, etc., that should settle like death, etc.
248. And chose in Faery court. See Spenser's letter to Sir W. Raleigh, p. 6.
250. her kindly skill, her natural power.
276. fierce Orions hound, Sirius, the Dog-star, the brightest of the fixed stars. The constellation Orion was named from a giant hunter who was beloved by Aurora and slain by Diana.
279. and Nereus crownes with cups, and Nereus drinks bumpers in his honor. Nereus was a sea-god, son of Ocean and Earth.
282. from ground, from the land.
297. Sans loy symbolizes the pagan lawlessness in Ireland. There is also a wider reference to the struggles between the Turks and the allied Christian powers, which had been going on since the siege of Vienna in 1529.
309. vainly crossed shield, Archimago's false cross lacked the protecting power of St. George's charmed true cross.
321. Lethe lake, a lake or river of Hades, whose water brought oblivion or forgetfulness to all who drank of it.
322. Refers to the ancient custom of sacrificing an enemy on the funeral altar to appease the shade of the dead.
323. The blacke infernall Furies, the Erinyes, or goddesses of vengeance, who dwelt in Erebus. They were robed in black, bloody garments befitting their gloomy character.
325. In romance it was customary for the victor to unlace the helmet of the knight whom he had unhorsed before slaying him. Friends and relatives were sometimes discovered by this precaution.
342. Ne ever wont in field, etc., was never accustomed to fight in the battle-field or in the lists of the tournament.
XLIII. Contrast Sansloy's rude treatment of Una with the chivalrous respect and courtesy always shown by a true knight to woman.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. What moral reflections does the poet make in the introductory stanza? Note the reference to the Queen. 2. What do you learn of the laws, customs, and sentiments of chivalry in this canto? 3. Give an account of Una's meeting with the Lion. 4. Explain the allegory of the incident of the Lion. 5. Describe the character, appearance, and actions of Corceca, and explain the allegory. 6. Note the use of the stars to indicate time. 7. Under what circumstances does Una meet Archimago? 8. Explain the allegory in IX. 9. Note the Euphuistic balance in XXVII. 10. What figure do you find in XXXI? Note the Homeric style. 11. Describe the fight between Archimago and Sansloy, and explain the double allegory. 12. What is the moral interpretation of XLI-xlii?
13. Explain the Latinisms in ll. 37 and 377. 14. How are the adjectives used in l. 57? 15. Note change of pronouns in VII from third person to first. 16. Explain tense of shold pas in l. 83. 17. Note confusion of pronouns in XXII and XXXV. 18. Examine the nominative absolute construction in st. XIV and XXXIX. 19. Explain the ambiguous construction in l. 165. 20. Parse her in l. 262. 21. Note careless use of relative in l. 288.
I. The Plot: In this and the following canto the adventures of the Redcross Knight are continued from Canto II. Guided by Duessa, he enters the House of Pride. There he sees Lucifera, the Queen of Pride, attended by her sinful court. Her six Counselors are described in detail, with an account of a pleasure trip taken by the Queen and her court. Sansjoy unexpectedly arrives and challenges the Knight to mortal combat for the shield of Sansfoy. That night Duessa holds a secret conference with the Saracen knight.
II. The Allegory: 1. The Christian Soldier, under the influence of false ideals (Duessa), is exposed to the temptations of the Seven Deadly Sins, chief among which is Pride. In the midst of these sinful pleasures, he is assailed by Joylessness, on whose side is Falsehood secretly.
2. The religious and political allegory is here vague and somewhat discontinuous. There is a hint, however, of the attempts of Mary Queen of Scots to bring England back to Romanism. The pride and corruption of the false church and its clergy are set forth. There is also a suggestion of the perilous position of the English in Ireland.
20. of each degree and place, of every rank and order of society.
21. having scaped hard, having escaped with difficulty.
24. lazars. Leprosy was a common disease in England even as late as the sixteenth century.
49. Malvenù, ill-come, as opposed to Bienvenu, welcome.
73. like Phœbus fairest childe, Phaethon, the son of Helios. He was killed by a thunderbolt from the hand of Zeus, as a result of his reckless driving of the chariot of the sun.
86. A dreadfull Dragon, Fallen Pride.
94. This genealogy of Pride is invented by the poet in accord with the Christian doctrine concerning this sin.
107. six wizards old, the remaining six of the Seven Deadly Sins, Wrath, Envy, Lechery, Gluttony, Avarice, and Idleness. See Chaucer's Parson's Tale for a sermon on these mortal sins, Gower's Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins, and Laugland's Piers Plowman.
145. coche. Spenser imitates Ovid and Homer in this description of Juno's chariot. The peacock was sacred to the goddess, who transferred to its tail the hundred eyes of the monster Argus. See Ovid's Metamorphoses, i, 625 seq.
157. With like conditions, etc. The behests were of a kind similar to the nature of the six Sins.
174. he chalenged essoyne, he claimed exemption.
185. like a Crane. This refers to Aristotle's story of a man who wished that his neck were as long as a crane's, that he might the longer enjoy the swallowing of his food. Nic. Ethics, iii, 13.
205. a dry dropsie, a dropsy causing thirst.
236. Upon a Camell, etc. The reference is to a story in Herodotus' History (iii, 102 seq.), in which the Indians are described as carrying off on camels gold dust hoarded by enormous ants.
252. unto him selfe unknowne, i.e. being ignorant of his own wretchedness.
309. Unthrifty scath, wicked damage, or mischief that thrives not.
313. The swelling Splene. The spleen was the seat of anger.
314. Saint Fraunces fire, St. Anthony's fire, or erysipelas. Diseases were named from those who were supposed to be able to heal them.
335. With pleasaunce, etc. Fed with enjoyment of the fields, the fresh air of which they went to breathe.
437. And helplesse hap, etc. It does no good to bemoan unavoidable chance.
440. pay his dewties last, pay his last duty to the shade of the slain man by sacrificing his murderer.
443. oddes of armes, chances of mishap in arms due to some advantage of one's antagonist.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. What are the moral reflections in stanza I? 2. What suggestion of the condition of the English roads do you find in st. II? 3. But few returned, l. 21. What became of the rest? 4. Give a description of the House of Pride. Note resemblance to a typical Elizabethan hall. 5. Explain the allegory of the House, noting the association of ugliness and beauty. 6. How is expectation aroused in vi? 7. Describe the dramatic appearance and character of Pride. Cf. description of Satan on his throne in Paradise Lost, iii. 8. What do you learn in this canto of Elizabethan or chivalric manners and customs? 9. Describe the procession at the court of Pride. 10. What satire of the Romish priesthood in XVIII-xx? 11. Note examples of Spenser's humor in XIV and XVI. 12. Point out the classical influence (Dionysus and Silenus) in the description of Gluttony. 13. Subject of the interview between Duessa and Sansjoy. 14. Point out the archaisms in l. 10; alliteration in XXXIX and L; the Latinisms in XLVI and XLVII. 15. In what case is way in l. 17? 16. Explain the meaning and historical significance of lazar, l. 24, and diall, l. 36. 17. Explain the references of the pronouns in l. 55, and ll. 418-419. 18. Note the Euphuistic balance and antithesis in XXIX and XLV. 19. Explain the suffix in marchen in l. 325. 20. Note the double negative in IV, XLIX. 21. Paraphrase in your own words ll. 239, 243, 360, 437.
I. The Plot: (a continuation of Canto IV). The Knight fights in the lists with Sansjoy and defeats him, but is prevented by Duessa's magic from slaying him. Duessa descends to Erebus and obtains the aid of Night, who conveys the wounded Saracen in her chariot to Æsculapius to be healed of his wounds. The tortures of some of the souls in Erebus are described, particularly the cause of Æsculapius' punishment. A roll of the prisoners whom the dwarf discovers in Pride's dungeon is given. The Knight flees with the dwarf from her house.
II. The Allegory: When the Christian Soldier is attacked by Joylessness, he has a far more desperate struggle than that with Infidelity, and comes out wounded though victorious. Joylessness when crushed by Holiness is restored by Pagan Philosophy. The backsliding Christian is warned in time by Prudence of the fearful consequences of sin, and hastens to turn his back on Pride and the other sins. The soul is led to dread Pride, not by Truth, but by its sufferings and other inferior motives.
25. their timely voyces, their voices keeping time with their harps.
27. Old loves, famous love-affairs, the subject of the Minnesängers.
29. In woven maile, in chain armor.
32. Araby, probably here the Orient in general.
33. From furthest Ynd, from farthest India.
39. unto a paled greene, a green inclosure (lists for a tournament) surrounded by a palisade.
44. his. An old method of forming the possessive, based on a misapprehension of the original Anglo-Saxon suffix -es, which was shortened in middle English to -is, and finally to s.
45. Both those, etc. Both Duessa and the shield are to go to the victor.
65. a Gryfon, a fabulous animal, part lion and part eagle. Gryfon is subject of encountereth with Dragon as object.
89. And sluggish german, etc., and sluggish brother dost relax thy strength to send his (Sansfoy's) foe after him, that he may overtake him. In ll. 86-88 Sansjoy addresses his brother, in ll. 89-90 himself. German is any blood relation.
100. The Knight supposed that Duessa's encouraging words were addressed to him.
114. Spenser here, with fine dramatic effect, imitates Homer, who saves Paris and Æneas by a similar device. Iliad, iii, 380, and v, 345.
159. teares. This mention of the man-eating crocodile's tears is based on an old Latin proverb. Sir John Mandeville repeats the story.
172. griesly Night. According to mythology (Hesiod's Theog., 123), one of the first things created, the daughter of Chaos, and mother of Æther (sky) and Hemera (day); also of Deceit, Strife, Old Age, and Vengeance. See xxii and xxvii.
202. on groning beare, on a bier with groaning friends around.
204. O what of gods, etc., O what is it to be born of gods, if old Aveugle's (the father of the three Saracens) sons are so ill treated.
219. and good successes, etc., and good results which follow their foes.
221. or breake the chayne, refers to Jove's proposition to fasten a golden chain to the earth by which to test his strength. Homer's Iliad, viii, 19. Cf. Milton's Paradise Lost, ii, 1051.
225. bad excheat, bad gain by exchange. Escheat is an old legal term, meaning any lands or goods which fall to the lord of a fief by forfeiture. Cf. "rob Peter to pay Paul."
229. shall with his owne bloud, etc., shall pay the price of the blood that he has spilt with his own.
263. Here Spenser imitates Homer's Odyssey, xvi, 163.
267. the ghastly Owle. The poet follows the Latin rather than the Greek poets, who regard the owl as the bird of wisdom.
273. of deep Avernus hole. Avernus in the poets is a cavern (in an ancient crater), supposed to be the entrance to the infernal regions. Cf. Vergil's Æneid, vi, 237. In Strabo's Geography it is a lake in Campania.
298. Cerberus, the dog which guarded the lower regions. This stanza is an imitation of Vergil's Æneid, vi, 417 seq. In Dante's Inferno Vergil appeases him by casting handfuls of earth into his maw.
XXXV. In this stanza we see the influence of Homer and Vergil. Ixion, the king of Lapithæ, was chained by order of Zeus to a fiery-winged wheel for aspiring to the love of the goddess Hera (Juno). Sisyphus had to roll a huge stone forever up a hill for betraying the designs of the gods. Tantalus, for divulging the secrets of Zeus, was condemned to stand tormented by thirst in a lake. Tityus, for an assault on Artemis, was pinioned to the ground with two vultures plucking at his vitals. Typhoeus, a hundred-headed giant, was slain by Zeus' thunderbolt, and buried under Ætna. The gin on which he was tortured was probably the rack of the Middle Ages. Cf. the bed of Procrustes. Theseus, for attempting to carry off Persephone, was fixed to a rock in Tartarus. The "fifty sisters" are the fifty Danaides, who, for slaying their husbands, were condemned to pour water forever into a vessel full of holes.
322. sad Aesculapius, the god of medicine, slain by Zeus for arresting death and diseases.
354. And fates expired, and the threads of life which the fates (Parcæ) had severed.
387. Great paines, and greater praise, etc. His praise, like his pain, is to be eternal.
XLVII. This list of the thralls of Pride is in imitation of a similar one in Chaucer's Monk's Tale, which was based on Boccaccio's De Casibus Illustrium Virorum.
415. proud king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. See Daniel, iii and iv.
420. king Croesus, the last king of Lydia, who was overthrown by Cyrus in B.C. 646. Herodotus, i, 26.
422. proud Antiochus, Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, who captured Jerusalem twice, and defiled God's altar. He died raving mad B.C. 164. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, xiii, 5-9.
424. great Nimrod, "the mighty hunter" (Genesis, x, 8), whose game, according to Spenser, was man. Josephus tells us that through pride he built the tower of Babel.
426. old Ninus, the legendary founder of Nineveh, and put to death by his wife, Semiramis.
428. that mighty Monarch, Alexander the Great (B.C. 366-323), king of Macedon. While consulting the oracle of Jupiter Ammon in the Libyan desert he was saluted by the priests as "Ammons Sonne." He died either of poison (Plutarch) or of excessive drink (Diodorus).
437. Great Romulus, legendary founder of Rome (B.C. 753). See Livy, i, 16.
438. Proud Tarquin, Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome. He was banished B.C. 510.
438. too lordly Lentulus, surnamed Sura, member of a haughty patrician family, who conspired with Catiline, and was strangled B.C. 62.
439. Stout Scipio, Cornelius Scipio Africanus (B.C. 287?-183?), the conqueror of Hannibal, and self-exiled from Rome. Livy speaks of his inordinate pride, xxxviii, 50.
439. stubborne Hanniball (B.C. 247-183), the great Carthaginian general, who died by poison to avoid falling into the hands of the Romans.
440. Ambitious Sylla (B.C. 138-78), Cornelius Sulla, the Dictator, who died a loathsome death.
440. sterne Marius (B.C. 157-86), after being seven times consul, he was obliged to take refuge from his rival Sulla amid the ruins of Carthage.
441. High Caesar, Caius Julius Caesar (B.C. 100-44), who was murdered by Brutus and other conspirators.
441. great Pompey. Cn. Pompeius Magnus (B.C. 106-48). After his defeat at Pharsalia, he fled to Egypt, where he was murdered.
441. fierce Antonius, Marcus (B.C. 83-30), the great triumvir, who after his defeat at Actium killed himself in Egypt.
444. The bold Semiramis, the legendary queen of Assyria.
446. Faire Sthenoboea, the wife of Proteus, who on account of her unrequited love for Bellerophon, died by hemlock. Aristophanes' Frogs, 1049 seq.
448. High minded Cleopatra (B.C. 69-30), the beautiful queen of Egypt, who is said by Plutarch to have died in the manner mentioned.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. How did Redcross spend the night before the fight with Sansjoy?
2. Study in detail the fine description of Duessa's descent to Erebus.
3. What elements of beauty are seen in the description of dawn and sunrise in II? and compare Psalms, xix, 5. 4. What arbitrary classification of musicians does Spenser make in III? 5. Who is the far renowmed Queene in V? 6. Describe the joust between the Knight and Sansjoy. 7. Where do you learn of the laws governing such contests? 8. Observe the dramatic way in which Duessa saves Sansjoy. 9. What dramatic stroke in XXVII? 10. Describe Night and her team. 11. Give an account of her descent to Erebus with Sansjoy. 12. What were some of the tortures of the damned? 13. What effect is produced in XXX and how? 14. Point out some instances in which Spenser has imitated Homer—Vergil.
15. Where does he follow the Latin rather than the Greek poets?
16. Why did Æsculapius hesitate to heal Sansjoy? 17. Whom did the dwarf see in the dungeons of Pride? 18. Why did the Knight flee from the House of Pride?
19. Examine the following grammatical forms: maken, l. 22; woundes, l. 400. 20. What figure of speech is employed in XVIII? 21. What illustration is used in VIII? 22. Find example of balanced structure in VII; alliteration in VIII, XV, XVIII. 23. Scan l. 23. 24. Note nom. abs. construction in XLV.
I. The Plot: (Continuation of Canto III). Una is delivered from Sansloy by a band of Satyrs. She remains with them as their teacher. There a knight of the wild-wood, Sir Satyrane, discovers her, and by his assistance, Una succeeds in making her way out of the forest to the plain. On the way they meet Archimago, disguised as a pilgrim, and he deceives them and leads them to Sansloy. While Sir Satyrane and Sansloy are engaged in a bloody battle, Una flees. She is pursued by Archimago but makes her escape.
II. The Allegory: 1. Truth is saved from destruction by Lawless Violence (Sansloy) by the aid of Barbarism or Savage Instinct, which terrorizes Lawlessness but offers natural homage to Truth. Truth finds a temporary home among Ignorant and Rude Folk (Satyrs) and in return imparts divine truth to their unregenerate minds. Natural Heroism or Manly Courage (Sir Satyrane) sides with Truth and defends it against Lawlessness.
2. The religious allegory signifies the extension of Protestantism through the outlying rural districts of England and in Ireland. Upton thinks that Sir Satyrane represents "Sir John Perrot, whose behaviour, though honest, was too coarse and rude for a court. 'Twas well known that he was a son of Henry VIII." Holinshed says that as Lord President of Munster, Sir John secured such peace and security that a man might travel in Ireland with a white stick only in his hand.
16. from one to other Ynd, from the East to the West Indies.
61. A troupe of Faunes and Satyres. The Fauns were the wood-gods of the Romans, the Satyrs the wood-gods of the Greeks. They were half human, half goat, and represented the luxuriant powers of nature.
63. old Sylvanus, the Roman god of fields and woods, young and fond of animal pleasures. Spenser represents him as a feeble but sensuous old man.
90. With chaunge of feare, from the wolf to the lion.
96. rustick horror, bristling hair.
99. Their backward bent knees, like the hinder legs of a goat.
101. their barbarous truth, their savage honor.
103. Late learnd, having been recently taught. She had shown too "hasty trust" in Archimago.
112. without suspect of crime, without suspicion of blame.
120. with their horned feet, with their hoofs.
128. Or Bacchus merry fruit, etc., whether they did discover grapes.
129. Or Cybeles franticke rites, the wild dances of the Corybantes, priestesses of Cybele, or Rhea, the wife of Chronos and mother of the gods.
132. that mirrhour rare, that model of beauty. So Sidney was called "the mirror of chivalry."
134. faire Dryope, a princess of Æchalia, who became a forest nymph. Pholoe, mentioned in l. 135, is probably a fictitious creation of the author's.
146. dearest Cyparisse, a youth of Cea, who accidentally killed his favorite stag and dying of grief was changed into a cypress. He was beloved by Apollo and Sylvanus.
148. not faire to this, i.e. compared to this.
152. n'ould after joy, would not afterwards be cheerful.
153. selfe-wild annoy, self-willed distress.
154. faire Hamadryades, the nymphs who dwelt in the forest trees and died with them.
156. light-foot Naiades, the fresh water nymphs, companions of the fauns and satyrs.
161. their woody kind, the wood-born creatures of their own kind, e.g. nymphs or satyrs.
163. Una was "luckelesse" in having lost her knights, but "lucky" in the friendship of the Satyrs. Note the Euphuistic phrasing.
169. Idolatryes. The allegory has reference to the idolatrous practices of the ignorant primitive Christians, such as the worship of images of the Saints, the pageant of the wooden ass during Lent (see Matthew, xxi, and Brand's Popular Antiquities, i, 124), and the Feast of the Ass (see Matthew, ii, 14).
172. a noble warlike knight, Sir Satyrane, in whom are united rude untaught chivalry and woodland savagery. He represents natural heroism and instinctive love of truth.
173. by just occasion, just at the right moment.
184. Thyamis is the symbol of Animal Passion; Labryde of the lower appetites; Therion, the human wild beast, who deserts his wife.
XXIV. This account of Sir Satyrane's education is based on that of Rogero by his uncle Atlante in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, vii, 5, 7.
213. maister of his guise, his instructor.
214. at his horrid vew, his shaggy, uncouth appearance.
256. his famous worth was blown, i.e. blazoned by Fame's trumpet.
308. a Jacobs staffe. According to Nares, "A pilgrim's staff; either from the frequent pilgrimages to St. James of Comfortella (in Galicia), or because the apostle St. James is usually represented with one."
372. Th' enchaunter vaine, etc., the foolish enchanter (Archimago) would not have rued his (St. George's) crime (i.e. slaying Sansfoy).
373. But them his errour shalt, etc., thou shalt by thy death pay the penalty of his crime and thus prove that he was really guilty. A very obscure passage. Look up the original meaning of shall.
386. This simile is found frequently in the old romances. Cf. Malory's Morte d'Arthur, ii, 104, and Chaucer's Knight's Tale, l. 1160.
416. According to a usage of chivalry, the lover wore a glove, sleeve, kerchief, or other token of his lady-love on his helmet. By "lover's token" Sansloy ironically means a blow.
425. to her last decay, to her utter ruin.
426. Spenser leaves the fight between Sansloy and Sir Satyrane unfinished. Both warriors appear in later books of the Faerie Queene.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. Who rescued Una from Sansloy? 2. How does Una repay their kindness? 3. How was she treated by them? 4. Explain the references to the various classes of nymphs. 5. Look up the classical references in XVI and XVIII. 6. Why is Una described as "luckelesse lucky"? 7. What customs of the early Christians are referred to in XIX? 8. What does Sir Satyrane symbolize in the allegory? 9. What was his character and education? 10. Note the Elizabethan conception of the goddess Fortune in XXXI. 11. Did Una act ungratefully in leaving the Satyrs as she did? 12. Who is the weary wight in XXXIV? 13. What news of St. George did he give? Was it true? 14. Who is the Paynim mentioned in XL? 15. Note Euphuistic antithesis in XLII. 16. Explain the figures in IV, VI, X, xliv. 17. Paraphrase ll. 289, 296. 18. Find Latinisms in XXV; XXVI; XXVIII; XXXI; and XXXVII. 19. Describe the fight at the end of the Canto.
I. The Plot: (Continuation of Canto V). Duessa pursues the Redcross Knight, and overtakes him sitting by an enchanted fountain, weary and disarmed. He is beguiled into drinking from the fountain, and is quickly deprived of strength. In this unnerved and unarmed condition he is suddenly set upon by the giant Orgoglio. After a hopeless struggle he is struck down by the giant's club and is thrust into a dungeon. Una is informed by the dwarf of the Knight's misfortune and is prostrated with grief. Meeting Prince Arthur, she is persuaded to tell her story and receives promise of his assistance.
II. The Allegory: 1. The Christian soldier, beguiled by Falsehood, doffs the armor of God, and indulges in sinful pleasures, and loses his purity. He then quickly falls into the power of Carnal Pride, or the brutal tyranny of False Religion (Orgoglio). He can then be restored only by an appeal to the Highest Honor or Magnificence (Prince Arthur) through the good offices of Truth and Common Sense.
2. In the reaction from the Reformation, Protestant England by dallying with Romanism (Duessa, Mary Queen of Scots) falls under the tyrannic power of the Pope (Orgoglio), with whom Catholic England was coquetting. At this juncture National Honor and Consciousness comes to the relief of Protestantism. There is personal compliment to either Lord Leicester or Sir Philip Sidney.
19. He feedes upon, he enjoys. A Latinism: cf. Vergil's Æneid, iii.
37. Phœbe, a surname of Diana, or Artemis, the goddess of the moon.
45. Spenser probably takes the suggestion from the fountain in the gardens of Armida in Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, xiv, 74. Cf. also the fountain of Salmacis in Ovid's Metamorphoses, xv, 819 seq.
56. Pourd out, a metaphor borrowed from Euripides (Herac., 75) and Vergil (Æneid, ix, 317).
62. his looser make, his too dissolute companion.
67. An hideous Geant, Orgoglio, symbolizing Inordinate Pride, and the Pope of Rome, who then claimed universal power over both church and state (x). For a list of many other giants of romance see Brewer's Handbook, pp. 376-379.
104. that divelish yron Engin, cannon. The invention of artillery by infernal ingenuity is an old conception of the poets. There is a suggestion of it in Vergil's Æneid, vi, 585 seq., which is elaborated in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, ix, 91, which Milton in turn imitated in Paradise Lost, vi, 516 seq. So in the romance of Sir Triamour.
112. th' onely breath, the mere breath.
119. do him not to dye, slay him not; cf. "done to death."
138. A monstrous beast, on which the woman of Babylon sat; Revelation, xiii and xvii, 7.
139. This refers to the Romish policy of fostering ignorance among its members.
140. that renowmed Snake, the Lernæan Hydra, a monster with nine or more heads, offspring of Typhon and Echidna. It was slain by Hercules. Stremona is a name of Spenser's own invention.
147. The reference is to the cruelty and insensibility of the Romish Church.
150. Its tail reached to the stars. Revelation, xii, 4.
155. and holy heasts foretaught, and holy commands previously taught (them).
161. his forlorne weed, his abandoned clothing.
165. moniments, the sorrowful, mournful relics.
182. So hardly he, etc. So he with difficulty coaxes the life which has flown to return into her body. According to the Platonic teaching, the body is the prison-house of the soul. Cf Psalms, cxlii, 7.
202. But seeled up with death, but closed in death. "Seel" was a term in falconry, meaning "to sew up" (the eyes of the hawk).
219. the bitter balefull stound, the bitter, grievous moment during which she listens to the story.
220. If lesse then that I feare, etc., if it is less bitter than I fear it is, I shall have found more favor (been more fortunate) than I expected.
231. sorrowfull assay, the assault of sorrow (on her heart).
236. Was never Lady, etc., there never was lady who loved day (life) dearer.
249. A goodly knight. Prince Arthur, son of King Uther Pendragon and Queen Ygerne, the model English gentleman, in whom all the virtues are perfected (Magnificence). According to Upton and most editors, Prince Arthur represents Lord Leicester; according to another tradition, Sir Philip Sidney. Could the author have possibly intended in him compliment to Sir Walter Raleigh? See Spenser's Letter to Raleigh. Arthur is the beau ideal of knighthood, and upon him the poet lavishes his richest descriptive powers. His armor, his shield Pridwen, his lance Roan, and sword Exculibur, were made by the great enchanter Merlin in the isle of Avallon.
259. Shapt like a Ladies head, an effigy of Queen Elizabeth, the Faerie Queene.
260. Like Hesperus, the evening star. Cf. Phosphorus, the morning star.
268. The dragon couchant was also the crest of Arthur's father, Uther, surnamed on this account Pen-dragon. The description in this stanza is imitated from Tasso's description of the helmet of the Sultan in Jerusalem Delivered, ix, 25, which in turn follows Vergil's Æneid, vii, 785 seq.
280. greene Selinis, a town in Sicily.
284. His warlike shield. Spenser here follows closely the description of the shield of the magician Atlante in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, ii, 55.
300. silver Cynthia, the moon. It was popularly supposed that magicians and witches had power to cause eclipses of the moon.
304. All falsehood and deception. Truth and Wisdom are symbolized (Upton).
306. when him list, when it pleased him. Him is dative.
314. It Merlin was. Ambrose Merlin, the prince of enchanters, son of the nun Matilda, and an incubus, "half-angel and half-man." He made, in addition to Prince Arthur's armor and weapons, the Round Table for one hundred and fifty knights at Carduel, the magic fountain of love, and built Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. He died spellbound by the sorceress Vivien in a hollow oak. See Tennyson's Idylls of the King.
326. did trample as the aire, curveted as lightly as the air.
335. And for her humour, etc., and to suit her (sad) mood framed fitting conversation.
355. The subject of found is the substantive clause who... impart.
XLI. Observe the antithetical structure of this stanza, both in the Stichomuthia, or balance of line against line, and in the lines themselves. In this rapid word-play Arthur wins his point by appealing to Una's faith.
363. No faith so fast, etc., no faith is so firm that human infirmity may not injure it.
376. Una, Truth, is the sole daughter of Eden.
377. whilest equal destinies, etc., whilst their destinies (Fates) revolved equally and undisturbed in their orbits. (Astronomical figure.)
381. Phison and Euphrates, etc., three of the four rivers that watered Eden, the Hiddekel being omitted. See Genesis, ii, 11-14. In this stanza the poet strangely mixes Christian doctrine and the classical belief in the envy of the gods working the downfall of men.
385. Tartary, Tartarus (for the rhyme), the lowest circle of torment in the infernal regions.
391. Has this obscure line any reference to prophecy? Cf. Daniel, vii, 25, Revelation, xii, 6, 14.
394. that heaven walks about, under the sky.
404. That noble order, the Order of the Garter, of which the Maiden Queen was head. The figure of St. George slaying the dragon appears on the oval and pendant to the collar of this Order.
405. of Gloriane, Queen Elizabeth.
407. Cleopolis is red, is called Cleopolis, i.e. the city of Glory, or London.
425. my dolefull disadventurous deare, my sad misadventurous injury.
429. That he my captive languor, the languishing captivity of my parents.
432. My loyalty, i.e. the loyalty of me that rather death desire, etc.
441. That brought not backe, etc., (and whence) the body full of evil was not brought back dead.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. Relate how the Knight fell into the hands of the Giant. 2. Note the fine adaptation of sound to sense in vii. 3. Who were the parents and the foster-father of Orgoglio? 4. What are the principal characteristics of the giants of romance as seen in Orgoglio? cf. with the giants in Pilgrim's Progress. 5. In the description of the giant do the last two lines (VIII) add to or detract from the impression? Why? 6. To whom does Spenser ascribe the invention of artillery? 7. Explain the allegory involved in the relations of Duessa and Orgoglio. 8. How does Una act on hearing the news of the Knight's capture? 9. What part does the Dwarf play? 10. Is Una just to herself in ll. 200-201? 11. Is she over sentimental or ineffective—and is the pathos of her grief kept within the limits of the reader's pleasure? 12. Express in your own words the main thought in XXII. 13. Note the skillful summary of events in xxvi, and observe that this stanza is the Central Crisis and Pivotal Point of the whole Book. The fortunes of the Knight reach their lowest ebb and begin to turn. The first half of the Book has been the complication of the plot, the second half will be the resolution. 14. Give a description of Prince Arthur. 15. What mysterious power was possessed by his shield? Cf. the Holy Grail. 16. Observe carefully the scene between Una and Arthur, noting the changes in her mood. What light is thrown on her character? What are her feelings toward the Knight? 17. Explain the various threads of allegory in this Canto.
I. The Plot: Prince Arthur and Una are conducted by the Dwarf to Orgoglio's Castle. At the blast of the Squire's horn the Giant comes forth attended by Duessa mounted on the seven-headed Beast. In the battle which ensues Arthur wounds the Beast, slays the Giant and captures Duessa. Prince Arthur finds the Redcross Knight half starved in a foul dungeon and releases him. Duessa is stripped of her gaudy clothes and allowed to hide herself in the wilderness.
II. The Allegory: 1. Magnificence, the sum of all the virtues, wins the victory over Carnal Pride, and restores Holiness to its better half, Truth. With the overthrow of Pride, Falsehood, which is the ally of that vice, is stripped of its outward show and exposed in all its hideous deformity.
2. The false Romish Church becomes drunk in the blood of the martyrs. There is a hint of the persecutions in the Netherlands, in Piedmont, of the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day and the burnings under Bloody Mary. Protestant England is delivered from Popish tyranny by the honor and courage of the English people. Militant England (Prince Arthur) is assisted by the clergy (Squire) with his horn (Bible) and is guided by Truth and Common Sense (Dwarf).
23. horne of bugle small, the English Bible. Spenser here imitates the description of the magic horn of Logistilla in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, xv, 15, 53. Such horns are frequently mentioned in romance, e.g., Chanson de Roland, Morte d' Arthur, Hawes' Pastime, Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, Huon of Bordeaux, Romance of Sir Otarel, Cervantes' Don Quixote, etc.
50. late cruell feast, a probable reference to the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day in Paris in 1572, and to the persecutions of Alva's Council of Blood in the Netherlands in 1567.
IX. This stanza is an imitation of Homer's Iliad, xiv, 414.
95. in Cymbrian plaine, probably the Crimea, the ancient Tauric Chersonese. Some connect it with the Cimbric Chersonese, or Jutland, which was famous for its herds of bulls.
96. kindly rage, natural passion.
105. Note the Latinism "threatened his heads," and the imperfect rhyme "brands."
118. her golden cup, suggested by Circe's magic cup in Homer's Odyssey, x, 316, and the golden cup of the Babylonish woman in Revelation, xvii, 4.
148. Through great impatience of his grieved hed, etc., through inability to endure (the pain of) his wounded head, he would have cast down his rider, etc.
155. In one alone left hand, in one hand alone remaining. His left arm had been cut off (x).
XIX. The uncovered shield represents the open Bible. The incident is an imitation of Ruggiero's display of his shield in Orlando Furioso, xxii, 85.
246. Your fortune maister, etc., be master of your fortune by good management.
268. unused rust, rust which is due to disuse; a Latinism.
296. With natures pen, etc., i.e. by his gray hairs, at that age to which proper seriousness belongs. "I cannot tell" did not become his venerable looks.
310. That greatest princes, etc. This may mean (1) befitting the presence of the greatest princes, or (2) that the greatest princes might deign to behold in person. The first interpretation is preferable.
312. A general reference to the bloody persecutions without regard to age or sex carried on for centuries by the Romish Church, often under the name of "crusades," "acts of faith," "holy inquisition," etc.
315. This may refer to the burning of heretics, under the pretext that the Church shed no blood. Kitchin thinks that it means "accursed ashes."
317. An Altare, cf. Revelation, vi, 9. Carv'd with cunning ymagery, "in allusion to the stimulus given to the fine arts by the Church of Rome" (Percival).
366. brawned bowrs, brawny muscles.
375. what evill starre, etc. In Spenser's day, belief in astrology, the pseudo-science of the influence of the stars on human lives, was still common.
381. There was an old familiar ballad entitled Fortune my Foe.
384. i.e. your good fortune will be threefold as great as your evil fortune.
384. good growes of evils priefe, good springs out of our endurance of the tests and experience of evil.
391. Best musicke breeds delight, etc. A troublesome passage. Upton and Jortin emend delight to dislike; Church inserts no before delight and omits best; Kitchin suggests despight; Grosart prefers the text as it stands with the meaning that although the best music pleases the troubled mind, it is no pleasure to renew the memory of past sufferings. I venture to offer still another solution, based on the context. When Una shows a desire to hear from her Knight a recountal of his sufferings in the dungeon, and he is silent, being loath to speak of them, Arthur reminds her that a change of subject is best, for the best music is that which breeds delight in the troubled ear.
XLVI. In this passage Spenser follows closely the description of the witch Alcina in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, vii, 73. Rogero has been fascinated by her false beauty, and her real foulness is exposed by means of a magic ring. The stripping of Duessa symbolizes the proscription of vestments and ritual, and the overthrow of images, etc., at the time of the Reformation. Duessa is only banished to the wilderness, not put to death, and reappears in another book of the poem.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. What moral reflections are found in I? 2. What were the duties of the Squire in chivalry? 3. What part does Arthur's Squire play? 4. What does the Squire's horn symbolize? 5. Observe the classical figure in IX. 6. Describe the battle before the Giant's Castle, stating what part is taken by each of the four engaged. 7. Point out several of the characteristics of a typical battle of romance, and compare with combats in classical and modern times. 8. What additional traits of Una's character are presented in this Canto? Note especially her treatment of the Knight. 9. How is the unchangeableness of truth illustrated in this story? 10. Who is the old man in XXX seq.? 11. Who is the woful thrall in XXXVII? 12. In what condition, mental and physical, is the Knight when liberated? 13. How long was he a captive? 14. What was Duessa's punishment? Was it adequate? Explain its moral and religious meaning. 15. Observe the use of thou and ye (you) in this Canto. 16. Find examples of antithesis, alliteration, Latinisms.
I. The Plot: Prince Arthur tells Una of his vision of the Faerie Queene and of his quest for her. After exchanging presents with the Redcross Knight, he bids farewell to Una and her companions. These pursue their journey and soon meet a young knight, Sir Trevisan, fleeing from Despair. Sir Trevisan tells of his narrow escape from this old man, and unwillingly conducts the Redcross Knight back to his cave. The Knight enters and is almost persuaded to take his own life. He is saved by the timely interposition of Una. This is the most powerful canto of Book I.
II. The Allegory: 1. The moral allegory in Canto VII presents the transition of the Soul (Redcross) from Pride to Sin (Duessa) through distrust of Truth (Una), and it thus comes into the bondage of Carnal Pride (Orgoglio). In Canto IX the Soul suffers a similar change from Sin to Despair. Having escaped from actual sin, but with spiritual life weakened, it almost falls a victim to Despair through excess of confidence and zeal to perform some good action. The Soul is saved by Truth, by which it is reminded to depend on the grace of God.
2. The allegory on its religious side seems to have some obscure reference to the long and bitter controversies between Protestantism (Calvinism) and Roman Catholicism allied with infidelity.
1. O goodly golden chaine, chivalry or knightly honor, the bond that unites all the virtues.
18. thanklesse, because not knowing whom to thank.
26. In Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Arthur is taken from his mother, Ygerne, at birth, and committed to the care of Sir Ector as his foster-father, i, 3. In Merlin Sir Antor is his foster-father.
33. Rauran mossy hore, Rauran white with moss. A "Rauran-vaur hill" in Merionethshire is mentioned by Selden. Contrary to the older romancers, Spenser makes Prince Arthur a Welshman, not a Cornishman.
34. the river Dee, which rises in Merionethshire and flows through Lake Bala.
39. my discipline to frame, etc., to plan my course of instruction, and, as my tutor, to supervise my bringing up.
45. in her just terme, in due time.
57. or that fresh bleeding wound, i.e. his love for Gloriana.
59. With forced fury, etc., supplying "me" from "my" in l. 58 the meaning is: the wound ... brought ... me following its bidding with compulsive (passionate) fury, etc. In the sixteenth century his was still almost always used as the possessive of it. Its does not occur in the King James Version of the Bible (1611).
63. Could ever find (the heart) to grieve, etc. A Euphuistic conceit.
64. According to the physiology of Spenser's age, love was supposed to dry up the humors ("moysture") of the body.
70. But told, i.e. if it (my love) is told.
100. Ensample make of him, witness him (the Redcross knight).
113. Whiles every sence, etc., while the sweet moisture bathed all my senses.
146. Next to that Ladies love, i.e. next to his love (loyalty) for Gloriana. Does the poet mean that allegiance to queen and country comes before private affection?
149. Was firmest fixt, etc., were strongest in my extremity (in the giant's dungeon).
169. A booke, the New Testament, an appropriate gift from the champions of the Reformed Church.
182. An armed knight, Sir Trevisan, who symbolizes Fear.
233. had not greater grace, etc., had not greater grace (than was granted my comrade) saved me from it, I should have been partaker (with him of his doom) in that place.
249. after faire areedes, afterwards graciously tells.
267. with dying feare, with fear of dying.
269. Whose like infirmitie, etc., i.e. if you are a victim of love, you may also fall into the hands of despair.
270. But God you never let, but may God never let you, etc.
272. to spoyle the Castle of his health, to take his own life. Cf. Eliot's Castell of Helthe, published in 1534.
273. I wote, etc. I, whom recent trial hath taught, and who would not (endure the) like for all the wealth of this world, know (how a man may be so gained over to destroy himself).
275. This simile is a very old one. See Homer's Iliad, i, 249; Odyssey, xviii, 283; Song of Solomon, iv, 11; and Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, ii, 51.
286. for gold nor glee. Cf. for love or money.
294-296. Imitated from Vergil's Æneid, vi, 462.
315. as, as if.
320. A drearie corse, Sir Terwin, mentioned in xxvii.
332. judge against thee right, give just judgment against thee.
333. to price, to pay the price of.
336. What justice, etc., what justice ever gave any other judgment but (this, that) he, who deserves, etc.
340. Is then unjust, etc., is it then unjust to give each man his due?
XXXIX. Observe the subtle argument on suicide in this and st. xl.
XLI. Spenser here puts into the mouth of the Knight Socrates' argument to Cebes in their dialogue on the immortality of the soul. Plato's Phædo, vi.
367. Quoth he, Despair.
403. thy date, the allotted measure or duration of thy life.
408. thy sinfull hire, thy service of sin.
431. As he were charmed, etc., as if he were under the spell of magic incantation.
438. in a table, in a picture. The horrors of the Last Judgment and the torments of the lost were favorite subjects of the mediæval Catholic painters.
468. fire-mouthed Dragon. The dragons of romance are all described as fire-breathing,
473. that chosen art, a reference to the doctrine of Election. Mark, xiii, 20.
476. accurst hand-writing. A reference to Paul's letter to the Colossians, ii, 14, in which he declares that the gospel of grace has superseded the law of Moses.
484. he so himselfe had drest, he had thus attempted (to take his life).
Questions and Topics for Study
1. Give an account of Prince Arthur's vision of the Faerie Queene. 2. Interpret his search for her as an allegory of the young man's quest after his ideal. 3. Observe in xvii an allusion to Spenser's patron, Lord Leicester, who was a favored suitor for Elizabeth's hand. 4. What presents did the Knights exchange at parting? 5. Characterize Sir Trevisan by his appearance, speech, and actions. What does he symbolize? 6. Note the skill with which Spenser arouses interest before telling of the interview with Despair. 7. What was the fate of Sir Terwin? Its moral significance? 8. Describe the Cave of Despair, and show what effects are aimed at by the poet. 9. Compare with Despair Bunyan's Giant Despair and the Man in the Iron Cage. 10. Trace the sophistries by which Despair works in the mind of the Knight, e.g. the arguments from necessity (fatalism), humanity, cowardice, discouragement and disgust on account of his past failures, dread of the future, of God's justice, and the relief of death. 11. Does Despair show knowledge of the Knight's past? 12. With what powerful truths does Una meet the arguments of Despair? 13. Where do you find reference to mediæval art?
I. The Plot: The Redcross Knight is conducted by Una to the House of Holiness, where they are welcomed by Dame Cœlia and graciously entertained. The Knight is instructed by Fidelia, Speranza, and Charissa, the three daughters of Cœlia, in his relations to God and his fellow-men. He is healed in body, and undergoes discipline for his sins. Mercy conducts him through the Hospital of Good Works, where he sees her seven Beadsmen. He then with Una climbs the Hill of Contemplation and hears from a holy man the story of his past with a prophecy of his future, and obtains a view of the City of Heaven.
This must be pronounced the most beautiful canto of the first book.
II. The Allegory: 1. The Soul is brought by the Truth to a knowledge of the Heavenly Life (Cœlia), and is led, through repentance, to seek forgiveness and to desire a holier life. Having learned Faith and Hope, it acquires a zeal for Good Works (Charity), and is strengthened by exercising Patience and Repentance. At last it enjoys a mood of happy Contemplation of the past with bright prospects for the future. The whole canto sets forth the beauty in a life of faith combined with good deeds.
2. The religious allegory presents the doctrine, discipline, and spirit of Protestantism in the sixteenth century. A close parallel may be drawn between this canto and many things in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. For his House of Holiness and its management, Spenser has no doubt taken many suggestions from the great manor house of some Elizabethan gentleman.
19. an auntient house, the House of Holiness.
28. Dame Cœlia, i.e. the Heavenly Lady.
33. Fidelia and Speranza, Faith and Hope.
35. faire Charissa, Charity, or Love. Cf. I Corinthians, xiii, 13.
44. Hight Humiltà, named Humility.
59. And knew his good, etc., and knew how to conduct himself to all of every rank.
77. ever-dying dread, constant dread of death.
78. long a day, many a long day.
79. thy weary soles to lead, to guide thy weary feet (to rescue them).
XIII. The description of Fidelia is full of biblical allusions, viz.; her white robe (Revelation, vii, 9); the sacramental cup filled with wine and water according to the custom of the early Christians (John, xix, 34); the serpent symbolical of healing power (Numbers, xxi, and Mark, xiv, 24); the book sealed with the blood of the Lamb (Revelation, v, 1, and II Corinthians, v, 7).
144. encrease is in the optative subj. with God as subject.
172. And when she list, etc., and when it pleased her to manifest her higher spiritual power. These miracles of Faith are based on the following passages: Joshua, x, 12; II Kings, xx, 10; Judges, vii, 7; Exodus, xiv, 21; Joshua, iii, 17; Matthew, xxi, 21.
176. This line is given in the folio edition of 1609, but is wanting in the edition of 1590 and 1596.
209. hardly him intreat, scarcely prevail on him.
213. The absolutions granted by the clergy.
215. the passion of his plight, his suffering condition.
XXX. Percival points out the resemblance between Spenser's Charity and Andrea del Sarto's famous painting La Charité in the Louvre.
277. Whose passing price, etc., whose surpassing value it was difficult to calculate.
292. well to donne, well doing, right doing.
318. seven Bead-men, seven men of prayer, corresponding to the Seven Deadly Sins of the House of Pride. They represent good works: (1) entertainment of strangers; (2) food to the needy; (3) clothing to the naked; (4) relief to prisoners; (5) comfort to the sick; (6) burial of the dead, and (7) care of widows and orphans.
354. price of bras, ransom in money. Bras is a Latinism from æs.
355. From Turkes and Sarazins. In the sixteenth century thousands of Christians were held captive in Turkish and Saracen prisons, and many of these were ransomed by the charitable of Europe. Prescott tells us that Charles V found 10,000 Christians in Tunis at its capture in 1535.
359. he that harrowd hell. The Harrowing of Hell was the mediæval belief in the descent of Christ to hell to redeem the souls of Old Testament saints, and to despoil the powers of darkness. It is the subject of an old miracle play.
374. The reference is to the resurrection from the dead.
378. I dead be not defould, that I (when) dead be not defiled. This prayer was answered, for the poet received honorable burial in Westminster Abbey.
381. And widowes ayd, i.e. had charge (to) aid widows, etc.
382. In face of judgement, before the judgment-seat.
422-423. his ... her, Redcross Knight...mercy.
430. For nought he car'd, for he cared nought that his body had been long unfed.
470. that same mighty man of God, Moses. See Exodus, xiv, 16, xxiv, and xxxiv.
471. That blood-red billowes, of the Red Sea.
478. that sacred hill, the mount of Olives.
483. that pleasaunt Mount, mount Parnassus, the seat of the nine Muses (l. 485), the patronesses of the arts and of learning. Sacred and profane literature are beautifully blended in the thoughts of the contemplative man.
489. a goodly Citie, the Celestial City, Heaven. The description is suggested by that in Revelation, xxi, 10 seq.
515. That great Cleopolis, London, "the city of glory."
519. Panthea, probably Westminster Abbey, in which Elizabeth's ancestors were buried.
524. for earthly frame, for an earthly structure.
549. Saint George of mery England. St. George became the patron Saint of England in 1344, when Edward III consecrated to him the Order of the Garter. Church and Percival say that merry means pleasant and referred originally to the country, not the people. Cf. Mereweather.
LXII. Observe that lines 1, 2, 5, 6 are spoken by the Knight, the rest by Contemplation.
565. bequeathed care, the charge intrusted to thee (by Una).
579. and many bloody battailes, etc., and fought many bloody pitched battles.
585. Chaungelings. The belief in the power of fairies to substitute their elf-children for human babies is frequently referred to in writers of Spenser's time. In the Seven Champions the witch Kalyb steals away St. George, the son of Lord Albert of Coventry, soon after his birth.
591. Georgos, from the Greek ?e?????, an earth tiller, farmer. Spenser borrows the story in this stanza from that of Tages, son of Earth, who was similarly found and brought up. Ovid's Metamorphoses, xv, 553.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. Observe that stanza I contains the moral of Canto IX. 2. What was Una's purpose in bringing the Knight to the House of Holiness? 3. Why should Faith and Hope be represented as betrothed virgins, and Charity a matron? 4. Who were Zeal, Reverence, Obedience, Patience, and Mercy, with the symbolism of each? 5. Who was the door-keeper? Explain the allegory. 6. Find and explain the biblical allusions in this Canto, which shows the influence of the Bible to a remarkable extent. 7. In what was the Knight instructed by Faith (XIX seq.)? 8. Compare the mood of the Knight in XXI with that in Canto IX, li. 9. How did the two situations affect Una? 10. Note the teachings in XXIII (prayer), XXIV (absolution), and XXV (mortification of the flesh). 11. Observe that Faith teaches the Knight his relations to God; Charity, those to his fellow-men. 12. Explain the lyric note in l. 378. 13. Give an account of the knight's visit to the Hill of Contemplation. Explain the allegory. 14. Find a stanza complimentary to Queen Elizabeth. 16. What prophecy was made of the Knight?
I. The Plot: The Redcross Knight reaches the Brazen Tower in which Una's parents, the King and Queen of Eden, are besieged by the Dragon. The monster is described. The first day's fight is described, in which the Knight is borne through the air in the Dragon's claws, wounds him under the wing with his lance, but is scorched by the flames from the monster's mouth. The Knight is healed by a bath in the Well of Life. On the second day the Knight gives the Dragon several sword-wounds, but is stung by the monster's tail and forced to retreat by the flames. That night he is refreshed and healed by the balm from the Tree of Life. On the third day he slays the Dragon by a thrust into his vitals.
II. The Allegory: 1. Mankind has been deprived of Eden by Sin or Satan (Dragon). The Christian overcomes the devil by means of the whole armor of God (shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, etc.). The soul is strengthened by the ordinances of religion: baptism, regeneration, etc.
2. There is a hint of the long and desperate struggle between Reformed England (St. George) and the Church of Rome, in which the power of the Pope and the King of Spain was broken in England, the Netherlands, and other parts of Europe. Some may see a remoter allusion to the delivery of Ireland from the same tyranny.
13. be at your keeping well, be well on your guard.
III. This stanza is not found in the edition of 1590.
30. And seemd uneath, etc., and seemed to shake the steadfast ground (so that it became) unstable. Church and Nares take uneath to mean "beneath" or "underneath"; Kitchin conjectures "almost."
31. that dreadful Dragon, symbolical of Satan. Spenser here imitates the combat between St. George and the Dragon in the Seven Champions of Christendom, i.
32. This description of the dragon watching the tower from the sunny hillside is justly admired for its picturesqueness, power, and suggestiveness. The language is extremely simple, but the effect is awe-inspiring. It has been compared with Turner's great painting of the Dragon of the Hesperides.
42. O thou sacred muse, Clio, the Muse of History, whom Spenser calls the daughter of Phœbus (Apollo) and Mnemosyne (Memory).
56. till I of warres, etc. Spenser is here supposed to refer to his plan to continue the Faerie Queene and treat of the wars of the English with Philip II ("Paynim King") and the Spanish ("Sarazin").
61. let downe that haughtie string, etc., cease that high-pitched strain and sing a second (or tenor) to my (lower) tune.
120. As two broad Beacons. Kitchin thinks this passage is a reminiscence of the beacon-fires of July 29, 1588, which signaled the arrival of the Armada off the Cornish coast.
158. Her flitting parts, her shifting parts; referring to the instability of the air.
161. low stouping, swooping low (to the ground); a term in falconry.
167. hagard hauke, a wild, untamed falcon.
168. above his hable might, beyond the strength of which he is capable.
172. He so disseized, etc., i.e. the dragon being thus dispossessed of his rough grip. The construction is nominative absolute.
185. And greedy gulfe does gape, etc., i.e. the greedy waters gape as if they would devour the land.
187. the blustring brethren, the winds.
228. his wide devouring oven, the furnace of his maw, or belly.
235. that great Champion, Hercules. The charmed garment steeped in the blood of the Centaur Nessus, whom Hercules had slain, was given him by his wife Dejanira in order to win back his love. Instead of acting as a philter, the poison-robe burned the flesh from his body. Ovid's Metamorphoses, ix, 105.
XXVIII. Observe the correspondence between the adjectives in l. 244 and the nouns in l. 245. The sense is: "He was so faint," etc.
261. The well of life. This incident is borrowed from Bevis of Hampton. The allegory is based on John, iv, 14, and Revelation, xxii, 1.
267. Silo, the healing Pool of Siloam, John, ix, 7. Jordan, by bathing in which Naaman was healed of leprosy, II Kings, v, 10.
268. Bath, in Somersetshire, a town famous from the earliest times for its medicinal baths. Spau, a town in Belgium noted for its healthful waters, now a generic name for German watering-places.
269. Cephise, the river Cephissus in Bœotia whose waters possessed the power of bleaching the fleece of sheep. Cf. Isaiah, i, 18. Hebrus, a river in Thrace, here mentioned because it awaked to music the head and lyre of the dead Orpheus, as he floated down its stream. Ovid's Metamorphoses, xi, 50.
295. to move, moving. This is a French idiom.
300. As Eagle fresh out of the Ocean wave, etc. There was an ancient belief, that once in ten years the eagle would soar into the empyrean, and plunging thence into the sea, would molt his plumage and renew his youth with a fresh supply of feathers.
312. his bright deaw-burning blade, his bright blade flashing with the "holy water dew" in which it had been hardened (l. 317).
322. Ne molten mettall in his blood embrew, i.e. nor sword bathe itself in his (the dragon's) blood.
335. With sharpe intended sting, with sharp, outstretched sting.
366. the griped gage, the pledge (shield) seized (by the dragon).
386. missed not his minisht might, felt not the loss of its diminished strength; i.e. though cut off, the paw still held to the shield.
XLIV. In comparing the fire-spewing dragon to a volcano, Spenser follows Vergil's Æneid, iii, 571, and Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, iv, 8.
406. a goodly tree. Cf. Genesis, ii, 9, and Revelation, xxii, 2.
409. over all were red, everywhere were spoken of.
414. Cf. Genesis, iii, 2. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden lest they should eat and live forever.
434. deadly made, a creature of death, i.e. hell-born.
469. An imitation of an incident in the Seven Champions in which a winged serpent attempts to swallow St. George; i, 1.
477. And back retyrd, and as it was withdrawn. A Gallicism.
490. which she misdeem'd, in which she was mistaken. Una feared that the dragon was not dead.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. Describe the three days' fight between the Knight and the Dragon. 2. What advantages does each gain? 3. Study the Dragon as a type of the conventional monster of romance, contrasting his brutal nature with the intellectuality and strategy of the Knight. 4. Study the battle as an allegory of the victory of mind over matter, of virtue over vice, of Protestantism over Romanism. 5. By what devices does Spenser obtain the effects of terror? Mystery and terror are prime elements in romance. 6. Find examples of another romantic characteristic, exaggeration. 7. Do you think that in his use of hyperbole and impossibilities Spenser shows that he was deficient in a sense of humor? 8. Observe the lyric note in iii and liv. 9. How does the poet impress the reader with the size of the Dragon? 10. Which Muse does he invoke? 11. Spenser's poetry is richly sensuous: find passages in which he appeals to the sense of sight (IV, VIII, XIV), of sound (IV, IX), of touch (X, XI, VII), of smell (XIII), of taste (XIII), of pain (XXXVII, XXVI, XXII), of motion (X, XV, XVIII). 12. Where do you find an allegory of baptism? Of regeneration? Of the resurrection of Christ (the three days)? 13. Analyze the descriptions of the coming of darkness and of dawn.
I. The Plot: The death of the dragon is announced by the watchman on the tower of the city, and Una's parents, the King and Queen, accompanied by a great throng, come forth rejoicing at their deliverance. The Knight and Una are conducted with great honors into the palace. On the eve of their betrothal, Archimago suddenly appears as Duessa's messenger and claims the Knight. Their wicked attempt is frustrated, and the pair are happily betrothed. After a long time spent in Una's society, the Knight sets out to engage in the further service of the Faerie Queene.
II. The Allegory: Holiness, by conquering the devil, frees the whole human race from the tyranny of sin. It is embarrassed by the unexpected appearance of the consequences of its past sins, but makes a manly confession. In spite of hypocritical intrigues (Archimago) and false slanders (Duessa), Holiness is united to Truth, thus forming a perfect character. The champion of the church militant responds cheerfully to the calls of duty and honor.
2. Reformed England, having destroyed the brutal power of Rome, is firmly united to the truth in spite of the intrigues of the Pope to win it back to allegiance. It then goes forth against the King of Spain in obedience to the command of Queen Elizabeth.
3. vere the maine shete, shift the mainsail, beare up with the land, direct the ship toward land.
25. out of hond, at once.
43. Of tall young men. An allusion to Queen Elizabeth's Pensioners, a band of the tallest and handsomest young men, of the best families and fortunes, that could be found (Warton). All hable armes to sownd, all proper to wield armes.
57. to the Maydens, to the accompaniment of the maidens' timbrels.
71. in her self-resemblance well beseene, looking well in her resemblance to her proper self, i.e. a king's daughter.
73. the raskall many, the crowd of common people.
116. of great name, of great celebrity, i.e. value.
117. fitting purpose frame, held fitting conversation.
XIV. Kitchin and Percival think this whole passage a clever compliment to the parsimony of the Queen's court.
161. that proud Paynim king, probably a reference to Philip of Spain.
168. Nor doen undo, nor undo what has been done.
173. In sort as, even as.
205. all were she, although she had been. In place, in various places.
313. bait. In Spenser's time bear-baiting was a favorite pastime of the people and received royal patronage.
328. The housling fire, the sacramental fire. Spenser seems here to have in mind, not the Christian housel or Eucharist, but the Roman marriage rites with their symbolic fire and water.
347. trinall triplicities, the threefold three orders of the celestial hierarchy according to the scholastic theologians. They were as follows: (1) Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; (2) Dominations, Virtues, Powers; (3) Princedoms, Archangels, and Angels. Cf. Dante's Paradiso, xxviii, Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, xviii, 96, and Milton's Paradise Lost, v, 748.
375. her tackles spent, her worn-out rigging.
Questions and Topics for Study
1. Contrast the tone of this canto with the preceding two. 2. When does Spenser drop into a lighter, humorous vein? 3. Find allusions to sixteenth century customs, e.g. that of sitting on rush-strewn floors. 4. How was the Redcross Knight received by the King? 5. Compare Una's costume with that described in the first canto. Why this change? 6. What hint of the significance of her name in XXI? 7. What is the effect of Archimago's appearance? (For dramatic surprise.) 8. What is the effect of Duessa's letter? (Suspense of fear.) 9. Observe the confusion of Christian and Pagan rites in this canto. 10. Where does Spenser make happy use of maritime figures? 11. Explain the allegory of this canto.