Book II (Cantos I - VI) of The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.

I'm slowly working my way through The Faerie Queene: very slowly, actually - the goal was to be up to Book IV this week and here I am writing about the beginning of Book II! June's goal has now been modified somewhat and I hope to finish Books II and III by the end of the month. 

Now, Book II: whereas Book I was centred around holiness and the knight Redcrosse, Book II changes both theme and character: the knight is Sir Guyon and the theme temperance.

The Second Booke 
of the 
Faerie Qveene.
The Legend of Sir Gvyon.
Of Temperaunce.

Book II begins with an address to Queen Elizabeth I and a defence of his 'faerie land'. Spenser writes,
Right well I wote most mighty Soueraine,
That all this famous antique history,
Of some th'aboundance of an idle braine
Will iudged be, and painted forgery,
Rather then matter of iust memory,
Sith none, that breatheth liuing aire, does know,
Where is that happy land of Faery,
Which I so much do vaunt, yet no where show,
But vouch antiquities, which no body can know.
He goes on to add that Faerie Land is indeed real, saying that just because it hasn't been discovered yet makes it no less real than other recently discovered lands.

Guyon by Archimage abusd,
The Redcrosse knight awaytes,
Findes Mordant and Amauia slaine
With pleasures poisoned baytes.

Before we meet Sir Guyon Archimago, "That cunning Architect of cancred guile", rears his ugly head again having failed to split Redcrosse and Una from Book I. He comes across a knight, Guyon, and a pilgrim. Still "full of malicious mind" he begins to "weaue a web of wicked guile", telling them he has encountered a woman who has been raped by a knight. He takes Guyon and the pilgrim to the woman,
... Where sate a gentle Lady all alone,
With garments rent, and haire discheueled,
Wringing her hands, and making piteous mone;
Her swollen eyes were much disfigured,
And her faire face with teares was fowly blubbered.
She eventually tells them,
... Ah gentle trustie Squire,
What comfort can I wofull wretch conceaue,
Or why should euer I henceforth desire,
To see faire heauens face, and life not leaue,
Sith that false Traytour did my honour reaue?
False traytour certes (said the Faerie knight)
I read the man, that euer would deceaue
A gentle Ladie, or her wrong through might:
Death were too little paine for such a foule despight.
She then describes the man who raped her - "He bore a bloudie Crosse, that quartred all the field." She is of course describing Redcrosse, so we know that this is all a false claim. Guyon is not to know this however so he assures the woman he will seek revenge on her behalf. Spenser then reveals the woman's true identity - it is Duessa.
Her purpose was not such, as she did faine,
Ne yet her person such, as it was seene,
But vnder simple shew and semblant plaine
Lurckt false Duessa secretly vnseene,
As a chast Virgin, that wronged beene:
So had false Archimago her disguisd,
To cloke her guile with sorrow and sad teene;
And eke himselfe had craftily deuisd
To be her Squire, and do her seruice well aguisd.
Guyon finds Redcrosse and Redcrosse explains, and so Guyon and the pilgrim part with him and go on their journey, and on their way they hear the screams of a woman - they see her and her baby covered in blood and a dead knight, Sir Mordant, by their side. She tells them that Sir Mordant, her husband, had left her to go on some sort of quest and during this period he met with Acrasia (the name Akrasia comes from the Greek ἀκρασία meaning a lack of self-control, the very opposite of temperance), "Acrasia a false enchaunteresse", on the island known as the Bower of Bliss (recalling Circe's island in Homer's The Odyssey). She helps her husband escape from the island where he lived "In chaines of lust and lewd desires ybound", and Acrasia curses the pair:
Which when the vile Enchaunteresse perceiu'd,
How that my Lord from her I would repriue,
With cup thus charmd, him parting she deceiu'd;
Sad verse, giue death to him that death does giue,
And losse of loue, to her that loues to liue,
So soone as Bacchus with the Nymphe does lincke:
So parted we and on our iourney driue,
Till comming to this well, he stoupt to drincke:
The charme fulfild, dead suddenly he downe did sincke.
The woman, Amavia, falls into a faint and dies, and Guyon and the pilgrim are left to bury her. and Guyon vows vengeance upon Acrasia.

Babes bloudie hands may not be clensd,
  the face of golden Meane.
Her sisters two Extremities:
   striue her to banish cleane.

Having buried Amavia the attention turns to her baby, and when Guyon attempts to wash the blood from it he is unable to do so:
Then soft himselfe inclyning on his knee
Downe to that well, did in the water weene
(So loue does loath disdainfull nicitee)
His guiltie hands from bloudie gore to cleene,
He washt them oft and oft, yet nought they beene
For all his washing cleaner. Still he stroue,
Yet still the litle hands were bloudie seene;
The which him into great amaz'ment droue,
And into diuerse doubt his wauering wonder cloue.
The pilgrim explains the blood is a testament to it's mother's innocence. When they go to leave the site Guyon then discovers his horse is missing so they are forced to carry on their journey on foot. They soon arrive at a castle where three half-sisters live:
Therein three sisters dwelt of sundry sort,
The children of one sire by mothers three;
Who dying whylome did diuide this fort
To them by equall shares in equall fee:
But strifull minde, and diuerse qualitee
Drew them in parts, and each made others foe;
Still did they striue, and dayly disagree;
The eldest did against the youngest goe,
And both against the middest meant to worken woe.
He is received by Medina, and we soon learn of the suitors of the eldest sister - Sir Huddibras, and the youngest - Sans Loy, the lawless villain of Book I ("He that faire Vna late fowle outraged"); both knights are highly arrogant and unpleasant individuals who attack Guyon and are calmed only by Medina:
Whilst thus they mingled were in furious armes,
The faire Medina with her tresses torne,
And naked brest, in pitty of their harmes,
Emongst them ran, and falling them beforne,
Besought them by the womb, which them had borne,
And by the loues, which were to them most deare,
And by the knighthood, which they sure had sworne,
Their deadly cruell discord to forbeare,
And to her iust conditions of faire peace to heare.
After the argument they have dinner and we see how the eldest sister Elissa represents 'too little', the youngest Perissa representing excess, and Medina being half-way between the two. During the dinner Guyon tells his tale, that he is a knight of the Faerie Queene on a quest to help the pilgrim defeat an evil fairy ("a wicked Fay / Had wrought, and many whelmd in deadly paine") whilst also seeking to punish Acrasia.

Vaine Braggadocchio getting Guyons
  horse is made the scorne
Of knighthood trew, and is of fayre
  Belphoebe fowle forlorne.

The third canto begins with the departure of Guyon - he leaves Medina and Amavia's child, now named Ruddymane. He soon learns what happened to his stolen horse: it was taken by Braggadochio, who Spenser describes as a "Vaine-glorious man". Braggadochio has intimidated a man into becoming his servant, however the servant, Trompart, is easily able to manipulate him with flattery. When he crosses path with Archimago, Archimago falls for Braggadochio's braggery and assumes he must know Redcrosse and Guyon, and so tells him Redcrosse and Guyon have killed Sir Mordant and Amavia:
Th'enchaunter greatly ioyed in the vaunt,
And weened well ere long his will to win,
And both his foen with equall foyle to daunt.
Tho to him louting lowly, did begin
To plaine of wrongs, which had committed bin
By Guyon, and by that false Redcrosse knight,
Which two through treason and deceiptfull gin,
Had slaine Sir Mordant, and his Lady bright:
That mote him honour win, to wreake so foule despight.
Archimago then tells him he must have a sword to defeat Redcrosse and Guyon, and he suddenly vanishes after telling them he will get Arthur's sword for him. Braggadochio and Trompart, greatly alarmed, flee:
He stayd not for more bidding, but away
Was suddein vanished out of his sight:
The Northerne wind his wings did broad display
At his commaund, and reared him vp light
From off the earth to take his aerie flight.
They lookt about, but no where could espie
Tract of his foot: then dead through great affright
They both nigh were, and each bad other flie:
Both fled attonce, ne euer backe returned eie.
On their way they meet a very beautiful huntress:
Her face so faire as flesh it seemed not,
But heauenly pourtraict of bright Angels hew,
Cleare as the skie, withouten blame or blot,
Through goodly mixture of complexions dew;
And in her cheekes the vermeill red did shew
Like roses in a bed of lillies shed,
The which ambrosiall odours from them threw,
And gazers sense with double pleasure fed,
Hable to heale the sicke, and to reuiue the ded.
Spenser goes on to write of all her virtues and compares her with Diana, Eurotas, Cynthus, and the Amazons. She very nearly kills Braggadochio, mistaking him for a wild animal, but when he reveals himself they talk - he tells her of the great deeds he is supposed to have done (but obviously hasn't) and then tries to woo her. She tells him true honour cannot be found in court but out in the wild fighting and working hard, and in response to his advances she threatened him with her spear then fled. Braggadochio then claims he wasn't frightened of her, and he and Trompart leave the scene.

Guyon does Furor bind in chaines,
  and stops Occasion:
Deliuers Phedon, and therefore
  by Strife is rayld vpon.

Meanwhile Sir Guyon is still without his horse, and he and the pilgrim carry on their journey, Spenser noting the pilgrim is there to teach Sir Guyon to keep his temper mild -
... With that blacke Palmer, his most trusty guide;
Who suffred not his wandring feet to slide.
But when strong passion, or weake fleshlinesse
Would from the right way seeke to draw him wide,
He would through temperance and stedfastnesse,
Teach him the weake to strengthen, & the strong suppresse.
The two soon meet a young man being dragged along by his hair by another man:
It fortuned forth faring on his way,
He saw from farre, or seemed for to see
Some troublous vprore or contentious fray,
Whereto he drew in haste it to agree.
A mad man, or that feigned mad to bee,
Drew by the haire along vpon the ground,
A handsome stripling with great crueltee,
Whom sore he bett, and gor'd with many a wound,
That cheekes with teares, and sides with bloud did all abound.
Behind them an old woman egging the madman on:
And euer as she went, her tongue did walke
In foule reproch, and termes of vile despight,
Prouoking him by her outrageous talke,
To heape more vengeance on that wretched wight;
Sometimes she raught him stones, wherwith to smite,
Sometimes her staffe, though it her one leg were,
Withouten which she could not go vpright;
Ne any euill meanes she did forbeare,
That might him moue to wrath, and indignation reare.
Guyon moves to kill the madman but the Palmer intervenes telling him "That Monster can be maistred or destroyd". The Monster or the madman is "Furor", and the old woman, his mother, is "Occasion, the root of all wrath and despight." To conquer Furor one must conquer Occasion, and indeed once Guyon stops her talking Furor stops his attack. Then the young man tells his story, of how he fell in love with a woman and his best friend Philemon told him his lady, Claribell, was being unfaithful to him. He 'proves' it with trickery and the young man kills the innocent Claribell, not finding out until it is too late that she was faithful. He then poisoned Philemon and went looking for Pyrene who helped in the deception, but he was caught by Furor and Occasion. Temperance, as Guyon and the pilgrim point out, would have stopped such a situation:
Wrath, gealosie, griefe, loue do thus expell:
Wrath is a fire, and gealosie a weede,
Griefe is a flood, and loue a monster fell;
The fire of sparkes, the weede of little seede,
The flood of drops, the Monster filth did breede:
But sparks, seed, drops, and filth do thus delay;
The sparks soone quench, the springing seed outweed,
The drops dry vp, and filth wipe cleane away:
So shall wrath, gealosie, griefe, loue dye and decay.
They question the man further and learn his name is Phaon before they are interrupted by the squire of Pyrrochles (whose land they are on) who is on his way to fight Occasion simply for the love of fighting. Guyon and the pilgrim are unimpressed -
Madman (said then the Palmer) that does seeke
Occasion to wrath, and cause of strife;
She comes vnsought, and shonned followes eke.
Happy, who can abstaine, when Rancour rife
Kindles Reuenge, and threats his rusty knife;
Woe neuer wants, where euery cause is caught,
And rash Occasion makes vnquiet life.
Then loe, where bound she sits, whom; thou hast sought,
(Said Guyon,) let that message to thy Lord be brought.
The squire calls them cowards and throws a dart at Guyon but it simply rebounds off his shield -
With that one of his thrillant darts he threw,
Headed with ire and vengeable despight;
The quiuering steele his aymed end well knew,
And to his brest it selfe intended right:
But he was warie, and ere it empight
In the meant marke, aduaunst his shield atweene,
On which it seizing, no way enter might,
But backe rebounding, left the forckhead keene;
Eftsoones he fled away, and might no where be seene.
And there ends Canto IV.

Pyrrochles does with Guyon fight,
  And Furors chayne vnbinds
Of whom sore hurt, for his reuenge
  Atin Cymochles finds.

Pyrrochles, Spenser writes, is so bound by intemperance he will never be happy:
Who euer doth to temperaunce apply
His stedfast life, and all his actions frame,
Trust me, shall find no greater enimy,
Then stubborne perturbation, to the same;
To which right well the wise do giue that name,
For it the goodly peace of stayed mindes
Does ouerthrow, and troublous warre proclame:
His owne woes authour, who so bound it findes,
As did Pyrrochles, and it wilfully vnbindes.
He arrives on the scene and without so much as an introduction begins to fight Guyon:
Approching nigh, he neuer stayd to greete,
Ne chaffar words, prowd courage to prouoke,
But prickt so fiers, that vnderneath his feete
The smouldring dust did round about him smoke,
Both horse and man nigh able for to choke;
And fairly couching his steele-headed speare,
Him first saluted with a sturdy stroke;
It booted nought Sir Guyon comming neare
To thinke, such hideous puissaunce on foot to beare.
Guyon defends himself and the two battle on until Guyon gains the upper-hand and forces Pyrrochles to submit to him. Pyrrochles consents and then asks why he has Furor and Occasion tied up. He then unties the two and Furor begins attacking Pyrrochles whilst Occasion shouts at Guyon, who is unmoved. Eventually Guyon and the pilgrim leave them, feeling Pyrrochles deserves what he gets as he actively sought it. The squire, Atin, calls for Pyrrochles' brother Cymochles, who we learn is the lover of Acrasia and is at that moment in the Bower of Bliss. Atin finds him and tells him he must avenge Pyrrochles.

Guyon is of immodest Merth,
  led into loose desire,
Fights with Cymochles, whiles his bro-
  ther burnes in furious fire.

Cymochles and Atin leave to seek Guyon but on their way they encounter a woman on a boat:
And therein sate a Ladie fresh and faire,
Making sweet solace to her selfe alone;
Sometimes she sung, as loud as larke in aire,
Sometimes she laught, that nigh her breth was gone,
Yet was there not with her else any one,
That might to her moue cause of meriment:
Matter of merth enough, though there were none
She could deuise, and thousand waies inuent,
To feede her foolish humour, and vaine iolliment.
Cymochles (not Atin) climb aboard and she with her "fantasticke wit" entertains him and they enjoy one another's company. Cymochles asks her name and she tells him she is Phaedria, and she too serves Acrasia. She spends her time on the lake - 'Idle Lake':
In this wide Inland sea, that hight by name
The Idle lake, my wandring ship I row,
That knowes her port, and thither sailes by ayme,
Ne care, ne feare I, how the wind do blow,
Or whether swift I wend, or whether slow:
Both slow and swift a like do serue my tourne,
Ne swelling Neptune, ne loud thundring Ioue
Can chaunge my cheare, or make me euer mourne;
My litle boat can safely passe this perilous bourne.
When they reach an island on the lake Cymochles falls asleep, "charm'd", as Phaedria bids him to drop his quest to revenge his brother. There she leaves him, and she soon meets with Guyon on the shore. He, like Cymochles, boards the ship without the pilgrim and is taken to the island though he manages largely to resist her. When Cymochles awakes he sees Guyon and begins to fight him; the two only stop when Phaedria intervenes. As her charms have failed to work on Guyon he is allowed to leave the island, but when he returns to land and the pilgrim they are met with Atin however Guyon wisely chooses not to stay to be insulted. He leaves, and suddenly Pyrrochles appears:
I burne, I burne, I burne, then loud he cryde,
O how I burne with implacable fire,
Yet nought can quench mine inly flaming syde,
Nor sea of licour cold, nor lake of mire,
Nothing but death can doe me to respire.
Ah be it (said he) from Pyrrochles farre
After pursewing death once to require,
Or think, that ought those puissant hands may marre:
Death is for wretches borne vnder vnhappie starre.
He jumps into the lake swiftly followed by Atin but the two get mired: it is Archimago who saves them and quells the flames of Furor:
Which when as Archimago heard, his griefe
He knew right well, and him attonce disarmd:
Then searcht his secret wounds, and made a priefe
Of euery place, that was with brusing harmd,
Or with the hidden fire too inly warmd.
Which done, he balmes and herbes thereto applyde,
And eue[r]more with mighty spels them charmd,
That in short space he has them qualifyde,
And him restor'd to health, that would haue algates dyde.
And with that Canto VI ends. Next week I'll finish writing about Cantos VII - XII and attempt to summarise Book II. Until then, some illustrations of the first six cantos by Walter Crane:

Further Reading


Popular posts from this blog

Getting up on Cold Mornings by James Henry Leigh Hunt.

The Prevention of Literature by George Orwell.

Moments of Being: Slater's Pins Have No Points by Virginia Woolf.