Monday, 30 October 2017

Tender Parts - The Faerie Queene Book 1 Canto 7

I forget how many time Una faints in this Canto but its a lot.

So, Duessa returns from hanging out with deep mythical archetypes and finds Redcrosse gone. She tracks him down to a stream and;

".. with reproach of carelessness unkind
Ubraid, for leaving her in place unmeet,
With foul words tempting fair, sour gall with honey sweet."

Which is a conversation I think a lot of us can remember having.

Redcrosse drinks from the stream, which it turns out is a sedative roofie stream as the Nymph from which it flows is a lazy good-for-nothing.

Redcrosse is now drugged when the giant Orgoglio turns up. Orgoglio swings at him in a really good stanza with gunpowder metaphors and is about to crush him to powder when Duessa intervenes and trades herself for his safety.

This is interesting as Duessa does actually save Redcrosse's life.

Orgoglio throws Redcrosse in a dungeon and like Duessa as his new girlfriend so much that he gets her a seven-headed hydra to ride about, purely to make her look more awesome and terrifying. I feel like this is a pretty positive relationship for both Orgoglio and Duessa.

The nameless Dwarfe grabs Redcrosse's armour and gear and runs for it, running straight into Una, who them proceeds to wail and faint multiple times in the rest of the stanza. I mean most of the stanza is her fainting and wailing. The Dwarfe wakes her up by;

"To rub her temples, and to chaufe her chin,
And every tender part to tosse and turne:"

And I have no idea if the slightly sleazy double-meaning is intended there but looking at the rest of Spensers writing; maybe.

Una meets the most amazingly-attired Knight, truly a high-level adventurer. He gets multiple stanzas just on his glorious clothes and his diamond shield has multiple magical properties.

Amazingly, from the point of view of the mediocrely materialist 21st century reader, she does not instantly assume him to be either a rapist or a wizard in disguise, or both, despite the fact that 50% of the men she meets are one of the two.


Arthur has an un-named Squire who presumably hangs out with the Dwarfe while Una and Arthur are speaking highly complex conversational stanzas at each other.

The main spiritual or moral problem of the Canto seems to be Una essentially having a meltdown and falling into despair because her Knight is gone, and the long conversation with Arthur is, in 21st Century terms, largely about him getting her to talk about it.

The answer, as it usually is in TFQ, is faith, and also reason.

"But woeful Lady le me to entreat,
For to unfold the anguish of your heart:
Mishaps are mastered by advice discreed,
And council mitigates the greatest smart;
Found never help, who never would his hurts impart."

So, under, or along with the (to us, today) complex and archaic spiritual allegory and glorious chivalric claptrap is something we can understand and perhaps sympathise with.

Despite this the 'quoth he/quoth she' argument is bordering on farcical.

We also get Una's backstory, its a standard parents-menaced-by-dragon story. She's from
"the territories,
Which Phison and Euphrates floweth by,
And Gehons golden waves do wash continually."

Which I think means she's from the middle east?

The Dragon is also from Tartary, so Richard should be happy. But that's probably an allegory for something.

Arthur and Una (and the Squire, and the Dwarfe) join up and go to rescue that fucking idiot Redcrosse, so hopefully lookout for a Giant-fight in Canto 8.

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