We open with Spenser discoursing on love;
"Wonder it is to see, in diverse minds,
How diversly love doth his pagents play,
And shews his powre in variable kinds:
The baser wit, whose idle thoughts alway
Are wont to cleave unto the lowly clay,
It stirreth up to sensuall desire,
And in lewd slouth to wast his careless day:
But in brave prite it kindles goodly fire,
That to all high desert and honour doth aspire."
And as we go on we will find out that the whole Canto, and probably this whole book, is about love in some way, and what it does to us.
We then leap to Prince Arthur (for it was he) the knight who chased the hot dame and cursed night in the last Canto;
"Who long time wandred through the forrest wyde,
To finde some issue thence, till that at last
He met a Dwarfe, that seemed terrifyde"
"Royally clad (quoth he) in cloth of gold," "fairest wight alive", so this description doesn't really narrow things down in the Spenserverse but Arthur seems to recognise her - this is the same woman he has been after.
The Dwarfe tells him she; "is yclemped Florimell the faire,
Faire Florimell belov'd of many a knight,
Yet she loves none but one, that Marinell is hight.
According to the Dwarfe they heard at court that Marinell was dead five days ago, and Florimell ran off four days ago. I have no idea what's going in with time in this poem.
"So with the Dwarfe he backe return'd againe.
To seek his Lady, where he mote her find;"
But is there something you've forgotten Arthur?
"But by the way he greatly gan complaine
The want of his good Squire late left behind,
For whom he wondrous pensive grew in mind,
For doubt of danger, wich mote him betide;
For him he loved above all mankind,
Having him ever trew and faithfull ever tride,
And bold, as ever Squire that waited by knights side."
Also he saved your life a bunch of times.
So on poem, on to the Squire!
The squire went off chasing the foul foster who was chasing the damizell. This guy is terrified of the squire and manages to lose him in the woods;
"And out of sight escaped at the least;
Yet not escaped from the dew reward
Of his bad deeds, which dayly he increast"
The foster 'to his brethren came, for they were three', and 'them with bitter words he stird to bloudy ire'. They will ambush the Squire at a ford they know he must cross.
The Squire arrives. The fierce foster fares forth. Roll for initiative;
"With that at him a quiv'ring dart he threw,
With so fell force and villeinous despighte,
That through his haberieon the forkhead flew,
And through the linked mayles empierced quite,
But had no powre in his soft flesh to bite:
That stroke the hardy Squire did sore displease,
But more that him he could not come to smite;
For by no meanes the high banke he could sease,
But labour'd long in the deep ford with vaine disease."
It might be three-on-one and only a Squire, but this is still a Spencerian hero;
"At last through wrath and vengeaunce making way,
He on the bancke arriv'd with mickle paine,
Where the third brother did sore assay,
And drove at him with all his might and maine
A forrest bill, which both his hands did straine;
But warily he did avoid the blow,
And with his spear requited hem againe,
That both his sides were thrilled with the throw,
And a large streme of bloud out of the wound did flow.
He tombling down with gnashing teeth did bite
The bitter earth, and bad to let him in
Into the balefull house of endlesse night,
Where wicked ghosts do waile their former sin.
Tho gan the batell freshly to begin;
For nathermore for that spectable bad,
Did th'other two their cruell vengeaunce blin,
But both attonce on both sides him bestad,
And load upon him layd, his life for to have had.
Tho when that villian he auiz'd, which late
Affrighted had the fairest Florimell,
Full of fiers fury, and indignant hate,
To him he turned, and with rigour fell
Smote him so ruedly on the Pannikell,
That to the chin he cleft his head in twaine:
Downe on the ground his carcas groveling fell;
His sinfull soule with desperate disdaine,
Out of her fleshy ferme fled to the place of paine."
One thing I like about Spenser is that when a bad guy dies we see, through the verse, their soul go directly, immediately and quickly to hell, as if the body kept falling through the ground. Its tremendous fun and it gets people out of the way of the plot and the poem very neatly.
One villian remains and takes a shot at the Squire, whose name is Timias;
"which faintly fluttring, scarce his helmet raught,
And glauncing fell to ground, but him annoyed naught.
With that he would have fled into the wood;
But Timias him lightly overhent,
Right as he entring was into the flood,
And strooke at him with force so violent,
That headlesse him into the foord he sent:
The carkas with the streame was carried downe,
But th'head fell backward on the Continent.
So mischief fel upon the meaners crowne;
They three be dead with shame, the Squire lives with renowne."
Unfortunately, Timias is wounded;
"For of that ruell wound he bled so sore,
That from his steed he fell in deadly swowne;"
And down he goes, wallowing in his own gore and certain to bleed to death. Luckily for him the hot huntress from a previous book;
"She that the base Braggadochio did affray,
And made him fast out of the forrest runne;
Belphoebe was her name, and faire as Phoebus sunne."
She finds Timias;
"In whose faire eyes, like lamps of quenched fire,
The Christall humour stood congealed round;
His locks, like faded leaves fallen to grownd,
Knotted with bloud, in bounches rudley ran."
She stops the bloeeding using herbs;
"There, whether it divine Tobacco were,
Or Panachae, or Polygony,
She found and brought it to her patient deare,"
Which the notes tell me is the first mention of Tobacco in English Literature.
Timias wakes up and asks 'what grace is this';
"To send thine Angell from her bowre of blis,
To comfort me in my distresses plight?
Angell, or Godess do I call thee right?"
So now Timias is in love.
Britomart is in love with Arthegall. Arthur seems to be (apparently) in love with Florimell. Florimell is in love with Marinell, who was wounded by Brimoart. Now Timias is in love with Belphobe, with much the same results as Britomart.
Belphobe takes him home where she hangs out in a valley with Damizells. She heals him, but as his physical wound heals, the wound of love grows ever deeper;
"O foolish Physick and unfruitfull paine,
That heales up one and makes another wound:
She his hurt thigh to him recur'd againe,
But hurt his hart, the which before was sound,
Through an unwary dart, which did rebound
From her faire eyes and gracious countenaunce.
What bootes it him from death be unbound,
To be captived in endless durance
Of sorrow and despaire without aleggaunce?"
And as we have learnt so far, in Spenser love is more deadly than goddamn ebola. Like Britomart, Timias has to have a lot of complex and depressing thoughts about his own passions;
"Unthankfull wretch (said he) is this the meed,
With which her soveraigne mercy thou doest quight?
Thy life she saved by her gracious deed,
But thou does weene with villeinous despight,
To blot her honour, and her heavenly light.
Dye rather, dye, then so disloyally
Deeme of her high desert, or seeme so light:
Faire death it is to shonne more shame, to dy:
Dye rather, dy, then ever love disloyally.
But if to love disloyaly it bee,
Shall I then hare her, that from deaths dore
Me brought? ah farre be such reproach fro mee.
What can I lesse do, then her love therefore,
Sith I her dew reward cannot restore:
Dye rather, dye, and dying do her serve,
Dying her serve, and living her adore;
Thy live she gave, thy life she doth deserve:
Dye rather, dye, then ever from her service swerve."
So he's healing, but clearly also sickening at the same time;
"Which seeing faire Belphobe, gan to feare,
Least that his wound were inly well not healed,
Or that the wicked steele empoysned were:
Litle she weend, that love he close concealed;
Yet still he waste, as the snow congealed,
When the bright sunne he beans thereon doth beat;
Yet never his hart to her revealed,
But rather chose to dye for sorrow great,
Then with dishonourable termes her to entreat."
Then there are a lot a rather squamous verses about Belphoebe. Timias is still alive by Canto's end though.