Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A Gyant, aSphinx and a biscuit FQ Book 5 Canto 11

This is a Big Fat Canto cause', again, Edmund has got his logistics squeezed towards the end of the book and very likely run out of space for things to be in.

So be it. If it’s a bad book then at least there is a lot of it. Sometimes, all we desire is that the burger be big.


PART ONE; Arthur beats up a Multi-Armed Gyant 

The baddy whose Seneschall Arthur beat up last canto finds out about it;

"Nathlesse him selfe he armed all in hast,
And forth he far'd with all his many bad,
Ne stayed step, till that he came at last
Vnto the Castle, which they conquored had.
There with huge terrour, to be more ydrad,
He sternly marcht before the Castle gate,
And with bold vaunts and ydle threatning bad
Deliver him his owne, ere yet too late,
To which they had no right, nor any wrongfull state."

'his many bad' is just a straight-up rap lyric son

I forget which element of Catholic Spain this guy represents but he is a multi-armed, multi-torso’d Gyant, which, sorry, I probably should have brought up before now.

No-one dicks about, Arthur rides out fully armed and we are into a fight scene by verse five. The gyant flies at Arthur;

"As if he would have overrun him streight,
And with his huge great yron axe gan hew
So hideously uppon his armour bright,
As he to peeces would have chopt it quight:
That the bold Prince was forced foote to give
To his first rage, and yeeld to his despight:"

Then we get one of those likeable 'monster manual' verses from Spenser which, no-matter which way you think about it, I'm pretty sure can't directly symbolise anything about Spains invasion of the Netherlands, I think he's just into the monsters;

"Thereto a great advauntage eke he has
Through his three double hands thrise multiplyde,
Besides the double strength, which in them was:
For stil when fit occation did betyde,
He could his weapon shift from side to syde,
From hand to hand, and with such nimblesse sly
Could wield about, that ere it were espide,
The wicked stroke did wound his enemy,
Behinde, beside, before, as he it list apply."

And yes Edmund did just spell 'side' two different ways in the same line, suck it pedants! You're probably Catholics anyway!

Arthur perceives the gyants 'uncouth use' and 'gan to watch the wielding of his hand' so 'ever he saw the stroke to land He would it meete, and warily withstand'.

The guy has about nine arms but only bought one axe - cue your own joke about southern Europeans and planning.

No Scrap I do not want to hear about how the gyants body pattern and assumed motion and joint action would make a single axe the only practical choice. (She stopped reading this months ago.)

"One time, when he his weapon faind to shift,
As he was wont, and chang'd from hand to hand,
He met him with a counterstoke so swift,
That quite smit off his arme, as he it up did lift."

But the guy has, well, a lot of arms, but the pain does trigger 'fury and disdaine' and encourages the Gyant to combine ALL his arms in one SUPER BLOW which is really, really at this stage, a lot like a scene from an Anime;

"Gan into one assemble all the might
Of all his hands, and heaved them on hight
Thinking to pay him with that one for all:
But the sad steele seizd not, where it was hight,
Uppon the childe, but somewhat short did fall,
And lighting on his horses head, him quite did mall."

Another poor dead horse.

Arthur jumps right off and prepares to fight on foot, the Gyan laughs and we get another, very Anime closeup;

"He wox right blyth, as he had got thereby,
And laught so loud, that all his teeth wide bare
One might have seene enraun'd disorderly,
Like to a ranke of piles that pitched are awry."

The Gyant uses exactly the same tactic again, Arthur blocks with his adamant shield but is knocked staggering.

This pisses him off so he takes off two of the gyants arms, 'Like fruitlesse braunches, which the hatchets slight, Hath pruned from the native tree, and cropped quight.'

This drives the gyant crazy with anger and Arthur uses the momentary distraction to cut him in half;

"Through all three bodies he him strooke attonce;
That all the three attonce fell on the plain:"

Hooray, a murder and only 14 verses in. There are 65 in this Canto.

Belgium is finally saved and bows to Arthur, which is meant to mimic the event mentioned in the notes for Canto 10 I showed you about that guy who accepted a governorship when he shouldn't have..

Belgium tells Arthur, there is another fight to have.

PART TWO - Arthur Fights a Freaky Inquisition Monster

"Then wote you, Sir, that in this Church hereby,
There stands an Idole of great note and name,
The which this Gyant reared first on hie,
And of his owne vaine fancies thought did frame:
To whom for endless horror of his shame,
He offered up for daily sacrifize
My children and my people, burnt in flame;
With all the tortures, that he could devize,
The more t'aggreate his God with such his blouddy guize.

And underneath this Idoll there doth lie
An hideous monster, that doth it defend,
And feedes on all the carkassas, that die
In sacrifize unto that cursed feend:
Whose ugly shape none ever saw, nor kend,
That ever scap'd: for of a man they say
It has the voice, that speaches forth doth send,
Even blasphemous words, which she doth bray
Out of her poysnous entrails, fraught with dire decay."


Arthur goes to the big gold idol and whacks it with his sword, once, twice, thrice;

"And the third time out of an hidden shade,
There forth issewed, from under th'Altars smooke,
A dreadfull feend, with fowle deformed looke,
That strecht it selfe, as it had long lyen still;
And her long talie and fethers strongly shooke,
That all the Temple did with terrour fill;
Yet him nought terrifide, that feared nothing ill.

And huge great Beast it was, when it in length
Was streched forth, that nigh fild all the place,
And seem'd to be of infinite great strength;
Horrible, hideous, and of hellish race,
Borne of the brooding of _Echidna_ base,
Or other like infernall furies kinde:
For of a Mayd she had the outward face,
To hide the horrour, which did lurke behinde,
The better to beguile, whom she so fond did finde.

Walter Crane you legend

Thereto the body of a dog she had,
Full of fell ravin and fierce greedinesse;
A Lions clawes, with powre and rigour clad,
To rend and teare, whose sting without redresse
Full deadly wounds, where so it is empight;
And Eagles wings, for scope and speedinesse,
That nothing may escape her reaching might,
Whereto she ever list to make her hardy flight.

Much like in foulnesse and deformity
Unto that Monster, whom the Theban Knight,
The father of that fatall progeny,
Made kill her selfe for very hearts despight,
That he had red her Riddle, which no wight
Could ever loose, but suffered deadly doole."

The reason I've typed out almost all of this description is partly because its very cool, and partly because this gothed-up mutant super-sphinx is meant to be the Spanish Inquisition, who we previously read had gone fucking nuts in the Low Countries multiple times.

The linking of the Sphinx to the Inquisition is the first time I have found the presence of allegory, as allegory, in this book, elegant, informative, inventive and enhancing to the art. The join of the riddling beast with the unanswerable question and the guys with the brands that nobody expects is very neat.

So, is this what the renaissance courtier period reader would be feeling all the time? Is that how allegory is supposed to work? Because I have found it rather rubbish thus far, or at least, I have greatly enjoyed the invention and the imagination and the words, but the two sides of the allegory have never felt like they worked together to me, as if they enhanced and reflected each other and became a new whole like a good work of art. I have been simply regarding them as parallel paths with different virtues and annoyances till now.

I will cut the fight short. The Sphinx grabs Arthurs adamant shield. They wrestle. He cuts off its paws. She wails so loud the temple quakes. She comes at him with the tail which strikes him so hard it gets a whole ship metaphor. He cuts it off. She spreads her wings and flies at him with her mouth, he shields himself and;

"Under her wombe his fatall sword he thrust,
And for her entraile made an open way,
To issue forth; the which once being brust,
Like to a great Mill damb forth fiercely gusht,"

Belgium is saved.

PART THREE -  What's Arthegall Up To?

Arthegall is on his mission to rescue whatsherface from Grantorto when he comes upon 'an aged wight, wayfaring quiet alone'. This is a knight he recognises, one who came to the court of the Faerie Queene with Irene (that’s her hame) when first she asked for help.

Arthegall asks for news. It's bad;

"She liveth sure and sound;
But to that Tyrant is in wreched thraldom bound."

She had gone to 'the salvage Islands syde' to meet Arthegall, at the time and the place where he promised to be, but he was not there and Grantorto has got here.

And Grantorto has set a day for her execution, if no champion appears to defend her.

"Now sure and by my life,
Too much am I too blame for that faire Maide,
That have her drawne to all this troublous strife,
Through promise to afford her timely aide,
Which be default I have not yet defraide.
But witness unto me, ye heavens, that know
How cleare I am from blame of this upbraide:
For ye into like thraldome me did throw,
And kept from complishing the faith, which I did owe."

Yes, there were all those women you needed to murder with your robot. But enough of this, on! On to Grantorto and the rescue of Irene!

Right after this encouter with a Frenchman.

PART FOUR - The House of Bourbon.

From the notes; "The episode of Sir Burbon is a retelling of recent French history. Burbon figures Henri de Navarre, head of the house of Bourbon. In 1589 Henri was designated king of France bye Henri III, the last of the Valois kings. Navarre was of Protestant persuasion, but altercations about his Protestantism and the long delay in crowning him led him in 1593 to embrace Roman Catholicism with his famous remark 'Paris vaut bien une messe' (Paris is well worth a Mass). He was crowned in 1594."

And you can guess what Spenser and his audience think of that.

Arthegall & Talus find;

".. a Knight in daungerous distresse
Of a rude rout him chasing to and fro,
That sought with lawlesse powre him to oppresse,
And bring in bondage, of their bruitishnesse:
And farre away, amid their rakehell bands,
Crying, and holding up her wreched hands
To him for aide, who long in vaine their rage withstands."

The Knight isn't doing too badly but the crowd have batterd his shield & forced him to throw it away JUST LIKE HENTI NAVARRE THREW AWAY THE PRTESTANT FAITH;

"For from the day that he thus did it leave,
Amongst all Knights he blotted was with blame,
And counted but a recreant Knight, with endles shame."

Arthegall tries to help this knight but the 'rude rout' assails them both with 'outrage bold', untill the murdering riot-control robot does his thing;

"... vntill that yron man
With his huge flaile began to lay about,
From whose sterne presence they diffused ran,
Like scattred chaffe, the which the wind away doth fan."

The Knight says hello, give them his name Burbon,

and tells them that the chick is Flourdelis, his love;

"though me she have forlore,
Whether witheld from me by wrongfull might,
Or with her owne good will, I cannot read aright."

She was into him but Grantorto 'Entyced her,' with gifts and 'many a guilefull word';

"O who may not with gifts and words be tempted?
Sith which she hath me ever since abhord,
And to my foe hath guilefully consented:
Ay me, that ever guyle in wemen was invented."

Arthegall asks him what about the shield though? Burbon tells him, well, things were getting pretty rough, and people really didn't like the shield really, and really the shield was making me enemies, so I let it go for a bit.

Arthegall thinks this is terrible;

"As to abandon, that which doth containe
Your honours stile, that is your warlike shield.
All perill ought be lesse, and lesse all paine
Then losse of fame in disadventrous field;"

Burbon explains how actually this is fine, its all going to be fine. It's going to be fine. It's fine. Really. It's fine;

"Not so; (quoth he) for yet when time doth serve,
My former shield I may resume againe:
To temporize is not from truth to swerve,
Ne for advantage terme to entertaine,
When as necessitie doth it contraine."

This goes down as well as you might expect;

"Fie on such forgerie (said Arthegall)
Under one hood to shadwo faces twaine.
Knights ought be true, and truth is one in all:
Of all things to dissemble fouly may befall."

The biscuit man still needs help getting his girl, now surrounded by raskalls, so Arthegall and he tool up and go full Peterloo on them, including this unusual line;

"Those knights began a fresh them to assayle,
And all about the fields like Squirrels hunt;"

But mainly the robot takes care the the oppression for them. The lady is freed and biscuit man goes to embrace her;

"But she backstarting with disdainfull yre,
Bad him avaunt, ne would unto his lore
Allured be, for prayer nor for meed."

Arthegall rebukes her and essentially bullys her into not flinching when the Biscuit grabs her while Talus murders everyone until even Arthegall;

"... seeing his cruel deed,
Commaunded him from slaughter to recoyle,
And to his voyage gan againe proceed:
For that the terme approaching fast, required speed."

Horaaaaaaaaa a y.


  1. Flourdelis = Fleur-de-lis, I think, quite clearly.

  2. As for Inquisition and Sphinx, I think the allegory was in human face combined with monster body (and Jesuits known for their wordplay and unusual logic/casuistry), i.e. the inquisition claimed to do good/god's work, but everything else about it was monstrous.
    I really like how Spenser parallels auto-da-fés with pagan sacrifices.

  3. i wanna read whole series in a booklet
    and read with my copy of text

  4. actually am sporadically still reading these . " poysnous" is such an amazing spelling I have filed it away for immediate use.

    I hadn't formed an opinion about the gyant haven't only one axe until you told that you didn't care about it , and because I have contrettes means I immediately begin to do so.

    However! I won't do the thing you said BUT I do think a fighting style based on having a lot of arms and one weapon and utilising the many arms by rapid switching of the single weapon is interesting and evocative .