Scrap and I are up for Reddits r/rpg/ Game of the Month for February. If you are on Reddit and you'd like to go there and vote for us then hit the image;
Ben Milton is also on there, so it looks like Scrap and I will have to hunt him through the Under-Earth and eat him. Apologies.
Ok, back to the Faerie Queene)
The end of Book Five is a classic Spencerian Anticlimax Canto. Artegall finds and fights Grantorto, who is a giant wielding an axe, except not a multi-armed GIANT giant like Arthur fought but just a large man.
He wins by the middle of the super-short Canto, then sets up shop with Irenae to govern this 'Island', using Talus as a murderous Robocop. This only lasts a handful of verses, just long enough for Spencer to make yet another point about how when his ex-boss ordered those Irish prisoners executed, it was totally justified.
Arthegall is then unexpectedly recalled (just like Spencers ex-boss) and then we get into the much-better second half of the Canto, Arthegalls meeting two extremely well-described Witches and their creature the Blatant Beast, which it seems may be a major adversary for whomever the knight of Canto six is.
Even though the Witches have more life a verve to them, they are still a lot like numerous other Spencerian monster/baddies we've seen in this book.
The opener does have a few gems of verse, of which I will try to bring you a handful here;
Talus being apparently salt-immune (I was hoping he would glitch in the sea), and still doing most of the work;
"But nathemore would they from land refraine,
But when was nigh unto the shore they drew,
That foot of man might sound the bottom plaine,
Talus into the sea did forth issew,
Though darts from shore & stones they at him threw;
And wading through the waves with steadfast sway,
Maugre the might of all those troupes in vew,
Did win the shore, whnce he them chast away,
And made to fly, like doves, whom the Eagle doth affray.
But ere he marched farre, he with them met,
And fiercely charged them with all his force;
But Talus sternely did upon them set,
And brusht, and battred them without remorse,
That on the ground he left full many a corse;
Ne any able was him to withstand,
Be he them overthrew both man and horse,
That they lay scattred over all the land,
As thicke as doth the seede after the sowers hand."
Irena gets dressed for her execution, or possibly marriage (also, slight callout to Spensers sweating lady fetish);
"Then up she rose and on her selfe did dight
Most squalid garments, fit for such a day,
And with dull countenance, and with doleful spright,
She forth was brought in sorrowfull dismay,
For to receive the doome of her decay.
But comming to the place, and finding there
Sir Artegall, in battailous array
Wayting his foe, it did her dead hart cheare,
And new life to her lent, in midst of deadly feare.
Like as a tender Rose in open plaine,
That with untimely drought nigh withered was,
And hung the head, soone as few drops of raine
Thereon distill, and deaw her daintie face,
Gins to looke up, and with fresh wonted grace
Dispreds the glorie of her leaves gay;
Such was Iraneas countenance, such her case,"
Here is Grantorto;
"Who came at length, with proud presumpteous gate,
Into the field, as if he fearelesse were,
All armed in a cote of yron plate,
Of great defence to ward the deadly feare,
And on his head a steele cape he did weare
Of cooour rustie browne, but sure and strong;
And in his hand an huge Polaxe did beare,
Whose steale was yron studded, but not long,
With which he wont to fight, to justifie his wrong."
From the notes; "Grantorto is armed like an Irish galloglas or foot soldier, whom Spenser describes in his View of the Present State of Ireland; 'in a long shirt of mayle down to the calfe of his legg with a long brode axe in his hand'."
"Of statue huge and hideous he was,
Like to a Giant for his monstrous hight,
And did in strenght most sorts of men surpas,
Ne ever any found his match in might;
Thereto he had great skill in single fight:
His face ws ugly, and his countenance sterne,
That could have frayd one with the very sight,
And gaped like a gulfe, when he did gerne,
That whether man or monster one could scarce discerne."
I was particularly pleased to read 'gerne', since I grew up near Eskdale, site of one of the few remaining Gurning competitions in the United Kingdom.
Then the fight happens, it isn't long.
If you've read a bunch of Spenserian fights before, nothing really stands out. I have been talking a lot about Spensers Naval metaphors, where someone or something is shown to be like a ship doing something, but I rarely show them, so here is one from the Arthegall/Grantorto fight;
"He shund his strokes, where ever they did fall,
And way did give unto their gracelesse speed:
As when a skilfull Marriner doth reed
A storme approching, that doth peril threat,
He will not bide the daunger of such dread,
But strikes his sayles, and vereth his mainsheat,
And lends unto it leave the emptie ayre to beat."
And then Arthegall wins and etc, etc.
The last fifteen verses are ALL witches, and they are a pleasing return to form;
"When as two old ill favour'd Has he met,
By the way side being together set,
Two griesly creatures; and, to that their faces
Most foule and filthie were, their garments yet
Being all rag'd and tatter'd, their disgraces
Did much the more augment, and made most ugly cases.
The one of them, that elder did appeare,
With her dull eyes did seeme to looke askew,
That her mis-shape much helpt; and her foule here
Hung loose and loethsomely: Thereto her hew
Was wan and leane, that all her teeth arew,
And all her bones might through her cheekes be red;
Her lips were like raw lether, pale and blew,
And as she spake, therewith she slavered;
Yet spake she seldom, but thought more, the lesse she sed."
This is 'Envie'. The other;
"Her face was ugly, and her both distort,
Foming with poyson round about her gils,
In which her cursed tongue full sharpe and short
Appear'd like Aspis sting, that closely kils,
Or cruelly does wound, whom so she wils:
A distaffe in her other hand she had,
Upon the which she litle spinnes, but spils,
And faynes to weave false tales and leasings bad,
To throw amongst the good, which others had disprad."
This is 'Detraction', and she is unlike Envy;
"For what so Envie good or bad did fynd,
She did conceale, and murder her own mynd;"
".. what ever evill she conceived,
Did spred abroad, and throw in th'open wynd.
Yet this in all her words might be perceived,
That all she sought, was mens good name to have bereaved."
I'm pretty sure we've seen quite a lot of monsters and evil witch-women in the Faerie Queene who are a lot like Envy and Detraction. Wasn't there that woman that followed a Knight about shouting slander at him?
In fact yes, I think she was called Sclaunder.
Also wasn't jealousy itself a character in book Four? I think Malbecco eventually went to live in a cliff and turned into PURE JEALOUSY.
The two witches mark Arthegall as he passes by and set on him the Blatant Beast, which I think is some kind of 4Chan, Fake News, Trump/Russia monster that does reputational damage?
"Thereto the Blatant beast by them set on
At him began aloud to barke and bay,
With bitter rage and fell contention,
That all the woods and rockes night to that way,
Began to quake and tremble with dismay;
And all the aire rebellowed againe.
So dreadfully his hundered tongues did bray,
And evermore those hags them selves did paine,
To sharpen him, and their owne cursed tongs did straine."
So its looking like the next Book is going to be Spenser dealing with his deep feelings about that time his boss got his reputation destroyed because of all the murderous stuff which he was pretty much ordered/not ordered to do in Ireland.
So its going to get wierd, even for the Faerie Queene. And topical.