Spenser is afraid we will 'deeme in Artegall Great weaknesse,' for yeilding to 'th insolent command of womens will', but reminds us not to judge him too hastily;
"For never yet was wight so well aware,
But he at first or last was trapt in womens snare."
Britomart, who we haven't seen in a while, has been waiting for Artegalls return. waiting too long for she starts 'to cast in her misdoubtful mynde A thousand feares, that love-sicke fancies faine to fynde.'
Shes hanging around imagining an amped-up version of the things we all imagine when someone doesn't turn up; something terrible has happened to them and we will have to feel sad, they have stopped giving a shit about us for some reason and we will have to feel terrible, or they are just a dick for being late and we will have to be angry. So, on the horns of the time trident; 'Each hour did seeme a moneth, & every moneth a yeare.'
One day she is looking out of a west window, plagued with 'vane fancies' and sees Talus approaching; 'Whereat her heart was fild with hope and drede;'
She runs to meet him and interrogates him at the door. This gives us our first impression of Talus' inner state;
"The yron man, albe he wanted sence
And sorrowes feeling, yet with conscience
Of his ill news, did inly chill and quake,
And stood still mute, as one in great suspence,
As if that by his silence he would make
Her rather reade his meaning, than him selfe it spake."
Talus eventually confesses that Artegall has been captured 'Not by that Tyrant' 'But by a Tyranesse'.
Britomart jumps to bad conclusions;
"Cease thou bad newes-man, baldly doest thou hide
Thy maisters shame, in harlots bondage tide.
The rest my selfe too readily can spell."
And then runs off to her room to make a 'monefull plaint' and to think about what a bad idea this relationship was. Spenser tells us she does not lament with 'loud alew As women wont, but with deepe sighes, and singfuls few.' Then we get an excellent verse about being upset;
"Like as a wayward childe, whose sounder sleepe
Is broken with some fearefull dreames affright,
With froward will doth set him selfe to weepe;
Ne can be stild for all his nurses might,
But kicks and squals, and shreiks for fell despight:
Now scratching her, and her loose locks misusing;
Now seeking darkenesse, and now seeking light;
Then craving sucke, and then the sucke refusing.
Such was this Ladies fit, in her loves fond accusing."
Eventually she calms down and returns to Talus to find out more, in particular, is her guy cheating on her? Talus gives her details and in a trice she is into her armour, hops on the horse and they are off.
Britomart is riding 'melancholicke' and 'Chawing the cud of griefe and inward paine,' when she comes upon a knight who seems aged, friendly and COMPLETELY INNOCENT and who invites her to his home to rest for OBVIOUSLY NON-MURDEROUS REASONS.
Even the original audience by this point should be questioning if every NPC wants to kill the main characters.
Anyway, 'Sith shady dampe had dimd the heavens reach', 'The Championesse, now seeing night at dore' follows the completely innocent and reasonable man. They chat till dark, but Britomart refuses to take off her armour, which troubles the dude. He leaves but Britomart cannot, or will not, sleep. She even addresses her own eyes in this excellent verse;
"Ye guily eyes (sayd she) the which with guyle
My heart at first betrayd, will ye betray
My life now to, for which a little whyle
Ye will not watch? false watches, wellaway,
I wote when ye did watch both night and day
Unto your losse: and now needes will ye sleepe?
Now ye have made my heart to wake alway,
Now will ye sleepe? a wake, and rather weepe,
To thinke of your nights want, that should yee waking keepe."
Aaaaaand, its a trap.
The bed falls away and dumps her into a lower room. Britomart is unfazed by this. She hears armed men coming on and, fully armoured and armed herself, prepares to meet them.
(Its a curious element of the story, the springing of a trap on, not only the wrong person (as we shall soon read) but on someone by temperament, nature, companionship and current mood, most fully prepared to escape or defeat it. An interesting little counter-story.)
Two knights burst in with a 'raskall rout, with weapons rudely dight'.
Talus of course, doesn't sleep and is even more prepared than Britomart. He beats everyone up and they run away.
Now we get the reason for this situation; the housholder, Dolon is a generally-chivalricly-evil dude whose 'slie shifts and wiles did underminde All noble knights'.
Artegall has killed one of Dolons sons and they have planned for revenge. On recognising Talus they thought Britomart to be Artegall and went for the old pit-trap bed deal.
Britomart waits for the next day then bursts out of her room and searches the house, finding it empty.
She sets off on her previous course and comes upon the same pridge where Artegall fought Pollente, the narrow one with the traps. On the bridge are the two knights that tried to kill her.
Talus offers to take care of this for her;
"But she thereat was wroth, that for despight
The glauncing sparkles through her bever glared,
And from her eies did flash out fiery light,
Like coles, that through a silver Censer sparkle bright."
She rides on them so fast that one is shishkebabbed and held there to the other end of the bridge and the other knocked over the side.
And on she rides.
The opening verses indicate that its about to get Renaissance-weird. Edmund brings up justice as an ancient principle and 'highest Jove, who doth true justice deal'.
So this doesn't make any sense from our perspective because our Jove is an impulsive rapist and our version of the ancient world isn't very nice. But in Edmunds renaissance dream-shadow of God, where you can't talk directly about God like he's a character because he's too important, but you can talk about his shadow-self Jove, who is a little like Britomart and Arthegall being the shadow-selves for the Faerie Queene and Arthur, who are themselves the shadow-selves for Queen Elizabeth and Britain itself, then you can talk about Jove, a little like he's a 'pure-good' god, and a little like he's a Marvel Comics character.
And Edmunds version of the ancient world is a better and more-pure version of his world.
So from his perspecitve, it's fine.
And its about to take another step into weirdness because he's bringing in Osiris;
"Well therefore did the antique world invent,
That Justice was a God of soveraine grace,
Calling him great Osyris, of the race
Of th'old AEgyptian Kings, that whylome were;
With fayned colours shading a true case:
For that Osyris, whilest he lived here,
The justist man alive, and truest did appeare."
So, Jove = real, Osiris = godlike legends of a real guy. This reminds me a bit of Christina de Pizans ultra-rationalist view of legendary history, and no doubt she was getting that from somewhere else. I feel like the real fairyland is whatever Edmund thinks actual history is.
The wife of Osiris is Isis;
"A Goddesse of great powre and soverainty,
And in her person cunningly did shade
That part of Justice, which is Equity,"
So the notes tell us that Renaissance Justice is made up of Justice (knowing what is right), Equity (taking circumstances into account) and Mercy. Although Spenser seems to be rolling with Justice as Arthegall who knows what is right, Equity as Britomart and instead of Mercy he has Talus as (just-fucking-murder-everyone).
Point being that Britomart meeting Isis is another case of two shadow-selves of a particular idea bumping into each other.
We are not even past Verse three. I need to speed this up.
So Briomart and Talus arrive at the temple of Isis, Britomart is allowed in but Talus is not.
Inside are priests wearing a wonderful and hilarious costume;
"All clad in linnes robes with silver hemd;
And on their heads with long locks comely kemd,
They wore rich Mitres shaped like the Moone,"
Britomaret moves in and meets the idol of Isis, wearing a crown of gold and silver robes, and standing on a Crocodile;
That with her wreathed taile her middle did enfold.
One foote was set upon the Crocodile,
And on the ground the other fast did stand,
So meaning to suppresse both forged guile,
And open force: and in her other hand
She streched forth a long white slender wand."
Britomart prostrates herself with 'humble heart' and Isis wiggles her wand at her in approval. Britomart falls asleep.
We get a brief digression on the diet of the priests of Isis, they;
".. mote not taste of fleshy food,
Ne feed on ought, the which doth bloud containe,
Ne drinke of wine, for whine they say is blood,
Even the bloud of Gyants, which were slaine,
By thundring Jove in the Phlegrean plaine."
So wine is the blood of giants, the earth who created them was so pissed at seeing them killed that she sucked back up all their spilt blood and brought it forth in grapes, which becomes wine, which;
"Having the mindes of men with fury fraught,
Mote in then stirre up old rebellious thought,
To make new warre against the Gods againe:"
So when you are getting drunk, that is Gyant blood you are drinking, and making you rebellious.
(Giants bleeding wine and spirits and that being why they are so fucked up all the time is a good D&D idea.)
Britomart then has a freaky vision. First she's sacrificing to Isis, dressed real fancy, which feels good. Then a huge tempest blows through the temple spreading the holy flames so everything is on fire. Then the crocodile wakes up and devours the flames and the tempest, the crocodile grows swollen with this and threatens Isis until she whacks him with her wand. The Crocodile calms down and, I think they bone?
"Him selfe before her feete he lowly threw,
And gan for grace and love of her to seeke:
Which she accepting, he so neare her drew,
That of his game she soon emwombed grew,"
I doubt we'll be seeing that in a Walter Crane illustration.
Then Isis gives birth to a Lion which subdews all other beasts, then Britomart wakes up. I suppose this is what you get for falling asleep in the moon-temple.
Britomart is rather freaked out by this but on talking to an old fellah in the Temple is informed that she is Isis/Britomart, the Crocodile is Arthegall/Oriris and all it means is that Arthegall is going to beat up everyone and then they birth a race of Kings.
So that's alirght. She sets off again for the land of Amazons and we enter Misandry vs Misogyny; The Battle by the Castle. Whoever Wins.... WE LOSE!
Radigund is told of her coming and;
"Not with amaze, as women wonted bee,
She was confused in her troublous thought,
But fild with courage and with joyous glee,
As glad to heare of armes, the which now she
Had long surceast, she bad to open bold,
That she the face of her new foe might see."
Britomart places her pavillion outside Radigunds city, just like Arthegall did previously. The next day a trumpet sounds and and Radigund comes out to fight.
To start, Radigund "Began the streight conditions to propound, With which she used still to tye her fone;". Britomart responds with 'high distaine' and refuses all terms but those of Chivalry.
"The Trumpets sound, and they together run
With greedy rage, and with their faulchins smot;
Ne either sought the others strokes to shun,
But through great fury both their skills forgot,
And practicke use in armes: Ne spared noe
Their dainty parts, which nature had created
So faire and tender, without staine or spot,
For other uses, then them them translated;
Which now they hackt & hewd, as if such use they hated."
We get a niCe animal-comparison verse and some standard spenserian bloodletting, there is this good line;
"They trode, and on the ground their lives did strow,
Like fruitles seede, of which untimely death should grow."
There is also some excellent smack-talk;
Radigund - "This token beare
Unto the man, whom thou doest love so deare;
And tell him for his sake thy life thou gavest."
Britomart - "Lewdly thou my love depravest,
Who shortly must repent that now so vainely bravest."
BritOmart takes a glancing blow on her shoulder plate that bites into the bone and forces her to drop her shield.
But 'having force increast through furious paine' she smites Radigund on the helm 'That it empierced to the very braine, And her proud person low prostrated on the plaine.'
Britmart 'with one stroke both head and helmet cleft'
|I don't know who drew these or where they are from.|
and on seeing this her 'warlike traine' fee into the town.
Talus then begins his increadibly horrible work;
"For all that ever came within his reach,
He with his yron flale did thresh so thin,
That he no worke at all left for the leach:
Like to an hideous storme, which nothing may empeach."
Britomart is somewhat less of a genocidal shit than Arthegall (you are too good for him girl!);
"Yet when she saw the heapes, which he did make,
Of slaughtered carkasses, her heart did quake
For very ruth, which did it almost rive,
That she his fury willed him to slake:"
She releases all the cross-dressed knights from prison, including Arthegall;
"She turned her head aside, as nothing glad,
To have beheld a spectacle so bad:"
"Ah my deare Lord, what sight is this (quoth she)
What May-game hath misfortune made of you?
Where is that dreadfull anly looke? where be
Those mighty palmes, the which ye won' t'embrew
In bloud of Kings, and great hoastes to subdew?
Could ought on earth so wonderous change have wrought,
As to have robde you of that manly hew?
Could so great courage stouped have to ought?
Then farewell fleshy force; I see thy pride is nought."
She frees everyone, gets Arthegall back in his armour and reigns a while in the city as its Princess;
"And changing all that forme of common weale,
The liberty of women did repeale,
Which they had long usurpt; and them restoring
To mens subjection, did true Justice deale;