Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Courteous Force Awakeneth - FQ Book 6 Prome & Canto 1

[It's only just hitting me how fucking wierd book five of the Faerie Queene is. Its a s if Ted Hughes was involved in the Mai Lai massacre and worked in a chapter defending it in idealised terms into an epic poem meant to be about other stuff.

And Sir Walter Raleigh was apparently also at the same massacre, ordering heads chopped off, which was eventually used as (a small) part of a court case against him which eventually got him executed.

Its as if Oliver North was also Gore Vidal, and also this famous exploring pirate guy was there.

Seriously, what the fuck was all that about. I mean I know what it was about, because I've read the notes and the wikipedia pages. But what was it about?]

Anyway! On to Book Six;

The reason for the title is becasue the opening of Book Six is essentially The Force Awakens of the Faerie Queene. Do you guys remember how much fun we had in Books One and Two? And how bored we were in the non-Britomart parts of Books Three and Four, and how Book Five went totally to shit?

Well so far it looks like we are getting a soft-reboot to Book One. "We're looking for a Redcrosse type" says the casting Director, except, you know, not Redcrosse."

Enter Calidore, the Knight of Courtesie.

But first the Proem;

We begin with Edmund talking about he has weary steps but forgets his tedious travel when 'nigh ravisht with rare thoughts delight', which matches my impression of his personality.

I have never seen anyone writing allegory who would not be better off just writing fantasy, but I digress.

Then a standard appeal to the Muses to conduct him in 'these strange wais, where never foot did use, Ne none can find, but who was taught them by the Muse.'

Then some stuff about the importance of courtesy, with the usual fallen world imagery and argument about these rubbish days we are having these days with these damn millennials damn discourteous headless irish just kill him Walter alright?

This is a decent verse. Present courtesy is mearly 'fayned showes' which 'carry colours faire, that feeble eies misdeeme.';

"But in the triall of true curtesie,
Its now so farre from that, which then it was,
That it indeed is nought but forgerie,
Fashion'd to please the eis of them, that pas,
Which see not perfect things but in a glas:
Yet is that glasse so gay, that it can blynd
The wisest sight, to thinke gold that is bras.
But vertues seat is deepe within the mynd,
And not in outward shows, but inward thoughts defynd."

And then finally some stuff about of course you would go to Elizabeths Court for Courtesy since it is the most courteous fucking place on earth.

And now we begin.


What do we know about Calidore?

He has 'gentlenesse of spright, and 'manners mylde', a 'comely guize' and 'gracious speach' enough to 'steal mens hearts away.' He is also 'full stout and tall' and 'well appov'd in batteilous affray'. High CHA high STR, seems a bit min-maxed, seems a bit bland.

Spenser tells us that everyone rally likes Calidore;

"For he loathd leasing, and base flattery,
And loved simple tuth and stedfast honesty."

Its hard to be both honest and direct and also liked, this must be where the marvellous alchemy of courtesy comes into things.

Calidore is out and bumps into Artegall coming home from Book Five, they exchange knightly news, Artegall tells Calidore what he has been up to and asks for his quest. Calidore replies that he has been sent out after the Blatant Beast which 'often hath annoyd, Good Knights and Ladies true, and many else destroyed.'

Luckily Artegall just saw it a few pages back, which makes Calidore very happy indeed since he thought he would be looking for ages (he will, its a 12 Canto book and he only gets it at the end).

Calidore is on the way to where Artegall saw the beast when he enters the main action of the Canto.

A 'comely Squire' is tied to a tree and emitting 'shrill cries'. Calidore frees him and gets this explanation;

"Not farre from hence, uppon yond rocky hill,
Hard by a streight there stands a castle strong,
Which doth observe a custome lewd and ill,
And it hath long mayntaind with mighty wring:
For may no Knight nor Lady passe along
That way, (and yet they needs must passe that way,)
By reason of the streight, and rocks among,
But they that Ladies lockes does shave away,
And that knights berd for toll, which they for passage pay."

The Lady of this castle is Briana, 'Then which a prouder Lady liveth none:' and she loves a knight -Crudor_ and he won't get with her until she makes him a mantle of Knights beards and Ladies hair. Therefore she gets her Seneschall Maleffort to go get her that hair.

The notes say Briana probably means 'strong, Crudor 'cruel' and Maleffort 'ill attempt'.

This squire was passing by with a Damizell when Maleffort comes upon them, ties up the squire and chases the lady. And AT THAT MOMENT;

"Thus whiles they spake, they heard a ruefull shrieke
Of one loud crying, which they streight way ghest,
That it was she, the which for helpe did seeke.
They sawy that Carle from farre, with hand unblest
Hayling that mayden by the yellow heare,
That all her garments from her snowy brest,
And from her head her lockes he nigh did teare,
Ne would he spare for pitty, nor refraine for feare."

Calidore goes off to stop this and the carle replies in somewhat salty fashion;

"Art thou the caytive, that defyest me,
And for this Mayd, whose party thou doest take,
Wilt give thy beard, though it but little bee?
Yet shall it not her lockes for raunsome fro me free."

They battle for a handful of verses which are pretty good but not exceptional enough to repeat here. The Carle eventually realises he's going to lose so just runs for it, off back to the castle.

"They from the wall him seeing so aghast,
The gate soone opened to receive him in,
But Calidore did follow him so fast,
That even in the Porch he him did win,
And cleft his head asunder to his chin.
The Carcasse tumbling downe within the dore,
Did choke the anteraunce with a lumpe of sin,
That it could not be shut, whilest Calidore_
Did enter in, and slew the Porter on the flore."

Calidore takes on the whole castle and either kills them or gets past them, its not clear, then he gets into the central bit where Briana gives him shit in rather entertaining wize;

".. who with uncomely shame
Gan him salute, and fowle upbrayd with faulty blame.

False traytor Knight, (said she) no Knight at all,
But scorne of armes that hast with guilty hand
Murdred my men, and slaine my Seneshall;
Now comest thou to rob my house unmand,
And spoile me selfe, that can not thee withstand?
Yet doubt thou not, but that some better Knight
Then thou, that shall thy treason understand,
Will it avenge, and pay thee with thy right:
And if none do, yet shame shal thee with shame requight."

Calidore gives her a lecture about how forcibly shaving people isn't curteous.

"Wherewith all full of wrath, she thus replyde;
Vile recreant, know that I doe much disdaine
Thy curteous lore, that doest my love deride,
Who scornes thy ydle scoffe, and bids thee be defyde."

Calidore points out that that dude is not currently here.

"Cowherd (quoth she) were not, that thou wouldst fly,
Ere he doe come, he should be soone in place."

Well fine, so call him, replies Calidore. So she sends a Dwarfe with a ring of hers to fetch Crudor.

Crudor does turn up the next day and Calidore issues out, and downs him in one blow. Briana wails on the battlements 'And made such piteous mourning therewithall, That from the battlements she ready seem'd to fall.'

But Crudor is not out yet, he awakes in a sleepy Sunday-morning fashion;

"Nathlesse at length hem selfe he did upreare
In lustlesse wise, as if against his will,
Ere he had slept his fill, he wakened were,
And gan to streach his limbs; which feeling ill
Of his late fall, a while he rested still:"


"Then there began a fearefull cruell fray
Betwixt them two, for maystery of might.
For both were wondrous practicke in that play,
And passing well expert in single fight,"

Its a classic, well-told and completely unoriginal spenserian fight which nearly ends with the much-loves hero vs hero dual-blow, but doesn't, because Calidore is a bit faster and whacks him on the head, 'That him upon the ground he groveling cast'.

And its here that things change a little as compared to Arthegall, because when Cruor; 'Cryde out, Ah mercie Sir, doe me not slay, But save my life, which lot before your foot doth lay.'

Calidore actually does give him mercy, and a lecture instead of a beheading;

".. By this now may ye lerne,
Strangers no more so rudely to intreat,
But put away proud looke, and usage sterne,
The which shal nought to you but foule dishonor yearne."

"In vaine he seeketh others to suppresse,
Who hath not learnd him selfe first to subdew:
All flesh is frayle, and full of ficklenesse,
Subject to fortunes chance, still chaunging new;
What haps to day to me, wo morrow may to you.

Who will not mercie unto others shew,
How can he mercy ever hope to have?"

Well, well, well, we have come a long way from Book Five, even though we have actually only come 13 pages from Book Five.

He gets a load of promises from Cruor about behaving like a proper knight, then takes him to Briana;

"Whereof she now more glad, than sory earst,
All overcome with infinite affect,
For his exceeding courtesie, that pearst
Her stubborne hart with inward deepe effect,
Before his fee her selfe did project,"

She offers him the Castle, which he graciously gives to the Squire (no mention of the damizell), then hangs out with them until his wounds are healed, leaving Briana and Cruor happily together.

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