Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Despair! _ The Faerie Queene Book 1 Canto 9


  • Arthur tells his story.
  • He is of unknown noble birth, raised by an Elvish man in Wales.
  • The poem says he is raised in a valley of the Rauron, where the Dee springs from the ground. The Dee is the river passing down the south side of Wirral, the same one Gawain crossed to get here at the beginning of his poem.
  • Arthur dedicated himself to not falling in love, then has a magical night with a Faerie Lady, and falls in love.
  • He's still looking for her.
  • Arthur and Redcrosse exchange gifts and part.
  • Redcrosse and Una meet a terrified knight with a noose around his neck.
  • This Knight Treusian, tells of travelling with his friend Terwin, they meet a man.
  • This man talks Terwin to death, that is, persuades him to kill himself.
  • Redcrosse decides to encounter this man.
  • They meet, and Despair pretty much talks Redcrosse into killing himself.
  • Una knocks the knife out of his hand.
  • They depart.

Una finally does something! I think this is the first notable physical action she takes in the book.

So, a few thoughts


- Phoebeus gets this canto off. Only one solar metaphor today, and that but a single line.


- There is a renewed interest/obsession with the difficulty of speaking, that is, of speaking your heart or your pain. Arthur is in mad love with a Faerie lady but warns her about his emotion and the danger of disclosing it;

"Dear Dame (quoth he) you sleeping sparkes awake,
Which troubled once, into huge flames will grow,
Ne ever will their fervent fury slake,
Till living moisture into smoke do flow,
And wasted life do lie in ashes low."

Which is an interesting comparison with the conversation last canto about disclosing things.



- It's all about love; Arthur falls in love with a Lady and that's why he's doing everything, Terwin, the knight we never meet, was also in love with a Lady who was a dick to him;

"For she was proud, and of too high intent,
And joyed to see her lover languish and lament."

And Una loves Redcrosse, (though we hear rather more of that than about Redcrosse loving Una).

Arthur literally shagged Gloriana, who is Elizabeth, so he is (metaphorically) her lover, meaning Elizabeth hearts Britain. People, this is how you end up with a £50 a year pension from the Queen. Also this is the second sexy magic lady who just appears next to a knight for sex and we are only on Book One.



Then we get the encounter with Despair, something which, I think, makes this the best part of the Faerie Queene so far. The opening is magnificent, with the terrified knight with a noose around his neck, to afraid to even stop or speak and takes a whole stanza to calm down;

"He answered nought at all, but adding new
Feare to his first amazement, staring wide
With stony eyes, and heartless hollow hew,
Astonisht stood, as one that had aspied
Infernall furies, with thier chains untide.
Him yet again, and yet again bespake
The gentle knight; who nought to him replide,
But trembling every joynt did inly quake,
And foltring tongue at last thee words seemed forth to shake.

Gor Gods deare love, Sir knight, do me not stay;
For loe he comes, he comes fast after mee."

That is one hell of an intro, one better than any monster or villain has got so far.

Benjamin West - The Cave of Despair.Its a fun painting, click for bigger version.

Despairs argument I will not go over again, but Spenser has him down, and he still has the same voice now as he did then. Its worth a read or listen.

From a boring genre perspective this character is a lot like still-existing 'ultimate bad guy' characters like Hannibal Lecter or the Joker, someone who's mind or nature is brilliant or exceptional and otherworldly and who's point of view so utterly inverse to life that they can, simply by talking, persuade others to kill themselves.

And, as usual with Spenser, we get a character who is simultaneously a highly abstracted archetype, but whos description  and 'acting' is filled with vigour and human immediacy so that they seem to spring to life from the page.



Literally no-one is actually reading this but I do not care.

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