Saturday, 18 November 2017

Shitlord Britomart - FQ Book 3 Canto 2

The opening verses for this Canto get more proto-femenist than they ever have before;

"Here have I cause, in men just blame to find,
That in their proper prayse too partiall bee,
And not indifferent to woman kind,
To whom no share in armes and chevalrie
They do impart, ne maken memorie
Of their brave gestes and prowesse martiall;
Scarse do they spare to one or two or three,
Rowme in their writs; yet the same writing small
Does all their deeds deface, and dims their glories all,

But by record of antique times I find,
That women wont in warres to beare most sway,
And to all great exploits them selves inclind:
Of which they still the girlond bore away,
Till envious Men fearing their rules decay,
Gan coyne streight lawes to curb their libery;
Yet sith they warlike armes have layd away:
They have exceld in artes and pollicy,
That now we foolish men that prayse gin eke t'envy."

Well, well, well!

The verse proper begins with Britomart and Guyon travelling together. Anyone paying attention to the last Canto should be confused as she is meant to be with Redcrosse at this point and the notes agree that probably Spenser has just screwed up this bit.

Guyon asks what she it doing wandering about;

"And ever anone the rosy red,
Flasht through her face, as it had been a flake
Of lightning, through bright heaven fulmined,"

Eventually she tells him that she is out seeking honour, then asks about a knight called Arthegall, saying that he is a super bad-guy.

Guyon replies that actually Arthegall is the best possible guy ever and she must have made a mistake;

"They royall mayd woxe inly wondrous glad,
To heare her Love so highly magnified,"

Yes, Arthegall is her secret love and she was being a massive neurotic shitlord by spreading rumours about him to check if they were true without surrendering her own emotions. Don't do this online guys.

Britomart continues her shitlording for a few verses, Guyon defends Arthegall in the most exemplary terms;

"His feeling words her feeble sence much pleased,
And softly sunck into her molten hart;
Hart that is inly hurt, is greatly eased
With hope of thing, that may alegge his smart;
For pleasing words are like to Magick art,
That doth the charmed Snake in slomber lay:
Such secret ease felt gentle Britomart,
Yet list the same efforce with faind gainsay;
So dischord oft in Musick makes the sweeter lay."

(Curious element. Britomart is the second shadow of Elizabeth in the poem. The first is the Faerie Queene herself - Elizabeth as supernatural ruler. The second is Britomart - Elizabeth as adventuring Knight and, crucially, someone you can tell active stories about. There are also now two shadow-Arthurs (or one, depending how you think about it) the real, main one, and this 'Arthegall' who is apparently meant to be a kind of mirror or substitute Arthur.)

Britomart asks in more detail and the Redcrosse knight (Spenser has remembered who is where) describes Arthegall. 

Britomart recognises him and the following verses describe that and have some cool magic stuff so here they are in full;

"By strange occasion she did him behold,
And much more strangely gan to love his sight,
As it in books hath written bene of old.
In Deheubarth that now South-wales is hight,
What time king Ryence raign'd, and dealed right,
The great Magitian Merlin had deuiz'd,
By his deepe science, and hell-dreaded might,
A looking glasse, right wondrously aguiz'd,
Whose vertues through the wyde world soone were solemniz'd.

It vertue had, to shew in perfect sight,
What ever thing was in the world contaynd,
Betwixt the lowest earth and heavens hight,
So that it to the looker appertaynd;
What ever foe had wrought, or frend had faynd,
Therein discovered was, ne ought mote pas,
Ne ought in secret from the same remaynd;
For thy it round and hollow shaped was,
Like to the world it selfe, and seem's a world of glas.

Who wonders not, that reades so wonderous worke?
But who does wonder, that has red the Towre,
Wherein th'AEgyptian Pheo long did lurke
From all mens vew out of her bowre?
Great Ptolomoee it for lemans sake
Ybuilded all of glasse, by Magicke powre,
And also it impregnable did make;
Yet when his love was false, he with a peaze it brake."

So Britomart is dicking about whith her dads magic stuff like everyone does and she comes across the magic glass and has a look inside;

Eftsoones there was presented to her eye
A comely knight all arm'd in compleat wize,
Through whose bright ventayle lifted up on hye
His manly face, that did his foes agrize,
And friends to termes of gentle truce entize
Lookt foorth, as Phoebus face out of the east,

Motherfuckers you knew I'd be back in this shizzle.
Betwixt two shadie mountains doth arize;
Portly his person was, and much increast
Through his Heroicke grace, and honourable gest,

His crest was covered with a couchant Hound,
And all his armour seem'd of antique mould,
But wonderous massie and assured sound,
And round about yfretted all with gold,
In which there written with cyphers old,
Achilles armes, which Arthegall did win.
And on his shield enveloped seven fold
He bore a crowned litle Ermilin,
That deckt the azure field with her faire pouldred skin."

From this point on Britomart is utterly in love, and it sounds horrible. There is more here on just how horrible and terrible Cuipid is;

"But the false Archer, which that arrow shot
So slyly, that she did not feele the wound,
Did smyle full smoothly at her weetlesse wofull stound."

Cupid you fffffuuuuuuuucccckkk.

We are only part-way through the Canto and almost all of the rest is a Spencerian disclose-yourself conversation between Britomart and her Nurse about the nauture of love, what Britomart is feeling, whether is terrible or potentially good, and what she should do about it.

This is an inusually in-depth discussion of feeling for The Faerie Queene so far, and the first lengthy one betweent two women.

Britomart is freaking out, acting strange and having fevers because she doesn't even know or understand the emotion she is feeling. The nurse notices this;

"For not of nought these suddeine ghastly feares
All night afflict thy naturall repose,
And all the day, when as thine equall peares
Their fit disports with faire delight doe chose,
Thou in dull corners doest thy selfe inclose,
Ne tastest Princes pleasures, ne doest spred
Abroaud thy fresh youthes fairest flowre, but lose
Both leafe and frit, both too untimely shed,
As one in wilful bale for ever buried.


Sorrow is heaped in thy hollow chest,
Whence forth it breakes in sight and anguish rife,
As smoke and sulphure mingled with confused strife."

I liked this conversation between two different mental states, two different ages, one old and experienced, the other young, and two different personality types;

We start with Britomart, when it says (quoth she), that means a shift from one to the other. (actually I'l just break them up so they are easier to parse;

"But mine is not (quoth she) like others wound;
For which no reason can find remedy.

Was never such, but mote the like be found,
(Said she) and though no reason may apply
Salve to your sore, yet love can higher stye,
Then reasons reach, and oft hath wonders donne.

But neither God of love, nor God of sky
Can doe (said she) that, which cannot be donne.

Things oft impossible (quoth she) seeme, ere begonne.

These idle words (said she) doe nought asswage
My stubborne smart, but more annoyance breed,
For no no usuall fire, no usual rage
It is, o Nurse, which on my life doth feed,
And suckes the bloud, which from my hart doth bleed.
But since thy faithfull zeale lets me not hyde
My crime, (if crime it be) I will it reed.
Not Prince, nor pere it is, whose love hat gryde
My feeble brest of late, and launched this wound wyde."

Its also an intersting view on the overwhelming and deeply alien power of an unknown emotion. Controlling, consuming and frightening.

"Daughter (said she) what need ye be dismayd,
Or why make ye such Monster of your mind?"

After many verses the Nurse says;

"But if the passion mayster thy fraile might,
So that needs love or death must be thy lot,
Than I avow to thee, by wrong or right
To compasse thy desire, and find that loved knight.

Here chearefull words much cheard the feeble spright
Of the sicke virgin, that her downe she layd
In her warme bed to sleepe, if that she might;
And the old-woman carefully displayd
The clothes about her round with buisie ayd;
So tht at last a little creeping sleepe
Surprised her sense: She therewith well apayd,
The drunken lampe down in the oyle did steepe,
And set her by to watch, and set her by to weepe."

The Nurse does some freaky folk magic, which is an interesting mirror to the 'high' or fancy magic described previously, but it doesn't work;

"But love, that is in gentle brest begonne,
No idle charmes so lightly may remove,
That well can witnesse, who by triall it does prove."


  1. "Anyone paying attention to the last Canto should be confused as she is meant to be with Redcrosse at this point and the notes agree that probably Spenser has just screwed up this bit."

    Unless she's a wizard in disguise AGAIN.

  2. I wonder if Archmage is going to make an appearance. His involvement with Guyon ended rather abruptly.