Friday, 17 November 2017

Such Love is hate - FQ Book 3 Canto 1

The opening for Canto Three is a combination of Liz-bait and the poets request for powers, or denial of powers.

So Elizabeth IS chastity, and she's so amazing that the poets hopes for her forgiveness in writing this since

"But living art may not least part expresse,
Nor life-resembling pencill it can paint

And he can't do it directly because she is too amazing so

"Cannot your glorious pourtraict figure plaine
That I in coloured showes may shadow it,
And antique praises unto present presons fit."

Canto One

Acrasia is safely moved off to some other future part of the poem. Then Guyon and Arthur have the kind of nebulous and wide-ranging adventure that knights have between chapters;

"Long so they travelled through wastefull wayes,
Where daungers dwelt, and perils most did wonne,"

They come upon a knight whose shield has a lion on golden field. Guyon gets ready to joust, and gets knocked down;

"Great shame and sorrow of that fall he bore,"

Our narrator breaks in to tell us what has happened;

"... of a single damzell thou wert met
On equall plaine, and there so hard beset;
Even the famous Britomart it was,
Whom straunge adventure dod from Britaine fet,
To seeke her lover (love farre sought alas,)
Whose image she had seene in Venus looking glas."

Guyon doesn't know this though, and, in a very un-Guyon-esque action, totally loses his shit.

"Full of distainfull wrath, he fierece uprose,
For to revenge taht foule reprochfull shame,"

Comic book fans will be familiar with the fact that, when we enter a new heroes story, just like with Redcrosse and Guoyn, theere is a ritual exchange of power and perspective. The knights don't just cross blades, they exchange the cameras eye on the point of their spears. The old heroes also often get nerfed to make the new one look good.

For once the Palmers 'mightie Science' notices something before it happens, he had seen;

"The secret vertu of that weapon keene,
That mortall puissiance motw not withstond:
Nothing on earth mote alwaies happie beene."

And, amusingly, gets Guyon to calm down by encouraging him to blame his loss on his saddle, his steed and his squire;

"So is his angry courage fairly pacifyde."

Which is very un-Palmer-like behaviour.

Every calms down and agrees to be friends. They travel on and encounter a standard Mallorian dame being chased by a freak. All the male knights instantly run off to save the lady or fight the freak, depending on temperament.

But Britomart, whose constant mind;

"Would not so lightly follow beauties chace,
Ne reckt of Ladies Love, did stay behind,"

This is the this-knight-does-things-differently scene. Then she goes on;

"With steadfast courage and stout hardiment;
Ne evill thing she fear'd. ne evill thing she ment."

Till she comes to a castle and s six-on-one fight, where an un-named knight (it later turns out this is Redcrosse is being attacked by six foes, but defending himself well. And in _this_ case;

"When Britomart him saw, she ran a pace
Unto his reskew. amd with earnest cry,
Bad those same six forbeare that single enimy."

Why are they fighting? In this case the challenge of the castle is that there is a super-hot girl in here and if any knight comes along who 'have a Ladie or a Love,' they have to fight or admit that the girl in the castle is hotter.

Britomarts response is good;

"Certes (said she) then bene ye sixe to blame,
To weene your wrong by force to justify:
For knight to leave his Ladie were great shame,
That faithfull is, and better were to die.
All osse is lesse, and lesse the infamie,
Then losse of love to him, that loves but one;
Ne may love be compeld by maisterie;
For soone as maisterie comes, sweet love anone
Taketh his nimble wings, and soone away is gone.


Live I have sure, (quoth she) but Lady none;
Yet will I not fro mine owne love remove,"

Britomart and the outnumbered knight take everyone down in a couple of verses and are generally acclaimed. They are lead into 'Castle Joyous' which is glorious and sumptuous.

Really the luxury verses are very good, the only reason I don't repeat them is because I have to precis a lot to get this done.

(Its been stated a few times that oriental or generally-eastern-from-Europes-point-of-view cultures have an eye for luxury, and on reading stuff like 'Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange' thats certainly true, to a point, but Spenser, and many poets like him, are slathered in adored (and condemned) luxury, much more than those stories I think.

I don't have the depth of knowledge to know whether luxury has more of a dual-focus in Western verse, being both good, and super-bad (i.e. Catholic), its possible it does.)

There is also an element in TFQ in which the tapestries, carvings and various other high-status pictures show stories from classic mythology which are like mirrored alter-worlds. In the poem they are like stories-within-stories, in this case its;

"Costly clothes of Arras and of Toure,
I which with cunning hand was pourtrahed
The love of Venus and her Paramoure
The faire Adonis, turned to a flowre,"

(If you remember the Gawain translation, you may recall the 'tapestaries of tors', I think Tors is Toure.)

We meet the locals;

"Dauncing and reveling both day and night,
And swimming deepe in sensuall desires,"

And their Lady, Malecasta, "sitting on a sumptuous bed,
That glistred all with gold and glorious shew,
As the proud Persian Queenes accustomed:
Se seemd a woman of great bountihed,
And of rare beautie, saving that askaunce
Her wanton eyes, ill signs of womenhed,
Did roll too lightly, and too often glaunce,
Without regard of grace, or comely amenaunce."

They sit down, the six knights who fought are named, then Britomart (though not taking off her armour) reveals her particular, and so far in this poem, unique kind of beauty;

"For she was full of amiable grace,
And manly terrour mixed therewithall,
That as the one stird up affections bace,
So th'other did mens rash desires appall,
And hold them backe, that would in errour fall;
Ad he, that hath espied a vermeill Rose,
To which sharpe thornes and breres the way forstall,
Dare not for dread his hardy hand expose,
But wishing it far off, his idle wish doth lose."

Malecasta instantly falls in lust with Britomart. Definitely not love;

"For love does alwayes bring forth bouteous deeds,
And in each gentle hart desire of honour breeds.

Nought so of love this looser Dame did skill,
But as a coale to kindle fleshy flame,
Giving the bridle to her wanton will,
And teading under foote her honest name:
Such love is hate, and such desire is shame.
Still did she rove at her with crafty glaunce
Of her false eyes, that at her hart did ayme,
And told her meaning in her countenaunce
But Britomart dissembled it with ignoraunce."

The lady feigns deep sorrow for Britomarts story and she falls for it easily, Spenser clarifies the Honourable/Dumb axis for us;

"Who meanes no guile, beguiled soonest shall,
And to faire semblaunce doth light faith annexe;
The bird, that knowes not the false fowlers call,
Into his hidden net full easily doth fall."

Eventually everyone goes to bed and falls asleep, except for Malecasta, who is too pervy and too into Britomart, so creeps out in the night;

"Then panting soft, and trembling every joint,
Her fearfull feete towards the bowre she mouved;
Where she for secret purpose did appoynt
To lodge the warlike mayd unwisely loved,"

Yep, its about to get non-consentual, again;

"Th'embroderd quilt she lightly up did lift,
And by her side her selfe she softly layd,
Of every finest fingers touch affrayd;"

Britomart wakes up, freaks out and grabs her sword. Malecasta;

"Did shrieke alowd, that through the house it rong,"

And everyone in the house rushes to that room, where nobody has any idea what to make of it, but they are not pleased. They quickly become angry and someone takes a shit at Britomart;

"The mortall steele stayd not, till it was seene
To gore her side, yet was the wound not deepe,
But lightly rased her soft silken skin,
That drops of purple bloud thereout did weepe,
Which did her lily smock with staines of vermeil steepe."

This starts a fight, which Britomart and Redcrosse handily win and they both leave the castle;

"So earely ere the gross Earthe gryesy shade,
Was all disperst out of the firmament,
They tooke their steeds, & forth upon their journey went."


  1. Actually, I am wondering if Guyon losing his usual stoicism is some kind of PTSD after his previous fight against Acrasia, destroying wonders of her garden and seeing transformed men.

    Not mentioning all those sanity checks (so to speak) in arduous journey he and Palmer had to make just to reach her.

    1. I have not checked to see if he turns up but I am willing to place a bet that if any knight is able to see through his disguises it will be Britomart, or maybe the nurse (who is apparently still with her, and perhaps disguised as a man).

    2. Whoops, that was meant to be in answer to your comment on the other post. But yeah, it must be such a giant relief to think 'I don't need to be Temperate any more' and yes, wrecking porny disneyland is in some ways more troubling than having to fight a Dragon.