Our Hero spends most of this Canto knocked out while people fight over his body. Despite that sounding like the worst idea for a Canto ever, this one is almost entirely a giant raw-as fuck fight scene, at which Spenser is exceptionally good.
It also makes almost no practical sense in any way but I feel that anyone who cared about gave up on this some time ago.
We start with an usually militant and visionary opening statement. This is the first time we have ever started a Canto with a question;
"And is there care in heaven?"
Answer from Spenser - YES BECAUSE VIOLENT ANGELS ARE EVERYWHERE FIGHTING FOR US.
"How oft do they with golden pineons cleave
The flitting skyes, like flying Pursuivant,
Against foule feends to aide us millitant?
They for us fight, they watch and dewly ward,
And their bright Squadrons round about us plant,
And all for love, and nothing for reward:"
And this explains and excuses one of a series of (logically) ridiculous and (literal in one case (deux es machina) that allows for one thing: ACTION SCENE.
The Blacke Palmer has somehow crossed the Idle Lake and is wandering when he hears a voice calling. He follows it to find Guyon passed out and finds and actual literal motherfucking angel;
"Beside his head there sate a faire young man,
Of wonderous beautie, and of freshest yeares,
Whose tender bud to blossome new began,
And flourish faire above his equall peares;
His snowy front curled with golden heares,
Like _Phoebus_ face adornd with sunny rayes,
Decked with diverse plumes, like painted Jayes,
Were fixed at his backe, to cut his ayerie wayes."
I know its not a full appearance, but its the first mention we've had in a while;
The Angel tells the Palmer that Guyon is going to be OK, that the Angel will be watching out for him and to look after the guy and then BLAM;
"So having said, eftsoones he gan display
His painted nimble wings, and vanisht quite away."
The Palmer seeing his left empty place,
And his slow eyes beguiled of their sight,
Woxe sore affraid, and standing still a space,
Gaz'd after him, as fowle escapt by flight;"
But look out because team bad-guy is on the scene.;
"Two Payim knights, all armed as bright as skie,"
Pyrochles, Cymochles, Archimago and Atin have also got back together (somehow) and have lost none of their hatred for Guyon or absolute hypocritical dickishness;
"......... Thou dotard vile,
That with thy bruteness, shendst thy comley age,
Abandone soone, I read, the cative spoil
Of that same outcast carkasse,"
Now we have a long debate on whether its reasonable to chop up and rob the body of your dead/sleeping foe, with the Palmer being, unsurprisingly, against;
"Ville is the vengance on the ashes cold,
And envy base to bark at sleeping fame,
But leave these relicks of his living might,
To deck his herse, and trap his tomb-blacke steed."
"What herse or steed (said he) should he have dight*,
But be entombed in the raven or the kite?"
*dight - prepared.
(Also I got this bit wrong in the reading so my apologies.)
They are about to despoil Guyon when whom should arrive?
PRINCE ARTHUR GUEST APPEARANCE.
Pyrochles and Cymochles prepare to fight, Pyrochles has no sword, but Archimago does;
"The metall first he mixt with Medaewart,
That no enchauntment from his dint might save;
Then in flames of Aetna wrought apart,
And seven times dipped in the bitter wave
Of hellish Styx, which hidden vertue to it gave."
So this poison-infused, volcano-forged, hell-river-dipped blade is super magic, BUT, it is Arthurs own sword;
"Wherefore Morddure it rightfully is hight.
In vaine therefore, Pyrochles, should I lend
The same to thee, against his lord to fight,
For sure it would deceive thy labour, and thy might."
Pyrochles is like 'whatever, nerd,' grabs Morddure and Guyons shield and is off.
(By this point I think we just have to accept that Guyons sheild is going to re-grow between Cantos.)
Arthur asks what is going on and tries to calm things down with customary Arthurian tact;
"Palmer (said he) no knight so rude, I weene,
As to doen outrage to a sleeping ghost:
Ne was there ever noble courage seene,
That in advantage would his pussiance bost:
Honour is least, where oddes appeareth most.
May be, that better reason will asswage,
The rash revengers heat. Words well dispost
Have secret powre, t'appease inflamed rage:
If not, leave unto me thy knights last patronage."
This is Pyrochles he's talking about, so, like fuck will reason work;
"Pyrochles gan reply the second time,
And to him said, Now felon sure I read,
How that thou art partaker of his crime:
Therefore by Termagaunt thou shalt be dead."
So a battle is on!
This is not that fight but I couldn't find an illustration of it.
Pyrochles swings on Arthur, misses;
"The faithfull steele such treason no'uld endure,
But swarving from the marke, his Lords life did assure."
Arthur attacks with his spear;
"But ere the point arrived, where it ought,
That seven-fold shield, which he from Guyon brought
He cast betweene to ward the biter stound:
Though all those foldes the steelehead passage wrought
And through his shoulder pierst; wherwith to ground
He groveling fell, all gored in his gushing wound."
Cymochles sees this and freaks out;
"And fowly said, By Mahoune, cursed thief,
That direfull stroke thou dearly shalt aby."
And hits Arthur do hard on his crest he knocks him from his horse;
"Now was the Prince in daungerous distresse,
Wanting his sword, when he on foot should fight:"
Together they wail on Arthur;
"With hideous strokes, and importable powre,
That forced him his ground to traverse wide,
And wisely watch to ward that deadly stowre:"
Arthur strikes back;
"At proud Cymochles, whiles his shield was wyde,
That through his thigh the mortall steele did gryde:"
Pyrochles sees this and begins to weep and says;
"Catyive, cursse on thy cruell hond,
That twise hath sped; yet shall it not thee keepe"
He strikes again but Morddure still won't hit Arthur. However, Cymochles does manage to;
"... upon his troncheon smyte,
Which hewing quite a sunder, further way
It made, and on his hacqueston did lyte,
The which dividing with importune sway,
Is siezed in his right side, and there the dint did stay.
Wyde was the wound, and a large lukewarm flood,
Red as the Rose, thence gushed grievously;"
Arthurs in trouble, wounded and with no point to his spear, but Spenser is about to invent a Hollywood cliche;
"Whom when the Palmer saw in such distresse,
Sir, Guyons sword he lightly to him raught,
And said; faire Son, great God thy right hand blesse,
To use that sword so wisely as it ought."
Arthur comes back so hard his ferocity requires two new animal metaphors;
"Then like a Lion, which hath long time saught
His robbed whelpes, and at the last them fond
Emongst the shepheard swaynes, then wexeth wood and yond."
As salvage Bull, whom two fierce mastive bayt,
When rancour doth with rage him once engore,
Forgets with warie ward them to await,
But with his dreadful hornes them drives afore,
Or flings aloft, or treads down in the flore,
Breathing out wrath, and bellowing distaine,
That all the forrest quakes to heare him rore:"
But Arthur can't really hit Pyrochles much as he is warded by Guyons shield, painted with the Fairy Queen, the girl Arthur is into.
Cymochles sees they are maybe losing, freaks out and;
"Resolv'd to put away that loathly blame,
Or dye with honour and sesert of fame;"
He strikes Arthur so far it parts mail, bites flesh and makes him reel, but Arthur responds;
"He stroke so hugely with his borrowd blade,
That it empierst the Pagans burganet,
And cleaving the hard steele, did deep invade
Into his head, and cruell passage made
Quite through his braine."
Cymochles dies, and immediately goes straight to Hell (which is conveniently nearby if you remember the last Canto), presumably for all of those Nymphs he boned.
Pyrochles sees his brother die, he takes it about as well as you would expect;
"Traytour what hast thou doen? hoe ever may
Thy cursed hand so cruelly have swayd
Against that knight: Harrow and well away
After so wicked deed why liv'st thou longer day?"
Pyrochles Hulks out and uses his once-per-encounter attack. Arthur calmly endures this.
Pyrochles finally realises that Morddure won't hit Arthur full-on, throws down his blade and goes full WWE with a flying tackle;
"Thinking to overthrow and downe him tred;"
This does not work out the way he'd hoped, he ends up disarmed, on his back, with Arthurs blade at his throat. Pyrochles;
"Did not once move, nor upward cast his eye,
For vile distain and rancour, which did gnaw
His heart in twaine with sad melancholy,
As one that loathed life, and yet despised to dye."
Arthur offers him mercy. Pyrochles is having none of it;
"Foole (said the Pagan) I thy gift defye,
But use thy fortune, as it doth befall,
And say, that I not overcome do dye,
But in despight of life, for death to call."
For a moment it looks like we are going to get dumb, sleepy, stupidly-merciful Arthur.
"His shining Helmet he gan soone unlace,
And left his headlesse body bleeding all the place."
The fight, over. Guyon wakes up;
"And sword saw not, he wexed wondrous woe:
But when the Palmer, whom he long ygoe
Had lost, he by him spide, right glad he grew,
And said, Deare sir, whom wandring to and fro
I long have lackt, I joy thy face to vew;
Firme is thy faith whom danger ever fro me drew."
And the rest is mere lyrical logistics.