Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Shit. Just. Got. Dark.- FQ Book 5 Cantos 0 to 2

Well it was always dark. But if there is an invisible tipping point where a fiction crosses over in our state of mind from being good, and its flaws being considered as seperate, individual elements to that goodness, to being bad, with its positive or redeeming features being regarded so, then this is that point.

Probably that point was somewhere in Book 3 or 4. We just didn't see it go past.

To recap;

Book One -  a straight-up heroic journey story with Redcrosse and Una vs Archimago and Duessa, with a Dragon fight at the end.

Book Two - a slightly darker heroic journey story with Guyon and his 'Blacke Palmer' looking for Acrasias Bowre of Blisse so they can FUCKING WRECK IT.

Books Three and Four - a (to me) confused fucking jumble of stories with things I liked and disliked being spread out over both books;

The Good Bits - Britomart being a badass, her hanging out with Glauce, her hanging out with Amoret where Amoret thinks she is a Guy but Britomart is being reeeal friendly, and Amoret gets scared, then she's like 'oooohhh'. Britomart jumping through fire. Every time Britomart unveils her MAGNIFICENT HAIR. Britomart being so into Arthegall that she just keeps walking along with him even though they are meant to be saying goodbye.

The Bits I Either Didn't Like or Was Like Eh - People chasing Florimell. Some of  the mirror-chivalry bits with people chasing False Florimell were Ok. All the fucking about with Triamond and Campbell and just all the general dicking about.

So what do we have coming up in Book Four?

I've only read the first two Canto's so far, but there is good news and bad.

Good News - it seems more tightly focused.

Bad News - Arthegall teams up with a Terminator-Style Genocide machine and slaughters everything that irritates him, including foreigners, women and Levellers, with all of this being regarded as super-awesome by the stunned narrator.

The Book is called Justice.


We open with a requiem for a more-pure ancient world, where truth and justice ruled, before modern man completely fucked it all up by being a bunch of perverse wierdos.

This is a theme that Spenser has looked at before, but here he really dives into it. It is a grim but intense vision, performed with admirable intensity. The age;

".. now at earst become a stonie one;
And men themselves, the which at first were framed
Of earthly mould, and form'd of flesh and bone,
Are now transformed into hardest stone:"

Vice a virtue have changed places. The Heavens themselves are wasted and out of joint, the Ptolemaic order is winding down. The constellations are failing;

"So now all range, and doe at random roue
Out of their proper place farre away,
And all this world wth them amisse doe move,
And all his creatures from their course astray,
Till they arrive at their last ruinous decay."

Everything is utterly terrible, right down to the system of the world. And how do we fix terrible worlds? Well, you've seen a few 70's Bond films haven't you.

Canto One

We begin with a description of the redemption of the injustice of the ancient world through force. Hercules, apparently, being a primal force for Justice;

"Who all the West with equall conquest wonne,
And monstrous tyrants with his club subdewed;
The club of Justice dread, which kingly powre endewed."

Then Arthegalls youth and training;

"For Artegall in justice was upbrought
Even from the cradle of his infancie,
And all the depth of rightfull doome was taught
By faire Astroea, with great industrie,
Whilest here on earth she lived mortallie.
For till the world from his perfection fell
Into all filth and foule inidquitie,
Astroea in the rules of justice them instructed well."

Astroea seems to be some kind of quasi-angelic spirit. She doesn't get described in the notes. Possibly a Spenserian invention?

Astroea sees Arthegall as a child, judges him 'clean' and 'with no crime defilde,' and, creepily, lures him away to a cave with 'gifts and speaches milde'. In the cave she teaches him all about Justice, using, in part the apparent torture of wild animals?

"She caused him to make experience
Upon wylde beasts, which she in woods did find,
With wrongfull powre oppressing others of their kind."

She gives him a 'steely brand' Chrysaor' which Jove used to kill Titans.

Eventually the world 'with sinne gan to abound,' she leaves and goes back to the heavens, becoming a contellation;

"... the Virgin, sixt in her degree,
And next her selfe her righteous ballance hanging bee."

So, Libra?

Before she leaves she gives Arthur a Very Special Friend. As all knights need to have.

Redcrosse - Una, she does save his ass from Despair.

Guyon - Black Palmer, bit of a dick but very handy.

Britomart - Glauce, cross-dressing Nurse.

Those Other Guys - Fuck knows, can't remember, it was mid-season.


"But when she parted hence, she left her groome
An yron man, which did on her attend
Alwayes, to execute her stedfast doome,
And willed him with Artegall to wend,
And doe what ever thing he did intend.
His name was Talus, made of yron mould,
Immovable, resistless, without end.
Who in his hand an yron flale did hould,
With which he thresht out falsehood, and did truth unfould."

Sir Arthegal, the Knight of Justice, with Talus, the Iron Man (from Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene’)

So that's Sir John Mortomimers version of Talus. He acts, in the poem, nothing like what this guy looks.

What does he act like?


Artegall has his mission from the Faerie Queene, which is to rescue some chick Eirena_ from the Tyrant Grantorto_ who, like many villians in the FQ is essentially Catholocism.

So Arthegall and Talus go on their merry way.

And find, almost immediately, a sorrowful Squire with 'many bitter teares shed from his blubbred eyne.' sitting there with a young woman who has had her head cut off.

The Squire tells them a story about how he was out chilling with his own lady when a super bad dude, who also has a lady on his horse, sees them.

The bad guy likes the Squires girl more, so just kicks his current girl off the horse, grabs the new one and rides off. His (now) ex follows after him;

"And on him catching hold, gan loud to crie
Not so to leave her, nor away to cast,
But rather of his hand besaught to die.
With that his sword he drew all wrathfully,
And at one stroke cropt off her head with scorne,
In that same place, whereas it now doth lie.
So he may love away with him hath borne,
And left me here, both his & mine owne love to mourne."

Which is a whole new level of motherfucker, even for the Faerie Queene. Arthegall quickly sends after the guy;

"His yron page, who him pursew'd so light,
As that it seem'd above the ground he went:
For he was swift as swallow in her flight,"

Talus grabs the guy and simply drags him back in his iron paw.

The bad guy, Sangliere, denies everything and blames it on the Squire, who has no counter-argument.

Arthegall has a topping scheme to prove the truth;

"Let both the dead and living equally
bevided be betwixt you here in sight,
And each of either take his share aright."

Yes just chop up both women and share them out and whoever disagrees must be the killer and gets to have the dead girls head wrapped around their neck for a year. (No-one asks the living woman what she thinks about anything.)

Sangliere, being a baddy, happily consents to this. The Squire, being in love, and not a totally fucking insane sociopath, says he would rather take the blame of the murder and carry the head.

Sanglier has never read the old testement basically. Probably was too busy being evil.

Of course this proves the Squire is innocent, so Sangliere is forced to carry the dead girls head by Arthurs murdering robot.

Justice is served. End of Canto.

Canto Two

Arthegall meets a Dwarfe 'in hasty course', this is Florimells Dwarf who everyone has certainly forgotten by this point, he tells Arthegall about the upcoming marriage of Flormell and Marinell in three days, Arthegall says he will certainly be there.

The Dwarf tells him there is a problem; a classic Robber Knight situation. This guy controls a bridge over a river.  The Knight Pollente, threatens the rich and robs them and his squire does the same to the poor.

Anyone who disagrees gets to fight this guy on the bridge, tt's only a span or so wide and has trapdoors so they either die there or fall into the river where he jumps them and kills them in the water.

The money goes to his daughter in a castle, a girl 'With golden hands and silver feet beside'

"Which she with wrongs hat heaped up so hy,
That many Princes she in wealth exceeds,
And purchast all the countrey lying ny
With the revenue of her plenteous meedes,
Her name is Munera, agreeing with her deedes."

Arthegall goes to the bridge;

"Who as they to the passage gan to draw,
A villiane to them came with scull all raw,
That passage money did of them require,
According to the custome of their law.
To whom he answerd wroth, loe there thy hire;
And with that word him strooke, that streight he did expire."

A fight is on, Arthegall and the Knight run at each other. Both fall through a trap into the river. They fight there;

"As when a Dolphin and a Sele are met,
In the wide champain of the Ocean plaine:"

Which is a metaphor I bet you did not expect. They are roughly equal. The Knight eventually beings to tire and goes for the shore

Which works exactly as well. Arthegall cuts his head off, his head is so sinful;

"It bit the earth for very fell despight,
And gnashed with his teeth, as if he band
High God, whose goodnesse he despaired quight,
Or curst the hand, which did that vengeance on him dight."

Arthur and Talus go to the castle where Munera, with the golden hands and silve feet lives.

Talus bangs upon the door;

"And thundred strokes thereon so hideouslie,
That all the peece he shaked from the flore,
And filled all the house with feare and great uprore."

They throw missiles at him, that doesn't work. Munera throws sacks of gold at him, that doesn't work.

Talus breaks his way in. Munea hides.

Talus finds her hiding beneath a pile of gold;

"Thence he her drew
By the faire lockes, and fowly did array,
Withouten pitty of her goodly hew,
That Artegall him selve her seemelesse plight did rew.

Yet for no pitty would he change the course
Of Justice, which in Talus hand did lye;
Who rudely halyd her forth without remorse,
Still holding up her suppliant hands on hye,
And kneeling at his feete submissively.
But he her suppliant hands, those hands of gold,
And eke her feete, those feete of silver trye,
Which sought unrighteouusnesse, and justice sold,
Chopt off, and nayld on high, that all might them behold.

Her selfe then tooke he by the slender wast,
In vaine loud crying, and into the flood
Over the Castle wall adowne her cast,
And there her drowned in the durty mud:"

Then he destroys the castle.

We are not done with this Canto. We still have to deal with Gyant Leveller Karl Marx.

Yes, someone has time-travelled Karl Marx back into the Faerie Queene and turned him into a Gyant, and that is who we meet next.

Arthegall and Talus see a great crowd and wonder what draws them there;

"There they beheld a mighty Gyant stand
Upon a rocke, and holding forth on hie
An huge great paire of ballance in his hand,
With which he boasted in his surquedrie,
That all the world he would weight equallie,
If ought he had the same to counterpoys.
For want whereof he weighed vanity,
And fild his ballaunce full of idle toys:
Yet was admired much of fooles, women, and boys."

The Gyant wants to re-balance and re-distribute everything in the whole world, including mountains and seas, and abstract qualities;

"Therefore the vilgar did about him flocke,
And cluster thicke unto his leasings vaine,
Like foolish flies about an hony crocke,
In hope by him great benefite to gaine,
And uncontrolled freedome to obtaine."

Arthegall decides to debate the Gyant, so the whole second half of the Canto is a long argument between Mel Gibson and Hugo Chavez.

Its a actually kind of good. In parts.

"Thou foolishe Elfe (said then the Gyant wroth)
Seest not, how badly all things present bee,
And each estate quite out of order goth?
The sea it selfe doest thou not plainely see
Encroch, uppon the land there under thee;
And th'earth it selfe how daily it's increast,
By all that dying to it turned be.
Were it not good that wrong were then surceast,
And from the most, that some were given to the least?

Therefore I will throw downe these mountains hie,
And make them levell with the lowly plaine:
These towring rocks, which reach unto the skie,
I will thrust downe into the deepest maine,
And as they were, them equalize againe.
Tyrants that make men subject to their law,
I will supprese, that they no more may raine;
And Lordlings curbe, that commons over-aw;
And all the wealth of rich men to the poore will draw.

Of things unseene how can thou deeme aright,
Then answered the righteous Artegall,
Sith thou misdeem'st so much of things in sight?
What though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eat the earth, it is no more at all:
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought,
For whatsoever from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide unto another brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought."

Eventually Arthegall goes full fallen-world, divine-sanction hyper-conservative;

"They live, they die, like as he doth ordaine,
Ne ever any asketh reason why.
The hils doe not the lowly dales disdaine;
The dales doe not the lofty hils envy.
He maketh Kings to sit in soverainty;
He maketh subjects to their powre obay;
He pulleth downe, he setteth up on hy;
He give to this, from that he takes away.
For all we have is his, what he lis doe, he may.

Eventually Arthegall and the Gyant get into some kind of abstract-quality measuring contest, the Gyant finds that right sits in the middle of the scales 'For truth is one, and right is ever one.'

The Gyant doesn't like this and thrusts right away. Talus picks him up and throws him into the sea where he gets smashed up like a big ship (probably the biggest thing Spenser aver get smashed up);

"Her shattered ribs in thousand peeces rives,
And spyling all her geares and goodly ray,
Does make her selfe misfortunes piteous ray.
So downe the cliffe the wretched Gyant tumbled;
His battred ballances in peeces lay,
His timbered bones all broken rudely rumbled,
So was they high aspyring with huge ruine humbled."

And off our heroes go, they have a wedding to get to.

Also, William Blake did a 'Wheres Wally' of the Faerie Queene. 
Can you find the murdering robot?

(click for site)

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