Friday, May 23, 2014

Blaming the Messenger - Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 12

The dragon is killed! Bring on the dancing girls!

No joke. The kingdom of Eden holds a big celebration over been freed from the dragon. And there are dancing girls.
Soone after them, all dauncing on a row.
The comely virgins came, with girlands dight.
As fresh as flowres in medow ne doe grow
When morning deaw upon their leaves doth light;  
And in their handes sweet Timbrels all upheld on hight.
I was expecting something more restrained. The people of Eden are curious about the knight, but wary of the dragon, even though it is dead, assuming it is still dangerous. Then off to the feast, though it probably isn't as good as the one catered by Gluttony, back in Canto 4. It's not too shabby though:
What needes me tell their feast and goodly guize,
In which was nothing riotous nor vaine?
and there are
meates and drinkes of every kinde.
So it's doubtless a wonderful feast, and the food isn't that overly rich stuff that leaves you queasy the next day.

The Ancient Rules are in full sway: Kill the dragon, get the princess. However, the knight has already pledged six years of service to the Faerie Queene after slaying the dragon. Hell of a thing to bring up right before the wedding. Since I'm aware that this is an unfinished poem, with only six books out of a projected twelve finished, I'm going to hazard a guess that miss out on a triumphant final canto in which the Faerie Queene reunites the Redcross Knight with Una (I'll go a step further and assume this pattern of rescue and marry the maiden then return to the court of the Faerie Queen is going to repeat itself).

Then there's another wrinkle. A messenger shows up with a note from Fidessa, claiming that she's the Redcrosse Knight's wife. We didn't really think Duessa was going to give up, did we? Falsehood has actually proven the most persistent of the allegorical personages the Redcross Knight has faced, although she doesn't appear personally this time.

The king and queen are certainly eager to believe the knight. We know that Duessa is lying, but they only have the knight's word. "Oh, no! I never betrothed myself to Duessa," although I suppose we might give some extra credence to someone we know to have been purged of evil and who slew the dragon of sin. He admits to knowing Duessa, just not in that way.
'Of this false woman that Fidessa hight,
Fidessa hight the falsest Dame on grownd,  
Most false Duessa, royall richly dight;
That easy was t' inveigle weaker sight:
Who by her wicked arts and wylic skill,
Too false and strong for earthly skill or might,
Unwares me wrought unto her wicked will,
And to my foe betrayd when least I feared ill.’
Una actually figures out who the messenger is.
Of this false footman, clokt with simplenesse,
Whome if ye please for to discover plaine,
Ye shall him Archimago find, I ghesse,  
The falsest man alive: who tries, shall had no lesse.’
It's ironic that the Archimago (the Enchanter, earlier) gets punished not for his own deceptions, but for participating in one of Duessa's. Is this an allegory of those who make themselves servants of falsehood? I'm sure she told him they would reward him handsomely for letter. You just can't trust her.

Although, it's been established that the Enchanter is protean and can assume or cause something to assume another's shape, they don't actually confirm this before throwing the guy in the dungeon. Medieval justice, I guess. Still, when you have the allegorical personification of Truth making a claim, I guess you have to believe her. Una's probably incapable of telling a lie.  One of the recurrent antagonists has been dealt with, although this does leave Duesssa still running around, presumably in her natural and hideous shape.

Yet we don't end with a happily ever after. The knight is steadfast to his oath to return to the court of the Faerie Queene. Una's not happy about this, as she is described as being "left to mourne."
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