Friday, May 16, 2014

Everyone wants Una, or Bestial lust in the forest - Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 6

And with canto 6, we return to the trials and tribulations of Unu, our personification of Truth. But despite the attempts of Sansloy, Truth will not be swayed by Lawlessness (okay, that's an allegory). If I put on my allegorical reading glasses, is Spenser suggesting that pagans desire Truth, but they don't know how to treat her?

Because while Sanloy (the last of the Sans brothers) has "fawning words," through which
he countered her a while:
And, looking lovely and oft sighing sore,
Her contant hart did tempt with diverse guile:
His intentions are purely bad.
With beastly sin thought to have her defilde,
And made the vassal of his pleasures vilde.
Happily for Una, her noise draws the attention of a group of fauns and satyrs; they frighten Sansloy away. They become another group that wants truth. At least they're not trying to defile her. Instead, they
all prostate upon the lowly playne,
Doe kisse her feete, and fawne on her with count'nance fayne,
But though they have a "barbarous truth,"she is still wary of them. But they
Do worship her as Queene with olive girlond cround.
And worship her as Goddess of the wood:
So she warms up to them and
During which time her gentle wit shy plyes
To teach them truth, which worshipt her in vaine,
But then their bootless zeale she did restrayne
From her own worship, they her Asse would worship fayn.
The savages make a goddess out of Truth, and are just as happy to worship a donkey. Ouch.

Stanzas 20 through 29 tell the origins of Satyrane, the son of a satyr and a woman. Thyamis was married ("in sacred bands of wedlocke tyde") to Therion, whom the poem describes as "a loose unruly swayne." Here is a warning to all those who spend more time at the hunt than with their wives, because missing her husband, Thyamis goes into the woods, but a satyr seduces her.
And kindling coles of lust in brutish eye,
The loyal links of wedlocke did unbinde,
And made her person thrall unto his beastly kind.
I've noticed that sex has been uniformly intertwined with bestial lust, not just in this canto, either. I suppose we can't expect Spenser to actually depict sex he approves of, so the alternative is that we get scenes of animalistic rutting. It is more fun that way. There is way more sex in this poem than I expected from an Elizabethan allegory. Thyamis becomes a thrall to lust, just as Sansloy hopes to make Una.

The satyr keeps Thyamis at his cabin throughout her entire pregnancy; did Therion notice her missing? Then, once the child is born, he kicks her out,
Then home he suffred her for to retyre
For ransom leaving him the late-borne childe:
And he raises the child among the animals, and the child really becomes king of the beasts, even yoking together
The spotted Panther, and the tusked Bore,
The Pardale swift, and the Tigre creull,
The Antelope, and Wolfe both fiers and fell;
Although I suspect the wolf is a good deal more "fierce and fell" than the antelope. Generally speaking.

Thyamis goes to see "her little sonne," and finds he's not so little anymore. She suggests to him that maybe it's not quite the best idea to make a game out of taking lion cubs away from their mother, and he should find other things to do.

But one day, returning to the wood, Satyrane chances to find Una, and like everyone else in this canto, he wants her, but at least in a noble way.
He wondred at her wisdome hevenly rare,
Whose like in womens witt he never knew;
But then "a silly man" shows up. He spins a tale of Sansloy killing the Redcrosse Knight. Satyrane goes off with Una in search of the Sansloy, who insists that
That Redcrosse knight, perdie, I never slew;
but how's going to believe him? The two fight, but as the battle rages on, Sansloy again lusts after Una:
he gan revive the memory
of his leud lusts, and late attempted sin,
And left, the doubtful battell hastily,
To catch her
You can't just drop out of combat at a moment's notice to go ravish a maiden. They flight. Una flees (Truth flees from battle?) And it turns out that the pilgrim in stanza 35 was just the Enchanter again. With her separated from her protector (for a third time),
He left his stond, and her pursewd apace,
In hope to bring her to her last decay,
Everyone wants to do it to Truth, and not in a nice way either.
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