Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Inevitable Dragon - Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 11

Statue of St. George and the Dragon
Now we get a dragon.
Now that the Redcrosse Knight has been identified with Saint George, I suppose we must have a dragon. When I finished reading canto 10, I didn't think we were going to see a dragon fight, even though I did include a photo of a statue of St. George fighting a dragon. Now we get the fight.

The. Obvious. Allegory.
There was a moment at stanza 30 where I actually groaned. Oh, Spenser, you're usually more subtle than this. In stanza 29, the knight reaches a "springing well," which is "full of great vertues, and for med'cine good." But there's more:
For unto life the dead it could restore,
And guilt of sinfull crimes clenne wash away;
Those that with sicknesse were infected sore
It could recure; and aged long decay
Renew as one were borne that very day.
And just in case you didn't get it, Spenser notes that "both Silo this, and Jordan, did excel." Hmm… better than the waters of the Jordan. Really?

The knight is having a tough time against this dragon before the "springing well." The dragon is a pretty formidable opponent, described over the course of 8 stanzas, each one making him seem more unstoppable. While both knight and dragon are wounded in the battle, once the dragon has driven the knight into the well, the dragon assumes victory.
When that infemall Monster, having kest
His wearie foe into that living well,
Gan high advaunce his broad discoloured brest
Above his wonted pitch, with countenance fell,
And clapt his yron wings as victor he did dwell.
Not so fast, dragon.

In the morning, the battle begins afresh. But the knight,
So new this new-borne knight to battell new 'd rise.
A bit of a surprise for the dragon.
No wonder if he wondred at the sight,
And doubted whether his late enimy
It were, or other new supplied knight. 
The battle rages on, but the knight still isn't successful. As chance would have it, the (baptized) knight and Sin (that dragon, that is) end up at the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden. Like I said, this time, the allegory is pretty obvious.
There grew a goodly tree him faire beside,
Loaden with fruit and apples rosy redd,
As they in pure vermilion had been dide,
Whereof great vertues over-all were redd;
For happy life to all which thereon fedd,
And life eke everlasting did befall:
Great God it planted in that blessed stedd
With his Almighty hand. and did it call
The tree of life, the crime of our first fathers fall.
The tree is important because,
From that first tree forth flowd, as from a wel ,
A trickling streams of Balme.
First we had baptism, now we have the anointing with holy oil. Our knight, though an Elf, is also a Christian. Once anointed (by Una), the knight is
All healed of his hurts and woundes wide,
And did himselfe to battaile ready dight ; 
And quite able to kill the dragon in two more stanzas on the third day.
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