Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Lady and the Lion - Faerie Queene - Book 1, Canto 3

After I published my post on the second canto of The Faerie Queene, I realized I forgot to mention one other monstrosity. Poor Fradubio himself, the tree that cries and bleeds, has been turned into a monster by the wicket Duessa.

I found myself hoping that we weren't going for more monstrous women in the third canto. I got my wish. And, since Spenser had left the fate of Una up in the air, resolves some of that dramatic tension, by turning to the fair Lady who got largely ignored in canto 2.

Our synopsis:
Forsaken Truth long seeks her love,
and makes the Lyon mylde;
Marres blind Devotions mart, and falls
In hand of leach our vylde.
So Una is looking for the Redcrosse Knight when all of a sudden "out of thickest wood" comes "a ramping Lyon." Happily, instead of the expected great peril (I was wondering if someone noble would come up and rescue her), it turn out that the lion becomes her protector. She then sees a woman carrying water "on her shoulders sad." Spenser makes the woman carrying water deaf, mute, and lacking understanding ("she could not heare, nor speak, nor understand). I'm making note of this only because feels significant at the moment.

Una follows the woman, seeking lodging for the night, but theman carrying water deaf, mute, and lacking understanding ("she could not heare, nor speak, nor understand). But when you have a lion with you, a barred door isn't that much of a trouble. And there she finds Devotion, as promised in the quatrain.
Shee found them both in darksome corner pent;
Where that old woman day and night did pray
Upon her beads, devoutly penitent:
Nine hundred Pater noshers every day,
And thrise nine hundred Aves she was wont to say.
We recently watched the film Don Jon, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a man with a steady diet of online porn and casual sex. In his weekly confession, he tallies up each to the priest who gives him a few recitations "Our Father" and "Hail Mary." In one scene, he is irritated that a week of premarital sex without porn doesn't actually offer him much reduction in the prayers. Gorden-Levitt's character was given prayers in sets of ten, twenty, or so.

But Devotion says the "Our Father" nine hundred times a day and two thousand seven hundred times for "Hail Mary." I doubt she has time for much else. As her daughter is a deaf mute, Devotion is blind. But Spenser doesn't make Devotion a nice character. She is not to be confused with piety. Devotion and her daughter live off the earnings of the thief. Worse, he is
Wont to robbe churches of their ornaments.
And poore mens boxes of their due reliefe,
He robs churches, even taking the vestments from the priests and statutes of the saints. His name is the quite appropriate "Kirkrapine." He gives this plunder to the younger woman, now identified as Abesssa, so that he can have sex with her.
With whom he whoredome usd
Unfortunately for the thief, Devotion, and Abessa (undoubtably meant to slander Catholic nuns from Elizabeth's Protestant court), there is a lion outside the door, which kills the thief.  By that point, Una and the lion have left, and so the two women pursue her. When they catch her,
Shamefully at her railing all the way,
And accusing her of dishonesty,
Which is sort of ironic, given that they live off of stolen goods that have been transferred to them. And she is rescued, or she thinks, by the Redcrosse Knight, except it's really the Enchanter.

From our point of view, it's handy when Sans Loy shows up. We know it's him, because he has his name written on his shield "in bloody lines." He's quite angry with the Redcrosse Knight, even though he's now facing the counterfeit one.
Life from Sansfoy thou tookst, Sansloy shall from thee take.
Too late Sansloy sees who he has struck, and leaves the Enchanter with "the cloudes of death" in his eyes. That leaves the lion as the lady's last (and true) protector, but the beast is not able to withstand Sansloy who takes the lady off.

We have our break from the monstrous, in that our beast is quite gentle to the lady. She is, as a good heroine of a chivalric romance, dependably in peril as we close the canto.
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