Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ugly Falsehood - Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 8

Arthur to the rescue! There's a sort of comic element to the fight as Arthur vanquishes both Orgoglio and the monster that Duessa rides. First Arthur cuts the giant's arm off,
He smott off his left arme, which like a block
Did fall to gound, depriv'd of native might:
although that doesn't actually finish things. But before Arthur can finish the job, Duessa comes out of the castle on her monster. Arthur's squire intervenes, and is keeping the monster at bay, until
Then tooke the angrie witch her golden cup,
Which still she bore, replete with magick artes;
Death and despeyre did many therof sup,
And secrete poyson through their inner partes,
Th' eternall bale of heavie wounded harts:
Which after charmes and some enchauntments said,
She lightly sprinkled on his weaker partes:
Therewith his sturdie corage was soon quay'd,
And all his senses were with suddein dread dismayd.
Not just a good reminder that Duessa is a witch, but something that raises a question for which I have no answer. Just what exactly are the squire's "weaker parts"? The only potential answer that comes to my mind is that she has enchanted his genitals. In any case, this leaves him vulnerable to the beast, until Arthur appears and cuts one of the beast's heads off.

A brief allegorical digression.
I'm still puzzling over the beast the Falsehood rides. Gossip?
End of digression.

Back to the action. The giant shows up to help Duessa, but attacks Arthur by striking his shield.
And in his fall his shield, that covered was,
Did loose his vele by chaunce, and open flew:
The light whereof, that hevens light did pas,
Such blazing brightnesse thorugh the ayer threw,
They eye mote not the same enrure to vew.
Arthur's shiny shield save the day. If I could tell what, allegorically, Arthur is, I might have a chance at guessing what the light of his (formerly obscured) shield is. Holy wisdom? Pure love? No idea. In any case, Arthur chops the giant's right leg off (which I found reminiscent of the Black Knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail). This isn't just a "flesh wound," but instead,
But soone as breath out of his brest did pas,
That huge great body , which the Gyaunt bore,
Was vanisht quite; and of that monstrous mas
Was nothing left, but like an emptie blader was.
So that last cut popped him like a balloon.

Meanwhile, in the castle, the Redcrosse Knight has been made a prisoner of Ignorance. While any humor I might have found in the fight with the giant was wholly personal, this seems like a deliberate joke. Ignaro, the giant's step father, has a name that "did his nature right aread," because his answer to every question is "I can not tell."
His answere likewise was, he could not tell.
Whose sencelesse speach, and doted ignorance
So Arthur just takes his keys, looks through the castle without any guidance, and determination overcomes ignorance. After rescuing the knight, who has suffered greatly while imprisoned by Ignorance, there's one last thing to do: strip Duessa.

Once stripped of her finery, the see "the face of falsehood." And it gets worse:
That her misshaped parts did them appall,
A loathly, wrinckled hag, ill favoured, old,
Whose secret filth good manners biddeth not be told.
Good manners may say that her further appearance shouldn't be described, but Spenser tells us anyway.
Her crafty head was altogether bald,
And as in hate of honorable eld,
Was overgrowne with scurfe and filthy scald;
Her teeth out of her rotten gummes were feld,
And her sowre breath abhominably smeld;
Her dried dugs, like bladders lacking wind,
Hong downe, and filthy matter from them weld;
Her wrizled skin as rough, as maple rind,
So scabby was, that would haue loathd all womankind.

Her neather parts, the shame of all her kind,
My chaster Muse for shame doth blush to write ;
But at her rompe she growing had behind
A foxes taile, with dong all fowly dight;
And eke her feete most monstrous were in sight;
For one of them was like an Eagles claw,
With griping talaunts armd to greedy fight,
The other like a Beares uneven paw:
More ugly shape yet neuer liuing creature saw.
No wonder Fradubio was so bothered.

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