Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene (ctd.)

The witch, sensing that the knight is about to dump her, turns him into a tree while he is asleep by using her magic ointments, and then plants him next to his love, although Spenser does not explain when and how she turned her into a tree. “How can I set you both free?”, asks Redcrosse. “Only the water from a living well can do it”, answers Fradubbio. “But how can I find th9is well?” “it’s up to the fate to decide”. The knight’s lady companion, who in fact is Duessa, hearing all that pretends to faint, although we don’t know what for. She lets Redcrosse restore her to life and off they go, thus ending Canto 2.

Canto 3 begins with the poet’s declaration that there is no sadder view that beautiful women suffering [while plain women, on the other hand, can be screwed over]. It brings tears to his eyes, either because of his loyalty to some unspecified woman or because of his fealty to all womankind [so maybe ugly women deserve his compassion too?]. With such tears in his eyes he is now going to describe the sad fate of Una, roaming the wilderness to find her lover, but alas, without luck. One day she, being tired, lies down in some shadowy spot, letting her hair down (quite literally, “from her faire head her fillet she undight”). A lion in pursue of some game sees her and is about to eat her, but then he feels sorry for her (!)

I am saving all lit-crit remarks, if I have any, for the end, but at this point I would like just to say that the appearance of the poetic “I”, or the persona of the poet for the first time since the invocation, was a bit intrusive and I don’t quite know what Spenser wanted to achieve by it.


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