Edmund Spenser – “The Faerie Queene” (ctd.)

Sir Guyon and the Palmer move stealthily so as not to scare Acrasia. We are treated to one more extended description of her white body which is barely covered with a veil of silver, her languorous eyes and so on. Her lover seems like a young man of good family, with hair only lately starting to spring on his chin. He is the image of the lazy warrior – his arms are lying unused and his shield has shamefully its marks of honour erased from it. Guoyn and the Palmer throw a magic net on the two lovers, in an episode reminiscent of Hephaestus catching his wife Aphrodite with her lover Mars. The rest of the entourage flies away while Guyon and the Palmer put the lovers in bounds. They soon let the young man free while Guyon gives him a good talking-to, but they put Acrasia in industrial-strength chains, so that the enchantress can’t escape. Then Guyon destroys the whole garden and all its sinful pleasures, and they leave it by the same route they arrived. Just past the gate they meet the same wild beasts that attacked them on their way here (in a passage not included in the selection) but Palmer’s magic staff keeps them away. Guyon then asks the Palmer about the beasts and he explains that these are her former lovers whom she turned, Circe-like, into beasts. Guyon asks then the Palmer to break the spell, with which he complies. He doesn’t meet, however, with unanimous gratitude – some men seem ashamed of what happened to them, some are angry seeing their lady in chains, and one, named Grill, tells them he’d rather remain a hog. Grill, don’t you know what happens when pork meets the grill? (Spenser borrowed this detail, including the man’s name, from Plutarch). Guyon and the Palmer moralise a little about animal degeneration to which some men are prone and leave.

Sandro Botticelli, “Venus and Mars” (via Wikimedia Commons)

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