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1discipled:taught; disciplined. Sidney h
To such therefore I do not sing at all,1
But to that sacred Saint my soveraigne Queene,
In whose chast breast all bountie2 naturall,
And treasures of true love enlocked beene,
Bove all her sexe that ever yet was seene;
To her I sing of love, that loveth best,
And best is lov’d of all alive I weene:
To her this song most fitly is addrest,
The Queene of love, and Prince of peace3 from heaven blest.
Which that she may the better deigne to heare,
Do thou dred infant, Venus dearling dove,4
From her high spirit chase imperious feare,5
And use of awfull6 Majestie remove:
In sted thereof with drops of melting love,
Deawd with ambrosiall kisses, by thee7 gotten
From thy sweete smyling mother from above,
Sprinckle her heart, and haughtie courage8 soften,
That she may hearke to love, and reade9 this lesson often.
With a sweeping gesture, the narrator sets
Burghley and other critics aside.
2 bountie: excellence; generosity.
3 Queene of love: this title aligns Elizabeth with Venus; Prince of peace: this
title aligns Elizabeth with the messiah
whose coming is foretold in Isa. 9.6.
4 I.e., Cupid.
5 imperious feare: majesty that makes
those around her afraid; the fear felt by a
queen (presumably fear of hearing too
much about—or experiencing—love).
6 awfull: awe-inspiring.
7 thee: Cupid.
8 her: Queen Elizabeth’s; haughtie
courage: lofty heart, emotions, or bravery;
9 reade: almost every meaning of this word
comes into play: is Spenser asking his queen
to peruse his poem, learn its lessons, discern
its truth, interpret it for those around her,
or promulgate the lessons it teaches? If her
breast is the source of “all bountie naturall”
and yet she teaches or promulgates the lessons that she has learned from Cupid
through Spenser’s poem, who is ventriloquizing though whom? Furthermore, exactly what is this lesson? Hamilton
interprets it as “Cupid’s lesson, which is not
to fear love,” but it is difficult to forget the
horrific form that Cupid’s lesson took in
the final canto of the previous book.
Fayre Britomart saves Amoret,
Duessa1 discord breedes
Twixt Scudamour and Blandamour:2
Their fight and warlike deedes.
Of lovers sad calamities of old,
Full many piteous stories doe remaine,
But none more piteous ever was ytold,
Then that of Amorets hart-binding chaine,
And this of Florimels unworthie3 paine:
The deare compassion of whose bitter fit
My softened heart so sorely doth constraine,4
That I with teares full oft doe pittie it,
And oftentimes doe wish it never had bene writ.5
For from the time that Scudamour her bought6
In perilous fight, she never joyed day,
A perilous fight when he with force her brought
Duessa: a character who does not appear
in Book Three but is important for Books
One, Two, Four, and Five. She first appears
in I.ii.13. Her name means “double being”
(Italian due + Latin esse); she usually goes
disguised as a beautiful woman (I.ii.35),
though she is actually a bald hag with withered breasts, rotten gums, one foot like an
eagle’s claw, the other like a bear’s paw, and
a fox’s tail covered in dung (I.viii.46–48). At
various points in the poem, she represents
deceit, self-delusion, witchcraft, the Whore
of Babylon in the Book of Revelation, the
Roman Catholic Church, and Mary, Queen
of Scots. In Book One, Duessa seduces
Redcrosse into believing she is a fit companion for him, which enables her to lead
him into various types of error. Redcrosse
finally sees her for what she is (I.viii.46–48),
but in Book Two, Archimago uses her to
trick Guyon into believing temporarily that
she has been raped by Redcrosse
Scudamour: see III.vi.53 and notes;
Blandamour: the name means “flattering
lover” (Latin blandus + amor).
constraine: press upon; distress.
As at III.viii.1 and III.viii.43.8, the narrator’s tearful distress over Florimell’s torments is humorously undercut by his relish
in inventing those torments. The poem asks
us to consider what distinguishes this relish
from that of the torturer Busirane (see
her: Amoret; bought: freed by paying a
price; redeemed; purchased. See Canto Ten
for Scudamour’s account of his fight for,
and abduction of, the reluctant Amoret.
From twentie Knights, that did him all assay:
Yet fairely1 well he did them all dismay:
And with great glorie both the shield of love,
And eke the Ladie selfe he brought away,
Whom having wedded as did him behove,2
A new unknowen mischiefe did from him remove.
For that same vile Enchauntour Busyran,
The very selfe same day that she was wedded,
Amidst the bridale feast, whilest every man
Surcharg’d with wine, were heedlesse and ill hedded,
All bent to mirth before the bride was bedded,3
Brought in that mask of love which late was showen:4
And there the Ladie ill of friends bestedded,5
By way of sport, as oft in maskes is knowen,
Conveyed quite away to living wight unknowen.
Seven moneths he so her kept in bitter smart,
Because his sinfull lust she would not serve,
Untill such time as noble Britomart
Released her, that else was like to sterve,6
Through cruell knife that her deare heart did kerve.7
And now she is with her upon the way,
fairely: very; completely.
behove: befit, be appropritate for; be
While the wedding guests were still celebrating, it was the custom for the bride to
be ceremoniously conducted to the nuptial
chamber, put into her nightgown, and
arranged in bed to await the groom—to the
accompaniment of prayers or bawdy jokes,
as the case might be. The next morning, the
bloodied wedding sheets were sometimes
displayed from a window to prove that consummation had taken place.
See III.xii.Arg.1.n. for information about
the custom of presenting masques at weddings. In terms of a logical, chronological
plot, Busirane brings his masque to Amoret
and Scudamour’s wedding, abducts the
bride in earnest rather than in jest, and then
forces her to watch repeated performances
of his masque while imprisoned in his
house. Allegorically, however, one could
say that Amoret’s anxieties about giving
herself in marriage are what remove her
psychologically from the wedding celebration and trap her inside her own mind,
which compulsively replays horrifying fantasies.
I.e., badly looked after by her friends.
This part of Amoret’s story is appropriate
for the Book of Friendship.
sterve: die a lingering death.
kerve: cut; slice. For Britomart’s rescue of
Amoret, see III.xii.
The Faerie Queene: Book Four
Marching in lovely wise, that1 could deserve
No spot of blame, though spite did oft assay
To blot her with dishonor of so faire a pray.2
Yet should it be a pleasant tale, to tell
The diverse usage and demeanure daint,3
That each to other made, as oft befell.
For Amoret right fearefull was and faint,
Lest she with blame her honor should attaint,4
That everie word did tremble as she spake,
And everie looke was coy, and wondrous quaint,5
And everie limbe that touched her did quake:
Yet could she not but curteous countenance6 to her make.
For well she wist, as true it was indeed,
That her lives Lord and patrone7 of her health
Right well deserved as his duefull8 meed,
Her love, her service,9 and her utmost wealth.
All is his justly, that all freely dealth:10
Nathlesse her honor dearer then her life,
She sought to save, as thing reserv’d from stealth;11
Die had she lever with Enchanters knife,
Then to be false in love, profest a virgine wife.
lovely: affectionate; that: who, i.e., Britomart.
pray: booty. Since she looks like a male
knight, spiteful people who see her carrying
Amoret on her horse spread the rumor that
the two of them are engaging in premarital
or extramarital sex.
diverse usage: different conduct (as becomes evident in 5.4–5 and 7.1–5, this
phrase means that Amoret’s conduct toward
Britomart differed from Britomart’s conduct toward Amoret); demeanure daint:
delightful, careful, or fastidious demeanor.
4 attaint: taint; convict.
5 quaint: prim; ingenious—though one
cannot help remembering that for Chaucer,
“quainte,” meaning “clever,” was a homonym for “queinte,” meaning “a woman’s
external genitals” or “cunt” (The Miller’s
Tale, 89–90). Amoret is, after all, “perfect
hole” (III.xii.38.9 and note).
patrone: lord; protector.
duefull: due, rightful.
service: servitude; sexual favors. Cf.
dealth: deals out, gives. Believing she
has been rescued by a man, Amoret has a
moral dilemma: the protocols of medieval
chivalric romance demand that she reward
her rescuer by giving herself to him, yet she
is already married—and still a virgin, to
11 reserv’d from stealth: preserved from
Thereto her feare was made so much the greater
Through fine abusion1 of that Briton mayd:
Who for to hide her fained sex2 the better,
And maske3 her wounded mind, both did and sayd
Full many things so doubtfull to be wayd,4
That well she5 wist not what by them to gesse,
For other whiles to her she purpos6 made
Of love, and otherwhiles7 of lustfulnesse,
That much she8 feard his mind would grow to some excesse.
His will9 she feard; for him she surely thought
To be a man, such as indeed he seemed,
And much the more, by that10 he lately wrought,
When her from deadly thraldome he redeemed,
For which no service11 she too much esteemed,
Yet dread of shame, and doubt of fowle dishonor
Made her not yeeld so much, as due she deemed.
Yet Britomart attended duly on her,
As well became a knight, and did to her all honor.12
It so befell one evening, that they came
Unto a Castell, lodged there to bee,
Where many a knight, and many a lovely Dame
Was then assembled, deeds of armes to see:
Amongst all which was none more faire then shee,13
That many of them mov’d to eye her sore.14
fine abusion: clever or subtle deceit,
misuse, or shameful treatment.
fained sex: pretended sex, with a pun on
the sense “sex she wished she could be.”
maske: disguise or cover, with a pun on
“masque,” by which she would represent
doubtfull to be wayd: ambiguous; difficult to judge. In order to maintain her
cover, Britomart is deliberately flirting.
she: Britomart; purpos: conversation.
other whiles . . . otherwhiles: at times
. . . at other times.
will: sexual desire.
that: that which (referring to “his”
manly triumph over Busirane).
service: helpful deed; sexual favors.
The feminine rhyme asks us to compare
“on her” (with its bawdy overtones) to
shee: Amoret (since no one can see Britomart through her armor).
sore: sorely, enviously.
The Faerie Queene: Book Four
The custome of that place was such, that hee
Which had no love nor lemman there in store,1
Should either winne him one, or lye without the dore.2
Amongst the rest there was a jolly knight,
Who being asked for his love, avow’d
That fairest Amoret was his by right,
And offred that to justifie alowd.3
The warlike virgine seeing his so prowd
And boastfull chalenge, wexed inlie wroth,
But for the present did her anger shrowd;
And sayd, her love to lose she was full loth,
But either he should neither of them have, or both.4
So foorth they went, and both together giusted;5
But that same younker6 soone was overthrowne,
And made repent, that he had rashly lusted
For thing unlawfull, that was not his owne:
Yet since he seemed valiant, though unknowne,
She that7 no lesse was courteous then stout,
Cast how to salve, that both the custome showne8
Were kept, and yet that Knight not locked out,9
That seem’d full hard t’accord two things so far in dout.
The Seneschall10 was cal’d to deeme the right,
Whom she requir’d,11 that first fayre Amoret
Might be to her allow’d, as to a Knight,
That did her win and free from chalenge set:
Which straight to her was yeelded without let.12
in store: at hand.
Unlike most other castles in the poem,
this one is not given a specific name. David
Lee Miller calls it “the Castle of Compulsory Heterosexuality” (forthcoming).
alowd: i.e., to proclaim his rights publicly.
An important critical question is whether
Britomart wants Amoret, wants only to free
Amoret from being claimed by various
people as a tournament prize, or wants to
free (or claim) herself through Amoret.
younker: young man of high rank.
showne: made known.
I.e., Britomart tries to figure out how
both to observe the custom of the castle
and to allow the knight whom she has defeated to come inside.
Seneschall: steward; officer of a household appointed to adjudicate domestic disputes and infractions.
I.e., of whom Britomart requested.
Then since that strange Knights love from him was quitted,1
She claim’d that to her selfe, as Ladies det,
He as a Knight might justly be admitted;2
So none should be out shut, sith all of loves were fitted.3
With that her glistring helmet she unlaced;
Which doft, her golden lockes, that were up bound
Still in a knot, unto her heeles downe traced,4
And like a silken veile in compasse5 round
About her backe and all her bodie wound:
Like as the shining skie in summers night,
What time6 the dayes with scorching heat abound,
Is creasted all with lines of firie light,
That it prodigious7 seemes in common peoples sight.
Such when those Knights and Ladies all about
Beheld her, all were with amazement smit,
And every one gan grow in secret dout
Of this and that, according to each wit:
Some thought that some enchantment faygned it;
Some, that Bellona8 in that warlike wise
To them appear’d, with shield and armour fit;
Some, that it was a maske9 of strange disguise:
So diversely each one did sundrie doubts devise.
In claiming Amoret, Britomart claims the
reward due to a victorious man, but since
the acquisition of that reward still leaves her
with “no love nor lemman” (9.8), she
claims the male knight, as well. She does
not intend to make him her love or leman,
but she has made use of the onlookers’
sense of heterosexual propriety to satisfy
her own sense of military propriety (in that
she considers the knight valiant enough to
be well treated even though he has lost the
traced: passed—though this verb most
often indicates the braiding of hair rather
than the loosening of it. This is the third
time that Britomart has unveiled, revealing
her sex; see III.i.42–3 and III.ix.20–24.
5 in compasse: encompassing, surrounding.
6 What time: when.
7 prodigious: portentious; ominous.
8 Bellona: the goddess of battle.
9 maske: masque, costumed performance
(see III.xii.Arg.1.n.). It is not entirely clear
whether this subset of onlookers thinks that
the masque consists of a woman dressing in
a man’s armor or of a man pulling off his
armor to reveal himself dressed and wigged
as a woman. What is quite clear is that all of
the onlookers feel bewildered.
The Faerie Queene: Book Four
But that young Knight, which through her1 gentle deed
Was to that goodly fellowship restor’d,
Ten thousand thankes did yeeld her for her meed,
And doubly overcommen, her ador’d:2
So did they all their former strife accord;
And eke fayre Amoret now freed from feare,
More franke affection did to her afford,
And to her bed, which she was wont forbeare,
Now freely drew, and found right safe assurance theare.3
Where all that night they of their loves did treat,4
And hard adventures twixt themselves alone,
That each the other gan with passion great,
And griefull pittie privately bemone.5
The morow next so soone as Titan shone,
They both uprose, and to their waies6 them dight:
Long wandred they, yet never met with none,
That to their willes7 could them direct aright,
Or to them tydings tell, that mote their harts delight.
Lo thus they rode, till at the last they spide
Two armed Knights, that toward them did pace,
And ech of them had ryding by his side
A Ladie, seeming in so farre a space,8
young Knight: the one with whom
Britomart jousted for Amoret; her: Britomart’s.
2 ador’d: the word’s religious overtones
register the inappropriate swiftness of the
knight’s falling in love, even though Britomart is an appropriately admirable object of
3 In a world without central heating or inexpensive furniture, almost no one slept
4 treat: converse.
5 griefull: sorrowful. The two women are
sharing their hard-luck stories about the
emotional pain of searching for their two
male beloveds, but the location of the conversation—in bed—and the words “passion” and “privately bemone” illogically
but powerfully evoke the idea of two
women having sex with each other. Spenser
is fond of setting up such conditionally
erotic passages, but one could say that this is
one of the few bed scenes in the poem
about which the readers are asked to be
happy. (Hellenore is happy with the satyrs,
and Malecasta is at first happy to lie with
Britomart, but the narrative does not encourage us to celebrate either event.) The
mastery that Britomart has wielded over
Amoret disappears for this night, and the
two women at least temporarily find what
they are seeking in each other.
waies: the plural may reflect the fact that
although they are traveling with each other
(as stanza 17 makes clear), their goals differ.
7 I.e., toward their goals.
8 I.e., someone who seemed, from that far
off, to be a lady (a highborn woman).
But Ladies none they were, albee1 in face
And outward shew faire semblance they did beare;
For under maske of beautie and good grace,
Vile treason and fowle falshood hidden were,
That mote to none but to the warie wise appeare.
The one of them the false Duessa hight,
That now had chang’d her former wonted hew:
For she could d’on so manie shapes in sight,
As ever could Cameleon colours new;
So could she forge all colours, save2 the trew.
The other no whit better was then shee,
But that such as she was, she plaine did shew;3
Yet otherwise much worse, if worse might bee,
And dayly more offensive unto each degree.4
Her name was Ate,5 mother of debate,
And all dissention, which doth dayly grow
Amongst fraile men, that many a publike state
And many a private oft doth overthrow.
Her false Duessa who full well did know,
To be most fit to trouble noble knights,
Which hunt for honor, raised from below,6
Out of the dwellings of the damned sprights,
Where she in darknes wastes her cursed daies and nights.
save: except for.
I.e., she was better only in that she revealed honestly how bad she was. She is described in stanza 17 as being “faire” in
“outward semblance,” but she is often later
called a hag (e.g., at i.31.1 and ii.12.5), and
at iv.9–10, it is clear that everyone regards
her elderly appearance with loathing. The
inconsistencies are part and parcel with her
nature, which not only is duplicitous, but
preys upon people’s ability to delude themselves even when confronted with the
unto each degree: to people of every
Ate: in the Iliad, Ate is the eldest daughter
of Zeus, thrown by him out of heaven onto
the earth. She blinds people’s judgment in
order to bring them affliction, and she is
described as trampling men’s skulls (Iliad,
19.91–128). In Hesiod’s Theogony, Ate is the
great-granddaughter of Chaos, descended
through Night and Strife (Theogony, 230).
Cf. also Allecto in the Aeneid (7.435–55).
Spenser identifies Ate’s origin as hell and
makes her into the personification of Discord, the chief enemy of the virtue of
Friendship. Stanzas 19 through 30 digress
from the plot to describe her dwelling and
habits, in one of Spenser’s most evocative
renderings of an emblematic architectural
6 I.e., Duessa knew that Ate was best able to
trouble knights who hunt for honor, Ate
being raised from hell.
The Faerie Queene: Book Four
Hard by1 the gates of hell her dwelling is,
There whereas all the plagues and harmes abound,
Which punish wicked men, that walke amisse:
It is a darksome delve2 farre under ground,
With thornes and barren brakes3 environd round,
That none the same may easily out win;
Yet many waies to enter may be found,
But none to issue forth when one is in:
For discord harder is to end then to begin.
And all within the riven walls were hung
With ragged monuments4 of times forepast,
All which the sad effects of discord sung:
There were rent robes, and broken scepters plast,
Altars defyl’d, and holy things defast,5
Disshivered speares, and shields ytorne in twaine,
Great cities ransackt, and strong castles rast,6
Nations captived, and huge armies slaine:
Of all which ruines there some relicks did remaine.7
There was the signe of antique Babylon,
Of fatall Thebes, of Rome that raigned long,
Of sacred Salem, and sad Ilion,8
Hard by: right by.
brakes: bracken, ferns; briars.
monuments: souvenirs, reminders; tributes. Here and elsewhere, Spenser is acutely
aware of the etymological relationship of
the word “monument” (which he often
spells “moniment”) to the word “admonishment.” Monuments serve to remind us of
past glories so that we may imitate them—
and of past follies so that we may avoid
them. Ate’s house is thus the result of her
power, a museum to that power, and a possible deterrent to that power’s success. Yet
these twelve stanzas demonstrate that humans are more likely to contribute to Ate’s
collection than to take lessons from it.
Although this line refers generally to the
religious desecrations of all wars, and although Spenser might well be thinking, for
example, of the passage in the Aeneid in
which Priam is murdered in front of an
altar (2.547–53), there were also numerous
defaced churches to be seen in England
after Henry VIII broke with the Pope, dissolved the English monasteries, and ransacked their properties in the late 1530s.
The stanza progresses smoothly from describing a wall hung with trophies of war to
describing some of war’s aftereffects that
could not possibly be contained in one
room. It then slips into a description of the
actions of the wars themselves. The final
line brings us back to mere relics of those
wars, but the total effect is of a room that
encloses a howling chaos, bringing great
stretches of geography and time into the
“riven” confines of its walls.
The Jewish scriptures represent Babylon
(the capital of Babylonia, in present-day
Iraq) as the place to which the Babylonian
For memorie of which on high there hong
The golden Apple, cause of all their wrong,
For which the three faire Goddesses did strive:1
There also was the name of Nimrod 2 strong,
Of Alexander, and his Princes five,3
Which shar’d to them the spoiles that he had got alive.
And there the relicks of the drunken fray,
The which amongst the Lapithees befell,
And of the bloodie feast, which sent away
So many Centaures drunken soules to hell,
That under great Alcides furie fell:4
And of the dreadfull discord, which did drive
The noble Argonauts5 to outrage fell,
That each of life sought others to deprive,
All mindlesse of the Golden fleece, which made them strive.6
king Nebuchadnezzar II exiled the Jews.
Jerusalem (Salem), by contrast, was the
Jews’ chosen—and lost—home. According
to numerous mythologies, Thebes, in ancient Egypt, was “fatall” because its king,
Laius, was told by an oracle that he was destined to be killed by his own son, Oedipus.
Raised by a shepherd, Oedipus did not
know his own parents, and so could not
know that a robber he killed was his own
father or that the woman whom he then
married was his own mother. When he discovered his unwitting errors, Oedipus put
out his own eyes. Ilion (Troy) was the site
of the Trojan War and supposedly the origin of the British race after the fall of Troy
scattered its people (see III.iii.22.6.n. and
See III.ix.34.9.n. for the story of how the
Goddess of Discord used a golden apple to
start the Trojan War.
Nimrod: a giant and king of Babel, believed by Renaissance theologians to be responsible for the building of the Tower of
Babel. Because the people’s intention in
building the tower toward heaven was to
make themselves great, God punished and
weakened them by dividing humans into
various language groups who were unable to
communicate with each other (Gen. 10–1).
For the story of Alexander the Great, see
1 Macc. 1.7–8, according to which the division of Alexander’s kingdom brought
evils upon the earth.
Like other contemporary mythographers,
Spenser combines his account of the battle
between the Greek Lapiths and the Centaurs (when the Centaurs attempted to
carry off the Lapith women during a wedding feast) with his account of the battle between Hercules (Alcides) and the Centaurs;
see Ovid, Metamorphoses, 12.210–535 and
Argonauts: in Greek mythology, when
Pelias took the throne that rightfully belonged to Jason, he got Jason out of the way
by commanding him to fetch the fabled—
and fabulously guarded—golden ram’s
fleece of Colchis. Jason and volunteers from
all over Greece sailed in the ship Argo to
Colchis and back, undergoing many trials
in order to claim the fleece.
strive: work assiduously toward a goal;
engage in war. In Book Four, Spenser plays
with the relationship between these two