Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (volume 2)

This book held some surprises for me. First, I was surprised by the amount of female nudity described in it. Remember, it was published in the 1500's during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It described quite a few "frolics", "lily white paps", "lustie youths" -- well, you get the picture. A faithful screen adaptation would certainly be rated R for both sex and violence.

It proves that Elizabethan England wasn't exactly Puritan. No wonder the Puritans felt unwelcome and came here!

Second, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed all the knight vs. monster fights. He did a great job of making the monsters fearsome, and the battles seem larger than life.

So, now that I'm done, I'm going to miss the world of knights, honor, goodness, and chivalry. I feel somewhat like I did at the end of The Pickwick Papers. If only the world were really like this!

More favoriate passages from The Faerie Queene --

His name was Daunger, dreaded over-all,
Who day and night did watch and duely ward
From fearefull cowards entrance to forstall
And faint-heart-fooles, whom shew of perill hard
Could terrifie from Fortunes faire adward:
For oftentimes faint hearts, at first espiall
Of his grim face, were from approaching scard;
Unworthy they of grace, whom one deniall
Excludes from fairest hope withouten further triall.

Truth, not power, is in the end what should be admired.
...deedes ought not be scand
By th' authors manhood, nor the doers might,
But by their trueth and by the causes right.

I like this quote because he uses a water mill as a metaphor. It makes me picture an English thatched roof scene in a forest somewhere.
Like as a water-streame, whose swelling sourse
Shall drive a Mill, within strong bancks is pent,
And long restrayned of his ready course,
So soone as passage is unto him lent,
Breakes forth, and makes his way more violent;
Such was the fury of Sir Calidor

A knight was not just a warrior, but a virtuous warrior. I admire that ideal.
"For nothing is more blamefull to a knight,
That court'sie doth as well as armes professe,
However strong and fortunate in fight,
Then the reproch of pride and cruelnesse.
In vaine he seeketh others to suppresse,
Who hath not learnd him selfe first to subdew"

Sir Calidore made his Squire take an oath of honor. Wouldn't the world be a better place if young men today swore faith to a knight and truth to Ladies all?
There him he causd to kneele, and made to sweare
Faith to his knight, and truth to Ladies all,
And never to be recreant for feare
Of perill, or of ought that might befall:
So he him dubbed, and his Squire did call.

A shepherd taught Sir Calidore about contentment regardless of circumstances. The shepherd's philosophy reminds me of the Stoic Epicticus.

Interestingly, later in the story this shepherd and his wife are murdered by bandits.
"It is the mynd that maketh good or ill,
That maketh wretch or happie, rich or poore;
For some, that hath abundance at his will,
Hath not enough, but wants in greatest store,
And other, that hath litle, askes no more,
But in that litle is both rich and wise;
For wisedome is most riches: fooles therefore
They are which fortunes doe by vowes devize,
Sith each unto himselfe his life may fortunize."


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