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Book I, Canto III

October 6, 2009

This Canto has a lot of weeping and self-pity. You have been warned. We open with some boo-hoo for Lady Una, who has been searching for her knight with no luck. She stops to lie down in the forest and removes her veil to reveal a shining, angelic countenance. Out of nowhere a Lion rushes her, only to stop short in amazement at her glowing face. Una’s virtue tames the Lion. After further self-pity and weeping she gets up again to leave, the Lion following her like a guard dog.

Eventually she finds some tracks at the foot of a snowy mountain. She sees a woman with a pitcher on her head and calls to her, but gets no response. Instead the woman flees in fear from the Lion (somewhat understandably). She runs to her house, in which her blind mother sits, and Una and the Lion follow. All the poor Lady Una wants is a place to sleep but no one answers her pleadings at the closed doorway. So the Lion knocks down the door to reveal the cowering blind woman cluthing her prayer beads and the daughter who is incapable of interacting with Una. The blind woman, Spenser informs us, says 3600 prayers a day, fasts, and sits in sackcloth and ashes.

Una begs hospitality and then spends the whole night weeping. During the night a thief arrives at the door, bearing a load of plunder that comes from religious institutions and people – relics, offerings, priestly apparel, etc. We are told that he whores it up with the daughter – here named Abessa (an abess is the head of a convent). The mother is names Corceca (blind heart). The thief, Kirkrapine (church robbery – obvious names are obvious!) is jumped by the Lion, who tears him to pieces. In the morning Una and the Lion depart, apparently without Una noticing the shredded corpse.

When the mother and daughter awake to find their robber friend in little bits on the ground, they chase after Una. She is unaffected by their wails and curses. But here arrives on the scene the great Archimago, who is in the same armor as the Red Cross Knight. He asks the blind mother Corceca about Una, and she tells him the recent events. Archimago rides after Una but is startled by the Lion. He dares not get TOO close, but she comes to him as soon as she spots him. True is, as Spenser says, that true loue hath no powre to looken backe – and Una is so happy to be reunited with the seeming Knight that she accepts his lame excuse of why he abandoned her (to fight an rival knight, he claims).

As they ride together, who do they happen upon but SANSLOY – the brother of the last canto’s body count? He recognizes the Red Cross armor (how he knows, Spenser does not say) and charges at Archimago. Since Archimago is not a real knight, nor does he have the Cross protecting him, he gets gored. As Sansloy announces his brotherly revenge and removes the helmet of the fallen Knight, Una begs for his life. Sansloy ignores her and removes the helmet to see Archimago! He knows this sorcerer and is amazed at seeing him in the armor of St. George. Archimago seems to be dying from his wound, so he leaves him there and yanks Una off her horse. The Lion charges him, but Sansloy is armored and kills the beast. Now Una is at the mercy of the Saracen and they ride off together.


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