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Book I, Canto VII

March 23, 2010

The poem shifts to Duessa (or Fidessa, as Redcross still thinks her) returning from her Sansioy detour. She discovers that her Knight has left Pride’s house. Duessa finds him again near a fountain, reproaches him for leaving her, and they relax…or maybe not so much – the text is vague. We learn the legend of the nearby fountain: one of the goddess Diana’s nymphs fell behind during a hunt. Diana, angry at the nymph’s laziness, cursed her water (nymphs are water spirits) and its its drinkers to become slow and weak.

Unfortunately, Redcross happens to be the current drinker, and the waters steal his courage, strength, and resolve.

Suddenly our characters are startled by a crashing sound. The giant Orgoglio (Italian for pride), wielding an oak tree for a mace, attacks an unarmored, unarmed, and unprepared Redcross. Stanza 13 is a wonderful description of his general disorientation, comparing the giant’s blows to Spenser’s modern artillery:

As when that diuelish yron Engin wrought
In deepest Hell, and framd by Furies skill,
With windy Nitre and quick Sulphur fraught,
And ramd with bullet round, ordaind to kill,
Conceiueth fire, the heauens it doth fill
With thundring noyse, and all the ayre doth choke,
That none can breath, nor see, nor heare at will,
Through smouldry cloud of duskish stincking smoke,
That th’onely breath him daunts, who hath escapt the stroke.

One blow misses Redcross but knocks him out, and he is only saved by Duessa’s intervention. The giant heeds her, carries them both off, throws Redcross into his dungeon and makes Duessa his lady. The next few stanzas describe Duessa once again resembling the Whore of Babylon (Revelation 17), especially after the giant gives her a seven headed monster as a mount.

The Dwarf, having witnessed the giant carrying off his master and lady, sadly packs up Redcross’s horse and armor and departs. When he comes across Una, still fleeing from Sansloy, she faints at the sight of Redcross’s belongings. The Dwarf revives her, she laments and faints again. And again. And again.

Finally she asks for the gory story. He tells her everything that has happened thus far, including the real identity of “Fidessa”, and Redcross’s current predicament. She decides to find out what has happened, and they set off in search of him.

On the way they meet a knight and his squire. The knight is dressed magnificently, decked out in jewels, gold, and a dragon helm. His shield is solid diamond, (we are told) for dazzling his enemy’s eyes and revealing any deception of magic. Where did he get this incredible shield, you ask? Merlin made it for him.

Finally, we are saved by Arthur himself!

Arthur converses with Una and realizes that something is wrong with her. She is reluctant to tell him her misadventures (and after what she’s been through with knights, can you blame her?) but he convinces her. She tells him the whole story, that a dragon attacked her parents’ kingdom and has besieged them for four years. Though many tried, no knight could defeat the dragon, so she came to Gloriana’s court to find a more qualified champion. Redcross was tasked with killing her dragon, but all the events of the book have interfered, and Una informs Arthur of the same mishaps of which the Dwarf had recently informed her.

Of course Arthur promises to help, and here the canto ends.


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