Book II, Canto II
Guyon and the Palmer take the bloody baby with them. Guyon laments the babe’s situation and kneels down to try to wash off its bloody hands in the fountain. To his amazement, the blood will not wash off. Guyon marvels at this and the Palmer explains that all fountains, lakes and pools have some sort of magic in them. Somehow, the Palmer knows that this particular fountain’s virtue springs from a long-ago incident when its nymph was chased by a lecherous faun. The nymph wearied and was afraid of being captured by the faun, so she cried out to the goddess Diana for mercy and Diana changed her into this fountain. From then on, the fountain’s water was as virtuous as the nymph and therefore will not let the baby’s bloodiness into its water.
After hearing this remarkable story, Guyon gives up on trying to wash the baby’s hands. Unfortunately, he has lost his horse during the previous canto’s adventure and now has to travel on foot.
Eventually the trio comes to a castle on a cliff. “Therein three sisters dwelt of a sundry sort” and the middle sister, Medina, is there to receive our party. She graciously entertains Guyon. The other two sisters are busy with their knight boyfriends. The eldest sister has a suitor named Huddibras, a rash fighter. The youngest sister has our favorite Saracen Sansloy as her suitor. The sisters (and their knights representing them) are always fighting with each other, but now that they have heard of Guyon’s arrival they all four turn against him.
Before they could get so far as to attack Guyon, they end up in an argument between themselves and start a noisy fight. The noise stirs Guyon. The two suitor knights turn from each other to him and chaos ensues as all three knights attempt to kill each other.
Fortunately, Medina intervenes and manages to get the knights to listen to her. Despite the interruption of her sisters, she gives a great speech about the uselessness of war in stanza 30 and begs them to stop fighting. Surprisingly, her speech works and they lay down their arms. The knights and their ladies go to rest in Medina’s lodging.
Both the elder and younger sister are quite annoyed at this turn of events, as each wanted her knight to triumph. The elder sister Elissa represents the extreme of minimalism, the younger sister Perissa the extreme of excess. Medina, of course, is Goldilock’s Baby Bear, the middle way, who is “just right”. She moderates the gathering and eventually asks Guyon to tell the group his story.
This leads to some flattering stanzas about Gloriana the Faerie Queene, and a bit of history on Guyon. He is in the knightly Order of Maidenhead, the most important order. Every New Year’s Gloriana holds a great feast, and this past year the Palmer arrived to voice his complaint about Acrasia, the sorceress.
Guyon was sent to address this grievance. He has been on the road for three months, and he relates the sad story from the previous canto to explain his pursuit of Acrasia.
Finally it is bedtime. “At last when they had markt the chaunged skyes, / They wist their houre was spent; then each to rest him hyes.”