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Book II, Canto VI

February 17, 2011

Cymochles comes to a river. In the river is a little boat, and in the boat is a woman. She giggled and sings to herself as she floats along. He calls to her and requests a ride. She invites him in but rejects Atin. Her gondola steers itself while she entertains Cymochles with silly stories and incessant laughing. She successfully distracts him from all thoughts of knightly valour. This woman is Phaedria, “the shining one”. She brings him to an island, carefully crafted to entice all the senses. He ends up falling asleep in her lap. Spenser provides us with some Sermon-on-the-Mount moralizing while Cymochles naps and Phaedria steals away back to her canoe.

This time she is met by Guyon, who is presumably following Atin. She gives him a ferry ride but will not allow the Palmer. Guyon bails on him and soon discovers that his new companion is quite annoying with her giggling and nonsense. He is extra annoyed when it dawns on him that she has brought him to the island and not across the river. She laughs it off and attempts to distract him, with little success.

Finally Cymochles awakens, and like a good true knight of literature he immediately fights with Guyon. It seems a fairly even match until Guyon shatters his helmet, at which point Phaedria intervenes, beseeching them to stop, and they do. Guyon asks to leave. This relieves Phaedria, who has evidently noticed that Guyon dislikes her. She drops him off, and who should be standing nearby but poor abandoned Atin! He hurls abuses at Guyon, who ignores him until the spectacle of a suicidal knight charges at them. The knight runs straight into the river. And who should this be but poor forsaken Pyrochles!

Atin tries to stop Pyrochles from drowning himself, but Pyrochles is determined to stop the “burning”. Just then an old man with a sword shows up, and who should it be but our favorite magician Archimago! In stanza 49 come some of my favorite lines:

These flames, these flames (he cryde) do me torment.
What flames (quoth he) when I thee present see,
In daunger rather to be drent, then brent?

We learn that the burning is from the wounds inflicted by Furor in the previous canto. Archimago heals them.

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