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Book II, Canto VII

April 14, 2011

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

-Matthew 6:24

We continue the Sermon on the Mount theme in this canto, as well as allusions to the Temptation of Christ. Guyon travels on alone. He comes to a “gloomy glade” and runs across a sooty savage man in a nasty old coat, sitting on a heap of golden treasure. When he sees Guyon he jumps up in a fright and pushes all the gold into a hole to hide it. Guyon confronts the man “(if man at all thou art)” and learns that he is Mammon, the god of wealth. Unsurprisingly, for the rest of the canto Mammon goes out of his way to tempt Guyon.

Guyon resists easily at first, and answers that he much prefers knightly achievements to money. Mammon tries again (stanza 11):

Vaine glorious Elfe (said he) doest not thou weet,
That money can thy wantes at will supply?

And so on, into a nice philosophical discussion about the usefulness of money versus its potential to corrupt, and the necessity of working for wages.

Finally Mammon offers to let Guyon see his stash and take anything he pleases. Guyon seems hesitant about accepting potentially stolen gifts, but Mammon assures him that the gold never belonged to anyone before.

They enter his underground lair, passing grotesque personifications of depressing concepts like Treason, Revenger, Spite, and so forth. It’s all very Aeneid-like. A monster begins to follow them, watching Guyon carefully to see if he gives into temptation – and to eat him if he does. Eventually they enter a vast hall stuffed with treasure, which Mammon offers to Guyon. Guyon declines, but Mammon isn’t finished yet. He leads Guyon to the forges where the treasure is created straight from the veins of the earth. Again he tempts Guyon, and again Guyon declines (stanza 39):

Suffise it then, thou Money God (quoth hee)
That all thine idle offers I refuse.
All that I need I haue; what needeth mee
To couet more, than I haue cause to vse?

They continue on, encountering Disdain as a golden giant, and the throne of Ambition. On the throne sits a superficially beautiful woman. This is Mammon’s daughter, whose name is Philotime (honor-love), an example of Ambition gone wrong. Mammon offers her to Guyon but is once again turned down.

At last they come to the Garden of Proserpina. Mammon shows Guyon the tree of the legendary golden apples. Guyon ends up distracted by the souls who are trapped in the nearby river Cocytus. The spirits are tormented in various ways and Guyon’s morbid fascination with them lasts longer than Mammon can tolerate. They have now been 3 days on this adventure. He suggests that Guyon sit and eat an apple. The monster has been waiting for this the whole time but is disappointed in the end when all Guyon can do is faint.


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