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Book VI, Canto X

July 22, 2011

No one is worried about the Blatant Beast anymore, but the poet can’t really blame Calidore for craving love and happiness over blood and battles.

Calidore finds a beautiful place called Acidale, the resort of Venus. It consists of a small hill ringed about by woods, with a waterfall and a stream flowing through. As he approaches he hears music and dancing. Though he dares not get too close, he views a hundred naked maidens in a ring, dancing around three ladies who are dancing around a central lady. Though they are all lovely, the lady in the middle exceeds them by far.

This canto is fun because Spenser makes himself a main character in the person of Colin Clout. He is the piper for this dance. Calidore finally makes the mistake to approach the group, and in true mythological fashion they all vanish at once except for Colin. Colin breaks his pipe in frustration*.

Calidore apologizes for his error and asks what was happening. Colin explains the scene – all the women are Graces, the servants of Venus who bestow on humans their beauty, courtesy, and grace. They are naked because nudity is honest. The three in the middle are the named Graces of higher degree. The lady in the center is his love, just a country lass, but one so honored by the Graces that they have given her a place among them. In stanza 28 he even apologizes to Gloriana for elevating this other woman, who appears to NOT be any aspect of Elizabeth I Now Calidore is even more sorry for driving them all away, but Colin isn’t mad at him and they spend a long time in conversation. Then he returns to Pastorella.

Coridon is still extremely jealous of Calidore. One day as all three of them are gathering strawberries, a tiger jumps out of the woods towards Pastorella. Coridon runs away. Calidore kills the tiger with nothing but his shepherd’s hook. Now Calidore has won Pastorella’s heart, and they are officially “together”.

Sadly it is not going to last long – while Calidore is out hunting one day, brigands find the pastoral people, rob their houses and capture them to sell as slaves. They have a hidden cave system underground, lit only by candles “which delt / A doubtfull sense of things”. Pastorella and her family end up in the caves.

*which according to my notes might indicate Spenser’s intention to cut off the poem here, as he will shortly do, instead of continuing it through twelve books as he originally planned.

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