Thursday, 23 June 2016

Congenial Spirits: The Selected Letters of Virginia Woolf.

Congenial Spirits is a volume of the selected letters of Virginia Woolf edited by Joanne Trautmann Banks and was first published in 1989. As it happens, I own a very large and intimidating six volume collection of Virginia Woolf's letters but I haven't dared even began thinking about reading them, but Congenial Spirits is a far more concise and approachable collection, a great introduction to the letters of one of the 20th Century's greatest and most important authors.

It begins with letter '0', an undated letter most likely written before she was six:
Letter 1a was written after 1888 to her mother Julia Stephen (she would have been six years old or thereabouts):
My dear Mother,
We went out for a walk with Stella this morning up to the pond and there were a lot of big boats. We cleaned the little room out this morning and we cleaned up the silver things cos they were awfully dirty. It was awfully jolly at the stuffed beasts [Natural History Museum]. Edwin [Fisher, a cousin] came with us to them. Mrs Prinsep says that she will only go in a slow train cos she says all the fast trains have accidents and she told us about an old man of 70 who got his legs caute in the weels of the train and the train began to go on and the old gentleman was dragged along till the train caute fire and he called out for somebody to cut off his legs but nobody came he was burnt up. Good bye
your Loving Virginia
Aside from the horrendous tale of the old gentleman, I loved reading this, it's so very childish, so obviously written by a little girl, and the wondrous thing is that little girl was Virginia Woolf, author of Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse. I was very taken by it.

And on it goes, from before 1888 to 1941. We see Woolf as Adeline Virginia Stephen, the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, historian, author, and critic, and Julia Stephen, a great Victorian beauty and sometimes model of the Pre-Raphaelites; we see her grow up, the bereavements she suffered in her adolescence (both her mother and her beloved half-sister Stella died in her mid-teens), and how that shaped her and her art. We then see the development of an artist, a politically aware widely read highly intelligent and intellectual woman who would go on to marry Leonard Woolf in 1912 and write novels that would help define the Modernist era. She had a wide circle of friends and in these letters we see the semi-private Woolf, not quite the private writings in her diary, and not the public author, but we learn who and what she was to her friends and vice versa. 

For the 21st Century reader this is quite an experience. The letters are first-hand accounts of a Victorian child, an Edwardian woman, and later the modernist writer. On the whole the letters are a joy to read, however voyeuristic one might feel, but at times they can be uncomfortable too. We know Virginia Woolf was at times very anti-Semitic despite being married to Leonard Woolf (who was Jewish), that she could be a snob, and that she could be caustic if not downright cruel at times. There is no hiding away from or glossing over these facts when reading Congenial Spirits. She can be harsh and sometimes very unlikable, and that is hard-going for a Woolf fan such as myself. I can read her essays and novels and her personality doesn't matter, but the flaws are very evident in her letters. To enjoy Congenial Spirits one must accept them.

One of the hardest aspects of all is, of course, the final letter. In the 400 or so pages we read the little girl who "SANG IN THT TRAIN", the letters to newspapers and periodicals, the love letters to Vita Sackville West, her friends, her husband, and many to her sister Vanessa; on a few occasions they are clouded with her mental illness but in the end she shines through; the letters are accounts of her loves, her enthusiasm and joy, and even a record of the births of her novels, but it all ends on the 28th March 1941 with a letter to Leonard Woolf (there are two different letters, this one is perhaps the less familiar):
I want to tell you that you have given me complete happiness. No one could have done more than you have done. Please believe that.
But I know that I shall never get over this: and I am wasting your life. It is this madness. Nothing anyone says can persuade me. You can work, and you will be much better without me. You see I cant write this even, which shows I am right. All I want to say is that until this disease came on we were perfectly happy. It was all due to you. No one could have been so good as you have been, from the very first day till now. Everyone knows that.
You will find Roger's letters to the Maurons in the writing table drawer in the Lodge. Will you destroy all my papers.
We know what happened shortly after, we can read of how the letter came to be found, how her friends and family reacted, all that followed in short. But this is the last letter, there is no more after. Her writing ended here, and to read it after all the other letters is an emotional experience. 

In Congenial Spirits Woolf is charming, sparkling, bright, intelligent, but oh, so very flawed. It is, as I say, just a 400 or so pages and offers an excellent introduction to her letters complete with footnotes to explain some of the unclear references. It does make me want to go on to read my six volume collection (perhaps that would be my 2017 project!) and I do think Congenial Spirits is a must for Woolf fans. It's also an excellent read for those who simply love letters; Woolf was a master at it. It was this beautiful writing and vitality of spirit that defined Virginia Woolf; not her last letter, not her suicide, not her depression. Her life was not one steady march towards suicide (something, I think, some critics seem to believe, reading her suicide into her words); this is made very clear in reading her letters.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Zest for Life by Émile Zola.

Still Life with Bible by Vincent van Gogh (1885).
The small book pictured next to the Bible is Émile Zola's La joie de vivre.

Zest for Life (La joie de vivre) is the twelfth novel in Émile Zola's Rougon Macquart novels, was published in 1884 and is also known in English as The Joy of Living, How Jolly Life Is!, and The Joy of Life. In this Zola focuses on Pauline Quenu, the daughter of Lisa Quenu née Macquart, who herself is the daughter of Antoine Macquart and Joséphine Gavaudan and granddaughter of Adélaïde Rougon (Lisa and her husband Quenu's story is told in The Belly of Paris, 1873). Pauline has come to Bonneville in Normandy to stay with her father's relatives the Chanteaus following the death of both Lisa and Quenu, which we learn about early in Zest for Life.

Pauline Quenu is a remarkable Zola character in that she is far and away the nicest character Zola has ever created, and not the saintly fairy tale-like nice that Angélique Rougon would become in The Dream (1888), Pauline is a flawed but genuinely lovely character. It is she who embodies the 'joie de vivre' in the novel. She arrives at the Chanteaus aged ten and her enthusiasm and loving personality is a sharp contrast with the rather bleak household. Chanteau, the father, is crippled by gout, his wife Madame Chanteau gradually becomes corrupted by her access to Pauline's inheritance, and their son Lazare, a fan of Schopenhauer attempting to compose his Symphony of Sorrow, he could quite as easily been created by Dostoyevsky for his gratuitous pessimism and self-indulgent jaded outlook. Nevertheless as Pauline grows up and becomes a woman she falls in love with him, however he and his family knows he is far better off marrying the daughter of a rich banker, Louise Thibaudier. Pauline, whose only real trait she shares with the Rougon Macquarts is jealousy and some degree of stubbornness, must learn to live with her broken heart. Nevertheless her optimism and this zest for life sustains her (however difficult times get - this is not a Pollyanna story-line, far from it) and she learns to accept her lot in life as the household around her degenerates both morally and physically.

Zest for Life is, I think, Zola's most subtle of novels; an attack on the youth of France so taken by Schopenhauer and an exploration of a character who does not allow herself to become defined or consumed by the undesirable traits of her ancestors; Pauline is quite a contrast not only with the Chanteaus but with nearly all of the Rougons and the Macquarts. What also makes it unusual is the graphic but not gratuitous depictions of menstruation and childbirth (Zest for Life is famous for its childbirth scene near the end). It is a realistic, naturalistic portrayal of puberty, something Zola has done particularly well in this novel. When I first read Zest for Life a few years ago I didn't quite get into it, but this second read has made it one of my favourites of the whole Rougon Macquart series.

Orleanders by Vincent van Gogh (1888).
Again, the book in the painting is Zola's La joie de vivre: Vincent van Gogh was a great fan of Émile Zola.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Helen by Euripides.

Helen on the Walls of Troy
by Gustave Moreau (1885).
I'm still working through Euripides plays and I've now reached Helen (Ἑλένη) which was first performed in around 412 B.C. In this Euripides writes about Helen of Troy after the Trojan War, her escape from Egypt: this idea is based on Herodotus' Histories (440 B.C.) in which Herodotus claimed that Helen of Troy had never been in Troy - she had been in Egypt for the duration of the war.

The play begins with a prologue from Helen, who tells the audience of how Hera, Aphrodite, and Athene asked Paris to judge which of them was the most beautiful, however Aphrodite promised him he may marry Helen if he picked her. He did and so Helen was promised to Paris. Hera, however, intervened and produced to Paris an exact likeness of Helen, and Helen herself was taken to Egypt by Hermes thus preserving herself for her husband King Menelaus. After the prologue Teucer arrives (he has been exiled) and tells Helen Menelaus has been killed - drowned on his way home from Troy. His death would make her available for marriage, and the King of Egypt, Theoclymenus, does indeed wish to marry her.

However Menelaus is not dead - he too arrives in Egypt, however he believes Helen is hidden away in Troy and the woman he sees before him is a copy or phantom. However he finally learns the truth from an old woman that his Helen is indeed in Egypt and the story of Hera, Aphrodite, and Athene is told.

Now reunited the two must escape from Egypt, so Helen, exploiting the rumour that Menelaus drowned, tells Theoclymenus she is ready to marry him once she has gone to sea to perform the burial rites for her husband. Theoclymenus consents and so Helen and Menelaus use the boat to escape. Theoclymenus is furious and vows to kill his sister, the prophet Theonoe, for not telling him, however Castor and Polydeuces, the brothers of Helen and sons of Zeus, intervene and convince him to let her go. 

This is another play by Euripides that portrays the aftermath of war - the confusion, pain, and chaos. There are elements of the tragic in Helen even with the happy ending, and there are some mildly comic moments too. I enjoyed reading it, but again I'm not wildly enthusiastic about it. Out of nineteen I have six plays left and I still say my absolute favourite playwright of the 5th Century B.C. is Sophocles.

Monday, 20 June 2016

On Not Knowing Greek by Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf with Roger Fry in Greece.
'On Not Knowing Greek' is the third chapter in The Common Reader First Series, first published in 1925. It is not an essay on not knowing the Ancient Greek language - Virginia Woolf learned both Greek and Latin and was able to read the Ancients in the original language. It's more about not knowing the Greek culture, their nuances, and indeed how it was they spoke, how words were pronounced, and how words were delivered. 

The essay begins,
For it is vain and foolish to talk of knowing Greek, since in our ignorance we should be at the bottom of any class of schoolboys, since we do not know how the words sounded, or where precisely we ought to laugh, or how the actors acted, and between this foreign people and ourselves there is not only difference of race and tongue but a tremendous breach of tradition. All the more strange, then, is it that we should wish to know Greek, try to know Greek, feel for ever drawn back to Greek, and be for ever making up some notion of the meaning of Greek, though from what incongruous odds and ends, with what slight resemblance to the real meaning of Greek, who shall say?
She goes on to write about how little we know of those ancient times compared to contemporary writers. Now we know more than perhaps we care to, but of the Greeks, just some snippets here and there, never enough to build a whole picture. "Fate," she writes, "has been kind there too. She has preserved them from vulgarity." Here our imaginations kick in; we can create an image of how we think life must have been using the words of these great writers, but, strangely enough, we British are at a disadvantage -
It is the climate that is impossible. If we try to think of Sophocles here, we must annihilate the smoke and the damp and the thick wet mists. We must sharpen the lines of the hills. We must imagine a beauty of stone and earth rather than of woods and greenery. With warmth and sunshine and months of brilliant, fine weather, life of course is instantly changed; it is transacted out of doors, with the result, known to all who visit Italy, that small incidents are debated in the street, not in the sitting-room, and become dramatic; make people voluble; inspire in them that sneering, laughing, nimbleness of wit and tongue peculiar to the Southern races, which has nothing in common with the slow reserve, the low half-tones, the brooding introspective melancholy of people accustomed to live more than half the year indoors.
She goes on to write of the eloquence of the Greeks -
In six pages of Proust we can find more complicated and varied emotions than in the whole of the Electra. But in the Electra or in the Antigone we are impressed by something different, by something perhaps more impressive — by heroism itself, by fidelity itself. 
These 'primitive emotions - rage, for example is so universal we recognise it even in its most bare constructions:
... but when thus stirred by death, by betrayal, by some other primitive calamity, Antigone and Ajax and Electra behave in the way in which we should behave thus struck down; the way in which everybody has always behaved; and thus we understand them more easily and more directly than we understand the characters in the Canterbury Tales. These are the originals, Chaucer’s the varieties of the human species.
Woolf then goes on to write of the Chorus, something the Renaissance playwrights largely dispensed of, however the function of the Chorus, which she argues allowed the audience to hear the author's voice, is still used in other ways. She then returns to the eloquence of the Greeks - how short their plays really were:
Aeschylus makes these little dramas (the Agamemnon has 1663 lines; Lear about 2600) tremendous by stretching every phrase to the utmost, by sending them floating forth in metaphors, by bidding them rise up and stalk eyeless and majestic through the scene. 
She adds,
It is necessary to take that dangerous leap through the air without the support of words which Shakespeare also asks of us.
She later writes that the plays, therefore, concentrated on presenting the 'whole' rather than the details:
We have to stretch our minds to grasp a whole devoid of the prettiness of detail or the emphasis of eloquence. Accustomed to look directly and largely rather than minutely and aslant, it was safe for them to step into the thick of emotions which blind and bewilder an age like our own. 
The language, however, remains a barrier even to those who know it, and for those who don't know it reading the Ancient Greeks is a pointless endeavour - "Translators can but offer us a vague equivalent". She concludes,
Entirely aware of their own standing in the shadow, and yet alive to every tremor and gleam of existence, there they endure, and it is to the Greeks that we turn when we are sick of the vagueness, of the confusion, of the Christianity and its consolations, of our own age.
As Woolf essays go, this one isn't the easiest to read. It does seem, dare I say, a tad stilted and we do see a little of the Woolf snobbery, particularly with regard to her remarks on translation. I would say that I do envy those who have learned Greek, especially at a young age, but reading translations is never pointless, and furthermore the art of translating has come along in leaps and bounds these past ninety years or so when Woolf wrote this essay. Nevertheless her admiration and love of Greek plays is a joy to read and, as ever, she sums up so easily that which I've always found awkward to express. This is a must-read for those who enjoy the Greek plays (be they translated or in the original), and the essay can be read in full here.

That was my 25th title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week - The White Devil by John Webster.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Book III (Cantos I -VI) of The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.

Another book, another knight, another theme. Book III of Spenser's The Faerie Queene is about Chastity as told through the story of Britomartis, or Britomart.

Book III is titled:
The Third
Booke of the 
Faerie Qveene.
The Legend Of Britomartis.
Of Chastitie.

It begins with the proem in which Spenser writes that the Faerie Queene embodies the virtue of chastity, something which no form of art is truly able to capture.
But liuing art may not least part expresse,
Nor life-resembling pencill it can paint,
All were it Zeuxis or Praxiteles:
His daedale hand would faile, and greatly faint,
And her perfections with his error taint:
Ne Poets wit, that passeth Painter farre
In picturing the parts of beautie daint,
So hard a workmanship aduenture darre,
For fear through want of words her excellence to marre.

Guyon encountreth Britomart,
faire Florimell is chaced:
Duessaes traines and Malecastaes
champions are defaced.

The first book begins with Arthur, Guyon and his Palmer meeting Britomart. At first they assume she is male as, dressed in her knight's armour, she quickly knocks Guyon off his horse. But she is indeed a knight and she seeks her true love having seen his image in a mirror -
... Whom straunge aduenture did from Britaine fet,
To seeke her louer (loue farre sought alas,)
Whose image she had seene in Venus looking glas.
After a brief argument she and Guyon reconcile and travel together:
Thus reconcilement was betweene them knit,
Through goodly temperance, and affection chaste,
And either vowd with all their power and wit,
To let not others honour be defaste,
Of friend or foe, who euer it embaste,
Ne armes to beare against the others syde:
In which accord the Prince was also plaste,
And with that golden chaine of concord tyde.
So goodly all agreed, they forth yfere did ryde.
They soon come across a dark forest and in it a woman -
All suddenly out of the thickest brush,
Vpon a milk-white Palfrey all alone,
A goodly Ladie did foreby them rush,
Whose face did seeme as cleare as Christall stone,
And eke through feare as white as whales bone:
Her garments all were wrought of beaten gold,
And all her steed with tinsell trappings shone,
Which fled so fast, that nothing mote him hold,
And scarse them leasure gaue, her passing to behold.
She is fleeing from a man, and Arthur and Guyon intervene whilst Britomart continues on her quest. She arrives at a castle outside which she sees six knights battling against one: this knight is Redcrosse, who tells her -
Whereto that single knight did answere frame;
These sixe would me enforce by oddes of might,
To chaunge my liefe, and loue another Dame,
That death me liefer were, then such despight,
So vnto wrong to yield my wrested right:
For I loue one, the truest one on ground,
Ne list me chaunge; she th'Errant Damzell hight,
For whose deare sake full many a bitter stownd,
I haue endur'd, and tasted many a bloudy wound.
The six knights explain themselves (they are later named as Gardante, Parlante, Iocante, Basciante, Bacchante, and Noctante), telling Britomart the castle is owned by a beautiful woman who demands that every knight who comes into the castle must serve her for the rest of his life. Britomart and Redcrosse go on to defeat the knights before Britomart enters the castle, the "Castle Ioyeous", which Spenser describes as sumptuous and sensual, decorated with art featuring the likes of Venus and Adonis. They then meet the lady of the castle, the "Lady of delight" (later named as Malecasta), who is unaware that Britomart is a woman ("All ignoraunt of her contrary sex"). She tries to seduce Britomart and is horrified to learn the truth. There is a scuffle and Britomart leaves the castle.

The Redcrosse knight to Britomart
  describeth Artegall: 
The wondrous myrrhour, by which she
  in loue with him did fall.

Spenser begins by praising women, arguing that in the past they too were warriors until men suppressed them -
But by record of antique times I find,
That women wont in warres to beare most sway,
And to all great exploits them selues inclind:
Of which they still the girlond bore away,
Till enuious Men fearing their rules decay,
Gan coyne streight lawes to curb their liberty;
Yet sith they warlike armes haue layd away:
They haue exceld in artes and pollicy,
That now we foolish men that prayse gin eke t'enuy.
He then returns to Britomart and Redcrosse: Redcrosse questions her as to why she is a knight and she slowly begins to tell her story, that she had been raised to be a knight in Britain and had come to Faerie Land to serve the Faerie Queene. She then tells him she seeks Arthegall, who she claims has wronged her:
... But mote I weet of you, right curteous knight,
Tydings of one, that hath vnto me donne
Late foule dishonour and reprochfull spight,
The which I seeke to wreake, and Arthegall he hight.
Redcrosse defends Arthegall and she provokes his defence: she is lying about Arthegall and secretly wants to hear about him, for it is he she saw in the mirror, which Spenser goes on to describe - that she fell in love with the image, and her nurse could not cure her of her love-sickness, not even with magic.

Merlin bewrayes to Britomart,
the state of Artegall. 
And shewes the famous Progeny
which from them springen shall.

Britomart goes on to tell her story - growing desperate her nurse decides they must visit the man who made the mirror - Merlin. They go to his magical cave filled with little demons, and after a description of the cave and Merlin, the two enter the cave and find him there writing:
They here ariuing, staid a while without,
Ne durst aduenture rashly in to wend,
But of their first intent gan make new dout
For dread of daunger, which it might portend:
Vntill the hardie Mayd (with loue to frend)
First entering, the dreadfull Mage there found
Deepe busied bout worke of wondrous end,
And writing strange characters in the ground,
With which the stubborn feends he to his seruice bound.
They speak with Merlin, eventually telling him the problem (which he already knows) and he assures Britomart her suffering will benefit her in the long run: she will meet Arthegall and bring him home where they must defend themselves from an attacking Muslim army. They will have a child, however Arthegall will die before it is born, and Merlin goes on to describe their lineage and fate. Here, I believe, Spenser begins to describe some Northumbrian history mentioning King Oswald of Northumbria (now a saint), Cadwallin, who was Cadwallon ap Cadfan, King of Gwynedd (north west Wales) who defeated Edwin of Northumbria before being himself defeated by Oswald. He then talks of the Saxon invasion who are then defeated by the Normans (William the Conqueror). From this Saxon invasion through the Norman period Britain is ruled by foreigners, however Merlin tells Britomart, this period will end and the Britons will regain control ("So shall the Briton bloud their crowne againe reclame"). Thus, Britomart with Arthegall will begin this great royal lineage.

And so Britomart and Glauce part from Merlin and decide to disguise themselves as knights. Glauce tells Britomart of Angela, a valiant female knight who was defeated by Britomart's father, and so, inspired, Britomart secures Angela's armour and begins her quest. Here Britomart finishes her story.

Bold Marinell of Britomart,
  Is throwne on the Rich strond:
Faire Florimell of Arthur is
  Long followed, but not fond.

In the fourth canto Britomart and Redcrosse part ways and Britomart continues with her quest to find Arthegall. She and her nurse pause a while and she reflects whilst watching the ocean until she is interrupted by a knight - Marinell. They fight and Marinell is defeated, and Britomart leaves him wounded, ignoring the fact that the beach is bejewelled -
The martiall Mayd stayd not him to lament,
But forward rode, and kept her readie way
Along the strond, which as she ouer-went,
She saw bestrowed all with rich aray
Of pearles and pretious stones of great assay,
And all the grauell mixt with golden owre;
Whereat she wondred much, but would not stay
For gold, or perles, or pretious stones an howre,
But them despised all; for all was in her powre.
Here Spenser goes on to write of Cymoent, Marinell's mother who has heard of her son's defeat. She asks Proteus of her son's future, and Proteus warns her that a virgin will harm or indeed kill him -
... For of a woman he should haue much ill,
A virgin strange and stout him should dismay, or kill.
She returns to Marinell and, when he is revived, helps him home and curses Britomart.

Britomart, meanwhile, is unaffected by the curse thus far and she crosses paths with Archimago, who has previously been tormenting Guyon and Arthur. They, and Timias, are still in search of the woman. They have split up and it is Arthur who finds her however she continues to flee and Arthur is left alone wishing she was the Faerie Queene. He sleeps and awakes the next morning still tired and lethargic; Canto IV ends,
Thus did the Prince that wearie night outweare,
In restlesse anguish and vnquiet paine:
And earely, ere the morrow did vpreare
His deawy head out of the Ocean maine,
He vp arose, as halfe in great disdaine,
And clombe vnto his steed. So forth he went,
With heauie looke and lumpish pace, that plaine
In him bewraid great grudge and maltalent:
His steed eke seem'd t'apply his steps to his intent.

Prince Arthur heares of Florimell:
  three fosters Timias wound,
Belphebe finds him almost dead,
  and reareth out of sownd.

Spenser starts the canto by reflecting on love and how it affects each individual -
Wonder it is to see, in diuerse minds,
How diuersly loue doth his pageants play,
And shewes his powre in variable kinds:
The baser wit, whose idle thoughts alway
Are wont to cleaue vnto the lowly clay,
It stirreth vp to sensuall desire,
And in lewd slouth to wast his carelesse day:
But in braue sprite it kindles goodly fire,
That to all high desert and honour doth aspire.
Arthur's love has inspired great deeds, and in this canto we return to Arthur who meets a dwarf, also in search of Florimell. The dwarf tells him she is in love with Marinell who doesn't return her love having been warned a woman would be his downfall (told in Canto IV above). However Florimell has been told of his injuries and seeks him to help him. The two decide to search for her together however the previous search has led Arthur to become separated from his squire Timias who, in the mean time, has got into his own battle with a forester and his sons. He is injured but helped by Belphoebe, with whom he falls in love. Spenser closes the canto by writing how she is proudly chaste - a wonderful quality.
In so great prayse of stedfast chastity,
Nathlesse she was so curteous and kind,
Tempred with grace, and goodly modesty,
That seemed those two vertues stroue to find
The higher place in her Heroick mind:
So striuing each did other more augment,
And both encreast the prayse of woman kind,
And both encreast her beautie excellent;
So all did make in her a perfect complement.

The birth of faire Belphoebe and
  Of Amoret is told.
The Gardins of Adonis fraught
  With pleasures manifold.

In this Spenser goes in to write of Belphoebe, who he says, is naturally lovely and chaste - she has not been taught these qualities. He then writes of her family, her mother Chrysogonee (who was the daughter of Amphisa), and her twin sister Amoretta:
Her mother was the faire Chrysogonee,
The daughter of Amphisa, who by race
A Faerie was, yborne of high degree,
She bore Belphoebe, she bore in like cace
Faire Amoretta in the second place:
These two were twinnes, & twixt them two did share
The heritage of all celestiall grace.
That all the rest it seem'd they robbed bare
Of bountie, and of beautie, and all vertues rare.
Furthermore Chrysogonee was herself a virgin, impregnated by the sun's rays -
It were a goodly storie, to declare,
By what straunge accident faire Chrysogone
Conceiu'd these infants, and how them she bare,
In this wild forrest wandring all alone,
After she had nine moneths fulfild and gone:
For not as other wemens commune brood,
They were enwombed in the sacred throne
Of her chaste bodie, nor with commune food,
As other wemens babes, they sucked vitall blood.
During this time Venus was searching for her son Cupid, and on her search she encountered Diana. After a brief argument the two search for Cupid and come across Chrysogonee and her twins. It is decided Diana will take Belphoebe and Venus will take Amoretta. Spenser goes on to describe Venus' garden, "the Gardin of Adonis", a contrast with the Bower of Bliss, marred only by Time:
Great enimy to it, and to all the rest,
That in the Gardin of Adonis springs,
Is wicked Time, who with his scyth addrest,
Does mow the flowring herbes and goodly things,
And all their glory to the ground downe flings,
Where they doe wither, and are fowly mard:
He flyes about, and with his flaggy wings
Beates downe both leaues and buds without regard,
Ne euer pittie may relent his malice hard.
It was here Amoretta was raised and when she grew up she joined the Faerie Court where she fell in love with Sir Scudamore:
But she to none of them her loue did cast,
Saue to the noble knight Sir Scudamore,
To whom her louing hart she linked fast
In faithfull loue, t'abide for euer more,
And for his dearest sake endured sore,
Sore trouble of an hainous enimy;
Who her would forced haue to haue forlore
Her former loue, and stedfast loialty,
As ye may elsewhere read that ruefull history.
However, for now, Spenser writes that we must return to Florimell, Arthur, and Timias, ending Canto VI with,
But well I weene, ye first desire to learne,
What end vnto that fearefull Damozell,
Which fled so fast from that same foster stearne,
Whom with his brethren Timias slew, befell:
That was to weet, the goodly Florimell;
Who wandring for to seeke her louer deare,
Her louer deare, her dearest Marinell,
Into misfortune fell, as ye did heare,
And from Prince Arthur fled with wings of idle feare.
I'll go on to write about Cantos VII - XII in the last week of June. Until then, Walter Crane's illustrations for Cantos I - VI:

Book II (Cantos VII - XII)


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