The Faerie Queene 8: Saved by Prince Arthur

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Sir Guyon layd in swowne (1895-97), print, 'Spenser's Faerie Queene', ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

In the second episode of Book 2, Phaedria had lured Sir Guyon and Cymochles to her island on the Lake of Idleness, where they fought one another until Guyon knocked his opponent senseless. Guyon was then ferried back to the shore of the lake by Phaedria, and continued his journey without the Palmer, who had been left on another part of the shore. Cymochles’ brother Pyrrhochles then arrived, wounded from his encounter with Furor. The page Atin then tried to help him, but it was the sorceror Archimago who brought Pyrrhochles relief from his burning wounds.

Canto 7

Guyon findes Mammon in a delve,
sunning his threasure horde;
Is by him tempted, and led downe,
To see his secrete store.

Sir Guyon now walks on alone, his horse stolen and the Palmer missing. He eventually meets a grisly man whose beard is scorched, and whose skin is blackened by soot. His chain mail is made of grubby gold, and there are gold coins on his lap and piled in great heaps around him. Seeing the knight, the man starts pouring his gold into a hole in the ground. He reveals that he is Mammon, from whom all worldly riches flow, and offers the knight great wealth if he’ll pledge himself to him and his riches.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Guyon findes Mammon in a delve (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Guyon declines Mammon’s offer, declaring his devotion to honour rather than riches. Mammon claims that riches can bring him anything he wants, but the knight argues that covetousness is the root of unhappiness. Mammon invites Guyon to view his unseen fortune, and they descend through a cavern to Pluto’s underworld. Along the way, Guyon sees Pain, Strife, Revenge, Spite, Treason, Hate, Jealousy, Fear and Sorrow, and above them all is black-winged Horror.

They enter Mammon’s house, where there are mountains of gold. Guyon remains steadfast, though, so Mammon leads him to a hundred furnaces being worked by demons to refine yet more gold for him. With the knight still unmoved, Mammon tries to tempt him with his daughter, who takes Guyon into the Garden of Proserpine, where there are the golden apples of Discord.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Mammon’s Daughter (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

The knight starts to feel weak from his exposure to the underworld. When Mammon returns him to the surface, he falls unconscious, so deeply that he appears to be dead.

Canto 8

Sir Guyon layd in swowne [swoon] is by
Acrates sonnes despoyld,
Whom Arthure soone hath reskewed
And Paynim [pagan] brethren foyld.

The Palmer had found his own way onwards, and is now hurrying on to catch Sir Guyon up. He hears a voice, but by the time he reaches the knight, he’s lying apparently dead on the ground. Beside him is a young man with angelic wings on his back, who reassures the Palmer that the knight will soon awaken, and hands back guardianship to the Palmer before vanishing.

William Kent (c 1685-1748), Guyon being in a Swown his Guardian Angel directs the Palmer to watch him (1751), engraving, ‘The Faerie Queene’, Brindley and Wright, London, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

He is approached by the brothers Pyrrhochles and Cymochles, and their page Atin, who have met up with Archimago. Pyrrhochles tells the Palmer to stand away from the body of the knight, but he refuses. The brothers proceed to take Guyon’s shield and start to remove his armour. As they’re doing that, Archimago sees Prince Arthur approaching, and warns them. As Pyrrhochles hasn’t a sword, he demands the sorceror hands him the sword he’s carrying, which he’d promised to Braggadocchio. Archimago warns Pyrrhochles that the sword is Arthur’s, and had been crafted for him by Merlin; because of that, it can’t be used against its rightful owner. Pyrrhochles ignores him and snatches the sword away.

When he arrives, Prince Arthur asks the Palmer what happened to Sir Guyon, and is told that the knight isn’t dead, but is being threatened by the two brothers. When Arthur politely warns them to leave Guyon alone, Pyrrhochles and Cymochles attack the prince. The former swings at him with the stolen sword, which is deflected away from Arthur by virtue of its magic, as expected.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Sir Guyon layd in swowne (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

The two brothers fight fiercely with the young prince, who defends himself against their rage and fury, letting them tire themselves out. Arthur then spears Cymochles’ thigh with his lance, whose tip breaks off in the deep wound. That allows the Palmer to snatch up Guyon’s sword and hand it to Arthur, whose fighting is transformed as a result. Cymochles wounds Arthur slightly, for which the prince returns a mighty blow cleaving his opponent’s brain and killing him. Pyrrhochles is further enraged and throws himself at Arthur, trying to force the magic sword to wound its owner. He finally throws the sword aside in frustration, and is grappled to the ground by Prince Arthur.

Arthur offers to spare Pyrrhochles’ life if he renounces his evil, but the latter refuses. Arthur swings his sword and beheads Pyrrhochles.

Sir Guyon then awakes, bows low to the prince and declares his debt to him for his actions. Arthur says that there is no debt, and the two talk together, as Atin and Archimago silently run off.

Canto 9

The house of Temperance, in which
doth sober Alma dwell,
Besiegd of many foes, whom straunger
knightes to flight compell.

Arthur and Guyon travel on together. During their conversation, the prince reveals that, although his desire is to serve the Faery Queen, he is still seeking her. When the sun is beginning to sink in the west they reach a castle in a peaceful river valley, but its gates are bolted and barred. Arthur’s squire blows his horn to announce their presence. With that, a figure appears atop its walls and tells them to ride away to save themselves from the thousand enemies who have been besieging the castle for the last seven years.

Suddenly, those thousand misshapen men surround the knights, waving their weapons and torches at them. After their initial shock, Arthur and Guyon charge the mob, driving them away. As those fiends flee from the castle gate, the knights are let in and made welcome by Alma, its virgin mistress, who wears a white dress with a long train carried by two maids.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), The house of Temperance (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Alma takes the knights on a tour of her castle, first showing them the walls which are formed from the earth. The building’s proportions are based on a circle and triangle, and the numbers seven and nine. At its main gate is a porter with thirty-two yeomen of the guard. The dining hall is overseen by its steward Diet, and a marshall named Appetite. The kitchens are supervised by the chef Concoction, helped by his clerk Digestion. Kitchen waste is expelled through a large pipe to the castle’s back gate.

They next visit the parlour, where there are many young men and women. Ascending into the high tower, they meet Alma’s three counsellors, whose chambers have decorated walls. Those of the sage who sees into the future have scenes from fantasies; those of the sage with wisdom of the present are covered with images of art and science; those of the third, an expert in the past, are covered with scrolls and books.

From that huge library, Arthur sees a book titled British Monuments, and Guyon one on Antiquity of Faeryland. The counsellor and Alma let them read their chosen books.

Principal Characters

Alma, the mistress of a castle, the House of Temperance, which has been besieged by a thousand foes for seven years. Her castle represents the human body.

Archimago, an evil sorceror who tries to stop all knights in the service of the Faerie Queen.

Prince Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, bearer of a magic shield which blinds his enemies and turns them to stone, and future king.

Atin, an insolent page (“varlet”) and servant to Pyrrhochles.

Braggadocchio, a waster and thief, prone to boastfulness, with not an ounce of honour or goodness. He steals Sir Guyon’s charger and lance.

Cymochles, an immortal knight, famed warrior, brother of Pyrrhochles, and lover of Acrasia. He has an unstable character.

Sir Guyon, hero of Book 2, “Temperance”, a knight at the Faery Queen’s court, who is sent to stop the wrongs of Acrasia.

The Palmer, an elderly man dressed in black, who is leading Sir Guyon in his quest to put a stop to the evil of Acrasia.

Phaedria, a beautiful young woman in service to Acrasia. She represents superficial and earthly pleasure.

Pyrrhochles, an immortal knight, brother of Cymochles, of fiery temper.


Wikipedia on The Faerie Queene, with a partial summary
Wikipedia on Edmund Spenser

Richard Danson Brown (2019) The Art of the Faerie Queene, Manchester UP. ISBN 978 0 7190 8732 5. (Note: this isn’t about visual art, but literary art and poetics.)
AC Hamilton (ed) (2007) Spenser, the Faerie Queene, 2nd edn, Routledge. ISBN 978 1 4058 3281 6. (Critical edition.)
Elizabeth Heale (1999) The Faerie Queene, A Reader’s Guide, 2nd edn, Cambridge UP. ISBN 978 0 521 65468 5.
Douglas Hill (1980) Edmund Spenser, The Illustrated Faerie Queene, Newsweek Books. No ISBN.
Richard A McCabe (ed) (2010) The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser, Oxford UP. ISBN 978 0 1987 0967 1.