The Faerie Queene 14: Cambell and Triamond

Walter Crane (1845–1915), The battell twixt three brethren with Cambell (1895-97), print, 'Spenser's Faerie Queene', ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

The last episode completed the legend of Britomartis, or Chastity, so reaching the end of the third book of The Faerie Queene. This episode starts the fourth book, which is intertwined with the third in a complex series of threads. The first edition of The Faerie Queene, as published by Spenser in 1590, had concluded at that point, and it was only in his second edition of 1596 that he added the remaining three books.

There’s another oddity in this book: although its title refers to Telamond, the book actually names him Triamond.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Title page, Book 4 (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Book 4: The Legend of Cambel and Telamond, or Of Friendship

Canto 1

Fayre Britomart saves Amoret,
Duessa discord breedes
Twixt Scudamour and Blandamour;
Their fight and warlike deedes.

After Britomart has rescued Amoret from the tortures inflicted by Busirane in his dungeon, the pair ride away together. Amoret grows increasingly concerned that she can’t pledge herself to the knight (who she still assumes is a man) as she’s already promised to Scudamour. They reach a castle where they stop for the night, and discover other knights there in company with their ladies. The castle’s rules require every knight to be accompanied, or to win himself a lady if they’re to sleep in one of its chambers.

One knight challenges Britomart for Amoret’s company, but when he’s unsuccessful Britomart takes pity on him and removes her helmet to reveal that she’s a woman. As her challenger is now pledged to her, he no longer needs a lady for him to remain in the castle that night. This also reassures Amoret that she can remain true to Scudamour.

The pair ride on the next day, telling one another about their respective quests, until they reach two knights in company with their ladies. They’re unaware that one of the ladies is the treachorous sorceress Duessa, and the other is Ate, Discord herself, whose feet point in opposite directions. Duessa is accompanying the shallow and unreliable Blandamour, and Ate is with the fickle Paridell.

Blandamour suggests to Paridell that he should fight for the hand of Amoret, but Paridell remembers his previous defeat by her and declines, leaving Blandamour to challenge Britomart himself. This proves disastrous, as Britomart immediately unseats him, and rides on without saying a word. Once they’ve brought Blandamour back to his senses, the three of them ride away, Blandamour now seething with anger at losing Duessa as well as Amoret.

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

They next meet Sir Scudamour in the company of Britomart’s squire, her old nurse Glauce. Blandamour hates Scudamour, but as he’s still recovering from his defeat by Britomart, he asks Paridell to challenge the knight on his behalf. The first blows struck by Paridell and Scudamour throw them both to the ground, leaving Paridell unconscious. Scudamour, though, is quickly up on his feet, only for Blandamour, Duessa and Ate to hurl abuse at him, accusing Amoret of unfaithfulness.

Canto 2

Blandamour winnes false Florimell,
Paridell for her strives;
They are accorded: Agape
doth lengthen her sonnes lives.

Blandamour, Paridell, Duessa and Ate ride on until they meet a false double of the beautiful Florimell accompanying Sir Ferraugh, who had taken her away from the thief Braggadochio. Blandamour challenges Ferraugh for this false Florimell, and wins her when he throws his opponent to the ground. Paridell is inflamed with jealousy, so he in turn challenges Blandamour. When they charge at one another, both lances pierce the opponent’s shield, and sink deep into the knights’ flesh. The knights dismount and continue battling with swords, and it’s only when a squire turns up that they can be persuaded to call a halt to their bloody fight.

This is the Squire of Dames, and he greets the false Florimell as if she were the real one, whom he had presumed to be dead. He informs the knights that Sir Satyrane has found Florimell’s golden sash, and has been challenged for it by other knights, so is calling a tournament with that sash as its prize. With her sash would undoubtedly come the hand of fair Florimell too. With that contest in mind, Paridell and Blandamour settle their quarrel and head for Sir Satyrane’s tournament.

During that journey, they meet the famous knights Cambell, with his lady Cambina, and Triamond with Canacee, some of whose story has been told in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. [What follows is a continuation of The Squire’s Tale.] Canacee is Cambell’s sister, and Cambina is Triamond’s sister.

Many knights had expressed their love for Canacee, but she refused to return their love. As a result, her suitors were constantly fighting over her. Finally, to settle the matter, her brother Cambell decided to fight the three strongest suitors, with the victor claiming his sister’s hand.

Triplets named Priamond, Diamond and Triamond came forward in response. Their mother, Agape, was a Faery who had visited the Fates and begged that her sons’ lives should be lengthened. They agreed that when the first of the three died, his soul would extend the lives of the other two; when the second died, that would also pass onto the third to extend his life even further.

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

Canto 3

The battell twixt three brethren with
Cambell for Canacee;
Cambina with true friendships bond
doth their long strife agree.

On the day of the tournament with Cambell, Sir Priamond was the first into combat. Their lances first inflicted wounds on one another, but Cambell’s was only shallow, and he followed up by skewering his opponent through the throat. Priamond’s dead body dropped to the ground, his soul passing onto his surviving brothers as had been promised by the Fates.

Sir Diamond was next, and fought Cambell with axes. Sparks flew as their hefty blades struck metal, and Diamond’s blood was soon pouring out. Cambell dodged a mighty blow, and responded deftly by cutting clean through Diamond’s neck to behead him. With that, the souls of both dead brothers were concentrated in Triamond as the lone survivor.

Cambell and Sir Triamond were more evenly matched. Each in turn launched a flurry of strokes with their sword, only to be met with a similar response from their opponent. Triamond was the first to tire, enabling Cambell to slash through his opponent’s throat, which dropped him to the ground. But what should have been a fatal wound didn’t kill the last brother: his two remaining souls helped him back up to fight again. Just as Triamond was ready to strike a deadly blow to Cambell, the latter stabbed him deep into the armpit, and Triamond’s sword crashed hard against Cambell’s helmet. Both fell immediately, as if dead.

As Cambell rose to his feet again, the soul of one remaining brother pulled his opponent up too. The two fought on until there was a disturbance in the crowd of onlookers. A heavenly woman had arrived in a chariot drawn by lions: this was Cambina, Triamond’s sister, bearing a rod of peace entwined with two serpents in one hand, and in the other a cup of nepenthe, to sweep away care and grief.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), The battell twixt three brethren with Cambell (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Cambina persuaded both knights to stop fighting. Her rod of peace made their weapons fall away, and their anger dissolved as they drank from her cup. Cambell and Triamond embraced one another in a lifelong bond of friendship and loyalty, and their sisters likewise. When the knights’ wounds had healed, Cambell married Cambina, and Triamond took Canacee as his wife. True love and deep friendship bonded all four together for the rest of their lives.

Principal Characters

Amoret, or Amoretta, twin sister of Belphoebe, raised by Psyche as a paragon of grace and beauty, with only one true love. She’s abducted and tortured by Busirane.

Ate, discord personified, an ugly old woman with a forked tongue and feet which point in opposite directions. An accomplice of Duessa, she lives by the gates of Hell.

Blandamour, a knight whose weaknesses are his inconstant nature and shallowness.

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

Britomart, or Britomartis, heroine of Book 3, “Chastity”, or faithfulness in true love. A woman knight and virgin, taken to represent the Fairy Queene herself, she has fallen in love with the image of the knight Artegall, and is in quest of him.

Busirane, an evil sorceror who captures Amoret and tortures her to try to make her succumb to his lust.

Cambell, a valiant and chivalrous knight, the brother of Canacee and husband of Cambina.

Cambina, sister to Triamond, Diamond and Priamond, who married Cambell.

Canacee, sister of Cambell, beautiful and with many suitors, but determined to remain a virgin until she marries Triamond.

Duessa, Una’s opposite, an evil sorceress who personifies falsehood, and is the symbol of the Roman Catholic Church.

Florimell, another virgin in search of her true love, but passive and defenceless. She represents perfect beauty. Presumed eaten or killed by a witch’s monster, but in reality saved and a captive of Proteus in the depths of the sea.

Sir Paridell, a fickle knight from Gloriana’s court who falls in love with Hellenore, elopes with her, then abandons her.

Sir Satyrane, a good knight, who helped Una in the past.

Sir Scudamour, a good knight, whose lady is Amoret. He is plunged into grief when she is adbucted and tortured by Busirane.

The Squire of Dames, a young squire sent on missions to please his lover, currently struggling to find more than three women who won’t surrender their chastity to him.

Sir Triamond, triplet brother of Priamond and Diamond. Their mother Agape did a deal with the Fates whereby their individual souls would transfer to enhance those of their surviving brothers, in the event of their death. His sister is Cambina, and he marries Canacee.


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.)
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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.