The Faerie Queene 23: The healing hermit, and Turpine corrected

Walter Crane (1845–1915), The Hermite heales both Squire and Dame (1895-97), print, 'Spenser's Faerie Queene', ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

In the last episode, Calepine’s lady, Serena, had been badly wounded by the Blatant Beast. While Sir Calidor rode off in its pursuit, Calepine sought aid in Sir Turpine’s castle, but was refused and abused. After they spent the night outside, in the morning Turpine attacked Calepine and inflicted a deep wound in his shoulder. He’s now in grave danger of bleedimg to death.

Canto 4

Calepine by a salvage man
from Turpine reskewed is,
And whylest an Infant from a Beare
he saves, his love doth misse.

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

Hearing the noise, a woodsman comes to discover what’s going on. Turpine’s lance bounces of the savage’s chest, and he then grasps the knight’s shield, forcing Turpine to drop it in case he’s dragged from his saddle. Turpine takes fright and gallops away with the woodsman initially in pursuit, until the latter returns to help Serena and Calepine. Seeing the knight’s wound still bleeding profusely, he runs back into the wood to fetch a herb which immediately puts a stop to that, before helping the couple into the forest to a bower.

With the ministration of the woodsman and his herbal remedies, Calepine is soon mended, but Serena’s wounds from the Blatant Beast prove resistant. One day when Calepine is wandering unarmoured and unarmed in the forest he meets a great bear which has its jaws wrapped around a child. The knight gives chase, and once he has overtaken the bear it drops the child and turns on Calepine. He picks up a large rock which he wedges into the bear’s mouth; while the bear is trying to remove the rock, Calepine throttles it, picks up the infant, and realises he’s now lost.

The baby cries incessantly as Calepine wanders in search of the woodsman’s bower, until they reach the edge of the trees, where they meet a lady, Matilde, who has been overcome by deep sadness and grief. She explains that she’s the wife of the local lord, Bruin, who had taken his lands from a cruel giant. But the couple proved unable to have children, and the prospect of the giant taking back the lands on Bruin’s death has depressed her husband. A seer had told him that he would have a son, who would be “gotten but not begotten”, but there’s still no sign of this coming about.

Hearing this, Calepine explains how he has come into possession of the baby, and offers him to Matilde. Recognising that this fulfils the prophecy, she accepts the infant, who is raised over time to become a valiant knight and worthy heir. Matilde offers Calepine hospitality, but he declines, preferring to continue his search for Serena and the woodsman’s bower.

Canto 5

The salvage serves Serena well
till she Prince Arthure fynd,
Who her together with his Squyre
with th’Hermit leaves behynd.

While Calepine is wandering lost in the forest, the woodsman tends to Serena. He looks for Calepine unsuccessfully, as Serena is now pining for her knight, which further delays the healing of her wounds. She is determined to leave the woods, and has the woodsman help her onto her knight’s charger. He dons Calepine’s armour, but lacks his sword, then leads Serena through the forest until her saddle slips.

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

While the woodsman and Serena try to fix the saddle, Prince Arthur and his squire Timias approach.

Timias and Arthur have only recently been reunited after the squire had regained the love of the huntress Belphoebe. The couple had suffered in the deception of Despetto, Decetto and Defetto, who had sent the Blatant Beast into the forest where Timias usually hunted. When the squire met the beast, he attacked it with such determination that it was forced to flee from him, but only after it had wounded him with its venomous fangs.

As Timias pursued the Blatant Beast, he was ambushed by his three enemies, whose blows forced him into defence. As Timias was being worn down by his attackers, a passing knight came to his assistance and drove Despetto and the other two back into the depths of the woods. He turned out to be none other than Prince Arthur, since when the knight and his squire have been inseparable.

Arthur and Timias at first assume the worst, that the woodsman has stolen the armour from a knight. When Timias steps forward to take the armour from him, the woodsman knocks him down. As the squire reaches for his sword, Serena quickly explains the situation, to put a stop to any further fighting.

Prince Arthur agrees to help Serena to find assistance for her wounds, which, like that of Timias, aren’t healing well because of the Blatant Beast’s poison. Serena then tells Arthur of the treatment they received from Turpine, to which the prince vows to punish him. As night falls, they reach a small chapel where an old hermit invites them in for a meal and a bed for the night. He’s a former knight of great valour who withdrew from the physical world for that of the spirit.

Neither Timias nor Serena can sleep, though, because of the pain from the poison in their wounds. By the morning, Arthur is concerned that they have both weakened, so he rides on with the woodsman beside him, leaving his squire and the lady in the care of the hermit.

Canto 6

The Hermite heales both Squire and Dame
Of their sore maladies;
He Turpine doth defeate, and shame
For his late villanies.

The hermit is well aware of the nature of the poison in the wounds of Timias and Serena, which comes from slander and infamy. He explains to them the origins of the Blatant Beast, which was born in hell from Echidna, who is half woman and half dragon, and the monster Typhaon. The hermit tells them that their healing must come from within, in their self-restraint, discipline, and honour. With this understanding, their wounds at last start to heal, and they’re able to leave the hermit’s care.

Meanwhile Arthur and the woodsman reach Turpine’s castle where, leaving their horses in the care of his companion, Arthur feigns infirmity with a slow and faltering gait. A groom from the castle stops him and turns him away rudely, although the prince claims to have been wounded. The woodsman can’t stand idly by and attacks the groom in fury, tearing him to shreds.

A crowd rushes out from the castle to attack them, but Arthur responds by killing several and forcing the rest back. Inside, Turpine arms himself and raises a guard of forty yeomen before launching against Arthur. As his men strike the prince viciously, Turpine cowardly hits him from behind. Arthur then pursues Turpine from room to room, finally cornering him in his lady’s chamber and knocking him to the ground. Blandina, Turpine’s lady, throws her body across his and begs Arthur to spare him, which the prince does.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), The Hermite heales both Squire and Dame (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Arthur then tells Turpine to go without arms, and without claiming to be a knight, in return for his unknightly conduct. When Arthur returns to help the woodsman deal with the yeomen, he’s surprised to see a pile of their bodies and the woodsman finishing off the last. With order and good conduct restored to the castle, Arthur and the woodsman stay the night, and are entertained by Blandina. They’re unaware, though, that her charm is but an act, and that Turpine still harbours bitter resentment.

Principal Characters

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

The Blatant Beast, the object of Calidore’s quest. It has a thousand tongues and appears dragon-like. At the end of Sir Artegall’s quest in Book 5, he met the Beast, but passed by it with calm resolution

Calepine, a courteous knight, whose lady is Serena.

Sir Calidore, the most courteous and mild-mannered knight at the court of the Faerie Queene, he is despatched to deal with the Blatant Beast, but told that he must do so alone. The hero of Book 6.

Serena, Calepine’s lady, who is carried off and badly wounded by the Blatant Beast.

Timias, Prince Arthur’s squire, a young man who falls in love with Belphoebe.

Sir Turpine, the most discourteous knight imaginable, he refuses to provide hospitality to other knights even when they’re in distress, and hurls abuse at them. Lives in a grand castle with his sickly lady.


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

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