November 24, 2008

sympathy for the devils: I am pro–pirate.

Maybe I'm not the best person to talk about this. Every time I try to, people tell me not to romanticise the Somalian pirates.

Personally, I romanticise everything in my life without hesitation. So I am probably not the best person to talk about this. But you know... the whole point of blogs is to say the stupid things because there is most likely nobody listening... And when I romanticise this situation, I don't imagine moustachioed villains with cutlasses swinging from ropes. I imagine miniature anarchist utopias that spring up out of war and horror. I imagine reactionaries in the process of reacting.

I dig you if you say that's unrealistic. What am I meant to say, though? This isn't crime as we know it. Nor is it terrorism. It is deeply political in its own way, but I suppose it's basically a business, one with only minimal corruption and sleeze.

So yeah. I think the pirates should get vast ransom money given to them. They just seem like reasonable people. They have excellent PR, would be another way of phrasing that. Their statements are amazing. Such apparent mansuetude. Daybad said that thing the other day, about trawler fishing around Somalia and how it has put indigenous fishermen out of work:

Our fish were all eradicated so... we're going to fish whatever passes through our sea

Not only is that a stark reminder of the cost of international business on local communities, it is also an eloquently put way of saying, "you thought we wouldn't put up a fight when you stole from us, but you were wrong." It reminds me a little of something from that awful (brilliant) TV show Firefly, where the tough guy Jayne finds himself giving a speech to an impoverished community who believe him to be a revolutionary:

you people been given the shortest end of the stick ever been offered a human soul in this crap-heel 'Verse. But you took that end, and you... Well, you took it. And that's - Well, I guess that's somethin'.

I'm a literary guy. I really should've quoted a book just then. O well.

We surely all know, all of us who read/watch the news, the cost of oil. The oil industry has become a synonym for corruption, violence and environmental atrocity. When you see a newspaper article with the word oil tanker in the heading, you can't help but imagine hundreds of animals perishing, beaches destroyed, oceans on fire. Then you look again and you see hijacked by pirates. And then you read that the company Intertanko, whose name seriously sounds like that of an evil sci-fi empire, wants to put a blockade on Somalia.

A blockade.

Come on.

A blockade.

What the fuck.

Better yet, their spokesman is called Peter Swift. I can pretty much see the headline now: Peter Swift versus Jack Sparrow.

Bad joke.

I wrote this listening to Miami Beach by Sordid Humor

October 17, 2008

be what not is

I wanted to not, to isn’t.

Struggling next to her I said that I loved her. She leaned in, kissed me between the shoulder blades.

“I love your shoulders,” she said, through my shoulders.

“You can have them,” I said, I did not want them, “take them. Take my spine,” I said, “I’m not really using it. It is a pole holding up a lump.”

She softly slapped me on the neck and she called me an idiot. I was an idiot, apodeictically.

October 03, 2008

the war on words

Writing about web page

The following words are due to be removed from the Collins dictionary, according to a an article in the Times:

Abstergent Cleansing or scouring

Agrestic Rural; rustic; unpolished; uncouth

Apodeictic Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration

Caducity Perishableness; senility

Caliginosity Dimness; darkness

Compossible Possible in coexistence with something else

Embrangle To confuse or entangle

Exuviate To shed (a skin or similar outer covering)

Fatidical Prophetic

Fubsy Short and stout; squat

Griseous Streaked or mixed with grey; somewhat grey

Malison A curse

Mansuetude Gentleness or mildness

Muliebrity The condition of being a woman

Niddering Cowardly

Nitid Bright; glistening

Olid Foul-smelling

Oppugnant Combative, antagonistic or contrary

Periapt A charm or amulet

Recrement Waste matter; refuse; dross

Roborant Tending to fortify or increase strength

Skirr A whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight

Vaticinate To foretell; prophesy

Vilipend To treat or regard with contempt

"Endangered words must appear at least six times in Collins’s corpus, a database that records word usage in printed, broadcast and online media," says Mr. Malvern, but "compilers will discount any references to words if they appear in articles about the campaign to save them."

Is it worth trying to save this words? Give an artificial boost to unpopular obscurities in thislanguage? I have to say, as a would-be writer, that I think that it is. I also think writers should actively try to make up their own words withou explaining what they mean. They should go so far as to criticise their readers for mispronouncing them; fans HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu will surely back me up on this.

I henceforth vow to villipend all those writers who do not actively seek out obscure, ugly, and embrangling words and render them apodeictic in their works.

Who will join me? I do understand that this is pretty much almost definitely a publicity stunt, but as publicity stunts go, only this one beats it.

Respect to qwantz dinosaur comics for getting there first.

August 13, 2008

a sci fi opening

  “You Navy?” croaked the voice, its source invisible in the reddish fog around the mud-dunes except for the broad double-barrel of some primitive weapon protruding from a long-necked, chubby silhouette of an alien, with a tone clearly implying that the answer would let the creature know whether to shoot or not.

It was not clear to Harry whether yes or no would have been the answer that resulted in the trigger being pulled, only that it must be one, and not the other. But Harry found he was living for – and possibly in spite of – those moments when honesty was the only form of compromise, as well as the most dangerous option.

  “Yes and no,” he answered, grinning milkily through the incomprehensible air.

July 21, 2008

help yourself

His air felt heavy in his lungs and his hair was plastered to his forehead with dust and earth and he crossed the road swaying slightly, like an old bent spring. There was the Chippy where it had always been, and although it had shut hours ago and it was well past midnight the television behind the counter was still on, but the sound was off. A young chinese boy sat behind the counter, in the dark, illuminated only by the silent screen. He thought about that boy, whose family owned the shop and lived above it, and he remembered that the boy was attending the primary school that he himself had been to, so long ago, and he thought how much the boy must hate chips, how all the boy’s clothes must stink of chip-fat, how the boy’s bedroom and curtains and sweat must reek of it, how if the boy was to chew his pillow in his sleep, it will probably taste like chips. He crossed a second road.

   Keeping his eyes to the ground, because he was developing some kind of agoraphobic vertigo which made him deathly afraid of gravity reversing and him falling up into the convulsing clouds, he saw he sign, just around the corner from his own house. It was a rectangular piece of tile, outside a house that, when he had walked past it as a child, had always been dilapidated, but was now gleaming and charming, and neat, and this sign sat in its driveway and proclaimed



but to what? Whatever had been on offer had been snatched up by passersby. It must have been some good stuff. He continued to stare blankly at the sign, as if trying to unlock its mystery.

To his surprise, he unlocked its mystery. He took the words literally. The events of the past year hit him like a tidal wave. His breath shortened but it did not increase in pace. His knees went weak. He wanted to fall to his knees, but he didn’t. He felt like a child, forcibly removed from childhood and placed in the body of a man. He wanted so badly to help himself.

July 13, 2008


I sat in the red chair, where I always sat, and Johnny drip dropped the paper in front of me, folded so invisible except the headline, SCIENTISTS CURE THE IMPOSSIBLE, and I could imagine what the picture looked like. I saw in my mind’s eye a man in a blue-grey blazer, his eyes seeing horizons far beyond my restrictive own, his legs squeezed into trousers of some tough black material, ending, out of shot, in pointed brown shoes, with feet facing outward. I looked up from the paper to see Johnny, uncannily close to what I had imagined, his eyes darting seemingly independently from above a stiff collar.

  “How,’ I said to Johnny, “do you get your hair to look like that?”

  Yes, but do you remember three months earlier, which stretched out like a spine, that has since wound itself together? Those three months changed my life, and as a result, several (possibly twenty) seconds after talking to Johnny, I pulled a knife from the cushion on which I sat (which itself was placed on the wood floor) and plunged it into his chest with such ferocity that the noise of its entrance overpowered that of his screams.

Three months earlier, we had been in almost identical positions. As always, I was in the red chair when Johnny came in, a paper in his hand, a pop bottle that now contained fruit squash poking out of his bag, and his other hand reached in, took it out, undid the lid, he held it to his lips but he didn’t drink.

  “Like all writers,” said Johnny, lowering the bottle from his lips and placing it at thigh height, “ you wish that I was a beautiful woman, who would enter and, finding themselves transfixed and overpowered by the sight of your artistic process, press her lips to yours.”

  At this point I knew he had to die.

May 21, 2008

summary and notes on the Faerie Queene, Book 1, canto by canto

The Faerie Queene Book 1

this might be useful for revison - not particularly in depth in parts, I got pretty bored I suppose. It is probably the worst piece of literature ever written.

The italicized summaries are from ; very useful site.

If anyone wants to add anything please do so. 

I, i

The Redcrosse Knight, Una, and a dwarf are riding along a plain till rain forces them into a wood; they become somewhat lost and happen upon Error whom the Redcrosse Knight defeats after a struggle. They find their way out of the forest and then happen upon an aged sire who is really Archimago (Anti-Christ or the Pope). He tricks them back to his home where he causes the Redcrosse knight to have a lustful dream about Una; he then creates a false Una who comes to the Redcrosse Knight's bed, tries to seduce him without success, and angers him.

1-3: introduction of Redcrosse, untried knight in battle-worn armour, cross; quest explained: to serve Gloriana and defeat the Dragon.

Knight going to slay a beast: Romance image, Arthurian?

The armour:

“The cruell markes of many a bloudy fielde;

Yet armes till that time did he neuer yield...” [1]

Armour=bodyàpre-dented by Original Sin, though the knight (soul) has not sinned.

Controlling the “angry steede”: like controlling furor, reigning the animalistic impulses.

The “bloudie Crosse”: makes religious aspect immediately clear: this is not a purely classical world, Jesus exists here.

4-5: introduction of Una

Image suddenly slowed down by speed of “the lowly Asse” bearing Una, and again slowed by the “milke white lamb” [4] – allegorical: religion sets the pace. The quest has become a pageant.

Suggestions of “hidden care” of Una: purity (of the Protestant Church) under threat, needs the force of Redcrosse to restore order.

6-11: the dwarf introduced, the storm begins, they seek shelter in a wood, and come to a crossroads.

Dwarfe ambiguous: no personality clear. Slowing again, “lag”, to create the pageant procession.

The storm attributed to Ioue (Jove): classical idea of weather.

The crossroads: as a moral decision, after the pleasure of the journey through the wood.

12-13: Una and the Dwarf advise Redcrosse not to go any further

Una: understanding of deception (“oft fire is without smoke” [12]); her cautiousness is wisdom, not cowardice.

Revealing Redcrosse to be untested: he does not know to take her advice.

Una as the true church: the Christian straying toward error (Catholicism!)

The dwarf: reason or common sense.

14-19: The knight doesn’t heed the advice, and battles Errour; at first Error gets the upper hand, but with Una’s encouragement, RC prevails.


Half woman, half serpent, tail knotted, poisonous, 1000 young ones living off the poison; they live in her mouth.

Half woman: the appearance of goodness (Una a woman) but only half of it; a corruption – Catholicism a corruption of the Bible.

Serpent: Satan in Genesis!

Tail: circles – wandering.

1000 young ones in her mouth: words to speak – erroneous talk breeds error?

Living off poison: reversal of mortality. Satanic.


Assistance of the true church: its doctrine and discipline can defeat error, and put man on the right path.

“Add faith vnto your force, and be not faint” (alliteration emphasises, slogan!)—faith requires force and vice-versa?

20-26: Death and death-throes of Errour

Gruesome physical descriptions: sensuality can be repulsive!

Vomiting books and papers: Catholic canon.

Extended simile: the Nile [21] – Biblical landscape, but an extended simile as an Epic.

Her children cannot hurt him: Error is easier to defeat than appeared! Once you have found the true religion, Erroneous words can’t sway you.

Extended simile: Shepherd and gnats – pastoral.

The children eat her: Error is contradictory, self-destructive – revealing the hypocrisies of Catholicism will be its undoing...

27-28: Una congratulates him and they go on their way.

29-34: They meet the old sire (Archimago) who lures them to his home.

Deceptive appearances: looks like a simple hermit, house looks like a hermitage – appearance of faith and simplicity – Catholicism is appearance without substance.

35: At Archimago’s house, they talk.

Archimago clearly associated with Catholicism: talks of Popes and Saints, says Ave Maria often!

36-37: They go to bed, and Archimago goes to his magic books to summon his sprites.

Books – again, sense of an alternative canon that is satanic!

Classical gods (Pluto) are now bad: Archimago calling on the classical world. Catholicism=paganism.

38-44: The sprite sent to the Underworld to retrieve a dream.

An anabasis – EPIC

Silver and Ivory gates – similar to Virgil (Aeneid 6)/Homer (Odyssey 19): an epic hell, not a Christian one??

45: Archimago turns the other sprite into a false Una.

It is possible to create things that appear to be the true faith.

46-55: The lustful dream of Una. The false Una then comes to his bed to seduce him.

He should recognise this is not her, but he doesn’t: still learning faith.

I, ii

Archimago changes one spirit into a squire and puts him and the falls Una into bed then calls the Redcrosse Knight to show him the seeming unchastity of Una. The Redcrosse knight is so upset he abandons Una at dawn. He then haps upon Sansfoy and his lady who calls herself Fidessa, but who is really Duessa. (Duessa is the Roman Catholic church, the Great Whore of Babylon). The Redcrosse knight defeats Sansfoy in battle and takes up with Duessa. She tells him she had a fiance, a "prince so meek" (Christ), but he died before they married. The Redcrosse knight and Duessa come across two enchanted trees one of which tells the Redcrosse Knight how Duessa caused him to abandon his lady. When the enchanted knight finally realized Duessa's corruption he tried to escape but Duessa transformed him into a tree as she had already done to his love. The Redcrosse Knight, unaware that the woman he is with is Duessa, and Duessa leave the trees when Duessa pretends to faint.

1-3: just before dawn, the sprites report the failed seduction to Archimago, so he turns one into a Squire and puts him in bed with the false Una.

Epic description of morning coming: night and day personified, deified.

4-7: Archimago shows RC Una and the Squire; he is enraged, and abandons Una at Dawn.

RC should know that this is false!

Abandoning the true faith out of emotion.

Dawn: “rosy-fingered” – epic.

8: Una rides after him.

The pageant fallen apart: Una cannot keep up, riding on her lowly ass.

9-11: Archimago disguises himself as RC.

Deceptive appearance/disguise.

12-14: RC meets Sansfoy and Fidessa [Duessa!]


Fidessa=faithful (ironic useage!)

Duessa=duplicity (i.e., deception)

Alternative pageant to that which opened I,i: a (muslim) knight who doesn’t care about god or others, a lady who instead of white virginal simplicity wears SCARLET and is bejewelled. He cuts the horse as he rides it – control completely forced.

As soon as the man is without the true faith, he has to face amorality.

RC revealed by the poet to be St. George, though no one has referred to him as such, and he doesn’t know yet.

15-19: Sansfoy battles RC, RC victorious.

The cross blamed for the victory: even if he has temporarily lost his guidance, he still has the strength of faith

20-27: Duessa joins RC.

Her ex-Prince: Jesus! She is a church that has lost Jesus.

RC has been fooled by appearance and taken up Catholicism.

28-43: They sit together in the trees. When he breaks off a branch to give to her, the tree cries out, and tells that he is Fradubio, and used to love Duessa, who turned him into the tree.

Breaking off a branch, the tree bleeding: reminiscent of Aeneid...

44-45: Duessa, hearing this, pretends to faint.

Spenser lets us know that is her true identity. Dramatic irony: although RC has effectively been warned, he doesn’t realise, but we do.

I, iii

Una continues to search for the Redcrosse Knight. She encounters a lion which willingly submits to her because is senses her goodness. Una and the lion find the House of Abessa and Corceca and the lion forces entrance so Una may sleep there for the night. (Corceca, as she endlessly does her rosary, represents the blind superstition of Roman Catholicism; Abessa embodies the abbeys and monasteries which rob the church.) Kirkrapine demands entrance into the house, but is slain by the lion when he enters. Una leaves in the morning and encounters Archimago who is now disguised as the Redcrosse Knight. Una, deceived, travels with Archimago till they chance to meet Sansloy. Sansloy attacks Archimago, thinking him to be the Redcrosse knight. He only realizes it is his friend Archimago when he removes his helmet to cut off his head. He releases Archimago, kills the lion, and forces Una to come with him.

1-3: Complaint about beauty brought to wretchedness, Una’s situation

Direct address: philosophising, sympathising.

4-9: Sleeping in the wood, a Lion comes across her, but does not hurt her, instead kisses her feet and becomes a guardian.

Might bowing beneath the goodness of the true church.

God (thus nature) allied to it.

Lion: symbol of England... return to pageant symbolism.

-        Tamed lion is familiar in romance

-        C of E, or Henry VIII?

-        Fortitude?

10-14: The house of Abessa and Corceca – Una refused entry, though she needs shelter, so the lion breaks down the door for her.

Corceca: blind, endlessly praying at her beads, 900 paternosters, three times as many ave marias, sitting in ashes, wearing sackcloth, fasting. Catholic! Blind worship, no understanding, ridiculous rituals with nothing to do with God. Abessa her daughter: nuns and monks of Catholicism, hypocrisy: a whore [18]

15-20: Kirkrapine tries to break into the house, but the lion slays him.

I.e. rapine [theft – i.e. the monasteries stealing money and land from the state and the people] increased Romanism, but English Reformation (lion) stopped it.

21-25: Una leaves. The women find Kirkrapine slain and chase Una, cursing her. They find Archimago disguised as Redcrosse and tell him to go after her.

Una compared to Odysseus, but a greater struggle (“paines farre passing that long wandring Greeke”[21])

The prayers of the women are curses: superstitious, not truly Christian.

26-32: Una joins the false RC

Extended simile: the mariner [31] – like the Odyssey simile in 21.

33-37: Sansloy, hoping to avenge Sansfoy, attacks the false RC.

Sansloy=without law; related to faithlessness.

38-39: Sansloy attacks, but spares him when he realises it is Archimago, who is his friend.

Although Archimago resembles RC, he cannot fight like him!

40-44: Sansloy assaults Una, the lion comes to her defence but is slain. Una is forced to join him.

Just as RC needs Una, Una seems to need him as well. The lion, being a beast, was not enough: the church needs the human heart and faith for its strength, not just might and awe.

I, iv

Duessa leads the Redcrosse Knight to the House of Pride where Lucifera unlawfully rules by "policy" and by virtue of her shiny beauty which amaze her court. Lucifera's counsellors - the seven deadly sins - ride through in procession. Sansjoy comes to avenge the Redcrosse Knight for killing Sansfoy. Lucifera orders them to battle out their grievance the next morning. That night Duessa comes to Sansjoy and warns him of the Redcrosse Knight's charmed shield and armour.

1: a warning that inconstancy in love is the greatest shame.

Addressing a “young knight” – we are meant to identify with these knights; Christians.

2-3: Duessa brings him to the House of Pride, described in 4-5.

Bricks without mortar, walls high but thin, old building but “painted cunningly”: a weak foundation, deceptive, a falsehood.

6-13: The porter greets them, they are brought before Lucifera.

The porter lets all in: pride an easy temptation; Maluenu: evil welcome.

Porters: romance tradition, let you know what the court will be like.

Lucifera: parents are king and queen and hell, an infernal name also. Made herself queen.

I.e. self-appointment – pride – and at Satan’s command.

Brought before the throne by vanity – i.e., vanity leads the way to pride, and self-appointment, and hell, and bad things, you know.

14...: Lucifera’s chariot described, procession of the sins (idleness [18] gluttony [21] lechery [24] avarice [27] envy [30] wrath [33])

Lucifera’s chariot – a version of Hera’s chariot in the Iliad, but as symbols of pride, grotesque.

38-43: Sansioy appears, wanting revenge on Redcrosse. He throws down the gauntlet and then agree to fight in the morning – they spend the night feasting and drinking.

Sans joy – without joy – without faith and law, there will be no true joy?

He is characterised by emotional anguish; Sansfoy was characterised by his atheism; Sansloy by his rudeness.

44-51: Duessa rises, goes to Sansioy, warns that RC bears enchanted arms [50]

There can be good enchantments as well as bad? Only in an allegorical sense – enchanted armour because it is the Christian faith; actual enchanting (usually deceiving!) is bad.

I, v

The Redcrosse Knight and Sansjoy battle. Just when the Redcrosse Knight seems about to win, a dark cloud hides and saves the wounded Sansjoy. Duessa goes and pleads with Night to help save Sansjoy from his wounds. Night and Duessa take him to Hell where Aesculapius - doomed there because he brought a man back from death - heals Sansjoy. Duessa returns to the House of Pride, while Sansjoy convalesces in Hell, and finds that the Redcrosse knight has left the House of Pride because his "wary dwarf" warned him of the dungeon full of individuals who fell be pride.

1-6: preparing for battle.

Ritualistic; a battle with an audience.

7-12: They fight – RC seems to be winning.

Despite his folly, Spenser makes sure we are still on Redcrosse’s side, “for right”.

13-18: Sansioy vanishes in a black cloud and is borne away. RC is considered victorious, though he is unsatisfied. Duessa weeps for Sansioy, though in public she congratulates RC.

Reminiscent of Aeneas’ escape in the Iliad.

19-27: Duessa prays to Night

Duessa identifying herself [26]: “I that do seeme not I, Duessa am,/[...]the daughter of Deceipt and Shame.”

28-40: Together they take Sansioy to hell, to meet Aesculapius.

Anabasis, again...

Geography of Hell: Virgilian

Auernus – the entrance


River Acheron


Ixion, Sisyphus, Tantalus, Tityus, Typhoeus, Theseus... all sinners.

41-44: Aesculapius heals Sansioy

Duessa – very persuasive!

45-51: Duessa returns to Pride, to find that RC has left, after the Dwarf discovered people ruined by pride.




Nimrod etc. – examples of pride

Dwarf acting as reason and common sense.

I, vi

Una, having been abducted by Sansloy, is taken by him into a forest where he tries to ravish her. Her cries summon some fawns and satyrs and Sansloy is frightened away. The Satyrs worship Una's beauty and keep her with them. Satyrane, a half human satyr knight, happens into the forest and becomes devoted to Una. Una escapes the adoring satyrs with the aid of Satyrane. The meet a Pilgrim - really Archimago - who tells them the Redcrosse knight is dead and then leads them to his supposed killer who is Sansloy. Sansloy and Satyrane battle, Una flees in fright and is pursued by Archimago.

1-2: simile of a ship escaping a rock, triumph, but the knight is still sad for losing Una.

Hidden dangers can be escaped with common sense; the act of reason reminds him of his true faith, and he realises he must regain it.

3-6: Sansloy tries to ravish Una in a forest.

Lawlessness leads to lechery, and to abuse of the true religion.

7-19: A group of fauns and satyrs hears Una’s anguished cries and come to her aid; they chase off Sansloy and worship Una as a queen. Brought before Sylvanus.

Like the Lion episode, natural adoration.

But threatening – a sexual undertone that is uncomfortable. The discomfort of joining classical with Christian imagery...?

20-31: Satyrane arrives, entranced by Una, becomes a companion to her.

He is converted: half-human. Even savages can admire the faith, but it requires a degree of humanity to actually convert.

32-33: Satyrane helps her escape

Again, we see how Una needs a knight – the church needs to be believed in by Christians, or it is in danger.

34-39: They meet a pilgrim (Archimago) who claims RC is dead, killed by Sansloy.

Una is too trusting: she should surely know by now that appearances are deceptive?

But it is her role to provide unconditional support: it is up to her knights to distinguish reality from falsehood.

40-48: Sansloy and Satyrane fight. Una flees, Archimago in pursuit.

I, vii

Duessa leaves the House of Pride and finds the Redcrosse Knight. They "pour out in looseness on the grassy ground" and the Redcrosse Knight also drinks from a charmed spring which weakens him physically and morally. While disarmed and weakened a giant, Orgoglio, comes along, conquers the Redcrosse Knight, puts him in a dungeon, and makes Duessa his willing dear. The Redcrosse Knight's dwarf gathers his arms, finds Una, and tells her what has happened. Una meets Arthur who vows to help the Redcrosse Knight.

1.    Redcrosse’s defeat:

Deceived – st. 1, lament about Duessa’s ability to deceive

Drunk from the spring – st. 6-7, or a metaphor for post-coital lethargy (poured out in looseness – [7])

Through own pride: [the next canto, st.1, answers this one, and suggests this]

Giant called Orgoglio – PRIDE. Continuation of the theme of Pride, after his escape in I, v.

-        Hence inflated with “empty wind” [st. 9]

-        Also, an image of nature – “monstrous mass of earthly slime” [9], literally made of earth... nature acting against him?

PRIDE + LUST = RC’s downfall

St. 19: the DWARF goes for help, goes to find Una.

-        Pride/lust threaten – reason and common sense search for assistance – finds the true faith.

2.    Arthur

Una meets Arthur st.29

-        Arthur the perfect knight, assisting all the others – narrative device in TFQ

-        Described 29-36; long description, first appearance but key to the whole poem à shield described, an ekphrasis. – Epic device: shield of Achilleus in Iliad [I think book 18, maybe later though...]

33: Brightness of the shield – GOD, lightning (Jupiter!)

-        Unveiling the shield is dispelling magic

-        Unlike RC, not enchanted in any way; st.35

40-52: They converse, Una explains the situation including her own (the Dragon), then head off to save RC

-        New pageant: very strong – Una + Arthur + Squire+Dwarf

I, vii

Arthur, Arthur's squire, Una, and the Redcrosse Knight's dwarf come to Orgoglio's castle. Arthur opens its doors with a trumpet blast. Orgoglio and Duessa on the many-headed beast come out and battle Arthur and his squire. Arthur wounds them with force and then subdues them by unveiling his charmed shield. Arthur enters the castle, unsuccessfully questions Ignorance, then finds the Redcrosse Knight who is debilitated and despairing. They try to cheer the Redcrosse Knight and the disrobe Duessa who is revealed to be hideous.

1-2: Arthur, Una, etc heading toward Orgoglio’s castle.

1: allegory made amazingly clear

“Ay me, how many perils doe enfold

The righteous man, to make him daily fall?”

3-5: the squire blows on a trumpet outside the walls, drawing Orgoglio out.

Like the trumpet-blast that takes down the walls of Babylon? A sound that destroys enchantment – clarity of truth. The sound disturbs the giant who is screwing Duessa – Catholicism and Pride in copulation...

6-18: battle between Arthur, Orgoglio and Duessa.

Battle with lust – Duessa (a biblical image of lust – also common in anti-Catholic propaganda: the Whore of Babylon), and pride (Orgoglio).

19-21: Arthur’s shield unveiled, weakening the enemies.

Bright light of truth defeating pride and lust.

22-24: Arthur slays Orgoglio.

Orgoglio “like an emptie bladder” (24) – pride is just full of piss, not life.

25-29: they enter the house of Orgoglio.

30-34: Encounter with Ignorance.

The ignorant are drawn in by pride.

Ignorance doesn’t have answers to Arthur’s question – Arthur exercises temperance and does not lose his patience.

35-37: searching for RC.

35: Description of golden rooms covered in blood of babies – reference to Catholic belief in original sin, un-baptised children going to hell – common image in Prot propaganda (e.g. Dutch Revolt) was of babies souls. Golden rooms – as the highly decorated Catholic churches, and all the paraphernalia of Catholicism.

38-44: the wounded RC found

Wounded – preparation for the spiritual healing process

Destructive behaviour had reached its peak – saved just in time

45-50: Duessa disrobed.

Rich robes hid “mishaped parts”, actually a “loathly, wrinkled hag” despite appearance of beauty [46]. Like Errour, sensual description applied to repulse. Blad headed, rotten teeth, gingivitis, shrivelled hanging breasts (like bladders, again), scabbed, wrinkled, even a suggestion of her “neither parts” [48, though, perhaps thankfully, the “Muse” won’t write it], a foxes’ tail [cunning, animalistic, deformed], asymmetrical: one foot is a eagle claw, the other a bear’s paw [48].

“Such is the face of falsehood” (49)

I, ix

. Una and the Redcrosse Knight ask Arthur his history. Arthur says he does not know because, as an infant, he was given to Merlin to be raised. Arthur tells how the Faerie Queene appeared to him as he slept and he has sought her since. Arthur parts from Una and the Redcrosse Knight. They meet Trevisan who tells how he and a friend met Despair who tried to persuade tem to suicide. The Redcrosse Knight demands to meet this Despair to avenge him but Despair nearly convinces the Redcrosse Knight to kill himself. He is saved by Una who snatches the knife from his hand and pulls him from Despair who - foiled - tries unsuccessfully to kill himself.

1-16: Arthur questioned about his ancestry, explains his quest to marry TFQ

Romance – the Arthur of Camelot; familiar characters (Merlin etc.)

17: RC praises the FQ

Praising Elizabeth – virginal, devout, radiant.

18-20: They exchange gifts, and part ways.

Arthur’s gift: medicine for RC

RC’s gift: a bible – has come in to his position as the knight of holiness

21-32: Meet Treuisan, warning about Despair.

Introduction of Despair – occurring after the great struggle

Danger of realisation about the world (the truth that Arthur provides) is that to realise is to risk despair, as is to face temptation (as RC has).

A structured series of opponents.

Despair is visual – the paleness of Trevisan.

Despair one of the worst sins – denies the mercy of God.

33-34: Come to Despair’s cave

Monster’s in caves – motif.

Surrounded by death – tree stumps and dead trees; many have hung themselves outside.

35-37: RC tries to challenge Despair

Description of Despair – gaunt, deathly, starved, lifeless.

38-40: Rhetorical argument for suicide

Dangers of rhetoric – can be used against truth; abstracted.

41-48: Continues...

Despair seems to be a creation of RC’s – knows all his sins

A personal voice we have to face

But religion is the answer to original sin, not suicide...

48-51: RC about to kill self.

Despair’s rhetoric is effective, difficult to argue with without the support of Una, i.e. faith.

52-54: Una cries out to RC, he snaps out of the trance and they leave, Despair tries to kill self, unsuccessfully.

Una’s support needed – again, familiar motif.

Church the answer to despair of the sinner.

Tragic last image of despair – the pain of being a two-dimensional allegorical image.

I, x

Una, realizing that the Redcrosse Knight is feeble and faint takes him the House of Holiness to recover. The House of Holiness is managed by Caelia, who has three daughters: Fidelia, Speranza, Charissa. The Redcrosse Knight is restored under the guidance of Fidelia, Esperanza, Patience, Amendment, Penaunce, Remorse, Repentance, Charissa, and Mercie. She then takes him to the hospital of the House of Holiness where the seven bead-men reside. From this she takes him to Contemplation who resides on a hill. Contemplation shows him the New Jerusalem and tells him he is really English and will become St. George. The Redcrosse Knight, after seeing New Jerusalem wants to leave this world - but Contemplation tells him he has work to do her. Now restored, the Redcrosse Knight gets ready to undertake his quest again.

1: little aside – physical strength is nothing; God is all-powerful.

As often happens with these first stanzas, the allegory is clarified – need faith, in the great power of god, without which human power is meaningless and unfocused.

The House of Holiness

Door is locked – unlike house of pride – you need to ask for holiness

Contrasting porter – Humiltea (Humility) instead of Maluenu (evil welcome)

-        I.e., you need humility to access the virtues of holiness

Zele (Zeal), Reverence, Caelia (=heavenly)

Fidelia – faith (cup of gold – communion chalice)

Speranza – hope (blue – traditional)

Charissa – charity (the greatest of the virtues) [coloured yellow, which is atypical...]

Theme of discovering lineage à Elizabeth as a descendant of Arthur

-        Arthur: past-less

-        RC = St. George



-        Painful process to purity


An image of New Jerusalem.

I, xi

Una and the Redcrosse Knight approach her parents' castle which is terrorized by the dragon. In the course of their battle the Redcrosse Knight is mortally wounded twice. The first time he falls into the well of life and revives the next day; the second time he falls near the tree of life and revives the next day. Finally, having wounded the dragon five times in three days, the Redcrosse Knight kills the dragon.

1-7: returning to Una’s lands to vanquish the dragon

Invocation of the muse – 5-7;

-        A reference to epic style

-        Marking significance of the battle to come – the invigorated RC’s final challenge.

8-15: The dragon approaches

Vast, terrible, powerful, impregnable

Serpentine – satanic, circles=wandring – familiar imagery now, from Errour.

16-25: battle with dragon, wounds his wing.

The most difficult physical struggle – no psychological element, however.

26-30: RC almost dies, but falls into the Well of Life

The Well of Life: a biblical image

Symbolic of baptism.

31-32: end of first day.

34: emerges from the well.

“new-borne” – baptism.

35-50: the battle continues – RC almost killed, falls near the tree of life. End of second day.

The Dragon can’t come near the tree – a creature of death only.

The tree of life – from Genesis: the tree of life lost to man after eating from tree of knowledge. We are in Eden!

51-55: they fight on the third day, and he slays the dragon by running his sword through its mouth.

I, xii

The folk pour out to look fearfully at the dead dragon. The Redcrosse Knight and Una enter the palace with her mother and father. Her father, the king, promises his land and Una to the Redcrosse Knight. The Redcrosse Knight says he must first serve the Faerie Queene for six years. The king is about to formally betroth them when a messenger (the disguised Archimago) enters and reads a letter from Duessa who claims the Redcrosse Knight is already betrothed to her. The Redcrosse Knight and Una explain his previous errors and Duessa's present deception and have Archimago enchained (but he later escapes). The two are betrothed, then The Redcrosse Knight returns to the Faerie Queene to serve her for six years.

1-5: the king and queen appear to congratulate RC.

6-10: “comely virgins”, children, and parents appear, celebrating their liberation.

Another pageant image.

11: child comes near the dragon and freaks out.


19-23: feasting and stuff.

Romance: medieval feasts.

24-28: messenger brings message from Fidessa, claiming RC is already betrothed to her.

29-32: RC admits his folly

Admitting sin is part of it – strong enough to after his healing.

33-34: Una explains also.

Another incidence of Una’s assistance.

35-37: the messenger imprisoned.

38-41: feasting again, RC preparing to return to Gloriana’s service.

42: ends – direct address to audience.

The poem a ship.

The audience as sailors.

April 14, 2008

Petrarch and Wyatt: thank goodness for n00bs

The thing you start to see, when you look at the way Wyatt translates Petrarch, is that it's so important to him to be a translator. Because he NEEDS to express two voices in his poems, all of which do contain two voices: the formal (that is, the voice of the form, the sonnet form but also the form of a poem in general, as well as the voice that is refined, logical, and formal in this sense - formal in the sense of correct, and publicly so - it thus coincides with a PUBLIC voice [just as people see a Public/Private conflict in Virgil's Aeneid]), and the personal (that is, the voice of his poetic persona, or indeed his own voice, that which makes his poetry uniquely his - this can also be seen as the subversive, like Virgil's private voice); these formal and informal voices can easily become Italian and English - the form itself is Italian, thus its voice is Petrarch's, but the language is English, and thus Wyatt's own language, the voice of the English renaissance: so the poems have to be translations in this sense. When the poems are weaker, these voices are in conflict and opposition, though sometimes this conflict is their strength: but overall they have a dialogic (I think that's how you spell it?) relationship, and when you start reading that, you can appreciate an artistic process that is both very renaissance, and also pretty much universal to art: all artists have to deal with the voice of the art-form, and the art is often a fascinating, sometimes beautiful, dialogue between the artist and the art form. And sometimes it's shit.

What I have come to conclude is that Elizabeth Deering Hanscon is a total n00b. She bums Surrey for his logic and consistency - basically his BORINGNESS...! - and criticises Wyatt for his flexibility (some, Sister Lizzie, would call it EXPRESSION!!!)... she also ignores the fact that these were the FIRST English sonnets; they had no linguistic point of reference, and indeed no imitators at the time. Cor blimey. But she very conveniently reads ALL of Petrarch's and Wyatt's sonnets in the most boring way possible (counting every tiny metrical, grammatical and structural similarity or difference), basically so that I don't have to; I can't really thank her enough.

April 13, 2008

I'd like to recommend a band to you. (1)

Mr. Bones and the Dreamers are a Birmingham band, I know the singer, Keiran, pretty well, particularly as he's always been so supportive of my own music. What they do is quite interesting, something for the BrightEyes/Decemberists crowd perhaps, though those aren't exactly my favourite bands, I love Mr. Bones and the Dreamers. I assume the name is a reference to Berryman's Dream Songs, in which the character of Mr. Bones keeps appearing; I only realised that the other day, but it pleased me a lot, the Dream Songs are really great, tragic poetry. Keiran's songwriting is all about tapping into the American (and in particular, the Americana) depressive; the accent he sings in is halfway Birmingham, UK and halfway Birmingham, Alabama: it's difficult to forgive singers who put on American accents, but Keiran's singing voice is so difficult to place that you can see and hear him adopting a persona. He recently sent me this video, which I thought I'd share with the world:

It's him playing in his friend's kitchen. There's some really nice background noise, something I'm quite into at the moment. When Joe and I first started recording for my band 'where I'm calling from', we liked to experiment with it; we had a (pretty stupid) song called 'Lodgers', the piano for which was recorded on the onboard mic of his fourtrack, with both of our then girlfriends talking on the couch at the time. It's something we've recently come back to.

Speaking of this kind of thing, if you're from Oxford, or in anyway interested in the more unsung acts of Oxford's music scene, I'd recommend joining the facebook 'Oxford Rockers' group on faceboook:

have to stop writing this because I'm drunk now. 

April 07, 2008

closing time

Probably I should be washing. My body seems to want to remove as much of itself as possible, so I can wake up next week, half a person, fit into my old jeans, and maybe have a bite to eat. Essays don’t do themselves, they fill my half-closed eyes with blank screens.

Oscar calls but I do not answer. I pretend, to myself, that I am sleeping. My stomach pummels itself. But essays do not write themselves.

I make a niche in my balled first by arching my thumb and my pointing finger. Only two weeks left of this now. I sl

ide the pen into the niche. The cold pen. And I stare at the page and do not write.

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