Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 4, Canto 8

By Edmund Spenser

Book 4, Canto 8

  • Our narrator remarks how true it is that the worst offense is to offend someone mighty.
  • Poor Timias is feeling that right now, after having angered that great Belphoebe; he is currently doing penance alone and impoverished in a forest.
  • One day, a turtledove happens to fly by and sees Timias being sad.
  • Since the turtledove has also recently lost her love, she joins him in singing a sad song.
  • They soon became companions: she comforted him with singing, and he gives her some of his food.
  • He decides to tie a jewel Belphoebe had given him to the bird's neck, but is dismayed to see her then fly off with it.
  • The bird, however, flies straight to Belphoebe, and begins singing her song.
  • When Belphoebe sees the jewel on the bird's neck, she attempts to take it, but the bird always moves a little out of reach, so that Belphoebe follows the bird all the way to Timias.
  • She doesn't recognize him, but pities his sad situation.
  • Timias, when he sees her, rushes to her and weeps at her feet.
  • Belphoebe is surprised, and asks the man what has caused his misery.
  • Finally, he answers her and says that it is her who has caused his misery by sending him from her.
  • When she hears this, she softens and welcomes him back into her good graces and the two live in happiness this way for a long time.
  • But Arthur, his Lord, has been looking for him but can't find him anywhere.
  • While riding through that same forest one day, Arthur happens to come upon Amoret and Aemylia, both near death after their horrendous encounter with the savage man.
  • He restores them both with a magic potion he has and asks them what happened to them.
  • They answer that they were taken prisoner by a terrible man but were saved by a brave Virgin.
  • He wants to know who that Virgin was, but since neither of the ladies can tell him, they move on.
  • Soon they come to a cabin where they stop in anticipation of nightfall.
  • But inside they find a dreadful old witch, surrounded by filth, who often vomited bile and bitterness. Ick.
  • This woman was called Sclaunder, and she existed solely to bring a bad reputation to good people and to slander their good name.
  • Instead of using language to actually understand the true nature of things, she used it to deceive and conceal.
  • Unsurprisingly, this woman was not a particularly welcoming host, but yelled at them the entire night for staying there without her permission.
  • But they were patient and needed a place to stay, and so ignored her.
  • Our narrator pauses the story to say that he knows some readers will object to these two women staying with a man all night.
  • But, he reminds us, back in the day, things were simpler and better, so any kind of sexual misconduct didn't even cross their minds!
  • But these days, everything has gone downhill: beauty decays, chastity gives way to lust. There are very few truly good people. Kids these days, eh?
  • Anyway, when morning comes, the trio takes off, but Sclaunder follows them calling them thieves, whores, and other mean names.
  • Finally, Sclaunder can't keep up with them and they ride away until they come to a squire and a dwarf fleeing from a terrifying, gigantic man riding a dromedary (a camel with two humps).
  • This man has enchanted eyes that can dazzle anyone who looks at him and he is viciously chasing the squire.
  • When the squires sees Arthur, he calls to him for help, and Arthur lets down Amoret and Aemylia and rushes to the squire's aid, who has just been knocked off his horse.
  • Arthur and the man fight fiercely, but ultimately Arthur cuts off his head.
  • When the squire sees this, he is overjoyed, but the dwarf, the servant of the man, wails and cries in anguish.
  • The squire explains that the man was the son of a giant who conquered nations not through war but through the magical power of his eyes.
  • The man's name is Corflambo, and he has daughter, Poeana, who would be incredibly beautiful if only she were also virtuous.
  • He then goes on to tell the story of a squire who loved a woman well above his station and decided to run away with her.
  • But the night that he was supposed to meet his love, named Aemylia, he instead met Corflambo, who took this squire to be his prisoner.
  • One day Poeana came to see the prisoners and took a liking to this squire, offering him his freedom if he wooed her.
  • Even though he loves another, he sees that this is the only way out, so he pretends to love her, but coldly.
  • For this reason, he's given certain privileges to walk about the garden freely, but always under the watch of the dwarf we just met.
  • Well, when the speaker found out about the plight of this squire, who was his good friend, he attempts to help him.
  • Now, our speaker and his friend looked almost identical, so when our speaker hides himself near the prison, the dwarf finds him and thinks he's the prisoner who has escaped.
  • So he's thrown back in prison, where he finds his friend, tormented by the prospect of having to be unfaithful to Aemylia.
  • But our speaker comes up with a plan for them to switch places so that he'll go seduce Poeana in place of his friend, relieving his guilt about being unfaithful.
  • The plan works great (since our speaker is much better at flirting with the ladies because he's single) and one day, since he's been given even greater liberties than his friend had before, he snatches the dwarf and flees and is soon pursued by Corflambo.
  • After he tells this story, Amoret and Aemylia come over to the two men and when Aemylia recognizes her lover's best friend, named Placidas, she runs to embrace him and asks if her lover, named Amyas, still lives.
  • Placidas tells her that he does and that he still loves her and he tells her his story.