It's time for our narrator to return to an old theme that he's left unfinished: the fate of Calidore (remember him, super polite guy from the beginning of this book?)
Brain bite! Spenser is playing around a bit here. While his old theme does refer to Calidore, it also refers to the Pastoral mode, a type of literature very popular in the Renaissance that involves shepherds and shepherdesses lounging around and singing.
We're about to see a lot of in this section of TheFaerie Queene. This is an old theme for Spenser since he wrote an earlier collection of pastoral poems called The Shepherd's Calendar.
This earlier poetry collection is clearly on Spenser's mind here since he includes a character in this section of TheFaerie Queene named Colin Clout,who first appeared in The Shepherd's Calendar.
Okay, back to the scene at hand.
Poor Calidore has been through a lot. He's been tracking down the Blatant Beast and following him constantly through all kinds of terrain.
He finally chases the beast into plain full of shepherds with their flocks and Calidore stops to ask some of them if they've seen the beast running.
They assured him they haven't, and hope they never do. They offer Calidore a drink since he is clearly exhausted.
As he is drinking and resting, he catches sight of a beautiful shepherdess wearing simple clothes, sitting on a hill with some shepherds singing love song to her.
Her name is Pastorella and she is by far the most beautiful woman among the shepherdesses. All the shepherds love her, but a dude named Coridon loves her the most.
She, however, doesn't care for Coridon.
As Calidore looks at her, he falls completely in love and thinks she would make a wonderful wife for a prince.
Even though he is supposed to be chasing the beast, he stays where he was, entranced by Pastorella.
Since night is falling, it is time for the shepherds to take their flocks in and Pastorella's father, an old man, ushers her inside.
The old man, however, was not her biological father but had found her as an infant.
Everyone helps Pastorella bring in the flocks, especially Coridon. Meliboe, Pastorella's father, invites Calidore to stay with them since it's now late.
Calidore agrees and joins Meliboe, his wife, and Pastorella at their home, which is simple but comfortable.
Calidore is extremely grateful for the kindness and courtesy shown to him and praises the life of the shepherd away from the dangers and torments of the world at large.
Meliboe replies that he is indeed very content to live the life nature has given him and says that he envies no one but pities those who let ambition take them away from the good and quite life. When he was young, Meliboe left the life of a shepherd to be a knight, but after ten years realized it was not for him and came back to being a shepherd.
Calidore is entranced by both what the old man is saying and by the beauty of his daughter.
He replies that he completely agrees and thinks that all other forms of life are a pale shadow compared to this one, and seems so much better than the glory and quests he pursues that he wishes he could become a shepherd too.
Meliboe cautions him, however, not to question the life fortune has given him since fortune always knows best.
Besides, he says, happiness, sadness, wealth, poverty are all states of mind, things that we can control ourselves.
Calidore replies that since those things are under his control, he'd like to remain with a little while not as their grand guest, but as a shepherd like them, sharing their same food and work. He even offers Meliboe some gold to make it worth his while.
Meliboe wants nothing to do with the gold, but is fine with Calidore sticking around.
So Calidore remains with them for a while, always trying to get into Pastorella's good graces. But he always fails, since she has no knowledge of his courtly, courteous, and knightly ways.
She's much more interested in the singing of another shepherd named Colin.
When Calidore notices this, he decides he'll have more success if he dresses as a shepherd.
And so he does and continues to help Pastorella with her flocks everyday, arousing the jealousy of Coridon.
Whenever they are together, Coridon pouts and make faces, while Calidore obliviously tends to Pastorella.
Even though Coridon brings Pastorella little sparrows and squirrels and other gifts, she still prefers Calidore. Wow, Coridon. Squirrels are your idea of a romantic gift? Whatever happened to, say, flowers?
One day, when the flocks are resting, they decide to have a dance while Colin Clout plays the pipe and Calidore leads. This does not make Coridon happy.
But Calidore is courteous enough to let Coridon be the leader and even gives him a garland, which pacifies him somewhat.
Another time, Coridon challenges Calidore to a wrestling match to be judged by Pastorella. Even though Coridon is an able wrestler, Calidore is strong and fit and ends up winning, although he courteously gives the winning garland to Coridon.
So ultimately Calidore wins over everyone, including Pastorella, and the two seem very happy until something happens that we'll hear about in the next Canto…