Tuesday, April 26, 2011

in which George's chivalry is vindicated

During Spring Break, I ended up with Mark at a public library in Fresno. I think Mark looked at grown-up books. But I looked at this book: Saint George and the Dragon.

The book purported to tell the story of Saint George as told in Spenser's Faerie Queene, but it had a whole love story that I didn't remember reading about before.

I was kind of miffed to read the version in the picture book. The princess Una was obviously a noble lady and worthy of George's affection. BUT in the picture book George agrees to marry her even though he still owes six years of service to the Faerie Queene.

That didn't sound like him at all.

Of course the knight can marry the lady. But he needs to finish his contract first. Duh.

So the first thing I did when I got back to Orange County (even before I visited Fresh & Easy) was to go to the County library and get myself a copy of Spenser. Then school started and nothing happened. And then it was even St. George's Day and nothing happened.

But tonight, in between studying about Basque terrorists, I decided to throw my literary scruples to the wind and Google answers to my questions. I found this summary and this searchable text. And, between the two, I have vindicated George (and further complicated my thoughts on educating children, moving now from history to literature).

He and Una were betrothed, much to everyone's happiness:
Great ioy was made that day of young and old,
And solemne feast proclaimd throughout the land,
That their exceeding merth may not be told:
Suffice it heare by signes to vnderstand
The vsuall ioyes at knitting of loues band.
Thrise happy man the knight himselfe did hold,
Possessed of his Ladies hart and hand,
And euer, when his eye did her behold,
His heart did seeme to melt in pleasures manifold.
But, melty-hearted as he was, George said he'd have to postpone the wedding until he finished up his six years of service:
Her ioyous presence and sweet company
In full content he there did long enioy,
Ne wicked enuie, ne vile gealosy
His deare delights were able to annoy:
Yet swimming in that sea of blisfull ioy,
He nought forgot, how he whilome had sworne,
In case he could that monstrous beast destroy,
Vnto his Farie Queene backe to returne:
The which he shortly did, and Vna left to mourne.
I'm not heartless: I'm sad for George and Una. But a knight's got to do what a knight's got to do.

(P.S. I think that the connection made between Spenser's knight and Saint George [made explicitly in the text] is definitely political and not grounded in historical detail when it comes to things like this heavily allegorical betrothal [between England and the Church]. So my "George" here is the literary George, not one with any real pretense of historical veracity.)

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