The Gardin of… What?

Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene is an interesting read, and probably not a favorite of many of my class mates. I, on the other hand, have really enjoyed reading book 3 of this classic poem. I have always enjoyed reading classic such as The Odyssey by Homer, Beowulf by unknown, and The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. One difference between The Faerie Queene and these three other works of literature is that the version of The Faerie Queen that I read was the actual words written by Spenser. In high school I read translations of The Odyssey, Beowulf, and The Canterbury Tales. I believe there is a gigantic difference between reading and actual work and reading the translation of a work from a different (or archaic) language into the vernacular. I believe that I have gotten more out of reading the actual manuscript (only remediated once, from Spenser’s mind to paper) versus the “translations” which is an additional remediation of the actual story.

In Book 3 I really enjoyed reading the description of the allegorical image of The Gardin of Adonis (in Spenser’s tongue). As I read, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Garden of Eden. The Gardin of Adonis is Venus’s paradise on earth and in the center of it is thought that Adonis himself, the lost love Venus, resides. Spenser actually invented this mythological place, but to any layman he convincingly “retells” the story. The garden is enclosed by two walls and gates made of bright gold and iron (one intended for the young and faire and the other for the old and weary). Inside this garden, souls that have been reclaimed are conditioned to be re-fleshed and released back into the world, to live again until their death and subsequent return to the garden. The place is a heaven on earth, very similar to the Garden of Eden. Also in the center of the Gardin of Adonis there is a great tree that contained “every sort of flowre” which people that had died of love had been turned into. It is also thought that here Adonis lives. This “center tree” quite clearly parallels the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. I thought this garden was a fascinating and original place in The Faerie Queene.

I find Redcrosse to be an interesting character. His name must be some kind of compound name involving blood – red and religion/crusade – crosse. He appears to be quite true and loyal to his lover, Una, because when Britomart found him he was ferociously fighting off six guards of a castle because Redcrosse would not say that his Una was less beautiful than the the lady of the castle, Malecasta. There must be some kind of connection between his loyalty to his love and his name, Redcrosse. I know from class that he is the hero of Book 1 and by this subtle inclusion of him in Book 3 Spenser has made me interested in Book 1. I am now curious about his name, his love, and what adventures he had in the first volume of The Faerie Queene. I am also curious what happens to him after Book 3.

All in all I’ve really enjoyed The Faerie Queene and if I have time I might read some more of the books.

-Seth

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