Mirror and Veil: The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene

By Michael O'Connell | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

History
and the Poet's Golden World

In Spenser's allegorization of the human body in the castle of Alma (book 2, canto 9), Arthur and Guyon encounter a vivid personification of what we recognize as man's cultural memory. He is Eumnestes, an old man whose name means "well remembering." His chamber comes third in Alma's guided tour, after Phantastes' chamber of pure imagination and the chamber of reason or judgment, and it is the only one of the three chambers in which the knights linger. Both chamber and proprietor are curious mixtures of apparent debility and actual strength. The room seems "ruinous and old," but the walls are actually firm and strong. The old man himself is "halfe blind" and decrepit of body; yet he is vigorous of mind and "of infinite remembrance." His memory, in fact, goes back beyond Methuselah, but he must prod it with the continual reading of the books and manuscripts that line the walls. Eumnestes allows nothing done in the past "to perish through long eld," but his parchment rolls and books are "all worme-eaten, and full of canker holes." Similarly, his constant tossing and turning of pages, his apparently compulsive searching for information, defeats any attempt to keep his library in order, for he needs an assistant, the boy Anamnestes, to find the things that are "lost or laid amis." The image of Eumnestes toiling incessantly in his timeworn library depicts the constant activity of man's cultural memory, a memory in which nothing is ever really lost altogether but in which continual searching and comparison and restoration are necessary for true understanding.

The books that Arthur and Guyon read in Eumnestes' cham

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Mirror and Veil: The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Mirror and Veil - The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Explanatory Note xiii
  • Mirror and Veil *
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1 - The Method of the Poet His Torical 16
  • Chapter 2 - Holiness and Historical Fulfillment 38
  • Chapter 3 - History and the Poet's Golden World 69
  • Chapter 4 - Mirrors More Than One 99
  • Chapter 5 - Myth and History in the Legend of Justice 125
  • Chapter 6 - The Return to Pastoral Vision 161
  • Epilogue - Escape from Mutability 190
  • Notes 195
  • Works Cited 207
  • Index to the Faerie Queene 213
  • General Index 217
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