Faerie Queene: Whore of Babylon

One of my favorite images from The Book of Revelation, WOB for short, makes an appearance in Spencer’s Faerie Queene.  The valiant knight, Redcrosse, physically weakened after drinking from a magic fountain that induces sluggishness, is morally compromised through fornication, physical or allegorical, not sure which, with the evil Duessa, a lady of all things false, who is disguised.  He is then assaulted and nearly killed by a giant, Orgoglio, borne of Earth’s womb, who is stayed by Duessa’s entreaties, she desiring to keep the knight for her own pleasure.  The hideous giant is much taken with Duessa, and decks her out with a seven-headed serpent that recalls the WOB, which allegorizes the Church of Rome, at least for the Protestants.

So daunted when the Geaunt saw the knight,
His heauie hand he heaued vp on hye,
And him to dust thought to haue battred quight,
Vntill Duessa loud to him gan crye;
O great Orgoglio, greatest vnder skye,
O hold thy mortall hand for Ladies sake,
Hold for my sake, and do him not to dye,
But vanquisht thine eternall bondslaue make,
And me thy worthy meed vnto thy Leman take.

He hearkned, and did stay from further harmes,
To gayne so goodly guerdon, as she spake:
So willingly she came into his armes,
Who her as willingly to grace did take,
And was possessed of his new found make.
Then vp he tooke the slombred sencelesse corse,
And ere he could out of his swowne awake,
Him to his castle brought with hastie forse,
And in a Dongeon deepe him threw without remorse.

From that day forth Duessa was his deare,
And highly honourd in his haughtie eye,
He gaue her gold and purple pall to weare,
And triple crowne set on her head full hye,
And her endowd with royall maiestye:
Then for to make her dreaded more of men,
And peoples harts with awfull terrour tye,
A monstrous beast ybred in filthy fen
He chose, which he had kept long time in darksome den.

Such one it was, as that renowmed Snake
Which great Alcides in Stremona slew,
Long fostred in the filth of Lerna lake,
Whose many heads out budding euer new,
Did breed him endlesse labour to subdew:
But this same Monster much more vgly was;
For seuen great heads out of his body grew,
An yron brest, and backe of scaly bras,
And all embrewd in bloud, his eyes did shine as glas.

His tayle was stretched out in wondrous length,
That to the house of heauenly gods it raught,
And with extorted powre, and borrow’d strength,
The euer-burning lamps from thence it braught,
And prowdly threw to ground, as things of naught;
And vnderneath his filthy feet did tread
The sacred things, and holy heasts foretaught.
Vpon this dreadfull Beast with seuenfold head
He set the false Duessa, for more aw and dread.

 

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