Sunday, February 23, 2014

To Faerie Lond or, Septuagesima and Spenser

I am reading Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene for British Literature and I have been contemplating the journey of the Redcrosse knight as an allegory for the journey of the Christian soul towards heaven. Part of trying to be long-term goal-oriented this Lent as a way of fulfilling specific resolutions is to be looking at the season as a journey, towards Easter, towards Heaven, towards Faerie Lond. Mix all this in with the fact that the Gospel today was the Gospel of the sower, and I have been thinking of the season as preparing the soil as well as of a pilgrimage. I am uprooting, turning the soil, presaging spring in the middle of winter. Septuagesima, Lent, will hopefully not be only times of restriction but of repentance. We are in the engagement period, not just for Lent, but for our whole lives. So was the Redcrosse Knight, to Una.
That tale, The Faerie Queene mixes (albeit in a Protestantized way) the religious, the natural, and the faerie. Poor St. George was a "Chaungeling" from birth, snatched by the faeries from his royal parents and given to a lowly farmer, hence his name is George, farmer, like the Georgics of Virgil. And yes, he is also St. George of England and of mighty victory over the dragon, but first he was George the farmer, and a pilgrim led by Una.
How relevant really, is the pilgrimage/fairy tale allegory for a Catholic on the eve of Lent? Allegorizing the everyday is almost surely delusional and unsustainable, and is, maybe, precisely what the skeptical think we do. So not in that way, living in a world of dreams, do I use the metaphor. Rather, I strain it down to the realization of the none-too-easy reality of pilgrimage. Which is why I love it. The goal, uproot gossip, impurity/gluttony, and sloth, the means: generative labor, a saga of very real day-to-day choices. But there is no reason, in the toil, to abandon the hope or the faerie-enchantment of the goal: the Easter garden of the soul, the cathedral at the end of the journey, the bridegroom, Paradise....To Faerie Lond!

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