259. SHAPT LIKE A LADIES HEAD, an effigy of Queen Elizabeth, the Faerie Queene.
260. LIKE HESPERUS, the evening star. Cf. Phosphorus, the morning star.
268. The dragon couchant was also the crest of Arthur’s father, Uther, surnamed on this account Pen-dragon. The description in this stanza is imitated from Tasso’s description of the helmet of the Sultan in Jerusalem Delivered, ix, 25, which in turn follows Vergil’s Aeneid, vii, 785 seq.
280. GREENE SELINIS, a town in Sicily.
284. HIS WARLIKE SHIELD. Spenser here follows closely the description of the shield of the magician Atlante in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, ii, 55.
300. SILVER CYNTHIA, the moon. It was popularly supposed that magicians and witches had power to cause eclipses of the moon.
304. All falsehood and deception. Truth and Wisdom are symbolized (Upton).
306. WHEN HIM LIST, when it pleased him. Him is dative.
314. IT MERLIN WAS. Ambrose Merlin, the prince of enchanters, son of the nun Matilda, and an incubus, “half-angel and half-man.” He made, in addition to Prince Arthur’s armor and weapons, the Round Table for one hundred and fifty knights at Carduel, the magic fountain of love, and built Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. He died spellbound by the sorceress Vivien in a hollow oak. See Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.
326. DID TRAMPLE AS THE AIRE, curveted as lightly as the air.
335. AND FOR HER HUMOUR, etc., and to suit her (sad) mood framed fitting conversation.
355. The subject of found is the substantive clause who... impart.
xli. Observe the antithetical structure of this stanza, both in the Stichomuthia, or balance of line against line, and in the lines themselves. In this rapid word-play Arthur wins his point by appealing to Una’s faith.
363. NO FAITH SO FAST, etc., no faith is so firm that human infirmity may not injure it.
376. Una, Truth, is the sole daughter of Eden.
377. WHILEST EQUAL DESTINIES, etc., whilst their destinies (Fates) revolved equally and undisturbed in their orbits. (Astronomical figure.)
381. PHISON AND EUPHRATES, etc., three of the four rivers that watered Eden, the Hiddekel being omitted. See Genesis, ii, 11-14. In this stanza the poet strangely mixes Christian doctrine and the classical belief in the envy of the gods working the downfall of men.
385. TARTARY, Tartarus (for the rhyme), the lowest circle of torment in the infernal regions.
391. Has this obscure line any reference to prophecy? Cf. Daniel, vii, 25, Revelation, xii, 6, 14.
394. THAT HEAVEN WALKS ABOUT, under the sky.
404. THAT NOBLE ORDER, the Order of the Garter, of which the Maiden Queen was head. The figure of St. George slaying the dragon appears on the oval and pendant to the collar of this Order.