What does one post on a blog about the Arthurian legend to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II?
After much thought, I recalled The Faerie Queene (1596), Edmund Spenser’s great poem in which Gloriana, the Faerie Queene was modeled on Queen Elizabeth I. Not surprisingly this fantastic poem, one of the greatest in the English language, was turned into an opera called Gloriana by Benjamin Britten to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and the lead barge in yesterday’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was named The Gloriana.
In The Faerie Queene, the Redcrosse Knight meets Prince Arthur before he becomes the great King of England. Arthur tells of his vision of The Faerie Queene, Gloriana, and his love for her in Book 1, Canto 9:
For-wearied with my sports, I did alight
From loftie steed, and downe to sleepe me layd; 110
The verdant gras my couch did goodly dight,
And pillow was my helmet faire displayd:
Whiles every sence[*] the humour sweet embayd,
And slombring soft my hart did steale away,
Me seemed, by my side a royall Mayd 115
Her daintie limbes full softly down did lay:
So faire a creature yet saw never sunny day.
Most goodly glee and lovely blandishment
She to me made, and bad me love her deare;
For dearely sure her love was to me bent, 120
As when just time expired should appeare.
But whether dreames delude, or true it were,
Was never hart so ravisht with delight,
Ne living man like words did ever heare,
As she to me delivered all that night; 125
And at her parting said, She Queene of Faeries hight.
When I awoke, and found her place devoyd,
And nought but pressed gras, where she had lyen,
I sorrowed all so much as earst I joyd,
And washed all her place with watry eyen. 130
From that day forth I lov’d that face divine;
From that day forth I cast in carefull mind
To seeke her out with labour, and long tyne,
And never vowd to rest till her I find,
Nine monethes I seeke in vain, yet ni’ll that vow unbind. 135
As Arthur’s heir, what would Prince Arthur have thought of Queen Elizabeth II? No one can say for sure, but she like her namesake, Elizabeth I, may be compared to Gloriana, a glorious queen who has long served her people and continues to be a model to us of someone willing to do her duty to her people and country in the face of all odds, and for that, we can truly say she has had a long and glorious reign!
Congratulations, Your Majesty, on Sixty Glorious Years!