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David Lohnes

Location: Greenville, South Carolina
Joined: 31 Oct 2006
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PostPosted: Thu 18 Jan, 2007 1:29 pm    Post subject: A Curious Pair of Boots         Reply with quote

In Book II, Canto iii of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene there is a detailed description of a woman's pair of hunting boots:

Below her ham her weed did somewhat trayne,
And her streight legs most brauely were embayld
In gilden buskins of costly Cordwayne,
All bard with golden bendes, which were entayld
With curious antickes, and full fayre aumayld:
Before they fastned were vnder her knee
In a rich iewell, and therein entrayld
The ends of all the knots, that none might see,
How they within their fouldings close enwrapped bee.

I'm trying to get a handle on exactly what's being described, and it seems pretty clear to me that Spenser is specifically incorporating the language of armor into these boots. But I'm having trouble putting it all together, and I was wondering if anyone on the forums might have some ideas.

Her legs are "embayld" (a word which suggets castle walls to me) in gilded boots made of expensive Cordovan leather. These boots are "bard with golden bendes," which are themselves 1) "entayld with antickes," "aumayld" very beautifully," and "fastned . . . in a rich iewell," into which all of the ends of the knots are "entrayld" so as to be invisible to the viewer.

My primary problem is with the "bendes." I would naturally want to assume that they are cloth bands wrapped around the boots and then tied. But the language strongly suggests to me that they are, in fact, metal.

1) The boots are "bard" with these bands. The members of this forum will know much better than I the connotations of armor that this word suggests. The Oxford English Dictionary defines bards, among other things, as metal plates for a man at arms or for horses.

2) In older literature, at least as far as OED examples go, "entailing" speaks almost exclusively of carving or engraving, although it was used sometimes in a sort of metaphorical way to speak of embroidery. "Antics" are grotesque figures, and specifically (among other uses) the kind engraved or sculpted on buildings.

3) "Aumayled" means "enamelled," and although I'm pretty sure Renaissance enamelling wasn't the same as the modern thing, and while it did at times refer simply to abundantly beautiful decoration, the definitions seem to emphasize metal as the usual object.

So what are these "bendes." Are they elaborately engraved metal plates that cover the leather, or are the simply highly embroidered cloth bands? Would it make sense to have plate covered Cordovan boots?

And that brings me to the second question, the method whereby these bands were fastned to the boots.

The bands are fastned in front ("before") of the leg just under the knee in a "rich iewell." The OED is clear that in early modern England a jewell was not simply a gem as it is today, but could in fact be any valuable decorative item.
The OED gives for example: "To haue fayre horsses and riche gownes, and other iewles." (1477) and "Attire of Beares skins, hanged with Beares pawes, the head of a Wolfe, and such like iewells" (1613). So then, the bands are fastned in some kind of rich decorative fastner that is located just under the knee cap, and it seems that the ends of the knots, or laces, or whatever are put up inside of it. ("therein entrayled" = "in there entwined/interlaced").

So what kind of fastner would that be? Did plate armor, decorative or otherwise, ever have such fastners into which the ends of laces could be tucked or whatever? Or should I take this as some kind of decorative doodad that fastens cloth bands? (c.f. "fouldings" in the final line)

These boots are not historical objects; they're fictional items that Spenser is pulling out of his own head. And like everything in Spenser, they're full of symbolic meaning for the character that's wearing them. In her case the symbolism is almost certainly related to her virginity.

But Spenser has to have been influenced by real boots and real decorations and real armor. He was heavily involved in the English occupation of and subjugation of rebellion in Ireland in the last quarter of the 16th century. But I don't know enough about the clothing and armor of the period (and of prior periods) to have any real concrete idea of the possibilities.



David Lohnes
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