Book II of the Faire Queene concerns the Knight Guyon, who represents the virtue of temperance. In Canto VII he comes upon an “uncouth, salvage, and uncivile wight”. Spenser describes him as follows (the strange spelling goes away when you read it out loud):
His iron Coat all overgrown with Rust,
Was underneath enveloped with Gold,
Whose glistring Gloss darkned with filthy Dust,
Well it appeared to have been of old
A Work of rich Entail, and curious Mold,
Woven with Anticks [fantastic figures] and wild Imagery:
And in his Lap a Mass of Coin he told,
And turned upsidown, to feed his Eye
And covetous Desire with his huge Threasury.
And round about him lay on every side
Great Heaps of Gold that never could be spent;
Of which, some were rude Ore, not purifide
Of Mulciber’s devouring Element;
Some others were new driven, and distent [beaten out]
Into great Ingots, and to Wedges square;
Some in round Plates withouten Monument;
But most were stamp’d, and in their Metal bare
The antique Shapes of Kings and Kesars strange and rare.
This strange evil beast cluttered and covered with money, is covetous Mammon, as Guyon discovers. Although freightened at first, he speaks to the beast:
What art thou Man (if Man at all thou art)
That here in Desart hast thine Habitaunce [dwelling]
And these rich Heaps of Wealth dost hide apart
From the World’s Eye, and from her right Usaunce?
The beast answers:
Thereat, with staring Eyes fixed ascaunce,
In great Disdain, he answered; Hardy Elf, [the Knight is referred as an elf]
That darest view my direful Countenaunce,
I reed thee rash, and heedless of thy self;
To trouble my still Seat, and Heaps of precious Pelf. [a negative word for wealth]
God of the World and Worldlings I me call,
Great Mammon, greatest God below the Sky,
That of my Plenty pour out unto all,
And unto none my Graces do envy:
Riches, Renown, and Principality,
Honour, Estate, and all this Worldes Good,
For which Men stink [labor] and sweat incessantly,
Fro me do flow into an ample Flood,
And in the hollow Earth have their eternal Brood. [Wealth comes from the earth]
Here comes the temptation: If you bow down and serve me, I’ll give you all this world:
Wherefore if me thou deign to serve and sew,
At thy Command lo all these Mountains be;
Or if to thy great Mind, or greedy View,
All these may not suffice, there shalt to thee
Ten times so much be numbred frank and free.
Mammon, said he, thy Godhead’s Vaunt is vain,
And idle Offers of thy golden Eee;
To them that covet such eye-glutting Gain,
Proffer thy Gifts, and fitter Servants entertain.
Guyon rejects the temptation, because mere money is not befitting a knight who seeks honor:
Me ill befits, that in der-doing Arms, [brave acts]
And Honour’s Suit my vowed Days do spend,
Unto thy bounteous Baits, and pleasing Charms,
With which weak Men thou witchest, to attend:
Regard of worldly Muck doth foully blend
And low abase the high heroick Spright,
That joys for Crowns and Kingdoms to contend;
Fair Shields, gay Steeds, bright Arms be my Delight:
Those be the Riches fit for an advent’rous Knight.
And here the tempter responds: Ah, I can give you what you want (you’re mistaken):
Vain-glorious Elfe, said he, dost not thou weet, [don’t you understand]
That Money can thy Wants at will supply?
Shields, Steeds, and Arms, and all things for thee meet
It can purvey in twinkling of an eye;
And Crowns and Kingdoms to thee multiply.
Do not I Kings create, and throw the Crown
Sometimes to him that low in Dust doth lie?
And him that reign’d, into his room thrust down,
And whom I lust, do heap with Glory and Renown?