The narrator begins to describe the birth of Belphoebe and how she became so perfect in her manners and so chaste. Her mother is a fairy named Chrysogonee, who also gave birth to Belphoebe’s twin sister, Amoretta (also sometimes called Amoret). Chrysogonee is actually a virgin who fell asleep in the grass one day and got impregnated by sunbeams. Alarmed at first because she is so strict about her honor, Chrysogonee goes deep into the woods to give birth to her twins.
The virgin birth of Belphoebe makes her a significant, miraculous character. Her character is so devoted to chastity that even her mother has never had sex and conceived Belphoebe without anything other than sunbeams. Amoretta’s similar birth suggests that she is an equally chaste character who will be important to the story.
Meanwhile Venus, the goddess of love, is looking for her son Cupid, who has run off. She looks in court, then in cities, then in the country—all places Cupid likes to visit—but she is always too late. Finally, she goes to the woods, where the hunting goddess Diana reigns.
Although Venus might seem to be the opposite of chastity, in fact, she represents pure love and is thus a positive figure in the poem.
When Venus arrives in the woods, Diana scolds her damsels for not giving her proper notice in order to get herself ready. Venus asks about Cupid and if perhaps he is with Diana’s nymphs, and Diana takes offense at this, saying Venus can go look for him herself. Venus backtracks and says nice things about Diana, so at last, she agrees to send out her nymphs to help the search for Cupid.
Just as in Greek and Roman mythology, the gods in the poem often have different goals, with goddesses like Venus and Diana alternately having conflict with each other and working together.
While Diana’s nymphs are looking for Cupid, they come across Chrysogonee, who is asleep and unaware that she has just given birth to twins. The goddesses decide to each take a twin, with Diana naming hers Belphoebe and Venus naming hers Amoretta.
While Belphoebe is not quite a normal mortal, she becomes a more humanlike representative of Diana, just as Amoretta will become a more humanlike version of Venus.
Venus raises Amoretta in the beautiful Garden of Adonis. The garden contains all sorts of creatures, which are sent out into the world to replenish their stocks, yet the stocks in the garden never seem to diminish. Life is transformed in the garden, with old decaying matter taking fresh new forms. The only bad thing about the garden is Time, who flies around and cuts plants and creatures down, mercilessly and indiscriminately.
The Garden of Adonis provides a positive contrast to Acrasia’s Bower of Bliss. In the Garden of Adonis, people enjoy pleasure, but only in moderation. Nevertheless, even this seemingly perfect garden has the deadly Time in it, which represents mortality.
In the middle of the garden is a round-topped mount strewn with shining dew, where wicked creatures never roam. In the thickest part of the trees on the mount is a place where every sort of flower imaginable grows. It’s there that Venus entertains her lover Adonis (who is mortal, but the garden lets him live in eternal bliss anyway).
Again, the scene of Venus with her lover in a thicket recalls the scene of Acrasia in a hammock with her lover in the Bower of Bliss. Acrasia’s real flaw was not necessarily that she pursued pleasure, but that she did it so recklessly.
After Cupid is done making mischief in the world, he comes back to the garden to be with Psyche (his wife) and Pleasure (his daughter). There, Psyche also helps raise Amoretta next to Pleasure. Amoretta will grow up to be a noble, chaste lady. She’ll eventually fall in love with a great knight named Scudamore and face many challenges, but the narrator says that’s another story. The narrator says it’s time to return to the current story.
The Faerie Queene is an epic with many different characters and plots, and here the narrator hints at a plot that won’t become relevant for several more cantos. Despite the episodic nature of the poem, the connections between characters help provide a sense of unity.