or Sowdan. A corruption of sultan, meaning in mediæval
romance the Saracen king; but, with the usual inaccuracy of these
writers, we have the Soldan of Egypt, the Soudan of Persia, the Sowdan
of Babylon, etc., all represented as accomplished by grim Saracens to
meant for Felipe of Spain, who used all his power to bribe and
seduce the subjects of Elizabeth. Queen Mercilla sent to negotiate a
peace, but the ambassador sent was treated like a dog, referring to
Felipe's detention of the deputies sent by the States of Holland. Sir
Artegal demands of the soldan the release of the
damsel “held as wrongful prisoner,” and the soldan “swearing and
banning most blasphemously,” mounts his
“high chariot,” and prepares to maintain his cause. Prince Arthur
encounters him “on the green,” and after a severe combat unconvers his
shield, at sight of which the soldan and all his followers take to
“swearing and banning” refer to the excommunications thundered out
against Elizabeth; the “high chariot” is the Spanish Armada; the
“green” is the sea; the “uncovering of the shield” indicates that the
Armada was put to flight, not by man's might, but by the power of God. Flavit Jehovah et dissipati sunt (God blew, and they were
scattered). (Spenser Faërie Queene, v. 8.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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