On the floor near the fireplace sits a bellows, for encouraging the fire. Spenser would likely have had a smithy on his Kilcolman estate, which would have employed similar tools. Iron-working debris predating Spenser’s occupation and presumably from the castle forge was found among the cellar in-fill under the Great Hall. Another bellows is in the Tower House Parlor.
In Book IV of The Faerie Queene (1596), the hero Sir Scudamour encounters a blacksmith named Care. Care is described in a manner reminiscent of other descriptions of savage, unkempt, starving, criminal characters in Spenser’s poems and prose. Care could therefore be understood in the allegory as potentially Irish (compare with the description of Despair in FQ I.ix.33-36 and with the degenerated Timias who wears a “glib” in FQ IV.viii.12; IV.vii.40-43).
… a wretched wearish elfe,
With hollow eyes and rawbone cheeks forspent,
As if he had in prison long bene pent:
Full blacke and griesly did his face appeare,
Besmeard with smoke that nigh his eye-sight blent;
With rugged beard, and hoarie shagged heare,
The which he neuer wont to combe, or comely sheare. (FQ IV.v.34.3-9)
Care’s smithy, furthermore, is an allegory for the sighing, pensive, care-worn body. Amid the machinery and clanging hammers is a pair of bellows, which function like lungs in the allegory. They blow so loudly that none can hear:
And eke the breathfull bellowes blew amaine,
Like to the Northren winde, that none could heare:
Those Pensifenesse did moue; and Sighes the bellows weare. (FQ IV.v.38.7-9)
“Sighes,” caused by worries, make the lungs work hard, like “bellows.” Spenser imagines these “bellows” blowing out cold, “North[er]n” winds. North is the traditional direction of dark and cold, and also (from Kilcolman) the Ballyhoura mountain range and the Glen of Aherlow, which was famous for its rebels and thieves (cf. View 137). To the north of the Munster Plantation lay the region of Thomond, Irish for “north Munster” (Tuath Mumhain) and home of the great O’Brien lordship.
In A View of the Present State of Ireland, Spenser’s spokesman Irenius describes one of the O’Brien rebels of “Thomond… called Murrogh en ranagh, that is Morris of the ferne or waste wild places,” who allied himself with an “O’Neale” who came from the “North revolting,” and together they rebelled with great violence like a wind: “breaking forth like a sudden tempest [Murrogh] overran all Munster and Connaught, breaking down all the holds and fortresses of the English… he clean wiped out many great Towns” (View 15-16).
Irenius is describing events involving Murrough O’Brien (d. 1383) in the late-fourteenth century (although he mistakenly places them in the fifteenth century), during the so-called “Gaelic resurgence” when Old English settlements lost much of their colonial territory to native Irish lordships. Spenser in 1596 was likewise deeply worried about a new threat, led by Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone, sweeping out of the North and joining forces with rebels in Munster, as they were to do in 1598 during the uprising that sacked Kilcolman and the plantation. Hugh O’Neill was thought to be the base-born son of a blacksmith. At Kilcolman, a northern wind blew very cold indeed and may have inspired his portrait of the blacksmith Care.
Thomas Herron, ”‘Goodly Woods‘: Irish Forests, Georgic Trees in Books I and IV of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene.” Quidditas: JRMMRA 19 (1998), 97-122.
Eric Klingelhofer, Castles and Colonists: an archaeology of Elizabethan Ireland (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2010): 117.
John Steadman, “Care.” The Spenser Encyclopedia. Ed. A. C. Hamilton (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 1990), 135-6.