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 The Romance of the Rose (extracts)

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Merzhin
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PostSubject: The Romance of the Rose (extracts)   Mon Sep 14, 2009 1:36 pm

"Le Roman de la Rose" ("The Romance of the Rose" in English) is a medieval French poem, and one of the major pieces of literature of the 13th Century, styled as an allegorical dream vision. It is a notable instance of courtly literature. The work's stated purpose is to both entertain and to teach others about the Art of Love. The characters' names function both as regular names and as abstractions illustrating the various factors that are involved in a love affair.

The work was both very popular and very controversial — one of the most widely read works in France for three centuries, it survives in hundreds of illuminated manuscripts.

Among some of these lines, characters of the Arthurian tales appear, especially when the poet, called "L'Amant" (The Lover), speaks of Chivalric traits and courteous ways of behavior.

Here are a few lines for your pleasure, good people, translated from the Old French into English.
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PostSubject: GENEROSITY (LARGESSE IN OLD FRENCH)   Mon Sep 14, 2009 1:58 pm

ON GENEROSITY (LARGESSE IN OLD FRENCH) from Guillaume de Lorris

(in this extract, Generosity is a character, and represents of course... generosity as a value. The Lover witnesses her dancing with a knight companion...)

Next was Generosity, who was well trained and instructed in doing honor and distributing gifts. She was of Alexander's lineage and took joy in nothing so much as when she could say, "Here, take this." Even the wretched Avarice was not so intent on grasping as Generosity was on giving. And God made all her goods increase, so that she did not know how to give away as much as she had. She was highly esteemed and praised. She had done so much with her fair gift that she held both fools and wise men completely in her power. As a result, I believe that if there were anyone who hated her, she would make a friend of him through her services to him. Therefore she had the love of both rich and poor at her will. The great man who is a miser is a great fool, and a man in high place can have no vice so harmful as avarice. A miserly can conquer neither lands nor lordship, for he does not have a plentiful supply of friends with whom he can work his will. Whoever wants to have friends must not love his possessions but must acquire friends by means of fair gifts; for, in the same way that the loadstone subtly draws iron to itself, so the gold and silver that a man gives attract the hearts of men. Generosity wore a completely new robe of Saracen purple. Her face was lovely and well formed, but her neck was disclosed, since, not long before, she had at that very place made a present her a neck-clasp to a lady. However, it did not suit her badly that her collar was open and her neck disclosed so that her soft flesh showed its whiteness across her shirt.

Generosity, worthy and wise, held the hand of a knight of the lineage of the good King Arthur of Britain who carried the banner and standard of valor. He is still of such renown that they tell stories of him before both kings and counts. The knight next to Generosity was but recently come from a tournament where he had made many an assault and jousted for his lover. He had uncircled many a green helmet, pierced many a bossed shield, and struck down many a knight and overcome him by strength and courage.
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PostSubject: The Commandments of Love   Fri Sep 18, 2009 2:00 pm

THE COMMANDMENTS OF LOVE from Guillaume de Lorris.

(In this extract, Love is a personified God allegory, and is giving the lover a set of rules which can also be applied to Chivalric codes. These poetic codes of courtesy could very well be the codes our dear guild has to follow... and respect.)


"First of all," said Love, "I wish and command that, if you not want to commit a wrong against me, you must abandon villainy forever. I curse and excommunicate all those who love villainy. Since villainy makes them base, it is not right that I love it. A villain is cruel and pitiless; he does not understand the idea of service or friendship.

"Next, guard well against repeating anything about other people which should be kept quiet. Slandering is not a good characteristic. Take for example the seneschal Kay: in former days he was hated on account of his jeers, and he had a bad reputation. Just as men praised Gawain, who was well trained, on account of his courtesy, so they blamed Kay because he was wicked and cruel, insolent and evil-tongued beyond all other knights.

"Be reasonable and easy to know, soft-spoken and just toward men of both high and low ranks. Cultivate the habit, when you go along the streets, of being the first to greet other people; if someone greets you first, before you have opened your mouth, take care to return his greeting without delay.

"Next, take care not to utter dirty words, or anything bawdy. You should never open your mouth to name anything base. I do not consider any man courteous who names anything that is filthy or ugly.

"Honor all women and exert yourself to serve them. If you hear any slanderer who goes around detracting women, take him to task and tell him to keep quiet. If you can, do something that is pleasing to ladies and girls, so that they will hear good reports told and retold about you. By this means you can rise in people's esteem.

"After all this, guard against pride, for pride, rightly understood and considered, is madness and sin. He who is tented with pride cannot bend his heart to serve nor to make an entreaty. The proud man does the contrary of what a pure lover should do.

"He, however, who wants to take trouble for love, must conduct himself with elegance. Elegance is not pride. One is worth more for being elegant, provided that he be empty of pride, so that he is neither foolish nor presumptuous. Outfit yourself beautifully, according to your income, in both dress and footwear. Beautiful garments and adornments improve a man a great deal. Therefore you should give your close to someone who knows how to do good tailoring, who will seat the seams well and make the sleeves fit properly. You should have fine laced shoes and small boots and get new ones often, and you must see that they are so close-fitting that the vulgar will go around arguing over the way you are going to get into or out of them. Deck yourself out with gloves, a belt, and a silk purse; if you are not rich enough to do so, the restrain yourself. You should, however, maintain yourself as beautifully as you can without ruining yourself. A chaplet of flowers that costs little, or of roses at Pentecost - everyone can have these, since great wealth is not required for them.

"Allow no dirt in your person: wash your hands and scrub your teeth. If the least black shows under your fingernails, don't let it remain there. Sew your sleeves and comb your hair, but do not rouge or paint your face, for such a custom only belongs to ladies or to men of bad repute, who have had the misfortune to find a love contrary to Nature. (NB: Wow, that is harsh... there was not really any Gay Pride back in the day, aye?)

"Nest, you should remember to keep a spirit of liveliness. Seek out joy and delight. Love cares nothing for a gloomy man. It's a courtly disease through which one laughs, plays, and has a good time. It is thus that lovers have hours of joy, and hours of torment. At one hour they feel that the sickness of love is sweet, at another bitter. The disease of love is very changeable. Now the lover is playful, now tormented, now desolated; at one hour he weeps and at another sings. If, then, you can produce some diverting entertainment by which you might be agreeable to people, I command you to do so. Everyone in all places should do what he knows suits him best, for such conduct brings praise, esteem, and gratitude.

"If you feel yourself active and light, don't resist the impulse to jump; if you are a good horseman, you should spur your mount over hill and dale; if you know how to break lances, you can gain great esteem by doing so; and if you are grateful at arms, you will be ten times loved for that quality. If you have a clear, sound voice and are urged to sing, you should not try to excuse yourself, for a beautiful song a very pleasing. Moreover, it is very advantageaous for a young fellow to know how to play the viol, to flute, and to dance. By these means he can further himself a great deal.

"Don't let yourself be thought miserly, for such a reputation could be very troublesome. It is fitting for lovers to give more freely of what they have than do than do those vulgar, stupid simpletons. No man who doesn't like to give can ever know anything about love. If anyone wants to take pains in loving, he must certainly avoid avarice, for he who, for the sake of a glance or a pleasant smile, has given his heart away completely should certainly, after so rich a gift, give his possessions away without any reserve.

"Now I want to recall briefly what I have told you so that you will remember, for a speech is less difficult to retain when it is short. Whoever wants to make Love his master must be courteous and without pride; he should keep himself elegant, and gay and be esteemed for his generosity."
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