Art Studio and Life #57

Hello lovely family and friends

Even though it is not Valentine’s day, I’m pondering about romance after reading the legendary (non-Jedi) master C.S. Lewis’ book on medieval love poetry, The Allegory of Love. He, of all the people I have read, has made it clear to me that in order to understand the time in which we live, we need to know about world views of other times and peoples, so that we can see the wood from the trees.

Many people think that romantic love has always been a thing, after all, if you read Song of Solomon in the Bible, romantic love has been around for a long time. S of S is hot stuff: “Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin; not one of them is alone.” Song of Solomon 4.2

They knew a thing or two about romance.

Perhaps that was also because of Jewish purity laws, you only got to cuddle a week or two each month, so they were stoked for those rare times. Come to think of it though, that didn’t apply to Solomon with his 700 wives and 300 porcupines, I mean, concubines. Presumably he had his favourites among the hoard? Perhaps he would say to his eunuch, “I’ll have wotshername tonight. You know, the one with the hair like a flock of goats, and all her teeth.”

Anyway. Europe was way behind the curve in this respect. Before the 11th Century, they held the Roman view that the highest form of love was brotherly love between men. Every great story was a bro-mance. We manly men love each other, fight alongside each other, and heroically die together, like Terminator, but with poetry and hugging added.

Women, of course, were non-entities, so they didn’t bother writing about them.

It was actually considered pathetic and disgusting to love a wife romantically. Your sanity was questioned if you were too keen on a woman. And then later on it was considered sinful by the church. You would have to pop into the confessional to confess the hideous sin: “Forgive me father, for I have sinned, I have fallen in love with my wife.” And sex wasn’t sinful, unless you enjoyed it, then you too needed to do some confessing.

A wife was there to cement alliances and make babies. As soon as you married a woman, she became your inferior, and was a chattel, i.e. I own six cows and one wife. And, of course, you can’t fall in love with an inferior.

C. C. Lewis cites one exception to this – a left field 11th Century poem where the woman is actually named. Erec sees Enide in her father’s house and falls I love with her, perhaps when she is grooming his horse in obedience to her Dad’s command. He asks her father if he can marry her (she isn’t asked, of course, as a mere possession). This love poem continues and features many a time where Enide stays awake all night holding Eric’s horse, while he peacefully sleeps by the fire wrapped in her cloak.  What woman wouldn’t fall in love with a guy like that?

Then towards the end of the 11th Century, there was a shift in culture, as reflected in the poem Launcelot and courtly love became a thing. He refers to it as the feudalization of love. There was Lord and Lady and all these single knights in a court who had too much time on their hands. The Liege was a knights superior, and so was his Lady, so they were allowed to fall in love with her.  Courtly love features “Humility, Courtesy, Adultery, and the Religion of Love” and abject would-be lovers weeping and groveling on their knees before cruelly heartless (married) damosels, into whose bed they wish to gain admittance. The husband was not seen as a rival, no one bothered about him. And he wasn’t bothered either, perhaps because he was off serenading someone else’s wife. (My Cliff Notes version of the first few chapters of C.S.’s book.)  Their idea of a love story was somewhat different from our ideas today. 

Now, should you wish, you too can spend time pondering on the nature of romance through the ages.

So, this week, may you read a love story (e.g. Pride and Prejudice, just sayin’)! May you watch a love story (with or without assault weapons)! And may you love your cat!

XX Barbie

As I am painting in the lounge these days, I spread a large sheet of plastic over the carpet to collect splatters and to minimize the damage from those unfortunate times when one drops ones palette and steps in ones paint.

Someone had a great time crawling around under the plastic, and then settled down for a wee nap.

3 Comments

  1. Sarah vZ

    Cats! That is so funny

  2. Sarah vZ

    Thanks for the smile today Barbie! I needed it. And an interesting topic. So when did unrequited love stories turn into romantic love stories?

    • Barbara Podmore

      Good question Sarah! Looks like early 18th Century when marriage for love rather than for monetary/status/alliances became more of a thing.