Je vous choisis, noble loyal amour…
(Oton de Grandson, Le balade de saint Valentin, line 1)

Many poets in the medieval period sang songs of love in praise of their beloved and in thanksgiving to Saint Valentine, the patron of love and marriage. In this period the Valentine poem flourished in the work of Chaucer, Gower, de Grandson, Lydgate and Clanvowe, along with the eminent Christine de Pizan, who sang the praises of love initiated by women.
Je vous choisis, noble loyal amour…
(Oton de Grandson, Le balade de saint Valentin, line 1)

Many poets in the medieval period sang songs of love in praise of their beloved and in thanksgiving to Saint Valentine, the patron of love and marriage. In this period the Valentine poem flourished in the work of Chaucer, Gower, de Grandson, Lydgate and Clanvowe, along with the eminent Christine de Pizan, who sang the praises of love initiated by women.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

“For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh theere to chese his make [mate]…”
(Geoffrey Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowles, circa 1380)

Geoffrey Chaucer (1342/43–1400) brought together the imagery of blooming spring and the tradition that birds choose their mates in spring to describe the courtship of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. In The Parliament of Fowles Chaucer also chose Saint Valentine as a patron for that marriage, which is the first mention of Saint Valentine in a love poem. Also in the poem are other symbols of love which came to be associated with Saint Valentine’s Day: Cupid and Venus. Chaucer thus began a tradition of composing love poetry on Saint Valentine’s Day.
“For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh theere to chese his make [mate]…”
(Geoffrey Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowles, circa 1380)

Geoffrey Chaucer (1342/43–1400) brought together the imagery of blooming spring and the tradition that birds choose their mates in spring to describe the courtship of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. In The Parliament of Fowles Chaucer also chose Saint Valentine as a patron for that marriage, which is the first mention of Saint Valentine in a love poem. Also in the poem are other symbols of love which came to be associated with Saint Valentine’s Day: Cupid and Venus. Chaucer thus began a tradition of composing love poetry on Saint Valentine’s Day.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer



In Arthur Gilman, ed., The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 188–): frontispiece.

Photo Credit: Corey Chimko
Provincial Museum of Alberta

Engraving
© Provincial Museum of Alberta


“That women have such vices I deny;
I take my arms up in defense of them…”
(Christine de Pizan, Epistle to the God of Love, British Library, Harleian MS 4431)

Hailed as a proto-feminist, Christine de Pizan (circa 1364–circa 1431) railed against the misogynist view of love that had been promoted in Ovid and the Roman de la Rose. Such works filled her with a hatred of self “and of the entire feminine sex, as though we were monstrosities of nature.” Her response was Le Livre de la Cité des Dames (1405), which laid the foundation for a renewed interest in women, on women's terms. Using works that had often been used in misogynist ways, Christine highlighted the virtuous actions of the women therein, focusing on their steadfastness and nobility in the sphere of love.
“That women have such vices I deny;
I take my arms up in defense of them…”
(Christine de Pizan, Epistle to the God of Love, British Library, Harleian MS 4431)

Hailed as a proto-feminist, Christine de Pizan (circa 1364–circa 1431) railed against the misogynist view of love that had been promoted in Ovid and the Roman de la Rose. Such works filled her with a hatred of self “and of the entire feminine sex, as though we were monstrosities of nature.” Her response was Le Livre de la Cité des Dames (1405), which laid the foundation for a renewed interest in women, on women's terms. Using works that had often been used in misogynist ways, Christine highlighted the virtuous actions of the women therein, focusing on their steadfastness and nobility in the sphere of love.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Le Livre de la Cité des Dames de Christine de Pizan

Le Livre de la Cité des Dames de Christine de Pizan



On the left, the three royal ladies visiting Christine de Pizan represent Reason, Rectitude and Justice. On the right, Christine and Reason build a utopia for women.

Master of the Cité des dames
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits (division occidentale)
c. 1405
Illumination
12 x 18 cm
Français 607, fol. 2.
© Bibliothèque nationale de France


Never was I so overcome
By any love, nor in distress,
But now I’m conquered totally
By her good sense and honesty.
Fair is her body, clear her face,
White her hands, and her fingers long.
Gentle bearing, tender smile:
Well-formed she is, yes, everywhere.
I rarely see her

Travelling the French countryside in the 12th and 13th centuries, the troubadours of the south and trouvères of the north began the tradition of lauding the lady in song and verse. Proclaiming their subordination, service, and often suffering, the lively, playful songs of these poets celebrate the ultimate virtues of the lady. They refrain from insisting on the higher purposes of spiritual love, invoking instead the muses, emotions, and imagination.
Never was I so overcome
By any love, nor in distress,
But now I’m conquered totally
By her good sense and honesty.
Fair is her body, clear her face,
White her hands, and her fingers long.
Gentle bearing, tender smile:
Well-formed she is, yes, everywhere.
I rarely see her

Travelling the French countryside in the 12th and 13th centuries, the troubadours of the south and trouvères of the north began the tradition of lauding the lady in song and verse. Proclaiming their subordination, service, and often suffering, the lively, playful songs of these poets celebrate the ultimate virtues of the lady. They refrain from insisting on the higher purposes of spiritual love, invoking instead the muses, emotions, and imagination.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Minstrels Playing During a Banquet

Minstrels Playing During a Banquet



Drawing of detail from “La condamnation de Bancquet” in Musée Lorrain de Nancy. In J.F. Rowbotham, The Troubadours and Courts of Love (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1895): frontispiece.



The music and voices of the troubadours celebrate love in all its manifestations.

Photo Credit: Corey Chimko
Provincial Museum of Alberta
c. 1511
Tapestry
© Provincial Museum of Alberta


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
• Describe how romantic love has been an inspiration that has influenced literature in most cultures through the ages.
• Explain how literature has represented the ideal that love reveals and redeems the individual
• Describe how historically the notion of romance was broader than physical attraction and reached higher meanings such as courtly love in Medieval times and passionate and divine love in Biblical themes


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