Excerpt from Guillaume de Lorris's thirteenth-century Roman de la Rose, taken from the Charles Dahlberg translation (University Press of N. England, 1986), pp. 61-63.
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.
Next, I ordain that night and day, in a penitential spirit and without turning back you place your thought on love, that you think of it always, without ceasing, and that you recall the sweet hour whose joy dwells so strongly in you. And in order that you may be a pure lover, I wish and command you to put your heart in a single place so that it be not divided, but whole and without deceit, for I do not like division. Whoever divides his heart among several places has a little bit of it everywhere. But I do not in the least fear him who puts his whole heart in one place; therefore I want you to do so. Take care, however, that you do not lend it, for if you had done so, I would think it a contemptible act; give it rather as a gift with full rights of possession, and you will have greater merit. The favor shown in lending something is soon returned and paid for, but the reward for something given as a gift should be great. Then give it fully and freely, and do so with an easy manner, for one must prize that which is given with a pleasant countenance. I would not give one pea for a gift that one gave in spite of himself.
When you have given your heart away, as I have been exhorting you to do, things will happen to you that are painful and hard for lovers to bear. Often, when you remember your love, you will be forced to leave other people so that they might not notice the suffering which racks you. You will go alone to a place apart; then sighs and laments, shivers, and many other sorrows will come to you. You will be tormented in several ways, one hour hot, another cold, ruddy at one time and pale at another. You have never had any fever as bad, neither daily nor quartan agues. Before this fever leaves you, you will indeed have tested the sorrows of love. Now it will happen many times, as you are thinking, that you will forget yourself and for a long time will be like a mute image that neither stirs nor moves, without budging a foot, a hand, or a finger, without moving your eyes or speaking. At the end of this time you will come back in your memory and will give a start of fright upon returning, just like a man who is afraid, and you will sigh from the depths of your heart, for you well know that thus do those who have tested the sorrows that now so torment you.
Next it is right for you to remember that your sweetheart is very far away from you. Then you will say: "Oh God, how miserable I am when I do not go where my heart is! Why do I send my heart thus along? I think constantly of that place and see nothing of it. I cannot send my eyes after my heart, to accompany it; and if my eyes do not do so, I attach no value to the fact that they see. Must they be held here? No, they should rather go to visit what the heart so desires. I can indeed consider myself a sluggard when I am so far from my heart. God help me , I hold myself a fool. Now I shall go; no longer will I leave my heart. I shall never be at ease until I see some sign of it." Then you will set out on your way, but under such conditions that you will often fail of your design and spend your steps in vain. What you seek you will not see, and you will have to return, thoughtful and sad, without doing anything more.
Then you will be in deep misery and be visited again by sighs, pangs, and shivers, that prick more sharply than a hedgehog. Let him who does not know this fact ask it of those who are loyal lovers. You will not be able to calm your heart, but will continue to go around trying to see by chance what you long for so much. And if you can struggle until you attain a glimpse, you will want to be very intent on satisfying and feasting your eyes. As a result of the beauty that you see, great joy will dwell in your heart; know too, that by looking you will make your heart fry and burn, and as you look you will always quicken the burning fire. The more anyone looks upon what he loves, the more he lights and burns his heart. This fat lights and keeps blazing the fire that makes men love. By custom every lover follows the fire that burns him and lights him. When he feels the fire from close by, he goes away by approaching closer. The fire consists in his contemplation of his sweetheart, who makes him burn. The closer he stays to her the more avid he is for love. Wise men and simpletons all follow this rule: he who is nearer the fire burns more. (line 2358)
return to syllabus