Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-pftt2 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-25T08:36:57.483Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

11 - The Intelligence of The Court of Love

from IV - Late Romance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 October 2019

Ad Putter
Affiliation:
Professor of Medieval English at the University of Bristol.
Get access

Summary

Many readers may know The Court of Love only by reputation. I first came across it in C. S. Lewis's Allegory of Love, where it appears in the chapter ‘Allegory as the Dominant Form’, which concerns itself with poems that came late in the tradition of medieval love allegory. The general problem with the latecomer, C. S. Lewis notes, is its tendency to trot out the tired conventions of the genre: ‘its characteristics are formalized. A stereotyped monotony, unnoticed by contemporaries but cruelly apparent to posterity, begins to pervade it.’ Many critics think that The Court of Love exemplifies these vices, but whether Lewis himself did so is not altogether clear. He certainly thought it was a very late composition. The poet, he says, ‘had read widely in the literature of courtly love, with the detachment of one studying a mode that has almost passed away’, but he also says the poem is ‘a lively piece, full of movement and gaiety’. How this fits in with his view of the poet as a detached latecomer we shall never know, because on this note the discussion of The Court of Love ends.

My purpose in this essay is to develop C. S. Lewis's words of praise for The Court of Love, and to make the case that it is an exuberantly witty poem and a genuine tour de force of allegorical writing – and this not in spite of its lateness but by virtue of it. Coming late in a tradition also makes things possible: it puts at the disposal of writers the resources of a rich poetic legacy and it gives them scope to pay tribute to literary predecessors by means of self-conscious imitation of their qualities. In the sections that follow I would like to take readers through the main episodes of The Court of Love, with the aim of showing both the closeness of the poet's engagement with his sources and his independence from them.

Because The Court of Love is not very well known, however, I want to begin with two basic questions about the poem: when was it written and by whom? Walter Skeat, who provided the first proper edition of the poem, had a wild theory (which he doggedly pursued in his notes) that the poem was a Renaissance product, and this ‘fact’ has often been repeated since.

Type
Chapter
Information
Romance Rewritten
The Evolution of Middle English Romance. A Tribute to Helen Cooper
, pp. 209 - 228
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2018

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×