The Romance de la Rose
this work, Chaucer translates one of the most popular in the Middle Ages.
It survives in over 200 manuscripts, many of which are richly illuminated.
It influenced many medieval poets such as Deschamps, Machaut and Froissart
as well as Chaucer.
Guillaume de Lorris wrote the first part (4058 lines) in about 1225.
This section sets the scene of Amant (the Lover) who approaches the beautiful,
walled Garden and finds amongst its many delights the Rose, protected
by thorns and guardians such as Daunger ‘rebuff’ and Amant,
who is is advised by Lady Reason. It is the archetypal courtly love story
of young love, set in May in a beautiful garden with those advising both
the Lady (the Rose) and the Lover how to conduct their affair. It is a
textbook of the laws of love which outlines how lovers should behave.
remaining 18,000 lines composed by Jean de Meun, an early 14th century
Parisian writer and intellectual. Written in Middle French in octosyllabic
rhyming couplets, the poem is important for being the first example in
French of both a sustained first-person narrative and of narrative allegory.
Begun in c.1225-40
and completed by c.1270-7, the poem is an encyclopedic,
dream vision about love, in
which a young man endeavours to possess the rosebud with which he has
become enamoured. In the course of his journey, he experiences just about
every kind of love possible. The tale ends, some 22,000 lines later, as
a battering ram bursts through the front gate of a castle, hardly the
romantic ending we might expect of sweet, gentle romance. On the other
hand, how else does one penetrate a maidenhead?
Middle English version, of which the first 1,705 lines were translated
by Chaucer, covers all of Guillaume's section and some 3,000 lines of
the second part. The original poem can be said to be the most important
single literary influence on Chaucer's writing.
is known about the writer of the first part of the poem, Guillaume de Lorris.
His charming and lyrical section relates the story of the narrator's dream; it
is a work of courtly love that has been praised for its perceptiveness in the
expression of character through allegorical symbols.
in the allegorical Garden of Delight (representing courtly society), the dreamer
meets the god of love, and consequently falls in love with a rosebud that he sees
while gazing into the fountain of Narcissus. The lover experiences a succession
of hopes and despairs, but although he eventually manages to kiss the rose, his
love is never truly consummated: his efforts are thwarted after Jealousy constructs
a fortified tower around the rose. It is possibly at this point that the poem
was meant to end.
Chaucer's interest in French literature: In
early 1360 Chaucer accompanied Lionel, the Earl of Ulster, on a military campaign
to France, where he was taken captive. He was ransomed by Edward III, king of
England. By 1367 the young Chaucer, then around 25, was a valettus--a sort of
squire or yeoman--in the king's court. Chaucer would have had some minor duties
such as serving and running small errands, and he would have had ample opportunity
to observe the doings of the court: the feasts, the hunting, the music, the visits,
the flirtations, the manners, the entertainments.
During this period Chaucer
tried his hand at poetry, imitating the work of French poets such as Froissart,
Machaut, de Meun, Granson, and Deschamps. Those who like to think of "periods"
in a writer's life can think of this time--up through the early 1370s--as Chaucer's
"French period." Given his French models, it was astonishing that Chaucer decided
to write poetry in his mother-tongue English rather than in French. To be sure,
there was some English poetry in existence, but it tended to be quite different
from what Chaucer was learning about in a London court that aspired to the language
and customs of France.
What little poetry there was in English tended to be
in a different dialect from his own and to be robustly alliterative rather than
delicately end-rhymed, and there is little evidence that Chaucer knew such poetry
or admired it. Although Chaucer wrote in English rather than in French, it is
fair to say that Chaucer's first poetic efforts tended to be tentative and imitative
rather than original. They can best be described as Englished French rather than
natively English. Indeed, Chaucer's first long poem was a faithful translation
of the French Roman de la rose.
Arden. The Romance of the Rose. Twayne's World Authors Series 791. Boston: Twayne
- Peter Allen, "The Ambiguity of Silence: Gender,
Silence, and Le Roman de Silence," in Sign, Sentence, Discourse: Language
in Medieval Thought and Literature, ed. Julian Wasserman and Lois Roney (Syracuse,
1989), pp. 198-212
- Aristotle, On the Soul; On Generation and Corruption
- John Benton, "Individualism and Conformity in Medieval Western Europe"
and "Consciousness of Self and Perceptions of Individuality," Culture, Power,
and Personality in Medieval France (Hambledon
S. Bernardo. "Sex and Salvation in the Middle Ages: From the Romance of the Rose
to the Divine Comedy." Italica 67 (1990): 305-318. [Heather M. Arden, in The Roman
de la Rose: An Annotated Bibliography, p. 273, item 582: "A general comparison
of the Rose and the Divine Comedy, especially in regard to the poets' opposing
conceptions of love. The author first shows how the Fiore rewrites the Rose in
malo (negatively) by stripping lust and carnality of non-essential elements; then
how the Divina commedia constitutes an 'antidote' to 'the lecherous and carnal
lovers' (309) of the preceding works. More specifically, many elements of the
Rose, such as flowers and the rose itself, are given spiritual meaning by Dante's
poem, which is 'a total deconstruction and reconstruction of the undisputed French
masterpiece of erotic allegory' (311)."]
- Gerald Bond, The Loving
Subject: Desire, Eloquence, and Power in Romanesque France (Pennsylvania,
- John Boswell, "The Triumph of Ganymede: Gay Literature of the High
Middle Ages," Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People
in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 243-66.
Brownlee and Sylvia Huot, eds. Rethinking the "Romance of the Rose": Text, Image,
Reception. Middle Ages Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
- Terry Castle, "The Apparitional Lesbian," The Apparitional
Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (New York and London: Columbia
University Press, 1993), Chap. 3, pp. 28-65.
- Ernst Robert Curtius, European
Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1948; rpt. Harper and Row, 1963)
V. Fleming. Reason and the Lover. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.
V. Fleming. The "Roman de la Rose": A Study in Allegory and Iconography. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1969.
- Elizabeth Grosz, "Refiguring Bodies"
and "Sexed Bodies," Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (Bloomington
and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994m Chaps. 1 and 8, pp. 3-26, 187-210.
- Alan M. F. Gunn. The Mirror of Love: A Reinterpretation
of "The Romance of the Rose." Lubbock: Texas Tech Press, 1952.
M. Hill. Medieval Debate on Jean de Meung's "Roman de la Rose." Studies in Medieval
Literature 4. Lewiston, NY; Queenston, ON; Lampeter, Dyfed, Wales: Edwin Mellen
- Thomas D. Hill, "Narcissus, Pygmalion, and the Castration
of Saturn," Studies in Philology 71 (1974): 404-26.
Hult. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Readership and Authority in the First "Roman
de la Rose." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
- Sylvia Huot
and Kevin Brownlee, eds., Rethinking the Romance of the Rose: Text, Image,
Reception (Pennsylvania, 1992).
- Sylvia Huot. The "Romance of the
Rose" and its Medieval Readers: Interpretation, Reception, Manuscript Transmission
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
- Sylvia Huot. "Seduction
and Sublimation: Christine de Pizan, Jean de Meun, and Dante," Romance Notes,
25 (1985): 361-73.
- Sarah Kay. The Romance of the Rose.
Critical Guides to French Texts 110. London: Grant and Cutler, 1995.
Kelly. Internal Difference and Meanings in the "Roman de la Rose." Madison: University
of Wisconsin Press, 1995.
- Maxwell Luria. A Reader's
Guide to the "Roman de la Rose." Hamden: Archon Books, 1982.
Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, trans. William H. Stahl (Columbia)
Heroides, Loeb Classical Library
- James Simpson, Sciences and
the Self in Medieval Poetry: Alan of Lille's "Anticlaudianus" and John Gower's
"Confessio Amantis" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
Stakel. False Roses: Structures of Duality and Deceit in Jean de Meun's "Roman
de la Rose." Stanford French and Italian Studies 69. Satatoga: Anma Libri, 1991.
- Martin Stevens, "The Performing Self in Twelfth Century Culture," Viator
9 (1978): 193-212.
- Virgil, Aeneid, Loeb Classical Library
Wetherbee. "The Literal and the Allegorical: Jean de Meun and the De planctu Naturae."
Mediaeval Studies 33 (1971): 264-291.