Passion April 18, 2006

Stephen Jaeger’s wonderful Ennobling Love (1999) sets up some bizarre juxtapositions. On the one hand, here is Anselm of Bec writing to two novices about the join the monastic community: “My eyes eagerly long to see your face, most beloved; my arms stretch out to your embraces. My lips long for your kisses; whatever remains of my life desires your company, so that my soul’s joy may be full in time to come . . . . You have come, you have set me on fire; you have melted and fused my soul with yours; this soul of ours can now be rent asunder, it can never be separated.”

Jaeger doesn’t suggest that this is homosexual passion; but it is undeniably passionate, and expresses a man’s passion for other men. By contrast . . . .

here is a poem of Theodulf of Orleans:

Watch out for your own wife,
let her not corrupt your mind with temptations!
On your knees, hands, neck and cheeks
she will press sweet kisses mingled wtih soft words,
practised at spiking her prayers in the poison
with which the archer tirelessly equips his shafts.
If you are protected by a helmet of strongmindedness
which makes her see that her weapons bounce off it,
she will then retreat groaning and heave feigned sighs,
grieving that her prayers have no weight.
Soon a servant boy or a nurse or perhaps her lying little maid
will say: Why do you spurn my lady’s requests?
She will cast down her gaze and say with a muted sigh:
He whom I now see is the one I always honour,
whatever other women ask for, they get, for good or for ill,
but I am the one who gains none of her wishes.
They will tell her to make her request and run to kiss you,
and to you they will say: How can you bear to be so horrid to her?
But may your mind fight back as it would resist the return of an enemy;
be careful that a fresh onslaught does not see you beaten!

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