Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

"God and Love do well agree" -- Troubadourish sentiments

It is of interest that as the vital Troubadour tradition broke down ((in the 13th century)), the poets turned more and more to the Virgin, at times paraphrasing the Ave Maria or imitating Latin liturgies. We find the old concentrations of love on the Lady turned towards the Virgin. The poet expresses the devotion of a knightly servant to her. The Virgin is all beautiful and amiable; she lifts the worshipper up to perfection and never lets down his hopes. With a minimum of retouches the old conventions are used. G. Riquier and Bernart de Panassac are examples of the turn to Mary. The Dominicans, who had been the Inquisitors destroying southern culture, were great propagandists of the Marian cult; and the poems on her multiply after 1250. Near the beginning of the fourteenth century the system of her seven sorrows, seven joys, her plaint at the foot of the Cross, has been worked out. The same process changed the dawnsong of lovers into one of religious symbolism. The night is the darkness of sin, the dawn is the day of Christ. Peire Espanhol exemplifies this sort of thing.

One effect of the social forces begetting the Marian cult was a certain humanisation of God. In both cases we can see an upsurge of deep pagan elements kept alive at the popular level, linked with fertilitycults and their offshoots. In the Virgin the Earth-mother reasserts her self, and God too is swayed over to acceptance of sensuous love. In La Lai de l’Oiselet the wise Bird declares: “This truth then is recalled by me: God and Love do well agree. God loves honour and courtesy; and Love they please most thoroughly. God hates disdain and Falsity. Love holds them base in every way. God hearkens to those who truly pray. And Love won’t turn from such away.” Such statements, made by the early thirteenth century, would have been unthinkable a century before, except perhaps in a defiant refrain.

-- Jack Lindsay, The Troubadours and their world


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