In the second half of the 11th century, the Aquitaine area of southern France gave birth to the Troubadours, wandering poets who sang of love for love’s sake. This was the time of the Arthurian legends, chivalry, and the ritual of courtly love, amidst the stoicism of forced marriages. For love and marriage were of two different orders, one did not marry for love. The latter arranged under the convention of economic gain, sanctioned by the church, the former, a game of patience and conquest and could mean death if lovers were found guilty of adultery.
“For the first time, people wrote extensively about love; courtly love, fine love, adulterous love, the love of the troubadours, ‘inaccessible’ love and respect for the woman. For the first time, the woman’s elevated to the level of the man and this is the most important thing in the culture and is perhaps the most symbolic thing about the cultural effervescence of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.”
Amidst the doctrines of the church or in spite of it, for the first time, female prowess is elevated as another inflection of love was openly celebrated, Amor, love directed toward another person, influenced by the oral poetry of the Troubadours.
When Amor is spelled backwards we have ‘Roma’ as to signify distinction from the fixed institution of marriage as dictated by the church. This was also the time of the Cathars and Gnostics. Given their writings of that time… the search for the Christ within, the ‘feminine’ powers in man, it is not surprising that the Troubadours were able to flourish.
Love is born for one individual, discriminating, not as a way toward enlightenment, not for financial gain and not born of lust but for reasons the heart in its wisdom only knows. It confronts the object of its desire through the senses of the eyes. This is the “noble or gentile heart” which is not of Heaven or of Hell but of the earth.
Since love cannot be fully realized on earth, agony and elation became the twin boundaries of Amor. For this reason, it is not for the faint of heart. And if you’re total desire is to swim in the waters of Divine bliss then turn away from this path.
Only a knight dares ‘la queste’ and the ‘aventiure.’
In this day, we each lay claim to the lyric narratives of these minstrels as we try to cast our poetry onto an unknowing damsel, or the tide turns and we find ourselves under the spell of a femme fatale. Even today, we still find ourselves under the influence of religion with regards to love and marriage and what constitutes marriage. It is clear that love is the mystery of mysteries but it was the Troubadours that stole it away from the church and gave it to the masses and as a result, we have never been the same.