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 The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love

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Lyssa
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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:07 am

Ritual Assimilation:

Erving Goffman wrote:
"The ritual order seems to be organized basically on ac­commodative lines, so that the imagery used in thinking about other types of social order is not quite suitable for it. For the other types of social order a kind of schoolboy model seems to be employed: if a person wishes to sustain a particular image of himself and trust his feelings to it, he must work hard for the credits that will buy this sel£­ enhaucement for him; should he try to obtain ends by improper means, by cheating or theft, he will be punished, disqualified from the race, or at least made to start all over again from the beginning. This is the imagery of a hard, dull game.

Facts are of the schoolboy's world-they can be altered by diligent effort but they cannot be avoided. But what the person protects and defends and invests his feelings in is an idea about himself, and ideas are vulnerable not to facts and things but to communications. Communica­ tions belong to a less punitive scheme than do facts, for communications can be by-passed, withdrawn from, disbe­ lieved, conveniently misunderstood, and tactfully con­veyed. And even should the person misbehave and break the truce he has made with society, punishment need not be the consequence. If the offense is one that the offended persons can let go by without losing too much face, then they are likely to act forbearantly, telling themselves that they will get even with the offender in another way at another time, even · though such an occasion may never arise and might not be exploited if it did. If the offense is great, the offended persons may withdraw from the en­ counter, or from future similar ones, allowing their with­ drawal to be reinforced by the awe they may feel toward someone who breaks the ritual code. Or they may have the offender withdrawn, so that no further communication can occur. But since the offender can salvage a good deal of face from such operations, withdrawal is often not so much an informal punishment for an offense as it is merely a means of terminating it. Perhaps the main principle of the ritual order is not justice but face, and what any offender receives is not what he deserves but what will sustain for the moment the line to which he has committed himself, and through this the line to which he has committed the interaction." [Interaction Ritual]


Erving Goffman wrote:
"Role is the_basic unit of socialization. It is through roles that tasks in society are allocated and arrangements made to enforce their per­formance.

The function of a role is the part it plays in the maintenance or destruction of the system or pattern as a whole, the terms eufunction and dysfunction sometimes being employed to distinguish the sup­ portive from the destructive efforts. Where the functional effect of a role is openly known and avowed, the term manifest function is some­ times employed ; where these effects are not regularly foreseen and, especially, where this foresight might alter effects, the term latent is sometimes used.

A concept that is often employed in the discussion of roles is that of commitment. I propose to restrict this term to questions of im­personally enforced structural arrangements. An individual becomes committed to something when, because of the fixed and interdepend­ent character of many institutional arrangements, his doing or being this something irrevocably conditions other important possibilities in his life, forcing him to take courses of action, causing other persons to build up their activity on the basis of his continuing in his current undertakings, and rendering him vulnerable to unanticipated conse­ quences ofthese undertakings. He thus becomes locked into a position and coerced into living up to the promises and sacrifices built into it. Typically, a person will become deeply committed only to a role he regularly performs, and it is left to gallants, one-shot gamblers,​ ​and the foolhardy to become committed to a role they do not per­form regularly.

The self-image available for anyone entering a particnlar position is one ofwhich he may become affectively and cognitively enamored desiring and expecting to see himself in terms of the enactment of the role and the self-identification emerging from this enactment. I will speak here of the individual becoming attached to his position and its role, adding only that in the case of larger social units - groups, not positions - attachment is more likely to have a selfless component.
An appreciation can grow up concerning how attached an 'individual ought properly to be to a particular role, giving rise to the possibility that, compared to this moral norm, a performer may be overattached to his role or alienated from it." [Encounters]


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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:09 am

Institutionalization or Sheltering:

Erving Goffman wrote:
"Whatever his position in society, the person insulates himself by blindnesses, half-truths, illusions, and rationali­zations. He makes an "adjustment" by convincing himself, with the tactful support of his intimate circle, that he is what he wants to be and that he would not do to gain his ends what the others have done to gain theirs. And as for society, if the person is willing to be subject to informal social control-if he is willing to find out from hints and glances and tactful cues what his place is, and keep it­ then there will be no objection to his furnishing this place at his own discretion, with all the comfort, elegance, and nobility that his wit can muster for him. To protect this shelter he does not have to work hard, or join a group, or compete with anybody; he need only be careful about the expressed judgments he places himself in a position to witness. Some situations and acts and persons will have to be avoided; others, less threatening, must not be pressed too far. Social life is an uncluttered, orderly thing be­ cause the person voluntarily stays away from the places and topics and times where he is not wanted and where he might be disparaged for going. He cooperates to save his face, finding that there is much to be gained from ventur­ing nothing." [Interaction Ritual]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:33 am

Add to the 'Arabic Influence', J.-Xt. misogyny, and extend the arrow down to libertarianism and modern terrorism:

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(I don't approve of this blog in its entirety, just here and there.)
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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Fri Jan 23, 2015 6:51 pm

Xt. misogyny and hatred of the body resulting simultaneously in reactive whoredom and goddess-idealization,, is where liberty and chivalry respectively merge, in its political form we know as Libertarianism;

Quote :
"Of course, the most important argument for the legalization of prostitution services is that such prohibitions violate one’s most basic and inherent rights. Prostitution is the voluntary sale (or rental) of a labor service. Individuals own their own bodies and their own labor services and have the absolute right to decide how those labor services should be used. As long as the prostitution transaction is voluntary, there is no justification for governmental interference. Indeed, such interference constitutes an infringement of the privacy and personal liberty of the individuals involved." [Paul Armentano]

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Consequence:




Universal Xt. Human rights becoming a conflict between self-liberty of the prostitute and the imposed-liberty of the protective virgin mother - between anarchism and secular humanism both invoking the same J.-Xt.

Any encroachment of this universal human rights is a 'rudeness', and calls for 'chivalry' which is the Civil word for Terrorism.
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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Fri Jan 23, 2015 7:38 pm

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Quote :
"Knights and nobleman also exhibited pagan symbols upon their armor and garb during pilgrimages and battles. During the medieval era it was common for knights to utilize typically pagan symbols and allot them religious or spiritual value and meaning, allowing them to then serve similar purposes as traditional religious pictures and icons. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight showcases the use of traditionally pagan symbols as religiously important as he is described to have on his shield “the pentangle portrayed in purest of gold” (Sir Gawain and the Greeen Knight, Lines 620). This symbol was a five pointed star drawn in one continuous and linking line rejoining itself (Boroff 18). This star is a traditionally non-religious emblem that was given magical and religious associations in medieval times. The symbol often ceased to be simply a pagan emblem, and was instead said to represent the five wounds of Jesus during his crucifixion, thus allotting it religiosity and transforming it into a religious emblem (Rose 109).


The pentangle that Sir Gawain adopted as his coat of arms on his shield, gold on a red background, has several different interprative meanings depending on the context. In the story, Sir Gawain adoption of the pentangle as his own personal symbol makes the pentangle yet another religious icon adorning a knight’s possessions, as Sir Gawain wore the symbol on his person: “On shield and coat in view/ He bore that emblem bright” (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Line 636). The five pointed star dressed the front of his shield and the arm of his coat, and was therefore evident that he held high regard for its symbolism and meaning. Religiously, the pentacle's five points have been known to represent the five wounds of Christ, symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, the five virtues of knighthood:  “generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety” (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Line 663). This pagan, or religious, symbol therefore represents virtues and ideal characteristics of a knight, and its presence on his armor and clothing serves as reminders and assurance of his honor and virtues as a knight. Therefore, this symbol, like many other symbols utilized by knights and soldiers, were taken and used to represent a knight’s particular religious beliefs for the purpose of protection, physical remembrance and reverence to religious beings, or personal representation of one’s own values and aspirations as a pious and chivalric virtues of a knight (Boroff 18). The pentangle was also known to represent the five joys of Mary: The Annunciation, Nativity, Ressurection, Ascension, and Assumption (Rose 110). As Gawain is a knight of the Church, it is likely that the pentangle represents all of these things; however, foremost the five joys of Mary, as Sir Gawain is specifically a Knight of the Blessed Virgin, having her image painted on the inside of his shield so he may look upon it and retain his knightly virtues.

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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:25 pm

The other side... Stoic origin of Civility, Courtesy, etc. that co-mingled with Xt.


Verecundia


Quote :
"As the combined testimony of these texts suggests, verecundia animates the art of knowing your proper place in every social transaction and basing your behavior on that knowledge; by guiding behavior in this way, verecundia establishes or affirms the social bond between you and others, all of whom (ideally) play complementary roles. Most fully, this means that you will each gauge your standing relative to the others; you will each present yourself in a way that at least will not give offense—for example, by confrontation or importunity—and that preferably will signal your full awareness of the oth- ers’ face, the character they wear in the transaction and the respect that that character is due; and you will stop short of overtly pressing your full claims, yet not be excessively self-effacing—not obliterate your own face, the char- acter you are wearing and the respect that it is due. This is the script, the sequence of interlocking motives and moves, that someone experiencing verecundia—a verecundus person—enacts; by enacting that script, the verecundus person draws a line for the self to observe, in settings where no such line is drawn by formal or external authority, where he or she must improvise a performance as a well-socialized person.

The etymological link between verecundia and the verb vereri, and so verecundia’s grounding in a kind of fear: to be verecundus is to feel, or to be disposed to feel, vere-, as being iracundus (“angry,” “wrathful”) is to feel, or to be disposed to feel, ira.6 This fear is not dread or gut-wrenching anxiety, much less terror or panic. Rather, it is the fear suggested by the English words “wary” and “worry” (there is no etymological link among the three, tant pis): a mild and strategic sort of fear, which manifests itself above all in circumspection and the wish to avoid drawing attention to oneself in an improper way or to an improper degree. As just indicated, this emotion can be experienced in two different forms, an “occurrent” form and a “dispositional” form.

When I report that I am experiencing verecundia in its occurrent form, I mean to convey that I am experiencing a fully embodied worry about mishan- dling (in particular ways) a specific interpersonal transaction already in progress, a form of fearful self-consciousness that at least in some instances approximates our being and feeling flustered or embarrassed. By contrast, if I say that I am dispositionally a verecundus person (though, being such, I prob- ably would never say that), I mean that I tend as a general matter to be wary about mishandling (in particular ways) interpersonal transactions whenever they might occur: my self-description conveys that I am the sort of person much inclined to experience the occurrent form of verecundia and am habitually sen- sitive to contexts that arouse it. In this same way, iracundia (iracundus), in com- mon Latin usage, can convey either the disposition to feel ira—“irascibility,” “wrathfulness”—or the occurrent emotion itself. Because the disposition so readily leads to an embodied experience of the emotion proleptically, “at the very thought,” the dispositionally verecundus person tends to live with the foretaste of this form of worry at the back of his throat, as the more generally fearful person chronically tastes a more generalized fear and as the dispositionally iracundus person lives with the fore- taste of anger: life habitually lived as one of these sorts of person (or as a sort that combines two or more of these sorts) simply “feels different” from a life lived as some other sort. It is such habituation, too, that causes emotional dispositions to be counted among the abiding ethical traits that we commonly call virtues and vices.  

To turn now to verecundia in action, we can say that the simplest social product of verecundia is what might be called “ignorability”: not being invisible, quite, but being seen to claim the minimum amount of social space needed to carry out a given line of action. This is a social virtue that most of us manage to practice most of the time—as when we amble down a city street without making a spectacle of ourselves or colliding with the odd passerby

Cultivating ignorability has two complementary aims that are also two of the basic effects of verecundia: avoiding offense to others, by avoiding improper assertion of the self... others—and which by avoiding offense to others succeeds in pro- tecting the self and its value.

Whereas it is the role of iustitia not to “violate” others—not to do them obvious, even violent, harm—it is the role of verecundia not to “offend” them.

Implied here is that it fundamentally rests with the others to set the bounds of propriety and to define the degree to which, or the means by which, you can extend your self: you have offended me if I believe that you have offended me, and that means that you can never be completely sure before the fact— hence the wariness and the worry. This is one of the distinctions between verecundia and iustitia, insofar as the latter, concerned with iniuria, belongs more to the realm of objectively determinate violations and the workings of positive law.

Because the opportunities for offense are so rich and varied, the self-monitoring that verecundia entails is constant; because this constant monitoring makes it an emotion of self-attention and self-assessment—like our pride, shame, or embarassment—verecundia was understood by the Romans to differ from other forms of fear in the way it was embodied, being marked not by the pallor asso- ciated with timor or metus but by the blush associated with pudor.

Beyond being an emotion that social life prompts, verecundia itself is crucial to making social life possible. This role for the emo- tion was implied by Cicero’s comments in On Appropriate Actions remarked earlier, and it is made explicit early in Book 2 of the same work: the gathering of humans in cities led to the creation of customs and formal law (leges moresque constituti), to equity and a fixed way of life (iuris aequa discriptio certaque viv- endi disciplina); on these there followed the effects of what we call socializa- tion—gentleness of spirit (mansuetudo animorum) and verecundia—and so the mutuality that makes life secure and supportable (“ut esset vita munitior atque ut dando et accipiendo mutandisque facultatibus et commodis nulla re egeremus”).

The mutuality of verecundia, the way that its wariness looks both to the self and to the other—to the extent of seeing the matter as the other sees it — is the essence of the emotion as a force of social cohesion. I cannot gauge where I stand relative to you unless I first consider where you stand; and while considering your standpoint does not strictly entail considering your viewpoint, it certainly exerts pressure in that direction. He will do it verecunde modiceque, with restraint and with proper regard for the face that both he and his opponent are wearing. His own face is determined here by his relationship with his client, as a “loyal and reliable friend”; the attack he is about to deliver is both required by that relation and the means for making the relation plain in this context.

The concern with face that we see here moving in both directions can have different emphases in different circumstances, being directed now more toward the self, now more toward the other. Sometimes the concern is pre- dominantly with your own face, when what matters most is to avoid what a slightly archaic English turn of phrase calls “being out of countenance”—that is, having reason to be abashed.

Quintilian illustrates this point when he connects verecundia with the job of advocates who find they must shade the truth in setting out and explaining the facts of a case in a way favorable to their side. Some such “false expositions” rely on devices (instrumenta) external to the advocate’s argument (for example, witnesses who provide a false alibi), while others rely solely on the wit (ingenium) of the advocate who makes up the story. That is where verecundia enters in: the crucial question is how big a whopper the advocate can tell without blushing—that is why (Quintilian adds in an etymological aside) this spinning of the facts is called a “color,” because it can bring a blush to the cheeks. An advocate in that position, we can take it, could blush for one of two reasons, not mutually exclusive: becoming aware that others were looking at him (or anticipating that others would look at him) with frank disbelief, he would see himself being seen as a liar and so be unable to maintain the face of an honest man; or as the burden of falsehood became more than he himself could bear, he would see himself as a liar and so be unable to maintain the face of an honest man even in his own eyes.

A second example, by contrast, expressly involves the threat to your face that results from failure to feel verecundia in the proper way.

As William Ian Miller remarks, “Our own embarrassment is often our best indication that we have judged others to be humiliating themselves”: not look- ing such people in the face is the only means left to us for helping them save face—as we wish to do just because we are decent people—and so we avert our glance.

Verecundia operates in circumstances where there is in principle a choice to be made as to whose interests will be put to the fore and whose will be restrained: as we have frequently seen, it implies a voluntary stepping back from pressing one’s own interest (at a minimum) or a voluntary privileging of the interests of the other. For soldiers, however, issues of self- restraint, self-expression, and respect are not left to be sorted out by some haphazardly socialized emotion: the line that verecundia informally draws for us in civil society is more reliably drawn for the soldier by the chain of command and, ultimately, by the commander’s imperium, his power to demand obedience (obsequium) on pain of death.

Slaves and soldiers aside, then, we are all called upon to exercise our verecundia to make our civil community a livable place. Even the emperor is expected to be verecundus, assuming he has any claim on being a “civil prince” (princeps civilis): as the younger Pliny tells Trajan again and again, his willing- ness to speak and walk with members of the senate, as merely one man among other men, is one of the traits that most distinguishes him from certain vile predecessors. And, to the extent that the virtues of civil society are just the virtues of the household writ large, we can say that verecundia begins at home.

Verecundia, as an emotion, animates the art of knowing your proper place in every social transaction and binds the free members of a civil community, exerting its force both vertically, across the different ranks of society, and horizontally, among members of comparable status." [Robert Caster, Emotion, Restraint, and Community in Ancient Rome]
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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Sat Jun 06, 2015 2:09 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], tr. by Ezra Pound.


Quote :
Sonnet I

YOU, who do breach mine eyes and touch the heart,
And start the mind from her brief reveries,
Might pluck my life and agony apart,
Saw you how love assaileth her with sighs,
And lays about him with so brute a might
That all my wounded senses turn to flight.
There's a new face upon the seigniory,
And new is the voice that maketh loud my grief.
Love, who hath drawn me down through devious ways,
Hath from your noble eyes so swiftly come!
'T is he hath hurled the dart, wherefrom my pain,
First shot's resultant! and in flanked amaze
See how my affrighted soul recoileth from
That sinister side wherein the heart lies slain.


Quote :
Sonnet II

I SAW the eyes, where Amor took his place
When love's might bound me with the fear thereof,
Look out at me as they were weary of love.
I say: The heart rent him as he looked on this.
And were't not that my Lady lit her grace,
Smiling upon me with her eyes grown glad,
Then were my speech so dolorously clad
That Love should mourn amid his victories.
The instant that she deigned to bend her eyes
Toward me, a spirit from high heaven rode
And chose my thought the place of love's verities
That all Love's powers did my sight accost
As though I'd won unto his heart's mid-most.


Quote :
Sonnet III

O LADY mine, doth not thy sight allege
Him who hath set his hand upon my heart,
When parched responses from my faint throat start
And shudder for the terror of his edge?
He was Amor, who since he found you, dwells
Ever with me, and he was come from far;
An archer is he as the Scythians are
Whose only joy is killing someone else.
My sobbing eyes are drawn upon his wrack,
And such harsh sighs upon my heart he casteth
That I depart from that sad me he wasteth,
With Death drawn close upon my wavering track,
Leading such tortures in his sombre train
As, by all custom, wear out other men.


Quote :
Quote :
Sonnet IV

IF I should pray this lady pitiless
That Mercy to her heart be no more foeman,
You'd call me clownish, vile, and say that no man
Was so past hope and filled with vanities.
Where find you now these novel cruelties?
For still you seem humility's true leaven.
Wise and adorned, alert and subtile even,
And fashioned out in ways of gentleness.
My soul weeps through her sighs for grievous fear
And all those sighs, which in the heart were found,
Deep drenched with tears do sobbing thence depart,
Then seems that on my mind there rains a clear
Image of a lady, thoughtful, bound
Hither to keep death-watch upon that heart.


Quote :
Sonnet IV (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

To a Friend who does not pity his Love
IF I entreat this lady that all grace
Seem not unto her heart an enemy,
Foolish and evil thou declarest me,
And desperate in idle stubbornness.
Whence is such cruel judgement thine, whose face,
To him that looks thereon, professeth thee
Faithful, and wise, and of all courtesy,
And made after the way of gentleness?
Alas! my soul within my heart doth find
Sighs, and its grief by weeping doth enhance,
That, drowned in bitter tears, those sighs depart:
And then there seems a presence in the mind,
As of a lady's thoughtful countenance
Come to behold the death of the poor heart.


Quote :
Sonnet V

LADY, my most rash eyes, the first who used
To look upon thy face, the power-fraught,
Were, Lady, those by whom I was accused
In that harsh place where Amor holdeth court.
And there before him was their proof adduced,
And judgment wrote me down: "Bondslave" to thee,
Though still I stay Grief's prisoner, unloosed,
And Fear hath lien upon the heart of me.
For the which charges, and without respite,
They dragged me to a place where a sad horde
Of such as love and whom Love Tortureth
Cried out, all pitying as I met their sight,
"Now art thou servant unto such a Lord
Thou'lt have none other one save only Death."


Quote :
Sonnet VI

THOU fill'st my mind with griefs so populous
That my soul irks him to be on the road.
Mine eyes cry out, "We cannot bear the load
Of sighs the grievous heart sends upon us."
Love, sensitive to thy nobility,
Saith, "Sorrow is mine that thou must take thy death
From this fair lady who will hear no breath
In argument for aught save pitying thee."
And I, as one beyond life's compass thrown,
Seem but a thing that's fashioned to design,
Melted of bronze or carven in tree or stone.
A wound I bear within this heart of mine
Which by its mastering quality is grown
To be of that heart's death an open sign.


Quote :
Sonnet VII

Who is she coming, drawing all men's gaze,
Who makes the air one trembling clarity
Till none can speak but each sighs piteously
Where she leads Love adown her trodden ways?
Ah God! The thing she's like when her glance strays,
Let Amor tell. "T is no fit speech for me.
Mistress she seems of such great modesty
That every other woman were called "Wrath."
No one could ever tell the charm she hath
For toward her all the noble Powers incline,
She being beauty's godhead manifest.
Our daring ne'er before held such high quest;
Be ye! There is not in you so much grace
That we can understand her rightfully.


Quote :
Quote :
Sonnet VIII

AH why! why were mine eyes not quenched for me,
Or stricken so that from their vision none
Had ever come within my mind to say
"Listen, dost thou not hear me in thine heart?"
Fear of new torments was then so displayed
To me, so cruel and so sharp of edge
That my soul cried, "Ah mistress, bring us aid,
Lest th' eyes and I remain in grief always."
But thou hast left them so that Amor cometh
And weepeth over them so piteously
That there's a deep voice heard whose sound in part
Turned unto words, is this: "Whoever knoweth
Pain's depth, let him look on this man whose heart
Death beareth in his hand cut cruciform."

Quote :
Sonnet VIII (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

Of his Pain from a new Love
WHY from the danger did mine eyes not start,--
Why not become even blind,--ere through my sight
Within my soul thou ever couldst alight
To say: "Dost thou not hear me in thy heart?"
New torment then, the old torment's counterpart,
Filled me at once with such a sore affright,
That, Lady, lady, (I said,) destroy not quite
Mine eyes and me! O help us where thou art!
Thou hast so left mine eyes, that Love is fain--
Even Love himself--with pity uncontroll'd
To bend above them, weeping for their loss:
Saying: "If any man feel heavy pain,
This man's more painful heart let him behold:
Death has it in her hand, cut like a cross."


Quote :
Sonnet IX

I AM reduced at last to self compassion,
For the sore anguish that I see me in;
At my great weakness; that my soul hath been
Concealed beneath her wounds in such a fashion:
Such mine oppression that I know, in brief,
That to my life ill's worst starred ills befall;
And this strange lady on whose grace I call
Maintains continuous my stour of grief,
For when I look in her direction,
She turns upon me her disdeigning eyen
So harshly that my waiting heart is rent
And all my powers and properties are spent,
Till that heart lieth for a sign ill-seen,
Where Amor's cruelty hath hurled him down.


Quote :
Sonnet X

ALAS, my spirits, that ye come to find me
So painful, poor, waylaid in wretchedness,
Yet send no words adorned with deep distress
Forth from my mind to say what sorrows bind me.
Alas, ye see how sore my heart is wounded
By glance, by fair delight and by her meekness;
'Las! Must I pray ye that ye aid his weakness,
Seeing him power-stripped, naked, confounded.
And now a spirit that is noble and haut
Appeareth to that heart with so great might
That all th' heart's virtues turn in sudden flight.
Woe! and I pray you greet my soul as friend,
Who tells through all her grief what things were wrought
On her by Love, and will be to the end.


Quote :
Sonnet XI

IF Mercy were the friend of my desires,
Or Mercy's source of movement were the heart,
Then, by this fair, would Mercy show such art
And power of healing as my pain requires.
From torturing delight my sighs commence,
Born of the mind where Love is situate,
Go errant forth and naught save grief relate
And find no one to give them audience.
They would return to the eyes in galliard mode,
With all harsh tears and their deep bitterness
Transmuted into revelry and joy;
Were't not unto the sad heart such annoy,
And to the mournful soul such rathe distress
That none doth deign salute them on the road.


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Sonnet XII

THE grace of youth in Toulouse ventureth;
She's noble and fair, with quaint sincerities,
Direct she is and is about her eyes
Most like to our Lady of sweet memories.
So that within my heart desirous
She hath clad the soul in fashions peregrine.
Pilgrim to her he hath too great chagrin
To say what Lady is lord over us.
This soul looks deep into that look of hers,
Wherein he rouseth Love to festival,
For deep therein his rightful lady resteth.
Then with sad sighing in the heart he stirs,
Feeling his death-wound as that dart doth fall
Which this Tolosan by departure casteth.
Concerning the source, the affects and the progeny of the little spirit of pure love:

Born of the perception of beauty, he arouseth that power of the mind whence is born that quality of love which ennobleth every sense and every desire; misunderstanded of base minds who comprehend not his power, he is the cause of that love in woman which teacheth modesty. Thus from him is born that love in woman whence is born Mercy, and from Mercy "as a gentle rain from heaven" descend those spirits which are the keys of every spirit, perforce of the one spirit which seeth.

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Sonnet XII (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

Of the Eyes of a certain Mandetta, of Thoulouse, which resemble those of his Lady Joan, of Florence

A CERTAIN youthful lady in Thoulouse,
Gentle and fair, of cheerful modesty,
Is in her eyes, with such exact degree,
Of likeness unto mine own lady, whose
I am, that through the heart she doth abuse
The soul to sweet desire. It goes from me
To her; yet, fearing, saith not who is she
That of a truth its essence thus subdues.
This lady looks on it with the sweet eyes
Whose glance did erst the wounds of Love anoint
Through its true lady's eyes which are as they.
Then to the heart returns it, full of sighs,
Wounded to death by a sharp arrow's point
Wherewith this lady speeds it on its way.


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Sonnet XIII

SUBTLE the spririt striking through the eyes
Which rouseth up a sprit in the mind
Whence moves a spirit unto love inclined
Which breeds in other sprites nobilities.
No turbid spirit hath the sense which sees
How greatly empowered a spirit he appeareth;
He is the little breath which that breath feareth,
Which breedeth virginal humilities.
Yet from this spirit doth another move
Wherein such tempered sweetness rightly dwells
That Mercy's spirit followeth his ways,
And Mercy's spirit as it moves above
Rains down those spirits that ope all things else,
Perforce of One who seeth all of these.


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Sonnet XIV

SURELY thine intellect gives no embrace
To him who hath bred this day's dishonesty;
How art thou shown for beggared suddenly
By that red spirit showing in thy face!
Perhaps it is some love within thee breedeth
For her who's folly's circumspection,
Perhaps some baser light doth call thee on
To make thee glad where mine own grief exceedeth.
Thou art my grief, my grief to such extent
That I trust not myself to meet Milady,
Starving myself of what Love sweetest lent me
So that before my face that key's forbent
Which her disdeign turned in my heart and made me
Suitor to wrath and sadness and lamenting.


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Sonnet XV

THOU hast in thee the flower and the green
And that which gleameth and is fair of sight,
Thy form is more resplendent than sun's sheen;
Who sees thee not, can ne'er know worth aright.
Nay, in this world there is no creature seen
So fashioned fair and full of all delight;
Who fears Amor, and fearing meets thy mien,
Thereby assured, he solveth him his fright.
The ladies of whom thy cortèconsisteth
Please me in this, that they've thy favour won;
I bid them now, as courtesy existeth,
Holding most dear thy lordship of their state,
To honour thee with powers commensurate,
Sith thou art thou, that art sans paragon.


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Sonnet XVI

To Guido Orlando

THIS most lief lady, where doth Love display him
So full of valour and so vestured bright,
Bids thy heart "Out!" He goes and none gainsay him;
And he takes life with her in long delight.
Her cloister's guard is such that should you journey
To Ind you'd see each unicorn obey it;
Its armed might against thee in sweet tourney
Cruel riposteth, thou canst not withstay it.
Though she be surely in her valliancies
Such that she lacks not now worth's anything,
Still I believe her to be mortal creature;
Whence seems it, that (and here some foresight is)
If thou wert made aware of this, thou'ldst bring
Her to partake somewhat of some such nature.
Concerning Pinella, he replies to a sonnet by Bernardo da Bologna and explains why they have sweet waters in Galicia (Liscian).

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Sonnet XVI (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

To Guido Orlando

In Praise of Guido Orlandi's Lady
A LADY in whom love is manifest--
That love which perfect honour doth adorn--
Hath ta'en the living heart out of thy breast,
Which in her keeping to new life is born:
For there by such sweet power it is possest
As even is felt of Indian unicorn:[1]
And all its virtue now, with firce unrest,
Unto thy soul makes difficult return.
For this thy lady is virtue's minister
In suchwise that no fault there is to show,
Save that God made her mortal on this ground.
And even herein His wisdom shall be found:
For only thus our intellect could know
That heavenly beauty which resembles her.
[1] In old representations, the unicorn is seen often with his head in a virgin's lap.


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Sonnet XVII

NOW every cool small spring that springeth sweetly
Takes clarity and virtue in Liscian climes,
Bernard my friend, from one sole source, discretely:
'T is she who answereth thy sharpened rimes.
For in that place where Love's reports are laid
Concerning all who to his sight are led,
He saith that this so gracious and fair maid
Hath to herself all graces gatherèd.
Whereas my grief in this is grown more grave
And sighs have turned me to one light and flame,
I send my burning heart, in her acclaim
Unto Pinella, upon a magic stream
Where fairies and their fair attendants gleam,
In this wrecked barque! where their show is so brave!


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Sonnet XVIII

BEAUTY of woman, of the knowing heart,
And courtly knights in bright accoutrement
And loving speeches and the small birds' art,
Adorned swift ships which on high seas are sent,
And airs grown calm when white the dawn appeareth
And white snow falling where no wind is bent,
Brook-marge and mead where every flower flareth,
And gold and silver and azure and ornament:
Effective 'gainst all these think ye the fairness
And valour of my Lady's lordly daring?
Yea, she makes all seem base vain gathering,
And she were known above whome'er you'd bring
As much as heaven is past earth's comparing;
Good seeketh out its like with some address.
He suggests to his kinsman Nerone that there may be one among all the Buondelmonti of whom they might in time make a man.

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Sonnet XIX

NEWS have I now for thee, so hear, Nerone,
How that the Buondelmonti shake with fear,
And all the Florentines can not assure them,
Seeing thou hast in thee the lion-heart.
They fear thee more than they would fear a dragon,
Seeing that face of thine, how set it is
That neither bridge nor walls could hold against it
Lest they were strong as is King Pharo's tomb.
Oh how dost of smoky sins the greatest
In that thou wouldst drive forth such haughty blood
Till all be gone, gone forth without retention.
But sooth it is, thou might'st extend the pawn
Of one whose soul thou mightest give salvation
Wert thou more patient in thine huckstering.

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Sonnet XX

SO vilely is this soul of mine confounded
By strife grown audible within the heart
That is toward her some frail Love but start
With unaccustomed speed, she swoons astounded.
She is as one in whom no power aboundeth;
Lo, she forsakes my heart through fearfulness,
And any seeing her, how prone she is,
Would deem her one whom death's sure cloak surroundeth.
Through th' eyes, as through the breach in wall, her foes
Came first to attack and shattered all defense,
Then spoiled the mind with their down-rained blows.
Whoe'er he be who holdeth joy most close
Would, should he see my spirit going hence,
Weep for the pity and make no pretense.
(Cf. Sonnet I)


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Sonnet XXI

THE DRED SPIRIT

THOU mayest see, who seest me face to face,
That most dred spirit whom Love summoneth
To meet with man when a man meets with Death;
One never seen in any other case.
So close upon me did this presence show
That I thought he would slay my heart his dolour
And my sad soul clad her in the dead colour
That most accords the will and ways of woe.
Then he restrained him, seeing in true faith
The piteous lights forth-issue from your eyes
The which bore to my heart their foreign sweetness,
While the perceptive sense with subtle fleetness
Rescued those others[1] who had considered death
The one sure ending for their miseries.
[1] The senses or the spirits of the senses.


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Sonnet XXII

To Dante, in answer to the first sonnet of the Vita Nuova.

THOU sawest, it seems to me, all things availing,
And every joy that ever good man feeleth.
Thou wast in proof of that lord valorous
Who through sheer honour lords it o'er the world.
Thou livest in a place where baseness dieth,
And holdest reason in the piteous mind;
So gently move the people in this sleep
That the heart bears it 'thout the feel of grief.
Love bore away the heart, because in his sight
Was Death grown clamorous for one thou lovest,
Love fed her with thy heart in dread of this,
Then, when it seemed to thee he left in sadness,
A dear dream was it which was there completed
Seeing it contrary came conquering.
Note: Dante, Vita Nuova III. "The true significance of the dream was not then seen by anyone."


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Sonnet XXIII

To Dante, rebuking him for his way of life after the death of Beatrice.

I DAILY come to thee uncounting times
And find thee ever thinking over vilely;
Much doth it grieve me that thy noble mind
And virtue's plenitude are stripped from thee;
Thou wast so careless in thy fine offending,
Who from the rabble alway held apart,
And spoke of me so straightly from the heart
That I gave welcome to thine every rime.
And now I care not, sith thy life is baseness
To give the sign that thy speech pleaseth me,
Nor come I to thee in guise visible,
Yet if thou'It read this Sonnet many a time,
That malign spirit which so hunteth thee
Will sound forloyn[1] and spare thy affrighted soul.
[1] The recall of the hounds.


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Sonnet XXIV

DANTE, I pray thee, if thou Love discover
In any place where Lappo Gianni is,--
If't irk thee not to move thy mind in this,
Write me these answered: Doth he style him "Lover?";
And, "Doth the lady seem as one approving?"
And, "Makes he show of service with fair skill?";
For many a time folk made as he is, will
To assume importance, make a show of loving.
Thou know'st that in that court where Love puts on
His royal robes, no vile man can be servant
To any lady who were lost therin;
If servant's suff'ring doth assistance win,
Our style could show unto the least observant,
It beareth mercy for a gonfalon.

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Sonnet XXIV (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

He mistrusts the Love of Lapo Gianni
I PRAY thee, Dante, shouldst thou meet with Love
In any place where Lapo then may be,
That there thou fail not to mark heedfully
If Love with lover's name that man approve;
If to our Master's will his lady move
Aright, and if himself show fealty:
For ofttimes, by ill custom, ye may see
This sort profess the semblance of true love.
Thou know'st that in the court where Love holds sway
A law subsists, that no man who is vile
Can service yield to a lost woman there.
If suffering aught avail the sufferer,
Thou straightway shalt discern our lofty style
Which needs the badge of honour must display.


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Sonnet XXV

"Hoot Zah!!!"

COME, come Manetto, look upon this scarecrow
And set your mind upon its deformations,
Compute th' extent of its sad abberrations,
Say what it looks like where she scarcely dare go!
Nay, were she in a cloak most well concealèd
And snugly hooded and most tightly veiled
If, by her, daylight should once be assailed
Though by some noble woman partly healèd,
Still you could not be so sin-laden or quite
So bound by anguish or by love's abstractions
Nor so enwrapped in naked melancholy
But you were brought to deathly danger, solely
By laughter, till your sturdy sides grew fractions,
'Struth you were dead, or sought your life in flight.


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Sonnet XXVI

OF LOVE IN A DEAD VISION

Nay, when I would have sent my verses to thee
To say how harshly my heart is oppressed,
Love in an ashen vision manifest
Appeared and spake: "Say not that I foredo thee,
For though thy friend be he I understand
He will not yet have his mind so enured
But that to hear of all thou hast endured,
Of that blare flame that hath thee 'neath its hand,
Would blear his mind out. Verily before!
Yea, he were dead, heard, life, ere he should hear
To the last meaning of the portent wrought.
And thou; thou knowest well I am Amor
Who leave with thee mine ashen likeness here
And bear away from thee thine every thought."


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Sonnet XXVII

WERE I that I once was worthy of Love
(Of whom I find naught now save the remembrance)
And if the lady had another semblance,
Then would this sort of sign please me enough.
Do thou, who art from Love's clear realm returned,
Where Mercy giveth birth to hopefulness,
Judge as thou canst from my dim mood's distress
What bowman and what target are concerned.
Straining his arc, behold Amor the bowman
Draweth so gaily that to see his face
You'd say he held his rule for merrriment,
Yet hear what's marvelous in all intent:
The smitten spirit pardoneth his foeman
Which pardon doth that foeman's power debase.
Anyone who can, from the text as it stands, discern
what happens to whom in the final lines of this
sonnet, is at liberty to emend my translation.

Quote :
Sonnet XXVII (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

If I were still that man, worthy to love,
Of whom I have but the remembrance now,
Or if the lady bore another brow,
To hear this thing might bring me joy thereof.
But thou, who in Love's proper court dost move,
Even there where hope is born of grace,--see how
My very soul within me is brought low:
For a swift archer, whom his feats approve,
Now bends the bow, which Love to him did yield,
In such mere sport against me, it would seem
As though he held his lordship for a jest.
Then hear the marvel which is sorriest:--
My sorely wounded soul forgiveth him,
Yet knows that in his act her strenth is kill'd.


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Sonnet XXVIII

A LOVE-LIT glance with living powers fraught
Renewed within me love's extreme delight,
So love assils me with unwonted might,
And cordially he driveth me in thought
Towards my lady with whom 'vaileth not
Mercy nor pity nor the suffering wrought,
So oft and great, her torments on me fall
That my heart scarce can feel his life at all.
But when I feel that her so sweet regard
Passeth mine eyes and to the heart attaineth
Setting to rest therein spirits of joy,
Then do I give her thanks and without retard;
Love asked her to do this, and that explaineth
Why this first pity doth no annoy.

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Sonnet XXIX

DANTE, a sigh, that's the heart's messenger
Assailed me suddenly as I lay sleeping,
Aroused, I fell straightaway into fear's keeping,
For Love came with that sigh as curator.
And I turned straight and saw the servitor
Of Monna Lagia, who came there a-crying,
"Ah pity! Aid me!" and at this his sighing
I took from Pity this much power and more.
That I found Love a-filing javelins
And asked him of both torment and solution,
And in this fashion came that Lord's replies:
"Say to the servant that his service wins.
He holds the Lady to his pleasure won.
If he'd believe it, let him watch her eyes."

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Sonnet XXIX (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

He reports, in a feigned Vision, the successful Issue of Lapo Gianni's Love
DANTE, a sigh that rose from the heart's core
Assailed me, while I slumbered suddenly:
So that I woke o' the instant, fearing sore
Lest it came thither in Love's company:
Till, turning, I beheld the servitor
Of Lady Lagia: "Help me," so said he,
"O help me, Pity." Though he said no more,
So much of Pity's essence entered me,
That I was ware of Love, those shafts he wields
A-whetting, and preferred the mourner's quest
To him, who straightway answered on this wise:
"Go tell my servant that the lady yields,
And that I hold her now at his behest:
If he believe not, let him note her eyes."

Quote :
Sonnet XXX

I FEAR me lest unfortune's counter thrust
Pierce through my throat and rip out my despair.
I feel my heart and that thought shaking there
Which shakes the aspen mind with his distrust,
Seeming to say, "Love doth not give thee ease
So that thou canst, as of a little thing,
Speak to thy Lady with full verities,
For fear Death set thee in his reckoning.
By the chagrin that here assails my soul
My heart's parturèd of a sigh so great
It cryeth to the spirits: "Get ye gone!"
And of all piteous folk I come on none
Who seeing me so in my grief's control
Will aid by saying e'en: "Nay, Spirits, wait!"

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Quote :
Sonnet XXXI

YOU, who within your eyes so often carry
That Love who holdeth in his hand three arrows,
Behold my spirit, by his far-brought sorrows,
Commends to you a soul whom hot griefs harry.
A mind thrice wounded she[1] already hath,
By this keen archer's Syrian shafts twice shot.
The third, less tautly drawn, hath reached me not,
Seeing your presence is my shield 'gainst wrath.
Yet this third shot had made more safe my soul,
Who almost dead beneath her members lies;
For these two arrows give three wounds in all:
The first: delight, which payeth pain his toll,
The second brings desire for the prize
Of that great joy which with the third doth fall.
[1] i.e. The Soul. I have kept the Italian gender in those few sonnets where there is no danger of confusing "her," the soul, with the subjects of other feminine pronouns.

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Sonnet XXXI (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

He speaks of a third love of his
O THOU that often hast within thine eyes
A Love who holds three shafts,--know thou from me
That this my sonnet would commend to thee
(Come from afar) a soul in heavy sighs,
Which even by Love's sharp arrow wounded lies.
Twice did the Syrian archer shoot, and he
Now bends his bow the third time, cunningly,
That, thou being here, he wound me in no wise.
Because the soul would quicken at the core
Thereby, which now is near to utter death,
From those two shafts, a triple wound that yield.
The first gives pleasure, yet disquieteth;
And with the second is the longing for
The mighty gladness by the third fulfill'd.

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Sonnet XXXII

To Cecco

If Santalena does not come unto you
Down in the plow-lands where the clods are hard,
But falls into the hands of some hot clod-pole
Who'll wear her out and hardly then return her;
Then tell me if the fruit which this land beareth
Is born of draught or heat or from the dampness,
And say what wind it is doth blight and wither
And which doth bring the tempest and the mist.
Say if it please you when at break of morning
You hear the farmer's workman bawling out
And all his family meddling in the noise?
Egad! I think that if your sweet Bettina
Beareth a mellow spirit in her heart
She'll rescue you once more from your last choice.

Quote :
Sonnet XXXIII

WITH DEATH

DEATH who art haught, the wretched's remedy,
Grace! Grace! hands joined I do beseech it thee,
Come, see and conquer for worse things on me
Are launched by love. My senses that did live,
Consumèd are and quenched, and e'en in this place
Where I was galliard, now I see that I am
Fallen away, and where my steps I misplace,
Fall pain and grief; to open tears I nigh am.
And greater ills He'd send if greater may be.
Sweet Death, now is the time thou may'st avail me
And snatch me from His hand's hosility.
Ah woe! how oft I cry "Love tell me now:
Why dost thou ill only unto thine own,
Like him of hell who maketh the damned groan?"


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Sonnet XXXIV

AMORE and Mona Lagia and Guido and I
Can give true thanks unto Ser Such-a-one
Who hath now ridded us of Know-you-who?
I'll name no name for I'd have it forgotten.
And these three people have no wish for it
Though they were servants to him in such wise
That they, in sooth, could not have served him more
Had they mistaken him for God himself.
Let Love be thanked who was first made aware,
And then give thanks unto the prudent lady
Who at Love's instance hath called back her heart;
Then thanks to Guido[1] who's not here concerned
And to me too who drove him back to virtue,
If then he please me, think it not perchance.
[1] i.e. Guido Orlando.

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Sonnet XXXIV (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation)

On the Detection of a false Friend[1]

LOVE and the Lady Lagia, Guido and I,
Unto a certain lord are bounded all,
Who has released us--know ye from whose thrall?
Yet I'll not speak, but let the matter die:
Since now these three no more are held thereby,
Who in homage at his feet did fall
That I myself was not more whimsical,
In him conceiving godship from on high.
Let Love be thanked the first, who first discern'd
The truth; and that wise lady afterward,
Who in fit time took back her heart again;
And Guido next, from worship wholly turn'd;
And I, as he. But if ye have not heard,
I shall not tell how much I loved him then.
[1] I should think, from the mention of Lady Lagia, that this might refer again to Lapo Gianni, who seems (one knows not why) to have fallen into disgrace with his friends. The Guido mentioned is probably Guido Orlandi.


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Sonnet XXXV

To Guido Orlando

He explains the miracles of the madonna of Or San Michele, by telling whose image it is.

MY Lady's face it is they worship there.
At San Michele in Orto, Guido mine,
Near her fair semblance that is clear and holy
Sinners take refuge and get consolation.
Whoso before her kneeleth reverently
No longer wasteth but is comforted;
The sick are healed and devils driven forth,
And those with crooked eyes see straightway straight.
Great ills she cureth in an open place,
With reverence the folk all kneel unto her,
And two lamps shed the glow about her form.
Her voice is borne out through far-lying ways
'Till brothers minor cry: "Idolatry,"
For envy of her precious neighborhood.

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Sonnet XXXV (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's traslation)

To Guido Orlandi

Of a consecrated image resembling his Lady

GUIDO, an image of my lady dwells
At San Michele in Orto, consecrate
And duly worshipped. Fair in holy state
She listens to the tale each sinner tells:
And among them that come to her, who ails
The most, on him the most doth blessing wait.
She bids the fiend men's bodies abdicate;
Over the curse of blindness she prevails,
And heals sick languors in the public squares.
A multitude adores her reverently:
Before her face two burning tapers are;
Her voice is uttered upon paths afar.
Yet through the Lesser Brethren's[1] jealousy
She is named idol; not being one of theirs.

[1] The Franciscans, in profession of deeper poverty and humility than belonged to other Orders, called themselves Fraires minores.

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Sat Jun 06, 2015 2:14 pm

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:32 pm

This is really good.

Zizek unwittingly makes apparent the connections between Xt., Courtly love, and the Culture of Victims; he being a Xt.-communist:


Zizek wrote:
"In this duality of private and public sphere is rooted woman's splitting into Mother and Whore. Woman is not Mother and Whore. but the same woman is Mother in the private sphere and Whore in the public sphere - and the more she is Mother in the private sphere. the more she is Whore in the public one. In other words, contrary to appearances, the division Mother/Whore does not concern the difference of content (positive characteristics that oppose the two figures) , but is of a purely formal nature - that is to say, it designates the two inscriptions, the two modalities, of one and the same entity. Its ideological co-ordinates become clear the moment we relate them to the male's splitting into Adventurer, destroyer of the family in the private sphere, and Ethical Hero in the public sphere: woman qua Mother (the reliable support of the family) involves the opposition to man qua dislocated Adventurer (in contrast to feminine substantial inertia and steadiness, man is active, reaching outside, transcending himself, the family frame restricts him, he is ready to put everything at risk - in short, he is Subject) ; whereas woman qua dislocated Whore (superficial, unsteady, unreliable, a being of delusive appearance) involves the opposition to man qua agency of ethical reliability (man's word is his bond, he is the very embodiment of reliable symbolic commitment, he possesses the proper spiritual depth in contrast to feminine prattle . . .) . We thus obtain a double opposition: female Substance against male Subject and female Appearance against male Essence. Woman stands for substantial fullness and for the fickleness of Appearance; man stands for the disruptive force of negativity and for the uprightness of Essence. These four terms, of course, form a Greimasian semiotic square.

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Man subordinates his relationship to a woman to the domain of ethical goals (forced to choose between woman and ethical duty - in the guise of professional obligation, etc. - he immediately opts for duty) , yet he is simultaneously aware that only a relationship with a woman can bring him genuine 'happiness' or personal fulfilment. His 'wager' is that woman will be most effectively seduced precisely when he does not subordinate all his activity to her - what she will be unable to resist is her fascination with his 'public' activity - that is, her secret awareness that he is actually doing it for her. What we have here is the inverted libidinal economy of courtly love: in courtly love I devote myself directly to the Lady, I posit my serving her as my supreme Duty, and for that reason woman remains a cold, indifferent, capricious Despot, an 'inhuman partner' (Lacan) with whom a sexual relationship is neither possible nor really desirable, whereas here I render the sexual relation­ship possible precisely by not positing it as my explicit goal...

This paradox emerges in almost every melodrama that interprets the man's readiness to sacrifice his beloved for the (public) Cause as the supreme proof of his love for her - that is, of how 'she is everything to him'. The sublime moment of recognition occurs when the woman finally realizes that the man has left her for the sake of his love for her. An interesting variation on this theme is offered by Vincente Minnelli's version of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

In this precise sense the phallus is the signifier of castration: 'symbolic castration' is ultimately another name for the paradox of 'states that are essentially by-products': if we are to achieve fulfilment through phallic enjoyment, we must renounce it as our explicit goaL In other words, true love can emerge only within a relationship of 'partnership' that is animated by a different, non-sexual goal (see the novels of Marguerite Duras) . Love is an unforeseeable answer of the real: it (can) emerge(s) 'out of nowhere' only when we renounce any attempt to direct and control its course." [Metastases of Enjoyment]


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Zizek wrote:
"Compassion for the victim is precisely a way to avoid the unbearable pressure of this gaze - how? The examples of 'compassion with the sufef ring in Bosnia' that abound in our media illustrate perfectly Lacan's thesis on the 'reflexive' nature of human desire: desire is always desire for a desire. That is to say, what these examples display above all is that compassion is the way to maintain the proper distance towards a neighbour in trouble. Recently, the Austrians organized a large scale action of collecting aid for ex-YUgoslavia under the motto 'Nachbar im Not!

(Neighbour in trouble! ) ' - the underlying logic of this motto was clear to everyone: we must pay so that our neighbour will remain a neighbour, at a proper distance, and will not come to us. In other words, our compassion, precisely in so far as it is ' sincere' , presupposes that in it, we perceive ourselves in theform that wefind likeable: the victim is presented so that we like to see ourselves in the position from which we stare at her. . . .

'liVhat, then, is the status of the notrmous Balkan 'archaic ethnic passions ' usually evoked apropos of the war in Bosnia ?

In For They Know Not 'liVhat They Do, I discussed the well-known story of an anthropological expedition trying to contact a wild tribe in the New Zealand jungle who allegedly danced a terrible war dance in grotesque death-masks. When they reached the tribe in the evening, they asked them to dance it for them, and the dance performed the next morning did in fact match the description; satisfied, the expedition returned to civilization and wrote a much-praised report on the savage rires of the primitives. Shortly afterwards, however, when another expedition reached this tribe and learned to speak their language properly, it was shown that this terrible dance did not exist in itself at all: in their discussions with the first group of explorers, the aborigines somehow guessed what the strangers wanted and quickly, in the .night following their arrival, invented it especially for them, to satisfy their demand. . . . In short, the explorers received their own message back from the aborigines in its inverted, true form.

Therein consists the lure to be dispelled if one is to understand what the YUgoslav crisis is about: there is nothing autochthonous in its 'ethnic conflicts', the gaze of the West was included in them from the very beginning - David Owen and companions are today's version of the expedition to the New Zealand tribe; they act and react exactly in the same way, overlooking how the entire spectacle of 'old hatreds suddenly erupting in their primordial cruelty' is a dance staged for their eyes, a dance for which the West is thoroughly responsible.

So why does the West accept this narrative ofthe 'outburst of ethnic passions'?

For a long time, the 'Balkans' have been one of the privileged sites of phantasmic invesunents in politics. Gilles Deleuze said somewhere: 'si vous etes pris dans Ie reve de l'autre, vous etes foutu' - ifyou are caught up in another person's dream, you are lost. In ex-Yugoslavia, we are lost not because of our primitive dreams and myths preventing us from speaking the enlightened language of Europe, but because we pay in flesh the price of being the stuff of others ' dreams. The fantasy which organized the perception ofex-Yugoslavia is that of 'Balkan' as the Other of the West: the place of savage ethnic conflicts long since overcome by civilized Europe; a place where nothing is forgotten and nothing learned, where old traumas are replayed again and again; where the symbolic link is simultaneously devalued (dozens of ceasefires are broken) and overvalued (primitive warrior notions of honour and pride) .

Against this background, a multitude of myths have flourished. For the 'democratic Left', Tito's Yugoslavia was the mirage of the 'third way' of self-management beyond capitalism and state-socialism; for the delicate men ofculture itwas the exotic land ofrefreshing folkloric diversity (the films of Makavejev and Kusturica) ; for Milan Kundera, the place where the idyll of Mitteleuropa meets oriental barbarism; for the Western Realpolitik of the late 1 980s, the disintegration of Yugoslavia functioned as a metaphor for what might happen in the Soviet Union; for France and Great Britain, it resuscitated the phantom of the German fourth Reich disturbing the delicate balance of European politics; behind all this lurked the primordial trauma of Sarajevo, of the Balkans as the gunpowder threatening to set the whole of Europe alight. . . . Far from being the Other of Europe, ex-YUgoslavia was, rather, Europe itself in its Otherness, the screen on to which Europe projected its own repressed reverse .

How, then, can we not recall, apropos of this European gaze on the Balkans, Hegel's dictum that true Evil resides not in the object perceived as bad, but in the innocent gaze which perceives Evil all around? The principal obstacle to peace in ex-YUgoslavia is not 'archaic ethnic passions' but the very innocent gaze of Europe fascinated by the spectacle of these passions. Against today's journalistic commonplace about the Balkans as the madhouse of thriving nationalisms, where rational rules of behaviour are suspended, one must point out again and again that the moves of every political agent in ex-YUgoslavia, reprehen­ sible as they may be, are totally rational within the goals they want to attain - the only exception, the only truly irrational factor in it, is the gaze of the West babbling about archaic ethnic passions.

Why is the West so fascinated by the image of Sarajevo, this city-victim par excellence ?

Without the libidinal economy of this victimization, it is not possible to account for what has gone on in the last two years in Sarajevo.

The very geographic location of the city is significant: Sarajevo is distant enough not to be perceived as part of Western Europe proper; it is tinged by the exotic Balkan mystique, yet it is close enough to make us shudder at the thought of it (a permanent theme of the European media is 'Just think, this is not some distant Third World country - here, so dose to the heart of Europe, less than two hours' flight from us, such horrors occur! ' ) . How, then, did the West proceed in this case?

As Alenka Zupancic, a member of the Slovene Lacanian inner party circle, elaborated in a perspicacious analysis, the West provided just enough humanitarian aid for the city to survive, exerted just enough pressure on the Serbs to prevent them from occupying the city; yet this pressure was not strong enough to break the siege and allow the city to breathe freely - as if the unavowed desire was to preserve Sarajevo in a kind of atemporal freeze, between the two deaths, in the guise of a living dead, a victim eternalized in its sufef ring. Long ago Lacan drew our attention to the fundamental feature of the Sadeian fantasy, the eternalization of sufef ring: the victim - usually a young, beautiful, innocent woman - is endlessly tortured by decadent aristocrats. yet she miraculously retains her beauty and does not die, as if. beyond or beneath her material body. she possesses another. ethereal. sublime body. The body of Sarajevo is treated as just such a fantasy-body. eternalized in the fixity of its suffering. outside time and empirical space.

Of special interest here is the general framework that underlies this perception of Sarajevo: Sarajevo is but a special case of what is perhaps the key feature of the ideological constellation that characterizes our epoch of the worldwide triumph of liberal democracy: the universal­ ization ofthe notion ofvictim. The ultimate proof that we are dealing here with ideology at its purest is provided by the fact that this notion ofvictim is experienced as extra-ideological par excellence: the customary image of the victim is that of an innocent-ignorant child or woman paying the price fOf politico-ideological power struggles. Is there anything more 'non-ideological' than this pain of the other in its naked, mute, palpable presence? Does not this pain render all ideological Causes trifling? This perplexed gaze of a starved or wounded child who just stares into the camera, lost and unaware of what is going on around them - a starved Somali girl, a boy from Sarajevo whose leg has been butchered by a grenade - is today the sublime image that cancels out all other images, the ultimate scoop that all photo-reporters are after.

Victimization is thus universalized; it reaches from sexual abuse and harassment to the victims of AIDS, from the cruel fate of the homeless to those exposed to cigarette smoke, from the starving children in Somalia to the victims of the bombardment of Sarajevo, from the suffering animals in the laboratories to the dying trees in the rainforest. It is part of the public image of a movie or rock star to have his or her favoured victim: Richard Gere has the people of Tibet, victims of Communist rule; Elizabeth Taylor has AIDS victims; the late Audrey Hepburn had the starving children in Somalia; Vanessa Redgrave has children who suffer in the ex-YUgoslav civil war; Sting has the rainforest - up to the ageing Brigitte Bardot in France, concerned with the cruel fate of animals killed for their skins. . . . The case of Vanessa Redgrave is exemplary here - the diehard Trotskyite who has suddenly started to speak the language of abstract victimization, shunning, as the vampire shuns a string of garlic, a concrete analysis of the politics that led to the horrors in Bosnia. No wonder that by far the biggest classical music hit in recent years (two million CDs sold in Europe alone) is Henryk Gorecki's Third Symphony, a large lamentation on the fate of all possible victims quite adequately subtitled 'Symphony of Sorrowful Songs'. Philosophy itself was quick to contribute to this universal victimization: in his Contingency, Irony and Solidarity Richard Rorty, the philosopher of liberal-democratic pluralism, defines man as such as a potential victim, as 'something that can be hurt'.

So what is wrong here - what does thisfantasy-image ofthe victim conceal?

The fantasy-image, its immobilizing power of fascination, thwarts our ability to act - as Lacan put it, we ' traverse the fan tasy' by way of an act. The 'postmodern' ethics of compassion with the victim legitimizes the avoidance, the endless postponement, of the act. All 'humanitarian' activity of aiding the victims, all food, clothes and medicine for Bosnians, are there to obfuscate the urgency of the act. The multitude of particular ethics thatthrivetoday (the ethics ofecology, medical ethics ...) is to be conceived precisely as an endeavour to avoid the true ethics, the ethics of the ACT as real. What we encounter here is again the genuinely dialectical tension between the universal and the particular: far from simply exemplifying the universality to which it belongs, the particular entertains an antagonistic relationship towards it. An d does not the same hold for the posunodern assertion of the multitude of subject-positions againstthespectreoftheSubject (denouncedastheCartesianillusion)? So the much-advertised liberal-democratic ' right to difference ' and anti-Eurocentrism appear in their true light: the Third World other is recognized as a victim - that is to say, in so far as he is a victim The true object of anxiety is the other no longer prepared to play the role of victim - such an other is promptly denounced as a 'terrorist', a 'fundamentalist', and so on. The Somalis, for example, undergo a true Kleinian splitting into a 'good' and a 'bad' object - on the one hand the good object: passive victims, suffering, starving children and women; on the other the bad object: fanatical warlords who care more for their power or their ideological goals than for the welfare of their own people. The good other dwells in the anonymous passive universality of a victim - the moment we encounter an actual/active other, there is always something with which to reproach him: being patriarchal, fanatical, intolerant. . . .

This ambiguous attitude towards the victim is inscribed into the very

foundations of modern American culture; it is discernible inJohn Ford's Searcher's as well as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver: in both cases the hero endeavours to deliver the feminine victim from the clutches of the evil Other (American Indians, the corrupted pimp) , yet the victim seems to resist her own deliverance, as if she finds an incomprehensible enjoy­ ment in her very suffering. Is not de Niro's (Travis's) violent passage a l'acte in Taxi Driver an outburst by means of which the subject circum­ vents the deadlock of a victim that resists the imposed deliverance? Is not the same libidinal deadlock at the roots of the trauma ofVietnam, where the Vietnamese also somehow resisted American help? And - last but not least - is it not possible to discern the same ambiguity in the 'politically correct' male obsession with the woman as victim of sexual harassment? Is not this obsession driven by an unacknowledged fear that woman might somehow enjoy the harassment; that she might not be able to retain a proper distance towards it? Are we not thus dealing, once again, with the fear of feminine enjoyment? (Incidentally, one of the inherent contradictions of PC deconstructionists is that although, on the level of the enunciated content, they know very well that no subject, not even the most loathsome racist or sexist, is fully responsible (and therefore guilty) for his acts - that is to say, 'responsibility' is a legal fiction to be deconstructed - they none the less, at the level of the subjective position of enunciation, treat racists and sexists as fully responsiblefor their acts.)

The universalization of the notion of victim thus condenses two aspects. On the one hand there is the Third World victim: compassion with the victim of local warlords-fanatics-fundamentalists frames the
liberal-democratic (mis)perception of today's Great Divide between those who are In (included in the law-and-order society of welfare and human rights) and those who are Out (from the homeless in our cities to starving Mricans and Asians). On the other hand, the parallel victimization of the subjects of liberal-democratic societies indicates the shift in the predominant mode of subjectivity towards what is usually designated as 'pathological Narcissism': the Other as such is more and more perceived as a potential threat, as encroaching upon the space of my self-identity (by smoking, by laughing too loudly, by casting a covetous glance at me . . . ) . It is not difficult to ascertain what this attitude desperately endeavours to elude: desire as such, which, as we know from Lacan, is always the desire of the Other. The Other poses a threat in so far as it is the subject of desire, in so far as it radiates an impenetrable desire that seems to encroach upon the secluded balance of my 'way of life'.

Marx distinguished 'classic' bourgeois political economy (Ricardo) from 'apologetic' political economy (Malthus and onwards): the 'clas­sics' rendered visible the inherent antinomies of the capitalist economy, whereas the 'apologists' swept them under the carpet. Mutatis mutandis, the same could be claimed for liberal-democratic thought: it reaches a kind of greatness when it displays the inherent antinomian character of the liberal-democratic project. This antinomy concerns above all the relationship between universalism and particularism: the liberal univer­ salist 'right to difference' encounters its limit the moment it stumbles against an actualdifference. Suffice it to mention clitoridectomy to mark a woman's sexual maturity, a practice that pertains in parts of Eastern Mrica (or - a less extreme case - the insistence of Muslim women in France on wearing the veil in state schools) : what if a minority group claims that this 'difference' is an indispensable part of its cultural identity and, consequently, denounces opposition to clitoridectomy as an exercise in cultural imperialism, as the violent imposition of Euro­ centric standards? How are we to decide between the competing claims of an individual's rights and group identity when group identity accountsfor a substantial part of the individual's self-identity? The standard liberal answer, of course, is: let the woman choose whatever she wants, on condition that she has been properly acquainted with the range of alternative choices, so that she is fully aware of the wider context of her choice. The illusion here resides in the underlying implication that there is a neutral way of acquainting the individual with the full range of alternatives: the threatened particular community necessarily experiences the concrete mode of this acquisition of knowledge about alternative lifestyles (obligatory education, for example) as a violent intervention that threatens its identity. (For that reason, the Amish in the USA resist obligatory education for their children: they are quite justified in pointing out that state school attendance corrodes their group identity.) In short, there is no way to avoid violence: the very neutral medium of information that should enable a truly free choice is already branded by an irreducible violence." [Metastases]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Tue Aug 04, 2015 2:18 pm

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: The Nonsense of Chivalry, Courtesy and the Invention of Western Romantic Love Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:12 pm

Zizek wrote:
"Why talk about courtly love [l'amour courtois] today, in an age of permissiveness when the sexual encounter is often nothing more than a 'quickie' in some dark corner of an office? The impression that courtly love is out of date, long superseded by modern manners, is a lure blinding us to how the logic of courtly love still defines the parameters within which the two sexes relate to each other. This claim, however, in no way implies an evolutionary model through which courtly love would provide the elementary matrix out of which we generate its later, more complex variations. Our thesis is, instead, that history has to be read retroactively: the anatomy of man offers the key to the anatomy of the ape, as Marx put it. It is, only with the emergence of masochism, of the masochist couple, towards the end of the last century that we can now grasp the libidinal economy of courtly love.

The first trap to be avoided apropos of courtly love is the erroneous notion of the Lady as the sublime object: as a rule, one evokes here the process of spiritualization, the shift from raw sensual coveting to elevated spiritual longing. The Lady is thus perceived as a kind of spiritual guide into the higher sphere of religious ecstasy, in the sense of Dante's Beatrice. In contrast to this notion, Lacan emphasizes a series offeatures which belie such a spiritualization: true, the Lady in courtly love loses concrete features and is addressed as an abstract Ideal, so that 'writers have noted that all the poets seem to be addressing the same person. . . . In this poetic field the feminine object is emptied of all real substance. However, this abstract character of the Lady has nothirig to do with spintual purification; rather, it points towards the abstraction that pertains to a cold, distanced, inhuman partner - the Lady is by no means a warm, compassionate, understanding fellow-creature:

By means of a form of sublimation specific to art, poetic creation consists in positing an object I can only describe as terrifying, an inhuman partner.

The Lady is never characterized for any of her real, concrete virtues, for her wisdom, her prudence, or even her competence. If she is described as wise, it is only because she embodies an immaterial wisdom or because she represents its functions more than she exercises them. On the contrary, she is as arbitrary as possible in the tests she imposes on her servant.

The knight's relationship to the Lady is thus the relationship of the subject-bondsman, vassal, to his feudal Master-Sovereign who subjects him to senseless, outrageous, impossible, arbitrary, capricious ordeals. It is precisely in order to emphasize the non-spiritual nature of these ordeals that Lacan quotes a poem about a Lady who demanded that her servant literally lick her arse: the poem consists of the poet's complaints about the bad smells that await him down there (one knows the sad state of personal hygiene in the Middle Ages) , about the imminent danger that, as he is fulfilling his duty, the Lady will urinate on his head. . . . The Lady is thus as far as possible from any kind of purified spirituality: she functions as an inhuman partner in the sense of a radical Otherness which is wholly incommensurable with our needs and desires; as such, she is simultaneously a kind of automaton, a machine which utters meaningless demands at random.

This coincidence of absolute, inscrutable Otherness and pure machine is what confers on the Lady her uncanny, monstrous character - the Lady is the Other which is not our 'fellow-creature'; that is to say, she is someone with whom no relationship of empathy is possible. This traumatic Otherness is what Lacan designates by means of the Freudian term das Ding, the Thing - the Real that 'always returns to its place',3 the hard kernel that resists symbolization. The idealization of the Lady, her elevation to a spiritual, ethereal Ideal, is therefore to be conceived of as a strictly secondary phenomenon: it is a narcissistic projection whose function ino render her traumatic dimension invisible.

Deprived of every real substance, the Lady functions as a mirror on to which the subject projects his narcissistic ideal. In other words - those of Christina Rossetti, whose sonnet 'In an Artist's Studio' speaks ofDante Gabriel Rossetti's relationship to Elizabeth Siddal, his Lady - the Lady appears 'not as she is, but as she fills his dream'. For Lacan, however, the crucial accent lies elsewhere:

The mirror may on occasion-imply the mechanisms of narcissism, and especially the dimension of destruction or aggression that we will encounter subsequently. But it also fulfills another role, a role as limit. It is that which cannot be crossed. And the only organization in which it participates is that of the inaccessibility of the object.6

Thus, before we embrace the commonplaces about how the Lady in courtly love has nothing to do with actual women, how she stands for the man's narcissistic projection which involves the mortification of the flesh-and-blood woman, we have to answer this question: where does that empty surface come from, that cold, neutral screen which opens up the space for possible projections? That is to say, if men are to project on to the mirror their narcissistic ideal, the mute mirror-surface must already be there. This surface functions as a kind of 'black hole' in reality, as a limit whose Beyond is inaccessible.

The next crucial feature of courtly love is that it is thoroughly a matter of courtesy and etiquette; it has nothing to do with some elementary passion overflowing all barriers, immune to all social rules. We are dealing with a strict fictional formula, with a social game of 'as if', where a man pretends that his sweetheart is the inaccessible Lady. And it is precisely this feature which enables us to establish a link between courtly love and a phenomenon which, at first, seems to have nothing whatso­ ever to do with it: namely, masochism, as a specific form of perversion articulated for the first time in the middle of the last century in the literary works and life-practice of Sacher-Masoch. In his celebrated study of masochism, Gilles Deleuze demonstrates that masochism is not to be conceived of as a simple symmetrical inversion of sadism. The sadist and his victim never form a complementary 'sado-masochist' couple. Among .those features evoked by Deleuze to prove the asymmetry between sadism and masochism, the crucial one is the opposition of the modalities of negation. In sadism we encounter direct negation, violent destruction and tormenting, whereas in masochism negation assumes the form of disavowal - that is, of feigning, of an ' as if' which suspends reaJity.

Closely depending on this first opposition is the opposition of institution and contract. Sadism follows the logic of institution, of institutional power tormenting its victim and taking pleasure in the victim's helpless resistance. More precisely, sadism is at work in the obscene, superego underside that necessarily redoubles and accom­ panies, as its shadow, the 'public' Law. Masochism, on the contrary, is made to the measure of the victim: it is the victim (the servant in the masochistic relationship) who initiates a contract with the Master (woman) , authorizing her to humiliate him in any way she considers appropriate (within the terms defined by the contract) and binding himself to act ' according to the whims of the sovereign lady' , as Sacher­ Masoch put it. It is the servant, therefore, who writes the screenplay - that is, who actually pulls the strings and dictates the activity of the woman [dominatrix]: he stages his own servitude.s One further differ­ ential feature is that masochism, in contrast to sadism, is inherently theatrical: violence is for the most part feigned, and even when it is 'real', it functions as a component of a scene, as part of a theatrical performance. Furthermore, violence is never carried out, brought to its conclusion; it always remains suspended, as the endless repeating of an interrupted gesture.

It is precisely this logic of disavowal which enables us to grasp the fundamental paradox of the masochistic attitude. That is to say, how does the typical masochistic scene look? The man-servan t establishes in a cold, businesslike way the terms of the contract with the woman-master: what she is to do to him, what scene is to be rehearsed endlessly, what dress she is to wear, how far she is to go in the direction of real, physical torture (how severely she is to whip him, in what precise way she is to enchain him, where she is to stamp him with the tips of her high heels, etc.) . When they finally pass over to the masochistic game proper, the masochist constantly maintains a kind of reflective distance; he never really gives way to his feelings or fully abandons himself to the game; in the midst of the game, he can suddenly assume the stance of a stage director, giving precise instructions (put more pressure on that point, repeat that movement . . . ) , without thereby in the least destroying the illusion'. Once the game is over, the masochist again adopts the attitude of a respectful bourgeois and starts to talk with the Sovereign Lady in a matter-of-fact, businesslike way: 'Thank you for your favour. Same time next week?' and so on . What is of crucial importance here is the total self­ externalization of the masochist's most intimate passion: the most intimate desires become objects of contract and composed negotiation. The nature of the masochistic theatre is therefore thoroughly 'non­ psychological': the surrealistic passionate masochistic game, which suspends social reality, none the less fits easily into that everyday reality.

Masochism confronts us with the paradox of the symbolic order qua the order of 'fictions': there is more truth in the mask we wear, in the game we play, in the 'fiction' we obey and follow, than in what is concealed beneath the mask. The very kernel of the masochist's being is externalized in the staged game towards which he maintains his constant distance.

This coincidence recalls the way a male hysterical 'sadist' justifies his beating of a woman: 'Why does she make me do it? She really wants me to do hurt her, she compels me to beat her so that she can enjoy it - so I'll heat her black and blue and teach her what it reaUy means to proooke me!' What we encounter here is a kind of loop in which the (mis)perceived effect of the brutal act upon the victim retroactively legitimizes the act: I set out to beat a woman and when, at the very point where I think that I thoroughly dominate her, I notice that I am actually her slave - since she wants the beating and provoked me to deliver it - I get really mad….

How, on closer examination, are we to conceptualize the inaccessibility of the Lady-Object in courtly love? The principal mistake to avoid is reducing this inaccessibility to the simple dialectic of desire and prohibition according to which we covet the forbidden fruit precisely in so far as it is forbidden - or, to quote Freud's classic formulation:

. . . the psychical value of erotic needs is reduced as soon as their satisfaction becomes easy. An obstacle is required in order to heighten libido; and where natural resistances to satisfaction have not been sufficient men have at all times erected conventional ones so as to be able to enjoylove.

Within this perspective, courtly love appears as simply the most radical strategy for elevating the value of the object by putting up conventional obstacles to its attainability. When, in his seminar Encore, Lacan provides the most succinct formulation of the paradox of courtly love, he says something that is apparently similar, yet fundamentally different: 'A very refined manner to supplant the absence of the sexual relationship is by feigning that it is us who put the obstacle in its way.'H The point, therefore, is not simply that we set up additional conventional hin­ drances in order to heighten the value of the object: external hindrances that thwart aur access to the object are there precisely to create the illusion that withaut them, the object wauld be directly accessible - what such hindrances thereby conceal is the inherent impossibility of attaining the object. The place of the Lady-Thing is originally empty: she functions as a kind of 'black hole' around which the subject's desire is structured. The space of desire is bent like space in the theory of relativity; the only way to reach the Object-Lady is indirectly, in a devious, meandering way - proceeding straight on ensures that we miss the target. This is what Lacan has in mind when, apropos of courtly love, he evokes 'the meaning we must attribute to the negotiation of the detour in the psychic economy':

The detour in the psyche isn't always designed to regulate the commerce between whatever is organized in the domain of the pleasure principle and whatever presents itself as the structure of reality. There are also detours and obstacles which are organized so as to make the domain of the vacuole stand out as such. . . . The techniques involved in courtly love - and they are precise enough to allow us to perceive what might on occasion become fact, what is properly speaking of the sexual order in the inspiration of this eroticism - are techniques of holding back, of suspension, of amOT interpru tus. The stages courtly love lays down previous to what is mysteriously referred to as Ie don de merci, 'the gift of mercy' - although we don' t know exactly what it meant - are expressed more or less in terms that Freud uses in his Three Essays as belonging to the sphere of foreplay.

For that reason, Lacan accentuates the motif of anamorphosis (in his Seminar on the Ethics of Psychoanalysis, the title of the chapter on courtly love is 'Courtly Love as Anamorphosis'): the Object can be perceived only when it is viewed from the side, in a partial, distorted form, as its own shadow - if we cast a direct glance at it we see nothing, a mere void. In a homologous way, we could speak of temporal anamorphosis: the Object is attainable only by way of an incessant postponement, as its absent point of reference. The Object, therefore, is literally something that is created - whose place is encircled - through a network of detours, approximations and near-misses. It is here that sublimation sets in - sublimation in the Lacanian sense of the elevation of an object into the dignity of the Thing: 'sublimation' occurs when an object, part of everyday reality, finds itself at the place of the impossible Thing. Herein resides the function of those artificial obstacles that suddenly hinder our access to some ordinary object: they elevate the object into a stand-in for the Thing. This is how the impossible changes into the prohibited: by way of the short circuit between the Thing and some positive object rendered inaccessible through artificial obstacles.

The tradition of Lady as the inaccessible object is alive and well in our century - in surrealism, for example. Suffice it to recall Luis Bufiuel's That Obscure Object o/Desire, in which a woman, through a series of absurd tricks, postpones again and again the final moment of sexual re-union with her aged lover (when, for example, the man finally gets her into bed, he discovers beneath her nightgown an old-fashioned corset with numerous buckles which are impossible to undo . . .) . The charm of the film lies in this very nonsensical short circuit between the fundamental, metaphysical Limit and some trivial empirical impedi­ ment. Here we find the logic of courtly love and of sublimation at its purest: some common, everyday object or act becomes innaccessible or impossible to accomplish once it finds itself in the position of the Thing - although the thing should be easily within reach, the entire universe has somehow been adjusted to produce, again and again, an unfathomable contingency blocking access to the object Bufiuel himself was quite aware of this paradoxical logic: in his autobiography he speaks of 'the non-explainable impossibility of the fulfilment of a simple desire'.

It should be clear, now, what determines the difference with regard to the usual dialectic of desire and prohibition: the aim of the prohibition is not to 'raise the price' of an object by rendering access to it more difficult, but to raise this object itself to the level of the Thing, of the 'black hole', around which desire is organized. For that reason, Lacan is quite justified in inverting the usual formula of sublimation, which involves shifting the libido from an object that satisfies some concrete, material need to an object that has no apparent connection to this need: for example, destructive literary criticism becomes sublimated aggressiv­ ity, scientific research into the human body becomes sublimated voyeur­ ism, and so on. What Lacan means by sublimation, on the contrary, is shifting the libido from the void of the .unserviceable, Thing to some concrete, material object of need that assumes a sublime quality the moment it occupies the place of the Thing.

What the paradox of the Lady in courtly love ultimately amounts to is thus the paradox of detour: our 'official' desire is that we want to sleep with the Lady; whereas in truth, there is nothing we fear more than a Lady who might generously yield to this wish of ours - what we truly expect and want from the Lady is simply yet another new ordeal, yet one more postponement. In his Critique of Practical Reason, Kant offers a parable about a libertine who claims that he cannot resist the temptation to gratify his illicit sexual desire, yet when he is informed that the gallows now await him as the price to be paid for his adultery, he suddenly discovers that he can resist the temptation after all (proof, for Kant, of the pathological nature of sexual desire - Lacan opposes Kant by claiming that a man of true amorous passion would be even more aroused by the prospect of the gallows . . .) . But for the faithful servant of a Lady the choice is structured in a totally different way: perhaps he would even prefer the gallows to an immediate gratification of his desire for the Lady. The Lady therefore functions as a unique short circuit in which the Object ofdesire itselfcoincides with theforce thatprevents its attainment - in a way, the object 'is' its own withdrawal, its own retraction. In this way, it becomes possible that the very agency which entices us to search for enjoyment induces us to renounce it.

Back to the Lady: are we, therefore,justified in conceiving of the Lady as the personification of the Western metaphysical passion, as an exorbitant, almost parodical example of metaphysical hubris, of the elevation of a particular entity or feature into the Ground of all being? On closer examination, what constitutes this metaphysical or simply philosophical hubris?

The Lady is not another name for the metaphysical Ground but, on the contrary, one of the names for the self-retracting Real which, in a way, grounds the Ground itself. And in so far as one of the names for the metaphysical Ground of all entities is 'supreme Good', the Lady quaThing can also be designated as the embodiment of radical Evil, of the Evil that Edgar Allan Poe, in two of his stories, 'The Black Cat' and 'The Imp of the Perverse', called the ' spirit of perverseness ' :

Of this spirit philosophy takes no account . Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart. . . . Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a stupid action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our bestjudgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? ('The Black Cat')

The affinity of crime as an unmotivated acte gratuit to art is a standard topic of Romantic theory (the Romantic cult of the artist comprises the notion of the artist qua criminal): it is deeply significant that Poe's formulas ('a mobilewithout motive, a motive not motiviert') immediately recall Kant's determinations of the aesthetic experience ('purposeful­ ness without purpose', etc.). What we must not overlook here is the crucial fact that this command - 'You must because you are not allowed to ! ' , that is to say, a purely negative grounding of an act accomplished only because it is prohibited - is possible only within the differential symbolic order in which negative determination as such has a positive reach - in which the very absence of a feature functions as a positive feature.

Poe's 'imp of the perverse' offers us an immediate example of such a pure motivation: when I accomplish an act 'only because it is prohibited', I remain within the universal-symbolic domain, without reference to any empirical­ contingent object - that is to say, I accomplish what is in strict sense a non­ pathological act. Here, then, Kant miscalculated his wager: by cleansing the domain of ethics of pathological motivations, he wanted to extirpate the very possibility of doing Evil in the guise of Good; what he actually did was to open up a new domain of Evil far more uncanny than the usual 'pathological' Evil." [The Metastases of Enjoyment]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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