Reason…The Immanent Image of the Logos…
Physician of Souls...
Her Rejection: The Third and Final Stage of the Fall…
Priceton Quiz: What does the rosebud signify?…
The third and final step in the fall of Guillaume’s lover occurs when he refuses to listen to the voice of Lady Reason–which is foolish enough in the context of a philosophical and theological tradition in which reason is the highest virtue and divine element within man, but even more so insofar as the lover explicitly recognizes the lady’s exalted identity:
She wore a noble crown upon her head.
A queen she might have been, but more did seem,
To judge by her appearance and her face,
An angel come, perhaps, from paradise.
Nature could hardly frame a work so fair.
‘Twas God himself, unless the Scriptures lie,
Who in his image and his likeness formed
This godlike one, and her with power endowed
To rescue men from rash and foolish acts,
Provided that her counsel they’ll believe.
But the lover doesn’t accept her counsel, any more than he accepted the counsel of the admonitory tale of Narcissus, which he blithely re-actualizes. He rejects it (though its function, as he notes, is “to rescue men from rash and foolish acts”), and though the Reason that appears to him is the Logos itself, second Person of the Trinity, “the likeness and image” of God the Father, of which the reason immanent in the human soul is also the “likeness and image”.
When the dreamer disdains to take Reason’s advice, he is thus denying what is highest in himself, and, of course, repeating the archetypal pattern. Instead of referring the beauty of the rose to the sovereign rational and masculine component of the soul–like the beauty of the vase in John’s the Scot’s allegory of the Fall–, the dreamer allows its image to remain fixed in his “outer garden”, “the woman”.
Like Lady Philosophy in Boethius’ Consolation, Dame Reason tells the lover in the Roman that he is himself the cause of his own imprisonment. Only a fool, she says, would make a friend of Idleness:
‘Twas evil hour
At which you came into that shady park
Of which the key is kept by Idleness,
Who ope’d the gate for you. One is a fool
Who makes acquaintance with that tempting maid,
Whose sweet companionship is perilous.
You’ve been deceived and brought to grief by her;
For had not Idleness conducted you
Into the garden that is named Delight
The God of Love had never seen you there…
But ‘tis no wonder; men are fools in youth.
Now I should like to give you this advice:
Into oblivion consign that god
Who has so weakened, tortured, conquered you.
I see no other way to healthful cure…
Nothing but foolishness is this disease
Called love; ‘twere better it were folly named.
Reason has come as the physician of the soul (another classical and thereafter Christian topos) to cure his “lover’s malady”, and then describes his condition using the same equestrian imagery as Andreas Capellanus employs to describe that of his friend Walter:
From day to day it will entrench itself
If you allow this folly to remain.
Now firmly seize the bits between your teeth;
Resist the guidance of your stubborn heart,
Against whose will you’ll have to use some force.
You will be ditched if passion keeps the reins.
I needn’t say much more about Guillaume’s Roman. In future installments, we’ll look at a few brief excerpts from the much longer and more philosophically rich second part by Jean de Meun. In that part, Reason plays a rather bigger role, comparing Blind Cupid to the capricious Goddess Fortuna, and identifying the pleasures of carnal love as one of the Goddess’s deceptive and transitory earthly gifts. The poem ends with a description, moreover, of another garden, the Shepherd’s Park, which is the true Paradise, and the direct antithesis to the garden of Deduit.
But before we leave Guillaume’s Roman, let me draw your attention to one more passage, in which the lover describes his beloved rosebud as if looking at it through a macro lense, just before achieving his kiss.
When I approached the Rose, I found it grown
A little larger than it was before;
A little greater height the bush had gained.
But I was pleased that the unfolding flower
Had not yet spread so as to show the seed,
Which still was by the petals well concealed,
That stood up straight and with their tender fold
Hid well the grains with which the bud was filled.
And, thanked be God, the bud’s maturer curves
Were better hued and comelier than before.
I was abashed, and marveled at the sight.
The fairer the bud, the more Love fettered me;
The happier I, the more I felt his chains.
You tell me what this exalted “rosebud” really signifies.