Courtly Love in the Days of Arthur

Soon, I’ll be teaching my sophomores the myths and legend of King Arthur. One important lesson of this unit concerns Courtly Love as it was practiced in the Middle Ages. I make the point of how this doctrine of the Code of Chivalry placed woman on a pedastel, and how much (sometimes how little) courtly love has influenced modern ideas of romance. I point out how marriages then were matters of practicality, issues of power, and how if a person wanted to experience true love, it had to be found outside of marriage. I wrote this poem after thinking about how a knight would feel about the object of his adoration in such a relationship.

A Queen’s Duties

You are a queen, my queen,
A princesse lointaine,

The far-away princess
I could never obtain,
One with a bursting heart,
Filled with kindness and charity,
And I, the knight, the warrior-poet,
Differing from the boisterous,
Bragging, illiterate men surrounding you,
Who think of women as breeders, servants,
As a source of their (not your) sexual gratification.
I am the chivalrous knight who
Knew from the first glance
He loved you, and only you.
I am the only knight who would
Suffer for you, court you, even die for you,
You, with your responsibilities,
Duties, schedules, and blossoming beauty,
You, the queen who knew books
And loved words, who needed my poems.
The Queen of Love and Beauty.
We were thrown together
By chance, a fateful meeting,
The kind that changes everything, and
My queen became the love of my life.
This courtly love is our hearts’ outlet,
Feeding our souls, our hearts, our bodies,
But you are still a queen with duties, one
Who loves those in her charge too much
To destroy her own kingdom
Because of her own needs.
The rules of love are different for a queen.
She can only love when and as she can.
Some say courtly love cannot work in a modern world,
I say it can if it must, for as long as it must.
I know that it has elevated you,
Civilized and energized me,
I will always be your knight in the background,
Practicing the proper etiquette, but
Walking the knife’s edge of admiration of you,
Holding the tokens of your love against my heart.