3 min

Chivalry for the unmountable

Embracing the notion of courtly love

Credit: Capital Xtra files

Everybody is crazy these days. I blame the humidity.

And the craziest seem to be airing their twisted knickers in the media. Dire pronouncements have been made. I think we should take them seriously.

All this tossing of rhetoric and hurling of invective worries me. I fear this nightmare vision of homosexuality. I have homophobia-phobia. Is there really a chance that I’ll develop an unnatural attachment to a cute cocker spaniel, or that I’m in danger of becoming my own grandma? I wouldn’t have thought so, but these days, all threats must be taken with a soupçon of doomsday.

I realize that our only moral choice according to some is to just not have sex, but clearly, that’s never going to work. Hey, it’s free, fantastic and – done properly – doesn’t hurt anyone. How can even God stop that? It didn’t work with teenagers and single heterosexuals, and it ain’t going to work with us either.

What we need is a code to follow, one that’s in line with the monolithic and unchanging history and traditions of love and marriage. By keeping to an accepted high moral standard, perhaps we can ease people’s fear of homosexuality.

Near as I can figure, the Roman/Anglo-Saxon dominant cultural idea of love dates from about the 12th century. The time of the troubadours, knights on horses and the glory days of feudalism. Chivalry (meaning bravery, courtesy, honour and gallantry toward women) comes from this time and seems like a good choice for a set of guidelines, don’t you think?

Back when this system was hatched, every feudal lord had a gaggle of representatives that enforced the tax system. Unfortunately, there was some unpleasantness. Roving packs of knights raised quite a ruckus with gratuitous raping and pillaging, and the genteel class wanted these oafs to stop insulting their wives.

Although we have yet to see roving packs of homosexuals running amok, a little prevention could go a long way.

I suggest we embrace the notion of “courtly love” in affairs of the heart. It’s a proven method to keep the clergy, and parliament, out of the bedroom. In satire, it is appropriate to quote satire, so let’s take some pointers from Andreas Capellanus, author of the Art of Courtly Love.

Today, homosexuals feel empowered to flaunt themselves and their sexuality shamelessly, so flirtation is about to become a big issue. Capellanus has some wisdom for the straight and gay: “Thou shalt not choose for thy love anyone whom a natural sense of shame forbids thee to marry.”

This means basically that we don’t want to marry the pope, and he doesn’t want to marry us.

I think, on the whole, we do just fine with this concept. Better than some Church officials have done over the last half-century or so. We know at least “That which a lover takes against the will of his beloved has no relish.”

You really only need one other rule to succeed in ethical flirtation and Capellanus has it: “Thou shalt be in all things polite and courteous.” The decline of courtesy has been identified as a harbinger of the demise of civilizations after all, and that is apparently what we are facing.

It may be true that “A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved.” But shit happens. As Capellanus says, “It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing.” That’s when this rule comes in handy: “Be mindful to avoid falsehood.”

But when you get conflicting advice like “In practising the solaces of love thou shalt not exceed the desires of thy lover” and “A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved,” there is nothing left to commit but adultery. In this area, there is a lot to be learned from heterosexual tradition.

It is a tenet of courtly love that “Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.”

Rules are needed to help keep the peace when monogamy goes astray: “Thou should not knowingly strive to break up a love affair that someone else is engaged in.” And furthermore, “Thou shalt not have many who know of thy love affair.” Or “be a revealer of love affairs.” Discretion is a virtue.

But lest you think that courtly love is yet another heterosexual custom it might be unwise to adopt, ponder on these last two fundamental concepts from Capellanus: “Good character alone makes any one worthy of love.”

Words to live by? I think so. And consider this earth-shattering notion: “No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons.”