Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chatting up a woman - in the 12th century!

I laughed out loud several times while reading what the latest edition of Lapham's Quarterly calls a 'Dating Manual', reportedly originating circa 1185 AD at Troyes. Here's an excerpt.

But if the woman waits too long before beginning the conversation, you may begin it yourself, skillfully. First you should say things that have nothing to do with your subject — make her laugh at something, or else praise her home, or her family, or herself. Because women — particularly middle-class women from the country — commonly delight in being commended and readily believe every word that looks like praise. Then after these remarks that have nothing to do with your subject, you may go on in this fashion:

“When the Divine Being made you, there was nothing that He left undone. I know that there is no defect in your beauty, none in your good sense, none in you at all except, it seems to me, that you have enriched no one by your love. I marvel greatly that Love permits so beautiful and so sensible a woman to serve for long outside his camp. O, if you should take service with Love, blessed above all others will that man be whom you shall crown with your love! Now if I, by my merits, might be worthy of such an honor, no lover in the world could really be compared with me.”

There's more at the link.

Funny, I can't recall ever using language that flowery during my attempts at dating . . . but of course, courtliness was long out of fashion by then! I particularly enjoyed the woman's closing remark:

“You may deserve praise for your great excellence, but I am rather young, and I shudder at the thought of receiving solaces from old men.”

So our ancestors had perfected the put-down as well!



Home on the Range said...

Oh my! A guy used those EXACT same words on me in a saloon one time, RIGHT before my lucky day when I found a gold man's wedding band in the peanut bowl.


Thanks for the smile.

Anonymous said...

Ever read Ovid's 'Ars Amatoria'? The art of the pick-up line goes back to ancient Rome. That and dropping stuff so you can bend over and look up . . . ahem.


Anonymous said...

LittleRed1, Catullus is right up there as well, and better not to even think about Apuleius' 'Golden Ass' I still can't figure out how we were allowed to read that in a US public high-school...

skreidle said...

I'm not sure anything compares to reading Lysistrata out loud among a high school English class.. :D

Borepatch said...

Sounds like Chretien de Troyes.

The trick back then was to get the Lady's name in a poem without her husband figuring it out. Because he'd come and kill you ...

Maybe that's a good rule in general for poets: be clever or be dead. ;-)