Reader beware. This book was probably C. S. Lewis at his worst: an academic tome about his day job written in 1936, long before he’d reached his peak as a communicator.
However, the payoff is modern readers’ greater understanding of a time and place which served as the background for many contemporary fictional fantasies. (See below)
It traces the rise and decline of the love allegory as a mainstay of European literature in the late Middle Ages. Read it to mine the nuggets of Lewis wisdom scattered through the dry strata of Latin, Greek, French and Middle English. The footnotes, when they weren’t the usual op. cit., lop. cit., and ibid. silliness, were even in Latin and Greek. (No, I don’t read those languages. Paradoxically, it only slowed rather than prevented understanding.) Try this Middle English which often graced later tombstones (sound it out; it’s not as bad as it looks):
O mortall folk, you may behold and se
How I lye here, sometime a mighty knyght.
The ende of Joye and all prosperite
Is dethe at last through his courses and myght;
After the day there cometh the derke nyfght,
For though the day be never so longe
At last the belles ryngeth to evensonge.
Progress is slow and something of a love-hate affair. In addition to the nuggets identified below, you will develop an appreciation, if not an understanding, of a realm of literature long lost. Courtly love, as we all think we know, is Continue reading