Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Complicated, Part II

Continuing the story of Sir Ulrich and his courtly love:

(The gallant knight has just had cosmetic surgery under conditions that make Soroka look good, all for the sake of "his" lady, who so far has refused to accept his devotion)

"News of this ... softened the lady's heart, and she sent word that he might attend a riding party and enjoy the rare privilege of speaking with her for a moment, if the opportunity should arise.  And it did, once, when he had the chance to help her down from her horse. He could have uttered a sentence of two of devotion, but unfortunately he was tongue-tied by her nearness and could say nothing.  The lovely lady, considerably put out, whispered to him that he was a fraud, and gracefully indicated her displeasure by ripping out a forelock of his hair as she dismounted."

Pictured: probably not his beloved Lady.  Photo courtesy of ""

Our hero, undaunted, presents himself to her the next day and asks again 

"to permit him to be her secret knight and to allow him to fight for her and love her. She accepted his service but under the very minimum conditions, granting him no 'favor' whatever, neither embrace, kiss, nor word of promise, and not so much as a ribbon to carry in his bosom.  Ulrich, nevertheless, was filled with joy and thankfulness for her kindness, and sallied forth, tilting about the countryside with anyone who would break a lance with him and composing many a song to his ladylove, which his secretary set down for him since writing was not a knightly accomplishment.  The messages that passed between [them] at this time conveyed ... her condescension, coldness, and criticism. But this was exactly what was expected of her ..., and he found each new blow a delicious pain; a large part of his pleasure lay in observing his own noble constancy under duress".

Ulrich is wounded in the finger, and somehow the Lady hears, incorrectly, that he has lost a finger "fighting for love of her".  When she discovers that this is not true, she rebukes him sharply.  When he receives this message from her,

"Ulrich paled for a moment, then resolutely drew out a sharp knife and ordered his friend* to hack off the finger with one blow. This done, the knight had an artisan make a green velvet case in which the finger was held by gold clasps. He sent her the mounted digit as a keepsake, together with a special poem about the matter.... [S]he returned word that she would look at the finger every day from thenceforth, a message which, incidentally, he received as he did all other communiques from her - on his knees, with bowed head and folded hands."


* it is not known if the friend's name happened to be Sancho Panza

Abridged, summarized and copied from:  The Natural History of Love by Morton M. Hunt (New York: Knopf, 1959), pp 133-138, as presented in Sociology: a text with adapted readings by L. Broom & P. Selznick (New York: Harper & Row, 5th ed 1973) pp 331-333.


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