Classical sources of Medieval attitudes toward redemptive love

Anthony H. Harrison, Professor of English, North Carolina State University


Note 10, Chapter 6, of the author's Swinburne's Medievalism: A Study in Victorian Love Poetry which Louisiana State University Press published in 1979. It has been included in the Victorian web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

As John C. Moore suggests, the constellation of attitudes toward love discussed here derives originally from classical tradition, which "provided [the Middle Ages] with several main themes of love. It was a spiritual longing for the Good which could not be satisfied in the material world; it was a passionate and erotic desire to possess the beloved; it was simple erotic pleasure, which should not be taken too seriously, lest it cease to be pleasurable; it was a reciprocal bond of good will and affection, possible between men of high character; on a cosmic scale, it was a mysterious force or power which generated all life in the universe and maintained harmony among its disparate parts" (Love in Twelfth-Century France [Philadelphia, 1972], 27).

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Last updated: June 2000