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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of longing.

The 12th century was the age of courtly love: songs of courtship and admiration, tales of daring knights and worthy ladies. The courtly love tradition is thought of as quintessentially heterosexual, and yet a few works survive in which a woman addresses her sentiments to another woman, such as the lone surviving lyric of Bieiris de Romans. And during that era, in a convent somewhere in the vicinity of Tegernsee in Bavaria (Germany), a cloistered woman longed to be reunited with a dear friend. She poured her heart out in a passionate poem, written in Latin and, by some quirk of fate, copied into a collection of writings that survived the ages. Her name is unknown—she identifies herself simply as “A” and her love only as “G”, whom she addresses as “my only/singular rose.”

To her, G’s absence is “like someone who has lost a hand or a foot” and she laments, “I want to die because I cannot see you. What can I—so wretched—do? Where can I—so miserable—turn?” Her thoughts turn to past delights: “I recall the kisses you gave me, and how with tender words you caressed my little breasts.” And yet perhaps there was more to their story. “Come home, sweet love!” she concludes. “Prolong your trip no longer. Know that I can bear your absence no longer… remember me.” Shall we not imagine that G returned to the woman who found her “so lovely and full of grace [and] who… with such deep affection loves me”?

Heather Rose Jones

—posted 287 days ago


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