One should always remember that poetry is something that stays the same through the centuries, reminding people of the bygone centuries and the traditions that the people of the then times adhered to. However, poems speak rather to people’s hearts than minds, and all the details of the ordinary slip through the reader’s fingers.
The poetry of the medieval times can tell more than the history books taken altogether. It shows not only the facts of the Medieval Epoch, but also the way people saw the world, the way they shaped their relationship to the others, to the world and to the events that took place.
Being a part of people’s soul, the poetry transfers the reader to the times when it was written and makes understand where the fragile connections between the epochs lead to. An integral part of life and its wonders, poetry exposures the world of the ancient times in full. The only thing that the spectators are supposed to do is to watch closely the magnificent view.
It is important to remember that the Medieval poetry has had a great impact on the further development of the poetry, making it float in the course of the materials high as they could be, telling people of love as a platonic feeling and about life as indulging into the spiritual pleasures.
With all its caution about the topics that were the most fruitful issue of the ancient times, the medieval poetry created a new understanding of lyrical poetry, making it closer to the Ancient Greek pastoral (Lowy 2001). Describing the most touching episodes of the relations between a man and a woman, it was most careful wit the problems of morality.
The very idea of the romantic love is what the poems are sewn through with. The images of a troubadour and a trobairitz (Lewis 1998) that created the romantic atmosphere full of music and enchanting dreams, lured people into the depth of the sentimental with the magic sounds of lyre and lute. Those marvelous airs were supposed to mean the purity of the relationships and the sincerity that the century encouraged.
In fact, the expressions of the romantic love that sound in the poetry leave the impression of something so pure and unstained that it makes one feel a little sad. With the pragmatism and the cynical attitude to the pure ideas of platonic love that one can find in the culture of our epoch, these poems are something that makes people feel rather sad about the century that was sincere as a child and unaware as a virgin of the dirt that there was in the surrounding world.
The poetry leaves a trace of the romantic feeling that ceases as one looks out of the window. The contrast with the surrounding reality is far too harsh to believe what the poems speak.
However, as one reads the book, it becomes clear that the ideas of the world untouched by the little finger of sin and misery did exist in the years of the Medieval epoch.
It is also surprising that the role of women has been emphasized in the poetry, in Contessa de Dio (Sayre 2009, 152) in particular. It has always been considered that the people of the Medieval epoch did not take women’s opinions into account. The so-called “dream-poetry” (Spearing 2004, 1) that was all connected with the topics of the Platonism and pastoral pictures was obviously mild and soft. However, the poem proves that wrong, showing that the role of women in the court was of great importance in the early centuries.
As one reads the poems, the clash of cultures becomes inevitable. However hard the reader tries to assume the position of the Medieval character, the issues that seem so foreign and unnatural to the modern world pop out of the poems. Indeed, it is hard to believe nowadays that in such distant times people living in a completely different world had the same feelings and ideas that we have. This must be the chauvinism of the century that speaks this way.
With regard to the poetry of the Medieval epoch, it can be said that the literature created in those times is the guideline for the modern world. Understanding that the people living so long ago practically did not differ from the population of the modern world and had the same and sometimes even deeper perception of the beauty and the nature is something that each of us should learn.
After all, there is always the grain of gold in the experience of our ancestors that we might have missed, so reading Sayre’s works and taking his understanding of the value of the ancient literature might be another chance to see the truth that the modern mankind is trying to find.
Lowy, M., Sayre, R. (2001) Romanticism against the Tide of Modernity. New York, NY: Duke University Press.
Lewis C. S. (1998) Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sayre, Henry M. (2009) Discovering the Humanities. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Spearing, A. C. (2004) Medieval Dream-Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.