Collared: The Romance of the Rose

Mediaeval painting of a man kissing another man with wings
From Harley 4425 f. 24, British Library.

When I was a sleep-deprived undergraduate, the only thing I got out of The Romance of the Rose was the lover finally getting to pluck the rose – yes, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to be thinking.

Somehow I managed to miss this wonderful meeting point between medieval fealty and courtly love. And then I read The Eternal Dungeon by Dusk Peterson, which begins with this quotation.

Roman de la Rose (excerpt)

Then straight­away Love came to­ward me with quick steps, and as he came he cried out: “Vas­sal, you are taken. There is no chance for es­cape or strug­gle. Sur­ren­der with­out mak­ing any re­sis­tance ….”I replied sim­ply, “Sir, I sur­ren­der will­ingly, and I shall never de­fend my­self against you. May it never please God for me even to think of ever re­sist­ing you, for to do so is nei­ther right nor rea­son­able. You may do with me as you wish, hang me or kill me. I know very well that I can­not change things, for my life is in your hand. Only through your will can I live until to­mor­row, and, since I shall never have joy and health from any other, I await them from you. If your hand, which has wounded me, does not give me a rem­edy, if you wish to make me your pris­oner or if you do not deign to do so, I shall not count my­self de­ceived ….”

With these words, I wanted to kiss his foot, but he took me by the hand and said, “I love you very much and hold you in es­teem for the way you have replied here. Such a reply never came from a low­born fel­low with poor train­ing. More­over, you have won so much that, for your ben­e­fit, I want you to do homage to me from now on: You will kiss me on my mouth, which no base fel­low touches. I do not allow any com­mon man, any butcher, to touch it; any­one whom I take thus as my man must be cour­te­ous and open. Serv­ing me is, with­out fail, painful and bur­den­some …”

Im­me­di­ately, with joined hands, I be­came his man.

Who wouldn’t want to be collared by Love?

If you enjoy repurposing these traditional power relationships for, er, pleasure, you should check out Dusk Peterson’s work without delay. The Eternal Dungeon series has the mediaeval feel and the first part is online for free. But the Waterman series is my favourite despite its nineteenth-century setting, because it has liegemen who swear oaths of fealty. (Full disclosure: I beta read for this author.)

What do you think?