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.)