Romance of the Rose - The Garden of Pleasure
Type of Spiritual Experience
The extract from the story describes a Garden of Pleasure – a form of Eden in other words, which is entirely governed by forms of love and outside of which and thus excluded are forms of hate. In other words we have one man’s perception of what the Eden we tend to want to find is like.
The first part is his perception of what is excluded , [feminists have every right to be annoyed that he attributes the ‘sins’ to women!] but the general gist of what he has to say is interesting. I have shortened the text a little as the extract would otherwise be too long, but the essence of his description remains.
Guillaume believed that Paradise – the garden of Eden or as he termed it the Garden of Pleasure excluded Hate, Envy, Covetousness, Avarice, Sorrow, Cruelty, and ‘Baseness’. There are seven ‘sins’ here, but not the ones normally listed - so again an interesting slant.
By contrast his description of the garden itself is a place of unqualified love in all its forms.
The characters he meets in the garden or help him enter the garden are Pleasure, Idleness, Courtesy, the God of Love, Joy, Beauty, Generosity of Spirit, Fair Seeming and Company, as well as Largesse and Youth; again a rather interesting and very personal perception of what Paradise is like – nobody is old or ‘ugly’ [whatever that means], spirits there are polite but do nothing except enjoy themselves with music and dancing, and are very sociable, liking the company of each other rather than solitude and they are the opposite of mean - so in effect generous with love, affection, and what they have. Furthermore Paradise itself is full of trees and birds and we find later lush grass, flowers, springs of clear water and meandering paths……….
A description of the experience
The Romance of the Rose – translated by Frances Horgan
When I had gone a little further, I saw a large and extensive garden, entirely surrounded by a high crenellated wall, which was decorated on the outside with paintings and carved with many rich inscriptions. I gazed with pleasure at the images and the paintings on the wall, and I shall tell you what they were like, as far as I can remember.
Right in the middle I saw Hate, who seemed indeed to foment rage and anger; her image was angry and quarrelsome and most vile in appearance, not well attired but looking indeed like a woman wild with fury………….
By the side of Covetousness was seated another image; it was called Avarice. The image was ugly and dirty and in a miserable state, thin wretched and green as a chive. So pale was she that she looked ill; she seemed a creature dying of hunger, living on nothing but bread kneaded with strong bitter lye………… Avarice held a purse hidden in her hand, which she tied up so tightly that it would have taken her a very long time to remove anything from it, but she had no interest in doing that; her only desire was to take nothing from the purse.
Envy was portrayed next, who never in her life laughed or enjoyed anything except when she saw or heard tell of some great trouble. Nothing pleases her so much as evils and misfortune. When she sees some great calamity befall a good man, the sight give her much pleasure…………
Close by envy on the wall was a painting of Sorrow. It was quite apparent from her complexion that she was greatly tormented in her heart, and she seemed afflicted with jaundice; Avarice was not nearly so thin and pale as she, for the sadness and distress and troubled thoughts which she suffered night and day had made her turn quite yellow, thin and pale. No living thing ever endured such torment or felt such distress as she seemed to do. I do not think that anyone could have done anything for her that would have pleased her, nor would she have wished at any price to be comforted or to abandon the grief in her heart; her heart was exceedingly sad and her grief deep and intense
Beside her on the left was another figure, of a different shape, whose name I read above her head; she was called Cruelty. Then, looking to the right I saw an image called Baseness, not unlike the other two in form and kind. She seemed indeed an evil creature, wild and cruel an immoderate and insolent scandalmonger. The man who could create such an image knew well how to paint a portrait; it seemed a most villainous thing. She seemed to be full of abuse, a woman incapable of honouring others as she ought to.
Covetousness was painted next, she who entices men to take and to give nothing in return and to heap up great possessions, who causes many to lend money at interest because of their burning desire to win and amass possessions; she it is who prompts thieves and scoundrels to steal, a most wicked and sinful act, for in the end many of them are inevitable hanged............
I gazed intently on these images, which as I have said were painted in gold and azure all along the wall. The wall, which was high and formed a square, served instead of a hedge to enclose and fence off a garden where no shepherd had ever been. This garden was most beautifully situated, and I would have been very grateful to anyone who had been willing to take me inside by way of a ladder or staircase, for it is my opinion that no man ever saw such joy or such delight as were in that garden. The place was not too scornful or ungenerous to shelter birds; never was there a place so rich in trees nor in singing birds, for there were three times as many birds as in the whole kingdom of France. The harmony of their moving songs was most beautiful to hear; the whole world must rejoice at it. For my part, I was filled with such joy when I heard it that not for a hundred pounds, if the way in had been open, would I have failed to enter and see the birds assembled there merrily warbling love’s dances and his delightfully joyful and agreeable melodies….
I entered the garden by the door that Idleness had opened for me, and once inside, I grew happy, gay and joyful; indeed I can assure you that I truly believed myself to be in earthly paradise, for the place was so delightful that it seemed quite ethereal. In fact, as I thought then, there is no paradise so good to be in as that garden, which gave me such pleasure