Sunday, June 29, 2014

Those who come after

may differ from us as radically as we from those before us.

C.S. Lewis The Allegory of Love

'Love', in our sense of the word, is as absent from the literature of the Dark Ages as from that of classical antiquity. Their favourite stories were not, like ours, stories of how a man married, or failed to marry, a woman. They preferred to hear how a holy man went to heaven or how a brave man went to battle. We are mistaken if we think that the poet in the Song of Roland shows restraint in disposing so briefly of Aide, Roland's betrothed. Rather by bringing her in at all, he is doing the opposite: he is expatiating, filling up chinks, dragging in for our delectation the most marginal interests after those of primary importanc have had their due. Roland does not think about Aide on the battle-field: he thinks of his praise in pleasant France. The figure of the betrothed is shadowy compared with that of the friend, Oliver . The deepest of worldly emotions in this period is the love of man for man, the mutual love of warriors who die together fighting against odds, and the affection between vassal and lord. We shall never understand this last, if we think of it in the light of our own moderated and impersonal loyalties.

We must not think of officers drinking the king's health: we must think rather of a small boy's feeling for some hero in the sixth form. There is no harm in the analogy, for the good vassal is to the good citizen very much as a boy is to a man. He cannot rise to the great abstraction of a res publica. He loves and reverences only what he can touch and see; but he loves it with an intensity which our tradition is loath to allow except to sexual love.

AVI described creating a time capsule and realizing only a few years later that some of it seemed irrelevant already. My Better Half is the family historian (she can remember names, I can't), and tries to do a core dump of what she knows of the remoter ancestors. But there's too much detail about nearer kin; and who knows what aspects will fascinate the great grandchildren the most? My father: WW2 Navy (didn't see action--spent his tour mustering the rest back home), accountant, missionary, teacher, business manager--analytical, efficient, very wide interests; pick an aspect; it is going to be a "capsule" summary.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I just learned yesterday that a cousin is not related by blood, but is a product of a first marriage, and my aunt's stepson. My uncle happened to mention it.

I am the keeper of the family tree, so this comes as a bit of a shock.