Page:Marie de France Lays Mason.djvu/21

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xvii
Introduction

interests of her parents or guardians. She was betrothed in childhood, and married very young, for mercenary or political reasons, to a husband much older than herself. We read of a girl of twelve being married to a man of fifty. There was no great opportunity for a love story here; and the strange entreaty, on the part of the nameless French poet, to love the maidens for the sake of Christ's love, passed over the heads of the romance writers. Not that the mediaeval maidens showed any shrinking from matrimony. "Fair daughter, I have given you a husband." "Blessed be God," said the damsel. There spoke a contented spirit. Things have changed, and we can but sigh after the good old times.

But the maiden inevitably became the wife, and the whirligig of Time brought in his revenges. The lady now found herself the most important member of her sex, in a dwelling filled with men. She had few women about her person, and the confidant of a great dame in old romance is, frequently enough, her chamberlain. These young men had no chance of marriage, and naturally strove to gain the attention of a lady, whose favour was to them so important a matter. A mediaeval knight was the sworn champion of God and the ladies—but more especially the latter. The chatelaine, herself, found time hang heavily on her hands. Amusements were few; books limited in number; a husband not of absorbing interest; so she turned to such distractions as presented themselves. The prettier a lady, the sweeter the incense and flattery swung beneath her nose; for this was one of the disadvantages of marrying an attractive woman. "It is hard to keep a wife whom everyone admires; and if no one admires her it is hard to have to live with her yourself." One of these distractions took the shape of Courts of Love, where the bored but literary chatelaine discussed delicate problems of conduct pertaining to the heart. The minstrel about the lady's castle, for his part, sought her favourable notice not only by his songs but also by giving an object lesson of his melancholy condition. One

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