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Twelfth Century Authors


There is a substantial amount of verse by 12th century writers with homoerotic themes. Some authors have suggested that these may constitute imitations of classical models rather than any expression of actual feeling: Ovid after all, the pattern of many later writers, had written that the subject of his poetry was

Aut puer aut longas compta puellacomas
(Either a lad or a else a long tressed maid)

This whole question of mimesis is a difficult one. It is always worth asking, however, why a later writer was imitating this aspect of the literary heritage and not some other aspect.

Baudril of Meung sur Loire (1046-1130),
abbot of Bourgueil, and later archbishop of Dol

Obicunt etiam, juvenum cur more locutus
Virginibus scripsi quaedam quae compliectuntur amorem; Carminibusquae meis sexus uterque placet
This their reproach: that wantoning in youth,
I wrote to maid and wrote to lads no less
Some things I wrote, 'tis true, which treat of love
And songs of mine have pleased both he's and she's.

Marbod, Bishop of Rennes, (ca. 1035-1123)

Errabat mea mens fervore libidinis amens...
Quid quod pupilla mihi carior ille vel illa?
Ergo maneto foris, puer aliger, auctor amoris!
Nullus in aede mea tibi sit locus, o Cytherea!
Displicet amplexus utriusque quidem mihi sexus
My mind did stray, loving with hot desire Was not he or she dearer tome than sight? But now, O winged boy, love's sire, I lock thee out! Nor in my house is room for thee, O Cythera! Distasteful to me now is the embrace of either sex>)

Hilary [fl. c. 1125]

Crinis flavus, os decorum cervixque candidula
Sermo blandus et suavis; sed quid laudem singula?
Totus pulcher et decorus, nec est in te macula,
Sed vacare castitati talis nequit formula...

Crede mihi, si redirent prisca Jovis secula
Ganimedes iam non foret ipsius vernacula,
Sed to, raptus in supernis, grata luce pocula
Gratiora quiedem nocte Jovis dares oscula
Hair of Gold and face all beauty, neck of slender white,
Speech to ear and mind delightful - why, though, praise for thee?
For in every part's perfection, not a fault hast thou,
Save - protesting chastity jars with forms so fair...

Ah, believe me, were the Golden age to come again,
Ganymede should no longer slave to highest Jove.
Thou to heaven ravished, shouldest by day his cup refill,
Thou by night shouldst give him kisses, nectar far more sweet

all from E.R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, (New York: Pantheon, 1953), 115-116. Hilary's writing may be found in L.B. Fuller, ed, Hilarius versus et ludi, (New York: 1929)