folly of chivalry: women don’t want a man for kitchen help

man cutting vegetables in kitchen under wife's directionA youth in fourteenth-century Florence memorized words he wanted to say when he first approached a woman that he ardently loved. One day, he saw his beloved in church. But he was struck dumb with performance anxiety. His friend pushed him forward:

Urged and impelled by his friend, he as a stunned and lost soul approached the woman. He forgot all that he had thought out, and didn’t dare to say anything. His friend kept urging him to utter some words. “Lady,” at last he said, “I am your lowly servant.”

{ Ille, velut amisso spiritu stupidus, hortante atque impellente socio, prope mulierem adiit; oblitusque eorum quae cogitaverat, cum neque auderet loqui, socius autem instaret ut saltem verba funderet, tandem ille: “Domina,” inquit, “ego sum vester servitialis.” }

Learned authorities have long exalted “courtly love” and urged men to abase themselves to women. That’s a losing strategy. The youth’s chivalric words were folly:

At these words the woman, smiling, said, “Enough, more than enough, domestic servants I already have. They sweep the house and wash the dishes and knives, so there is no need for me to have more lowly servants.

{ Ad quae verba subridens foemina: – “Satis superque satis famulorum habeo,” inquit, “domi, qui et eam verrant, et scutellas ac incisoria lavent, ut pluribus mihi servitialibus non sit opus.” }

Through the ages, few women, and even fewer men, have been as privileged as this lady was. Yet the inner meaning of her words carry universal truth. A ready market for servants has always existed. Today a woman can even buy a sperm injection. But as the ancient Book of Proverbs recognized, a good husband with capable jewels is far more precious than jewels.

Ignorant, mis-educated men have been failing in love for centuries. Men understanding themselves to be inferior to women and seeking to serve women as courtly, chivalric lovers are like the manlet knight Lancelot. They are fools. To rise in love, men must be practical and study what works. Start with studying medieval women’s love poetry, learn from Boccaccio’s Corbaccio, and then move on to medieval Welsh erotic poetry.

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The above story and quotes are from Poggio, Facetiae 247, “The beautiful response of a woman to a youth ardently in love with her {Bellum mulieris responsum, ad juvenem suo amore flagrantem},” Latin text from Poggio (1879) vol. 2, pp. 188-9, my English translation. Here’s the Latin text in a machine-readable form.

[image] Man cutting vegetable in kitchen under wife’s direction. Thanks to  Kourosh000 and Wikimedia Commons.


Poggio. 1879. Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini. The facetiae or jocose tales of Poggio, now first translated into English with the Latin text. Paris: Isidore Liseux (vol. 1, vol. 2).

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