The Landscape Guide

Romance of the Rose Guillaume de Lorris

See M-L Gothein's comments on the influence of the Romance of the rose on garden design

Pages 4-5 and 12-13

By what name I would christen the romance
Which now I start, I will this answer make:
"The Romance of the Rose it is, and it enfolds
Within its compass all the Art of Love."
The subject is both good and new. God grant
That she for whom I write with favor look
Upon my work, for she so worthy is
Of love that well may she be called the Rose.
Five years or more have passed by now, I think,
Since in that month of May I dreamed this dream
In that month amorous, that time of joy,
When all things living seem to take delight,
When one sees leafless neither bush nor hedge,
But each new raiment dons, when forest trees
Achieve fresh verdure, though they dry have been
While winter yet endured, when prideful Earth,
forgetting all her winter poverty
Now that again she bathes herself in dew,
Exults to have a new-spun, gorgeous dress;
A hundred well-matched hues its fabric shows
In new-green grass, and flowers blue and white
And many divers colors justly prized.
The birds, long silent while the cold remained -
While changeful weather brought on winter storms -
Are glad in May because of skies serene,
And they perforce express their joyful hearts
By utterance of fitting minstrelsy.
Then nightingales contend to fill the air
With sound of melody, and then the lark
And popinjay with songs amuse themselves.
The young folk then their whole attention give
To suit the season fair and sweet with love
And happiness. Hard heart has he, indeed,
Who cannot learn to love at such a time,
When he these plaintive chants hears in the trees.
In this delightful month, when Love excites
All things, one night I, sleeping, had this dream.
Methought that it was full daylight. I rose
In haste, put on my shoes and washed my hands,
Then took a silver needle from its case,
Dainty and neat, and threaded it with silk.
I yearned to wander far outside the town
To hear what songs the birds were singing there
In every bush, to welcome the new year.
Basting my sleeves in zigzags as I went,
I pleased myself, in spite of solitude.
Listening to the birds that took such pains
To chant among the new-bloom-laden boughs.
Jolly and gay and full of happiness,
I neared a rippling river which I loved;
For I no nicer thing than that stream knew.
From out a hillside close thereby it flowed,
Descending full and free and clear and cold
As water from a fountain or well.
Though it was somewhat lesser than the Seine,
More broad it spread; a fairer I ne'er saw.
Upon the bank I sat, the scene to scan,
And with the view delight myself, and lave
My face in the refreshing water there;
And, as I bent, I saw the river floor
All paved and covered with bright gravel stones.
The wide, fair mead reached to the water's edge.
Calm and serene and temperate and clear
The morning was. I rose; and through the grass
Coasting along the bank I followed down the stream.

The Dreamer comes to a garden wall

When I'd advanced a space along the bank,
I saw a garden, large and fair, enclosed
With battlemented wall, sculptured without
With many a figure and inscription neat.

The Dreamer enters the Garden of Mirth

Full many a time I smote and struck the door
And listened for someone to let me in,
When finally the yoke-elm wicket gate
Was opened by, a maiden mild and fair -
Yellow her hair as burnished brazen bowl -
Tender her flesh as that of new-hatched chick -
Radiant her forehead gently arched
Her brows as gray as falcon's her two eyes,
And spaced so well that flirts might envy her.
Her chin was dimpled. Mingled white and red
Was all her face - her breath sweet as perfume.
Of seemliest dimensions was her neck
In length and thickness-free from wen or spot;
A man might travel to Jerusalem
And find no maid with neck more fair and smooth
And soft to touch. Her throat was white as snow
Fresh fallen upon a branch. No one need seek
In any land a lady daintier,
With body better made or form more fair.
A graceful golden chaplet on her head
Was set than which no maiden ever had
One more becoming, chic, or better wrought.
Above the polished chaplet she had placed
A wreath of roses fresh from morning dew.
Her hair was tressed back most becomingly
With richest comb. Her hand a mirror bore.
Her fair, tight sleeves most carefully were laced.
White gloves protected her white hands from tan.
She wore a coat of rich green cloth of Ghent
All sewed with silk. It seemed from her attire
That she was little used to business.
When she was combed, adorned, and well arrayed,
Her daily task was done. A joyful time -
A year-long, carefree month of May was hers,
Untroubled but by thoughts of fitting dress.
When thus for me she had unlocked the gate,
Politely did I thank the radiant maid
And also asked her name and who she was.
She answered pleasantly, without disdain:
"All my companions call me Idleness;
A woman rich and powerful am I.
Especially I'm blessed in one respect:
I have no care except to tress and comb
My hair, amuse myself, and take mine ease.
My dearest friend is Mirth, a genteel beau,
Who owns this garden planted full of trees
That he had brought especially for him
From that fair land where live the Saracens;
And, when the trees grew tall, he ordered made

A late medieval hortus conclusus (enclosed garden) of a type inspired by the Romance of the Rose

A medieval hortus conclusus (enclosed garden)

Garden fountain in a medieval hortus concluses - enclosed garden