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[GUILLAUME DE LORRIS]. Very little is known about this poet, fl. 1230, the author of the first part of Le Roman de la Rose. He was evidently from Lorris, a small town east of Orleans. The year of his birth is unknown, and the year of his death can only be inferred from Jean de Meun's section of the poem. Jean de Meun says that he was born about the time of Guillaume's death, the date of which is uncertain (c.1225-1240), and that he worked on the poem about forty years after Guillaume's death. Ernest Langlois proposes 1225-1240 as the period of Guillaume's death; Felix Lecoy suggests the years 1225-1230 as the time during which Guillaume worked on his poem. He invented the medieval dream vision of love, and this form enjoyed popularity down to the Renaissance. Unfinished, Guillaume's poem goes as far as line 4058. Courtly and refined, the poem leaves enough clues to justify Jean de Meun's more satirical and realistic treatment of its theme.

The narrator describes a dream he had when he was twenty years old, five years before he wrote his poem. In May, wandering in a meadow near a river, he comes to a walled garden. Outside the garden are images of Hate, Felony, Villainy, Covetousness, Avarice, Envy, Sorrow, Old Age, Pope-Holiness, and Poverty. Let into the garden by Idleness, an intimate acquaintance of Sir Mirth, the lord of the garden, the Dreamer finds Mirth and his companions dancing, while Gladness sings, sitting next to the God of Love. The dancers are Beauty, Richesse, Courtesy, Largess (Generosity), Franchise, and Youth. Sweet Looks keeps the two bows of the God of Love; in his right hand he holds five arrows that attract love and in his left hand five arrows that repel love. Walking about the garden, the Dreamer sees the perfect rosebud and stops to admire it. The God of Love wounds him with his five golden love arrows, and the Dreamer falls in love with the Rosebud. Now the God of Love takes charge, and the Dreamer swears an oath of vassalage to him, upon which he is given the ten commandments of love. Fair Welcome attaches himself to the Lover, and as they admire the Rose, the Dreamer/Lover tells Fair Welcome his desire. Suddenly Dangier, the Rose's guardian, rises from his hiding place and threatens them. In despair, they flee from the place. Reason, made in God's image, comes down from her tower, rebukes the Lover for his folly, and warns him that her daughter Shame guards and protects the Rose. The Lover, however, rejects Reason and joins Friend, who shows him how Dangier may be conquered. The Lover humbly apologizes to Dangier, who replies that he can love as long as he likes, but he may not come near the Rose. Seeing the Lover's distress, the God of Love sends Franchise and Pity to help him. Urging Dangier to have mercy, they cause him to relent. The Lover draws near to Fair Welcome and asks for permission to kiss the Rose, but Fair Welcome cannot comply because Chastity has forbidden it. When Venus appears with her blazing firebrandand persuades Fair Welcome to allow one kiss, Evil Tongue immediately spreads slander and arouses Jealousy, who castigates Fair Welcome for his friendship with the Lover. But Jealousy is adamant. Scolding Shame, she collects all the workmen she can find, and they build a strong tower around the Rose, garrisoned by Dangier, Shame, Fear, and Evil Tongue. Jealousy imprisons Fair Welcome in the tower and sets an Old Woman to guard him. The Lover remains outside the walls, disconsolate and miserable. Here the poem breaks off.

The Roman de la Rose was enormously popular. Ernest Langlois found 215 manuscripts, and others are likely to exist. The Middle English translation, The Romaunt of the Rose, exists in three fragments: Fragments A and B (lines 1-5810) correspond to RR 1-5154; Fragment C (lines 5811-7696) corresponds to RR 10670-12360. Lines 5155-16678 of the original French have been omitted with no break in the manuscript. Fragment A is held to be fairly close to Chaucer's style; Fragments B and C are by separate authors. The Middle English Romaunt does not include the Discourse of Reason, RR 4229-7229; the Friend's Advice, RR 7281-10000; and the Old Woman's Sermon, RR 2740-14546, any of which may be called "heresy" against the God of Love's Law.

Chaucer never mentions Guillaume's name, but the Roman de la Rose pervades all his poetry. The dream poems and love visions--The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, and, most of all, The Parliament of Foules--owe much to the Roman. Chaucer's gardens are indebted to Guillaume's: Januarie's garden, MerchT 2029-2041, the garden where Aurelius courts Dorigen, FranklT 901-917, the garden of assignation in ShipT 89-207. Chauntecleer's domain, a rather drab yard, is the antithesis of such gardens, NPT 2847-2850.

In describing Januarie's garden, the Merchant says that it was such a fair garden that he who wrote the Romance of the Rose could not describe its beauty, MerchT 2031-2033. The Dreamer in The Book of the Duchess dreams that he lies in a room the walls of which are painted in beautiful colors, with the text and gloss of the Romance of the Rose, BD 332-334. Chaucer may have had in mind a particular manuscript with gloss and commentary. Since there were many illustrated manuscripts of the poem in Chaucer's day, he may have meant "illustrated" as well. The God of Love mentions Chaucer's translation of the Romance of the Rose, which is heresy against his law and causes folk to withdraw from him, LGW F 329-333, LGW G 255-257. The Legend is dated 1382-1394, and this passage indicates that by this date there already existed some criticism of the Roman. Christine de Pizan condemned the Roman in 1399 in L'Epistre au dieu d'amours, and this treatise may have been the cause of the celebrated Querelle de la Rose of 1400-1402. Queen Alceste suggests that as penance the narrator must now write of women who have loved truly. He must please the God of Love with a new work as much as he had offended him with his previous work, his translation of the Roman and his writing Troilus and Criseyde, LGW F 435-441, LGW G 425-431. The poet replies that true lovers ought to support him because he has written Troilus and Criseyde and has translated the Rose, LGW F 468-470, LGW G 458-460. [Jean de Meun]

P.-Y. Badel, Le Roman de la Rose au XIVe siècle: Etude de la reception de l'oeuvre; F.W. Bourdillon, The Early Editions of the Roman de la Rose; D.S. Fansler, Chaucer and the Roman de la Rose; John V. Fleming, The Roman de la Rose: A Study in Allegory and Iconography; Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose, ed. E. Langlois; ibid., RR, ed. F. Lecoy; ibid., RR, trans. C. Dahlberg; E. Langlois, Les Manuscrits du Roman de la Rose: Description et Classement; Maxwell Luria, A Reader's Guide to the Roman de la Rose; Riverside Chaucer, ed. L. Benson, 1103; R. Sutherland, The Romaunt of the Rose and Le Roman de la Rose: A Parallel-Text Edition; ibid., "The Romaunt of the Rose and Source Manuscripts." PMLA 74 (1959): 178-183.
Copyright © 1988, 1996 Jacqueline de Weever
Published by Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London.

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