Love and passion are closely related. A man who falls prey to his passion will inevitably do all that is in his power to exteriorize his love and experience it. On occasions, however, passion must be moderated by reason, since in reality it is difficult to truly experience happiness, love, and passion. In the two works that will be discussed, passionate love rises as the center theme. Ultimately, both evidence that passionate love, however romantic as it may be, seldom comes to fruition (and the men who experience it very rarely attain happiness). “While the English Lord gives in to his passion, confessing his love and by so doing driving her away, the bachelor knight is more subtle and respectful; his love is never outwardly spoken (it never goes beyond the platonic state), and this ends up winning the woman’s love.
In Marie de France’s “The Song of the Nightingale” the concept of courtly love is taken to the borders of surreal romance. The lay tells the story of a knight and a lady; they love each other purely but their love is forbidden (as she is bound in marriage to another knight). Aware of the impossibility of their love, “they guarded their love under various covers and hid it from general sight” (de France). In the end, the lovers are torn apart forever. The knight understands that they would never be together because she is married and continues to love her in silence. A nightingale allowed them to contemplate one another. Once the nightingale was killed (by the lady’s husband), the knight has a small chest made out of gold and gems: “In this little chest he set the body of the nightingale, and having sealed the shrine, carried it upon him whenever his business took him abroad” (de France). This is a poem in which a romantic, passionate knight earns the love, respect, and admiration of the lady that he loves by his platonic love, by his persistent (yet respectful) contemplation of her. Also, it must be mentioned that the lady is vulnerable to the knight’s proposition due to the fact that her husband is cold, jealous, and abusive.
Conversely, in “Conte LVII” it can be seen that the English lord fails to win the lady over. The situation is fundamentally different, since even though he also loves and propositions her honestly, her heart does not correspond his. There is no abusive husband in this poem. She is not married; she simply does not correspond the English lord’s outspoken words. This becomes clear by the fact that “when she heard those words, she deemed them very strange” (Margaret, Queen of Navarre). This is a story in which a man cannot contain his feelings any longer, and so he decides to risk everything by confessing his love. In the end, this confession proves to be a costly mistake for the English Lord, as he immediately finds out that the woman he loves does not correspond him.
Upon analyzing both works, it becomes clear that both men took different approaches to expressing their feelings of love. While the English Lord gave in to his passion, confessed her love, and ultimately drove the woman away, the bachelor knight decides to conceal his feelings and simply hint them with romance and unspoken adoration (by contemplating the woman who he loves). This romantic quietness, this containment of his passions, is what ultimately wins his love over. However, in the end it may be seen that the bachelor knight cannot be with the woman he loves either, since despite winning her over, she is bound by law and by God to her husband.