Rosamond ‘Mistress of the Labyrinth’

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AArena

AAtrojanAbove we see a genealogy published in 1947, the year Christine Rosamond Benton, was born. It shows the Scarlet Thread Line descending from the royalty of Crete where the great labyrinth was made. The ritual practiced within was conducted by the “mistress of the labyrinth”………The Rose of the World?

On this day, February 20, 2013, I declare Rosamond Clifford the embodiment of the Labyrinth Mistress, and a Mistress of the Holy Grail.

You also see the descent from the Milesian Kings from who the Kings of Ireland descend. Cretans migrated to Miletus.

I was good friends of Keith and Brian Purvis whose mother was an O’Neill. Keith, who was Christine’s lover, claimed his kindred were the O’Neill Kings who are associated with the Red Hand of Ulster. Brian was Rosemary’s lover. Brian tried to kidnap Rena on Pismo Beach. Rena was Rosamond’s Muse, and reminds me of Angelena Little the Celtic singer. The O’Neill DNA wanted to form a blood-bond with the Rosamond women.

The poet Swineburne was obsessed with Fair Rosamond. William Morris, who was a great influence upon J.R. Tolkein, dedicated his poems to Rossetti who did a painting of Fair Rosamond ‘In Defence of Guenevere’. Here are the Lords of the Celtic Ring of Fire.

In the claim I filed in Rosamond’s probate, I employ these poets and artists, and this ancient history, to make my case that the creative legacy I founded as a boy should not be sold to outsiders, but, should remains in my family so that we may add to these legends that even today decide who is worthy of sitting on thrones.

The Rosamond family lived in Feangh where a Red Hand King had camped. James Rosamond fled Ireland to Canada after a battle with a gang of Catholics. In Arcadia the Roamond Woolen Mill was founded. The Red Thread had come to the New Found Land. Here is a Red Thread Family larger, more powerful, and richer then anything Alan C. Fox can muster with all his millions. We have overcome the world!

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013

A ship with shields before the sun,
Six maidens round the mast,
A red-gold crown on every one,
A green gown on the last.

The fluttering green banners there
Are wrought with ladies’ heads most fair,
And a portraiture of Guenevere
The middle of each sail doth bear.

A ship with sails before the wind,
And round the helm six knights
Their heaumes are on, whereby, half blind,
They pass by many sights.

The tatter’d scarlet banners there,
Right soon will leave the spear-heads bare,
Those six knights sorrowfully bear
In all their heaumes some yellow hair.

Morris, William. The Defence of Guenevere,

One of Swinburne’s earliest works about love is Rosamond, a drama in the Elizabethan style, but one that employs a medieval setting and real historical figures as characters. Published in 1860, this play is extra-ordinarily significant for the poet’s future themes and artistic development. Rosamond possesses many of the virtues of Swinburne’s later tragedy Chastelard, which has attracted somewhat more critical attention, but the earlier work is usually dismissed as a mere Pre-Raphaelite exercise. Both plays, however, prove inspired throughout by Swinburne’s youthful enchantment with courtly love topoi. In these dramas we can discern the depth of his fascination with the topoi of medieval romance and tourbadour poetry, as well as their effect [37/38] on his treatment of the carnal and the ideal aspects of his constant theme, love.

“In 1825, in the village of Fenagh in county Leitrim in Ireland, a gang of Catholic youths attacked the Rosamond home. The Rosamonds were staunch Protestants. James, aged 20 (born 1805) and his brother Edward, aged 15, attempted to protect their mother. A shot was fired by Edward and a youth was dead. The boys fled to Canada. James went to Merrickville where he worked for James Merrick as a weaver. Edward, still fearing arrest, worked his way eventually to Memphis, Tennessee.”
http://globalgenealogy.com/LCGS/articles/A-ROSA.HTM

Magnus, son of Muirchertach Muimnech (from the Annals of Connacht), wrote in 1244:
Fedlimid mac Cathail Chrobdeirg made an immense hosting eastwards into Brefne against O Raigillig, to avenge his fosterson and kinsman, Tadc O Conchobair. They encamped for a night at Fenagh.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenagh,_County_Leitrim

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/swinburne/harrison/2.html

http://www.philipcoppens.com/crete_labyrinth.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labyrinth

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fianna/history/milesian.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milesians_(Irish)

Milesians are a people figuring in Irish mythology. The descendants of Míl Espáine (which is the Irish form of Latin Miles Hispaniae, “Soldier of Hispania”), they were the final inhabitants of Ireland invading the country from Iberia, and were believed to represent the Goidelic (or Gaelic) Celts.
The Lebor Gabála (Book of Invasions — probably first written in the second half of the 11th century AD) describes the origin of the Gaelic people. They descended from Goídel Glas, a Scythian who was present at the fall of the Tower of Babel, and Scota, a daughter of a pharaoh of Egypt[1]. Two branches of their descendants left Egypt and Scythia at the time of the Exodus of Moses, and after a period of wandering the shores of the Mediterranean (including sustained settlements at Miletus and Zancle) arrived in the Iberian Peninsula, where they settled after several battles. One of them, Breogán, built a tower at a place called Brigantia (probably in the coast of Galicia, near A Coruña (Corunna), which was then “Brigantia” (today Betanzos) and where a Celtic tribe called “Brigantes” is attested in ancient times — see Tower of Hercules) from the top of which he, or his son Íth, first saw Ireland.[1][2]
Cretan period
Beginning at about 1900 BC artifacts of the Minoan civilization acquired by trade arrived at Miletus.[5] For some centuries the location received a strong impulse from that civilization, an archaeological fact that tends to support but not necessarily confirm the founding legend—that is, a population influx, from Crete. According to Strabo:[6]
Ephorus says: Miletus was first founded and fortified above the sea by Cretans, where the Miletus of olden times is now situated, being settled by Sarpedon, who brought colonists from the Cretan Miletus and named the city after that Miletus, the place formerly being in possession of the Leleges.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miletus
http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/TextRecord.php?action=GET&textsid=65
http://angelalittle.com.au/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_Cycle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Branch
The Red Branch Knights had a passion for building great duns or forts, many of which remain to this day, and excite the wonder and awe of visitors. Besides Emain itself, there is the majestic fort of Dun-Dalgan, Cuculainn’s residence, a mile west of the present town of Dundalk. This dun consists of a high mound surrounded by an earthen rampart and trench, all of an immense size, even in their ruined state; but it has lost its old name, and is now called the Moat of Castletown, while the original name Dundalgan, slightly altered, has been transferred to Dundalk.

http://www.libraryireland.com/SocialHistoryAncientIreland/I-III-3.php
http://www.christian-restoration.com/fmasonry/Orange/orange.htm
http://jonnymc.tripod.com/history.htm
The Red Hand of Ulster (in Irish: Lámh Dhearg Uladh) is a symbol used in heraldry[1] to denote the Irish province of Ulster. It is an open right hand coloured red, with the fingers pointing upwards, the thumb held parallel to the fingers, and the palm facing forward. It is less commonly known as the Red Hand of O’Neill.[2] Its origins are said to be attributed to the mythical Irish figure Labraid Lámh Dhearg[1] (Labraid of the Red Hand), and appear in other mythical tales passed down from generation to generation in the oral tradition. The symbol is rooted in Irish Gaelic culture and is particularly associated with the Uí Néill clan of Ulster. In some versions, a left hand is used and/or the thumb is opened (such as Tyrone GAA’s crest).
[edit] Mythical origins
It is generally accepted that this Irish Gaelic symbol originated in pagan times and was first associated with the mythical figure Labraid Lámh Dhearg or Labraid Lámderg (Labraid of the Red Hand).[1]
According to one myth, the kingdom of Ulster had at one time no rightful heir. Because of this it was agreed that a boat race should take place (possibly in Strangford Lough) and that “whosoever’s hand is the first to touch the shore of Ulster, so shall he be made the king”.
One potential king so desired the kingship that, upon seeing that he was losing the race, he cut off his hand and threw it to the shore — thus winning the kingship. The hand is most likely red to represent the fact that it would have been covered in blood. According to some versions of the story, the king who cut off his hand belonged to the Uí Néill clan, which apparently explains its association with them. Another variation of this story concludes that it was none other than Niall of the Nine Hostages who severed his own hand in order to win his crown from his brother.
The surname O’Neill is an Anglicization of the original Gaelic Ua Néill, composed of the elements ua, meaning “grandson” or “descendant,” and of the Gaelic name Niall. The meaning of the Niall is disputed, but has been suggested as “cloud”, “passionate” or “champion”.[1] The progenitor of the family is said to be Niall Noigiallach of the Nine Hostages, which legend claims was the High King of Ireland in the fifth century. However, it was the grandsons of Niall Glúndub, himself a descendant of Niall Noigiallach that lived in the tenth century, that would have been the first to use the surname.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Hand_of_Ulster

Ros son of Feargus Fairge

For centuries, the myth of the Míl Éspaine and the Milesians was used in Ireland to win and secure dynastic and political legitimacy. For example, in his Two bokes of the histories of Ireland (1571), Edmund Campion tried to use the myth to establish an ancient right of the British monarch to rule Ireland. In A View of the Present State of Ireland, Edmund Spenser accepted and rejected various parts of the myth both to denigrate the Irish of his day and to justify English colonisation of Ireland in the 1590s (at the height of the Anglo-Spanish war).[5]

Greek mythology did not recall, however, that in Crete there was a Lady or mistress who presided over the Labyrinth, although the goddess of mysteries of Arcadian cults was called Despoine (miss).[12] A tablet inscribed in Linear B found at Knossos records a gift “to all the gods honey; to the mistress of the labyrinth honey.” All the gods together receive as much honey as the Mistress of the Labyrinth alone. The Mycenean Greek word is potnia. “She must have been a Great Goddess,” Kerényi observes.[13] It is possible that the Cretan labyrinth and the Lady were connected with a cult which was transmitted later to the Eleusinian mysteries.[14][15]

Rosamond’s emphasis here on the transcendent value of passion that defies convention and her earlier emphasis on the power of beauty that defies mortality are reminiscent of two arguments implicitly proferred in Morris’ “The Defence of Guenevere,” composed at about the same time as Swinburne began the first draft of Rosamond (see Jeunesse, I, 235-36). But Guenevere’s values are more strained and tentative than Rosamond’s. Of even greater importance in differentiating Morris’ attempt at a sternly realistic adaptation of medievalist amatory and religious values and Swinburne’s iconoclastic recasting of them, however, is that Guenevere pathetically capitulates in “King Arthur’s Tomb,” her monologue’s companion piece, to conventional religious orthodoxies, as Swinburne’s medievalist heroines and heroes often refuse to do.

ost of the most intense poems by Morris — “The Haystack in the Floods,” “Near Avalon,” “Summer Dawn,” “Riding Together” — appeared in his “The Defence of Guenevere” (1858), his first volume of poetry (dedicated to Rossetti). The volume was attacked by establishment critics, upon its publication, as being too mediaeval and too much indebted — which in fact it was not — to Rossetti’s (and hence to Pre-Raphaelite) influence — the implication being that Morris’s obvious preoccupation with morbidity, sexuality, and death went beyond the bounds of Victorian good taste. How do those themes manifest themselves, in fact, in the poems? The same poems which offended the critics, of course, were the ones which Morris’s circle thought most highly of.
After ten years during which he was preoccupied with his business, Morris turned again to poetry, perhaps as a means of coming to terms with emotional problems. “A Garden by the Sea” is from the overtly Chaucerian (and very popular) Life and Death of Jason (1867), written in rhymed heroic stanzas and based on the legendary quest for the Golden Fleece, while the “Apology” to the dream-like The Earthly Paradise (1868) (a lengthy and determinedly escapist collection of twenty-four legends set in an elaborate framework, and pervaded with a sense of alienation and despair) is at once a kind of preface to the long poem and a justification of Morris’s purpose in writing it. For what class of reader is the “Apology” intended?

Analysis of these two works with emphasis on their courtly elements reveals the extent of his early assimilation of values fundamental to medieval love literature, which he adapted to his “modern,” that is, Romantic world view and to his unique artistic needs. In Swinburne’s version of Rosamond, the passionate entanglement between Henry II and his mistress culminates with Rosamond’s murder by his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, perhaps the most famous heroine of courtly love lore.2 Similarly, an ethos derived from courtly convention underlies Chastelard’s love for Mary Stuart.

The first of Rosamond’s five scenes is the most forceful in demonstrating Swinburne’s debt to troubadour conventions as well as to Pre-Raphaelite stylistic influences. Courtly love preoccupations and the medieval setting overshadow elements of Jacobean revenge tragedy throughout the play. Swinburne’s Rosamond, rather than the historical queen of the Courts of Love, espouses the religion of love and, as a result of her lived creed, is poisoned by Eleanor out of jealousy. The play’s predominantly lyrical psychodramatic vignettes stress highlights of the relationships among the four main characters during the last months of Rosamond’s life. The action begins in spring and ends in late summer, but the only explicit time lapse occurs between the fourth and fifth scenes, when Henry is abroad, subduing the French provinces. In addition to the historical characters, Swinburne creates the courtier Bouchard, the serviceable object of the jealous Queen’s ambivalent affections. But Rosamond is significant primarily for the characterization of its tragic heroine, whose passion for Henry suggests the power of the courtly love influence on young Swinburne. In the “Prelude” to Tristram of Lyonesse (written nine years later), Swinburne catalogues “the sweet shining signs of women’s names / That [38/39] mark the months out and the weeks anew,” which Love “moves in changeless change of seasons through / To fill the days up of his dateless year” (Poems, IV, 208. Alongside Guenevere, Hero, Cleopatra, and the rest is “The rose-white sphere of flower-named Rosamond.” This Swinburnean heroine conceives of herself not as an individual but rather as a type, the beautiful woman who inspires insatiable and potentially destructive passions: “Yea, I am found the woman in all tales, / The face caught always in the story’s face.” She is Helen, Cressida, Hero, and Cleopatra. In her particular “tale,” as in Swinburne’s versions of stories about Cleopatra, Guenevere, and Yseult, the heroine herself is destroyed. Yet we are conditioned from the play’s first scene, as the “flower-white” Rosamond wrestles with the fact of her own mutability, to accept the drama of her death as merely one episode in Love’s timeless, cyclic tragedy.

Swinburne’s choice of the “rose of the world” as one of his first subjects for verse suggests that he associated his conception of Rosamond with courtly love allegory, specifically the Roman de la Rose, in which the rose is the eternal symbol of the beloved and of the perfect beauty that is fearfully transient but simultaneously immortal.3 As in Swinburne’s later lyrics “Before the Mirror” and “The Year of the Rose,” Rosamond’s central symbol is the rose, and, like them, this play recapitulates the major preoccupations of courtly love poetry: the apotheosis of beauty; love as the necessary consequence of beauty fear of mutability; and a final insistence on the immortality of both love and beauty, which can be attained, paradoxically, only through death.

[39/40] The first scene of Rosamond characterizes its heroine as simultaneously enchanted with her own beauty, exalted by her love affair with Henry, and insecure about the permanence of her beauty and her love. Surrounded by the ephemeral rose blossoms with which she identifies in the maze at Woodstock, she is alone with her maid, Constance. Here Rosamond reveals her concern with the world’s slanderous gossip about her, and as the scene progresses she attempts gradually to rebuild her self-confidence-in her beauty, in Henry’s continuing devotion, and in the unassailable value of beauty and of love. At first, she is defensive:

See,
If six leaves make a rose, I stay red yet
And the wind nothing ruins me; who says
I am at waste? (Tragedies, I, 231)

She repeatedly challenges Constance to “say I am not fair,” in order to elicit the praise she pretends to despise. She equivocates between self-doubt and unabashed vanity: “Leave off my praise . . . quaint news to hear, That I am fair, have hair strung through with gold” (Tragedies, I, 232). Then she renews herself by remembering Henry’s courtly verses of adulation, and concludes by defining her own and the world’s goodness purely in terms of beauty, the ultimate value that Swinburne everywhere associates with love:

But I that am
Part of the perfect witness for the world,
How good it is; I chosen in God’s eyes
To fill the lean account of under men, The lank and hunger-bitten ugliness
Of half his people . . . I that am, ah yet,
And shall be till the worm has share in me,
Fairer than love or the clean truth of God,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I . . . have roses in my name, and make
All flowers glad to set their colour by. (Tragedies, I, 236- 37)
Earlier, Eleanor has revealed that the source of her jealousy is her homeliness. Angrily and plaintively, she compares herself with Rosamond:

Sweet stature hath she and fair eyes, men say;
I am but black, with hair that keeps the braid,[40/41]
And my face hurt and bitten of the sun
Past medicine of all waters. (Tragedies, I, 245)

Nonetheless, feelings of jealousy are mutual. Throughout the play Rosamond schizophrenically alternates between vanity and insecurity. Since she values herself exclusively for her beauty, she needs a man continually to reinforce her self-esteem, as does every courtly lady. She nourishes her vanity by goading the king to denigrate his queen:

As you are king, sir, tell me without shame
Doth not your queen share praise with you, show best
In all crowned ways even as you do? I have heard
Men praise the state in her and the great shape. (Tragedies, I, 260)

That Henry can describe Eleanor coldly as “A Frenchwoman, black-haired and with grey lips / And fingers like a hawk’s cut claw” (Tragedies, I, 261) explains Eleanor’s rabid antagonism toward Rosamond. In the play’s aesthetic theology, ugliness is equivalent to damnation, and Henry’s adulterous relations with so beautiful a mistress as Rosamond entirely undermine the queen’s pride and reputation.

Rosamond and Eleanor both need courtly praise and devotion, because the love that beauty inspires is their supreme value. Beauty not only assures love, it assures immortality: “Love’s signet-brand stamps through the gold o’ the years” (Tragedies, I, 238). In Scene I, Rosamond articulates the courtly apotheosis of love upon which the whole action of the play depends. Here, as always, a life of love assures salvation. It is the one crucial sacrament:

God has no plague so perilous as love,
And no such honey for the lips of Christ
To purge them clean of gall and sweet for heaven.
It was to fit the naked limbs of love
He wrought and clothed the world with ordinance.
Yea let no wiser woman hear me say
I think that whoso shall unclothe his soul
Of all soft raiment coloured custom weaves,
And choose before the cushion-work of looms
Stones rough at edge to stab the tender side,
Put honour off and patience and respect
And veils and relics of remote esteem
To turn quite bare into large arms of love,[41/42]
God loves him better than those bitter fools
Whom ignorance makes clean, and bloodless use
Keeps colder than their dreams. (Tragedies, I, 238)

Rosamond’s emphasis here on the transcendent value of passion that defies convention and her earlier emphasis on the power of beauty that defies mortality are reminiscent of two arguments implicitly proferred in Morris’ “The Defence of Guenevere,” composed at about the same time as Swinburne began the first draft of Rosamond (see Jeunesse, I, 235-36). But Guenevere’s values are more strained and tentative than Rosamond’s. Of even greater importance in differentiating Morris’ attempt at a sternly realistic adaptation of medievalist amatory and religious values and Swinburne’s iconoclastic recasting of them, however, is that Guenevere pathetically capitulates in “King Arthur’s Tomb,” her monologue’s companion piece, to conventional religious orthodoxies, as Swinburne’s medievalist heroines and heroes often refuse to do.

In the passage from Rosamond quoted earlier, we discover the first lengthy formulation of Swinburne’s consistently fatalistic “religion” of love and beauty, which “makes the daily flesh an altar-cup / To carry tears and rarest blood within / And touch pained lips with feast of sacramant” (Tragedies, I, 239). Indeed, in this play as elsewhere in Swinburne’s poetry, the experience of passion temporarily becomes a kind of religious ecstasy. The oblivion it engenders, however, simulates death. In a sad and loving mood, after singing a Swinburnean imitation of a sorrowful troubadour lyric, Rosamond ends Scene III with this plea to Henry:

Yea, kiss me one strong kiss out of your heart,
Do not kiss more; I love you with my lips,
My eyes and heart, your love is in my blood,
I shall die merely if you hold to me. (Tragedies, I, 265)

The hyperbole of this last line is typical of courtly rhetoric. Further, Rosamond’s postponement of carnal satisfaction, and her demand for a single kiss, reflects an “orthodox” courtly love convention in which the degree of restraint a lover feels compelled to employ is merely a measure of promised bliss and present woe, the mixed pain and pleasure of passion. [42/43]

With Rosamond it is not so much the intensity of insatiable love as the fear of forfeiting her beauty and, consequently, her lover’s praise that makes her desire death. Although she is terrified and cowardly when actually confronted by Eleanor, Rosamond opens the play’s last scene with a weary and sorrowful soliloquy in which she ponders the ugliness age is sure to bring, and because of that inevitability, she prays, “God . . . / get me broken quickly.” Finally she meets death as a succedaneum and is consoled to die with her beauty and Henry’s love undiminished: “To die grown old were sad, but I die worth / Being kissed of you” (Tragedies, I, 287). It is appropriate that the heroine should end this play receiving the traditional kiss or consolamentum of courtly love, for Swinburne has produced in Rosamond an only slightly modified- that is, sensualized-recapitulation of what he perceived to be the essential values and basic conventions of medieval love literature.

Chastelard reflects the same adherence to the courtly love ethos as does Rosamond. However, Swinburne’s religion of love by 1865 contained Sadean elements with which the poet was unacquainted five years before. In Chastelard we find the ideals of Rosamond sensationalized with a graphic carnal awareness. Moreover, the desire for death as love’s supreme consummation had become more than a convention. By 1865, Swinburne’s own mythology of passion had subsumed the ideology of medieval love literature that had earlier inspired his work. The reciprocal influences of London life and Swinburne’s own artistic experiments of the early 1860s are reflected in a play that crystallizes Pre-Raphaelite, Sadean, and courtly love influences. But in it, historically empty conventions of courtly love are presented dramatically as earnest and moving solutions to the problem of human passion.

Chastelard constitutes an even more convincing transposition of courtly love values than does Rosamond, partly because of Swinburne’s improved dramatic technique and partly because of his ability to write more vigorous verse, but primarily because of an ostensibly deeper personal involvement in the emotional issues that the play dramatizes. Although Chastelard was not published until 1865, it was — as Georges Lafourcade plausibly asserts — the focus of Swinburne’s [43/44] attention immediately after, if not simultaneously with, “The Triumph of Time,” his own elegy on the loss through marriage of Mary Gordon. We know, however, by Swinburne’s own assertion, that Chastelard was first conceived and begun in 1859 or 1860 and that it went through numerous revisions (Letters, II, 235). Following Rosamond so closely, early drafts of Chastelard perhaps laid more stress on Swinburne’s unsophisticated acceptance of courtly love ideals than the final version does. The play’s hero, who describes Ronsard as “The sweet chief poet, my dear friend long since” and as “my old lord” (Tragedies, II, 139), not only espouses courtly love values but acts them out in his life. Whether additions to the original version of Chastelard resulted from Swinburne’s disappointment with Mary Gordon, as “The Triumph of Time” is assumed to have done, or simply from a more epic conception of his evolving mythology of insatiable passion, Chastelard in its final form is a palpable and artistically successful reflection of Swinburne’s ethos of love. Dramatic tension in the play is generated almost exclusively by the dynamic and suicidal passion of the hero for the dark and capricious heroine.

Chastelard is depicted from the start as a warrior-poet who is also Mary Stuart’s courtier and lover. Lafourcade has pointed out the play’s biographical significance: Swinburne’s identification with the ideals that Chastelard embodies is transparent. The poet’s most important early critic remarks that Swinburne

crée, comme Dieu, à son image. . . . Chastelard est poète comme Swinburne; et ce dernier ne manque pas de lui donner l’auréole qu’il avait, adolescent, ambitionnée: celle des armes et de la gloire militaire; il mêle ses rêves de Mary à des visions de bataille.

[Swinburne] created, like God, after his own image ….Chastelard is a poet, like Swinburne; and he did not neglect to give Chastelard the aura which he himself had, as an ambitious adolescent; the aura of arms and military glory; he mixes his dreams of Mary with his vision of battle. [Jeunesse, 280]

Lafourcade does not perceive, however, that all the attributes with which Swinburne invests Chastelard belong also traditionally to the [44/45] troubadours and their successors. Chastelard is represented in the play as a sixteenth-century trouvère whose devotion to the ideal of his love is fanatically orthodox. When the object of his passion proves inaccessible and viciously changeable, his commitment to the ideal supersedes his passion for the beloved. It becomes a passion for death.

Curtis Dahl has already verified the significance of Swinburne’s use of Ronsard in the play. Chastelard’s “old lord” is the author of the book that Mary in the last act brings to Chastelard’s prison cell and that Chastelard reads as he approaches the block. Indeed, Dahl claims that Swinburne’s conception of Mary Stuart was inspired by a misreading of Ronsard, who was writing about Mary Stuart “in a highly artificial convention of courtly compliment developed in the Middle Ages and raised to a paean to physical love in the early Renaissance.” Dahl accurately observes:

By consciously or unconsciously ignoring the conventional quality of Ronsard’s diction and attitudes toward his beloved mistress, Swinburne transforms what is really graceful and beautiful but not unusual flattery by a court poet to a lovely and unfortunate Queen into characterization of a fabulously seductive, partly historical but largely mythological goddess of aesthetic beauty and cruel passion. Whereas in Ronsard the emphasis on Mary’s many physical charms is conventional cataloguing compliment, Swinburne (whether unknowingly or with conscious literary intention) reads into it an almost morbid eroticism.

Swinburne was aware of the convention Ronsard was working in and deliberately undertook to literalize the courtier-poet’s typical love song-to employ courtly rhetoric and hyperbole in earnest. Mary Stuart is thus transformed by Swinburne into a truly threatening femme fatale, and Chastelard becomes a powerfully realized extension of the representative courtly poet-lover, a literary ideologist with troubadour conditioning.

As a result, the play is punctuated with Swinburnean imitations of sorrowful love lyrics. Mary Beaton appropriately sings one as the play begins, for her futile love of Chastelard represents the sad, steadfast, and ethereal counterpart of Chastelard’s carnal and aesthetic passion for Mary Stuart. Mary Beaton and Mary Stuart both sing his songs in [45/46] the second act, and in the last play of the trilogy that Chastelard begins, Mary Stuart’s fate rests on her being able to recognize the author of a lyric composed years before by Chastelard. As with all Swinburne’s pastiches, the verses attributed to Chastelard in the play are authentic reproductions of conventional courtly love lyrics. But they have special significance here, foreshadowing the play’s action and echoing the imagery used to depict it. For instanre, the last two stanzas of Mary Beaton’s opening song characterize the religious quality as well as the consuming intensity of Chastelard’s love for Mary Stuart, which he sustains to his death and which, in fact, transforms his violent end into the final, sacramental act of his passion:

Et l’amour
C’est ma flamme,
Mon grand jour,
Ma chandelle
Blanche et belle,
Ma chapelle
De séjour.
. . . .
Toi, mon âime
Et ma foi,
Sois ma dame
Et ma loi;
Sois ma mie,
Sois Marie,
Sois ma vie,
Toute à moi! (Tragedies, II,14)

[“Love is my passion, it is my light, my great day, my beautiful white candle, my shrine. You, my soul and my faith, be my lady and my law; be my love, be Marie, be my life, everything to me.”]

The paradox of Chastelard’s passion is that it is at once what he lives for and what kills him. Life without his love is not only futile but equivalent to damnation, and after Mary jealously and spitefully chooses Darnley as her husband, fulfillment is impossible. Yet Chastelard’s devotion is complete and inevitable, wrongheaded as he knows it is. His conditioning apparently does not allow for the caprice of traditional courtly lovers, expected as well as displayed by Mary Stuart.[46/47]

As in Swinburne’s lived mythology, Chastelard is both made and broken by an irretrievable commitment to one love. However, Mary, in spite of her desire to be loved with devotion like Chastelard’s, can honestly yet remorsefully describe her own fickle nature this way:

I would to God You loved me less; I give you all I can
For all this love of yours, and yet I am sure
I shall live out the sorrow of your death
And be glad afterwards. You know I am sorry.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
God made me hard, I think. Alas, you see
I had been fain other than I am. (Tragedies, II, 75)

Thus, with severe irony, Mary can remark upon expected infidelities after singing one of Chastelard’s mutablity lyrics, which, in Swinburne’s usual manner, associates love with roses:

As-tu vu jamais au monde Vénus chasser et courir? Fille de l’onde, avec l’onde Doit-elle mourir? Aux jours de neige et de givre L’amour steffeuille et s’endort; Avec mai doit-il revivre, Ou bien est-il mort? Qui sait où s’en vont les roses? Qui sait où s’en va le vent? En songeant à telles choses, J’ai pleuré souvent. [Tragedies, II, 56]

[Have you ever seen Venus chasing and running? Daughter of the sea, should she die with the sea? “In days of frost and snow love sheds its petals and goes to sleep, with May should it awaken or is it really dead? “Who knows where the roses have gone? Who knows where the wind goes? One dreams of such things. I have often cried.]

The Venus of the first stanza has already been identified in Act I as Mary herself. “A Venus crowned, that eats the hearts of men” (Tragedies, II, 25) is represented on a breastclasp given her by an admiring artist. As a later incarnation of the archetypal femme fatale with whom Rosamond has identified, this beautiful Queen, fearful of death but [47/48] doomed to be beheaded, is, in fact, immortal. “Doit-elle mourir?” in connection with Mary Stuart is a doubly ironic rhetorical question.

The power of Mary Stuart’s beauty makes her, like Rosamond, the eternal object of men’s desires. For Chastelard, as for Swinburne’s earlier courtly lovers, beauty is the supreme and literally captivating attribute of woman. Because of it, he becomes Mary’s suicidal “sweet fool.” To love in irrevocable earnest is Chastelard’s fatal “flaw.” Yet it is a fault that is most easily understood in terms of the erotic aestheticism of Chastelard’s courtly heritage. Even Mary at first cannot fathom the obstinate depths of his devotion to her beauty. Gradually, however, she begins to perceive the passionate spirit of his unique supplication, along with the power it confers upon her:

Though he be mad indeed It is the goodliest madness ever smote Upon man’s heart. A kingly knight-in faith, Meseems my face can yet make faith in men And break their brains with beauty: for a word, An eyelid’s twitch, an eye’s turn, tie them fast And make their souls cleave to me. (Tragedies, II, 115)

Like any religious fanatic, Chastelard appears mad. For him, as for Rosamond, beauty is the chief measure of goodness in the world. In his last moments with Mary, he explains,

You have all the beauty; let mean women’s lips
Be pitiful, and speak truth: they will not be
Such perfect things as yours. Be not ashamed
That hands not made like these that snare men’s souls
Should do men good, give alms, relieve men’s pain;
You have the better, being more fair than they,
They are half foul, being rather good than fair;
You are quite fair: to be quite fair is best. (Tragedies, II,138)

Chastelard is finally vindicated in his worship of a pitiless and capricious beauty not only by the traditional courtly apotheosis of “fairness” but also by the representation of Mary’s beauty as a characteristic ethereally detached from her other attributes. All the play’s major figures at some point remark upon Mary’s superb beauty and intuit its tragic counterpart, cruelty. Mary knows that her beauty is the exclusive cause of men’s attraction to her and of Chastelard’s passion. [48/49] Chastelard confirms the fact when Mary Beaton tries to understand why he loves Mary Stuart so fervently. In response, he catalogs her physical splendors:

She hath fair eyes: may be
I love her for sweet eyes or brows or hair,
For the smooth temples, where God touching her
Made blue with sweeter veins the flower-sweet white;
Or for the tender turning of her wrist,
Or marriage of the eyelid with the cheek;
I cannot tell; or . . . her mouth,
A flower’s lip with a snake’s lip, stinging sweet,
And sweet to sting with: face that one would see
And then fall blind and die with sight of it
Held fast between the eyelids. (Tragedies, II,20)

Chastelard in fact dies because of his inalterable devotion to an ideal of beauty, of which Mary Stuart is a typical incarnation. In the mythology of this play, as in Rosamond, coalescence with the ideal can be striven for in this world but achieved only in death. His early intuition of some “kindling beyond death / Of some new joys” inspires Chastelard’s last hour. In fact, by the time he dies, he has articulated several visions of possible consummations to his passion that death may supply. When in Act III he hides himself in Mary’s chamber and confronts her with the fact that his love is undiminished though obstructed by her marriage to Darnley, he articulates his yearning for a union with Mary of the type craved by Sappho in “Anactoria.” Between frenzied kisses, he threateningly chides,

Now I am thinking, if you know it not,
How I might kill you, kiss your breath clean out,
And take your soul to bring mine through to God
That our two souls might close and be one twain
Or a twain one, and God himself want skill
To set us either severally apart. (Tragedies, II, 72)

Chastelard’s ideal is total integration with Mary, his ideal of beauty. Although he can conceive of attaining such a consummation to his passion only in death, in life he assiduously pursues whatever can best approach or simulate it. Thus, he insists on accompanying Mary to Scotland and, later, on exulting in his love of her even after she is married. [49/50]

Our impression of Chastelard’s masochism results from his aggressive pursuit and apparent enjoyment of passions he knows are inherently insatiable. At the play’s beginning Chastelard admits to having suffered the unquelled passion of “two years’ patience.” In Act I, awaiting the Queen in Mary Beaton’s chamber, Chastelard joyously anticipates an end to his fever of expectation. When the figure he assumes to be the Queen appears, he at once associates her embrace (and the promise of a final gratification of his desires) with man’s final consolation, death. “O sweet,” he sighs,

If you will slay me be not over quick,
Kill me with some slow heavy kiss that plucks
The heart out at the lips. (Tragedies, II, 35)

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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