Capturing the Courtly Janitor




anac8The followers of this blog know that I have given away mounds of information that could be bound in several books, and turned into cold hard cash. But, I am a chivalrous Knight. My Grail and Courtly Love study is without equal. I have discovered two Grail Legends that are connected to Fair Rosamond, a family name that Rena Easton acknowledges on the envelope of her letter addressed to me. Is this intended as a seal, a rose seal?

Would anyone else like to see this non-affaire of the heart go to court?

“He’s stalking me your honor. He thinks he is a knight, and I am a maiden in distress!”

“O.K. I got that. Tell me what happened?”

I have every reason to assume Rena has been lurking in the shadows, she reading my posts for nine months without letting me know she is there. Surely Rena read about Courtly Love, the un-attainable love, if not in this blog, then at the University of Nebraska. My possible kindred, Denis De Rougemont wrote essays and a famous book on this subject. I am not going to desist, and hand over my work to a Janitor who chooses to read things into my letters and study that are not there. There are a million women who would be thrilled to be in her place, to be a Muse to several Grail Legends.

What I suspect is Rena expected a book offer in my first letter – which she did inspire – and was waiting for a book offer in a forthcoming letter, which I did not send. That’s when she called the sheriff of her county to post a guard at the base of the high tower she lives in, she put there by her husband. This is right out of Mary of Champagne.

I could be wrong, and Rena is that stupid not to know what a Muse is, and how Fair Maidens captured in high towers inspired the poetry and songs of the troubadours. I am not going to quit my life’s work – for anyone! Let the sheriff and the husband come and try to stop me!

Rena is the acme of Un-attainable Love. This poetic and chivalrous practice is at the core of what is
redeemable about Western Society, even though these ideal were imported from Persia.

To read that Rena recites poetry for eight hours while she works as a humble janitor – is too good to be true! Anyone who has studied Grail Lore knows that chaste women live very humble lives, usually in monasteries. Rena is reciting the Rosary over and over again, and apologizes to me for being abusive.
Here is Guinevere after betraying King Arthur. Here is Fair Rosamond in her bower. Any Fool knows Rena is the keeper of the sword Excalibur – the singing sword!

This image of Rena in a tower downtown working through the night, she reciting poetry to the sound of a vacuum cleaner (bagpipes) is astounding modern-day Grail and troubadour material. Here is Sleeping Beauty – who was once a Royal Ballerina – in her tower surrounded by roses and thorns. She has been culturally put to sleep for thirteen years while she works hard – like a slave – in order to save her husband’s farm. How honest of her! But, not that honest! Rena knows she has a destiny. She sends out a rose, to a certain knight who she still loves. She wants to see if he will ignite her forgotten quest.

No, I am not stalking Rena, I have found Rena! And she let me know I had found her.

Rena’s poetry is like a beacon that brings good knights from all around, but, they never make it to her, they are these, asleep in the thorns. Only I am awake!

Rena wants to play poetry! This is why she sent me poems!

Then there La Belle et de Beast, and of course The Phantom of the Opera where the Muse of the Night, and the Angel Muse of Music compose the Greatest Operas. And then, there is Swan Lake! I am not going to quit my creative endeavors because Rena married a farmer, a cowboy, and has retired from the world. In my opinion, she should have married some one who could get her creative juices flowing.

Swineburne has been one of my heroes since 1969. I did a painting of Rena in the Pre-Raphaelite style and I declared myself a new Pre-Raphaelite. My kindred, Elizabeth Rosemomd Taylor was a film idol and art collector. Her portrait done by Andy Warhol sold for forty million dollars. The Benton family were famous artists. In 1971, a year after we last saw each other, I asked Rena to send me a profile of her so I could do a painting of her. When she came in from outside, she described her walk at sunset that was like her painting.

“If you were here right now I would give you such a kiss!”

This is real history – art history – we have between us, not the made-up stuff of a mentally ill stalker. I have the right to record this history and do what I will with it. If I paint a hundred more painting of Rena – why stop me and demean me! Who is going to stop me from writing a thousand sonnets to Rena, because she says she fears for her life? How many stalking reports has Rena filed? She talks about her fear of being raped in her letter. I suspect Rena is mentally ill. Why didn’t send me a letter bidding me not to contact her anymore or blog about her? She could have given me a clue as to what she believed was a threat to her, give me a chance to explain. But, what if her husband forbid her to contact me ever again?

I have put Rena Victoria Easton in good company! No sooner does she get a clue she is famous, she turns on me, her………………???????

Let your imagination run wild! Is this against the law! Then – I am your man! I await the sheriff to come get me and put me irons, and throw me in a dark dungeon – for this too is part of ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’.

Here is my grandfather’s short story that takes place in Montana where he was born. I dedicated this story to Rena and her husband. This is real family history. Rena plays a huge roll in my family history, and the history of the State she lives in. I will place this history in a Montana Museum. Is the sheriff going to form a posse, and wait my arrival on the train?

This stalking charge is suspicious, and outrageous! There is something covert going on. In this post made August 18, I ask;

“C’mon Rena. Show yourself. Do it for Montana! You were Rosamond’s Muse. This is your State History. You got some major bragging rights! Put this in your resame. At least send me copies of photos of you that I can work from to illustrate ‘Capturing Beauty’. I want your side of the story! I will got to the Governor and have you declared Montana’s State Treasure who brought the history of Royal Rosamond and Fanny Cory, together!”

Rena had to have read this, and thus begins her letter to me “Here I am.”

I am going alert the sheriff to the possibility Rena’s husband is abusing Rena, holding her hostage, and has threatened her – and me – if she did not make a false police report. He is very sick and in fear of being abandoned. Rena has been working her fingers to the bone for him. He is not the independant rancher he wants to believe he is. If Rena left him, he would be in a fight for his life. I suspect Rena is trying to save my life!

Here is Michael Dundon who was with Christine when Rena walked out of that doorway. Rena stayed at his brother’s house who was married to my younger sister. Why didn’t Rena mention members of my family and thank them for giving her sanctuary. To depict me as some fiend, a total stranger, who came out of a dark doorway to stalk her is extremely hurtful and un-grateful. No wonder she had a hard time making friends. Who does she trust, and who trusts her?

Jon Presco

“In Enya’s song ‘Be Where You Are’ – that was perhaps Kathleen’s favorite – we find Courtly Love, and the unattainable. How we deal with our great losses and separations, is to send Orpheus into the underworld to look for his beloved. Our hero promises he will not turn to behold his very beautiful wife, until he reaches the surface, but, can’t resist. Orpheus beholds her beautiful face, and she slips back into the void. Here is the birth of the Museum and the idea of immortality coming to dwell with mortals. All we need is a glimpse.

“Here I am.”

“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.

Algernon Charles Swinburne was born in 1837 to a rather illustrious family. His father was Admiral Charles Henry Swinburne (son of Sir John Henry Swinburne) and his mother was Lady Jane Henrietta Ashburnham (daughter of the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham) and so, as their eldest child and a son, great things were no doubt expected of little Algernon. He grew up in lovely East Dene in Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight (or as I like to call it, the ‘Isle of Victorian Splendidness’) and went off to Eton, then to Oxford. So far, so traditional. You can see by the portrait of him at six years old (above), he already had his vibrantly red hair, and by 16 he was already writing poetry. The only blip on his record was being temporarily expelled (or ‘rusticated’, which sounds like a type of bread. I do like a rusticated loaf) for publically supporting the attempted assissination of Napoleon III by Felice Orsini.

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.

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:

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,

“Rosamond recalls that Jack Cory and his sister Fanny Y. Cory, cartoonist, started him on his writing career.”

In looking for traces of my Muse, Rena Easton, in Montana, I found what can be described as the Rosamond Holy Grail in Helena Montana. My grandfather lived in Helena and says he was inspired to write by Jack Cory, a political cartoonist and equestrian artist, and his sister Fanny Y. Cory, a famous illustrator who lived in a secluded ranch in Montana.

There was an art show of four generations of this family. This is the vision I had for my family when I became a Pre-Raphaelite. Christine Rosamond Benton did several Fairy paintings, as did Drew, who is employed rendering avatars for fantasy games.

Alas we have a true genealogy that traces the Rosamond Family Muse from the Cory family, to my grandfather, to me, to my sister, and to her daughter Drew Benton whose father was the famous muralist, Garth Benton, the cousin of the artist, Thomas Hart Benton. This is the convergence of three creative families – that is unheard of! The Great Muses are at work here. Consider our DNA!

If I had not been following my Muse wherever she leads me, then I would not have made this profound discovery that cast out the outsider from Rosamond Creative Legacy, those parasites who dare title themselves “caretakers” of Rosamond’s art and life story. If my grandfather came back from the dead, he would take a bullwhip to these usurpers – of his history! Fanny was a very famous woman artist – before Christine was born!

Thank you my dear grandfather, whom I never met, for laying down the true stepping stones of our family history.

Royal wrote a short story about a bullfight in Montana where his sister lived. It appears their father adopted these sibling out to W.S. Spaulding after his wife died.

The top two images were done by Drew Benton. The boy with dragon was done by Drew’s mother, Christine Rosamond Benton. The connections I just made – with no ones help – increase the value of all my families creative efforts. This is what real Art Books look like!

I’ve considered doing illustrations for most of my books. C’mon Rena. Show yourself. Do it for Montana! You were Rosamond’s Muse. This is your State History. You got some major bragging rights! Put this in your resame. At least send me copies of photos of you that I can work from to illustrate
‘Capturing Beauty’. I want your side of the story! I will got to the Governor and have you declared Montana’s State Treasure who brought the history of Royal Rosamond and Fanny Cory, together!

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013

I also found an article about a Royal Rosamund, who was said to be the son of W.S. Spaulding – I do not know if that was the same person as the Frank Rosamund who is the coach driver with the family in 1900, but the ages match.


Royal Rosamond, Helena native, is Planning Book About
Home City, Chamber Is Told
Royal Rosamond, widely known
author and Helena native, is planning
a book about the city according
to a letter received by the
Helena Chamber of Commerce
from the resident of Oklahoma
Rosamond said the book will
be based on recollections of his
childhood in the city. He asked
the chamber for assistance with
additional material about the city
and the surrounding area.
Rosamond said his parents followed
my grandfather, John L.
Reese, to Helena from Missouri
In the spring of 1884.” The family
lived in the Sixth ward for three
years before moving to the Sanford
and Evans building.
His father, W. S. Spaulding,
and Gary Cooper’s father were
Business partners with a shop on
the lot where the post office now
stands. When he was six years old,
Rosamond said, he was a playmate
of Tommy Cruse’s little boy,
about the time the elder Cruse
was financed with a grub stake by
a local grocer and struck it rich
at Marysville. .
Rosamond asked the name of
the grocer and wanted to know
the Cruse boy’s name. The letter
said Rosamond attended Hawthorne
school when he was six,
seven and eight years old. “There
was not a bob sled in town that
I had not ridden. . . . I was on
speaking terms .with every horse in
every barn in town. . . . I doted
on pigtailed Chinamen but failed
to win their friendship except for
one, a merchant up the gulch,” he
A frame residence built hy Rosamond’s
father at the head of Walnut
still stands. .The author
visited the city In 1945.
His mother died when he was
nine years old and he moved to
Missouri until he was 18 when he
returned to Helena. Rosamond recalls
that Jack Cory and his sister
Fanny Y. Cory, cartoonist, started
him on his writing career.
Rosamond asked for information
about the earthquake, early gold
operations, a map of the city and
other information which he expects
to include in his book.
One of his novels, “Bound in
Clay” is available at the Helena
public library. He has been called
“Oklahoma’s greatest living humorist,”
and is holder of the international
Mark Twain award for
his contribution to literature.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Capturing the Courtly Janitor

  1. Reblogged this on Rosamond Press and commented:

    Rena is the Janitor at the End of the World. She makes places and things – clean while she recites poetry. What is that? She was seventeen when I gave her a glimpse of the Afterlife.

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