Content of Roman de la Rose
The first part of this poem by Guillaume de Lorris is an allegorical dream vision. Little is known of this author who composed 4,085 lines between the years 1225 and 1230. Lorris died before completing the poem, however a lengthy conclusion (17,700 lines) was written by Jean de Meun c.1280.
The subject of the poem is courtly love and it follows the Lover’s quest for his maiden and true love. The maiden is depicted as a rosebud in a walled garden. The walled or enclosed garden was an important concept of the time and it represents courtly society. The Lover happens upon the garden, owned by Déduit (Old French for pleasure) as he strolls alongside a brook one Spring day. In his efforts to approach the maiden he meets a number of allegorical characters including Venus, the Godess of Love who tutors him in the art of courtship, Sadness, Pleasure, Jealousy and Meanness. Collectively, they discuss the psychology of romantic love.
An image of the new author, de Meun, seated at a desk writing, is included at the end of de Lorris’s work. A marked change in style occurs in de Meun’s writing and his attitude towards the nature of love outside the sheltered walls of the garden of pleasure. His treatment of love is more practical and cynical and reflects the new attitude of rationalism that emerged in the latter half of the 13th century. The Lover encounters numerous obstacles before finally reaching his maiden and embracing her, and the poem draws to an end with the dreamer awakening at sunrise.