Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The troubadour alba and the play

A. The play in relation to the troubadour alba.

So far this analysis of the play, while being illuminated by Gnostic sources, is not specifically Gnostic, as opposed to Platonic or Neoplatonic, a philosophy which shares with Gnosticism the view that the liberation of one's earthly spirit is by following one's yearning for unity with one's angelic counterpart. But there is another aspect of the Gnostic picture, to which I have referred in passing, namely, the archons and their attempts to possess the spirit, symbolized by the "luminous Epinoia" who flees the body of the human Eve so as to escape being raped. This act also keeps her from being "known" by Adam--until somehow she manages to conceive Seth with him, in his old age. The archons are uniquely Gnostic; all that Platonism has in their place is featureless matter, distorting our image of the Good with shadows.

Now we might ask, what in the play corresponds to the demiurge and its archons, psychologically the autonomous complexes--greed, lust, envy, domination, laziness, and so on--that tempt and possess the soul and so cause the loss of connection to spirit? One is tempted to say that the lovers' passion is itself a temptation of the flesh, but I do not think so. Their devotion is to each other, not to any selfish lusts. Their total commitment to each other, even beyond the grave, is what makes them so noble.

The answer, of course, is the Capulets, Juliet's father and all her relatives, who hate the Montagues and do whatever they can to obstruct Juliet’s own yearnings, the father by decreeing who she shall marry and the others, typified by Tybalt, by seeking to kill Romeo for even daring to attend the Capulets’ ball. What is especially interesting is just how Shakespeare imagines the Capulets’ effect on the couple, from the first clandestine meeting at Juliet's window, where Juliet fears for Romeo's life, to their last meeting in the crypt.

 There is one meeting between the lovers that we have not looked at, the last one in which they actually talk with each other. This is at the end of the wedding night, with the birds chirping in the orchard. First Romeo says that the sound of the lark means that dawn is near and he must leave. Juliet insists that it is the nightingale, not the lark. Romeo says in effect, have it your way--so what if I'm killed, I'd rather be here. Then Juliet has to admit the truth and urge Romeo to go, while cursing the lark. As he goes, the nurse knocks on her door to say that her mother is coming. I will discuss the individual lines in a moment; but first I need to lay some groundwork.

As many scholars (e.g. Bloom 2000) have pointed out, the interchange takes the form of a type of medieval song, called in French the abaude, in English the dawn song, which in its generic sense is about lovers either parting or meeting at dawn. In its classic form, the troubadour alba (Provencale for dawn), the lovers almost invariably are parting at dawn, to avoid being caught by the lady’s Lord, usually her husband but sometimes her father. In a sense the whole play, in that its theme is true love conducted at the risk of death at the hands of the girl’s family, conceptually revolves around the theme of the alba.

That Shakespeare may have meant to evoke the alba specifically is suggested not only by the theme but by numerous references to dawn in the play. In the first scene, Romeo’s relatives talk about Romeo’s return at dawn from melancholy nighttime wanderings. The next night, the lovers at. Juliet’s window part before dawn, with its light that could betray them. The next night, after Romeo and Juliet consummate their marriage, Romeo leaves at dawn. The next dawn is when the Capulets discover Juliet apparently dead. At the next one, Romeo awakes from his dream. The play ends at the fifth dawn, with the couple dead in the crypt.

Another signifier of dawn is the time all this takes place. “A fortnight and odd days” before August 1 is about July 14, which in the Julian calendar used then corresponds to July 25 in today’s Gregorian calendar. (In 1582, the year it went into effect in Catholic countries, it was 10 days ahead of the Julian  Calendar still used in England.) This is roughly the time when the sun moves from the sign of Cancer to that of Leo. As Stavig has observed (2000), the six signs ending in Cancer are all night signs,.and the other six, starting with Leo, day signs.  The significance for us is that if we consider the year as a single day, from sundown to sundown, then the main action of the play occurs at dawn, at the point of conjunction between sun (Leo, August) and moon (Cancer, July)..

Another point is that the two signs on either side, Leo and Cancer, are governed by the Sun and the Moon respectively, which in the Song of Songs, its imagery suggests, are the mythic personas of the couple, imagery which we have seen continued to be used in alchemy. The Song of Songs, a literary ancestor of both the medieval dawn song and Shakespeare’s plays, is itself a dawn song, as Hatto (1966) noticed, including it in his anthology of dawn songs. The question remains, however, whether it is a song of parting or one of coming together. I shall discuss this question and why it is important in a later section.

In view of all this, let us look at symbolic and philosophic parallels between the medieval dawn song and Shakespeare’s play. The line I wish to follow is one first taken in the late 1930’s by de Rougemont (1956). His remarks were quite brief, perhaps too brief, because most scholars since then have not been convinced. My treatment might seem over-long to some, but it is meant to counteractt a half-century of neglect.

The troubadours, who perfected the dawn song as a poetic form and called it the alba, flourished first in what is now southern France, then spread to northern Spain and northern Italy, in the 11th through 13th centuries. There is considerable overlap between these areas and the areas in which Catharism, the Gnosticism of the Middle Ages, was in the ascendancy at the same time. Both especially flourished in Languedoc, the area just north of the eastern and central Pyrenees Mountains. What caused the Cathars’ decline was the so-called "Albigensian Crusade" directed by the Pope and the King of France against the Cathars and the Provencale-speaking lords who protected them. Over 20 years and more, Languedoc was laid waste; perhaps a million people died. Annexed to France, this formerly rich and gracious land never recovered. Troubadours and Cathars alike fled to Spain and Italy or died holding their ground.
What is relevant about the alba for us is that interpreted in a certain way, with a certain double meaning, it duplicates the situation of the Cathars, who sought union with the divine outside the Roman Catholic Church. This meaning would have been clear to the troubadours' audiences, who would have been quite familiar with Catharism. We have already seen one half of this conception, the striving for unity with the divine. The other half is evading the snares of the false but tyrannical demiurge. This is where interpretation shifts from the relatively safe mysticism of St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila into heresy. (The Renaissance Neoplatonists like Ficino on the whole managed to evade the issue.)

The classical Languedoc alba took the form of a dialogue between two out of three characters:  a knight, his lady, and a watchman. Sometimes birds substitute for the watchman, especially the lark, or a woman of lower birth who is a confidant of the lady. In Romeo and Juliet, the nurse and the friar both take the watchman role. In the alba scene, the lark is explicitly mentioned, and the nurse is implicit, with her knock of warning at the end. Then when the nurse defends Juliet's marrying her father's choice Paris, she is no longer trusted by Juliet, and Friar Lawrence has the watchman role, enacted  in the macabre setting of the crypt.

In the classical alba, the lady is married to a rich and powerful lord, who will kill the lovers apart if he finds out. It is he that the watchman watches for. The alba celebrates the joy of the knight and the lady together and the vigilance of the watchman. This celebration of adulterous love, which is at the heart of the cult of courtly love, was condemned by the Inquisition in 1277. After that, either the lady had to be unmarried, the lover had to be clearly spelled out as Christ, or the poet had to be retelling a story that was already traditional, such as the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere in the Arturian legend.

All of this, however, is simply to look at these songs on a literal level. There are indicators that we are not always to stop on that level. In some songs the lord is called the gilos, Provencale for "jealous one."  For example, take the last stanza of an anonymous Provencale alba:
    Beloved Lord Steven, go,              Amicx N Esteves, via,       
    for I shall remain yours,                Qu’ieu remanh vostr’amia
    and if the jealous one comes         Que si’l gilos venia,
    I have great fear                            Gran paor ai
    and great terror                             E gran esmai
    that he will do us villainy.             Que’ns fezes vilania. (Sigal 1996, 89)
"Gilos," i.e. "jealous one," is the same word that the Vulgate Bible applied to Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. This God is fearful indeed, as indicated by such punishments as the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the slaughter by Moses of those who worshiped the Golden Calf. The double reference, to the husband and the God, would not have been lost on someone living in the Cathar milieu of that time and place. For Cathars there is an additional point, that to hold up the Old Testament God as an ideal is to defend a cruel tyranny that denies a person's right to choose how he or she shall worship--or who to love. And just as the god of Genesis punished Adam and Eve and all their descendants for following just once the advice of the serpent, whom some Gnostics considered a representative of the true God, so will the Catholic Church do "villainy" to people who have heeded the talk of heretics.

Such a view of the Church and of its god would not have been lost on Shakespeare's audience. Fewer than ten years earlier, Protestant (and thus to Catholics heretical) England had had to fight for its survival against Catholic Spain's Armada. Before that, it had had to endure Catholic Queen "Bloody" Mary's burnings of Protestants. The play secularizes qualities of such a God without mentioning it or the Church by name. (In fact Queen Elizabeth's God was almost as Jehovah-like, against Catholics and other suspected plotters, as Mary’s, but it was not persecuting the play's audience.) The fearsomeness of the Lord comes through in Lord Capulet's tirade when his daughter will not marry the man of his choosing:
Cap. Hang thee, young baggage! disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what:  Get thee to church o' Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face...
Graze where you will, you shall not house with me...
An you be mine, I'll give you to my friend;
An you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,
For, by my soul, I'll ne'er acknowledge thee,
Nor what is mine shall never do thee good. (III.v.161-196)
Capulet here is of course an example of the hypocritical father who thinks he is acting for his child's own good, but whose actions reflect his own needs and values and  rather than any knowledge of his daughter and her feelings. His angry tirade parallels the Lord God of Genesis banishing his creation to its own devices. Just as Jehovah banished Eve and her mate from the Garden of Eden for their disobedience, so will the one who takes the role of Jehovah in the family eject Juliet from her privileged life should she disobey her father and place her devotion elsewhere, even to follow her own heart.

So the gilos in Romeo and Juliet's alba is on one level her father, and on another the God of Genesis, whom Gnostics called the demiurge. In one respect this alba differs from the troubadour alba: the gilos is father instead of husband. Does this difference matter?

I think it was for good reason that the troubadours insisted that the lady actually be married to the jealous one rather than being his daughter or fiancee. People who considered Catharism as their faith had themselves been brought up as Catholics, or apparent Catholics, and would have continued to attend Catholic mass to avoid suspicion of heresy. As Catholics, they had  recited the Apostle's Creed and given many other pledges of their loyalty to the Catholic God, starting with baptism as infants. It was not possible to renounce such pledges and still live in the community; the Church would have regarded renunciation as evidence of heresy. Cathar priests, or perfecti, were prepared to live in the woods or in disguise as itinerant workers in one town after another; thus their identity remained hidden from the Church. But that was not expected of  believers, the credentes. Hence the Cathar faithful, credentes, lived two lives, one during the day and the other at night when behind closed doors they dared to worship according to their hearts. At night they broke the vows they made during the day.

In a sense Juliet's marriage is indeed an illicit one, comparable to the Cathar credente's relationship to his religion. Like the Cathar's faith, Juliet's marriage is secret and must be so, if she is to not suffer a fate comparable to that of a Cathar credente convicted of honoring Cathar ways: that of being stripped of all property and protection and reduced to the status of pariah. The marriage transgresses the rules of the patriarchal family, in which the father chooses or at least approves the daughter's choice of a husband. It is this kind of marriage which the cult of courtly love undermined and which the troubadours sang against.
The troubadours, naturally, did not advertise any particular secret meanings for their verses. There was no need to invite persecution. They simply encouraged people to make a variety of interpretations: "The more interpretations the better, as long as they are good," one troubadour advised (Kendrick 1988, 19). One of the most famous troubadours, Giraut de Bornelh, refers in one poem, according to Burgwinkle (1990, 25) "to the fact that he previously wrote songs that were hard to interpret (trobar clus)," in other words songs with multiple meanings. This is in a song that is rather obscure itself!

With that comment from de Bornelh in mind, let us turn to a famous alba of his, to bring out its "trobar clus" aspect, which I believe will prove highly relevant to the play. I will begin with the first and third stanzas. In both, the watchman is singing to the knight:

Reis glorios, verais lums e clartatz  
Deus poderos, Senher, si a vos platz
Al meu copanh siatz fizels aiuda 
Qu’en no lo vi, pos la nocha fo venguda
     Et ades sera l’alba!
Bel companho, en chantan vos apel;
no dormatz plus, qu’eu auch chanter l’auzel   
Que vai queren lo jorn per lo boschatge 
Et ai paor que’l gilos vos assatge,
    Et ades sera l’alba!

I. Glorious king, true light and brightness,             
Powerful God, Lord, if you please,                    
to my companion be a faithful aid,                           
For I have not seen him since the night has come
      and soon it will be dawn!                                      
III. Fair friend, in singing I call you:

sleep no longer, for I hear the bird sing
who goes seeking day through the wood,                                                                                             and I fear the the jealous one will attack you,        
        and soon it will be dawn!                                      

 (Sigal 1996, 148-149)

About the first stanza, one might ask a question (Saville, 1972): How can someone expect to pray to the God who has proscribed adultery, that He protect the adulterers from harm? De Rougemont (1956, 87) suggested an answer: The watchman is not praying to that god at all. Rather, the phrase "true light" in the first line suggests that there is a "false light"; this would be the god on the side of jealous husbands, the Gnostics’ demiurge.

For the Cathars, the adjective "true," as in "true god" or "true light," designated their god, higher in power and knowledge than the Catholics' god. Although there are very few surviving Cathar texts from which to cite examples, one is a prayer which Nelli  has reproduced:                                   
Holy Father, Just God [Provencale, Dieu dreyturier] of the good spirits, thou who art never deceived, who never errs, nor lies, nor loses his way, nor doubts: for fear of dying in the world of the alien god [Dieu estranh], as we are not of this world, and the world is not of us, give us to know what thou knowest, and to love what thou lovest. (Nelli 1976, 38-39. My translation from Nelli's French version.)
The prayer is addressed to the Dieu dreyturier, in French Dieu juste, meaning either legitimate or just God, as opposed, Nelli says in a footnote, "to the other God, unjust (or illegitimate) and bad." The one praying asks not to "die in the world of the alien god," the Dieu estranh, Dieu etrange in French, another term for the illegitimate God, the false light. This distinction clearly corresponds to the older contrast, reflected in the Nag Hammadi texts, between the God of All and the demiurge.

In praying to the "true light," the watchman is in effect invoking the god of "true love," as opposed to false love, of which the Lady's husband is the earthly model. Courtly love thus corresponds nicely to the Cathar creed. In Languedoc as elsewhere in the medieval world, marriage was a matter arranged by the fathers to promote their goals. The husband then had the right and even the obligation to use the wife for the purpose of creating and raising offspring to continue his line. The lover, however,was one who was chosen by the lady alone after passing many trials of his love. The situation parallels the pilgrim who surmounts many difficulties to arrive at the holy shrine, or the mystic who overcomes visions of demons so as to be in union with his god. Similarly, the knight attains the object of his desire, to be at one with his lady, with the result not the birthing of children but the rebirth of their own spirits on a higher plane.
In stanza III of de Bornelh's song, besides mentioning the gilos the troubadour also refers to "the bird," which "goes seeking day through the wood." In the Catholic church, the bird of the day is the rooster, whose crowing at dawn is symbolic of Christ's ministry. Village churches often put a rooster at the top of their steeples instead of a cross for that reason, and hymns used the same symbol. The day here is a symbol for God or the Second Coming. For example, a well-known Latin hymn written by Prudentius in the fourth century had the following as its opening stanza:
The bird, the messenger of dawn,               Ales diei nuntius
Sings out the light is near,                           lucem propinquam praecinit;
And Christ, the rouser of our minds,          nos  excitator mentium
Now calls us back to life.                             iam Christus ad vitam vocat.
(Saville 1972, 68)
Here is the same symbolism of light, dark and the bird, the song's "messenger of the dawn."

For the troubadours, however, the "bird who goes seeking the day through the wood" is not the rooster but the lark. The rooster, which cannot fly and just struts around guarding his hens until he gets eaten, is hardly a fitting symbol of the troubadours' lofty ideal. They admired the lark, which not only flies toward heaven but also seems to sing for joy as it cavorts in the air. Bernat de Ventadorn used this image to great effect in the first stanza of one of his loveliest songs:

    When I see the lark moving                                        Can vei la lauzeta mover
    its wings joyfully against the light,                              de joi sas alas contra-l rai,
    forgetting itself and letting itself fall because of        que s'oblid'e-s laissa chazer
    the sweetness which rushes to its heart,                     per la doussor c'al cor li vai,
    alas! I feel such envy                                                   ai! tan grans enveya me'en ve
    of those whom I see rejoicing                                      decui qu'eu veya jauzion,
    that I wonder my heart                                                mera villhas ai, car desse
    does not at once melt away with longing.                   lo cor de dezirer no-m fon.
    (From liner notes to "Proensa," compact disc by Paul Hillier et al, 1988)

From this beginning, it is not yet clear of what kind of joy the poet is envious. Light, we know, is a symbol of the spiritual; the lark could thus be seen as moving in response to a ray of divine light, and the poet could be envying those who rejoice in the spirit, which he himself thirsts to feel. From this perspective, the second verse might seem something of a letdown, for we learn that his heaviness is due to unrequited love. But the earlier ambiguity only serves to ennoble and lift up the troubadour's love to the level of the divine.

I have not seen a Provencale alba referring specifically to the lark; but the image does appear in an anonymous French dawn song a century or so later. The Lady recounts how she and her lover played together in the woods all night until the sky turned gray, continuing:    .
And the lark, arising, sang:                 E ke l’alowe chantait       
As if to say, "Lovers, away,"             Ke dit: “Amins, alons an,”
And he responded softly:                    Et il respont doucement:
     "It isn't nearly day                              “Il n’est mie jours,
      Sweet noble heart,                               Savourez au cors gent,
      So help me love,                                  Si m’ait amors,   
      The lark lies to us."                            L’alowette nos mant.”
(Sigal 1996, 43)
Here the “lark arising" takes on the role of the watchman; the lark's song corresponds to the warning which the watchman sings. In the next stanza, the lady recalls her final embraces with the knight, and the knight repeats his refrain, the context making it increasingly clear that the knight does not believe what he is saying; he is simply expressing his regret at having to part.

Both the image of the lark and the use of denial as an expression of regret occur in Romeo and Juliet's own alba, as their wedding night is ending. Juliet begins by saying to Romeo:
Jul. Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day.
It was the nightingale and not the lark                            
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear. (III.v.1-3)
I have not said anything yet about the nightingale. I suspect this was a conventional troubadour symbol: Marie de France, at the court of Henry II of England in Aquitane, bordering Languedoc, composed a poem called "The Nightingale,” which suggests its meaning (Camille 1998, 9). A lady, when her lord is out, spends her evenings on her balcony, looking at a young man who lives opposite, who also looks at her. One night the lord comes in early, and he asks what she was doing out there. She says she likes to listen to the nightingale, which indeed does sing all night. The lord goes outside and soon brings back something and throws it at his lady’s feet. It is a nightingale, strangled by the lord. It is clear that the nightingale symbolizes the lover, who sings courtly songs to his lady at night. The lark, in contrast, begins his song just before dawn.

Hence Juliet's reference to the nightingale: they are still in the time of love. Romeo responds, more realistically:   
Rom. It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
 no nightingale;... (III.v.6-7)
and he points to other evidence:
...Look, love, what envious streaks 
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east. 
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day 
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. 
I must be gone and live, or stay and die. (III.v.7-11)
 He seems to be referring to the red streaks which often appear before sunrise, and the fading of the stars.

This sequence of images reflects a long tradition of conventional signs for dawn, which I shall discuss in a moment. Right now I want to focus on the lovers' game about  the lark. Juliet persists:
Jul. Yond light is not day-light, I know it, I;...           
Therefore stay yet; thou need'st not to be gone. (III.v.12,16)

So Romeo plays the same game:
Rom. Let me be ta'en, let me be put to death;           
I am content, so thou wilt have it so.
I'll say yon grey is not the morning's eye...           
How is't, my soul? Let's talk; it is not day. (III.v.17-19,25)
  But this game is no good unless someone takes the other side, the practical role. Juliet concedes:
Jul. It is, it is! hie hence, be gone, away! (III.v.26)
All this is but an elaboration on the simple refrain in the French abaude cited earlier, "The lark lies to us."

In his dialogue with Juliet, Romeo points to the "envious streaks," "Night's candles" and "jocund day." Here Shakespeare is again, knowingly or not, availing himself of a conventional image in the troubadour alba. The fourth stanza of De Bornelh's "Reis glorios" has a similar reference:
IV.  Bel Companho, en chantan vos apel; 
E regardatz las estelas del cel! 
Connoisseretz si’us sui fizels messatge; 
Si non o faitz, vostres n’er lo domnatge, 
      Et ades sera l’alba! 

(Fair friend, go to the window, 
and look at the signs [lit.,stars] in the sky; 
you will know if I am your faithful messenger:
if you do not, yours will be the harm, 
      and soon it will be dawn!) (Sigal 1996, 148-149) 
The parallel with Romeo's warning to Juliet is clear. The stars are fading, the watchman implies, and looking at them will reveal other signs of dawn as well. The adjective "envious" fits with the troubadour's gilos, "jealous." (On the other hand, the adjective "jocund," as applied to day, is out of place; that word more properly fits the other tradition of dawn as a time of happy expectation.)

We have already seen the word "enviou" in Bertranh's song about the lark arising. It also appears in the following anonymous 12th century Provencale alba:
 Gaitaz vos,    gaiteta de la tor
 del gilos,       vos malvays seynor,
 enious           plus que l'alba 
 que za jos     parlam 'amor.  
            Mas paor 
          nos fai l'alba  
         l'alba, oi l'alba! 

(Watch for us,    dear watchman of the tower,   
for the gilos,      your evil lord,                 
more envious      even than the dawn                                  
for yonder          we speak of love.  
            But we know
        to fear the dawn 
     the dawn, yes the dawn!)                           
(Sigal 1996, 115)
Why is the lord envious? Just as the singer without love is envious of the lark in flight, so the gilos is envious of the knight, for possessing the lady's love; all the gilos has is the fulfillment of wifely duties. Similarly the demiurge is envious--of humanity. Recall what the Apocalypse of Adam has Adam say: '"For we were higher than the god who had created us and the powers with him, whom we did not know" (Robinson 1988, 279). That is why the demiurge, the creator-god, had to split them up. So must the gilos separate the lady from any  knight she might love. The Apocryphon of John describes a similar envy. This time it is of Adam's luminosity, which is the spirit of the aeons above the demiurge, which the archons see:
And when they recognized that he [Adam] was luminous, and that he could think better than they, and that he was free from wickedness, they took him and threw him into the lowest region of all matter. (Robinson 1988, 116).
But this petty action only makes matters worse for them, for, as we have already seen, the great "Mother-Father" sends a helper, "luminous Epinoia." The demiurge, or chief archon, wants this luminosity for himself; hence he tries to catch it, first by "bringing it out of his rib," (117) and then by making the form of a woman which has the Epinoia’s likeness. The Epinoia does come into this bodily form, and Adam sees in her the light that was in him, declaring she is "flesh of my flesh" (118). The chief archon then seduces this woman, but the Epinoia has already left her. Such is the demiurge’s envy for Adam--and for Eve as well, when the Epinoia is within her.

Of what is Juliet's father envious? He is clearly envious of Juliet's spirit, her obedience to a higher law within her, which he therefore wishes to remove from her so that she will be subservient to him. It his envy of this spirit which the lovers fear. Perhaps also, he suspects that Juliet has a secret lover whom she wants to marry; he perhaps envies that spontaneous attraction, which is denied in the system of arranged marriage.

Another conventional sign in the sky, which Shakespeare does not use here, is the appearance of the Morning Star (the planet Venus shining close to the sun). As far back as the classical Latin poet Ovid (first century c.e.), this star was called Lucifer, Latin for "light-bearer":  Ovid says in his Amores: "Lucifer had arisen leading the way for Aurora" (Hatto 1965, 275). The image of the Morning Star occurs in the second stanza of de Bonelh's song:

II. Fair friend, are you asleep or awake?        Bel companh, si dormetz o velhatz,
Sleep no longer, softly rise,                            No dormatz plus, suau vos ressidatz
for in the East I see the star grown bigger      Qu’en orien vei l’estela creguda
which brings day. I have known it well,   C’amena’l jorn, qu’eu l’ai bae conoguda,
    and soon it will be dawn!                               Et ades sera l’alba.

(Sigal 1996, 148-149)

Ironically, Lucifer is in Christianity a name for Satan. The name as applied to a star which heralds the day, the time of the demiurge, is thus quite appropriate for the Cathars and the troubadours, for whom the day-world was no joy. When the planet appeared as the evening star it was called Venus, the star of love. This. too, fit the Cathar and troubadour view, for whom the night was the time for communion with God or one's lover. For Catholics the names, taken over from pagan Rome, did not quite fit. Some Christian poets called the morning star Venus, who as mother of Cupid could be compared to Mary, mother of the Christian god of love.

The Provencale alba typically ends with the lovers recognizing reality and making their separation. In de Bonelh's song, stanzas V and VI reiterate the faithfulness and sacrifices of the watchman. In some manuscripts, such as the one whose translation I have been using up to now, the song ends there. But a few manuscripts have a seventh stanza in which the knight replies to his friend. In Saville's translation:   
VII.  "Bel dous companh
tan sui en ric sojorn
Qu'eu no volgra mais fos alba ni jorn, 
Car la gensor que anc nasques de maire
Tenc et abras, per qu'eu non prezi gaire
      Lo fol gilos ni l'alba."

("Handsome sweet friend,                    
I am in such a precious resting place                             
that I would not want there ever to be dawn nor day,                       
for the most noble lady that ever was born of mother      
I hold and embrace; for which reason I do not care at all  
     about the foolish jealous one or the dawn.")                               
(Saville 1972, 201-203)
What is the knight saying here? On the one hand, his "I do not care at all about the foolish jealous one" could be saying, "I have no fear of the gilos--let him do his worst, even kill me if he wants." Or more weakly, he has no feeling of loyalty to the gilos; as one of the lord's knights, he would have taken an oath of fealty, which now is meaningless to him, although he still cares about his life. The Cathar convert similarly through baptism, christening, etc., has previously pledged himself to the Catholic Church; these pledges now are as nothing to him. Moreover, some could say they no longer fear the gilos, since they have already tasted the life to come in their lady's arms, that is, the spiritual embrace of the Cathar Church.

The knight's "precious resting place" is comparable to the Gnostic "place of rest," or the "fullness" that knows no lack, i.e. no yearning. He is in the place of spirit, brought about by their union. It is toward the recapturing of such a place that Romeo and Juliet each follow the other into death. Similarly, the Cathar perfecti, those who formally pledged themselves to the Cathar God and renounced the ways of the world, put their faithfulness to God as they saw him on the line, most famously at the Cathar center at Montsegur but also at many places where the Crusaders captured them, by choosing to be burned at the stake rather than pledge allegiance to a church they despised. The burning, le bruler, at Montsegur and elsewhere, took place at dawn. After a final night of prayer and blessings--came the dawn.

The last line of de Bornelh's song adds the adjective "foolish," "fol" in Provencale, to "jealous one." This touch actually reinforces the suggestion that there is a hidden reference to the Catholic god. The Apocryphon of John uses this description of the demiurge:
Now the archon who is weak has three names. The first name is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas, and the third is Samael. And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, ”I am God and there is no other God beside me," for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come. (Robinson 1988, 111-112)
"Saklas" simply means "fool," according to Barnstone (1984, 75). "Samael," we learn in another Nag Hammadi text , means "the blind god" (Robinson 1988, 175). In Judaism, it was one of Satan's names. Other epithets of Yaltabaoth are "ignorant" (111) and, of course, "jealous" (112). The demiurge is foolish because of his pretensions; he thinks he is all-powerful and all-knowing when in his vainglory he does not know that a higher power than he undermines his actions, and to whom, when the savior comes, he bows down in humble submission. Shakespeare implies as much about the fathers in Romeo and Juliet. With Capulet, Montague, and their wives standing over their children's bodies at the end of the play, the Prince says:
Prince.            ...Capulet! Montague! 
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate, 
That Heaven finds means to kill your joys with love. 
The fathers because of their hatred for each other have brought about the deaths of the very ones in whom they have their joy; thus their hatred is foolish, accomplishing the opposite of what they want.

It is clear how various figures in the play relate to Gnosticism; we have simply to look at the similar situation in the Provencale alba. To Romeo, Juliet represents the world of spirit, in contrast to the hellish world around them. And to Juliet, Romeo represents the same. Against them, Juliet's father is the gilos, the jealous one, and the Capulets generally his forces. The day world is the evil world of death and separation. At night, from the higher perspective, they see the world for what it is, a place of darkness punctuated by a few bright lights. Similarly, night was the time the Cathar perfecti came into the villages, so as to avoid being seen by the Catholic authorities.

In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet's equivalent of the watchman is at first her nurse, who dutifully warns her when her mother is approaching. Later when the nurse turns false, discrediting herself by recommending that Juliet marry Paris and forget about the existing marriage with Romeo (III.v.212ff), then Friar Lawrence takes on the watchman role. That role in the alba has parallels to the friar. The watchman hides the lovers from the gilos; he creates the appearance of the lady's faithfulness. This is just what Friar Lawrence does: he tells Juliet to agree to the marriage with Paris, her father's choice, and then has her appear to die, for unknown reasons. The friar does not lie, but like Cathar priests who took on disguises so as to go among their flock, he creates appearances.

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