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Romance of the Rose
Le Roman de la Rose

Romance of the Rose Le Roman de la Rose

The Roman de la Rose is a late medieval French poem styled as an allegorical dream vision. It was written in two stages. The first 4058 lines, written by Guillaume de Lorris circa 1230, describe the attempts of a courtier to woo his beloved. This part of the story is set in a walled garden (a locus amoenus, one of the traditional topoi of epic and chivalric literature), the interior of which represents romance, the exterior everyday life. The rose of the title is seen as a symbol of the lady's love. It is unclear whether Lorris considered his version to be incomplete, but it was generally viewed as such. Around 1275, Jean de Meun composed an additional 17,724 lines. Meun's discussion of love is considered more philosophical and encyclopedic, but more misogynistic and bawdy. Still, much recent scholarship has argued for the essential unity of the work, which is how it was received by later medieval readers.

The work was both very popular and very controversial one of the most widely read works in French for three centuries, it survives in hundreds of illuminated manuscripts. Still, its emphasis on sensual language and imagery provoked attacks by Jean Gerson, Christine de Pizan and many other writers and moralists of the 14th and 15th centuries. Part of the story was translated into Middle English as The Romaunt of the Rose, which had a great influence on English literature. Chaucer was familiar with the original French, and a portion of the Middle English translation is thought to be his work. C.S. Lewis's 1936 study The Allegory of Love renewed interest in the poem.


Sweden, 1994, Illustration from Romance of the Rose

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