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Domnei A Comedy of Woman-Worship   By: (1879-1958)

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Domnei

A Comedy of Woman Worship

By

JAMES BRANCH CABELL

1920

" En cor gentil domnei per mort no passa ."

TO

SARAH READ McADAMS

IN GRATITUDE AND AFFECTION

"The complication of opinions and ideas, of affections and habits, which prompted the chevalier to devote himself to the service of a lady, and by which he strove to prove to her his love, and to merit hers in return, was expressed, in the language of the Troubadours, by a single word, by the word domnei , a derivation of domna , which may be regarded as an alteration of the Latin domina , lady, mistress."

C. C. FAURIEL, History of Provencal Poetry .

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

A PREFACE

CRITICAL COMMENT

THE ARGUMENT

PART ONE PERION

I HOW PERION WAS UNMASKED

II HOW THE VICOMTE WAS VERY GAY

III HOW MELICENT WOOED

IV HOW THE BISHOP AIDED PERION

V HOW MELICENT WEDDED

PART TWO MELICENT

VI HOW MELICENT SOUGHT OVERSEA

VII HOW PERION WAS FREED

VIII HOW DEMETRIOS WAS AMUSED

IX HOW TIME SPED IN HEATHENRY

X HOW DEMETRIOS WOOED

PART THREE DEMETRIOS

XI HOW TIME SPED WITH PERION

XII HOW DEMETRIOS WAS TAKEN

XIII HOW THEY PRAISED MELICENT

XIV HOW PERION BRAVED THEODORET.

XV HOW PERION FOUGHT

XVI HOW DEMETRIOS MEDITATED.

XVII HOW A MINSTREL CAME

XVIII HOW THEY CRIED QUITS

XIX HOW FLAMBERGE WAS LOST

XX HOW PERION GOT AID

PART FOUR AHASUERUS

XXI HOW DEMETRIOS HELD HIS CHATTEL

XXII HOW MISERY HELD NACUMERA.

XXIII HOW DEMETRIOS CRIED FAREWELL

XXIV HOW ORESTES RULED

XXV HOW WOMEN TALKED TOGETHER

XXVI HOW MEN ORDERED MATTERS

XXVII HOW AHASUERUS WAS CANDID

XXVIII HOW PERION SAW MELICENT

XXIX HOW A BARGAIN WAS CRIED

XXX HOW MELICENT CONQUERED

THE AFTERWORD

BIBLIOGRAPHY

A Preface

By Joseph Hergesheimer

It would be absorbing to discover the present feminine attitude toward the profoundest compliment ever paid women by the heart and mind of men in league the worshipping devotion conceived by Plato and elevated to a living faith in mediaeval France. Through that renaissance of a sublimated passion domnei was regarded as a throne of alabaster by the chosen figures of its service: Melicent, at Bellegarde, waiting for her marriage with King Theodoret, held close an image of Perion made of substance that time was powerless to destroy; and which, in a life of singular violence, where blood hung scarlet before men's eyes like a tapestry, burned in a silver flame untroubled by the fate of her body. It was, to her, a magic that kept her inviolable, perpetually, in spite of marauding fingers, a rose in the blanched perfection of its early flowering.

The clearest possible case for that religion was that it transmuted the individual subject of its adoration into the deathless splendor of a Madonna unique and yet divisible in a mirage of earthly loveliness. It was heaven come to Aquitaine, to the Courts of Love, in shapes of vivid fragrant beauty, with delectable hair lying gold on white samite worked in borders of blue petals. It chose not abstractions for its faith, but the most desirable of all actual yes, worldly incentives: the sister, it might be, of Count Emmerick of Poictesme. And, approaching beatitude not so much through a symbol of agony as by the fragile grace of a woman, raising Melicent to the stars, it fused, more completely than in any other aspiration, the spirit and the flesh.

However, in its contact, its lovers' delight, it was no more than a slow clasping and unclasping of the hands; the spirit and flesh, merged, became spiritual; the height of stars was not a figment.... Here, since the conception of domnei has so utterly vanished, the break between the ages impassable, the sympathy born of understanding is interrupted. Hardly a woman, to day, would value a sigh the passion which turned a man steadfastly away that he might be with her forever beyond the parched forest of death. Now such emotion is held strictly to the gains, the accountability, of life's immediate span; women have left their cloudy magnificence for a footing on earth; but at least in warm graceful youth their dreams are still of a Perion de la ForĂȘt... Continue reading book >>




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