Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Freshers and 'The Art of Courtship'

It's freshers' fortnight here at Loughborough. I'm not entirely sure where the last year has gone, but here we are again! While things are settling down, and everybody is getting into their new routines, I thought I would share with you this rather lighthearted post.

Inevitably, during freshers' week, one will witness (whether one wants to or not) the blossoming romances in the new intake of first years. (Please note that I use the term 'romance' rather loosely!) Whilst I was doing some research and searches on EEBO in my department this afternoon, I had a moment of serendipity and stumbled across an anonymous work entitled The Art of Courtship, and this got me thinking about how much the idea of 'courtship' has morphed and altered over the centuries. Gone are the days of escorts, suitors, exchanges of letters, sequences of love poems, and in, at least during freshers' fortnight (although even that might be a little optimistic!), are the quick snogs over an alcho-pop in the Students' Union. 

Whilst I am certainly not looking back on seventeenth-century courtship with any sort of hazy nostalgia, seeing as there were certainly some pretty binding restrictions on women's conduct, I did think that tonight it would be fun to share with you all a few of my favourite extracts from this wonderful work! The text is essentially a compilation of poems, sequences of letters and short meditations on love and courtship, so below you'll find the three that I have picked out and transcribed. 

'Posies' (A7r)
My love shall be,
Forever free,
Naught shall devide,
The knot we've ty'd
By Death alone,
It is undone.

My joy thou art;
Till life is past,
My love shall last,
My love I place
On thy sweet face.
'Tis thou in me,
Shall happy be,
And hast my heart.

From 'The Delights of Marriage' (A8v)
How happy Celia is it, now we are
In wedlock joyn'd and made a happy pair
'Tis true, my Strephon, we have joys,
That few the like can find;
A passion that no time destroys,
Is fix'd in eithers mind

'Loves Power and Cruelty' (A8v)
Lightning is swifter then the glance, of charmin beauty, for 'tho seen by chance it penetrates the Soul, and fires the mind, that wretched Lovers no contentment find; but cruel torments, a tormenting grief, seizes the wretch that's void of a relief.

Anon., The Art of Courtship: or, The School of Delight (London: I. Back, 1686), in EEBO.

© Jenna Townend 2013

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