Romance Through the Ages (Mmm… Marginalia #81)

This week’s marginal medieval image is found in the lower margin of a page in Bodleian Library MS Bodl. 264, the mid-fourteenth-century edition of the Romance of Alexander that I’ve featured here quite a bit:* 

To each side of a pair of birds the illuminator has given us a pair of lovers meant to demonstrate that old proverb, “Life ain’t nothing but…”–er, I mean “The more you love someone, the more…”–er, that is, the old truism, “Women! Can’t live with’em, can’t… something something.”  OK, I admit it, I’ve got no clue what’s going on. You tell me.

The couple on the left consists of a homely and/or older lady giving her heart (represented as the actual organ, though without any blood) to a young man who looks like he just smelled something funky:

The couple on the right is composed instead of an eager older man offering a full money purse and a young woman who rejects him:

Will nothing satisfy you young people?  You reject an old man’s money AND an older woman’s offer of a heart she ripped still-beating from the chest of her husband whose sleeves were no where near as fashionable as yours?  Really, there’s just no pleasing some people.

A nice thing about this particular MS 264 artist (several worked on the manuscript) is the attention he gives to faces.  Here, he gives both the unrequiting youngsters the same disinterested nostril flare and pursed lips of disapproval that seem to say, “Ah, yes, your little gift, how… nice.“: 


*How many times can I dip into the same well?  Well, there’s over 500 pages in that particular manuscript, and nearly every one has something** on it.
**Though most of those somethings are birds, and once you’ve seen five or six marginal birds you’ve seen them all. Still, there’s about 100 fully-illuminated pages with multiple marginal elements per page, so if I wanted I could just open a MS Bodl. 264 blog and I’d have posts for years.***
***Though as I said, they’d mostly be bird posts.  People like birds, right?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Amerloc

    Birds are cool.

    So are marginalia of whatever sort

    And tho' it's not your fault, I'm getting tired of cicadas and their vuvuzela-drone.

  • Orly

    The stones stated that old proverb perfectly "You can't always get what you want."

    I guess some things (i.e. human nature and where we stupidly place our affections) never change. *sigh.* (although I must say, damosels these days are much more attracted to that fat money purse!! Just look at Hollywood!!)

  • marcus6610

    I like birds

    (but I like even more your snarky medieval blog–bravo!)

  • Amanda

    Brunsdon Yapp wouldn't baulk at umpty-ump pages about birds…(we always wanted a small dog we could name Brunsdon…but our dogs are too quiet).

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