A brief digression courtesy of Heloise

I've been reading Thomas Cahill's Mysteries of the Middle Ages. Today I was reading about Abelard and Heloise, most specifically a letter Heloise wrote to Abelard after years of silence and long after both of them had taken up with their respective religious orders (and Abelard had been castrated against his will despite his secret marriage to Heloise). I give you some excerpts here that I was reading today while listening to a cover of "But Not For Me." Seemed fitting.

God knows I never sought anything in you except yourself; I wanted simply you, nothing of yours. I looked for no marriage-bond, no marriage portion, and it was not my own pleasures and wishes I sought to gratify, as you well know, but yours. The name of wife may seem more sacred or more binding, but sweeter for me will always be the word mistress, or, if you will permit me, that of concubine or whore. I believed that the morel humbled myself on your account, the more gratitude I should win from you, and also the less damage I should do to the brightness of your reputation.


Tell me one thing, if you can. Why, after our entry into religion, which was your decision alone, have I been so neglected and forgotten by you that I have neither a word from you when you are here to give me strength nor the consolation of a letter in absence?’ Tell me, I say, if you can —or I will tell you what I think and indeed the world suspects. It was desire, not affection which bound you to me, the flame of lust rather than love. So when the end came to what you desired, any show of feeling you used to make went with it. This is not merely my own opinion, beloved, it is everyone’s. There is nothing personal or private about it; it is the general view which is widely held. I only wish that it were mine alone, and that the love you professed could find someone to defend it and so comfort me in my grief for a while. I wish I could think of some explanation which would excuse you and somehow cover up the way you hold me cheap.


Remember, I implore you, what I have done, and think how much you owe me...Consider then your injustice, if when I deserve more you give me less, or rather, nothing at all, especially when it is a small thing I ask of you and one you could so easily grant.

For a complete translation go here.

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