Ah, courtly love—a particularly male emotion this. You worship a pale and beautiful lady of noble birth, but cannot ever hope to make her yours. She is out of your reach and usually married. And round this symbol of unattainability grew a whole genre of music and poetry in the Middle Ages. The troubadours and trouvères of France were the chief exponents of this art form, and very heart-rending it is too, this exquisite marriage of beautiful melody and hopelessness. Far be it from me to point out that putting a woman on a pedestal, declaring her virtue to be beyond price and languishing after her gives said woman absolutely no opportunity, should she fancy it, of actually stepping off her pedestal without incurring your total revulsion. See how quickly Bernart de Ventadorn despairs of the whole sex in his Can vei la lauzeta mover
. But it is a beautiful and tragic song.
from notes by Catherine Bott © 2006