by J J Cohen
According to Margaret Soltan at University Diaries, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and his paramour in Argentina reveal in the missives they sent each other
nothing more nor less than true thunderbolt from the sky love. English professors tend to be people who love language, and who seek in language, more than in other places, the real. The Sanford/Maria letters have in them the grain of that sought-after actuality. Every word, every phrase, comes from the deep heart's core.According to Cristina Nehring in the New Republic,
We inhabit a strange society, indeed, when love (albeit misallocated love, excessive love) seems to elicit, of all crimes, the most vocal and violent repugnance. As soldiers and economies continue to fall around the globe, citizens at home rise to denounce ... a love relationship gone awry. A love affair that is, in many ways, a dozen times nobler than its Washington counterparts, more altruistic than the carnal flings that get pardoned every week, and greater-souled than the flirtations (with power) of many of its sneering, small-minded critics.A secret adulterous love finds reason to be praised? A love socially forbidden, that has the power to render its adherents ridiculous to the public eye? Its practitioners do not denounce the relationship as tawdry and demeaning, a lapse or a sin, but speak of how it ennobles and transforms? Call it (with Gaston Paris) amour courtois. Or use a more medieval term: fin'amor, hohe Minne, cortez amors. But I think we have a whole lot of courtly loving going on. Behold a Mark Sanford email, sent to his beloved Maria:
You are glorious and I hope you really understand that. You do not need a therapist to help you figure your place in the world. You are special and unique and fabulous in a whole host of ways that are worth a much longer conversation. To be continued ...
Here's what Bernart de Ventadorn might have said, had this medieval troubadour composed Sanford's emails on his behalf:
Alas, I thought I knew so much about love,So Sanford is married. Marriage is no real excuse for not loving. So he is a hypocrite, condemning others for his own secret practice. A new love puts to flight an old one. So he may have used state funds to finance some of his jaunts. Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice. So his emails are filled with anxiety. A man in love is always apprehensive. So jealousy is a frequent topic in the correspondence. Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love. So Mark told everyone he was hiking in the mountains. Every act of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved. So he didn't tell anyone he was in South America. Love can deny nothing to love. So he broke up with Maria and then returned to her. A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved. So things seem to be falling apart now. When made public love rarely endures.
and really I know so little,
for I cannot keep myself from loving her
from whom I shall have no favor.
She has stolen from me my heart, myself,
herself, and all the world.
When she took herself from me,
she left me nothing but desire and a longing heart.
Never have I been in control of myself
or even belonged to myself
from the hour that she let me gaze into her eyes -
that mirror that pleases me so greatly.*
Governor Mark Sanford, latter-day Lancelot. And could there be a better name for a princesse lointaine than Maria?
*of course it would have been written in Occitan, a language Google translator might have some trouble with.