Short form, the great medieval lecturer and thinker Abelard fell in love with beautiful and brilliant young Héloïse,
ingratiated himself with her uncle,
became her live-in tutor,
got her pregnant,
married her secretly,
stuck her in a convent for a reason I don’t quite understand,
then her uncle thought he’d cast her aside, and had him castrated.
Abelard’s passion still went on for a time, but eventually subsided for obvious reasons, while Héloïse still burned for him. They both entered monastic orders, and exchanged a few love letters which were preserved for the ages.
I felt kinship with Héloïse for burning with a passion she was not able to satisfy, because of Abelard’s castration and their monastic vows.
I felt kinship because Shawn and I believed in no sex before marriage, but we were doing things which are meant to lead up to it–so I burned with passion I was not supposed to satisfy.
Yet, just as for Héloïse, it was hard to repent of things which I still remembered with pleasure.
For almost 20 years, I longed to read the letters themselves, not just about them in a textbook. Finally, I found them on the Internet.
My translation came from Letter III in the Editorial Appendix, which included a section which had been kept out of the English translation for being too racy (it was a 1722 translation)–but this section was in French.
As I wrote on Facebook on October 20, Why do old-fashioned English texts not translate French for us? I have to translate an entire passage of one of Peter Abelard’s letters myself and I need a dictionary for it, dagnabit. But then, it is revealing some interesting stuff: He and Héloïse did what in the corner of the convent’s refectory?
Here is the translation at last:
However, to sweeten the bitterness of your sorrow, I would still like to show that what happened to us is also useful and just, and that by punishing us after our marriage and not during our living in sin, God has done well.
After our marriage, as you know, and during the retreat to the convent at Argenteuil, I came secretly to return your visit, and you returned the excess of passion I bore toward you in a corner of the refectory (dining hall).
You know, I say, that our immodesty was not stopped even out of respect for a spot consecrated to the Virgin.
Had we been innocent of all other crimes, did not that one deserve the most terrible of punishments?
I now recall our ancient stains and the shameful sins which were before our marriage, the indignant, guilty betrayal of your uncle, by me, his guest and dinner companion, so shamelessly attracted to you? Wasn’t his treachery just?
Who would be so rotten as to judge otherwise, on the part of the one whom I first outrageously betrayed?
Do you think that an injury, a suffering of a moment, is sufficient punishment of such huge crimes? What do you think? Do such sins deserve such grace?
What injury could expiate to the eyes of divine justice the profaning of a place consecrated to His holy mother?
Indeed I greatly deceive myself, or an injury so beneficial does not expiate these faults as much as the ceaseless afflictions to which I am subject today.
You also know that at the time of your pregnancy, when I made you go to my country [Brittany], you had put on the sacred habit, taken the religious role, and that, by this irreverent disguise, you pretended to be of the profession to which you belong today?
See, after this, if justice, if divine grace had reason to spite you by thrusting you into the monastic state; she who profaned the habit had to expiate the profaning.
You know to what base acts the fury of my passion willed our bodies; neither respect for decency, nor respect of God, in the very days of the Passion of Our Lord [Holy Week] and of more holy days, could tear me away from the cesspool I wanted.
You didn’t even want it, you resisted all my force, you reprimanded me, and when you had protected yourself from the weakness of your sex, did I not eventually use threats and harshness to force your consent!
I burned for you with such a heat of desire, that, for this foul sensual pleasure of which even the name makes me blush, I forgot all, God, even myself:
May divine leniency save me in another way than by forbidding all sensual pleasure? Compare the malady to the remedy. Compare the danger to the deliverance.
Spring Break; My Drawings of Ann Radcliffe Characters
Spring Break was Saturday, March 20 through Sunday, March 28. I had a lot of homework over the break, including a paper for my Space presentation. But I also had time to start reading First Love by Turgenev, which I found in the Campus Shoppe in the textbook section, and The Italian by Ann Radcliffe, the same woman who had written Mysteries of Udolpho (from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey).
I drew pictures of the characters. For The Italian, I based Vivaldi on pictures I found in a World Book encyclopedia article on Italy, and I based Ellena’s nose on a picture of a Grecian nose. (This matched her description.)
My friend Becky saw the picture of Ellena and said she looked just like Eleni Andros Cooper, a beautiful, Greek character on the soap opera Guiding Light. I had never seen this woman before. (Cooper, by the way, was played by Melina Kanakaredes, who later starred in Providence.) My pictures are below:
I didn’t want to go back to school. I didn’t know why. Maybe I was just tired, and one week was not enough rest. I was sick of my problems.
I wanted a guy, but at the same time I didn’t. I wanted James, but at the same time I wanted to wait for things with Shawn to work themselves out.
Since Peter and I could now say “hi” to each other again, that wasn’t the spirit-zapper. The culprit was probably the whole Shawn-situation, from start to present. As I wrote in my diary, part of the problem was his judgmental attitude about me:
judging me to be what I’m not and/or certainly don’t intend to be, and saying his own opinion of me turns him off, even though his own opinion sounds so faulty to me and to so many others…
but just the fact that he’ll ask me over to play let’s-pretend-we’re-going-out, then tell me, as soon as he’s gotten what he wants, that he doesn’t want me. How does he expect that to make me feel?!
Then he’ll criticize me for this and that, even when his own so-called ‘advice’ is probably not appropriate or even adapted to me! How can he know what’s right for me? I just get so angry. I cry out to God for help and comfort.
So finally, I was furious at Shawn, which was necessary to help me break free of him.
I was so depressed that I didn’t want to do much of anything, except escape to the world of books. Except for music, videos and probably writing, no other worlds appealed to me now. I wished I could put studying and working on hold for a while.
But back to school I had to go.
It was time to apply for a work-study job for junior year. To apply, you checked off the jobs you wanted out of a list on a form. I did not check off Food Service. I preferred the library, but had to apply for two other things as well.
I interviewed for all three. The two clerical jobs didn’t interest me as much after the interviews. I interviewed for the library job on April 27. I was one of the first people to interview, if not the first. The head librarian said she usually gave the job to the first six people who showed up. So I was in, and of course, I took it.
It was just what I wanted: a job with my beloved books, where I could do homework when nothing was going on. When I did have something to do, it usually involved books, magazines or newspapers. And I could wear whatever I wanted to, even shorts.
At first, I didn’t like Beavis and Butthead, especially after they executed a grasshopper with a chainsaw and sliced up Beavis’ hand.
I saw the infamous episode which supposedly inspired some kid to set fire to his house, and was never aired again.
It was funny to hear the fire-obsessed Beavis say, “Fire! Fire! Fire!”
In another episode, he watched a video of a fire-engulfed guy running down a street (“California” by Wax). He could only sit there in convulsions. After the show got censored, he said, “We’re not supposed to say that word.”
The show drew lots of criticism, even though it wasn’t meant for kids, so it soon got censored heavily. Nowadays, after so many years of shows like South Park, you wonder what the fuss was about, why they gave in so readily to criticism. So somebody didn’t like the fire references–so frickin’ what?
One day, in an 80s flashback show, MTV showed the Police video “Don’t Stand so Close to Me.” Now I was old enough to understand it, and even knew that “the famous book by Nabokov” was Lolita.
The VJ said that when the song came out, there had been a big controversy about whether or not students should date teachers. The final decision was that it’s okay if the teacher doesn’t have that student in a class.
This was only one warning sign against pursuing Wesley. Along with what happened to Craig, there was another: An episode or two of Class of ’96 showed one character sleeping with her teacher and getting in trouble for it.
I don’t know when my friend dated Wesley–it could have been fall semester–but it’s funny to think I had so many warning signs, while she just went ahead and dated him.
On Friday, February 12, I wrote in my Media class journal about a new video Clarissa and I had just seen: “Funky Ceili” by Black 47. VJ’s said the song was popular with young people, though I only heard it on MTV and Chicago’s Q101.
Clarissa and I loved it because Black 47 was an Irish band. Here we’d just been learning about Irish culture over Winterim, and this video comes on using words like “da,” “porter,” “stout,” and “jigs and reels.”
The music mixed traditional Celtic folk instruments with modern rock stylings. And the song was funny. Clarissa and I got to watch the video quite a bit over the next few months.
The song was about the lead singer’s ex-girlfriend. He lost his job, found out she was pregnant, and had to tell her “da.” The da gave him two choices: stay in Ireland and get castrated, or go to New York. (What about a third option: marrying Bridie?) At least, that’s the story in the song. The singer lamented over losing Bridie and wanted her to come to New York.
I thought it was sweet; I hoped the video would get them back together; I wondered if Bridie was the girl in the video.
Years later at Summerfest in Milwaukee, though, I picked up another CD by Black 47, and read in the lyrics to “Green Suede Shoes” that “Bridie” got the singer into deep trouble with Bridie and her family. Also, reading the real story in the singer’s autobiography, showed that the only resemblance to reality was her name.
I’m Cold to Shawn and it Bugs Him
Diary entry for March 30:
—12:09am I’ve, just today, recorded “Jeremy” and “Ordinary World” (the videos), back to back. Why do I like them so much? Because they’re me, for one thing.
I like the second one because of Clarissa, first of all, but maybe my subconscious picked up on the personal meaning before my conscious did.
“Jeremy” is me in my childhood, especially elementary school and junior high. “O.W.” was me right after Peter, but now it’s me with Shawn.
You should’ve seen Shawn tonight at Bible study. I was half-hoping he would come. About twenty minutes into it, he came, and I cringed. I kept my jacket closely wrapped around me in the cold room, to hide my figure. I had trouble looking at him or laughing at his jokes, especially at first.
Then he started a long speech that started off with, “The big trouble on this campus is acceptance.” I looked at him as he talked–right into his eyes, because most of the time he was looking right at me.
I remember this more than what he was saying, but I think he was talking about such things as people wanting to be accepted, and people avoiding and not wanting to talk to certain individuals (even then, I didn’t see the connection).
Clarissa tells me that another time, when she thinks I was looking down instead of at Shawn, out of the corner of her eye she saw him staring at me. Then he saw her, and looked away. I might’ve caught this, even, by glancing up once.
I never greeted him or said good-bye. I was thinking and hoping he might either try to talk to me afterwards or call me up later, but it’s 12:34 and he didn’t do either.
When I told a friend my plans to avoid him, she said, Yeah, treat him like you did Peter, and see if he comes after you; if he doesn’t, you’re better off….I think he might.
And she also said, when I said I thought I saw signs that he liked me, “You probably did.” But she can’t figure him out, either.
Why do I believe him so easily? I feel so gullible….Once, when I rushed downstairs (where he was) to go to the bathroom, he said “hello” (maybe to be funny; we’d been in the same room for 45 minutes already), and I said nothing. –12:43am
–1:49am It doesn’t matter how long you pray, but that you do it and that you get something out of it….
I have to act this way so I can see if Shawn comes after me and proves to truly be my friend. But I hope he does so soon!
Oh, the agony of my heart, seeing him help Pearl with her crutches without being asked, and hearing them talk about a couple weeks ago when he lifted her scooter out of a snowdrift, with them not being around to tell him a much easier way to do it, pushing a certain button.
Seeing a guy do such helpful things, like when Peter helped the blind girl, seems to be high on my subconscious list of what makes my heart go pitter-patter….
Sometimes, the friends you’re always with know you better than you know yourself, or else why bother asking them what your faults are? So I trust the opinions of my closest friends.
But Shawn isn’t with me so much, and he’s proven himself and admitted himself to be wrong about me in one way or another, so why trust him over Pearl, Rachel, Sharon or my roommate Clarissa? –1:59am
Diary entry for March 31:
–12:19am I saw Peter yesterday [by the Campus Center] and said hi, and I think he smiled and said, “Hi, how ya doin’?”–except I had my headphones on, and I don’t think I caught it in time to answer.
What I want is for Shawn to realize how much he’s hurt me and that it’s going to take something special to fix that.
Tonight at dinner, Shawn was sitting at the same table as I went to sit at. When I got to my strawberry shortcake, everyone but him and Clarissa had left. Then she got up, probably to take her tray up. She thought I might not like being left alone with him. She seemed to be away for a long time.
After a silent minute or two, during which I ignored him and ate my cake, he said, “So how ya doin’, Nyssa?”
I sat silent for a moment, contemplating whether or not I should answer, then I shrugged my shoulders as a half-answer. Then, to make sure he knew I had answered, I mumbled, “not too good.”
After all, I’d just come from a meeting with the counselor, which mostly dealt with my relationship with him.
Then Clarissa came back, and she thought he seemed to want to get away. (She also didn’t see him stare at me during dinner; it seemed to her that he was trying to avoid me.)
He said to her, “Are you going to stay here and keep Nyssa company, Clarissa? ‘Cause I have to go.” I grumbled, “Don’t let me keep you.”
Yes, I was offended. [My translation of it was] “You’re not secure enough to eat by yourself; somebody has to keep you company.”
It’s not just what he said, but a compound of things he’s said in the past in different situations, that gave me such an impression, such an interpretation of what he said now. –1:03am
My counselor wanted to talk with Shawn to get his side of the story, and he agreed it was a good idea. He was supposed to show up at one of my counseling sessions, but never did. He later gave some reasons, I forget what, but it upset me.
The Power Goes Out–and the Water–in an Ice Storm
On Wednesday, March 31, there was an ice storm. At about 9:30 and right in the middle of the latest episode of Star Trek: TNG, most of the power went out, leaving on only our two desk lights. Then even they went out. Soon after that, the water went out because it came from a well and required a pump. The rooms grew cold.
We all gathered into the suite lounge. I brought my afghan and can of pop, put away the bag of M&M’s I was eating, and sat on the couch with my rechargeable flashlight ready for use. Our suitemates put on coats and snuggled into blankets.
Daphne, the RA, got freaked out all alone in her suite, and came over to ours. My suitemates lit candles, contraband but useful. A couple of guys dropped by and kept going in and out of the suite.
Some guy we didn’t know looked in the window and said something. Daphne told Clarissa to shine her flashlight in his face and ask what he wanted. Clarissa did; he said something else and left. It was funny.
I’ve mentioned before that Georgina, a sweet and beautiful girl with a gorgeous soprano voice, was unfortunately still hung up on her ex-boyfriend, the brother of my pledge sister Jennifer. He called and told her about a tornado warning, so we searched for information on the radio. We found none, so we assumed there wasn’t one.
This was Hell Week; the fraternity and sorority pledges kept shouting their little chants and making noise. Somebody probably yelled at them to shut up, a common thing.
The ice storm had trampled down a wire, and a transformer blew up. Only the emergency lights in a few buildings were on. We were told the transformer probably wouldn’t be fixed until three or four the next afternoon!
We prepared for a night and morning of no electricity or water. At least Clarissa had two milk jugs of spring water, so we could wash our hands after using the toilets. The toilets started filling up and getting really nasty.
We played a game called Outburst, then went to bed, Daphne staying over. I went to bed a little after 12, and had been asleep for about half an hour or more when light woke me up.
Was it morning already? I looked at my watch–it was only 12:56am! The power had come back on, after all. I went and flushed one of the toilets, Clarissa and I plugged a few things in, and we went back to bed.
We expected our classes to be cancelled, the same as for the local public schools, but they weren’t.