The Splendour Falls On Castle Walls

On Saint Valentine’s Day one year, British stations carried variants on destination names intended to give passengers a “romantic send-off”. For example the big London station was renamed “Waterlove”, and one departure was called “When Harry met Salisbury”.

Things like this make a curmudgeon reflect on this strange word, “romantic”. Regarding the renaming of Waterloo it is not so mysterious, but what shall we say about a ruined castle being “romantic”? What does that mean exactly, given that a modern military firebase in ruins, or a ruined trench fortification, would not be in the least “romantic”?

One dictionary definition is “making one think of love”. A ruined castle makes you think of love? Really? Would Camp Bastion make you equally horny? Well, in this case the word reaches the castle via the aesthetic of Romanticism – paradoxically perhaps, because at one point the ruined castle or abbey was “Gothic”, which is surely the opposite of “Roman”. And given the ultimate origin of these words in that very pragmatic and bloody-minded place called Rome, the opposition of the movement to Classicism is peculiar. In fact, things Roman only became “romantic” in the Middle Ages.
The key to the appellation to the ruined abbey is, of course, the cult of sensibility; that is, the ruin is “romantic” because it gives you the satisfying emotions you mistake for reality. Moi, I do not understand getting such emotions from a ruined abbey, but perhaps this is because I know something about medieval abbeys, the multinational corporations of their day; and as for finding the castle romantic, I think this is only possible for someone who refuses to remember the castle’s military functions, especially the oppression of its own peasants.

And what shall we say about finding war romantic? Do people dying a “romantic” death rather than a banal one find it more satisfying, and if so, for how long? What, if anything, can this actually mean? Above all, might the fanfaronade nature of “romantic death” be equally applicable to “romantic love”?

Posted on January 5, 2011 at 08:08 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, What Is This Thing Called Love?

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