Title Background

Langland and the Truelove Tradition

Langland and the Truelove Tradition

Argues that L’s two references to ‘trewe loue’ in the C text (1.136 and 18.9) tap into the complex network of signification associated with the plant known in English as the true-love. When used in a particular religious context in poems and in sermons, the plant functions as a sort of shorthand for Christ or for salvation. This Truelove tradition is linked to a wider array of botanical Christological imagery (lily, rose) in ways that previously have not been noted. In the late fourteenth century, poets mapped the topos of the leaps of Christ onto the Truelove tradition to capitalize on language of springing and sprouting with salvific and more particularly Christological meaning, and with Incarnational underpinnings. This article sets L’s verse alongside botanical lyrics (‘The Four Leaves of the Truelove’, ‘Mary, the Rosebush’, and ‘Maiden Mary and her Fleur-de-lys’) that play on the double meaning of ‘spring’ (a leap, botanical growth). The ‘trewe loue’ and other botanically informed passages in C extend the leaping and springing L associates with the Incarnation to portray the operations of grace in the individual and the growth of the Church on earth. (CMC)


YLS, 22 (2008), 27–55.


Cervone, Cristina Maria