Rosa et Fons

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Rosa et Fons ('The Rose and the Fountain') is "a mystical meditation upon magic by an unknown fourteenth-century magician" [28]. It was one of seven magical texts in the library of the Duke of Roxburghe. It was put up for auction in the year 1812 and bought by Gilbert Norrell.


Rosa et Fons builds on the concept of mystical love found in the poetry of magicians. The author creates a complex allegory of the romance between the Fountain and the Rose. In the quest to pick the Rose (to achieve the conquest of love), the flower and its attendants represent the Lady and her sentiments while being wooed.

Of the seven texts, only two have been positively identified (or even found for that matter).

In the first part of the poem, the Lover recounts his dream to the Rose, ending with the winning of a kiss from the Lady. In the dream, the Lover discovers a walled garden with a Fountain in the middle and gains entrance thanks to a beautiful young woman. He meets Diversion and dancers who represent courtly values such as Beauty and Generosity. A tour of the garden brings him to a beautiful bed of roses by the Fountain of Love. Pierced by the arrows of an angry fairy, he sets out to pluck the rosebud that has overwhelmed his senses. Love explains to the Lover how he ought to conduct himself, and the conflicting emotions he will feel. With help from the Fountain, the Lover makes his way through the thicket of thorns and confronts Danger and his allies, Slander, Fear and others. Aided by Friend, Honesty, Pity and the Raven King, he succeeds in overcoming Chastity and obtaining his desire.

His bliss is short-lived, as the forces of resistance oppose him in the second part of the poem. The Lover sets out on a renewed quest to conquer the heart of his love, whom Jealousy has imprisoned along with Warm Welcome. The long and arduous battle is interspersed with didactic lectures by such figures as Reason. False Appearance and Forced Abstinence trick and strangle Slander, thus entering the wall and freeing Courtesy and Generosity. The four confront an old witch guarding Warm Welcome, who advises on table manners and dress for young women and recommends that they not be faithful to only one fairy, as fairies are by nature untrustworthy. The Lover gains admittance to see Warm Welcome, but is confronted with Danger, Shame and Fear who imprison Welcome ever more securely. Before those forces can conquer the Lover, he calls his army to assail the castle with the help of the Raven King. The Raven King sets the castle on fire, causing Danger, Jealousy and her companions to flee. The battle over, the Lover is able to complete his pilgrimage and at last pluck the rosebud which he consumes while bathing in the Fountain.