The cover of The Six Passions of the Red-hot Lover
It is an 1893 John Waterhouse painting entitled ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ or ‘The Beautiful Lady without Mercy’. The title is the same as an 1819 John Keats poem: a ballad, a type of poem revived by the romantics from the medieval genre.
The lady is seen as powerfully destructive to the knight because she’s beautiful, fascinating and unattainable. She appears to have supernatural abilities. At the same time, the knight is vulnerable to her because of his state of mind and the fact that he falls hopelessly in love with her. As he wakes up from his dream and has to reckon with the fact that she’s gone, he feels like he’s dying.
This poem is consistent with the themes of medieval courtly love. The lady-love was meant to be physically unavailable and the knight would properly respond with lovesickness.
In The Six Passions of the Red-hot Lover, the passion of the Princess is challenge:
Everything about me is a challenge: Understanding me, getting close to me, holding my interest, providing me with excitement. My passion is focused on those who take the bait. I ask myself if it’s really possible that someone has all the features and nuances I need to become fully engaged with him/her….
And the passion of the Black Knight is vindication:
Imagine that you’re holding a wonderful amazing trophy that fills you with rapture and joy. Then, right before your eyes, it starts to tarnish and decay. You have the utmost feeling of horror and dismay…your passion is fixed on the perfection of the trophy which represents your love; it’s the deepest, best part of you. Vindication of that is your single-minded goal.
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