In the 17th volume of The Chesterton Review, Sara Dudley Edwards, reviewing C. S. Lewis' Narnia stories, calls Lewis' "attempt at courtly language" clumsy.

She says:

[...] In all these instances, a large part of the problem is Lewis's attempt at courtly language. This is at its clumsiest in the white stag episode at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it afflicts all three Narnian princes also, particularly Rilian ("Damsel, you are of a high courage").

Being unschooled in such lingo, I naturally assumed that Lewis knew what he was doing, but now I'm not sure. What did authentic "courtly language" really sound like? What is wrong with "Damsel, you are of a high courage", for instance?

1 Answer 1


It's difficult to state a simple "yes, it's clumsy" or "no, it's not clumsy". At its simplest, courtly language is often described as elegant, romantic, direct yet wordy. It's typically the language of the elite - spoken only by nobles and members of royal courts. Our best examples of "courtly language" tend to come from various significant writers such as Chaucer (esp. pieces such as the Knight's Tale), Shakespeare (the nobles in Love's Labours Lost would be an example), etc etc.

I'm guessing Edwards' criticism will ring true for some readers but fail for others. There's no simple yardstick or guide to how to write courtly language and Lewis' success (or not) is almost purely subjective.

I would add that the example you cite sounds damn clumsy to my ears - a little too verbose and a little too careful. "Damsel, you are most courageous" would work just as well - but then, he's CS Lewis and I'm gef05 so where do I get off picking his sentences apart? :)

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    LOL - this would get a +1 for the comedy alone. :)
    – TML
    Jan 16, 2012 at 20:13
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    And to me, "of a high courage" sounds much more noble and not really clumsy. I think of the "high courage" version of the noble having some mental yardstick for actually measuring courage (for example, the princes are the ones that go off on daring quests) - while to the common folk like us, it's much more nebulous a thing, so we use "courageous" - an adjective, rather than a noun.
    – Izkata
    Sep 28, 2012 at 16:45

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