Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Niminy-Piminy, Nimble-Wimble, and Niffnaffery

For Valentine's Day, a discussion of Platonic Love in Hélène de Surgère's circle, by D.B. Wyndham Lewis, Ronsard (London: Sheed & Ward, 1944), p. 239 (footnotes omitted):
To expressions of that neo-Platonic, high-thinking niminy-piminy which is the vogue among her set (and the natural corollary and counter-irritant to the unbridled lust of the other Renaissance extreme) she will listen, to use a homely folk-phrase, till the cows come home. The principal textbook for students of this affectation was a volume entitled Dialoghi d' Amore, by a Spanish Jew known as Léon Hébrieu. It consists of discourses between two personages, Philo and Sophia, on transcendental Love, a quasi-metaphysical, pseudo-mystical, cabbalistical, finicking manual which drove Ronsard, who detested such emasculate nimble-wimble, to protest against the vogue of
Leon Hebrieu, qui donne aux dames cognoissance
D'un amour fabuleux, la mesme fiction;
Faux, trompeur, mensonger, plein de fraude et d'astuce ...

Another textbook almost as fashionable among Hélène's group was La Parfaicte Amye, by Antoine Héroet of the Lyons School, dealing decasyllabically with the Platonic Idea of love, the bodiless union of affinities, the ultimate bliss, derived from the celestial contemplation of Beauty and Harmony. Shorn of all the fioriture, the gospel of this lily-handed school amounts, in practice, if one may be so gross, simply to this, that it is the lover's happiness and duty to pour down the beloved's slim white throat a mixture of as much flattery and deification as her conceit can stand, at the same time looking for no recompense but a touch of the hand in acknowledgment, a distant smile, a glance of acquiescence. That such niffnaffery made a warm-blooded man like Pierre de Ronsard furious is not strange.

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