Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Anatomy of Melancholy 9

"We read in the Lives of he Fathers, a story of a child that was brought up in the wilderness, from his infancy,   by an old hermit: now come to man's estate, he saw by chance two comely women wandering in the woods: he asked the old man what creatures they were, he told him fairies; after a while, talking [casually], the hermit demanded of him, which was the pleasantest sight that ever he saw in his life? He readily replied, the two fairies he saw in the wilderness. So that, without doubt, there is some secret loadstone (sic) in a beautiful woman, a magnetic power, a natural inbred affection, which moves our concupiscence.." A variation on a common story, but a good enough one to remind oneself of from time to time.

"Christ Himself and the Virgin Mary had most beautiful eyes, as amiable eyes as any persons, saith Barradius, that ever lived, but withal so modest, so chaste, that whosoever looked on them was freed from that passion of burning lust...'tis not the eye, but carriage of it, as they use it, that causeth such effects." From the scribbler's standpoint this is nothing compared to the myriad ways in which women create lust however.

"Tiberius...supped with Sestius Gallus, an old lecher, [on condition that naked girls should wait on them]..." Shocking stuff. I wonder how smooth the old Romans really were with the ladies. The impression of course is that they were light on technique and into demonstrations of brute force. Not like your modern international playboys.

"(Achilles) compressed Deidamia, the king's fair daughter, and had a fine son, called Pyrrhus, by her." Compressed?

This story is a rather long one, and the libertine set loose in the convent is another motif that has been done a thousand times, but I still have to worship studs of this magnitude: "At Berkeley in Gloucestershire, there was in times past a nunnery (saith Gulaterus Mapes, an old historiographer, that lived 400 years since), 'of which there was a noble and a fair lady abbess: Godwin, that subtle Earl of Kent, travelling that way (seeking not her but hers), leaves a nephew of his, a proper young gallant (as if he had been sick), with her, till he came back again, and gives the young man charge so long to counterfeit, till he had deflowered the abbess, and as many besides of the nuns as he could...The young man, willing to undergo such a business, played his part so well, that in short space he got up most of their bellies, and when he had done, told his lord how he had sped; his lord made instantly to the court, tells the king how such a nunnery was become a bawdy-house, procures a visitation, gets them to be turned out, and begs the lands to his own use."

" much pity is to be taken of a woman weeping, as of a goose going barefoot." I agree that men should not let themselves be taken in as frequently as they are.

"...or that hot bath in Aix in Germany, wherein Cupid once dipt his arrows, which ever since hath a peculiar virtue to make them lovers all that wash in it." Is this place still there? If so, it is not vigorously advertised. Maybe it is a secret only accessible to the elect.

The device in our imaginations which recreates for us the dimensions of the objects of our desire is described as "that astrolabe of phantasy". I like this expression.

Philostratus on his mistress, or, as seems more likely by our understanding of this word, would-be mistress: "Oh happy ground on which she treads! and happy were I if she would tread upon me." I used to have friends who would occasionally talk in this manner. I probably felt this, but usually was not clever enough to come up with the right expression. Early in the night, it can be amusing.

Another, unnamed lover who is not giving off an alpha attitude: "he wisheth himself a saddle for her to sit on, a posy for her to smell to, and it would not grieve him to be hanged, if he might be strangled in her garters; he would willingly die to-morrow, so that she might kill him with her own hands." Meanwhile, your John F Kennedy types skip the hysterics and just begin undressing the girls they take a liking to as soon as the occasion offers itself. It is a superior system.

Now Cyrus (presumably the Persian emperor, as the quotation is from Xenephon) was a stud. Or at least the lusty Salmacis thought so: "...blessed is that woman that shall be his wife, nay, thrice happy she that shall enjoy him but a night." The forces that push and gather and raise...

"As he that desired of his enemy, now dying (he--not the enemy), to lay him with his face upward, lest his sweetheart should say he was a coward." Oh God. I am glad Burton is as humane as he is, or I couldn't take it (not that I am in the least humane, but I appreciate examples of it when I can find them).

"Cupid and Death met both in an inn; and being merrily disposed, they did exchange some arrows from either quiver; ever since young men die, and oftentimes old men dote." Clever, succinct, memorable, and illuminating. I believe it.

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