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air, especially with the fragrance of her hair, occurs frequently in the poems of Hafiz and other Orientals. In one of these the poet chides the zephyr for having stolen its sweetness while playing with the beloved's loose tresses. In another, a youth declares that if he should die and the fragrance of his beloved's locks were wafted over his grave, it would bring him back to life. Ben Jonson's famous lines to Celia :

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honoring thee

As giving it a hope that there

It could not withered be;

But thou thereon did'st only breathe

And sent'st it back to me;

Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,

Not of itself but thee!

are a free imitation of passages in the Love Letters (Nos. 30 and 31) of the Greek Philostratus: "Send me back some of the roses on which you slept. Their natural fragrance will have been increased by that which you imparted to them." This is a great improvement on the Persian poets who go into raptures over the fragrant locks of fair women, not for their inherent sweetness, however, but for the artificial perfumes used by them, including the disgusting musk! "Is a caravan laden with musk returning from Khoten ?" sings one of these bards in describing the approach of his mistress.


Besides such direct comparisons of feminine charms to flowers, to sun and moon and other beautiful objects of nature, amorous hyperbole has several other ways of expressing itself. The lover longs to be some article of dress that he might touch the beloved, or a bird that he might fly to her, or he fancies that all nature is love-sick in sympathy with him. Romeo's

See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

is varied in Heine's poem, where the lover wishes he were a stool for her feet to rest on, a cushion for her to stick pins in, or a curl-paper that he might whisper his secrets into her ears; and in Tennyson's dainty lines:

It is the miller's daughter,

And she is grown so dear, so dear,
That I would be the jewel

That trembles at her ear;

For hid in ringlets day and night

I'd touch her neck so warm and white.

And I would be the girdle

About her dainty, dainty waist,
And her heart would beat against me

In sorrow and in rest;

And I should know if it beat right,
I'd clasp it round so close and tight.

And I would be the necklace,

And all day long to fall and rise
Upon her balmy bosom

With her laughter or her sighs,

And I would be so light, so light,
I scarce should be unclasped at night.

Herein, too, our modern poets were anticipated by the ancients. Anacreon wishes he were a mirror that he might reflect the image of his beloved; or the gown she wears every day; or the water that laves her limbs; or the balm that anoints her body; or the pearl that adorns her neck; or the cloth that covers her breast; or the shoes that are trodden by her feet.

The author of an anonymous poem in the Greek Anthology wishes he were a breath of air that he might be received in the bosom of his beloved; or a rose to be picked by her hand and fastened on her bosom. Others wish they were the water in the fountain from which a girl drinks, or a dolphin to carry her on its back, or the ring she wears. After the Hindoo Sakuntala has lost her ring in the river the poet expresses surprise that the ring should have been able to separate itself from that hand. The Cyclops of Theocritus

wishes he had been born with the gills of a fish so that he might dive into the sea to visit the nymph Galatea and kiss her hands should her mouth be refused. One of the goatherds of the same bucolic poet wishes he were a bee that he might fly to the grotto of Amaryllis. From such fancies it is but a short step to the "were I a swallow, to her I would fly" of Heine and other modern poets.


In the ecstasy of his feeling Rosalind's lover wants to have her name carved on every tree in the forest; but usually the lover assumes that all things in the forests, plants or animals, sympathize with him even without having his beloved's name thrust upon them.

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or if they sing, 't is with so dull a cheer,

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.

"Why are the roses so pale?" asks Heine. "Why are the violets so dumb in the green grass? Why does the lark's song seem so sad, and why have the flowers lost their fragrance? Why does the sun look down upon the meadows so cold and morose, and why is the earth so gray and desolate ? Why am I ill and melancholy, and why, my love, did you leave me?" In another poem Heine declares: "If the flowers knew how deeply my heart is wounded, they would weep with me. If the nightingales knew how sad I am, they would cheer me with their refreshing song. If the golden stars knew my grief, they would come down from their heights to whisper consolation to me."

This phase of amorous hyperbole also was known to the ancient poets. Theocritus (VII., 74) relates that Daphnis was bewailed by the oaks that stood on the banks of the river, and Ovid (151) tells us, in Sappho's epistle to Phaon, that the leafless branches sighed over her hopeless love and the birds. stopped their sweet song. Musæus felt that the waters of

the Hellespont were still lamenting the fate which overtook Leander as he swam toward the tower of Hero.


If a romantic love-poem were necessarily a poem of romantic love, the specimens of amorous hyperbole cited in the preceding pages would indicate that the ancients knew love as we know it. In reality, however, there is not, in all the examples cited, the slightest evidence of genuine love. A passion which is merely sensual may inspire a gifted poet to the most extravagantly fanciful expressions of covetous admiration, and in all the cases cited there is nothing beyond such sensual admiration. An African Harari compares the girl he likes to "sweet milk fresh from the cow," and considers that coarse remark a compliment because he knows love only as an appetite. A gypsy poet compares the shoulders of his beloved to "wheat bread," and a Turkish poem eulogizes a girl for being like "bread fried in butter." (Ploss, I., 85, 89.)

The ancient poets had too much taste to reveal their amorous desires quite so bluntly as an appetite, yet they, too, never went beyond the confines of self-indulgence. When Propertius says a girl's cheeks are like roses floating on milk; when Tibullus declares another girl's eyes are bright enough to light a torch by; when Achilles Tatius makes his lover exclaim "Surely you must carry about a bee on your lips, they are full of honey, your kisses wound "-what is all this except a revelation that the poet thinks the girl pretty, that her beauty gives him pleasure, and that he tries to express that pleasure by comparing her to some other object-sun, moon, honey, flowers-that pleases his senses? Nowhere is there the slightest indication that he is eager to give her pleasure, much less that he would be willing to sacrifice his own pleasures for her, as a mother, for instance, would for a child. His hyperboles, in a word, tell us not of love for another but of a self-love in which the other figures only as a means to an end, that end being his own gratification.

When Anacreon wishes he were the gown worn by a girl, or the water that laves her limbs, or the string of pearls around her neck, he does not indicate the least desire to make her happy, but an eagerness to please himself by coming in contact with her. The daintiest poetic conceit cannot conceal this blunt fact. Even the most fanciful of all forms of amorous hyperbole-that in which the lover imagines that all nature smiles or weeps with him-what is it but the most colossal egotism conceivable ?



The amorous hyperbole of the ancients is romantic in the sense of fanciful, fictitious, extravagant, but not in the sense in which I oppose romantic love to selfish sensual infatuation. There is no intimation in it of those things that differentiate love from lust-the mental and moral charms of the women, or the adoration, sympathy, and affection of the When one of Goethe's characters says: "My life began at the moment I fell in love with you; or when one of Lessing's characters exclaims: "To live apart from her is inconceivable to me, would be my death"-we still hear the note of selfishness, but with harmonic overtones that change its quality, the result of a change in the way of regarding women. Where women are looked down on as inferiors, as among the ancients, amorous hyperbole cannot be sincere; it is either nothing but "spruce affectation" or else an illustration of the power of sensual love. No ancient author could have written what Emerson wrote in his essay on Love, of the visitations of a power which


"made the face of nature radiant with purple light, the morning and the night varied enchantments; when a single tone of one voice could make the heart bound, and the most trivial circumstance associated with one form is put in the amber of memory; when he became all eye when one was present, and all memory when one was gone; when the youth becomes a watcher of windows and studious of a glove, a veil, a ribbon, or the wheels of a carriage. When the head boiled all night on the pillow with the generous deed it resolved on. When all business seemed an impertinence, and all men and women running to and fro in the streets, mere pictures."

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