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THE POWER OF LOVE
In the essay "On the Power of Love," to which I have referred in another place, Lichtenberg bluntly declared he did not believe that sentimental love could make a sensible adult person so extravagantly happy or unhappy as the poets would have us think, whereas he was ready to concede that the sexual appetite may become irresistible. Schopenhauer, on the contrary, held that sentimental love is the more powerful of the two passions. However this may be, either is strong enough to account for the prevalence of amorous hyperbole in literature to such an extent that, as Bacon remarked, "speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but in love." "The major part of lovers," writes Robert Burton, "are carried headlong like so many brute beasts, reason counsels one way, thy friends, fortunes, shame, disgrace, danger, and an ocean of cares that will certainly follow; yet this furious lust precipitates, counterpoiseth, weighs down on the other." Professor Bain, discussing all the human emotions in a volume of 600 pages, declares, regarding love (138), that "the excitement at its highest pitch, in the torrent of youthful sensations and ungratified desires is probably the most furious and elated experience of human nature." In whatever sense we take this, as referring to sensual or sentimental love, or a combination of the two, it explains why erotic writers of all times make such lavish use of superlatives and exaggerations. Their strong feelings can only be expressed in strong language. "Beauty inflicts a wound sharper than any arrow," quoth Achilles Tatius. Meleager declares: "Even the winged Eros in the air became your prisoner, sweet Timarion, because your eye drew him down ;" and in another place: "the cup is filled with joy because it is allowed to touch the beautiful lips of Zenophila. Would that she drank my soul in one draught, pressing firmly her lips on mine" (a passage which Tennyson imitated in "he once drew with one long kiss my whole soul through my lips "). "Not stone only, but steel would be melted by Eros," cried Antipater of Sidon. Burton tells of a cold bath
that suddenly smoked and was very hot when Cœlia came into it; and an anonymous modern poet cries:
Look yonder, where
She washes in the lake!
See while she swims,
The water from her purer limbs
The Persian poet, Saadi, tells the story of a young enamoured Dervish who knew the whole Koran by heart, but forgot his very alphabet in presence of the princess. She tried to encourage him, but he only found tongue to say, "It is strange that with thee present I should have speech left me;" and having said that he uttered a loud groan and surrendered his soul up to God.
To lovers nothing seems impossible. They "vow to weep seas, live in fire, eat rocks, tame tigers," as Troilus knew. Mephistopheles exclaims :
So ein verliebter Thor verpufft
Zum Zeitvertreib dem Liebchen in die Luft
(Your foolish lover squanders sun and moon and all the stars to entertain his darling for an hour.) Romantic hyperbole is the realism of love. The lover is blind as to the beloved's faults, and color-blind as to her merits, seeing them differently from normal persons and all in a rosy hue. She really seems to him superior to every one in the world, and he would be ready any moment to join the ranks of the mediaval knights who translated amorous hyperbole into action, challenging every knight to battle unless he acknowledged the superior beauty of his lady. A great romancer is the lover; he retouches the negative of his beloved, in his imagination, removes freckles, moulds the nose, rounds the cheeks, refines the lips, and adds lustre to the eyes until his ideal is realized and he sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
For to be wise and love
Exceeds man's might; that dwells with gods above.
I dare not ask a kiss,
I might grow proud the while.-Herrick.
Let fools great Cupid's yoke disdain,
Loving their own wild freedom better,
I sit, and court my beauteous fetter.-Beaumont.
COMIC SIDE OF LOVE
"There was never proud man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the person beloved," said Bacon; "and therefore it is well said that it is impossible to love and be wise."
Like everything else in this world, love has its comic side. Nothing could be more amusing, surely, than the pride some men and women exhibit at having secured for life a mate whom most persons would not care to own a day. The idealizing process just described is responsible for this comedy; and a very useful thing it is, too; for did not the lover's fancy magnify the merits and minify the faults of the beloved, the number of marriages would not be so large as it is. Pride is a great match-maker. "It was a proud night with me," wrote Walter Scott, "when I first found that a pretty young woman could think it worth her while to sit and talk with me hour after hour in a corner of the ball-room, while all the world were capering in our view." Such an experience was enough to attune the heart-strings to love. The youth felt flattered, and flattery is the food of love.
A MYSTERY EXPLAINED
Pride explains some of the greatest mysteries of love. "How could that woman have married such a manikin ?" is a question one often hears. Money, rank, opportunity, lack of taste, account for much, but in many instances it was pride that first opened the heart to love; that is, pride was the first
of the ingredients of love to capitulate, and the others followed suit. Probably that manikin was the first masculine being who ever showed her any attentions. "He appreciates me!" she mused. 66 I admire his taste-he is not like other menI like him-I love him."
The compliment of a proposal touches a girl's pride and may prove the entering-wedge of love; hence the proverbial folly of accepting a girl's first refusal as final. And if she accepts, the thought that she, the most perfect being in the world, prefers him above all men, inflates his pride to the point of exultation; thenceforth he can talk and think only in "three pil'd hyperboles." He wants all the world to know how he has been distinguished. In a Japanese poem translated by Lafcadio Hearn (G. B. F., 38) a lover exclaims:
I cannot hide in my heart the happy knowledge that fills it;
IMPORTANCE OF PRIDE
To realize fully how important an ingredient in love pride is, we need only consider the effect of a refusal. Of all the pangs that make up its agony none is keener than that of wounded pride or vanity. Hence the same lover who, if successful, wants all the world to know how he has been distinguished, is equally anxious, in case of a refusal, to keep it a secret. Schopenhauer went so far as to assert that both in the pain of unrequited love and the joy of success, vanity is a more important factor than the thwarting of sensual desires, because only a psychic disturbance can stir us so deeply.
Shakspere knew that while there are many kinds of pride, the best and deepest is that which a man feels in his love. Some, he says, glory in their birth, some in their skill, some in their wealth, some in their body's force, or their garments, or horses; but
All these I better in one general best,
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments' cost,
Of more delight than hawks and horses be
And having thee, of all men's pride I boast.-Sonnet XCI.
VARIETIES AND GERMS
While amorous pride has also an altruistic aspect in so far as the lover is proud not only of being chosen but also of another's perfections, it nevertheless belongs, in the main, in the egoistic group, and there is therefore no reason why we should not look for it in the lower stages of erotic evolution. Pride and vanity are feelings which characterize all grades of human beings from the highest to the lowest. As regards amorous pride, however, it is obvious that the conditions for its existence are not favorable among such aboriginals, e.g., as the Australians. What occasion is there for pride on the part of a man who exchanges his sister or daughter for another man's sister or daughter, or on the part of the female who is thus exchanged? An American Indian's pride consists not in having won the favor of one particular girl, but in having been able to buy or steal as many women as possible, married or unmarried; and the bride's pride is proportionate to her lover's prowess in this direction. I need not add that the pride at being a successful squaw-stealer differs not only in degree but in kind from the exultation of a white American lover at the thought that the most beautiful and perfect girl in the world has chosen him above all men as her sole and exclusive sweetheart.
Gibbs says (I., 197-200) of the Indians of Western Washington and Northwestern Oregon that they usually seek their wives among other tribes than their own. "It seems to be a matter of pride, in fact, to unite the blood of several different ones in their own persons. The expression, I am half Snokwalmu, half Klikatat, or some similar one, is of every-day occurrence. With the chiefs, this is almost always the case. This feeling, however, is of a tribal kind, lacking the individuality of amorous pride. It would approach the latter if a chief won another chief's daughter in the face of rivalry and felt elated at this feat. Such cases doubtless occur among the Indians.
Shooter gives an amusing account of how the African Kaffirs, when a girl is averse to a marriage, attempt to influence