Thursday, August 11, 2005


I read this today at Mere Comments and could not agree more.

What were men and women for one another, in the bad old days? In my lifetime I have seen an eight-hundred-year old tradition of love poetry and song, begun in Provence with the troubadours, finally peter out in its last decadent efflorescense in rock and roll. Surely it must make Satan sneer with delight, having used the sexual revolution to produce drab androgyny and the death of eros.

So, by way of memorial, and a longing call to regain some of the mysterious love we have lost, I would like to post on this site, from time to time, samples of the love we have lost. Here is the first: two stanzas from Edmund Spenser`s wedding hymn, Epithalamion (with spelling normalized):

Tell me ye merchants daughters, did ye see

So fair a creature in your town before,
So sweet, so lovely, and so mild as she,
Adorned with beauty`s grace and virtue`s store,
Her goodly eyes like Sapphires shining bright,
Her forehead ivory white,
Her cheeks like apples which the sun hath rudded,
Her lips like cherries charming men to bite,
Her breast like to a bowl of cream uncrudded,
Her paps like lilies budded,
Her snowy neck like to a marble tower
Ascending up with many a stately stair
To honor`s seat and chastity`s sweet bower.
Why stand ye still, ye virgins, in amaze
Upon her so to gaze,
Whiles ye forget your former lay to sing,
To which the woods did answer and your echo ring?
But if ye saw that which no eyes can see,
The inward beauty of her lively spright,
Garnished with heavenly gifts of high degree,
Much more then would ye wonder at that sight
And stand astonished like to those which read
Medusa`s mazeful head.
There dwells sweet love and constant chastity,
Unspotted faith and comely womanhood,
Regard of honor and mild modesty;
There virtue reigns as Queen in royal throne
And giveth laws alone.
The which the base affections do obey
And yield their services unto her will,
Nor thought of thing uncomely ever may
Thereto approach to tempt her mind to ill.
Had ye once seen these her celestial treasures
And unrevealed pleasures,
Then would ye wonder and her praises sing,
That all the woods should answer and your echo ring.

Spenser wrote those stanzas (and 22 others) for his own bride. Making allowances for the decline in poetic virtuosity, how many men are there who could be so inspired? How many women who could so inspire them?

Indeed…many women today could so inspire them? But men today are not, for whatever reason, inspired to sit down, contemplate, and write things like this anymore. I would argue that they are not expected to be inspired in the area of eros and so have fallen away from the art. Witness the recent articles I've noticed on the MSN homepage written for the acolytes of Oprah and Brittany and Dr. Phil on the "Top 10 things every single woman should have" and similar lists for men. Instead of "her lips like cherries inspiring men to bite", men today if pressed would say something like "her legs like a vise clamping down while we grind" or "knockin' da boots" and all that tripe…and the women would shrug and nod in agreement because they themselves have no sense of eros as well. Lust has surpassed Eros in the minds of many. Indeed, eros to them is unknown. Yet it is there somewhere, deep inside all of us. Because when the lust is gone and the empty feelings and longing begin, people today do not know that the emptiness is a longing for eros to exist. Instead, we return to Oprah and pop magazines and gorge ourselves on the theology of self-esteem and look once more for the quick fix that only lust is able to fulfil.

I've known for years that I'm old-fashioned…I was old-fashioned at the age of 13. But I hang on to stuff like this because when I'm a grandfather and I have my granddaughter or grandson on my knee, I want to be able to convey to them timeless wisdom, magic, romance, and a sense of the sacred from the past. I believe kids today still believe in them even if we do not. Witness the overwhelming success of Harry Potter, the re-discoveries of Tolkien and of Narnia. If you're not into poetry, but wish to read some classic books I'd refer you to a list put together by C.S. Lewis.

I've read many on the list myself, and only last night began re-reading Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Next up will be T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Reading books such as these will awaken the poet within and inspire you to be inspired. There is such beauty in the world but it's shouted down and drowned in the sea of today's mass communication which intrudes upon our senses like a jackhammer in the noisy city. Beauty does speak clearly; with a clarity that is capable of being heard amidst all the noise. But if our senses are not seeking, we will remain blind.

As Dante wrote in Canto I of Inferno, the first of the three books that make up his Divine Comedy: (available with commentary).

Halfway through the journey we are living
I found myself deep in a darkened forest,
For I had lost all trace of the straight path.

Ah how hard it is to tell what it was like,
How wild the forest was, how dense and rugged!
To think of it still fills my mind with panic.

So bitter it is that death is hardly worse!
But to describe the good discovered there
I here will tell the other things I saw.

I cannot say clearly how I entered there,
So drowsy with sleep had I grown at that hour
When first I wandered off from the true way.

We are in the darkened forest and have lost almost all trace of the straight path. But it's still there…hidden amongst the leaves that have fallen over it. I plan on being able to "describe the good discovered there" to my future offspring as much as I can. There's so much to be found. It's only waiting to have the leaves brushed away from it so that we may once again walk unencumbered along its path.


At 4:03 PM, Blogger Housewife said...

Oh my goodness. Very well done. I can say no more. Perhaps I will highlight your post over at my place? Would that be OK with you? It needs to be shared, passed on to others.


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