Friday, February 23, 2007

An Excerpt from Anatomy of Melancholy

(A little harsh in my opinion...!)

What breach of vows and oaths, fury, dotage, madness, might I reckon up? Yet this is more tolerable in youth, and such as are still in their hot blood; but for an old fool to dote, to see an old lecher, what more odious, what can be more absurd? and yet what so common? Who so furious? Amare ea aetate si occiperint, multo insaniunt acrius. Some dote then more than ever they did in their youth. How many decrepit, hoary, harsh, writhen, bursten-bellied, crooked, toothless, bald, blear-eyed, impotent, rotten, old men shall you see flickering still in every place? One gets him a young wife, another a courtesan, and when he can scarce lift his leg over a sill, and hath one foot already in Charon's boat, when he hath the trembling in his joints, the gout in his feet, a perpetual rheum in his head, a continuate cough, his sight fails him, thick of hearing, his breath stinks, all his moisture is dried up and gone, may not spit from him, a very child again, that cannot dress himself, or cut his own meat, yet he will be dreaming of, and honing after wenches, what can be more unseemly? Worse it is in women than in men, when she is aetate declivis, diu vidua, mater olim, parum decore matrimonium sequi videtur, an old widow, a mother so long since (in Pliny's opinion), she doth very unseemly seek to marry, yet whilst she is so old a crone, a beldam, she can neither see, nor hear, go nor stand, a mere carcass, a witch, and scarce feel; she caterwauls, and must have a stallion, a champion, she must and will marry again, and betroth herself to some young man, that hates to look on, but for her goods; abhors the sight of her, to the prejudice of her good name, her own undoing, grief of friends, and ruin of her children.

But to enlarge or illustrate this power and effects of love, is to set a candle in the sun. It rageth with all sorts and conditions of men, yet is most evident among such as are young and lusty, in the flower of their years, nobly descended, high fed, such as live idly, and at ease; and for that cause (which our divines call burning lust) this ferinus insanus amor, this mad and beastly passion, as I have said, is named by our physicians heroical love, and a more honourable title put upon it, Amor nobilis, as [4747]Savanarola styles it, because noble men and women make a common practice of it, and are so ordinarily affected with it. Avicenna, lib. 3. Fen, 1. tract. 4. cap. 23. calleth this passion Ilishi, and defines it to be a disease or melancholy vexation, or anguish of mind, in which a man continually meditates of the beauty, gesture, manners of his mistress, and troubles himself about it: desiring, (as Savanarola adds) with all intentions and eagerness of mind, to compass or enjoy her, as commonly hunters trouble themselves about their sports, the covetous about their gold and goods, so is he tormented still about his mistress. Arnoldus Villanovanus, in his book of heroical love, defines it, a continual cogitation of that which he desires, with a confidence or hope of compassing it; which definition his commentator cavils at. For continual cogitation is not the genus but a symptom of love; we continually think of that which we hate and abhor, as well as that which we love; and many things we covet and desire, without all hope of attaining. Carolus a Lorme, in his Questions, makes a doubt, An amor sit morbus, whether this heroical love be a disease: Julius Pollux Onomast. lib. 6. cap. 44. determines it. They that are in love are likewise [4751]sick; lascivus, salax, lasciviens, et qui in venerem furit, vere est aegrotus, Arnoldus will have it improperly so called, and a malady rather of the body than mind. Tully, in his Tusculans, defines it a furious disease of the mind. Plato, madness itself. Ficinus, his Commentator, cap. 12. a species of madness, for many have run mad for women, Esdr. iv. 26. But Rhasis a melancholy passion: and most physicians make it a species or kind of melancholy (as will appear by the symptoms), and treat of it apart; whom I mean to imitate, and to discuss it in all his kinds, to examine his several causes, to show his symptoms, indications, prognostics, effect, that so it may be with more facility cured.

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