Thursday, November 01, 2007

Some Advice from The Anatomy of Melancholy

Robert Burton on a few possible ways to "assuage those ardent flames of love"...


Cure of Love-Melancholy, by Labour, Diet, Physic, Fasting, &c.

Because poor people fare coarsely, work hard, go woolward and bare. Non habet unde suum paupertas pascat amorem. Guianerius therefore prescribes his patient to go with hair-cloth next his skin, to go barefooted, and barelegged in cold weather, to whip himself now and then, as monks do, but above all to fast. Not with sweet wine, mutton and pottage, as many of those tender-bellies do, howsoever they put on Lenten faces, and whatsoever they pretend, but from all manner of meat. Fasting is an all-sufficient remedy of itself; for, as Jason Pratensis holds, the bodies of such persons that feed liberally, and live at ease, are full of bad spirits and devils, devilish thoughts; no better physic for such parties, than to fast. Hildesheim, spice l. 2. to this of hunger, adds, often baths, much exercise and sweat, but hunger and fasting he prescribes before the rest. And 'tis indeed our Saviour's oracle, This kind of devil is not cast out but by fasting and prayer, which makes the fathers so immoderate in commendation of fasting. As hunger, saith Ambrose, is a friend of virginity, so is it an enemy to lasciviousness, but fullness overthrows chastity, and fostereth all manner of provocations. If thine horse be too lusty, Hierome adviseth thee to take away some of his provender; by this means those Pauls, Hilaries, Anthonies, and famous anchorites, subdued the lusts of the flesh; by this means Hilarion made his ass, as he called his own body, leave kicking, (so Hierome relates of him in his life) when the devil tempted him to any such foul offence. By this means those Indian Brahmins kept themselves continent: they lay upon the ground covered with skins, as the red-shanks do on heather, and dieted themselves sparingly on one dish, which Guianerius would have all young men put in practice, and if that will not serve, Gordonius would have them soundly whipped, or, to cool their courage, kept in prison, and there fed with bread and water till they acknowledge their error, and become of another mind. If imprisonment and hunger will not take them down, according to the directions of that Theban Crates, time must wear it out; if time will not, the last refuge is a halter. But this, you will say, is comically spoken. Howsoever, fasting, by all means, must be still used; and as they must refrain from such meats formerly mentioned, which cause venery, or provoke lust, so they must use an opposite diet. Wine must be altogether avoided of the younger sort. So Plato prescribes, and would have the magistrates themselves abstain from it, for example's sake, highly commending the Carthaginians for their temperance in this kind. And 'twas a good edict, a commendable thing, so that it were not done for some sinister respect, as those old Egyptians abstained from wine, because some fabulous poets had given out, wine sprang first from the blood of the giants, or out of superstition, as our modern Turks, but for temperance, it being animae virus et vitiorum fomes, a plague itself, if immoderately taken. Women of old for that cause, in hot countries, were forbid the use of it; as severely punished for drinking of wine as for adultery; and young folks, as Leonicus hath recorded, Var. hist. l. 3. cap. 87, 88. out of Athenaeus and others, and is still practised in Italy, and some other countries of Europe and Asia, as Claudius Minoes hath well illustrated in his Comment on the 23. Emblem of Alciat. So choice is to be made of other diet.

Nec minus erucas aptum est vitare salaces,
Et quicquid veneri corpora nostra parat.

Eringos are not good for to be taken,
And all lascivious meats must be forsaken.

Those opposite meats which ought to be used are cucumbers, melons, purslane, water-lilies, rue, woodbine, ammi, lettuce, which Lemnius so much commends, lib. 2, cap. 42. and Mizaldus hort. med. to this purpose; vitex, or agnus castus before the rest, which, saith Magninus, hath a wonderful virtue in it. Those Athenian women, in their solemn feasts called Thesmopheries, were to abstain nine days from the company of men, during which time, saith Aelian, they laid a certain herb, named hanea, in their beds, which assuaged those ardent flames of love, and freed them from the torments of that violent passion. See more in Porta, Matthiolus, Crescentius lib. 5. &c., and what every herbalist almost and physician hath written, cap. de Satyriasi et Priapismo; Rhasis amongst the rest. In some cases again, if they be much dejected, and brought low in body, and now ready to despair through anguish, grief, and too sensible a feeling of their misery, a cup of wine and full diet is not amiss, and as Valescus adviseth, cum alia honesta venerem saepe exercendo, which Langius epist. med. lib. 1. epist. 24. approves out of Rhasis (ad assiduationem coitus invitat] and Guianerius seconds it, cap. 16. tract. 16. as a very profitable remedy.


KUBLA KHAN said...

Beautiful post!
I like all things sad....true beauty should make us feel sad.
i am even not interested in a cure for melancholy unless it becomes morbidly dangerous when one must depart to seek the company of sages, yogis, rishis, sufis, monks.
old times were interesting.....seeking the infinite was a proper occupation. one learned about the dust and the wind, about love and sadness, about the stars and the Djinns on the way.
What cure love? why ?
i find this passage so funny that it makes me almost lighthearted!
btw.....November is here, proper melancholy has begun.
i am reading Walser.....what pain eh!

Alok said...

Yeah it is actually tongue in cheek... even he concedes that the solution of the halter was on the comical side...