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Primitive Love and Love-Stories by Henry Theophilus Finck

Part 15 out of 19

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here, O hero! I would like to know you better, noble,
good man. Closely guarded is my house, however, and
most strict in his orders is the king."

"My name, gracious maiden, is Nala," he replied.

"As messenger of the gods have I come. Four of
them--Indra, Agni, Varuna, Yama--would like you as
bride, therefore choose one of them as husband, O
beauty! That I entered unseen is the result, too, of
their power. Now you have heard all; act as seems
proper to you."

As he spoke the names of the gods Damayanti bowed humbly; then she
laughed merrily and said:

"Follow you the inclination of your heart and be kind
to me. What can I do to please you? Myself and all that
is mine belongs to you. Lay aside all diffidence, my
master and husband! Alas, the entire speech of the
gold-swans, my prince, was to me a real firebrand. It
was for your sake, O hero, that all these kings were in
reality called together so hastily. Should you ever, O
my pride, be able to scorn me, who is so devoted to
you, I shall resort on your account to poison, fire,
water, rope."

"How can you," retorted Nala,

"when gods are present in person, direct your desires
toward a mortal? Not so! Let your inclination dwell
with them, the creators of the world. Remember, too,
that a mortal who does something to displease the gods
is doomed to death. Therefore, you with the faultless
limbs, save me by choosing the most worthy of the gods.
Hesitate no longer. Your husband must be one of the

Then said Damayanti, while her eyes were diffused with anguish-born
tears: "My reverence to the gods! As husband I choose you, mighty
ruler on earth. What I say to you is immutable truth." "I am here now
as messenger of the gods, and cannot, therefore, plead my own cause.
Later I shall have a chance to speak for myself," said Nala; and
Damayanti said, smiling, while tears choked her voice:

"I shall arrange that you as well as the gods are
present on the day of my husband-choice. Then I shall
choose you in the presence of the immortals. In that
way no blame can fall on anyone."

Returning to the gods, Nala told them just what happened, not omitting
her promise that she would choose him in presence of the gods. The day
now was approaching when the kings, who, urged by love-longings, had
assembled, were to appear before the maiden. With their beautiful
hair, noses, eyes, and brows, these royal personages shone like the
stars in heaven. They fixed their gaze on the maiden's limbs, and
wherever the eyes first rested there they remained fixed immovably.
But the four gods had all assumed the exact form and appearance of
Nala, and when Damayanti was about to choose him she saw five men all
alike. How could she tell which of them was the king, her beloved?
After a moment's thought she uttered an invocation to the gods calling
upon them to assume the characteristics by which they differ from
mortals. The gods, moved by her anguish, her faith in the power of
truth, her intelligence and passionate devotion, heard her prayer and
forthwith they appeared to her free from perspiration, with fixed
gaze, ever fresh wreath, free from dust; and none of them, while
standing, touched the floor; whereas King Nala betrayed himself by
throwing a shadow, by having dust and perspiration on his body, a
withered wreath, and eyelids that winked.

Thereupon the big-eyed maiden timidly seized him by the hem of his
garment and put a beautiful wreath on his shoulders. Thus did she
choose him to be her husband; and the gods granted them special

According to Schroeder, the Hindoos are "the romantic nation" among
the ancients, as the Germans are among the moderns; and Albrecht Weber
says that when, a little more than a century ago, Europe first became
acquainted with Sanscrit literature, it was noticed that in the
amorous poetry of India in particular the sentimental qualities of
modern verse were traced in a much higher degree than they had been
found in Greek and Roman literature. All this is doubtless true. The
Hindoos appear to have been the only ancient people that took delight
in forests, rivers, and mountains as we do; in reading their
descriptions of Nature we are sometimes affected by a mysterious
feeling of awe, like a reminiscence of the time when our ancestors
lived in India. Their amorous hyperbole, too, despite its frequent
grotesqueness, affects us perhaps more sympathetically than that of
the Greeks. And yet the essentials of what we call romantic love are
so entirely absent from ancient Hindoo literature that such amorous
symptoms as are noted therein can all be readily brought under the
three heads of artificiality, sensuality, and selfishness.


Commenting on the directions for caressing given in the _Kama Soutra_,
Lamairesse remarks (56):

"All these practices and caresses are conventional rather
than natural, like everything the Hindoos do. A bayaderes
straying to Paris and making use of them would be a
curiosity so extraordinary that she would certainly enjoy a
succes de vogue pour rire."

Nail-marks on various parts of the body, blows, bites, meaningless
exclamations are prescribed or described in the diverse love-scenes.
In Hindoo dramas several of the artificial symptoms--pure figments of
the poetic fancy--are incessantly referred to. One of the most
ludicrous of them is the drops of perspiration on the cheeks or other
parts of the body, which are regarded as an infallible and inevitable
sign of love. Urvasi's royal lover is afraid to take her birch-bark
message in his hand lest his perspiration wipe away the letters. In
Bhavabhuti's drama, _Malati and Madhava_, the heroine's feet perspire
so profusely from excess of longing, that the lacquer of her couch is
melted; and one of the stage directions in the same drama is:
"Perspiration appears on Madayantika, with other things indicating

Another of these grotesque symptoms is the notion that the touch or
mere thought of the beloved makes the small hairs all over the body
stand erect. No love-scene seems to be complete without this detail.
The drama just referred to, in different scenes, makes the hairs on
the cheeks, on the arms, all over the body, rise "splendidly," the
author says in one line.[280] A Hindoo lover always has twitching of
the right or left arm or eye to indicate what kind of luck he is going
to have; and she is equally favored. Usually the love is mutual and at
first sight--nay, preferably _before_ first sight. The mere hearsay
that a certain man or maiden is very beautiful suffices, as we saw in
the story of Nala and Damayanti, to banish sleep and appetite, and to
make the lover pale and wan and most wretched. Sakuntala's royal lover
wastes away so rapidly that in a few days his bracelet falls from his
attenuated arm, and Sakuntala herself becomes so weak that she cannot
rise, and is supposed to have sunstroke! Malati dwindles until her
form resembles the moon in its last quarter; her face is as pale as
the moon at morning dawn. Always both the lovers, though he be a
king--as he generally is--and she a goddess, are diffident at first,
fearing failure, even after the most unmistakable signs of fondness,
in the betrayal of which the girls are anything but coy. All these
symptoms the poets prescribe as regularly as a physician makes out a
prescription for an apothecary.

A peculiar stare--which must be sidelong, not direct at the
beloved--is another conventional characteristic of Hindoo amorous
fiction. The gait becomes languid, the breathing difficult, the heart
stops beating or is paralyzed with joy; the limbs or the whole body
wither like flower-stalks after a frost; the mind is lamed, the memory
weakened; cold shivers run down the limbs and fever shakes the body;
the arms hang limp at the side, the breast heaves, words stick in the
throat; pastimes no longer entertain; the perfumed Malayan wind crazes
the mind; the eyelids are motionless, sighs give vent to anguish,
which may end in a swoon, and if things take an unfavorable turn the
thought of suicide is not distant. Attempts to cure this ardent love
are futile; Madhava tries snow, and moonlight, and camphor, and lotos
roots, and pearls, and sandal oil rubbed on his skin, but all in vain.


Quite as artificial and unsentimental as the notions of the Hindoos
concerning the symptoms of love is their conception of their god of
love, Kama, the husband of Lust. His bow is made of sugar-cane, its
string a row of bees, and his arrow-tips are red flower-buds. Spring
is his bosom friend, and he rides on a parrot or the sea-monster
Makara. He is also called Ananga--the bodiless--because Siwa once
burned him up with the fire that flashed from his third eye for
disturbing him in his devotions by awakening in him love for Parwati.
Sakuntala's lover wails that Kama's arrows are "not flowers, but hard
as diamond." Agnimitra declares that the Creator made his beloved "the
poison-steeped arrow of the God of Love;" and again, he says: "The
softest and the sharpest things are united in you, O Kama." Urvasi's
royal lover complains that his "heart is pierced by Kama's arrow," and
in _Malati and Madhava_ we are told that "a cruel god no doubt is
Kama;" while No. 329 of Ilala's love-poems declares:

"The arrows of Kama are most diverse in their
effects--though made of flowers, very hard; though not
coming into direct contact, insufferably hot; and
though piercing, yet causing delight."

Our familiarity with Greek and Roman literature has made us so
accustomed to the idea of a Cupid awakening love by shooting arrows
that we fail to realize how entirely fanciful, not to say whimsical,
this conceit is. It would be odd, indeed, if the Hindoo poets had
happened on the same fancy as the Greeks of their own accord; but
there is no reason to suppose that they did. Kama is one of the later
gods of the Indian Pantheon, and there is every reason to believe that
the Hindoos borrowed him from the Greeks, as the Romans did. In
_Sakuntala_ (27) there is a reference to the Greek women who form the
king's body-guard; in _Urvasi_ (70) to a slave of Greek descent; and
there are many things in the Hindoo drama that betray Greek influence.

Besides being artificial and borrowed, Kama is entirely sensual. Kama
means "gratification of the senses,"[281] and of all the epithets
bestowed on their god of love by the Hindoos none rises distinctly
above sensual ideas. Dowson (147) has collated these epithets; they
are: "the beautiful," "the inflamer," "lustful," "desirous," "the
happy," "the gay, or wanton," "deluder," "the lamp of honey, or of
spring," "the bewilderer," "the crackling fire," "the stalk of
passion," "the weapon of beauty," "the voluptuary," "remembrance,"
"fire," "the handsome."[282]

The same disregard of sentimental, devotional, and altruistic elements
is shown in the Ten Stages of Love-Sickness as conceived by the
Hindoos: (1) desire; (2) thinking of her (his) beauty; (3) reminiscent
revery; (4) boasting of her (his) excellence; (5) excitement; (6)
lamentations; (7) distraction; (8) illness; (9) insensibility; (10)


The notion that the fever of love may become so severe as to lead to
death plays an important role in Hindoo amorous sophistry. "Hindoo
casuists," says Lamairesse (151, 179), "always have a peremptory
reason, in their own eyes, for dispensing with all scruples in
love-affairs: the necessity of not dying for love." "It is
permissible," says the author of _Kama Soutra_, "to seduce another
man's wife if one is in danger of dying from love for her;" upon which
Lamairesse comments:

"This principle, liberally interpreted by those
interested, excuses all intrigues; in theory it is
capable of accommodating itself to all cases, and in
the practice of the Hindoos it does thus accommodate
itself. It is based on the belief that the souls of men
who die of ungratified desires flit about a long time
as manes before transmigrating."

Thus did the wily priests invoke the aid even of superstition to
foster that national licentiousness by which they themselves profited
most. Small wonder that the _Hitopadesa_ declared (92) that "there is
perhaps in all the world not a man who covets not his neighbor's
wife;" or that the same collection of wise stories and maxims should
take an equally low view of feminine morals (39, 40, 41, 54, 88);
_e.g._ (in substance): "Then only is a wife faithful to her husband,
when no other man covets her." "Seek chastity in those women only who
have no opportunity to meet a lover." "A woman's lust can no more be
satisfied than a fire's greed for wood, the ocean's thirst for rivers,
death's desire for victims." Another verse in the _Hitopadesa_ (13)
declares frankly that of the six good things in the world two of them
are a caressing wife and a devoted sweetheart beside her--upon which
the editor, Johannes Hertel, comments: "To a Hindoo there is nothing
objectionable in such a sentiment."


The Hindoo's inability to rise above sensuality also manifests itself
in his admiration of personal beauty, which is purely carnal. No. 217
of Hala's anthology declares:

"Her face resembles the moon, the juice of her mouth
nectar; but wherewith shall I compare (my delight) when
I seize her, amid violent struggles, by the head and
kiss her?"

Apart from such grotesque comparisons of the face to the moon, or of
the teeth to the lotos, there is nothing in the amorous hyperbole of
Hindoo poets that rises above the voluptuous into the neighborhood of
esthetic admiration. Hindoo statues embodying the poets' ideal of
women's waists so narrow that they can be spanned by the hand, show
how infinitely inferior the Hindoos were to the Greeks in their
appreciation of human beauty. The Hindoo poet's ideal of feminine
beauty is a wasp-waist and grossly exaggerated bust and hips.
Bhavabhuti allows his heroine Malati to be thus addressed (by a

"The wind, sandal-cool, refreshes your moon-face, in
which nectar-like drops of perspiration appear from
your walking, during which you lifted your feet but
slowly, as they wavered under the weight of your
thighs, which are strong as those of an elephant."

Usually, of course, these grotesquely coarse compliments are paid by
the enamored men. Kalidasa makes King Pururavas, crazed by the loss of
Urvasi, exclaim:

"Have you seen the divine beauty, who is compelled by
the weight of her hips to walk slowly, and who never
sees the flight of youth, whose bosom is high and
swelling, whose gait is as the swan's?"

In another place he refers to her footsteps "pressed in deeper behind
by the weight of the beloved's hips," Satyavant has no other epithet
for Savitri than "beautiful-hipped." It is the same with Sakuntala's
lover (who has been held up as an ancient embodiment of modern
ethereal sentiment). What does he admire in Sakuntala? "Here," he
says, "in the yellow sand are a number of fresh footsteps; they are
higher in front, but depressed behind by the weight of her hips." "How
slow was her gait--and naturally so, considering the weight of her
hips." Compare also the poet's remarks on her bodily charms when the
king first sees her.[284] Among all of the king's hyperbolic
compliments and remarks there is not one that shows him to be
fascinated by anything but the purely bodily charms of the young girl,
charms of a coarse, voluptuous kind, calculated to increase _his_
pleasure should he succeed in winning her, while there is not a trace
of a desire on his part to make _her_ happy. Nor is there anything in
Sakuntala's symptoms rising above selfish distress at her uncertainty,
or selfish longing to possess her lover. In a word, there is no
romantic love, in our sense of the word, in the dramas of the most
romantic poet of the most romantic nation of antiquity.[285]


It might be maintained that the symptoms of true affection--altruistic
devotion to the verge of self-sacrifice--are revealed, at any rate, in
the _conjugal_ love of Savitri and of Damayanti. Savitri follows the
god of death as he carries away her husband's spirit, and by her
devotion and entreaties persuades Yama to restore him to life; while
Damayanti (whose story we did not finish) follows her husband, after
he has gambled away all his kingdom, into the forest to suffer with
him. One night, while she sleeps, he steals half of her only garment
and deserts her. Left alone in the terrible forest with tigers and
snakes, she sobs aloud and repeatedly faints away from fear. "Yet I do
not weep for myself," she exclaims; "my only thought is, how will you
fare, my royal master, being left thus all alone?" She is seized by a
huge snake, which coils its body around her; yet "even in this
situation she thinks not so much of herself as she bewails the fate of
the king." A hunter saves her and proceeds to make improper advances,
but she, faithful to her lord, curses the hunter and he falls dead
before her. Then she resumes her solitary roaming in the gloomy
forest, "_distressed by grief for her husband's fate_," unmindful of
his cruelty, or of her own sad plight.

It is needless to continue the tale; the reader cannot be so obtuse as
not to notice the _moral_ of it. The stories of Savitri and of
Damayanti, far from exemplifying Hindoo conjugal devotion, simply
afford fresh proof of the hoggish selfishness of the male Hindoo. They
are intended to be _object-lessons_ to wives, teaching them--like the
laws of Manu and the custom of widow burning--that they do not exist
for their own sakes, but for their husbands. Reading the stories in
the light of this remark, we cannot fail to note everywhere the subtle
craft of the sly men who invented them. If further evidence were
needed to sustain my view it would be found in the fact related by F.
Reuleaux, that to this day the priests arrange an annual
"prayer-festival" of Hindoo women at which the wife must in every way
show her subjection to her husband and master. She must wash his feet,
dry them, put a wreath around his neck, and bring offerings to the
gods, praying that _he_ may prosper and live long. Then follows a meal
for which she has prepared all _his_ favorite dishes. And as a climax,
_the story of Savitri is read_, a story in which the wife lives only
for the husband, while he, as he rudely tells her--after all her
devotion--_lives only for his parents_!

If these stories were anything else than slyly planned object-lessons
calculated to impress and subjugate the women, why is it that the
_husband_ is never chosen to act the self-sacrificing part? He does,
indeed, sometimes indulge in frantic outbursts of grief and maudlin
sentimentality, but that is because he has lost the young woman who
pleased his senses. There is no sign of soul-love here; the husband
never dreams of devoting his life to her, of sacrificing it for her
sake, as she is constantly exhorted to do for his sake. In a word,
masculine selfishness is the keynote of Hindoo life. "When in danger,
never hesitate to sacrifice your goods and your wife to save your
life," we read in the _Hitopadesa_ (25); and No. 4112 of Boehtlingk's
_Hindu Maxims_ declares bluntly that a wife exists for the purpose of
bearing sons, and a son for the purpose of offering sacrifices after
his father's death. There we have masculine selfishness in a nutshell.
Another maxim declares that a wife can atone for her lack or loss of
beauty by faithful subjection to her husband. And in return for all
the devotion expected of her she is utterly despised--considered
unworthy of an education, unfit even to profess virginity--in a word,
looked on "as scarcely forming a part of the human species." In the
most important event in her life--marriage--her choice is never
consulted. The matter is, as we have seen, left to the family barber,
or to the parents, to whom questions of caste and wealth are of
infinitely more importance than personal preferences. When those
matters are arranged the man satisfies himself concerning the
inclinations of the chosen girl's _kindred_, and when assured that he
will not "suffer the affront of a refusal" from _them_ he proceeds
with the offer and the bargaining. "To marry or to buy a girl are
synonymous terms in this country," says Dubois (I., 198); and he
proceeds, to give an account of the bargaining and the disgraceful
quarrels this leads to.


Under such circumstances the Hindoo playwrights must have found
themselves in a curious dilemma. They were sufficiently versed in the
poetic art to build up a plot; but what chance for an amorous plot was
there in a country where there was no courtship, where women were
sold, ignored, maltreated, and despised? Perforce the poets had to
neglect realism, give up all idea of mirroring respectable domestic
life, and take refuge in the realms of tradition, fancy, or liaisons.
It is interesting to note how they got around the difficulty. They
either made their heroines bayaderes, or princesses, or girls willing
to be married in a way allowing them their own choice, but not reputed
respectable. Bayaderes, though not permitted to marry, were at liberty
to choose their temporary companions. Cudraka indulges in the poetic
license of making Vasantasena superior to other bayaderes and
rewarding her in the end by a regular marriage as the hero's wife
number two. By way of securing variety, apsaras, or celestial
bayaderes, were brought on the scene, as in Kalidasa's _Urvasi_,
permitting the poet to indulge in still bolder flights of fancy.
Princesses, again, were favorite heroines, for various reasons, one of
which was the tradition concerning the custom called Svayamvara or
"Maiden's Choice"--a princess being "permitted," after a tournament,
to "choose" the victor. The story of _Nala and Damayanti_ has made us
familiar with a similar meeting of kings, at which the princess
chooses the lover she has determined on beforehand, though she has
never seen him. Apart from the fantasticality of this episode, it is
obvious that even if the Svayamvara was once a custom in royal circles
it did not really insure to the princesses free choice of a rational
kind. Brought up in strict seclusion, a king's daughter could never
have seen any of the men competing for her. The victor might be the
least sympathetic to her of all, and even if she had a large number of
suitors to choose from, her selection could not be based on anything
but the momentary and superficial judgment; of the eye. But for
dramatic purposes the Svayamvara was useful.


In _Sakuntala_, Kalidasa resorts to the third of the expedients I have
mentioned. The king weds the girl whom he finds in the grove of the
saints in accordance with a form which was not regarded as
respectable--marriage based on mutual inclination, without the
knowledge of the parents. The laws of Mann (III., 20-134) recognized
eight kinds of marriage:

(1) gift of a daughter to a man learned in the Vedas,
(2) gift of a daughter to a priest; (3) gift of a
daughter in return for presents of cows, etc.; (4) gift
of a daughter, with a dress. In these four the father
gives away his daughter as he chooses. In (5) the groom
buys the girl with presents to her kinsmen or herself;
(6) is voluntary union; (7) forcible abduction (in
war); (8) rape of a girl asleep, or drunk, or imbecile.

In other words, of the eight kinds of marriage recognized by Hindoo
law and custom only one is based on free choice, and of that Mann
says: "The voluntary connection of a maiden and a man is to be known
as a Gandharva union, which arises from lust." It is classed among the
blamable marriages. Even this appears not to have been a legal form
before Mann. It is blamable because contracted without the consent or
knowledge of the parents, and because, unless the sacred fire has been
obtained from a Brahman to sanctify it, such a marriage is merely a
temporary union. Gandharvas, after whom it is named, are singers and
other musicians in Indra's heaven, who, like the apsaras, enter into
unions that are not intended to be enduring, but are dissoluble at
will. Such marriages (liaisons we call them) are frequently mentioned
in Hindoo literature (_e.g., Hitopadesa_, p. 85). Malati (30) chides
her friend for advising her to make a secret marriage, and later on
exclaims (75): "I am lost! What a girl must not do, my friend counsels
me." The orthodox view is unfolded by the Buddhist nun Kamandaki(33):
"We hear of Duschyanta loving Sakuntala, of Pururavas loving Urvasi
... but these cases look like arbitrary action and cannot be commended
as models." In _Sakuntala_, too, the king feels it incumbent on him to
apologize to the girl he covets, when she bids him not to transgress
the laws of propriety, by exclaiming that many other girls have thus
been taken by kings without incurring parental disapproval. The
directions for this form of courtship given in the _Kama Soutra_
indicate that Sakuntala had every reason to appeal to the rules of
propriety, social and moral. Kalidasa spares us the details.

The king's desertion of Sakuntala after he had obtained his
self-indulgent object was quite in accordance with the spirit of a
Gandharva marriage. Kalidasa, for dramatic purposes, makes it a result
of a saint's curse, which enables him to continue his story
interestingly. A poet has a right to such license, even though it
takes him out of the realm of realism. Hindoo poets, like others, know
how to rise above sordid reality into a more ideal sphere, and for
this reason, even if we had found in the dramas of India a portrayal
of true love, it would not prove that it existed outside of a poet's
glowing and prophetic fancy. There is a Hindoo saying, "Do not strike
a woman, even with a flower;" but we have seen that these Hindoos
often do physically abuse their wives most cruelly, besides subjecting
them to indescribable mental anguish, and mental anguish is much more
painful and more prolonged than bodily torture. Fine words do not make
fine feelings. From this point of view Dalton was perhaps right when
he asserted that the wild tribes of India come closer to us in their
love-affairs than the more cultured Hindoos, with their "unromantic
heart-schooling." We have seen that Albrecht Weber's high estimate of
the Hindoo's romantic sentiment does not bear the test of a close
psychological analysis.

The Hindoo may have fewer uncultivated traits of emotion than the wild
tribesmen, but they are in the same field. Hindoo civilization rose to
splendid heights, in some respects, and even the great moral principle
of altruism was cultivated; but it was not applied to the relations
between the sexes, and thus we see once more that the refinement of
the affections--especially the sexual affections--comes last in the
evolution of civilization. Masculine selfishness and sensuality have
prevented the Hindoo from entering the Elysian fields of romantic
love. He has always allowed, and still allows, the minds of women to
lie fallow, being contented with their bodily charms, and unaware that
the most delightful of all sexual differences are those of mind and
character. To quote once more the Abbe Dubois (I., 271), the most
minute and philosophic observer of Indian manners and morals:

"The Hindoos are nurtured in the belief that there can
be nothing disinterested or innocent in the intercourse
between a man and a woman; and however Platonic the
attachment might be between two persons of different
sex, it would be infallibly set down to sensual love."


My assertion that there are no cases of romantic love recorded in the
Bible naturally aroused opposition, and not a few critics lifted up
their voices in loud protest against such ignorant audacity. The case
for the defence was well summed up in the Rochester _Post-Express:_

"The ordinary reader will find many love-stories in the
Scriptures, What are we to think, for instance, of this
passage from the twenty-ninth chapter of Genesis: 'And
Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was
Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was
tender-eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well-favored.
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee
seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. And Laban
said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I
should give her to another man: abide with me. And
Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed
unto him but a few days, for the love he had for her,'
It may be said that after marriage Jacob's love was not
of the modern conjugal type; but certainly his
pre-matrimonial passion was self-sacrificing, enduring,
and hopeful enough for a mediaeval romance. The
courtship of Ruth and Boaz is a bold and pretty
love-story, which details the scheme of an old widow
and a young widow for the capture of a wealthy kinsman.
The Song of Solomon is, on the surface, a wonderful
love-poem. But it is needless to multiply illustrations
from this source."

A Chicago critic declared that it would be easy to show that from the
moment when Adam said,

"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of
man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his
mother, and cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one

--from that moment unto this day "that which it pleases our author to
call romantic love has been substantially one and the same thing....
Has this writer never heard of Isaac and Rebekah; of Jacob and
Rachel?" A Philadelphia reviewer doubted whether I believed in my own
theory because I ignored in my chapter on love among the Hebrews "the
story of Jacob and Rachel and other similar instances of what deserves
to be called romantic love among the Hebrews." Professor H.O. Trumbull
emphatically repudiates my theory in his _Studies in Oriental Social
Life_ (62-63); proceeding:

"Yet in the very first book of the Old Testament
narrative there appears the story of young Jacob's
romantic love for Rachel, a love which was inspired by
their first meeting [Gen. 29: 10-18] and which was
afresh and tender memory in the patriarch Jacob's mind
when long years after he had buried her in Canaan [Gen.
35: 16-20] he was on his deathbed in Egypt [Gen. 48:
1-7]. In all the literature of romantic love in all the
ages there can be found no more touching exhibit of the
true-hearted fidelity of a romantic lover than that
which is given of Jacob in the words: 'And Jacob served
seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a
few days for the love he had to her.' And the entire
story confirms the abiding force of that sentiment.
There are, certainly, gleams of romantic love from out
of the clouds of degraded human passion in the ancient
East, in the Bible stories of Shechem and Dinah [Gen.
34: 1-31], of Samson and the damsel of Timnath [Judg.
14: 1-3], of David and Abigail [I. Sam. 25: 1-42], of
Adonijah and Abishag [I. Kings 2: 13-17], and other men
and women of whom the Scriptures tell us."

Cenac Moncaut, who begins his _Histoire de l'Amour dans l'Antiquite_
with Adam and Eve, declares (28-31) that the episode of Jacob and
Rachel marks the birth of perfect love in the world, the beginning of
its triumph, followed, however, by relapses in days of darkness and
degradation. If all these writers are correct then my theory falls to
the ground and romantic love must be conceded to be at least four
thousand years old, instead of less than one thousand. But let us look
at the facts in detail and see whether there is really no difference
between ancient Hebrew and modern Christian love.

The Rev. Stopford Brooke has remarked:

"Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph may have existed as real
men, and played their part in the founding of the Jewish
race, but their stories, as we have them, are as entirely
legendary as those of Arthur or Siegfried, of Agamemnon or

This consideration would bring the date of the story
from the time when Jacob is supposed to have lived down to the much
later time when the legend was elaborated. I have no desire, however,
to seek refuge behind such chronological uncertainties, nor to
reassert that my theory is a question of evolution rather than of
dates, and that, therefore, if Jacob and Rachel, during their
prolonged courtship, had the qualities of mind and character to feel
the exalted sentiment of romantic love, we might concede in their case
an exception which, by its striking isolation, would only prove the
rule. I need no such refuge, for I can see no reason whatever for
accepting the story of Jacob and Rachel as an exceptional instance of
romantic love.


Nothing could be more charmingly poetic than this story as told by the
old Hebrew chronicler. The language is so simple yet so pictorial that
we fancy we can actually see Jacob as he accosts the shepherds at the
well to ask after his uncle Laban, and they reply "Behold, Rachel his
daughter cometh with the sheep." We see him as he rolls the stone from
the well's mouth and waters his uncle's flocks; we see him as he
kisses Rachel and lifts up his voice and weeps. He kisses her of
course by right of being a relative, and not as a lover; for we cannot
suppose that even an Oriental shepherd girl could have been so devoid
of maidenly prudence and coyness as to give a love-kiss to a stranger
at their first meeting. Though apparently her cousin (Gen. 28: 2;
29:10), Jacob tells her he is her uncle; "and Jacob told Rachel that
he was her father's brother."[286] There was the less impropriety in
his kissing her, as she was probably a girl of fifteen or sixteen and
he old enough to be her grandfather, or even great-grandfather, his
age at the time of meeting her being seventy-seven.[287] But as men
are reported to have aged slowly in those days, this did not prevent
him from desiring to marry Rachel, for whose sake he was willing to
serve her father. Strange to say, the words "And Jacob served seven
years for Rachel" have been accepted as proof of self-sacrifice by
several writers, including Dr. Abel, who cites those words as
indicating that the ancient Hebrews knew "the devotion of love, which
gladly _serves the beloved_ and shuns no toil in her behalf." In
reality Jacob's seven years of service have nothing whatever to do
with self-sacrifice. He did not "serve his beloved" but her father;
did not toil "in her behalf" but on his own behalf. He was simply
doing that very unromantic thing, paying for his wife by working a
stipulated time for her father, in accordance with a custom prevalent
among primitive peoples the world over. Our text is very explicit on
the subject; after Jacob had been with his relative a month Laban had
said unto him: "Because thou art my brother shouldst thou therefore
serve me for naught? tell me what shall thy wages be?" And Jacob had
chosen Rachel for his wages. Rachel and Leah themselves quite
understood the commercial nature of the matrimonial arrangement; for
when, years afterward, they are prepared to leave their father they
say: "Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's
house? Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and
hath also quite devoured the price paid for us."

Instead of the sentimental self-sacrifice of a devoted lover for his
mistress we have here, therefore, simply an example of a prosaic,
mercenary marriage custom familiar to all students of anthropology.
But how about the second half of that sentence, which declares that
Jacob's seven years of service "seemed to him but a few days for the
love he had for her?" Is not this the language of an expert in love?
Many of my critics, to my surprise, seemed to think so, but I am
convinced that none of them can have ever been in love or they would
have known that a lover is so impatient and eager to call his beloved
irrevocably his own, so afraid that someone else might steal away her
affection from him, that Jacob's seven years, instead of shrinking to
a few days, would have seemed to him like seven times seven years.

A minute examination of the story of Jacob and Rachel thus reveals
world-wide differences between the ancient Hebrew and the modern
Christian conceptions of love, corresponding, we have no reason to
doubt, to differences in actual feeling. And as we proceed, these
differences become more and more striking:

"And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my
days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. And
Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and
made a feast. And it came to pass in the evening, that
he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and
he went in unto her.... And it came to pass, in the
morning that, behold, it was Leah: and he said to
Laban, What is this thou has done unto me? Did not I
serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou
beguiled me? And Laban said, It is not so done in our
place, to give the younger before the first-born.
Fulfil the week of this one, and we will give thee the
other also for the service which thou shalt serve with
me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and
fulfilled her week; and he gave him Rachel his daughter
to wife."

Surely it would be difficult to condense into so few lines more facts
and conditions abhorrent to the Christian conception of the sanctity
of love than is done in this passage. Can anyone deny that in a modern
Christian country Laban's breach of contract with Jacob, his
fraudulent substitution of the wrong daughter, and Jacob's meek
acceptance of two wives in eight days would not only arouse a storm of
moral indignation, but would land both these men in a police court and
in jail? I say this not in a flippant spirit, but merely to bring out
as vividly as possible the difference between the ancient Hebrew and
modern Christian ideals of love. Furthermore, what an utter ignorance
or disregard of the rights of personal preference, sympathy, and all
the higher ingredients of love, is revealed in Laban's remark that it
was not customary to give the younger daughter in marriage before the
older had been disposed of! And how utterly opposed to the modern
conception of love is the sequel of the story, in which we are told
that "because" Leah was _hated_ by her husband "therefore" she was
made fruitful, and she bore him four sons, while the beloved Rachel
remained barren! Was personal preference thus not only to be repressed
by marrying off girls according to their age, but even punished? No
doubt it was, according to the Hebrew notion; in their patriarchal
mode of life the father was the absolute tyrant in the household, who
reserved the right to select spouses for both his sons and daughters,
and felt aggrieved if his plans were interfered with. The object of
marriage was not to make a happy, sympathetic couple, but to raise
sons; wherefore the hated Leah naturally exclaims, after she has borne
Reuben, her first son, "Now my husband will love me." That is not the
kind of love we look for in our marriages. We expect a man to love his
wife for her own sake.

This notion, that the birth of sons is the one object of marriage, and
the source of conjugal love, is so preponderant in the minds of these
women that it crowds out all traces of monopoly or jealousy. Leah and
Rachel not only submit to Laban's fraudulent substitution on the
wedding-night, but each one meekly accepts her half of Jacob's
attentions. The utter absence of jealousy is strikingly revealed in
this passage:

"And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children,
Rachel envied her sister; and she said unto Jacob, Give
me children, or else I die. And Jacob's anger was
kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's
stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the
womb? And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto
her; that she may bear upon my knees, and I also may
obtain children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her
handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. And
Bilhah conceived and bare Jacob a son.... And Bilhah,
Rachel's handmaid, conceived again, and bare Jacob a
second son.... When Leah saw she had left bearing, she
took Zilpah her handmaid, and gave her to Jacob to
wife. And Zilpah Leah's handmaid bare Jacob a son....
And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and
bare Jacob a fifth son. And Leah said, God hath given
me my hire, because I gave my handmaid to my husband."

Thus polygamy and concubinage are treated not only as a matter of
course, but as a cause for divine reward! It might be said that there
does exist a sort of jealousy between Leah and Rachel: a rivalry as to
which of the two shall bear their husband the more sons, either by
herself or by proxy. But how utterly different this rivalry is from
the jealousy of a modern Christian wife, the very essence of which
lies in the imperative insistence on the exclusive affection and
chaste fidelity of her husband! And as modern Christian jealousy
differs from ancient Hebrew jealousy, so does modern romantic love in
general differ from Hebrew love. There is not a line in the story of
Jacob and Rachel indicating the existence of monopoly, jealousy,
coyness, hyperbole, mixed moods, pride, sympathy, gallantry,
self-sacrifice, adoration, purity. Of the thirteen essential
ingredients of romantic love only two are implied--individual
preference and admiration of personal beauty. Jacob preferred Rachel
to Leah, and this preference was based on her bodily charms: she was
"beautiful and well-favored." Of the higher mental phases of personal
beauty not a word is said.

In the case of the women, not even their individual preference is
hinted at, and this is eminently characteristic of the ancient Hebrew
notions and practices in regard to marriage. Did Rachel and Leah marry
Jacob because they preferred him to all other men they knew? To Laban
and his contemporaries such a question would have seemed absurd. They
knew nothing of marriage as a union of souls. The woman was not
considered at all. The object of marriage, as in India, was to raise
sons, in order that there might be someone to represent the departed
father. Being chiefly for the father's benefit, the marriage was
naturally arranged by him. As a matter of fact, even Jacob did not
select his own wife!

"And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged
him and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of
the daughters of Canaan, Arise, go to Padan-aram, to
the house of Bethuel, thy mothers father; and take thee
a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy
mother's brother."

And Jacob did as ordered. His choice was limited to the two sisters.


Isaac himself had even less liberty of choice than Jacob. He courted
Rebekah by proxy--or rather his father courted her through her father,
for him, by proxy! When Abraham was stricken with age he said to his
servant, the elder of his house, that ruled over all that he had, and
enjoined on him, under oath,

"thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters
of the Canaanites, among whom I shall dwell; but thou
shalt go into my country, and to my kindred, and take a
wife for my son Isaac."

And the servant did as he had been ordered. He journeyed to the city
of Mesopotamia where Abraham's brother Nahor and his descendants
dwelt. As he lingered at the well, Rebekah came out with her pitcher
upon her shoulder. "And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a
virgin, neither had any man known her." And she filled her pitcher and
gave him drink and then drew water and filled the trough for all his
camels. And he gave her a ring and two bracelets of gold. And she ran
and told her mother's house what had happened. And her brother Laban
ran out to meet the servant of Abraham and brought him to the house.
Then the servant delivered his message to him and to Rebekah's father,
Bethuel; and they answered: "Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her,
and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife." And he wanted to take
her next day, but they wished her to abide with them at the least ten
days longer. "And they said, We will call the damsel, and inquire at
her mouth. And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, wilt thou go
with this man? And she said, I will go. And they sent away Rebekah
their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men." And
Isaac was in the field meditating when he saw their camels coming
toward him. Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she
lighted off her camel, and asked the servant who was the man coming to
meet them; and when he said it was his master, she took her veil and
covered herself. And Isaac brought her into her mother's tent and she
became his wife, and he loved her.

Such is the story of the courting of Rebekah. It resembles a story of
modern courtship and love about as much as the Hebrew language
resembles the English, and calls for no further comment. But there is
another story to consider; my critics accused me of ignoring the three
R's of Hebrew love--Rachel, Rebekah, and Ruth. "The courtship of Ruth
and Boaz is a bold and pretty love-story." Bold and pretty, no doubt;
but let us see if it is a love-story. The following omits no essential


It came to pass during a famine that a certain man went to sojourn in
the country of Moab with his wife, whose name was Naomi, and two sons.
The husband died there and the two sons also, having married, died
after ten years, leaving Naomi a widow with two widowed
daughters-in-law, whose names were Orpah and Ruth. She decided to
return to the country whence she had come, but advised the younger
widows to remain and go back to the families of their mothers. I am
too old, she said, to bear again husbands for you, and even if I could
do so, would you therefore tarry till they were grown? Orpah thereupon
kissed her mother-in-law and went back to her people; but Ruth clave
unto her and said "Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou
lodgest, I will lodge.... Where thou diest, will I die." So the two
went until they came to Bethlehem, in which place Naomi had a kinsman
of her husband, a mighty man of wealth, whose name was Boaz. They
arrived in the beginning of the barley harvest, and Ruth went and
gleaned in the field after the reapers. Her hap was to light on the
portion of the field belonging to Boaz. When he saw her he asked the
reapers "Whose damsel is this?" And they told him. Then Boaz spoke to
Ruth and told her to glean in his field and abide with his maidens,
and when athirst drink of that which the young men had drawn; and he
told the young men not to touch her. At meal-time he gave her bread to
eat and vinegar to dip it in, and he told his young men to let her
glean even among the sheaves and also to pull out some for her from
the bundles, and leave it, and let her glean and rebuke her not. And
he did all this because, as he said to her,

"It hath been shewed me, all that them hast done to thy
mother-in-law since the death of thine husband: and how thou
hast left thy father and mother, and the land of thy
nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not

So Ruth gleaned in the field until even; then she beat out what she
had gleaned and took it to Naomi and told her all that had happened.
And Naomi said unto her,

"My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it
may be well with thee? And now is there not Boaz our
kinsman, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he
winnoweth barley to-night in the threshing-floor. Wash
thyself therefore, and anoint thee and put thy raiment
upon thee, and get thee down to the threshing-floor;
but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall
have done eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he
lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he
shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet,
and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou wilt

And Ruth did as her mother-in-law bade her. And when Boaz had eaten
and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of
the heap of corn; and she came softly and uncovered his feet, and laid
her down. And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid
[startled], and turned himself; and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.
And he said, "who art thou?" And she answered, "I am Ruth thine
handmaid; spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art
a near kinsman." And he said,

"Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter; thou hast
shewed more kindness in the latter end, than at the
beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men,
whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not; I
will do to thee all that thou sayest; for all the city
of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.
And now it is true that I am a near kinsman: howbeit
there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, and
it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform
unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the
kinsman's part; but if he will not do the part of a
kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman
to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the

And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one
could discern another. For he said, "Let it not be known that the
woman came to the threshing-floor." Then he gave her six measures of
barley and went into the city. He sat at the gate until the other
kinsman he had spoken of came by, and Boaz said to him,

"Naomi selleth the parcel of land which was our brother
Elimelech's. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it; but if
thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me that I may know;
for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am
after thee. What day thou buyest the field of the hand
of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth, the wife of
the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his

And the near kinsman said, "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I
mar mine own inheritance; take then my right of redemption on thee;
for I cannot redeem it. Buy it for thyself." And he drew off his shoe.
And Boaz called the elders to witness, saying,

"Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I
purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the
dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be
not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate
of his place."

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.

How anyone can read this charmingly told, frank, and realistic tale of
ancient Hebrew life and call it a love-story, passeth all
understanding. There is not the slightest suggestion of love, either
sensual or sentimental, on the part of either Ruth or Boaz. Ruth, at
the suggestion of her mother-in-law, spends a night in a way which
would convict a Christian widow, to say the least, of an utter lack of
that modesty and coy reserve which are a woman's great charm, and
which, even among the pastoral Hebrews, cannot have been approved,
inasmuch as Boaz did not want it to be known that she had come to the
threshing-floor. He praises Ruth for following "not young men, whether
rich or poor." She followed him, a wealthy old man. Would love have
acted thus? What she wanted was not a lover but a protector ("rest for
thee that it may be well for thee," as Naomi said frankly), and above
all a son in order that her husband's name might not perish. Boaz
understands this as a matter of course; but so far is he, on his part,
from being in love with Ruth, that he offers her first to the other
relative, and on his refusal, buys her for himself, without the least
show of emotion indicating that he was doing anything but his duty. He
was simply fulfilling the law of the Levirate, as written in
Deuteronomy (25:5), ordaining that if a husband die without leaving a
son his brother shall take the widow to him to wife and perform the
duty of an husband's brother unto her; that is, to beget a son (the
first-born) who shall succeed in the name of his dead brother, "that
his name be not blotted out of Israel." How very seriously the Hebrews
took this law is shown by the further injunction that if a brother
refuses thus to perform his duty,

"then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak
unto him: and if he stand and say, I like not to take
her; then shall his brother's wife come into him in the
presence of the elders, and loose his shoe off his
foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and
say, so shall it be done unto the man that doth not
build up his brother's house. And his name shall be
called in Israel, the house of him that hath his shoe

Onan was even slain for thus refusing to do his duty (Gen. 38:8-10).


The three R's of Hebrew love thus show how these people arranged their
marriages with reference to social and religious customs or
utilitarian considerations, buying their wives by service or
otherwise, without any thought of sentimental preferences and
sympathies, such as underlie modern Christian marriages of the higher
order. It might be argued that the ingredients of romantic love
existed, but simply are not dwelt on in the old Hebrew stories. But it
is impossible to believe that the Bible, that truly inspired and
wonderfully realistic transcript of life, which records the minutest
details, should have neglected in its thirty-nine books, making over
seven hundred pages of fine print, to describe at least one case of
sentimental infatuation, romantic adoration, and self-sacrificing
devotion in pre-matrimonial love, had such love existed. Why should it
have neglected to describe the manifestations of sentimental love,
since it dwells so often on the symptoms and results of sensual
passion? Stories of lust abound in the Hebrew Scriptures; Genesis
alone has five. The Lord repented that he had made man on earth and
destroyed even his chosen people, all but Noah, because every
imagination in the thoughts of man's heart "was only evil
continually." But the flood did not cure the evil, nor did the
destruction of Sodom, as a warning example. It is after those events
that the stories are related of Lot's incestuous daughters, the
seduction of Dinah, the crime of Judah and Tamar, the lust of
Potiphar's wife, of David and Bath-sheba, of Amnon and Tamar, of
Absalom on the roof, with many other references to such crimes.[288]


There is every reason to conclude that these ancient Jews, unlike many
of their modern descendants, knew only the coarser phases of the
instinct which draws man to woman. They knew not romantic love for the
simple reason that they had not discovered the charm of refined
femininity, or even recognized woman's right to exist for her own
sake, and not merely as man's domestic servant and the mother of his
sons. "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over
thee," Eve was told in Eden, and her male descendants administered
that punishment zealously and persistently; whereas the same lack of
gallantry which led Adam to put all the blame on Eve impelled his
descendants to make the women share his part of the curse too--"In the
sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread"; for they were obliged to do
not only all the work in the house, but most of that in the fields,
seething under a tropical sun. From this point of view the last
chapter of the Proverbs (31:10-31) is instructive. It is often
referred to as a portrait of a perfect woman, but in reality it is
little more than a picture of Hebrew masculine selfishness. Of the
forty-five lines making up this chapter, nine are devoted to praise of
the feminine virtues of fidelity to a husband, kindness to the needy,
strength, dignity, wisdom, and fear of the Lord; while the rest of the
chapter goes to show that the Hebrew woman indeed "eateth not the
bread of idleness," and that the husband "shall have no lack of
gain"--or spoil, as the alternative reading is:

"She seeketh wool and flax and worketh willingly with
her hands. She is like the merchant ships: she bringeth
her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet
night, and giveth meat to her household, and their task
to the maidens. She considereth a field and buyeth it;
with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard....
She perceiveth that her merchandise is profitable. Her
lamp goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to
the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.... She
maketh for herself carpets of tapestry.... She maketh
linen garments and selleth them; and delivereth girdles
unto the merchant."

As for the husband, he "is known in the gates, When he sitteth among
the elders of the land," which is an easy and pleasant thing to do;
hardly in accordance with the curse the Lord pronounced on Adam and
his male descendants. The wife being thus the maid of all work, as
among Indians and other primitive races, it is natural that the
ancient Hebrew ideal of femininity should he masculine: "She girdeth
her loins with strength, and maketh strong her arms;" while the
feminine charms are sneered at: "Favor is deceitful, and beauty is


Not only feminine charms, but the highest feminine virtues are
sometimes strangely, nay, shockingly disregarded, as in the story of
Lot (Gen. 19:1-12), who, when besieged by the mob clamoring for the
two men who had taken refuge in his house, went out and said:

"I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold
now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let
me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to
them as is good in your eyes; only unto these men do
nothing, forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of
my roof."

And this man was saved, though his action was surely more villainous
than the wickedness of the Sodomites who were destroyed with brimstone
and fire. In Judges (19: 22-30) we read of a man offering his maiden
daughter and his concubine to a mob to prevent an unnatural crime
being committed against his guest: "Seeing that this man is come into
my house, do not this folly." This case is of extreme sociological
importance as showing that notwithstanding the strict laws of Moses
(Levit. 20: 10; Deut. 22: 13-30) on sexual crimes, the law of
hospitality seems to have been held more sacred than a father's regard
for his daughter's honor. The story of Abraham shows, too, that he did
not hold his wife's honor in the same esteem as a modern Christian

"And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter
into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, 'Behold
now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon;
and it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see
thee, that they shall say, This is his wife; and they
will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I
pray thee, Thou art my sister; that it may be well with
me for thy sake, and that my soul may live because of

And it happened as he had arranged. She was taken into Pharaoh's house
and he was treated well for her sake; and he had sheep, and oxen, and
other presents. When he went to sojourn in Gerar (Gen. 20:1-15)
Abraham tried to repeat the same stratagem, taking refuge, when found
out, in the double excuse that he was afraid he would be slain for his
wife's sake, and that she really was his sister, the daughter of his
father, but not the daughter of his mother. Isaac followed his
father's example in Gerar:

"The man of the place asked him of his wife; and he
said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, My wife;
lest (said he) the men of the place should kill me for
Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon."

Yet we were told that Isaac loved Rebekah. Such is not Christian love.
The actions of Abraham and Isaac remind one of the Blackfoot Indian
tale told on page 631 of this volume. An American army officer would
not only lay down his own life, but shoot his wife with his own pistol
before he would allow her to fall into the enemy's hands, because to
him her honor is, of all things human, the most sacred.


Emotions are the product of actions or of ideas about actions.
Inasmuch as Hebrew actions toward women and ideas about them were so
radically different from ours it logically follows that they cannot
have known the emotions of love as we know them. The only symptom of
love referred to in the Hebrew Scriptures is Amnon's getting lean from
day to day and feigning sickness (II. Sam. 13: 1-22); and the story
shows what kind of love that was. It would be contrary to all reason
and psychological consistency to suppose that modern tenderness of
romantic feeling toward women could have existed among a people whose
greatest and wisest man could, for any reason whatever, chide a
returning victorious army, as Moses did (Numbers 31: 9-19), for saving
all the women alive, and could issue this command:

"Now, therefore, kill every male among the living ones,
and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with
him. But all the women children that have not known man
by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

The Arabs were the first Asiatics who spared women in war; the Hebrews
had not risen to that chivalrous stage of civilization. Joshua (8:26)
destroyed Ai and slew 12,000, "both of men and women:" and in Judges
(21:10-12) we read how the congregation sent an army of 12,000 men and
commanded them, saying,

"Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the
edge of the sword, with the women and the little ones.
And this is the thing ye shall do; ye shall utterly
destroy every male and every woman that hath lain by

And they did so, sparing only the four hundred virgins. These were
given to the tribe of Benjamin, "that a tribe be not blotted out from
Israel;" and when it was found that more were needed they lay in wait
in the vineyards, and when the daughters of Shiloh came out to dance,
they caught them and carried them off as their wives; whence we see
that these Hebrews had not advanced beyond the low stage of evolution,
when wives are secured by capture or killed after battle. Among such
seek not for romantic love.


Dr. Trumbull's opinion has already been cited that there are certainly
"gleams of romantic love from out of the clouds of degraded human
passions in the ancient East," in the stories of Shechem and Dinah,
Samson and the damsel of Timnah, David and Abigail, Adonijah and
Abishag. But I fail to find even "gleams" of romantic love in these
stories. Shechem said he loved Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah,
but he humbled her and dealt with her "as with an harlot," as her
brothers said after they had slain him for his conduct toward her.
Concerning Samson and the Timnah girl we are simply told that he saw
her and told his father, "Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well"
(literally, "she is right in my eyes"). And this is evidence of
romantic love! As for Abigail, after her husband has refused to feed
David's shepherds, and David has made up his mind therefore to slay
him and his offspring, she takes provisions and meets David and
induces him not to commit that crime; she does this not from love for
her husband, for when David has received her presents he says to her,
"See, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person."
Ten days later, Abigail's husband died, and when David heard of it he

"sent and spake concerning Abigail, to take her to him to
wife.... And she rose and bowed herself with her face to the
earth, and said, Behold, thine handmaid is a servant to wash
the feet of the servants of my lord. And Abigail, hasted,
and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers
that followed her; and she went after the messengers of
David, and became his wife."

And as if to emphasize how utterly unsentimental and un-Christian a
transaction this was, the next sentence tells us that "David also took
Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they became both of them his wives."


The last of the stories referred to by Dr. Trumbull, though as far
from proving his point as the others, is of peculiar interest because
it introduces us to the maiden who is believed by some commentators to
be the same as the Shulamite, the heroine of the _Song of Songs_.
After Solomon had become king his elder brother, Adonijah, went to the
mother of Solomon, Bath-sheba, and said:

"Thou knowest thy kingdom was mine, and that all Israel
set their faces on me, that I should reign: howbeit the
kingdom is turned about, and is become my brother's:
for it was his from the Lord. And now I ask one
petition of thee, deny me not.... Speak, I pray thee,
unto Solomon the king (for he will not say thee nay)
that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife."

But when Solomon heard this request he declared that Adonijah had
spoken that word against his own life; and he sent a man who fell on
him and killed him.

Who was this Abishag, the Shunammite? The opening lines of the First
Book of Kings tell us how she came to the court:

"Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they
covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. Wherefore
his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my
lord the king, a young virgin, and let her stand before
the king and cherish him; and let her lie in thy bosom,
that my lord the king may get heat. So they sought for
a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and
found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the
king. And the damsel was very fair; and she cherished
the king, and ministered to him; but the king knew her


Now it is plausibly conjectured that this Abishag of Shunam or Shulam
(a town north of Jerusalem) was the same as the Shulamite of the _Song
of Songs_, and that in the lines 6:11-12 she tells how she was
kidnapped and brought to court.

I went down into the garden of nuts,
To see the green plants of the valley,
To see whether the vine budded,
And the pomegranates were in flower,
Or ever I was aware, my soul [desire] set me
Among the chariots of my princely people.

She also explains why her face is tanned like the dark tents of Kedar:
"My mother's sons were incensed against me, They made me keeper of the
vineyards." The added words "mine own vineyard have I not kept" are
interpreted by some as an apology for her neglected personal
appearance, but Renan (10) more plausibly refers them to her
consciousness of some indiscretion, which led to her capture. We may
suppose that, attracted by the glitter and the splendor of the royal
cavalcade, she for a moment longed to enjoy it, and her desire was
gratified. Brought to court to comfort the old king, she remained
after his death at the palace, and Solomon, who wished to add her to
his harem, killed his own brother when he found him coveting her. The
maiden soon regrets her indiscretion in having exposed herself to
capture. She is "a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley," and she
feels like a wildflower transplanted to a palace hall. While Solomon
in all his glory urges his suit, she, tormented by homesickness,
thinks only of her vineyard, her orchards, and the young shepherd
whose love she enjoyed in them. Absent-minded, as one in a revery, or
dreaming aloud, she answers the addresses of the king and his women in
words that ever refer to her shepherd lover:[289]

"Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou
feedest thy flock." "My beloved is unto me as a cluster
of henna flowers in the vineyards of En-gedi." "Behold,
thou art fair, my beloved, yea pleasant: Also our couch
is green." "As the apple-tree among the trees of the
wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under
his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet
to my taste." "The voice of my beloved! behold, he
cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the
hills." "My beloved is mine, and I am his: He feedeth
his flock among the lilies," "Come, my beloved, let us
go forth into the field, let us lodge in the villages.
Let us get up early to the vineyards.... There will I
give thee my love."

The home-sick country girl, in a word, has found out that the
splendors of the palace are not to her taste, and the thought of being
a young shepherd's darling is pleasanter to her than that of being an
old king's concubine. The polygamous rapture with which Solomon
addresses her: "There are three-score queens and four-score
concubines, and maidens without number," does not appeal to her rural
taste. She has no desire to be the hundred and forty-first piece of
mosaic inlaid in Solomon's palanquin (III., 9-10), and she stubbornly
resists his advances until, impressed by her firmness, and unwilling
to force her, the king allows her to return to her vineyard and her

The view that the gist of the _Song of Songs_ is the Shulamite's love
of a shepherd and her persistent resistance to the advances of
Solomon, was first advanced in 1771 by J.F. Jacobi, and is now
universally accepted by the commentators, the overwhelming majority of
whom have also given up the artificial and really blasphemous
allegorical interpretation of this poem once in vogue, but ignored in
the Revised Version, as well as the notion that Solomon wrote the
poem. Apart from all other arguments, which are abundant, it is absurd
to suppose that Solomon would have written a drama to proclaim his own
failure to win the love of a simple country girl. In truth, it is very
probable that, as Renan has eloquently set forth (91-100), the _Song
of Songs_ was written practically for the purpose of holding up
Solomon to ridicule. In the northern part of his kingdom there was a
strong feeling against him on account of his wicked ways and vicious
innovations, especially his harem, and other expensive habits that
impoverished the country. "Taken all in all," says the Rev. W.E.
Griffis, of Solomon (44),

"he was probably one of the worst sinners described in
the Old Testament. With its usual truth and
fearlessness, the Scriptures expose his real character,
and by the later prophets and by Jesus he is ignored or
referred to only in rebuke."

The contempt and hatred inspired by his actions were especially vivid
shortly after his death, when the _Song of Songs_ is believed to have
been written (Renan, 97); and, as this author remarks (100),

"the poet seems to have been animated by a real spite
against the king; the establishment of a harem, in
particular, appears to incense him greatly, and he
takes evident pleasure in showing us a simple shepherd
girl triumphing over the presumptuous sultan who thinks
he can buy love, like everything else, with his gold."

That this is intended to be the moral of this Biblical drama is
further shown by the famous lines near the close:

"For love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the
grave [literally: passion is as inexorable (or hard) as
sheol]: The flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very
flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench it, nor
can the floods drown it: If a man should give all the
substance of his house for love, he [it] would utterly
be contemned."

These lines constitute the last of the passages cited by my critics to
prove that the ancient Hebrews knew romantic love and its power. They
doubtless did know the power of love; all the ancient civilized
nations knew it as a violent sensual impulse which blindly sacrifices
life to attain its object. The ancient Hindoos embodied their idea of
irresistible power in the force and fury of an amorous elephant. Among
animals in general, love is even stronger than death. Male animals of
most species engage in deadly combat for the females. "For most
insects," says Letourneau, "to love and to die are almost synonymous
terms, and yet they do not even try to resist the amorous frenzy that
urges them on." Yet no one would dream of calling this romantic love;
from that it differs as widely as the insect mind in general differs
from the human mind. Waters cannot quench any kind of love or
affection nor floods drown it. What we are seeking for are _actions or
words describing the specific symptoms of sentimental love_, and these
are not to be found in this passage any more than elsewhere in the
Bible. An old man may buy a girl's body, but he cannot, with all his
wealth and splendor, awaken her love, either sentimental or sensual;
love, whatever its nature, will always prefer the apple-tree and the
shepherd lover to the vain desires and a thousand times divided
attentions of a decrepit king, though he be a Solomon.

It would be strange if this purely profane poem, which was added to
the Scriptural collection only by an unusual stretch of
liberality,[290] and in which there is not one mention of God or of
religion, should give a higher conception of sexual love than the
books which are accepted as inspired, and which paint manners,
emotions, and morals as the writers found them. As a matter of fact
the _Song of Songs_ was long held to be so objectionable that the
Talmudists did not allow young people to read it before their
thirtieth year. Whiston denounced it as foolish, lascivious, and
idolatrous. "The excessively amative character of some passages is
designated as almost blasphemous when supposed to be addressed by
Christ to his Church,"[291] as it was by the allegorists. On the other
hand there is a class of commentators to whom this poem is the ideal
of all that is pure and lovely. Herder went into ecstasies over it.
Israel Abrahams refers to it (163) as "the noblest of love-poems;" as
"this idealization of love." The Rev. W.E. Griffis declares
rapturously (166, 63, 21, 16, 250) that "the purest-minded virgin may
safely read the _Song of Songs_, in which is no trace of immoral
thought." In it "sensuality is scorned and pure love glorified;" it
"sets forth the eternal romance of true love," and is "chastely pure
in word and delicate in idea throughout." "The poet of the Canticle
shows us how to love." "An angel might envy such artless love dwelling
in a human heart."

The truth, as usual in such cases, lies about half-way between these
extreme views. There is only one passage which is objectionably coarse
in the English version and in the Hebrew original obscene;[292] yet,
on the other hand, I maintain that the whole poem is purely Oriental
in its exclusively sensuous and often sensual character, and that
there is not a trace of romantic sentiment such as would color a
similar love-story if told by a modern poet. The _Song of Songs_ is so
confused in its arrangement, its plan so obscure, its repetitions and
repeated denouements so puzzling,[293] that commentators are not
always agreed as to what character in the drama is to be held
responsible for certain lines; but for our purpose this difficulty
makes no difference. Taking the lines just as they stand, I find that
the following:--1: 2-4, 13 (in one version), 17; 2: 6; 4: 16; 5: 1; 8:
2, 3--are indelicate in language or suggestion, as every student of
Oriental amorous poetry knows, and no amount of specious argumentation
can alter this. The descriptions of the beauty and charms of the
beloved or the lover, are, moreover, invariably sensuous and often
sensual. Again and again are their bodily charms dwelt on rapturously,
as is customary in the poems of all Orientals with all sorts of quaint
hyperbolic comparisons, some of which are poetic, others grotesque. No
fewer than five times are the external charms thus enumerated, but not
once in the whole poem is any allusion made to the spiritual
attractions, the mental and moral charms of femininity which are the
food of romantic love. Mr. Griffis, who cannot help commenting (223)
on this frequent description of the human body, makes a desperate
effort to come to the rescue. Referring to 4: 12-14, he says (212)
that the lover now "adds a more delicate compliment to her modesty,
her instinctive refinement, her chaste life, her purity amid court
temptations. He praises her inward ornaments, her soul's charms." What
are these ornaments? The possible reference to her chastity in the
lines: "A garden shut up is my sister, my bride. A spring shut up, a
fountain sealed"--a reference which, if so intended, would be regarded
by a Christian maiden not as a compliment, but an insult; while every
student of Eastern manners knows that an Oriental makes of his wife "a
garden shut up," and "a fountain sealed" not by way of complimenting
her chastity, but because he has no faith in it whatever, knowing that
so far as it exists it is founded on fear, not on affection. Mr.
Griffis knows this himself when he does not happen to be idealizing an
impossible shepherd girl, for he says (161):

"To one familiar with the literature, customs, speech, and
ideas of the women who live where idolatry prevails, and the
rulers and chief men of the country keep harems, the amazing
purity and modesty of maidens reared in Christian homes is
like a revelation from heaven."[294]

Supersensual charms are not alluded to in the _Song of Songs_, for the
simple reason that Orientals never did, and do not now, care for such
charms in women or cultivate them. They know love only as an appetite,
and in accordance with Oriental taste and custom the _Song of Songs_
compares it always to things that are good to eat or drink or smell.
Hence such ecstatic expressions as "How much better is thy love than
wine! And the smell of thine ointments than all manner of spices!"
Hence her declaration that her beloved is

"as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood.... I sat
down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was
sweet to my taste.... Stay ye me with raisins, comfort me
with apples: For I am sick of love. His left hand is under
my head, and his right hand doth embrace me."

Hence the shepherd's description of his love: "I am come into the
garden, my sister, my bride: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice: I
have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my

Modern love does not express itself in such terms; it is more mental
and sentimental, more esthetic and sympathetic, more decorous and
delicate, more refined and supersensual. While it is possible that, as
Renan suggests (143), the author of the Canticles conceived his
heroine as a saint of her time, rising above sordid reality, it is
clear from all we have said that the author himself was not able to
rise above Orientalism. The manners of the East, both ancient and
modern, are incompatible with romantic love, because they suppress the
evolution of feminine refinement and sexual mentality. The documents
of the Hebrews, like those of the Hindoos and Persians, Greeks, and
Romans, prove that tender, refined, and unselfish affection between
the sexes, far from being one of the first shoots of civilization, is
its last and most beautiful flower.


The most obstinate disbeliever in the doctrine that romantic love,
instead of being one of the earliest products of civilization, is one
of the latest, will have to capitulate if it can be shown that even
the Greeks, the most cultivated and refined nation of antiquity, knew
it only in its sensual and selfish side, which is not true love, but
self-love. In reality I have already shown this to be the case
incidentally in the sections in which I have traced the evolution of
the fourteen ingredients of love. In the present chapter, therefore,
we may confine ourselves chiefly to a consideration of the stories and
poems which have fostered the belief I am combating. But first we must
hear what the champions of the Greeks have to say in their behalf.


Professor Rohde declares emphatically (70) that "no one would be so
foolish as to doubt the existence of pure and strong love" among the
ancient Greeks. Another eminent German scholar, Professor Ebers,
sneers at the idea that the Greeks were not familiar with the love we
know and celebrate. Having been criticised for making the lovers in
his ancient historic romances act and talk and express their feelings
precisely as modern lovers in Berlin or Leipsic do, he wrote for the
second edition of his _Egyptian Princess_ a preface in which he tries
to defend his position. He admits that he did, perhaps, after all, put
too warm colors on his canvas, and frankly confesses that when he
examined in the sunshine what he had written by lamplight, he made up
his mind to destroy his love-scenes, but was prevented by a friend. He
admits, too, that Christianity refined the relations between the
sexes; yet he thinks it "quite conceivable that a Greek heart should
have felt as tenderly, as longingly as a Christian heart," and he
refers to a number of romantic stories invented by the Greeks as proof
that they knew love in our sense of the word--such stories as
Apuleius's _Cupid and Psyche_, Homer's portrait of Penelope,
Xenophon's tale of Panthea and Abradates.

"Can we assume even the gallantry of love to have been
unknown in a country where the hair of a queen, Berenice,
was transferred as a constellation to the skies; or can
devotion to love be doubted in the case of peoples who, for
the sake of a beautiful woman, wage terrible wars with
bitter pertinacity?"

Hegel's episodic suggestion referred to in our first chapter regarding
the absence of romantic love in ancient Greek literature having thus
failed to convince even his own countrymen, it was natural that my
revival of that suggestion, as a detail of my general theory of the
evolution of love, should have aroused a chorus of critical dissent.
Commenting on my assertion that there are no stories of romantic love
in Greek literature, an editorial writer in the London _Daily News_
exclaimed: "Why, it would be less wild to remark that the Greeks had
nothing but love-stories." After referring to the stories of Orpheus
and Eurydice, Meleager and Atalanta, Alcyone and Ceyx, Cephalus and
Procris, the writer adds,

"It is no exaggeration to say that any school-girl
could tell Mr. Finck a dozen others." "The Greeks were
human beings, and had the sentiments of human beings,
which really vary but little...."

The New York _Mail and Express_ also devoted an editorial article to
my book, in which it remarked that if romantic love is, as I claim, an
exclusively modern sentiment,

"we must get rid of some old-fashioned fancies. How
shall we hereafter classify our old friends Hero and
Leander? Leander was a fine fellow, just like the
handsomest boy you know. He fell in love with the
lighthouse-keeper's daughter[!] and used to swim over
the river[!] every night and make love to her. It was
all told by an old Greek named Musaeus. How did he get
such modern notions into his noddle? How, moreover,
shall we classify Daphnis and Chloe? This fine old
romance of Longus is as sweet and beautiful a
love-story as ever skipped in prose."

"Daphnis and Chloe," wrote a New Haven critic, "is one of the most
idyllic love-stories ever written." "The love story of Hero and
Leander upsets this author's theory completely," said a Rochester
reviewer, while a St. Louis critic declared boldly that "in the pages
of Achilles Tatius and Theodorus, inventors of the modern novel, the
young men and maidens loved as romantically as in Miss Evans's
latest." A Boston censor pronounced my theory "simply absurd," adding:

"Mr. Finck's reading, wide as it is, is not wide
enough; for had he read the Alexandrian poets,
Theoeritus especially, or Behr A'Adin among the Arabs,
to speak of no others, he could not possibly have had
courage left to maintain his theory; and with him,
really, it seems more a matter of courage than of
facts, notwithstanding his evident training in a
scientific atmosphere."


The divers specifications of my ignorance and stupidity contained in
the foregoing criticisms will be attended to in their proper place in
the chronological order of the present chapter, which naturally begins
with Homer's epics, as nothing definite is known of Greek literature
before them. Homer is now recognized as the first poet of antiquity,
not only in the order of time; but it took Europe many centuries to
discover that fact. During the Middle Ages the second-rate Virgil was
held to be a much greater genius than Homer, and it was in England, as
Professor Christ notes (69), that the truer estimate originated.
Pope's translation of the Homeric poems, with all its faults, helped
to dispel the mists of ignorance, and in 1775 appeared Robert Wood's
book, _On the Original Genius and Writings of Homer_, which combated
the foolish prejudice against the poet, due to the coarseness of the
manners he depicts. Wood admits (161) that "most of Homer's heroes
would, in the present age, be capitally convicted, in any country in
Europe, on the poet's evidence;" but this, he explains, does not
detract from the greatness of Homer, who, upon an impartial view,
"will appear to excel his own state of society, in point of decency
and delicacy, as much as he has surpassed more polished ages in point
of genius."

In this judicious discrimination between the genius of Homer and the
realistic coarseness of his heroes, Wood forms an agreeable contrast
to many modern Homeric scholars, notably the Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone,
who, having made this poet his hobby, tried to persuade himself and
his readers that nearly everything relating not only to Homer, but to
the characters he depicts, was next door to perfection. Confining
ourselves to the topic that concerns us here, we read, in his _Studies
on Homer_ (II., 502), that "we find throughout the poems those signs
of the overpowering force of conjugal attachments which ... we might
expect." And in his shorter treatise on Homer he thus sums up his
views as to the position and estimate of woman in the heroic age, as
revealed in Homer's female characters:

"The most notable of them compare advantageously with
those commended to us in the Old Testament; while
Achaiian Jezebels are nowhere found. There is a certain
authority of the man over the woman; but it does not
destroy freedom, or imply the absence either of
respect, or of a close mental and moral fellowship. Not
only the relation of Odysseus to Penelope and of Hector
to Andromache, but those of Achilles to Briseis, and of
Menelaus to the returned Helen, are full of dignity and
attachment. Briseis was but a captive, yet Achilles
viewed her as in expectation a wife, called her so,
avowed his love for her, and laid it down that not he
only, but every man must love his wife if he had sense
and virtue. Among the Achaiian Greeks monogamy is
invariable; divorce unknown; incest abhorred.... The
sad institution which, in Saint Augustine's time, was
viewed by him as saving the world from yet worse evil
is unknown or unrecorded. Concubinage prevails in the
camp before Troy, but only simple concubinage. Some of
the women, attendants in the Ithacan palace, were
corrupted by the evil-minded Suitors; but some were
not. It should, perhaps, be noted as a token of the
respect paid to the position of the woman, that these
very bad men are not represented as ever having
included in their plans the idea of offering violence
to Penelope. The noblest note, however, of the Homeric
woman remains this, that she shared the thought and
heart of her husband: as in the fine utterance of
Penelope she prays that rather she may be borne away by
the Harpies than remain to 'glad the heart of a meaner
man' (_Od_. XX., 82) than her husband, still away from

Only a careful student of Homer can quite realize the diplomatic
astuteness which inspired this sketch of Homeric morals. Its amazing
sophistry can, however, be made apparent even to one who has never
read the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_.


The Trojan War lasted ten years. Its object was to punish Paris, son
of the King of Troy, for eloping with Helen, the wife of Menelaus,
King of Sparta, and taking away a shipload of treasures to boot. The
subject of Homer's _Iliad_ is popularly supposed to be this Trojan
War; in reality, however, it covers less than two months (fifty-two
days) of those ten years, and its theme, as the first lines indicate,
is the wrath of Achilles--the ruinous wrath, which in the tenth year,
brought on the other Greek warriors woes innumerable. Achilles had
spent much of the intervening time in ravaging twelve cities of Asia
Minor, carrying away treasures and captive women, after the piratical
Greek custom. One of these captives was Briseis, a high priest's
daughter, whose husband and three brothers he had slain with his own
hand, and who became his favorite concubine. King Agamemnon, the chief
commander of the Greek forces, also had for his favorite concubine a
high priest's daughter, named Chryseis. Her father came to ransom the
captive girl, but Agamemnon refused to give her up because, as he
confessed with brutal frankness, he preferred her to his wife.[295]
For this refusal Apollo brings a pestilence on the Greek army, which
can be abated only by restoring Chryseis to her father. Agamemnon at
last consents, on condition that some other prize of honor be given to
him--though, as Thersites taunts him (II, 226-228), his tents are
already full of captive women, among whom he always has had first
choice. Achilles, too, informs him that he shall have all the women he
wants when Troy is taken; but what really hurts Agamemnon's feelings
is not so much the loss of his favorite as the thought that the hated
Achilles should enjoy Briseis, while his prize, Chryseis, must be
returned to her father. So he threatens to retaliate on Achilles by
taking Briseis from his tent and keeping her for himself. "I would
deserve the name of coward," retorts Achilles

"were I to yield to you in everything.... But this let me
say--Never shall I lift my arm to strive for the girl either
with you or any other man; you gave her, you can take her.
But of all else, by the dark ship, that belongs to me,
thereof you shall not take anything against my will. Do that
and all shall see your black blood trickle down my spear."

Having made this "uncowardly," chivalrous, and romantic distinction
between his two kinds of property--yielding Briseis, but threatening
murder if aught else belonging to him be touched--Achilles goes and
orders his friend Patroclus to take the young woman from the tent and
give her to the king. She leaves her paramour--her husband's and
brothers' murderer--unwillingly, and he sits down and weeps--why?
because, as he tells his mother, he has been insulted by Agamemnon,
who has taken away his prize of honor. From that moment Achilles
refuses to join the assemblies, or take a part in the battles, thus
bringing "woes innumerable" on his countrymen. He refuses to yield
even after Agamemnon, alarmed by his reverses, seeks to conciliate him
by offering him gold and horses and women in abundance; telling him he
shall have back his Briseis, whom the king swears he has never
touched, and, besides her, seven Lesbian women of more than human
beauty; also, the choice of twenty Trojan women as soon as the city
capitulates; and, in addition to these, one of the three princesses,
his own daughters--twenty-nine women in all!

Must not a hero who so stubbornly and wrathfully resented the seizure
of his concubine have been deeply in love with her? He himself remarks
to Odysseus, who comes to attempt a reconciliation (IX., 340-44):

"Do the sons of Atreus alone of mortal men love their
bedfellows? Every man who is good and sensible loves his
concubine and cares for her as I too love mine with all my
heart, though but the captive of my spear."

Gladstone here translates the word [Greek: alochos] "wife," though, as
far as Achilles is concerned, it means concubine. Of course it would
have been awkward for England's Prime Minister to make Achilles say
that "every man must love his concubine, if he has sense and virtue;"
so he arbitrarily changes the meaning of the word and then begs us to
notice the moral beauty of this sentiment and the "dignity" of the
relation between Achilles and Briseis! Yet no one seems to have
denounced him for this transgression against ethics, philology, and
common sense. On the contrary, a host of translators and commentators
have done the same thing, to the obscuration of the truth.

Nor is this all. When we examine what the Achilles of Homer means by
the fine phrase "every man loves his bedfellow as I love mine," we
come across a grotesque parody even of sensual infatuation, not to
speak of romantic love. If Achilles had been animated by the strong
individual preference which sometimes results even from animal
passion, he would not have told Agamemnon, "take Briseis, but don't
you dare to touch any of my other property or I will smash your
skull." If he had been what _we_ understand by a lover, he would not
have been represented by the poet, after Briseis was taken away from
him, as having "his heart consumed by grief" because "he yearned for
_the battle_." He would, instead, have yearned for the girl. And when
Agamemnon offered to give her back untouched, Achilles, had he been a
real lover, would have thrown pride and wrath to the winds and
accepted the offer with eagerness and alacrity.

But the most amazing part of the story is reached when we ask what
Achilles means when he says that every good and sensible man [Greek:
phileei kai kaedetai]--loves and cherishes--his concubine, as he
professes to love his own. _How_ does he love Briseis? Patroclus had
promised her (XIX., 297-99), probably for reasons of his own (she is
represented as being extremely fond of him), to see to it that
Achilles would ultimately make her his legitimate wife, but Achilles
himself never dreams of such a thing, as we see in lines 393-400, book
IX. After refusing the offer of one of Agamemnon's daughters, he goes
on to remark:

"If the gods preserve me and I return to my home, Peleus
himself will seek a wife for me. There are many Achaian
maidens in Hellas and Phthia, daughters of city-protecting
princes. Among these I shall select the one I desire to be
my dear wife. Very often is my manly heart moved with
longing to be there to take a wedded wife [Greek: mnaestaen
alochon], and enjoy the possessions Peleus has gathered."

And if any further detail were needed to prove how utterly shallow,
selfish, and sensual was his "love" of Briseis, we should find it a
few lines later (663) where the poet naively tells us, as a matter of
course, that

"Achilles slept in the innermost part of the tent and
by his side lay a beautiful-cheeked woman, whom he had
brought from Lesbos. On the other side lay Patroclus
with the fair Isis by his side, the gift of Achilles."

Obviously even individual preference was not a strong ingredient in
the "love" of these "heroes," and we may well share the significant
surprise of Ajax (638) that Achilles should persist in his wrath when
seven girls were offered him for one. Evidently the tent of Achilles,
like that of Agamemnon, was full of women (in line 366 he especially
refers to his assortment of "fair-girdled women" whom he expects to
take home when the war is over); yet Gladstone had the audacity to
write that though concubinage prevailed in the camp before Troy, it
was "only single concubinage." In his larger treatise he goes so far
as to apologize for these ruffians--who captured and traded off women
as they would horses or cows--on the ground that they were away from
their wives and were indulging in the "mildest and least licentious"
of all forms of adultery! Yet Gladstone was personally one of the
purest and noblest of men. Strange what somersaults a hobby ridden too
hard may induce a man to make in his ethical attitude!


If we now turn from the hero of the _Iliad_ to the hero of the
_Odyssey_, we find the same Gladstone declaring (II., 502) that "while
admitting the superior beauty of Calypso as an immortal, Ulysses
frankly owns to her that his heart is pining every day for Penelope;"
and in the shorter treatise he goes so far as to say (131), that

"the subject of the Odyssey gives Homer the opportunity
of setting forth the domestic character of Odysseus, in
his profound attachment to wife, child, and home, in
such a way as to adorn not only the hero, but his age
and race."

The "profound attachment" of Odysseus to his wife may be gauged in the
first place by the fact that he voluntarily remained away from her ten
years, fighting to recover, for another king, a worthless, adulterous
wench. Before leaving on this expedition, from which he feared he
might never return, he spoke to his wife, as she herself relates
(XVIII., 269), begging her to be mindful of his father and mother,
"and when you see our son a bearded man, then marry whom you will, and
leave the house now yours"--namely for the benefit of the son, for
whose welfare he was thus more concerned than for a monopoly of his
wife's love.

After the Trojan war was ended he embarked for home, but suffered a
series of shipwrecks and misfortunes. On the island of Aeaea he spent
a whole year sharing the hospitality and bed of the beautiful
sorceress Circe, with no pangs of conscience for such conduct, nor
thought of home, till his comrades, in spite of the "abundant meat and
pleasant wine," longed to depart and admonished him in these words:
"Unhappy man, it is time to think of your native land, if you are
destined ever to be saved and to reach your home in the land of your
fathers." Thus they spoke and "persuaded his manly heart." In view of
the ease with which he thus abandoned himself for a whole year to a
life of indulgence, till his comrades prodded his conscience, we may
infer that he was not so very unwilling a prisoner afterward, of the
beautiful nymph Calypso, who held him eight years by force on her
island. We read, indeed, that, at the expiration of these years,
Odysseus was always weeping, and his sweet life ebbed away in longing
for his home. But all the sentiment is taken out of this by the words
which follow: [Greek: epei ouketi aendane numphae] "_because the nymph
pleased him no more_!" Even so Tannhaeuser tired of the pleasures in
the grotto of Venus, and begged to be allowed to leave.

While thus permitting himself the unrestrained indulgence of his
passions, without a thought of his wife, Odysseus has the barbarian's
stern notions regarding the duties of women who belong to him. There
are fifty young women in his palace at home who ply their hard tasks
and bear the servant's lot. Twelve of these, having no one to marry,
yield to the temptations of the rich princes who sue for the hand of
Penelope in the absence of her husband.

Ulysses, on his return, hears of this, and forthwith takes measures to
ascertain who the guilty ones are. Then he tells his son Telemachus
and the swineherd and neatherd to

"go and lead forth these serving-maids out of the
stately hall to a spot between the roundhouse and the
neat courtyard wall, and smite them with your long
swords till you take life from all, so that they may
forget their secret amours with the suitors."

The "discreet" Telemachus carried out these orders, leading the maids
to a place whence there was no escape and exclaiming:

"'By no honorable death would I take away the lives of
those who poured reproaches on my head and on my
mother, and lay beside the suitors.'"

"He spoke and tied the cable of a dark-bowed ship to a
great pillar, then lashed it to the roundhouse,
stretching it high across, too high for one to touch
the feet upon the ground. And as the wide-winged
thrushes or the doves strike on a net set in the
bushes; and when they think to go to roost a cruel bed
receives them; even so the women held their heads in
line, and around every neck a noose was laid that they
might die most vilely. They twitched their feet a
little, but not long."

A more dastardly, cowardly, unmanly deed is not on record in all human
literature, yet the instigator of it, Odysseus, is always the "wise,"
"royal," "princely," "good," and "godlike," and there is not the
slightest hint that the great poet views his assassination of the poor
maidens as the act of a ruffian, an act the more monstrous and
unpardonable because Homer (XXII., 37) makes Odysseus himself say to
the suitors that they outraged his maids by force ([Greek: biaios]).
What world-wide difference in this respect between the greatest poet
of antiquity and Jesus of Nazareth who, when the Scribes and Pharisees
brought before him a woman who had erred like the maids of Odysseus,
and asked if she should be stoned as the law of Moses commanded, said
unto them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a
stone at her;" whereupon, being convicted by their own consciences,
they went out one by one. And Jesus said, "Where are those thine
accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?" She said, "No man, Lord." And
Jesus said unto her, "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more."
He is lenient to the sinner because of his sense of justice and mercy;
yet at the same time his ethical ideal is infinitely higher than
Homer's. He preaches that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after
her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart;" whereas
Homer's ideas of sexual morality are, in the last analysis, hardly
above those of a savage. The dalliance of Odysseus with the nymphs,
and the licentious treatment of women captives by all the "heroes," do
not, any more than the cowardly murder of the twelve maids, evoke a
word of censure, disgust, or disapproval from his lips.

His gods are on the same low level as his heroes, if not lower. When
the spouse of Zeus, king of the gods, wishes to beguile him, she knows
no other way than borrowing the girdle of Aphrodite. But this scene
(_Iliad_, XIV., 153 _seq_.) is innocuous compared with the shameless
description of the adulterous amours of Ares and Aphrodite in the
Odyssey (VIII., 266-365), in presence of the gods, who treat the
matter as a great joke. For a parallel to this passage we would have
to descend to the Botocudos or the most degraded Australians. All of
which proves that the severity of the punishment inflicted on the
twelve maids of Odysseus does not indicate a high regard for chastity,
but is simply another illustration of typical barbarous fury against
women for presuming to do anything without the consent of the man
whose private property they are.


If the real Odysseus, unprincipled, unchivalrous, and cruel, is
anything but a hero who "adorns his age and race," must it not be
conceded, at any rate, that "the unwearied fidelity of Penelope,
awaiting through the long revolving years the return of her
storm-tossed husband," presents, as Lecky declares (II., 279), and as
is commonly supposed, a picture of perennial beauty "which Rome and
Christendom, chivalry and modern civilization, have neither eclipsed
nor transcended?"

We have seen that the fine words of Achilles regarding his "love" of
Briseis are, when confronted with his actions, reduced to empty
verbiage. The same result is reached in the case of Penelope, if we
subject her actions and motives to a searching critical analysis.
Ostensibly, indeed, she is set up as a model of that feminine
constancy which men at all times have insisted on while they
themselves preferred to be models of inconstancy. As usual in such
cases, the feminine model is painted with touches of almost grotesque
exaggeration. After the return of Odysseus Penelope informed her nurse
(XXIII., 18) that she has not slept soundly all this time--twenty
years! Such phrases, too, are used as "longing for Odysseus, I waste
my heart away," or "May I go to my dread grave seeing Odysseus still,
and never gladden heart of meaner husband." But they are mere phrases.
The truth about her attitude and her-feelings is told frankly in
several places by three different persons--the goddess of wisdom,
Telemachus, and Penelope herself. Athene urges Telemachus to make
haste that he may find his blameless mother still at home instead of
the bride of one of the suitors.

"But let her not against your will take treasure from your
home. You know a woman's way; she strives to enrich his
house who marries her, while of her former children and the
husband of her youth, when he is dead she thinks not, and
she talks of him no more" (XV., 15-23).

In the next book (73-77) Telemachus says to the swineherd:

"Moreover my mother's feeling wavers, whether to bide beside
me here and keep the house, and thus revere her husband's
bed and _heed the public voice_, or finally to follow some
chief of the Achaians who woos her in the hall with largest

And a little later (126) he exclaims, "She neither declines the hated
suit nor has she power to end it, while they with feasting impoverish
my home."

These words of Telcinachus are endorsed in full by Penelope herself,
whose remarks (XIX., 524-35) to the disguised Odysseus give us the key
to the whole situation and explain why she lies abed so much weeping
and not knowing what to do.

" ... so does my doubtful heart toss to and fro whether
to bide beside my son and keep all here in safety--my
goods, my maids, and my great high-roofed house--and
thus revere my husband and _heed the public voice_, or
finally to follow some chief of the Achaiians who woos
me in my hall with countless gifts. My son, while but a
child and slack of understanding, _did not permit my
marrying_ and departing from my husband's home; but now
that he is grown and come to man's estate, he prays me
to go home again and leave the hall, so troubled is he
for that substance which the Achaiians waste."

If these words mean anything, they mean that what kept Penelope from
marrying again was not affection for her husband but the desire to
live up to the demands of "the public voice" and the fact that her
son--who, according to Greek usage, was her master--would not permit
her to do so. This, then, was the cause of that proverbial constancy!
But a darker shadow still is cast on her much-vaunted affection by her
cold and suspicious reception of her husband on his return. While the
dog recognized him at once and the swineherd was overjoyed, she, the
wife, held him aloof, fearing that he might be some man who had come
to cheat her! At first Odysseus thought she scorned him because he
"was foul and dressed in sorry clothes;" but even after he had bathed
and put on his princely attire she refused to embrace him, because she
wished to "prove her husband!" No wonder that her son declared that
her "heart is always harder than a stone," and that Odysseus himself
thus accosts her:

"Lady, a heart impenetrable beyond the sex of women the
dwellers on Olympus gave you. There is no other woman
of such stubborn spirit to stand off from the husband
who, after many grievous toils, came in the twentieth
year home to his native land. Come then, good nurse,
and make my bed, that I may lie alone. For certainly of
iron is the heart within her breast."


A much closer approximation to the modern ideal of conjugal love than
the attachment between Odysseus and Penelope with the "heart of iron,"
may be found in the scene describing Hector's leave-taking of
Andromache before he goes out to fight the Greeks, fearing he may
never return. The serving-women inform him that his wife, hearing that
the Trojans were hard pressed, had gone in haste to the wall, like
unto one frenzied. He goes to find her and when he arrives at the
Skaian gates, she comes running to meet him, together with the nurse,
who holds his infant boy on her bosom. Andromache weeps, recalls to
his mind that she had lost her father, mother, and seven brothers,
wherefore he is to her a father, mother, brothers, as well as a
husband. "Have pity and abide here upon the tower, lest thou make thy
child an orphan and thy wife a widow." Though Hector cannot think of
shrinking from battle like a coward, he declared that her fate, should
the city fall and he be slain, troubles him more than that of his
father, mother, and brothers--the fate of being led into captivity and
slavery by a Greek, doomed to carry water and to be pointed at as the
former wife of the brave Hector. He expresses the wish that his
boy--who at first is frightened by the horse-hair crest on his
helmet--may become greater than his father, bringing with him
blood-stained spoils from the enemy he has slain, and gladdening his
mother's heart; then caressing his wife with his hand, he begs her not
to sorrow overmuch, but to go to her house and see to her own tasks,
the loom and the distaff. Thus he spake, and she departed for her
home, oft looking back and letting fall big tears.

This scene, which takes up four pages of the _Iliad_ (VI., 370-502),

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