Sunday, October 17, 2010

Balzac on love and marriage II

A young man, or it may be an old one, in love or not in love, has
obtained possession by a contract duly recorded at the registration
office in heaven and on the rolls of the nation, of a young girl with
long hair, with black liquid eyes, with small feet, with dainty
tapering fingers, with red lips, with teeth of ivory, finely formed,
trembling with life, tempting and plump, white as a lily, loaded with
the most charming wealth of beauty. Her drooping eyelashes seem like
the points of the iron crown; her skin, which is as fresh as the calyx
of a white camelia, is streaked with the purple of the red camelia;
over her virginal complexion one seems to see the bloom of young fruit
and the delicate down of a young peach; the azure veins spread a
kindling warmth over this transparent surface; she asks for life and
she gives it; she is all joy and love, all tenderness and candor; she
loves her husband, or at least believes she loves him.

The husband who is in love says in the bottom of his heart: "Those
eyes will see no one but me, that mouth will tremble with love for me
alone, that gentle hand will lavish the caressing treasures of delight
on me alone, that bosom will heave at no voice but mine, that
slumbering soul will awake at my will alone; I only will entangle my
fingers in those shining tresses; I alone will indulge myself in
dreamily caressing that sensitive head. I will make death the guardian
of my pillow if only I may ward off from the nuptial couch the
stranger who would violate it; that throne of love shall swim in the
blood of the rash or of my own. Tranquillity, honor, happiness, the
ties of home, the fortune of my children, all are at stake there; I
would defend them as a lioness defends her cubs. Woe unto him who
shall set foot in my lair!"

Well now, courageous athlete, we applaud your intention. Up to the
present moment no geographer has ventured to trace the lines of
longitude and latitude in the ocean of marriage. Old husbands have
been ashamed to point out the sand banks, the reefs, the shallows, the
breakers, the monsoons, the coasts and currents which have wrecked
their ships, for their shipwrecks brought them shame. There was no
pilot, no compass for those pilgrims of marriage. This work is
intended to supply the desideratum. 
 
Honoré de Balzac, The Physiology of Marriage, 
Produced by Dagny and John Bickers