Friday, May 9, 2008

Shelley on Love

For your entertainment, a letter written by Percy Shelley to his friend T.J. Hogg June 2nd 1811.

“What is Passion? The very word implies an incapacity for action, otherwise than in unison with its dictates, What is reason? It is a thing independent, inflexible; it adapts thoughts and actions to the varying circumstances, which for ever change – adapts them so as to produce the greatest overbalance of happiness. And to whom do you now give happiness? Not to others, for you associate with but few: those few regard you with the highest feelings of admiration and friendship; but perhaps there is but one; - and here is self again – not to yourself; for the truth of this I choose yourself, as a testimony against you. I think; reason; listen; cast off prejudice; hear the dictates of plain common sense – surely is it not evident? I loved a being an idea in my mind, which had no real existence. I concreted this abstract of perfection, I annexed this fictitious quality to the idea presented by a name; the being, whom that name signified, was by no means worthy of this. This is the truth; Unless I am determinedly blind – unless I am resolved causelessly and selfishly to seek destruction, I must see it. Plain! Is it not plain! I loved a being; the being, whom I loved, is not what she was; she exists no longer. I regret when I find that she never existed, but in my mind yet does it not border on willful deception, deliberate, intentional self-deceit, to continue to love the body, when the soul is no more? As well might I court the worms which the soulless body of a beloved being generates – be lost to myself, and to those who love me for what is really amiable in me – in the damp, unintelligent vaults of a charnel-house. Surely, when it is carried to the dung-heap as a mass of putrefaction, the loveliness of the flower ceases to charm. Surely it would be irrational to annex to this inertness the properties which the flower in its state of beauty possessed, which now cease to exist, and then did mearly exist, because adjoined to it. Yet you will call this cold reasoning? No; you will not! This would be the exclamation of the uninformed Weter, not of my noble friend. But, indeed, it is not cold reasoning, if you saw me at this moment. I wish I could reason coldly, I should then stand more chance of success. But let me consider it myself – exert my own reasoning powers; let me entreat myself to awake.”

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