Tuesday, October 4, 2011
(Two Lovers with Lute and Harp, a medieval woodcut)
What is a good way to prepare for marriage?
Advice columnists would recommend a thoughtful period of dating, or, to use the more old-fashioned terms, of courtship or wooing, to get to know the person before making a lifetime commitment.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is best known as a founding father of the United States, and scientist, inventor, printer, writer, and diplomat. He also wrote some sensible advice to the lovelorn. In 1746 he published those suggestions anonymously under the title Reflections on Courtship and Marriage: In Two Letters to a Friend, Wherein a Practicable Plan Is Laid Down for Obtaining and Securing Conjugal Felicity.
“What has been observed seems to point out,” Franklin wrote, “that a blind, a sudden and intoxicating passion, has a natural tendency, under its own direction, to occasion unhappy marriages, and produce scenes of grief and repentance.
“Let us, on the contrary, proceed with deliberation and circumspection. Let reason and thought be summoned before we engage in the courtship of a lady. Endeavor as much as possible, to stifle all those passionate and amorous emotions, that would cloud and bribe our judgments. Let us seriously reflect, that engagements of this kind, are of the greatest moment and import to our future happiness in life. That courtship brings on marriage, and that makes all the peace and welfare of our lives dependant on the behavior and disposition of another; a matter of the utmost consequence, and of which we cannot well think too long or too much. Let not therefore our eyes or passions prevail with us, to barter away all that is truly valuable in our existence for their gratification.”
from WOOING SONG
Love is the blossom where there blows
Every thing that lives or grows:
Love doth make the Heav’ns to move,
And the Sun doth burn in love:
Love the strong and weak doth yoke,
And makes the ivy climb the oak,
Under whose shadows lions wild,
Soften’d by love, grow tame and mild:
Love no med’cine can appease,
He burns the fishes in the seas:
Not all the skill his wounds can stench,
Not all the sea his fire can quench.
Love did make the bloody spear
Once a leavy* coat to wear,
While in his leaves there shrouded lay
Sweet birds, for love that sing and play
And of all love’s joyful flame
I the bud and blossom am.
Only bend thy knee to me,
Thy wooing shall thy winning be!
~ Giles Fletcher, the Younger (1586-1623), English poet
*leavy - leafy