Monday, November 1, 2010

Balzac on Love and Marriage (2)

Love is the most melodious of all harmonies and the sentiment of love
is innate. Woman is a delightful instrument of pleasure, but it is
necessary to know its trembling strings, to study the position of
them, the timid keyboard, the fingering so changeful and capricious
which befits it. How many monkeys--men, I mean--marry without knowing
what a woman is! How many of the predestined proceed with their wives
as the ape of Cassan did with his violin! They have broken the heart
which they did not understand, as they might dim and disdain the
amulet whose secret was unknown to them. They are children their whole
life through, who leave life with empty hands after having talked
about love, about pleasure, about licentiousness and virtue as slaves
talk about liberty. Almost all of them married with the most profound
ignorance of women and of love. They commenced by breaking in the door
of a strange house and expected to be welcomed in this drawing-room.
But the rudest artist knows that between him and his instrument, of
wood, or of ivory, there exists a mysterious sort of friendship. He
knows by experience that it takes years to establish this
understanding between an inert matter and himself. He did not
discover, at the first touch, the resources, the caprices, the
deficiencies, the excellencies of his instrument. It did not become a
living soul for him, a source of incomparable melody until he had
studied for a long time; man and instrument did not come to understand
each other like two friends, until both of them had been skillfully
questioned and tested by frequent intercourse.

Can a man ever learn woman and know how to decipher this wondrous
strain of music, by remaining through life like a seminarian in his
cell? Is it possible that a man who makes it his business to think for
others, to judge others, to rule others, to steal money from others,
to feed, to heal, to wound others--that, in fact, any of our
predestined, can spare time to study a woman? They sell their time for
money, how can they give it away for happiness? Money is their god. No
one can serve two masters at the same time. Is not the world,
moreover, full of young women who drag along pale and weak, sickly and
suffering? Some of them are the prey of feverish inflammations more or
less serious, others lie under the cruel tyranny of nervous attacks
more or less violent. All the husbands of these women belong to the
class of the ignorant and the predestined. They have caused their own
misfortune and expended as much pains in producing it as the husband
artist would have bestowed in bringing to flower the late and
delightful blooms of pleasure. The time which an ignorant man passes
to consummate his own ruin is precisely that which a man of knowledge
employs in the education of his happiness.

Balzac, The Physiology of Marriage