The Courageous Romantics
"Militat Omnis Amans. Every lover is a soldier, and Cupid has his own camp; Believe me, Atticus, every lover is a soldier. The age which is apt for war, is also apt for Love." - "Amores", Ovid
Cupid, the son of the Queen of Love, in our collective imagination, appears as a cute, chubby cherubim. If most of us were to close our eyes and picture him, he would appear as if he arrived from a Boucher's painting - in a scene full of pastel blues and pinks, our Cupid would look at us with a mischievous gaze, his baby-like rolls of fat would soften our defences, and surrounded by flowers, he would play and chase animals (Examples: X & X).
His appearance and imagery, bountiful with sweetness and softness, makes us forget that this enchanting god bears in his hands a weapon. Like a true soldier, he ambushes, aims and finally strikes into the soft flesh of our hearts. Too late do we realise that even his cute appearance was a weapon aimed against us - the cuteness softens as it is not perceived as a threat. He runs to his mother to say that yet another fortress has fallen. Venus smiles, happy to have initiated yet another Soul into her mysteries. Did not the philosopher say that it is Eros that gives the Soul her wings? Little do we know, when the arrow strikes, that Venus is to present many tasks to the initiate, as if saying: "Only the most courageous & the most beautiful of them will make it to the apotheosis. Everyone else is doomed to forever remain in the shadowy realms of Hades!"
The Two Kinds of Romantics
"English and German Romantic Movements of the late 18th and early 19th century, whose influence was still strong in arts until, say, the end of the World War I, and in popular culture until the 60's which had a streak of Promethean individualism (as with Byron and Shelley) missing from Romance in its medieval sense; and whose Lady was as much of the world of nature as any human woman, on the theory (I am thinking particularly of Keats here) that 'girls are nature, so maybe nature is really a girl.' And while there were certain similarities between medieval and modern romance, medieval Romance can be characterized as 'aristocratic and passionate', while the Romance of the Romantic movement tended to be a bit more 'democratic and sentimental' (to use the distinction made by W. B. Yeats in "A Vision" between the 'antithetical' and the 'primary')". - "Shadow of the Rose: The Esoterisism of the Romantic Tradition", Charles Upton & Jennifer Doane Upton
Poet, dramatist, writer and the former senator of the Irish Free State, William Butler Yeats' in his "A Vision" makes a distinction between two tinctures. In the excerpt above, these are used to explain the different spirits that defined the two similar, yet at the same time, profoundly different attitudes towards the romantic love. Yeats further positions the two tinctures in a more hierarchical system by using the concepts of the Solar and the Lunar. The Solar aspect corresponds to the Primary, while the Lunar aspect corresponds to the Antithetical. Primary or Solar in his system is the realm of objectivity, with one's focus being that which is outside of the mind. It is reasonable, moral and fair. Since it is Solar and the Sun corresponds to the number One in alchemy & esoterica, the Primary or Solar is also the realm of democracy, of equality of the Souls before God, of peace and union. Antithetical or Lunar is the realm of the inner world of imagination and intuition. It is emotional, creative and aesthetic. Since it is Lunar and the Moon corresponds to the number Two in alchemy & esoterica, the Antithetical or Lunar is also the realm of the aristocracy and art, of individual freedom rather than democracy, and also the realm of distinction and war.
The Promethean Romantics of the late 18th and early 19th century, often influenced by the aesthetic theories of German Idealism, such is the Kantian Sublime, gazed outward towards the Nature. Instead of being driven by a desire to penetrate the Mystery of Nature and fully immerse one's self in it, they usually sought to cast Light upon it and therefore spiritualise it. Contemplation of Nature was to bring one to the highest abodes of being. Their Romantic world was available to every man and every woman, embodying the primary, democratic spirit described by Yeats.
On another hand, the Medieval Romanticism was not accessible to the every woman or every man. It was not possible for the average person to get even a glimpse of it, let alone feel or experience any of its mysteries. The path of the Medieval Romantic began with a quest - a hero was to set on a journey filled with obstacles, tricksters, magic and monsters. He was a knight, a man of sword rather than a man of pen, who was to penetrate the Nature's mysteries & bring from its depths, the most profound gnosis. In these texts, we find ourselves in the world full of allegories and often very cryptic and arcane symbols. If the person himself/herself has not been initiated into these mysteries, he or she will not be able to comprehend it. It is openly discriminatory and aristocratic. In Yeats' system, it belongs to the Lunar/Antithetical realm of the aristocracy and distinction.
Under the Moon's rulership is also the tragedy, while the comedy is under the Sun's domain. The medieval romances tend to be tragic, often coloured with the sentiment of an inability to obtain the object of one's desire fully. It is not rare that they end in the separation or death of lovers. In our modern consciousness, by contrast, it is romance and comedy that are associated. Most of our romantic genre, be it film or popular fiction, are romantic comedies. Our modern time sees virtue in the levelling of the differences, and as such, it is generally uncomfortable with any idea of distinction. The romantic comedy reflects our era's values much better than the ancient, medieval or renaissance tragic romance.
Through modern romantic fiction and Valentine cards, the romance as it exists in our modern consciousness, has become part of the mass culture. Yet, while such romance is all around us, we simultaneously see people say that romantic pursuit and romantic love don't exist or that they are purely a product of Disney or popular romantic novels. It would appear that the Moon, even in our modern times, still holds to her principles - she allows the masses to be fed with appearances and illusions, while she hides her deepest and most profound passions and secrets, making them visible only to those who prove themselves deserving and worthy. Even in a highly democratic world, her realm remains aristocratic and discriminatory, and still, it is only the Hero with a Sword who can find her, for she remembers the Law that says: "Only the truly good can find the Grail." Luna, the most beautiful Jewel of our Nightsky still only makes Love to the Sun, and it is still only the Spirit of God that is capable of finding His way into Her eternally Virginal Essence. Yeats sings of Her Eternal Purity: “The purity of the unclouded moon
Has flung its atrowy shaft upon the floor.
Seven centuries have passed and it is pure,
The blood of innocence has left no stain.
There, on blood-saturated ground, have stood
Soldier, assassin, executioner.
Whether for daily pittance or in blind fear
Or out of abstract hatred, and shed blood,
But could not cast a single jet thereon.
Odour of blood on the ancestral stair!
And we that have shed none must gather there
And clamour in drunken frenzy for the moon.”
- “Blood And The Moon”, William Butler Yeats
Love Conquers Death
"For from her refuge Lady Beauty
Granted the sweet Rosebud to me,
And I received it most willingly,
As mine, and just as suited to me
As aught indeed could ever be.
And there in true delight we played,
Of fresh grass our couch was made,
Covered with petals from the rose;
On sweet kisses our lips did close,
In sweet transports, in deep delight
Thus we passed all that long night,
Though it seemed brief indeed to me.
Then, with the dawn, we instantly
Woke, and thus we two did arise,
But we sorrowed, sighed sweet sighs,
That we indeed must part so soon.
For Beauty now did change her tune,
She came to claim the Rose from me,
And despite myself, I must so agree.
Yet nevertheless that sweetest Rose,
Was kind to me, you may suppose;
Before the moment we must part,
She gave me sweet leave to depart.
Then came Beauty to me humbly,
And said to me, all smilingly:
‘Now may Jealousy watch on high,
And raise her walls towards the sky,
And thick the hedge with sharp briars,
Defending the garden till she tires;
For we have tasted of true delight;
In vain gainst us doth she not fight?
Fair sweet friend, as the saying has it,
Each serves according to their merit;
Seek ever to love without deceit,
If your heart is whole and complete,
And you’ll forever win the Rose,
Ne’er so secure, as folk suppose.’
Straight to the tower, all elegantly,
They all returned, most secretly;
Now I depart, my debt redeemed,
For such is the dream that I dreamed." - "Romance of the Rose", Guillaume de Lorris’
The beautiful Selene casts her gaze towards the Earth, the realm which she rules. In the realm she rules, she denies the fulfilment of the heart's innermost desire. Hence, on Earth, we may achieve and accomplish much, yet still feel something was left behind. The Medieval Romantics heard her saying: "On Earth, I support separation, not Union." Her hero was the knight, disciplined by courtesy, empowered by a sword and driven by self-sacrificial vigour. He was the one ready and capable of defeating the infernal beast that threatens to swallow the entire Earth. Earth, the Jewish mystics tell us is the dowry of She who is the Bride of God. With every defeated beast, the Knight brings Earth closer to the higher realms in which She originally dwelled. The Beautiful Selene rules the Earth, but the Earth is not her abode. Her abode is the Astral & Subtle world made of dreams, imagination, intuition and psychic powers. If one is able to enter Her mystery, she allows and permits for the Union to happen. Here, hiding behind the silver canopy, the love that didn't find itself consummated on Earth, finds its consummation. The lovers that were made exoteric enemies by their clan, tribe, family or exoteric religion become the lovers of the hidden, esoteric realms. Here, in her abode, you are under the Sun - difference & separation dissolve under His purifying rays; freedom, truth and union reign instead. By denying you satisfaction and contentment in the physical realm, the Moon inspires you to look up. For only the Love that gazes upwards is the one that overcomes Death. "Hear the voice of the Bard! Who Present, Past, & Future sees Whose ears have heard, The Holy Word, That walk'd among the ancient trees.
Calling the lapsed Soul And weeping in the evening dew: That might controll, The starry pole; And fallen fallen light renew! O Earth O Earth return! Arise from out the dewy grass; Night is worn, And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.
Turn away no more: Why wilt thou turn away The starry floor The watry shore Is giv'n thee till the break of day." - "Introduction to the Songs of Experience", William Blake
"Amores", Ovid "The Esoterism of the Romantic Tradition", Charles Upton & Jennifer Doane Upton "Yeats & The Tinctures", Neil Mann Collected Poems of W .B. Yeats
"The Romance of the Rose", Guillaume de Lorris "Songs of Experience", William Blake