The Kiss and its History
THE KISS AND ITS HISTORY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WALTER BENSON, Esquire
I DEDICATE MY MODEST PART IN THIS BOOK
IN TOKEN OF A FRIENDSHIP WHICH
HAS GROWN STAUNCHER WITH
THE GROWTH OF
ἦ μεγάλα χάρις
Δώρῳ ξὺν ὀλίγῳ· πάντα δὲ τιμᾶντα τὰ πὰρ φίλων.
Theocritus, Idyl xxviii., 24, 25.
Je célèbre des jeux paisibles,
Qu'en vain on semble mépriser,
Les vrais biens des âmes sensibles,
Les doux mystères du baiser.
To gentle sports due praise I render,
At which some wits have vainly sneered:
The true delight of spirits tender,
The kiss's mysteries endeared.
W. F. H.
The following treatise, which is the work of a Romance philologist of high European reputation, has not only gone through two editions in Denmark, but has also been translated into German, Swedish, and Russian. The popularity which this learned and at the same time charming little book rapidly acquired abroad, and the favourable criticisms passed on it by Continental scholars, have encouraged me to present it to my fellow-countrymen in an English dress. With regard to the numerous poetical quotations that form so striking a feature of this book, those which I have translated myself may be distinguished from such as I have borrowed from standard versions by the appended initials, W. F. H.
- Inner Temple,
- London, 2nd August 1901.
Wenn ich nur selber wüsste,
Was mir in die Seele zischt!
Die Worte und die Küsse
Sind wunderbar vermischt.
Oh, could I but decipher
What 'tis that fills my mind.
The words are with the kisses
So wond'rously combined.
Dante, in the fifth canto of his Hell, has celebrated the power a kiss may have over human beings. In the course of his wanderings in the nether world, when he has reached the spot where abide those who have sinned through love, he sees two souls that "flutter so lightly in the wind." These are Francesco da Rimini and her brother-in-law Paolo. He asks Francesco to tell him:
"In the time of your sweet sighs,
By what, and how love granted, that ye knew
Your yet uncertain wishes?"
Whereto she replies:
For our delight we read of Lancelot,
How him love thrall'd. Alone we were, and no
Suspicion near us. Ofttimes by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
Fled from our alter'd cheek. But at one point
Alone we fell. When of that smile we read,
The wished smile, so rapturously kissed
By one so deep in love, then he, who ne'er
From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss'd. The book and writer both
Were love's purveyors. In its leaves that day
We read no more."
I have had a special object in prefacing my studies on the history of kissing with these famous verses, for I regarded it in the light of a duty to caution my readers emphatically, and at the very outset, as to the danger of even reading about kisses; and I consider that, having done this, I have warned my readers against pursuing the subject, and "forewarned is forearmed," or, "homme averti en vaut deux."
- H. F. Cary's translation.