The Kiss and its History/Chapter 2

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II


LOVE KISSES


A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth and love
And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus, kindled from above;
Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,
And the blood's lava, and the pulse a blaze,
Each kiss a heart-quake,—for a kiss's strength
I think, it must be reckon'd by its length.

Byron.

 

 

CHAPTER II


LOVE KISSES


"At the time of the world's creation kisses were created and cruel love." Thus begins a Cypriot folk-song, and it is assuredly without the shadow of a doubt that among all nations which on the whole know kissing, it gets its sublimest meaning as the expression of love.

In the transport of love the lovers' lips seek each other. When Byron's Don Juan wanders one evening along the shore with his Haidee, they glance at the moonlit sea which lies outspread before them, and they listen to the lapping of the waves and the whispering murmur of the breeze, but suddenly they

Saw each other's dark eyes darting light
Into each other—and, beholding this,
Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss.

· · · · · · ·

They had not spoken, but they felt allured,
As if their souls and lips each other beckoned,
Which, being joined, like swarming bees they clung—
Their hearts the flowers from whence the honey sprung.

The kiss of love is the exultant message of the longing of love, love eternally young, the burning prayer of hot desire, which is born on the lovers' lips, and "rises," as Charles Fuster has said, "up to the blue sky from the green plains," like a tender, trembling thank-offering.

Que tous les cœurs soient apaisés
Et toutes les lèvres ouvertes,
Qu'un frémissement de baisers
Monte au ciel bleu des plaines vertes!

The love kiss, rich in promise, bestows an intoxicating feeling of infinite happiness, courage, and youth, and therefore surpasses all other earthly joys in sublimity—at any rate all poets say so—and no one has expressed it in more exquisite and choicer words than Alfred de Musset in his celebrated sonnet on Tizianello:

Beatrix Donato was the soft sweet name
Of her whose earthly form was shaped so fair;
A faithful heart lay in her breast's white frame,
Her spotless body held a mind most rare.

The son of Titian, for her deathless fame,
Painted this portrait, witness of love's care,
And from that day renounced his art's high claim,
Loth that another dame his skill should share.

Stranger, if in your heart love doth abide,
Gaze on my lady's picture ere you chide.
Say if perchance your lady's fair as this.
Then mark how poor a thing is fame on earth;
Grand as this portrait is, it is not worth—
Believe me on my oath—the model's kiss.

W. F. H.

Thus even the highest work of art, yea, the loftiest reputation, is nothing in comparison with the passionate kiss of a woman one loves. This is what life has taught Musset, and a half melancholy sigh rings through his exultation over the omnipotence of love. In turning to the more naïve speech of popular poetry, we find in a German Schnaderhüpfel (Improvisation) a corresponding homage to the kiss as the noblest thing in the world:

My sweetheart's poor,
But fair to behold.
What use were wealth?
I cannot kiss gold.

W. F. H.

And we all yearn for kisses and we all seek them; it is idle to struggle against this passion. No one can evade the omnipotence of the kiss, the best resolutions, the most solemn oaths, are of no avail. A pretty little Servian folk-song treats of a young girl who swore too hastily.

Yestreen swore a maiden fair,
Ne'er again I'll wear a garland,
Ne'er again I'll wear a garland,
Wine again I'll never drink,
Never more I'll kiss a laddie.

Yestreen swore the maiden fair,
Clean to-day her oath's regretted
If I decked myself with flow'rets,
Then the flow'rets made me fairer;
If I quaffed the wine that's ruddy,
Then my heart grew all the blither;
If I kissed my heart's belovèd,
Life to me grew doubly dearer.[1]W. F. H.

It is through kisses that a knowledge of life and happiness first comes to us. Runeberg says that the angels rejoice over the first kiss exchanged by lovers.

The evening star was sitting beside a silver cloud,
A maid from out a twilight grove addressed this star aloud,
"Come, tell me, star of evening, what angels think in heaven
When by a youth and maiden the first sweet kiss is given?"
And heaven's bashful daughter was heard to deign reply:
"On earth the choir of angels bright look down from out the sky,
And see their own felicity then mirrored on the earth,
But death sheds tears, and turns his eyes away from such blest mirth."

W. F. H.

Only death weeps over the brief duration of human happiness, weeps because the bliss of the kiss endures not for ever. And likewise, even after death, lovers kiss. Jannakos and Helena, his plighted bride, die before their wedding day. They die in a kiss and are buried together; but over their grave grew a cypress and an orange tree, and the latter stretched forth its branches on high and kissed the cypress.

The happiest man is the man who has the kiss. f In the Greek romance of Babylonika, which was attributed to Jamblicus, who lived in the second century of the Christian era, three lovers contend for the favour of a young maid. To one she has given the cup out of which she was wont to drink; the second she has garlanded with flowers that she herself has worn; to the third she has given a kiss. Borokos is called on as judge to decide as to which has enjoyed the highest favour, and he unhesitatingly decides the dispute in favour of the last.

The same subject is often the theme of folk-poetry, and the verdict never alters; the joy bestowed by a kiss surpasses all other joys. A Hungarian ballad runs thus:

As the hart holds dear the fountain,
And the bee the honied flow'rets,
So the noble grape I cherish;
After this songs melting, tender,
Kisses, too, of lips of crimson,
As thine own, O Cenzi mine.

But the wine's might fires my senses,
And songs wake within me blitheness,
And with love intoxicated,
With thy love, mine own belovèd.
And my heart no more is longing
After purple, after gew-gaws,
After what the others long for.

Happy am I in the clinking
Of the goblet filled with rich wine;
Happier still amidst sweet singing;
But my happiness were greatest,
Dared I press my kisses on a
Mouth, and that mouth only thine.

W. F. H.

The same idea is still more delicately expressed in the following Servian ballad:

Proudly cried a golden orange
On the breezy shore:
"Certainly nowhere happiness
Is found to equal mine."

Answered a green apple
From its apple tree:
"Fool to boast, golden orange,
On the breezy shore;
For happiness such as I've found,
Its like cannot be seen."

Then said the breezy meadow,
As yet untouched by scythe:
"Too conceited, little apple,
That speech of thine, meseems,
For happiness such as I've found,
Its like cannot be seen."

Then spake a lovely maiden,
Unsullied by a kiss:
"Thou pratest folly, grass-plot,
Instead of sooth, I ween,
For happiness such as I've found
Its like cannot be seen."

But a handsome lad made answer
To every speech they made;
"You're mad, all mad, to utter
Such words as I've just heard,
For no one in the universe
Can be so blest as I."

"Golden orange by the breezy
Shore I pluck thee now.
Apple, from thy apple tree
To-day I'll shake thee down.
Grass-plot, I'll mow thee level
With my scythe-strokes to-day.
Maiden, as yet unsullied,
To-day I'll kiss thy lips."

W. F. H.

 

In another Servian lay, the lover sings that he would rather kiss his sweetheart than be the Sultan's guest. In Spain the lover wishes he were the water-cooler so that he might kiss his darling's lips when she is drinking:

Arcarrasa de tu casa,
Chiquiya, quisiera ser,
Para besarte los labios
Quando fueras á beber.

The Greeks say that the kiss is "the key to Paradise"; yea, it is Paradise itself, declares Wergeland:

Nay, bride, thine embrace more than heav'n I prize;
Oh, kiss me once more that to heav'n I rise.

W. F. H.

The kiss is a preservation against every ill. "No ill-luck can betide me when she bestows on me a kiss," sings the old trouvère, Colin Muset:

Se de li ai un douz baisier
Ne me porroit nus mals venir.

It gives health and strength, adds Heine:

Yet could I kiss thee, O my soul,
Then straightway I should be made whole.

W. F. H.

It carries life with it; it even bestows the gift of eternal youth—if one can believe the words of the Duke of Anhalt the minnesinger:

Your mouth is crimson; over its sweet portal
A kindly Genius seems for ever flowing.
If on that mouth a kiss I were bestowing,
Methinks I should in sooth become immortal.

W. F. H.

The Persians, too, had the same idea. The jovial Hafiz laments that "sour wisdom added to old age and virtue" has laid waste his strength, but a remedy is to be found for these:

"Come and drink," the maiden whispered,
"Sin and sweetness, youthful folly,
Lovingly from lips of crimson,
From my bosom's lily chalice,
And live on with strength redoubled."

W. F. H.

And if a kiss is no good, then nought avails. In another passage the same bard says, that were he suddenly on some occasion to feel himself tormented by agony and unrest, no one is to give him bitter medicine—for such he detests—but:

Hand me the foaming juice of the vine,
Jest and sing from your heart to mine,
And if these prove not a remedy sure,
Then a pair of red lips you must straight procure.

But if these latter avail not to save,
May I be laid deep down in the grave.

W. F. H.

In the case of lovers a kiss is everything; that is the reason why a man stakes his all for a kiss. In Enthousiasme Aarestrup says:

Ha, you're blushing! What red roses
Deck your lips! A man were fain to,
If a chasm yawned before him,
Straightway peril life to gain you.

W. F. H.

And man craves for it as his noblest reward:

From beyond the high green mountains
Lamentations fraught with sadness
Issue, soft as from a girl's voice.
Then a youth the sound pursueth,
And he sees a maiden shackled
Fast in fetters thick of roses.

Then the fair maid called unto him:
"Doughty youth, come here and help me;
I'll be to you as a sister."

But the youth straightway made answer:
"In my home I have a sister."

"Doughty youth, come here and help me,
For a brother-in-law I'll choose thee."

Then the lad again made answer:
"In my home I have that title."

"Come, young hero, and assist me,
And I'll be thy heart's belovèd."

Quickly kissed he then the maiden
Ere he loosed her from her fetters,
Then went homeward with his bride.

W. F. H.

Thus runs a Servian ballad, and innumerable analogues to it are to be found in the folk-lore of other countries, in ballads as well as tales. It is, you know, for a kiss from the princess's lovely mouth that the swine-herd sells his wonderful pan.

But women are aware, too, of the witchery that dwells on their lips, and the power that lies in their kiss. According to a remarkable saga which forms the subject of one of Heine's poems, King Harald Hårfager sits at the bottom of the sea in captivity to a mermaid. The king's head is reposing on her bosom; but, suddenly, a violent tremor thrills him, he hears the Viking shouts which reach him from above, he starts from his dream of love and groans and sighs:

And then the King from the depth of his heart
Begins sobbing, and wailing, and sighing,
When quickly the water-fay over him bends,
With loving kisses replying.

Man is the slave of the kiss; by a kiss woman tames the fiercest man; by means of a kiss man's will becomes as wax. Our peasant girls in Denmark know this, too, right well. When they want one of the lads to do them a service they promise him "seven sweet kisses and a bit of white sugar on Whitsunday morning.""But he will get neither," they say to themselves.

Now, as we have discussed the kiss and its importance as the direct expression of love and erotic emotions, we will pass over to certain more special aspects of its nature.

In the very first place, then, we have the quantitative conditions.

It is a matter of common knowledge that lovers are liberal in the extreme in the question of kisses, which are given and taken to infinity, and these have likewise continually the same intoxicating freshness as at the first meeting. Everything in love is, you know, a reiteration, and yet love is a perpetual renewing. How inspiriting are the words of Tove to King Waldemar, as J. P. Jacobsen gives them:

And now I say for the first time:
"King Volmer, I love thee,"
And kiss thee now for the first time,
And fling mine arms round thee;
But should you say I've said this before,
And you to kisses are fain,
Then say I: "King, he's but a fool
Who minds such trifles in vain."

W. F. H.

What has a love kiss to do with the law of renewal? That one does not arrive at anything by one kiss is expressed with sufficient plainness in an Istro-Roumanian proverb: Cu un trat busni nu se afla muliere (with a single kiss no woman is caught).

This maxim holds good besides in the case of both men and women. But how many kisses are necessary then?

There is a little Greek folk-song called "All good things are three." It runs as follows:

Your first kiss brought me near to the grave,
Your second kiss came my life to save;
But if a third kiss you'll bestow,
Not even death can bring me woe.

W. F. H.

But, nevertheless, we may assume without a shadow of a doubt that he was not satisfied with these three kisses—lovers are not wont to be so easily contented. The Spaniards and many other nations besides say of lovers that "they eat each other up with kisses;" but more than three are certainly required for that purpose:

Take this kiss and a thousand more, my darling,

W. F. H.

sings Aarestrup, but Catullus outbids him, however, in one of his songs to Lesbia:

A thousand kisses; add five score:
Another thousand kisses more;
Then best forget them all,
Lest any wight with evil eye
Our too close counting might espy,
And dire mishap befall.[2] W. F. H.

As we see, Catullus' love has no trifling start over Aarestrup's, and so a later poet seems likewise to think that even his demands are quite ridiculously small. "Nay," says Joachim du Bellay to his Columbelle, "give me as many kisses as there are flowers on the mead, seeds on the field, and grapes in the vineyards, and so that you shall not deem me ungrateful, I will immediately give you as many again."

Du Bellay, moreover, bitterly upbraids the poet of Verona for asking for so few kisses that they can, when taken together, be counted:

In truth Catullus' wants are small,
And little can they really mean,
Since he could even count them all.

W. F. H.

I must, however, take Catullus' part to a certain extent; he is not so precise in his demands of Lesbia as Du Bellay makes out; in another poem he asks her:

Thy kisses dost thou bid me count,
And tell thee, Lesbia, what amount
My rage for love and thee could tire,
And satisfy and cloy desire?

And the answer runs:

Many as grains of Libyan sand
Upon Cyrene's spicy land
From prescient Ammon's sultry dome
To sacred Battus' ancient tomb;
Many as stars that silent ken
At night the stolen loves of men.
Yes, when the kisses thou shalt kiss
Have reached a number vast as this,
Then may desire at length be stayed,
And e'en my madness be allayed:
Then when infinity defies
The calculations of the wise;
Nor evil voice's deadly charm,
Can work the unknown number harm.

This being the case, it is a divine blessing that, according to the Finnish saying, "the mouth is not torn by being kissed, nor the hand by being squeezed":

Suu ei kulu suudellessa,
Käsi kättä annellessa.

But even if the mouth is not exactly torn, yet much kissing may be almost harmful; but there is only one remedy to be found for this—"you must heal the hurts by fresh kisses."

Dorat, who may be regarded as a high authority on philematology, expressly says:

A second kiss can physic
The evil the first has wrought.

W. F. H.

And Heine, whose authority in these questions should hardly be inferior, holds quite the same theory:

If you have kissed my lips quite sore,
Then kiss them whole again;
If we till evening meet no more,
Then hurry will be vain.

You have still yet the whole, whole night,
My dearest heart, know this:
One can in such a long, long night,
Kiss much and taste much bliss.

I make use of the last of the verses quoted as a transition to the next question we have to investigate, viz., the qualitative aspect of kissing, as I regard it apart from its merely gustative qualities, which have already been considered.

The love kiss gleams like a cut diamond with a thousand hues; it is eternally changing as the sun's shimmer on the waves, and expresses the most diverse states and moods, ranging from humble affection to burning desire.

The love kiss "quenches the fire of the lips," quells and stills longing and desire, but it also burns and arouses regret. Margaret sits at her spinning-wheel, and, in tremulous longing, calls to mind Faust's ardent kiss:

My peace is gone,
My heart is sore:
'Tis gone for ever
And evermore.

And the magic flow
Of his talk, the bliss
In the clasp of his hand,
And, oh, his kiss!

My bosom yearns
For him alone;
Ah, dared I clasp him,
And hold, and own!

And kiss his mouth,
To heart's desire,
And on his kisses
At last expire!

Numberless poets have varied the theme of the quenching yet burning kisses of love.

O'er me flows in streams delicious
Kisses' rosy and glowing rain,

W. F. H.

sings Waldemar at his meeting with Tove, and Aarestrup laments:

In vain I'm seeking
In ev'ry land,
Thy sweetness burning
Of mouth and hand.

W. F. H.

This "burning sweetness" seems to be an indubitable characteristic of a genuine love kiss; we even find it again in Heine:

The world's an ass, the world can't see,
Thy character not knowing,
It knows not how sweet thy kisses be,
How rapturously glowing.

The emotions consequent on the first kiss have been described in the old naïve, but, nevertheless, exceedingly delicate love-story, of Daphnis and Chloe. As a reward Chloe has bestowed a kiss on Daphnis—an innocent young-maid's kiss, but it has on him the effect of an electrical shock:

"Ye gods, what are my feelings. Her lips are softer than the rose's leaf, her mouth is sweet as honey, and her kiss inflicts on me more pain than a bee's sting. I have often kissed my kids, I have often kissed my lambs, but never have I known aught like this. My pulse is beating fast, my heart throbs, it is as if I were about to suffocate, yet, nevertheless, I want to have another kiss. Strange, never-suspected pain! Has Chloe, I wonder, drunk some poisonous draught ere she kissed me? How comes it that she herself has not died of it?"

Impelled, as it were, by some irresistible force, Daphnis wanders back to Chloe; he finds her asleep, but dares not awake her: "See how her eyes slumber and her mouth breathes. The scent of apple-blossoms is not so delicious as her breath. But I dare not kiss her. Her kiss stings me to the heart, and drives me as mad as if I had eaten fresh honey." Daphnis' fear of kisses disappears, however, later on, directly his simplicity has made room for greater self-consciousness. That a kiss is like the sting of a bee, or pains like a wound, is a metaphor which many poets have used, and the metaphor comes undoubtedly near the truth. With growing passion, kisses become mad and violent:

Thy ruby lips, they kissed so wild,
So madly, so soul-disturbing;

W. F. H.

and such kisses leave marks behind them. Aarestrup's mistress has beautiful plump shoulders:

They curve, as of a goddess,
So naked and so bold.

I'll brand your comely shoulders,
Such guerdon have they earned!
Look where my lips enfevered
Have scars of crimson burned.

W. F. H.

Hafiz' mistress is afraid that "his too hot kisses will char her delicate lips." With continually increasing desire kisses grow more and more voluptuous, and assume forms which have been celebrated by poets of antiquity and the Renaissance. Many burning, erotic verses have been composed on the subject columbatim labra conserere, or kissing as doves kiss.

Kisses at last grow into bites. Mirabeau, in a love-letter to Sophie, writes: "I am kissing you and biting you all over, et jaloux de ta blancheur je te couvre de suçons"; and the classic poets often speak of the tiny red marks on cheeks or lips, neck or shoulders, which the lovers' morsiunculæ have left behind.

Arethusa writes to Lycas: "What keeps you till now so long away from me? Oh, suffer no young girl to print the mark of her teeth on your neck." The Italians use the expression baciare co' denti (kiss with the teeth) to signify "to love." We can only treat these kisses as a sort of transitional link, of shorter or longer duration, according to circumstances. They are, as it were, "a sea fraught with perils," which in Mlle. de Scudéry's celebrated letter (la carte de tendre), carries one to strange countries (les terres inconnues); but, as these countries lie outside the regions of pure philematology, I shall not pursue my investigations further. I will, however, first quote what old Ovid has written, although I am not at all prepared to assert that his opinion is entitled to have any special weight, more especially as it is far from being unimpeachable from a moral point of view:

Oscula qui sumpsit, si non et cetera sumet,
Hæc quoque quæ data sunt perdere dignus erit.
Quantum defuerat pleno post oscula voto?
Heu mihi rusticitas, non pudor ille fuit.[3]

After the foregoing it would seem superfluous to enter into a closer investigation of—if the term be allowed—the topographical aspects of kissing. The love kiss is, as you are aware, properly directed towards the mouth—a fact sufficiently known, and is testimony of which I have, moreover, brought forward a number of passages from respectable and trustworthy writers. I shall only add a German "Sinngedicht" of Friedrich von Logau:

If you will kiss, then kiss the mouth,
All other sorts are but half blisses,
The face—ah, no—nor hand, neck, breast,
The mouth alone can give back kisses.

W. F. H.

Von Logau's vindication of the mouth as the only place that ought to be kissed is extremely logical, and, I take it, from a purely theoretical point of view, unobjectionable; but, practically, the case is quite the contrary. The royal trouvère, Thibaut de Champagne, treats in a lengthy poem—one of the so-called jeux-partis—the question whether one should kiss ones mistress's mouth or feet. Baudouin's opinion is in favour of kissing her on the mouth, and he gives his reasons for it at some length; but Thibaut replies, that he who kisses his darling on the mouth has no love for her, because that is the way one kisses any little shepherdess one comes across; it is only by kissing her feet that a lover shows his affection, and it is by such means alone that her favour is to be won.

The question of feet or mouth is threshed out minutely by the two contending parties, who at last agree in the opinion that one ought to kiss both parts, beginning with the feet and ending with the mouth.

It cannot be denied that Thibaut de Champagne has a far better insight into the matter than Von Logau, and yet even the old French poet's point of view must be characterised as being somewhat narrow.

All the other poets, you must know, teach us that not only the mouth, but every part of our sweetheart's body says, "Kiss me."

Friends, if it only were my fate!
If fate would will it so,
I'd kiss her beauties small and great
From bosom down to toe.

W. F. H.

So sings Aarestrup, and he returns again and again to the same idea in his ritorneller:

When scarce the mouth can longer feel such fooling,
Because thy lips are all too hotly burning,
Press them to bosom's Alpine snows for cooling.

The arms so white and tender woo caresses;
A lovely pleasance, too, those plump white shoulders!
But through the soul a bosom-kiss straight presses.

Her snow-white shoulders! All what may be said on
Such beauty I have uttered. For my guerdon
Grant me one now to rest my weary head on.

At kisses pressed upon your neck's fair closes
You thrilled and threw your head back, and I straightway
Planted upon your throat my kisses' roses.

About my darling I am wheeling, flying,
Like to a gadfly round a lily's chalice,
Buzzing until in nectar-cup mute dying.

W. F. H.

Allow me also to call your attention to a pretty little myth which Dorat composed about a "kiss in the bosoms Alpine snow." The kiss is a fair rose, and roses bloom everywhere in these tracks; through witch-craft two vigorous rosebuds sprouted forth on woman's white bosom:

Le bouton d'un beau sein est éclos du baiser;
Une rose y fleurit pour y marquer sa trace;
Fier de l'avoir fait naître, il aime à s'y fixer.

But if the object of one's affection is not within reach, and oscula corporalia are, for that reason, practically impossible, her image may be kissed, as a French song naïvely says:

I will make a portrait gay,
Like to thee, set in a locket;
Kiss it five score times a day
Guard it safely in my pocket.

W. F. H.

But if one is not fortunate enough to possess an image of the object of one's affection, then anything that has in any way been associated with, or is reminiscent of, him or her may be kissed. Tovelille exults to King Volmer:

For all my roses I've kissed to death
Whilst thinking, dear love, of thee.

W. F. H.

But F. Rückert sings with pain and mockery:

With fervour the hard stone I'm kissing,
For your heart is as hard as a stone.

W. F. H.

Such oscula impropria are often mentioned by ancient as well as modern poets. Propertius (I. 16) says:

Ah, oft I've hither sped with verse to greet
Thee, leaning on thy steps with kisses pressed.
How often, traitress, turning towards the street,
I've laid in secret garlands on thy crest.

W. F. H.

Eighteen hundred years afterwards Dorat writes:

I kiss the kindly blades of grass
Because they have approached your charms:
The sands o'er which your footsteps pass,
And leafy boughs that stretched their arms
To hide our happiness, dear lass.

W. F. H.

Lovers often send each other kisses through the air, as in Béranger's well-known song on the detestable Spring:

We loved before we ever met;
Our kisses crossed athwart the air.

W. F. H.

But should the distance be too great for such a platonic interchange of kisses, certain small, obliging postilions d'amour are employed. Heine uses his poems for that purpose:

O would that all my verses
Were kisses light and sweet:
I'd send them all in secret
My sweetheart's cheeks to greet.

While the young girl in Runeberg has recourse to a rose that has just blossomed:

Through the grove amidst the blooming flow'rets
Walked the bonnie maiden unattended,
And she plucked a new-born rose, exclaiming:
'Lovely flow'ret, if you'd only wings on,
I would send you to my well-beloved
When I'd fastened just two tiny greetings
Lightly on your right wing and your left wing;
One should bid him cover you with kisses,
And the other send you back to me soon.'

W. F. H.

But however much poets may clothe with grace such kisses sent and received by post—and it cannot be denied that many of them are extraordinarily charming from a poetical point of view—they are, and must be, nevertheless, in reality only certain mean substitutes with which lovers in the long run cannot feel fully satisfied. "The kiss," says the practical Frenchmen, "is a fruit which one ought to pluck from the tree itself" (Le baiser est un fruit qu'il faut cueiller sur l'arbre). Kisses ought to be given, as they should be taken, in secret; only in such case have they their full freshness, their intoxicating power. Heine says of such:

Kisses that one steals in darkness,
And in darkness then returns—
How such kisses fire the spirit,
If with ardent love it burns!

No profane eyes should see them: they only concern the pair of lovers—none other in the whole world. Secrecy and silence must rest over these kisses, as over all else that regards the soul of love, so that the butterfly's wings; may not lose their delicate down.

The strait-laced Cato degraded a senator of the name of Manilius for having kissed his wife in broad daylight and in his daughter's presence. Plutarch, however, considers the punishment excessive, but adds: "How disgusting it is in any case to kiss in the presence of third parties." Clement of Alexandria, one of the Fathers of the Church, endorses this opinion, and exhorts all married people to refrain from kissing one another before their servants.

All delicate-minded persons must undoubtedly sympathise with the ancient ascetic conception in proportion as they unconsciously follow it in practice. A kiss to or from a woman we love is a far too delicate pledge of affection to bear the gaze of strangers.

How many engaged couples would, do you suppose, find favour in Cato's eyes? How often do they not by their behaviour offend the commonest notions of decency? Their kisses and caresses, which ought to be their secret possession, they expose quite unconcernedly to the sight of all. One evening at a large party I saw a young girl ostentatiously kiss on the mouth the gentleman to whom she was engaged. Cato would certainly turn in his grave if he knew that such immodest behaviour was actually tolerated by people of refinement and position; and how disgusted and indignant he would be—unless, indeed, he preferred to smile—at the sight of the duty-kisses after dinner, which are often exchanged between man and wife at dinner-parties. Ah, yes, when the belly's full. . . .! How warranted is Kierkegaard's satire on the conjugal domestic kiss with which husband and wife, in lack of a napkin, wipe each other's mouth after meals. On the lips of youth alone you reap the sweetest harvests:

Sur les lèvres de la jeunesse
Tu fais les plus douces moissons.

(Dorat).

The young maiden will only give her love-kiss to her sweetheart, the stalwart swain; an old suitor is spurned with scorn. The lovely Mara, white and red, walked by the spring and tended her sheep:

See an old, old suitor comes riding up on horseback,
Shouting: "God's peace be thine, fair Mara, white and red.
Tell me, canst thou offer me a draught of cold clear water;
Tell me, can the basil ever verdant here be gathered,
And may I snatch a kiss from thee, fair Mara, white and red?"

W. F. H.

But straightway comes the answer from fair Mara, white and red:

"I charge thee, old, old suitor, to horse and ride hence quickly,
No drink is here thy portion from the fountain cold and clear,
And the ever-verdant basil by thee shall not be gathered,
Nor durst thou snatch a kiss from me, fair Mara, white and red."

W. F. H.

Again, fair Mara, white and red, walked by the spring and tended her sheep:

See a young and handsome suitor comes riding up on horseback,
Shouting: "God's peace be thine, fair Mara, white and red.
Tell me, canst thou offer me a draught of cold clear water;
Tell me, can the basil ever verdant here be gathered,
And may I snatch a kiss from thee, fair Mara, white and red?"

W. F. H.

But straightway comes the answer from fair Mara, white and red:

"I charge thee, handsome laddie, to horse and ride hence quickly,
Wouldst thou drink of this cool fountain, thou must hither come some morning,
For cold and clear's the water in the hours of early dawn.
Wouldst thou gather from the bushes, thou must hither come at mid-day,
For the flower-trees smell the sweetest about the noon-tide hour.
Wouldst thou kiss the beauteous Mara, then hither come at evening,
At evening sighs each maiden who finds herself alone."

W. F. H.

In another Servian ballad we find the same glorification of the stalwart young lover, the same contempt for, and detestation of, old men who go a-wooing.

High upon a mountain's slope once stood a maiden,
Mirroring her lovely image in the stream,
And her image in these words addressing:
'Image fraught to me with so much sadness
Had I known a time was ever coming
When thou shouldst be kissed by agèd lover,
Then amidst the green hills I had wandered,
Gath'ring with my hands their bitter herbage,
Squeezing out of it its acrid juices,
Washed thee then therewith that thou should'st savour
Bitterly wheresoe'r the old man kissed thee.'

'O my lovely image, had I known that
Thou wert fated for a young man's kisses,
I had hurried to the verdant meadows,
Gathered all the roses in the meadows,
Squeezing from the roses their sweet juices,
Laved thee with them, O mine image, that thou
Savoured of fragrance wheresoe'r he kissed thee.'

W. F. H.

A kiss must be given and taken in frank, joyous affection. To have recourse to violence is unknightly, unlovely, and despicable in the highest degree. This is a sphere wherein the brutal axiom regarding the right of the stronger can never hold good. An Albanian folk-song tells us of a young man who is in search of a young maiden with whom he is in love; he finds her at a brook, and, against her will, kisses her mouth and cheeks. Filled with shame, the young maiden tries to wash away the kisses in the brook, but its water is dyed red, and "when the women in the neighbouring village come thither to wash their clothes, the latter turn red instead of white. And, in the gardens watered with water from the brook, scarlet flowers sprout up; and the birds which drank of the water thereof lost their power of song."

This ballad shows us, in burning words, how deeply a man outrages a woman when he kisses her against the dictates of her heart. A Southern imagination alone can find an expression so sublime and poetical: in French it runs simply and frankly: Un baiser n'est rien, quand le cœur est muet. In Teutonic countries it is expressed somewhat more awkwardly. In Denmark people say: Kys med gevalt er æg uden salt (a kiss snatched by force is as an egg without salt); and in Germany still less elegantly: Ein aufgezwungener Kuss ist wie ein Hühneraug' am Fuss (like a corn on one's foot).

The question of kissing by main force can be treated not only from an ethical, but also from a juristic point of view. Holberg relates that in Naples the individual who kissed in the street a woman against her will was punished by not being allowed to approach within thirty miles distance of the spot where the outrage had taken place; and a German jurist wrote in the end of the eighteenth century, a minute and extremely solid treatise on the remedy that a woman has against a man who kisses her against her will (Von dem Rechte des Frauenzimmers gegen eine Mannperson, die es wider seinen Willen küsset). The author begins by classifying kisses; he distinguishes between lawful and unlawful kisses, and frames the following classification:—

Kisses are either

I.—Lawful,

A. As spiritual kisses.
B. As kisses of reconciliation and kisses of peace.
C. As customary kisses; partly,
a. By way of salutation.
1. At meeting.
2. On arrival.
3. At departure; partly,
b. As mark of courtesy.
c. In jest.
D. As kisses of respect.
E. As kisses on festive occasions.
F. As kisses of love:
α. Between married people.
β. Between such as are engaged to be married,
γ. Between parents and children.
δ. Between relations.
ε. Between intimate friends; or,

II.—Unlawful, when they are given—

A. Out of treachery or malice.
B. Out of lust.

After this particularly happy attempt to reduce kissing to a system, our jurist maintains the view that all depends on the person who kisses and the person who is kissed.

If, for instance, a peasant or a vulgar citizen takes such a liberty as to kiss a noble and high-born lady against her will, her claim against the aggressor ought to be far greater than it would be in the case of one of less ignoble descent; but, on the other hand, if Hans steals from his Greta "an informal, hearty, rustic kiss," and she complains to the authorities about it, there will scarcely be any grounds for litigation.

On the whole, says he, a kiss between individuals of the same position in society is not to be regarded as a tort, and he more closely defines how he arrives at this conception. It can only be actionable in the case of a party having some consciously unchaste intention when he kissed, or in the case of an osculum luxuriosum or libidinosum—in such cases only can a verdict be brought in of what, according to Roman law, is termed crimen osculationis, and in no other case can the wrong-doer be punished by fine or imprisonment, propter voluntatem perniciosæ libidinis. The punishment, however, should be proportioned in severity according to the rank of the injured party. In the case of a nun or a married woman it ought to be most severe; less severe if the lady be unmarried but betrothed, and mildest when she is neither married nor betrothed.

But if the unchaste intention cannot be distinctly proved, the woman has no grounds for complaining of any sort, and, in accordance with the procedure of the German courts, the kiss is to be considered innocent till the contrary is proved.

Our jurist thus takes a really liberal view in the case of a "kiss taken by force"; he may almost be said to regard it as eine grosse Kleinigheit (an unimportant trifle).

With regard to the question of a woman's right to defend herself in such cases, he is of opinion that she is justified in repulsing the insulter by a box on the ears, but only if the offence amounts to crimen osculationis, and this box on the ears may not be inflicted with "the fist of an Amazon," as, by such requital, she easily loses her right to take legal action in the matter. She must, above all, be careful that the box on the ears be not excessive (die Ohrfeige proportionirlich einzukleiden), as otherwise the man can bring an action against her; consequently the woman ought to use her right of self-defence with great caution.

Our jurist concludes with considerations of cases when the woman who has been kissed forfeits all claims, viz., when, for instance, by look or gestures she says, "I should like to see the man who would dare to kiss me," and, by such conduct, obviously exposes herself to the danger.

Holberg has also occupied himself with this question, and tells the following story in one of his epistles (No. 199):—

"Last week I was at a party where a curious incident happened. A person stole up to a lady and gave her a kiss unexpectedly. The Vestal virgin took this douceur in such ill part that, in her wrath, she gave him a sound box on the ears. He gave a start, and every one expected he was going to pay her back in the same coin; but, to show his respect for the fair sex, he made a low bow, and kissed the very hand that had but lately struck him. All present praised this act of courtesy, on his part." Holberg, on the contrary, does not commend the man's politeness; like the German jurist, he sees nothing wrong about a kiss—indeed, he even goes so far as to say that the young man ought to have given the maiden a box on the ears in return. This coarse way of looking at the subject from a bachelor's point of view is wittily defended in the following rather startling way:

"I candidly confess that if anything of the kind had happened to me I should have returned the good lady's salutation in the same way, and that not out of anger or desire of being revenged, but for the purpose of showing the courtesy with which one ought to treat a woman; for kissing the lady on the hand which has boxed his ears is equivalent to saying: 'As you are a feeble creature of no importance, and cannot hurt me, your act deserves ridicule rather than revenge or rage.' No sensible woman can be pleased with such a compliment, as there is nothing worse than being treated like a puppet; and I hope no maid or matron will take this opinion of mine in ill part, but will rather regard it as a proof of the justice I have always shown to women by always taking them seriously. A kiss is nothing but a salutation, and cannot be looked on as anything else. We are no longer living in the golden age, when a young lady almost fainted at hearing the word pronounced."

English ladies regard the matter from quite another point of view. In 1837 Mr Thomas Saverland brought an action against Miss Caroline Newton, who had bitten a piece out of his nose for his having tried to kiss her by way of a joke. The defendant was acquitted, and the judge laid it down that "when a man kisses a woman against her will she is fully entitled to bite his nose, if she so pleases."—"And eat it up, if she has a fancy that way," added a jocular barrister half aloud.

Let us next consider how the thing stands when it is apparently only a question of a kiss snatched by force—for it is, you know, a matter of general knowledge that a woman's "No" is not always to be taken seriously. The refusal may, you know, be merely feigned. The maiden's "No" is the swain's "Yes," Peder Syv teaches us, and Runeberg, who also understood women, says:—

Ev'ry girl is fond of kisses,
Though she may pretend to scorn them.

W. F. H.

If one is now convinced that the German proverb which says: Auf ein Weibes Zunge ist Nein nicht Nein (On a woman's tongue "no" is not "no"), what then? Well, but how the point is to be finally settled is not satisfactorily explained by the authorities within my reach; and this is the reason why I dare not pronounce an opinion on the question at issue. But I am convinced that the momentary difficulty will afford the man the necessary diplomatic qualities as well as the requisite tact. There is only one thing I can lay down for certain, viz., that if a man follows his natural simplicity and reserve, and takes the girl's feigned "No" seriously, she will only laugh at him afterwards—such, again, is woman's nature.

A well-known French chanson deals with a hunter who meets a young girl out in the forest. Struck by her beauty, he wants to kiss her:

And takes her by her white hand,
Intending to caress her;

W. F. H.

but she begins to cry, and, moved by her tears, he releases her; but he has hardly got clear of the wood before she begins to laugh at him heartily, and in derision shouts after him: "When you've got hold of a quail you ought to pluck it, and when you've got hold of a girl you ought to embrace her":

Quand vous teniez la caille,
Il fallait la plumer.
Quand vous teniez la fillette,
Il fallait l'embrasser.

I quote these verses, for they may possibly afford inexperienced young men some matter for reflection.

Besides, a woman's "No" has often a piquancy about it which lovers of a somewhat more refined class set great store by. Even Martial (v. 46) has expressed himself in favour of this in a little epigram which begins thus:

While ev'ry joy I scorn, but that I snatch;
And me thy furies more than features catch.

And Marot, who was likewise much skilled in "ars amandi" even begs his mistress not to give him her kisses readily:

Mouth of coral, rare and bright,
That in kissing seems to bite;
Longed-for mouth, I pray you this:
Feign deny me when you kiss.

W. F. H.

Dorat has also expressed himself in favour of such. "Promise me nine kisses," says he to his Thais, "give me eight, and let me struggle for the ninth."

The first eight kisses you accord
Will crown my love's felicity;
But I shall die in joy's reward
If for the ninth a struggle be.

W. F. H.

Even if the answer is not a decided negative, yet it can, you know, be couched in such equivocal words as to be tantamount to neither a permission nor a refusal. Many girls agree with the Swedish song:

But "yes" 's a word I will not say,
Nor will I either answer "nay."

W. F. H.

There is a saying in Jutland that runs thus: "Maren, may I kiss you?—Guess. You won't then, I suppose?—Guess once more? You will?—But how could you guess it then?" This tallies capitally with the following German saying: "Zwinge mich, so thu' ich keine Sünde," sagte das Mädchen ("Constrain me, so that I shall not commit sin," said the maiden). Naturally in this case, there can be no question of any crimen osculationis, for, as the jurists have it, volenti non fit injuria.

Let us finally examine all these kisses from an ethical standpoint. We have all of us, you know, learnt from our earliest childhood that—

He who kisses maidens hath
A very naughty habit;

W. F. H.

and popular belief adds, by way of warning, that it causes sores on the mouth. Ah, yes, that is certainly very true, but what becomes of our childish lore in the main when we attain to somewhat riper age? Now, only listen to the ballad about what happened in the case of the young Serb, in spite of all he had learnt:

Here, so people told us,
Dwells a youth industrious,
Who from ancient volumes
Late and early studies.

As for books they tell us:
Don't vault on the saddle,
Buckle not thy sword on,
Drink no wine that fuddles,
Never kiss a maiden.

But the young man harkens
Not to what they tell him:
Keenest sword he seizes,
Hottest wine he drinketh,
Fairest maids he kisses.

W. F. H.

When so learned a man as our Serb succumbs to the tempting kiss, what is to be said then about all the rest who are less instructed? And let us remember ere we sit in judgment on any one—and it ought to be regarded as peculiarly extenuating circumstances—that a woman's mouth is a direct incentive to kissing, that it is formed, as you know, for that purpose, asserts an old troubadour, and created to kiss and smile:—

And when I gazed upon her red mouth sweet,
To match whose charms not Jove himself were meet,
That mouth for laughter and for kisses framed,
I fell thereof so amorous straightway
That I lacked power to do aught or to say.

W. F. H.

The roguish mouth with the white teeth and the moist red, delicately-shaped lips say to every man who is not made of marble, "Kiss me, kiss me":

Her fresh mouth's playing
Seems ever saying
To kiss I am fain
Again, again.

W. F. H.

How human is Byron's wish that all women had but one mouth so that he might kiss them all at the same time:

That womankind had but one rosy mouth,
To kiss them all at once from north to south.

Runeberg has uttered a similar wish, and with a minute account of his reasons:

I gaze on a bevy of damsels,
I'm gazing and gazing incessant,
The fairest of all I'll be choosing,
And yet as to choice I'm uncertain;
For one has the brightest of bright eyes,
Another girl's cheeks are more rosy,
A third one's lips are the riper,
The fourth has a heart far more tender.
There isn't a single maid lacking
A something that captures my senses.
There isn't one there I'd say "no" to,
Oh, would I might kiss the whole bevy!

W. F. H.

Even an ecclesiastic such as Æneas Silvius Piccolomini, when wishing to describe how beautiful and fascinating a young girl was, writes that "no one could see her without being seized at once with a desire to kiss her." So as not to shock my readers, I may mention that he wrote this before he was made Pope and assumed the name of Pius II.

It ought now to be taken as proved that women—beautiful women—and kisses are of a piece. It is at the same time nature's ordinance, and we find it verified in all countries and in all ages. Odin himself says, you know, in Hávamál, where he instructs mortals in the wisdom of life:

Ships are for voyages,
And shields for ward,
Sword-blades to smite,
And maids to kiss.

W. F. H.

And the Greeks sing: "Wine belongs to chestnuts, honey to nuts, and kisses morning and night to young maids."

I am inclined to assume that women also agree with this view; certainly I have no positive enunciation to support my assumption, but I am able to quote a German proverb which most assuredly points in this direction: "Ich kann das Küssen nicht leiden," sagte das Mädchen, "wenn ich nicht dabei bin" ("I cannot bear kissing," said the maiden, "when I am not taking any part in it.")

Now if, in spite of all I have quoted, some rigid moralist or other will persist that kissing young maids is always a "bad" habit, and if, peradventure, a still sterner moralist will maintain it is a sin into the bargain, I should reply that, in any case, it is one of those sorts of sin that are venial. The Pope himself will not refuse his absolution, say the Italians, and they certainly ought to understand things in Rome. "Kiss me," runs an Italian folk-song, "the Pope will forgive you; kiss me and I will kiss you, and the Pope will forgive us both."

O bella figlia, o bella garzona,
Baciate me, chè il Papa vi perdona;
Baciate me, chè io bacerò vui,
Chè il Papa ci perdona tutti e dui.

If the Pope is so complaisant then, to be sure, a subordinate servant of the Church such as Aarestrup's Father Hugo may well say:

Child, a kiss is but a trifle,
If it's only long and sweet.

W. F. H.



  1. This and most of the following Servian ballads were translated by Prof. Nyrop into Danish from the German version of O. P. Ritto.
  2. From "Various Verses," 1893.
  3. He who a kiss has snatched and takes naught more,
    Deserves to lose the kiss he has in store,
    How much was lacking to my perfect bliss?
    Not modesty but clownishness was this.

    W. F. H.