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    AC Benus
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The Great Mirror of Same-Sex Love - Prose - 31. Oliver Goldsmith "on how friends should love"

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from Friendship, an essay

 

It is certain, the best method to cultivate this virtue is by letting it, in some measure, make itself; a similitude of minds or studies, and even sometimes a diversity of pursuits, will produce all the pleasures that arise from it. The current of tenderness widens as it proceeds; and two men imperceptibly find their hearts filled with good nature for each other, when they were at first only in pursuit of mirth or relaxation.

Friendship is like a debt of honor; the moment it is talked of, it loses its real name [of love], and assumes the more ungrateful form of obligation. [...]

I shall add one more [example], taken from a Greek writer of antiquity: Two Jewish soldiers, in the time of Vespasian, had made many campaigns together, and a participation of danger at length bred a union of hearts. They were remarked through the whole army, as the two friendly brothers; they felt and fought for each other.*

Their friendship might have continued, without interruption, till death, had not the good fortune of the one alarmed the pride of the other, which was in his promotion to be a centurion under the famous John, who headed a particular part of the Jewish malcontents. From this moment, their former love was converted into the most inveterate enmity. They attached themselves to opposite factions, and sought each other's lives in the conflict of adverse party. In this manner they continued for more than two years, vowing mutual revenge, and animated with an unconquerable spirit of aversion. At length, however, that party of the Jews, to which the mean soldier belonged, joining with the Romans, it became victorious, and drove John, with all his adherents, into the Temple. History has given us more than one picture of the dreadful conflagration of that superb edifice. The Roman soldiers were gathered round it; the whole temple was in flames; and thousands were seen amidst them, within its sacred circuit. It was in this situation of things, that the now-successful soldier saw his former friend, upon the battlements of the highest tower, looking round with horror, and just ready to be consumed with flames. All his former tenderness now returned; he saw the man of his bosom just going to perish; and unable to withstand the impulse, he ran, spreading his arms, and cried out to his friend to leap down from the top, and find safety with him. The centurion from above heard and obeyed; and casting himself from the top of the tower into his fellow-soldier's arms, both fell a sacrifice on the spot; one being crushed to death by the weight of his companion, and the other dashed to pieces by the greatness of his fall.

—Oliver Goldsmith,[i]

circa1765

 

 

 


* Brother (frater, in Latin) is the most common designation of the partners in a same-sex union. This term is the same from cultures as diverse as ancient India, to Egypt, Greece, Israel, China, Japan, the mesoamericas, etc., etc.

[i] “from Friendship, an essay” Oliver Goldsmith [posthumously published in] Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure (London, April 1774), ps. 171-172

https://search.proquest.com/openview/9623387bf3d1f4f1/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=6777

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Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
  • Love 2

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And no stone was left upon another, all was thrown down. Yet in this ruin was left spirit of these two brothers, these two men who loved more than they could hate. Goldsmith tells us an excellent tale, a real parable for those of us with ears to hear it. 

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On 11/18/2021 at 1:21 PM, Parker Owens said:

And no stone was left upon another, all was thrown down. Yet in this ruin was left spirit of these two brothers, these two men who loved more than they could hate. Goldsmith tells us an excellent tale, a real parable for those of us with ears to hear it. 

Thank you, Parker. I have another gem from Goldsmith, and now that we have read about how same-sex love was portrayed in ancient novels, his story will fit in beautifully! 

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