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    AC Benus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The Great Mirror of Same-Sex Love - Prose - 35. Augustine “Better than that phantasm of God”

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Augustine “Better than that phantasm of God”

on the death of his partner at age nineteen

 

In those years, when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native town, I had acquired a very dear friend, from association in our studies, of my own age, and, like myself, just rising up into the flower of youth. He had grown up with me from childhood, and we had been both classmates and playmates. But he was not then my friend, nor, indeed, afterwards, as true friendship is; for true it is not but in such as You bind together, cleaving unto You by that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. But yet it was too sweet, being ripened by the fervor of similar studies. For, from the true faith (which he, as a youth, had not soundly and thoroughly become master of), I had turned him aside towards those superstitious and pernicious fables which my mother mourned in me. With me this man's mind now erred, nor could my soul exist without him. But behold, You were close behind Your fugitives – at once God of vengeance and Fountain of mercies, who turnest us to Yourself by wondrous means. You removed that man from this life when he had scarce completed one whole year of my friendship,[i] sweet to me above all the sweetness of that my life.

Who can show forth all Your praise which he has experienced in himself alone? What was it that Thou did then, O my God, and how unsearchable are the depths of Your judgments! For when, sore sick of a fever, he long lay unconscious in a death-sweat, and all despaired of his recovery, he was baptized without his knowledge; myself meanwhile little caring, presuming that his soul would retain rather what it had imbibed from me, than what was done to his unconscious body. Far different, however, was it, for he was revived and restored. Straightway, as soon as I could talk to him (which I could as soon as he was able, for I never left him, and we hung too much upon each other), I attempted to jest with him, as if he also would jest with me at that baptism which he had received when mind and senses were in abeyance, but had now learned that he had received. But he shuddered at me, as if I were his enemy; and, with a remarkable and unexpected freedom, admonished me, if I desired to continue his friend, to desist from speaking to him in such a way. I, confounded and confused, concealed all my emotions, till he should get well, and his health be strong enough to allow me to deal with him as I wished. But he was withdrawn from my frenzy, that with You he might be preserved for my comfort. A few days after, during my absence, he had a return of the fever, and died.

At this sorrow, my heart was utterly darkened, and whatever I looked upon was death. My native country was a torture to me, and my father's house a wondrous unhappiness; and whatsoever I had participated in with him, wanting him, turned into a frightful torture. My eyes sought him everywhere, but he was not granted them; and I hated all places because he was not in them; nor could they now say to me, Behold; he is coming, as they did when he was alive and absent. I became a great puzzle to myself, and asked my soul why she was so sad, and why she so exceedingly disquieted me; but she knew not what to answer me. And if I said, Hope in God, she very properly obeyed me not; because that most dear friend whom she had lost was, being man, both truer and better than that phantasm she was bid to hope in. Naught but tears were sweet to me, and they succeeded my friend in the dearest of my affections.

—Augustine,[ii]

373

 

 

[William Watts]

 

 

 

 


[i] “one whole year of my friendship [cum vix explevisset annum in amicitia mea]” Augustine means one year after the young men had become partners, or as he relays, closer than friends.

[ii] “Better than that phantasm of God” Augustine, from Book IV, Verses 7-9, Confessions [W.H.D. Rouse, Editor of William Watts’ 1631 translation] (London 1912), ps. 157-161

https://archive.org/details/staugustinesconf01augu/page/156/mode/2up

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Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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I might point out that most of the modern translations of this section are dishonest, and try to deny the Latin text's clarity of feeling. It's sad that for Gay-related work, one must seek purity from pre-homophobic times. Like Watt's adherence to the original text, Burnaby's 1694 translation of Petronius' Satyricon is STILL the most accurate in portraying the depth of love between the central male couple in the novel. How sad is that  

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Augustine and his latter day translators  - and those who used his writings for their own purposes - have quite a lot to answer for, I fear. Not a peep of this passage did I hear about in my Catholic high schooling. Yet it makes the formidable saint far more human to me translated thus. I’m grateful you posted this. 

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36 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

Augustine and his latter day translators  - and those who used his writings for their own purposes - have quite a lot to answer for, I fear. Not a peep of this passage did I hear about in my Catholic high schooling. Yet it makes the formidable saint far more human to me translated thus. I’m grateful you posted this. 

Hmmm...time for a Motet based on this text...? Imagine the impact a musical setting would have... There'd be not a dry eye in church

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