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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 - 49. Edward Carpenter “The unconquerable force of these unions”

.

“And as to the loves of Hercules, it is difficult

to record them because of their number. But some

who think that Ioläus was one of them, do to this

day worship and honor him; and make their

loved ones swear fidelity at his tomb.”

—Plutarch,[i]

circa 95 BC

 

 

Kupffer; Kitir; Rückert; and Platen:

A selection from “Ioläus”

 

Elisar von Kupffer, in the introduction to his Anthology, from which I have already quoted a few extracts, speaks at some length on the great ethical and political significance of a loving comradeship. He says:

 

“In open linkage and attachment to each other ought youth to rejoice in youth. In attachment to another one loses the habit of thinking only of self. In the love and tender care and instruction that the youth receives from his lover, he learns from boyhood up to recognize the good of self-sacrifice and devotion; and in the love which he shows, whether in the smaller or the greater offerings of an intimate friendship, he accustoms himself to self-sacrifice of another. In this way the young man is early nurtured into a member of the Community – to a useful member and not one who has self and only self in mind. And how much closer thus does unit grow to unit, till, indeed the whole comes to feel itself whole! . . . […]

Indeed, the unconquerable force of these unions has already been practically shown, as in the Sacred Band of the Thebans who fought to its bitter end the battle of Leuctra; and, psychologically speaking, the explanation is most natural; for where one person feels himself united, body and soul to another, it is natural that he should put forth all his powers in order to help the other, in order to manifest his love for him in every way. If any one cannot or will not perceive this, we may indeed well doubt either the intellect of his head or the morality of his heart.”

 

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

 

Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866), Professor of Oriental Literature in Berlin, wrote verses in memory of his friend Joseph Kopp:

 

“How shall I know myself without thee,

Who knew myself as part of thee?

I only know one half is vanished,

And half alone is left, to me.

Never again my proper mind

I’ll know; for thee I’ll never find.

 

Never again, out there in space,

I’ll find thee; but here, deep within.

I see, though not in dreams, thy face;

My waking eyes thy presence win,

And all my thought and posey

Are but my offering to thee. […]

 

My Jonathan, now hast thou fled,

And I to weep thy loss remain;

If David’s harp might grace my hands

O might it help to ease my pain!

My friend, my Joseph, true of faith,

In life so loved – in death so missed.”

 

And the following [lines] are by Joseph Kitir, an Austrian poet:

 

“Not where breathing roses bless

The night, or summer airs caress;

Not in Nature’s sacred grove;

No, but at a tap-room table,

Sitting in the window-gable

Did we plight our troth of love.

 

No fair lime tree’s roofing shade

By the spring wind gently swayed

Formed for us a bower of bliss;

No, stormbound, but love-intent,

There against the damp wall bent

We two bartered kiss for kiss.

 

Therefore shalt thou, Love so rare

(Child of storms and wintry air),

Not like Spring’s sweet fragrance fade.

Even in sorrow thou shalt flourish,

Frost shall not make thee afraid,

And in storms thou shalt not perish.”

 

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

 

Count August von Platen (born at Ansbach in Bavaria, 1796) was in respect of style one of the most finished and perfect of German poets. His nature (which was refined and self-controlled) led him from the first to form the most romantic attachments with men. He freely and openly expressed his feelings in his verses; of which a great number are love-poems addressed to his friends. They include a series of twenty-six to Karl Theodor German [styled by Platen as “C. T. G.”]. Of these, Raffalovich says (Uranisme, Lyons, 1896, p. 351):

 

“These sonnets to Karl Theodor German are among the most beautiful in German literature. Platen, in the sonnet, surpasses all the German poets, including even Goethe. In them, perfection of form and poignancy – or wealth of emotions – are illustrated to perfection. The sentiment is similar to that of the sonnets of Shakespeare (with their personal note), and the form [follows] that of the Italian or French sonnet.”

 

Platen, however, was unfortunate in his affairs of the heart, and there is a refrain of suffering in his poems which comes out characteristically in the following sonnet:

 

“Since pain is life and life is only pain,

Why he can feel what I have felt before,

Who seeing joy sees it again no more

The instant he attempts his joy to gain;

 

Who, caught as in a labyrinth unaware

The outlet from it never more can find;

Whom love seems only for this end to bind –

In order to hand over to Despair;

 

Who prays each dizzy lightning-flash to end him,

Each star to reel his thread of life away

With the torments which his heart are rending;

 

And envies even the dead their pillows of clay,

Where Love no more their foolish brains can steal.

He who knows this, knows me, and what I feel.”

 

One of Platen’s sonnets deals with an incident, referred to in an earlier page, namely, the death of the poet Pindar in the theatre, in the arms of his younger lover Theoxenos:

 

“Oh! when I die, would I might fade away

Like the pale stars, swiftly and silently;

Would that death’s messenger might come to me,

As once it came to Pindar – so they say.

 

Not that I would in Life, or in my Verse,

With him, the great Incomparable, compare;

Only his Death, my friend, I ask to share:

But let me now the gracious tale rehearse.

 

Long at play, hearing sweet Harmony,

He sat; and wearied out at last, had lain

His cheek upon his dear one’s comely knee.

 

Then when it died away – the choral strain –

He who thus cushioned him said: Wake and come!

But to the Gods above he had gone home.”

—Edward Carpenter,[iii]

1925

 

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] “And as to the loves of Hercules” Plutarch; this quote forms the epigraph to Carpenter’s 1902 anthology of same-sex love throughout history and around the world. I note with dismay, reprints of this compendium almost invariably omit the epigraph. Why? Because with it in place, the collection obviously becomes instantly about love between men, and therefore refutes the plausible deniability having the word “Friendship” affords in the book’s title.

[ii]Kupffer; Kitir; Rückert; and Platen” Edward Carpenter Ioläus: An Anthology of Friendship (New York 1935), ps. 149-158. All translations are presumably Carpenter’s, who was fluent in German, even having peer-reviewed papers published in scholarly journals in that country.

André Raffalovich, who is quoted above, was a very important man of Gay belle-lettres, and he became friend and mentor to numerous important artists of the Community, ranging from Henry James to Aubrey Beardsley. A selection of correspondence between Raffalovich and Beardsley can be found in The Love of Friends [Constance Jones / Val Clark, Editors] (New York 1997).

 

_

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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