So much about romance is paradoxical. We probe the mystery of the other, and yet we want that other, along with parts of ourselves, to remain mysterious. It's as if knowing imperils passion.
Consider this poem and this painting together: do they agree, do they contradict, or do they do both?
Womanisers by John Press (1920-2007)
Adulterers and customers of whores
And cunning takers of virginities
Caper from bed to bed, but not because
The flesh is pricked to infidielities.
The body is content with homely fare;
It is the avid, curious mind that craves
New pungent sauce and strips the larder bare,
The palate and not hunger that enslaves.
Don Juan never was a sensualist:
Scheming fresh triumphs, artful, wary, tense,
He took no pleaure in the breasts he kissed
But gorged his ravenous mind and starved each sense.
An itching, tainted intellectual pride
Goads the salt lecher till he has to know
Whether all women's eyes grow bright and wide,
All wives and whores and virgins shudder so.
Hunters of women burn to show their skill,
Yet when the panting quarry has been caught
Mere force of habit drives them to the kill:
The soft flesh is less savoury than their sport.
The Lovers by Rene Magritte, 1928. Click on the picture for a closer look.