Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mystery and Passion

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.


DUTA said...

1. The painting makes me smile bitterly as it reminds me of Hamas terrorists hiding their faces with a piece of cloth.

2. I agree with the underlying idea of the poem that curiosity rather than "the soft flesh" is behind most infidelities. However, this doesn't make infidelity right and acceptable.

3. In fact, infidelity instantly kills all romance and passion in a relationship - even if the two involved in it go on living together .

4. The only connection I see between the painting (The Lovers by Renee Magritte) and the poem (Womenisers by John Press) is this:

Perhaps the two lovers wish to retain their mystery and not disclose their faces, because they don't trust each other; they feel the sword of possible infidelity hanging above their heads.

DUTA said...

Your post is very thought -provoking; I wish to add a few words to my previous comment.

I'm confused by the painting's caption( The Lovers),as what I see in the picture is not lovers but how certain terrorists look today.

Anyway, the mystery about this couple with covered heads and faces is not, I think, the same mystery which (together with passion) is an integral part of Romance.

The womeniser in the poem seeks no mystery. He is more interested in the conquest of women and in other people's recognition of his abilities to conquer and subdue them.

He might (in spite of his reputation as a womaniser) find out in the end that he knows very little about women and romance, and that these two matters are, and will probably remain a big Mystery to him, partly because of his superficial treatment of them.

TallTchr said...

Duta, I'm glad this post has piqued your interest. I just have a few observations to make. First, the cloths over their faces serve two purposes: masks and blindfolds. Each can hide parts of themselves while overlooking parts of the other. Indeed, it's not even clear whether each knows the other is enwrapped. The artist says this is necessary--remember, Cupid is blind--for love to happen. It also enables them to retreat into private fantasies when they make love--infidelities of the mind.

The poem complements this notion by saying that womanisers are compelled by their intellects rather than their hormones. "The body is content with homely fare;/It is the avid, curious mind that craves/New pungent sauce..." In other words, they must find out what is behind the mask. You may disagree with this, but note that the poet also thinks they are not true sensualists and actually miss the best parts of love and sex.

Be careful of projecting about adultery or, for that matter, terrorism. Actually, some have speculated that Magritte's inspiration was the suicide of his mother, who was dragged from the river with her dress covering her face. Even if so, the theme he presents on the canvas is quite different.