ACCORDING to Lord Byron, "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart; 'tis woman's whole existence;" and under a thousand images the poets of all ages have depicted her as a mysterious mixture of joy and sadness, of agony and delight. But the truth of the well-known apothegm cannot be denied, "'Tis love, 'tis love that makes the world go round," for:--
And men below and saints above;
For love is heaven, and heaven is love."
Love is ever true, and yet is ever lying;
Love does doat in liking, and is mad in loathing:
Love, indeed, is anything; yet, indeed, is nothing."
A kiss--where she doth kill."
He makes as though a crumb stuck in his throat."
As weel's in briken shaw;
And love will lowe in cottage low,
As weel's in lofty ha';"
Proverbial literature naturally has much to say on the power of a woman's love, and, according to a popular French adage, "Love subdues all but the ruffian's heart;" and history abounds in illustrations of this maxim, which under a variety of forms is found all over the world, one of the best-known versions being, "Love rules his kingdom without a sword."
And yet it is agreed that woman's love is only too frequently far from kind, for, as it was proverbially said by our forefathers, "Love is a sweet tyranny, because the lover endureth his torments willingly." The French have a proverb to the same effect: "He who has love in his heart has spurs in his sides," the chief reason for this being the anxiety of the fair sex to show their mastery over man; for, like St. Augustine, they have always been of opinion that "he that is not jealous is not in love." Hence a woman is fond of testing her lover's faith by kindling his jealousy, adhering to the time-honoured proverb, "There is no love without jealousy." On the other hand, we are told that "Love expels jealousy," and, according to an Italian belief, "It is better to have a husband without love than with jealousy," which calls to mind Iago's words ("Othello," act iii. sc. 3):--
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on."
Poison more deadly than a mad dog's tooth."
And yet, although French romance is full of the tortures which lovers have experienced from the fair sex, it is said:--
Ne valent pas tes peines,"
Again, woman's love when it "comes apace" is to be avoided as untrustworthy and likely as suddenly to wane; on which account it is commonly said, "Hasty love is iron hot and iron cold." In "Ralph Roister Doister," written about the year 1550, Christian Custance says: "Gay love, God save it! So soon hot, so soon cold." But the love which lasts is that recommended in one of Heywood's proverbs, "Love me little, love me long," which Hazlitt mentions as the title of an old ballad licensed to W. Griffith in 1569-1570.
Woman's love has ever been open to reproach as being fickle and unstable, and Southey, quoting the popular sentiment, says:--
The wind, the sunshine of an April day,
And woman's plighted faith;"
Flee love, and it will follow thee."
Are sweet for a season and last for a time."
But fickle and unstable as a woman's love probably may be, there is no gainsaying its power, and in China it is said of a woman who captivates a man, "With one smile she overthrows a city; with another a kingdom." According to the popular tradition this proverb originated in the following circumstance:--A certain lady named Hsi-Shih, the concubine of Fu Cha, King of the ancient State of Wu. She was eminently beautiful, and her beauty so captivated her lord that for her sake he neglected the affairs of his kingdom, which in consequence fell into disorder and ruin.
Whatever the value either of a woman's love or beauty, the folk-tales of most countries agree in one respect--the exacting conditions demanded of the suitor, as a price for gaining his heart's desire, although, under a variety of forms, the subjoined couplet is no doubt founded on the experience of womanhood:--
And if lads don't love, lasses will flite [scold]."
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