The Fire of Love

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

“When the King of Babylon would have punished a courtier of his, for loving of a young lady of the royal blood, and far above his fortunes, Apollonius in presence by all means persuaded to let him alone; For to love and not enjoy was a most unspeakable torment, no tyrant could invent the like punishment; as a gnat at a candle, in a short space he would consume himself. For love is a perpetual flux, angor animi, [pain of the mind] a warfare, militat omni amans [every lover fights], a grievous wound is love still, and a lover’s heart is Cupid’s quiver, a consuming fire, accede ad hunc ignem [draw near to this fire] &c. an inextinguishable fire.

———alitur et crescit malum,
Et ardet intus, qualis Aetnaeo vapor
Exundat antro———

As Aetna rageth, so doth love, and more than Aetna or any material fire.

———Nam amor saepe Lypareo
Vulcano ardentiorem flammam incendere solet.

Vulcan’s flames are but smoke to this.

For fire, saith Xenophon, burns them alone that stand near it, or touch it; but this fire of love burneth and scorcheth afar off, and is more hot and vehement than any material fire: Ignin igne furitis , ’tis a fire in a fire, the quintessence of fire. For when Nero burnt Rome, as Calisto urgeth, he fired houses, consumed men’s bodies and goods; but this fire devours the soul itself, and one soul is worth a hundred thousand bodies. No water can quench this wild fire.”

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