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together before the sexual act (Ploss and Bartels, _Das Weib_,
Bd. i, Ch. XVII). The civilized man, however, has come to regard
his stomach as the most important of his organs, and he utters
his conventional grace, not before love, but only before food.
Even the degraded ritual vestiges of the religious recognition of
coitus are difficult to find in Europe. We may perhaps detect it
among the Spaniards, with their tenacious instinct for ritual, in
the solemn etiquette with which, in the seventeenth century, it
was customary, according to Madame d'Aulnoy, for the King to
enter the bedchamber of the Queen: "He has on his slippers, his
black mantle over his shoulder, his shield on one arm, a bottle
hanging by a cord over the other arm (this bottle is not to drink
from, but for a quite opposite purpose, which you will guess).
With all this the King must also have his great sword in one hand
and a dark lantern in the other. In this way he must enter,
alone, the Queen's chamber" (Madame d'Aulnoy, _Relation du Voyage
d'Espagne_, 1692, vol. iii, p. 221).
In discussing the art of love it is necessary to give a primary place to
the central fact of coitus, on account of the ignorance that widely
prevails concerning it, and the unfortunate prejudices which in their
fungous broods flourish in the noisome obscurity around it. The traditions
of the Christian Church, which overspread the whole of Europe, and set up
for worship a Divine Virgin and her Divine Son, both of whom it
elaborately disengaged from personal contact with sexuality effectually
crushed any attempt to find a sacred and avowable ideal in married love.
Even the Church's own efforts to elevate matrimony were negatived by its
own ideals. That influence depresses our civilization even to-day. When
Walt Whitman wrote his "Children of Adam" he was giving imperfect
expression to conceptions of the religious nature of sexual love which
have existed wholesomely and naturally in all parts of the world, but had
not yet penetrated the darkness of Christendom where they still seemed
strange and new, if not terrible. And the refusal to recognize the
solemnity of sex had involved the placing of a pall of blackness and
disrepute on the supreme sexual act itself. It was shut out from the
sunshine and excluded from the sphere of worship.
The sexual act is important from the point of view of erotic art, not only
from the ignorance and prejudices which surround it, but also because it
has a real value even in regard to the psychic side of married life.
"These organs," according to the oft-quoted saying of the old French
physician, Ambrose Pare, "make peace in the household." How this comes
about we see illustrated from time to time in Pepys's Diary. At the same
time, it is scarcely necessary to say, after all that has gone before,
that this ancient source of domestic peace tends to be indefinitely
complicated by the infinite variety in erotic needs, which become ever
more pronounced with the growth of civilization.
The art of love is, indeed, only beginning with the establishment of
sexual intercourse. In the adjustment of that relationship all the forces
of nature are so strongly engaged that under completely favorable
conditions--which indeed very rarely occur in our civilization--the
knowledge of the art and a possible skill in its exercise come almost of
themselves. The real test of the artist in love is in the skill to carry
it beyond the period when the interests of nature, having been really or
seemingly secured, begin to slacken. The whole art of love, it has been
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