From Aesthetic Realism Seminar of
April 19, 200l, given by Aesthetic
Realism Consultants Chaim Koppelman, Ernest DeFilippis, & Bennett
Wife Stands for the World
In Mind and Husbands
Mr. Siegel says:
We marry people, and a
person happens to have
millions of blood cells and hundreds of aspects. We marry complete
in miniature of the flourishing universe. We don’t marry consolations.
We can see an illustration of
this great idea in a poem
I care for very much. I learned of it in the Aesthetic Realism
of Poetry class, taught by Ellen Reiss. It is The Angel in the
by the nineteenth-century English poet Coventry Patmore. This long poem
composed of many short poems was published in parts between 1854 and
and Patmore dedicated it to his first wife, Emily Andrews.
He describes the meeting,
courtship, wedding, and
marriage of a man and woman. Clearly, the husband stands for the
himself, and throughout there is a desire, ever so thoughtful and
to see who this woman is and be worthy of her love both before and
after marriage. He wants, he says, to "always seek the best for her /
unofficious tenderness." That is good will, and he sees it as the same
as love for her and taking care of himself.
In a poetry class titled "Can
Men and Women Understand
Each Other in Poetry and Out?" Ellen Reiss discussed "The Married
one of the poems in this collection. Its first line is: "Why, having
her, do I woo?" Said Ms. Reiss:
It is a good poem and it
says something very
important. It is about the fact that he has this woman, who is his
has her in every way, including body—and yet he feels still there's
he has to keep pursuing which he'll never have. . . . And the large
is, he's happy about it.
The first four lines are:
"There’s something in the way she
sees the world," said
Ms. Reiss, "that makes him feel he has to keep trying to find out about
it." These lines are against a husband’s smugness and complacency—that
feeling, Now that I’ve won her she’s mine and I can see her any way I
having won her, do I woo?
Because her spirit’s vestal grace
Provokes me always to pursue,
But, spirit-like, eludes embrace.
Patmore feels that there is
something so large in
his wife it cannot be embraced, that even as he touches her there will
always be a sense of awe. He writes:
"‘Mean familiarness,’" explained
Ellen Reiss, "is a
Victorian way of saying contempt." And she asked, "Can you have touch
not have ‘mean familiarness’? It is a question agonizing men and women
all over America right now." I’m tremendously thankful to be seeing
Maureen how sex can make for respect and pride.
|. . .
yet so near a touch
Affirms no mean familiarness.
There Are Touch and Respect
On the subject of touch and
respect—I comment on
a stanza I love from an early part of The Angel in the House. It
a mistake husbands make: not seeing their wives as a oneness of mind
body, and seeing sex as in a separate world, unrelated to anything
The first two lines are about
sex. There is a feeling
of intimacy and width, of passion, as he carries her across the
and then—"happy hour!" But the feeling in the last two lines is
with that happening and has, if anything, even greater release and
it’s about their seeing the outside world together: "But, ah, the walk
that afternoon / We saw the water-flags in flower!"
my bride, beneath the moon,
Across my threshold; happy hour!
But, ah, the walk that afternoon
We saw the water-flags in flower!
I respect Coventry Patmore,
and he has had me love
and value Aesthetic Realism more. "The Married Lover" ends this way:
Ms. Reiss explained that Patmore
is saying: "I’m close
to her—I’m not in the outer court anymore—but I do not own her; ‘She’s
not and never can be mine.’" She said of the poem: "It’s a rather
way of seeing, and it’s pretty unusual. And Aesthetic Realism can have
it be in people’s lives."
though free of the outer court
I am, this Temple keeps its shrine
Sacred to Heaven; because, in
She’s not and never can be mine.
This is the joy and kindness
men and women are yearning
I conclude with sentences
David Gerard wrote in a
am so grateful to be married, and in the
midst of learning what it means to have good will for another person. I
state flatly, this would not be possible had I not been soundly
as every man needs to be and deeply wants to be, through the Aesthetic
Realism of Eli Siegel.
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