You know, beloved, as the whole world knows, how much I have lost in you, how at one wretched stroke of fortune that supreme act of flagrant treachery robbed me of my very self in robbing me of you; and how my sorrow for my loss is nothing compared with what I feel for the manner in which I lost you.Heloise, in a letter to Abelard.
Canst thou forget that sad, that solemn day,Alexander Pope, from Eloisa to Abelard.
When victims at yon altar's foot we lay?Canst thou forget what tears that moment fell,When, warm in youth, I bade the world farewell?As with cold lips I kiss'd the sacred veil,The shrines all trembl'd, and the lamps grew pale:Heav'n scarce believ'd the conquest it survey'd,And saints with wonder heard the vows I made.Yet then, to those dread altars as I drew,Not on the Cross my eyes were fix'd, but you:Not grace, or zeal, love only was my call,And if I lose thy love, I lose my all.
Images, from top to bottom:
Robert Bateman: Heloise and Abelard, 1879:
Dated 1879, the picture has traditionally been said to represent Heloise and Abelard, but it cannot be identified with any of Bateman's otherwise recorded works ... However, the picture is replete with symbols that seem to confirm the traditional identification of the subject ... the significance of the Roman numerals inscribed on the sundial has so far proved elusive, but the presence of the stone figure of Cupid underlines the amorous relationship between the two protagonists, while a host of other symbols point to themes that are central to the tragic story of Heloise and Abelard, notably redemption and the conflict between spiritual and carnal love. They include the Horacian injunction 'carpe diem' (redeem the day) inscribed on the sundial; the wilting sunflower (the vanity of earthly glory?), the dog (faithfulness and self-sacrifice?), the birds and butterfly (the soul and its search for spiritual fulfilment?), the apples (carnal passion and knowledge?), the rose-bush (love, both physical and spiritual?), and the discarded flute (source of heavenly music but also a spent phallus?).Pierre Abailard: The love letters of Abelard and Heloise translated from the original Latin and now reprinted from the edition of 1722 together with a brief account of their lives and work. Originally published 1903 by Bobbs-Merrill.