Back then, I had no grave moral objections to that sort of thing. I was a fairly traditional Christian (albeit an Episcopalian), so I couldn’t actually approve. But I was also a romantic – or, more properly, a romanticist. I idolized men of deep, brooding passion: Yeats, Beethoven, Rossetti. The hundreds of fragile, passionate loves that burned hot for a week or day or hour were only more beautiful because they were fleeting.
Yeats’s muse, Maude Gonne, once told the poet that she couldn’t return his love without destroying his genius. No doubt she was right. The romanticist doesn’t have the stamina for true romance. He’s the new, bright flame that can’t catch on the oak-log, and so demands more and more kindling.
Auden, the great anti-romantic, caught a glimpse of this:
The greater the love, the more false to its object,
Not to be born is the best for man;
After the kiss comes the impulse to throttle,
Break the embraces, dance while you can.
The poem is called “Death’s Echo,” and so often this is what these episodes seem to be: a flight from despair into base pleasure and hollow sentiment.
I’m a Catholic now, and a romantic instead of a romanticist. I take seriously the warning of Our Lady of Fatima that “More souls go to Hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” We assume she’s warning against sexual incontinence, and she certainly is. We often take sex too lightly. But there’s another, more recent temptation, which may be even more harmful: taking sex too seriously.
[Read more at The Catholic Thing]