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Teaching Cupid to Read - Overview

...Symbols, Emblems, Impresses, Devices, if we shall believe Jovius, Contiles, Paradine, Camillus de Camillis, may be ascribed to... [Love]: most of our Arts and Sciences; painting amongst the rest, was first invented, saith Patritius, for love's sake...Apollo was the first inventor of Physic, Divination, Oracles; Minerva found out weaving, Vulcan curious Ironwork, Mercury letters, but who prompted all this into their heads? Love.

So Robert Burton reports in The Anatomy of Melancholy, a seventeenth-century work rich in references to love. Sir Kenneth Clark drew from it for a memorable passage in one of his essays in the series on Civilization. "O Cupid, Prince of Gods and Men!" It was a line sung by Perseus in Euripides' Andromeda. Those who heard the first performance in Abdera were captivated by the song. "O Cupid, Prince of Gods and Men!" People sang it everywhere, in houses and on street corners. Then as now, Cupid's unbridled, undiscriminating potency has been a source of rapture for poets; then as now, a source of consternation for philosophers and others who have yearned for an orderly, harmonious society.

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Last modified on December 10, 2010.