The Dove's Necklace
[Ibn Hazm: 994 – 1064]
Ibn Hazm wrote The Dove’s Necklace in 1022, before he was thirty. In the short selection that follows he speaks of the signs of love and the ways that people fall in love. Love in Hazm’s culture was bound by class, as in its pure form (adab) the practice of love was something that was to be slowly cultivated. Love has certain signs which the intelligent man quickly detects and the shrewd man readily recognizes. Of these the first is the brooding gaze: the eye is the wide gateway of the soul, the scrutinizer of its secrets, conveying its most private thoughts and giving expression to its deepest-hid feelings. You will see the lover gazing at the beloved unblinkingly; his eyes follow the loved one’s every movement, withdrawing as she withdraws, inclining as she inclines, just as the chameleon’s stare shifts with the shifting of the sun. The lover will direct his conversation to the beloved even when he purports, however earnestly, to address another: the affection is apparent to anyone with eyes to see. When the loved one speaks, the lover listens with rapt attention to every word; he marvels at everything the beloved says however extraordinary the words may be. The lover hurries to the spot where the beloved is at the moment, attempting to sit as near as possible, slides up close to the beloved, lays aside all distractions that might take him away from the beloved, and is slow to leave when he must. . . . Other signs of love are that sudden confusion and excitement betrayed by the lover when he unexpectedly sees the one he loves coming near him unexpectedly . . .
Other outward signs of love, apparent to all who have eyes, are the following: abundant cheerfulness at finding oneself with the beloved in a narrow space, and a corresponding depression on being together in a wide expanse; to engage in a playful tug of war for anything the one or the other lays hold of; much secretive winking; leaning sideways and supporting oneself against the object of one’s affection; endeavoring to touch the beloved’s hand or any other part of the body he can reach while the two are engaged in conversation; and drinking the remainder of what the beloved has left in the cup, seeking out the very spot where the lips were pressed. . . . Lovers are very quickly reconciled. You will see a pair of lovers seeming to have reached the extreme limit of contrariety, to the point where you would never expect them to be reconciled; yet in next to no time you will observe them to have become again the best of friends; silenced are those mutual reproaches, vanished is that disharmony; soon they are laughing again and playfully sporting together. Another sign of love is when you find the lover almost begging to hear the loved one’s name pronounced, taking an extreme delight in speaking about the beloved. . . . Another sign of love is that you will see the lover loving his beloved’s kith and kin and al those of the household, to the extent that they are nearer and dearer to him than his own folk and friends. One of the strangest origins of passion is when a man falls in love through merely hearing the description of the other party, without ever having set eyes on the beloved. In such a case he will progress through all the accustomed stages of love; there will be the sending to and fro of messengers, the exchange of letters, the anxiety, the deep emotion, the sleeplessness; and all this without actual sight of the object of affection. Stories, descriptions of beautiful qualities, and the reporting of news about the fair one have a noticeable effect on the soul; to hear a girl’s voice singing behind a wall may well move the heart to love, and preoccupy the mind.
In my opinion, however, such a love is a crumbling building without any foundation. In this case, he will represent to himself a purely imaginary picture of the other. Then if some day he actually sees the object of his passion, either his love is confirmed or it is fully nullified. Often it happens that love fastens itself to the heart as a result of a single glance. This variety of love is divided into two classes. The first class is the contrary of what we have just been describing, in that a man will fall head over heels in love with a mere form, without knowing who she may be, what her name is, or where she lives. The second class is when a man forms an attachment at first sight with a young lady whose name, place of abode and origin are known to him. When a man falls in love at first sight, however, and forms a sudden attachment as the result of a fleeting glance, that proves him to be less than steadfast, and proclaims that he will suddenly forget his romantic adventure; it testifies to his fickleness and inconstancy. So it is with all things: the quicker they grow, the quicker they decay; while in contrast what is produced slowly is slowly consumed. I indeed marvel profoundly at all those who pretend to fall in love at first sight; I prefer to consider such love as a kind of lust. As for thinking that this sort of attachment can really possess the inmost heart and penetrate the veil of the soul, I can give no credit to this. Love has never truly gripped my soul, except after a long lapse of time and constant companionship with the person concerned. Thus I have never forgotten any romance. I have tested all types of pleasures and known every variety of joy; and I have found that neither intimacy with princes, nor acquired wealth, nor finding after lacking, nor returning after long absence, nor security after fear–none of these things so powerfully affects the soul as union with the beloved, especially after long denial and continual banishment. For then the flame of passion grows extremely hot, and the furnace of yearning blazes up, and the fire of eager hope rages ever more fiercely. The fresh springing of herbs after a the rains, the glitter of flowers when the night clouds have rolled away in the hushed hour between dawn and sunrise, the splash of water on golden blossoms, the exquisite beauty of white castles encompassed by green meadows–not lovelier is any of these than union with the well-beloved, whose character is virtuous, whose disposition is praiseworthy, and whose attributes are evenly matched with perfect beauty. Truly that is a miracle of wonder surpassing all eloquence.