Marriage, my young friends, is an iniquitous arrangement
devised by the Devil himself for driving all the love out of the hearts
of lovers. They start out as much in love with each other as you two are
today, and they end by being as sick of the sight of each other as you two
will be five years hence if I don't find a way of saving you alive out of
the Devil's own trap. It's not lack of love that's the trouble with marriage--it's
marriage itself. And when I say marriage, I don't mean promising to love,
honour, and obey, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health till
death do you part--that's only human nature to wish and to attempt. And
it might be done if it weren't for the iniquitous arrangement of marriage.
Ah, that's the trouble! You'll go ahead and try it out, and find out what
all the unhappy ones have found out before you. Listen to me, children.
Did you ever go on a picnic? Of course you have. Every one has. There is
an instinct in us which makes us go back to the ways of our savage ancestors--to
gather about a fire in the forest, to cook meat on a pointed stick, and
eat it with our fingers. But how many books would you write, young man,
if you had to go back to the campfire every day for your lunch? And how
many new dances would you invent if you lived eternally in the picnic stage
of civilization? No! the picnic is incompatible with everyday living. As
incompatible as marriage. Marriage is the nest-building instinct, turned
by the Devil himself into an institution to hold the human soul in chains.
The whole story of marriage is told in the old riddle: "Why do birds
in their nests agree? Because if they don't, they'll fall out." That's
it. Marriage is a nest so small that there is no room in it for disagreement.
Now it may be all right for birds to agree, but human beings are not built
that way. They disagree, and home becomes a little hell. Or else they do
agree, at the expense of the soul's freedom stifled in one or both. Yet
there is the nest-building instinct. You feel it, both of you. If you don't
now, you will as soon as you are married. If you are fools, you will try
to live all your lives in a love-nest; and you will imprison your souls
within it, and the Devil will laugh. If you are wise, you will build yourselves
a little nest secretly in the woods, away from civilization, and you will
run away together to that nest whenever you are in the mood. A nest so small
that it will hold only two beings and one thought--the thought of love.
And then you will come back refreshed to civilization, where every soul
is different from every other soul--you will let each other alone, forget
each other, and do your own work in peace. Do you understand? You think
you want a fellow student of economics. You are wrong. You think you want
a dancing partner. You are mistaken. You want a revelation of the glory
of the universe. A kiss is always the first kiss and the last--or it is
Credits: Reprinted from King Arthur's Socks and Other Village Plays.
Floyd Dell. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1922.
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