Delivered on Queen Elizabeth I birthday,
September 4, 1592
"Conference of Pleasure"
Gray's Inn Law School, London
"My praise shall be dedicated to the happiest state of the mind, to the noblest affection. I shall teach lovers to love, that have all this while loved by rote. I shall give them the Alphabet of Love.
Let no man fear the yoke of fortune that's in the yoke of love. What fortune can be such a Hercules as shall be able to overcome two?
Assuredly no person ever saw at any time the mind of another in love. Love is the only passion that opens the heart. If not the highest, it is the sweetest affection of all others.
When one forseeth withal that to his many griefs cannot be added solitude, but that he shall have a partner to bear them, this quieteth the mind.
Consider again the delight of concurrence in desire without emulation. If two be but set at a game they love, or labor together in some one work or invention, mark how well pleased, how well disposed, how contented they be. So then, if minds are sharpened against minds, as iron is against iron, in every action, what shall we think of that union and conjunction of minds which love worketh? What vigor what alacrity must it give!
It is noted that absolute idleness and leisure, when the mind is altogether without object, is but languishing and weariness. How precious then is love, which is the sweetest repose from travails and affairs, and the sweetest employment in leisure and idleness!
The virtues are moderators, they are the laws of the mind; they retain the mind, they limit it; they are as the mill when it is set upon a rich stone; here it grindeth out a race and there a grain, to make it wear more fair; but in the meantime the stone loseth carats. So with the virtues; they polish the mind; they make it without blemish; they give it excellent form, but commonly they diminish its natural vigor.
Love contrariwise is a pure gain and advancement in nature ; not a good by comparison, but a true good; not an ease of pain, but a true good; not an ease of pain, but a true purchase of pleasures; and therefore, when our minds are soundest, when they are not, as it were, in sickness and out of taste, but when we be in prosperity, when we want nothing, then is the season, and the opportunity, and the spring of love.
Therefore, if all delight of sense affect love; if the understanding be tributary to love; if love offereth the sweetest contentment to him that desireth to rule, the comfortablest promise to him that looketh into his fortune, the surest hope to him that seekest to survive himself, the most flattering glass to him that loveth to view himself with advantage, the greatest union of mind to him that desireth the most refreshing repose from action, the most acceptable entertainment to him that would offer the most pleasing object to the most imprinting sense, let us make our suit to love, that gathereth the beams of so many pleasures into a flame in the soul of man."
The following is from The Advancement of Learning :
"Love is called the bond of Perfection, because it comprehendeth and fasteneth all virtues together. If a man's mind be truly enkindled with love, his character will be improved by this passion more than it can be by all the principles of morality combined. The angels, aspiring to be like God in power, transgressed and fell; man, aspiring to be like God in knowledge, transgressed and fell; but, by aspiring to be like God in goodness or love, neither man nor angel ever transgressed or shall transgress.
Love is a better teacher for human life than a left handed sophist; for with all the latter's laborious rules and precepts he cannot form a man so dexterously, nor with that facility to prize and govern himself in all things, so love can do. "
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