Foreword Preface to the New Edition

Over the past few years I have become increasingly fed up with the cheap pornography, public nudity, and four-letter words that assail us from every side. The press is filled with advertisements of books on how to be supremely sensuous, and my mail is flooded with announcements of illustrated manuals on the innumerable techniques of the sex act. The theater and the motion picture vie with each other in offering as art salacious plots and scenes that throw to the winds any and all sense of sexual restraint. The movies literally stop at nothing. And as my friend Katharine Hepburn says, "Americans are becoming a nation of voyeurs." At this point I am terribly bored with it all.
     I welcome much of the new freedom in sex that has resulted from modern methods of contraception and from the relaxation of puritanical restraints. But I believe that the sexual relation between male and female is being daily debased and treated as if the physical aspect, especially intercourse, were everything. The reaction against traditional sex ethics has gone too far, at least in the United States; the pendulum has swung from frustrating puritanism to pervasive obscenity and vulgarity. What I see and hear in the arts and media continually violates my standards of decency and affronts my sense of privacy.
     What we need today in sex relations is more of a sense for the aesthetic, so that a keen awareness of beauty is constantly combined with a healthy eroticism and sexuality. That invincible combination in sex love has inspired many of the finest poems ever written, and much of the best painting and sculpture. Eroto-aesthetic sensitivity, then, is the key to the happiest and highest form of love.
     In this book there are included reproductions of a sculpture by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and one by Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). Of modern sculptors, I believe that Rodin and Vigeland give the most effective expression to the eroto-aesthetic relation between the sexes. Rodin's sculptures in marble of nude couples make the fusion of love and beauty come marvelously alive. Bernard Champigneulle says about Rodin: "With him passion is so exalted that it purifies the audacity of his lovers. The lovers seem to offer up a sort of pagan prayer which ennobles their physical attitudes...."*
     At Oslo, Vigeland's vast complex of nude figures, hundreds in number, illustrates the Cycle of Life and merges sexuality with the aesthetic in a massive display that ranks as one of the great artistic achievements of the twentieth century. One can spend hours of artistic appreciation and inspiration wandering leisurely through Vigeland's Sculpture Park, in essence a large outdoor museum that has no counterpart in scope and quality in the entire world.
     I am publishing this sheaf of poems, originally written for family and friends, to celebrate the tenderness and beauty, the joy and passion, of love between a man and a woman. I try to make clear that love is likely to last only when the lovers share basic interests in addition to their feelings for each other. And in opposition to the cynics, misanthropes, and sophisticates of this era, I take my stand with the poets and affirm that enduring romantic love remains the greatest of experiences between man and woman.

*Rodin: His Sculpture, Drawings and Watercolors by Bernard Champigneulle. New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1967.


Copyright © 1972, 1983, 1994 by Corliss Lamont.
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Foreword Preface to the New Edition

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