PART VII: EXCUSES FOR KISSING, OR NOT
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXCUSES FOR KISSING; HOW ALL NATURE JUSTIFIES THE PRACTICE
THE CHILDISH AND THE HUMOROUS EXCUSE, KISSING CASUISTRY
THE GLUTTONY OF KISSING, UNACCOUNTABLE OSCULATORY DEMANDS
EXCUSES FOR NOT KISSING, KISSING EXPERIENCES
DOMINIE OF BROWN’S FIRST KISS, THE KISS OF THE SPANISH GIRL
THE NURSE, THE MOTHER, A CURIOUS GERMAN CUSTOM.
EXCUSES FOR KISSING
It must be remembered that the only animal that knows how to kiss is man. Dogs lick their masters and bears their ragged cubs; cats their kittens, while donkeys and the Sami rub their noses; cows and horses fondle each other’s necks and heads; love-birds, pigeons, and other birds, nestle together and have methods of their own of showing affection peculiar to each; but none of these creatures kiss. Even low-class savages do not kiss like other men; so that we may take this habit to be an evidence of intellect and civilization.
HOW ALL NATURE JUSTIFIES THE PRACTICE
Various excuses have been made for kissing. Shelley of Sussex draws his excuses from Dame Nature herself:
See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
What are all these kissings worth
If thou kiss not me?
A poet of later days has carried out the same conceit in very happy fashion:
The lilies kiss the waves they love,
The ripples kiss the flowers;
The swallows sweep from heaven above,
To kiss this world of ours;
The foaming billows kiss the beach,
In wild, ungentle fashion;
The weeping willows earthward reach
T’ enjoy the darling passion;
The ivy kisses from its birth,
All other things dismissing;
And all things loveliest on earth
Seem most engaged in kissing.
As this by all is seen and heard
And known to be most true, love,
’Twere quite unnatural and absurd
That I should not kiss you, love.
THE CHILDISH EXCUSE
There is a poem about a father lying beside his little child, Daisy, as she is being put to bed, and asking the foolish question that wife and lover ask over and over again:
There, close at her side,
“Do you love me?” I cried;
She lifted her golden-crowned head,
A puzzled surprise
Shone in her gray eyes—
“Why, that’s why I kiss you,” she said.
THE HUMOROUS EXCUSE
A humorous excuse was that given by the defendant in a case of breach of promise. The defendant was allowed to say a word in his own behalf. “Yes,” he said, “I kissed her almost continually every evening I called at her house.” Lawyer for plaintiff: “Then you confess it?” Defendant: “Yes, I do confess it, but I had to do it.” Lawyer: “You had to do it! What do you mean?” Defendant: “That was the only way I could keep her from singing.”
The casuistry of kissing has been set forth in these lines:
When Sarah Jane, the moral Miss,
Declares ’tis very wrong to kiss,
I’ll bet a shilling I see through it!
The damsel, fairly understood,
Feels just as any Christian should,
She’d rather suffer wrong than do it.
THE GLUTTONY OF KISSING
There is a certain gluttony of kissing of which many examples might be given. There was once a jovial vicar who was such a glutton for kisses, that when he obtained the wished-for kiss, far from being satisfied he asked for a score; and
Then to that twenty add a hundred more,
A thousand to that hundred; so kiss on
To make that thousand up to a million;
Treble that million, and when that is done,
Let’s kiss afresh, as when we first begun.
There is a proverb which says: “When gorse is out of blossom, kissing is out of favor;” and gorse blossoms always, year in and year out. This matter of countless kisses has been the theme of many a poet. Catullus averred that though his crop of kissing were thicker than the dry ears of the wheat-field, he would not have enough. Another ancient poet starts off with a thousand kisses, adds a hundred thousand, repeats the process (in rhyme, of course) twice, and urges that he and his sweetheart shall purposely confuse their memories as to the number and begin all over again. Another poet wants kisses equal in number as the grains of sand on the seashore, as the stars in the heavens.
Kisses told by hundreds o’er,
Thousands told by thousands more,
Millions, countless millions, then,
Told by millions o’er again;
Countless as the drops that glide
In the ocean’s billowy tide,
Countless as yon orbs of light
Spangled o’er the vault of night,
I’ll with ceaseless love bestow
On those cheeks of crimson glow,
On those lips so gently swelling,
On those eyes such fond tales telling.
The poet exclaims that love was never satisfied with numbers, and argues that no one would dream of counting each blade of grass, each ear of ripening grain, or to a scanty hundred would confine the clustering bunches of grapes. Who would ask for a thousand bees and no more, or regulate the number of rain-drops that should fall on some parched pasture-land? One of our modern poets, John of Saxony, has expressed this ancient desire, and from much of our modern poetry we should imagine the sentiment was still in favor:
Give me kisses—do not stay
Counting in that careful way;
All the coins your lips can print
Never will exhaust the mint.
Kiss me, then,
Every moment—and again.
UNACCOUNTABLE OSCULATORY DEMANDS
Old Ben of Jonston said that it would be his wish that he might die kissing, and it is said so grave a philosopher as John of Ruskin once invited a young lady to kiss him—“not sometimes, but continually.”
A young lady hearing of a girl having been made crazy by a sudden kiss, called the attention of her uncle, who was in the room, to that singular occurrence, whereupon the old gentleman gruffly demanded what the fool had gone crazy for. “What did she go crazy for?” archly asked the ingenuous maiden; “why, for more, I suppose.”
And, in rhyme, we have the same sentiment:
“Of all the poets, darling one,
Who’ve rhapsodized of love,
Which one evokes your ardent praise
All other bards above?”
And as he took her in his arms
And kissed her o’er and o’er,
She spoke, in tones of ecstasy,
“O Tommy, give me Moore!”
EXCUSES FOR NOT KISSING
Some curious excuses are recorded for not kissing. In a certain church the young people were in the habit of playing games whose forfeits were kisses, but a pious old deacon was much troubled about it; he said he was not opposed to kissing if they did not kiss with “an appetite.” A woman in trying to express her contempt for a certain female friend, said: “If I was a man I would no more kiss such a woman than I would kiss a pair of tongs that had been left out overnight in a snow-bank.”
Kissing experiences vary. A country damsel, describing her first kiss, told her female friend that she never knew how it happened, but the last thing she remembered was a sensation of fighting for her breath in a hot-house full of violets, with the ventilation choked by blush-roses and two lips.
A Wessex man relates his experience, “Talk about kissing! Go away! I have kissed in the North, I have kissed in the South; I have repeated the soul-stirring operation East and West; I have kissed in York and away down in Westminster; I have kissed at London and at the Wales Gate, in fact, in every Borough in the Union; in every language and according to the manners and customs of every nation. I have kissed on the Thames and all its tributaries; but, young man, for good sound kissing, give me a full-fledged Sami reindeer girl. When you feel the pegs drawn right through the soles of your feet, from your boots, that’s kissing, that is.”
We read of a king’s kiss that “fell like a flame,” sending through every vein love’s joy and pain. And William of Southwark speaks of two lovers whose lips were “four red roses on a stalk, and in their simple beauty kissed each other.” The fact is, that a young lady’s first love-kiss has the same effect on her as being struck by lightning; it’s a great shock, but it’s soon over.
My Julia from the latticed grove
Brought me a sweet bouquet of posies,
And asked, as round my neck she clung,
If pansies I preferred to roses?
“I cannot tell, sweet girl,” I sighed,
“But kiss me, ere I see the posies.”
She did. “Oh! I prefer,” I cried,
“Thy two-lips to a dozen roses.”
DOMINIE OF BROWN’S FIRST KISS
Almost everyone has heard of the first kiss given by Dominie of Brown to his sweetheart Janet, after a courtship of seven years. One evening, as they sat together in the customary solemn silence, Dominie summoned courage and said: “We have been acquainted now for seven years, and I’ve ne’er gotten a kiss yet. D’ye think I might tak’ wan, my bonnie girl?”
“Just as you like, John, only be becoming wi’ it.”
“Surely, Janet, we’ll ask a blessing. For what we are about to receive, Lord make us truly thankful.”
The kiss was taken, and the worthy divine, overpowered by the blissful sensation, rapturously exclaimed: “Oh! Janet, it is gude. We’ll return thanks.” Six months afterwards they were married.
THE KISS OF THE SPANISH GIRL
There is a poetic account of the kiss of that black-eyed Spanish girl who first kisses with her glances, practicing for the coming encounter:
Then she kisses with her eyelids,
Kisses with her arching eye-brows,
With her soft cheek softly rubbing,
With her chin, and hands, and fingers.
All the frame of Manuela,
All her blood and all her spirit,
All melt down to burning kisses,
All she feeds on is their sweet honey.
And there is what may be called the apropos experience, equally interesting:
She took my coat—I’m rather tall—
And she is not so very;
The steps led upward from the hall,
She stood, the little fairy,
Just balanced on the second stair,
My great-coat’s burden holding;
And then her hands, the kindest pair,
The collar down were folding.
There never was an eye so clear,
Nor lips so red in moving;
“Just tall enough now, ain’t I, dear?
See how I’ve grown from loving!”
Just tall enough! from eye to eye
Ran horizontal light;
Just tall enough to—let me try—
Yes, tall enough—good-night.
And there is another kind of good-night kiss. A certain swain, after having escorted his sweetheart to and from an Angleland forfeit party, where the poor girl, the belle of the evening, had been kissed, as he expressed it, “slobbered over by all, and sundry,” of course kissed her good-night at the gate. He declared in that one chaste salute he could discriminate seven distinct and separate flavors, viz., onions, brandy, peppermint, lager-ale, checkerberry, musk, and camphor.
With some of us a kiss is our earliest recollection:
I recollect a nurse called Ann,
Who carried me about the grass;
And one fine day a nice young man
Came up and kissed the pretty lass.
She did not make the least objection.
Thinks I, “Ah,
When I can talk, I’ll tell mamma.”
And that’s my earliest recollection.
A CURIOUS GERMAN CUSTOM.
In that old-fashioned youthful game, “Kiss in the Ring,” a favorite maneuver of some of the boys was to keep out of a place in the ring till they had kissed all the pretty girls in succession. Those who grow up with the same fondness for osculatory attentions would probably like the custom in some parts of Germany, which requires a young man who is engaged to a girl, to salute, upon making his adieu for the evening, the whole of the family, beginning with the mother. Thus, in a family circle embracing half-a-dozen girls, each having a lover, no less than forty-eight kisses would have to be given on the occasion of a united meeting; and when we consider that each lover would give his own sweetheart ten times as many kisses as he gave her sisters, the grand total would outnumber a hundred.
We must not omit the mother’s kiss. Her good-bye kiss has been the charm which has kept many a schoolboy in the right path when he has got free from home influences. Tom Brown, en route for play, made a bargain with his father, before starting, that he was not to be subjected to the indignity of a paternal kiss; not so, however, with his mother, whose last kiss all the racket of public school life could never efface from his memory. Benjamin of Wessex, the artist, once said: “A kiss from my mother made me a painter.”