The Confessions of Saint Augustine HTML version

Book III
To Carthage I came, where there sang all around me in my ears a cauldron of unholy
loves. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love, and out of a deep-seated want, I hated myself
for wanting not. I sought what I might love, in love with loving, and safety I hated, and a
way without snares. For within me was a famine of that inward food, Thyself, my God;
yet, through that famine I was not hungered; but was without all longing for incorruptible
sustenance, not because filled therewith, but the more empty, the more I loathed it. For
this cause my soul was sickly and full of sores, it miserably cast itself forth, desiring to be
scraped by the touch of objects of sense. Yet if these had not a soul, they would not be
objects of love. To love then, and to be beloved, was sweet to me; but more, when I
obtained to enjoy the person I loved, I defiled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the
filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the hell of lustfulness; and
thus foul and unseemly, I would fain, through exceeding vanity, be fine and courtly. I fell
headlong then into the love wherein I longed to be ensnared. My God, my Mercy, with
how much gall didst Thou out of Thy great goodness besprinkle for me that sweetness?
For I was both beloved, and secretly arrived at the bond of enjoying; and was with joy
fettered with sorrow-bringing bonds, that I might be scourged with the iron burning rods
of jealousy, and suspicions, and fears, and angers, and quarrels.
Stage-plays also carried me away, full of images of my miseries, and of fuel to my fire.
Why is it, that man desires to be made sad, beholding doleful and tragical things, which
yet himself would no means suffer? yet he desires as a spectator to feel sorrow at them,
this very sorrow is his pleasure. What is this but a miserable madness? for a man is the
more affected with these actions, the less free he is from such affections. Howsoever,
when he suffers in his own person, it uses to be styled misery: when he compassionates
others, then it is mercy. But what sort of compassion is this for feigned and scenical
passions? for the auditor is not called on to relieve, but only to grieve: and he applauds
the actor of these fictions the more, the more he grieves. And if the calamities of those
persons (whether of old times, or mere fiction) be so acted, that the spectator is not
moved to tears, he goes away disgusted and criticising; but if he be moved to passion, he
stays intent, and weeps for joy.
Are griefs then too loved? Verily all desire joy. Or whereas no man likes to be miserable,
is he yet pleased to be merciful? which because it cannot be without passion, for this
reason alone are passions loved? This also springs from that vein of friendship. But
whither goes that vein? whither flows it? wherefore runs it into that torrent of pitch
bubbling forth those monstrous tides of foul lustfulness, into which it is wilfully changed
and transformed, being of its own will precipitated and corrupted from its heavenly
clearness? Shall compassion then be put away? by no means. Be griefs then sometimes
loved. But beware of uncleanness, O my soul, under the guardianship of my God, the
God of our fathers, who is to be praised and exalted above all for ever, beware of
uncleanness. For I have not now ceased to pity; but then in the theatres I rejoiced with
lovers when they wickedly enjoyed one another, although this was imaginary only in the
play. And when they lost one another, as if very compassionate, I sorrowed with them,