Sunday, 30 March 2014

Marriage and Divorce

G.K. Chesterton had quite a lot to say on the subject of marriage and divorce. The quotes below are mainly from The Superstition of Divorce which was written in 1920. The others are from The Hebdomadal Chesterton which is a wonderful place to visit if you like Chesterton.

Of all human institutions marriage is the only one which most depends upon slow development, upon patience, upon long reaches of times, upon magnanimous compromise, upon kindly habit.

...marriage itself is an act of freedom and responsibility; and the desertion of it is the desertion of one’s self; and is always at least humiliating. Even if divorce is not a sin, it is most certainly a disgrace. It is not like the breaking of a chain, which has been forcibly imposed upon a slave. It is like the breaking of a sword, that has been deliberately taken up and deliberately dishonoured by a traitor.


As a child of divorced parents his words on disgrace made sense. In Chesterton's day divorce carried a  greater stigma than it does today, but for a child the sense of disgrace is caused by rejection. 'If my mum and dad really loved me they would have stayed together.' The repercussions of  breaking the sword have a ripple effect and they are not something that a child would necessarily articulate or understand.

I may be misunderstood if I say, for brevity, that marriage is an affair of honour. The skeptic will be delighted to assent, by saying it is a fight.  And so it is, if only with oneself; but the point here is that it necessarily has the touch of the heroic, in which virtue can be translated by virtus. Now about fighting, in its nature, there is an implied infinity or at least a potential infinity. I mean that loyalty in war is loyalty in defeat or even disgrace; it is due to the flag precisely at the moment when the flag nearly falls.

Marriage is honourable
It requires heroism at times.

Heroic: altruistic, determined, dauntless, brave, courageous but desperate.

In a medical sense a heroic procedure is one which may endanger the patient if it's performed. There's a chance it will  be successful but if it's not done the patient will probably die. Heroic effort and desperate action are honourable responses whatever the outcome might be in the end.

Virtus was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strengths (from Latin vir, "man"). It was thus a frequently stated virtue of Roman emperors, and was personified as a deity. (Wikipedia)

The dictionary definition states that Virtus comes from the root Vireo and implies strength from straining, stretching, extending.



4 comments:

  1. Yes, and as a child of divorce, I agree. Lovely post!

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  2. As a child of divorce, I agree! As a former naval officer who has taken up the sword with a former naval officer, I love the analogy of the sword. I think the hardships we face in marriage leave marks that beautify the sword or break it. I'm so thankful to God that our sword has become more beautiful.

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  3. The analogy of the sword reminds me of this poem by Edward Rowland Sill - one man saw it as blunt and useless but the other saw it as an opportunity:

    This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:--
    There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
    And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
    A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
    Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
    Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
    A craven hung along the battle's edge,
    And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel--
    That blue blade that the king's son bears, -- but this
    Blunt thing--!" he snapped and flung it from his hand,
    And lowering crept away and left the field.
    Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
    And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
    Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
    And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
    Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
    And saved a great cause that heroic day.

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