A lively discussion's underway over at Teach Me Tonight about the nature of love (here and here) in romance novels and elsewhere. Whenever I hear these discussions, I think of a line from James Thomson's The Seasons—"Perfect esteem enlivened by desire"—which Jean Hagstrum borrowed for the title and epigraph of a very good book a few year ago. The line comes from the "Spring" section of The Seasons, and although you can find the whole text on Google Books, I thought I'd post the immediate context here, for easier reference. (I've added the verse-paragraph breaks, to make the selection a bit easier to read.)
One thing I do notice: Hagstrum (and I, following) have always cut off the quotation at "enlivened by desire." In fact, there's an immediate adjective: "desire / Ineffable." What to make of that, I'll decide another time.
But happy they! the happiest of their kind !
Whom gentler stars unite, and in one fate,
Their hearts, their fortunes, and their beings blend,
'Tis not the coarser tie of human laws,
Unnatural oft, and foreign to the mind.
That binds their peace, but harmony itself
Attuning all their passions into love,
Where friendship still-exerts her softest power,
Perfect esteem enlivened by desire
Ineffable, and sympathy of soul;
Thought meeting thought, and will preventing will.
With boundless confidence : For nought but love
Can answer love, and render bliss secure.
Let him, ungenerous, who, alone intent
To bless himself, from sordid parents buys
The loathing virgin, in eternal care,
Well-merited, consume his nights and days ;
Let barbarous nations, whose inhuman love
Is wild desire, fierce as the suns they feel ;
Let Eastern tyrants from the light of Heaven
Seclude their bosom-slaves, meanly possessed
Of a mere, lifeless, violated form ;
While those whom love cements in holy faith.
And equal transport, free as Nature live,
Disdaining fear. What is the world to them?
Its pomp, its pleasure, and its nonsense all?
Who in each other clasp whatever fair
High fancy forms, and lavish hearts can wish;
Something than beauty dearer, should they look
Or on the mind, or mind-illumin'd face ;
Truth, goodness, honour, harmony, and love,
The richest bounty of indulgent Heaven.
Meantime a smiling offspring rises round
And mingles both their graces. By degrees
The human blossom blows ; and every day,
Soft as it rolls along, shews some new charm
The father's lustre, and the mother's bloom.
The infant reason grows apace, and calls
For the kind hand of an assiduous care.
Delightful talk ! to rear the tender thought.
To teach the young idea how to shoot,
To pour the fresh instruction o'er the mind,
To breathe th' enlivening spirit, and to fix
The generous purpose in the glowing breast.
Oh, speak the joy ! ye, whom the sudden tear
Surprizes often, while you look around,
And nothing strikes your eye but sights of bliss
All various Nature pressing on the heart ;
An elegant sufficiency, content,
Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books
Ease and alternate labour, useful life,
Progressive virtue, and approving Heaven.
These are the matchless joys of virtuous love ;
And thus their moments fly. The Seasons thus,
As ceaseless round a jarring world they roll,
Still find them happy; and consenting Spring
Sheds her own rosy garland on their heads :
Till evening comes at last, serene and mild ;
When after the long vernal day of life.
Enamour d more, as more remembrance swells
With many a proof of recollected love,
Together down they sink in social sleep ;
Together freed, their gentle spirits fly
To scenes where love and bliss immortal reign.