Medieval Obscenity
The Confessions of
St. Augustine

It is a fit paradox that, before attacking the temptations of the senses in Confessiones 10, Augustine used radiant and over-wrought imagery of the spiritual senses in his famous apostrophe to God, "sero te amavi: "You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put flight to my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours."
Augustine's youth was overgrown with pullulating vegetable matter and brambles, but his description of his own visible pubescence is coy. One will never be quite sure what he did in church during Mass, and possible homosexuality in his friendships was only hinted at. He laments past transgressions but provides no details. Did he fear to name sins too explicitly or recall them too vividly? Obscenity could lurk in the memory too and, perhaps especially in autobiographical texts, we encounter the sinful silences of the soul.

--- From "Latin Literature,
Christianity and Obscenity
Danulsa Shanzer
Medieval Obscenities
Nicola McDonald, Editor
©2006 York University Press
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