chapter  4
The Banquet of Sense
Pages 32

Translated to literature, and contaminated with the Renaissance myth of the Christianized Hercules, with help from St. Augustine in the discrimination between Christian and pagan Heroic Virtue, the theme of total temptation assumes the form given it by Marvell, and the defeat of sensual temptation is related to that of the Choice of Hercules. The rejection of Pleasure may take other forms (as, for example, the refusal to drink of Circe's cup, which is equivalent to choosing Heroic Virtue, whereas to drink of it is to fall into bestiality, called the opposite of Heroic Virtue in Aristotle's seminal chapter, Nicomachean Ethics, VII. i). But Marvell chooses to open with a Banquet of Sense, properly rejected. The senses are treated in ascending order; from Taste and Touch, which operate only in direct contact with the object of sense; to Smell, which is a kind of mean between these and the higher senses, and to Sight and Hearing, the highest, which operate at a distance without contact. Then he proceeds to treat the other parts of the total temptation, until with its final temptation of forbidden learning rejected, the Soul completes its imitation of Christ.