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Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:
The Confessions: Chapter VI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VI.—His Friend Being Snatched Away by Death, He Imagines that He Remains Only as Half.

11. But why do I speak of these things? For this is not the time to question, but rather to confess unto Thee. Miserable I was, and miserable is every soul fettered by the friendship of perishable things—he is torn to pieces when he loses them, and then is sensible of the misery which he had before ever he lost them. Thus was it at that time with me; I wept most bitterly, and found rest in bitterness. Thus was I miserable, and that life of misery I accounted dearer than my friend. For though I would willingly have changed it, yet I was even more unwilling to lose it than him; yea, I knew not whether I was willing to lose it even for him, as is handed down to us (if not an invention) of Pylades and Orestes, that they would gladly have died one for another, or both together, it being worse than death to them not to live together. But there had sprung up in me some kind of feeling, too, contrary to this, for both exceedingly wearisome was it to me to live, and dreadful to die, I suppose, the more I loved him, so much the more did I hate and fear, as a most cruel enemy, that death which had robbed me of him; and I imagined it would suddenly annihilate all men, as it had power over him. Thus, I remember, it was with me. Behold my heart, O my God! Behold and look into me, for I remember it well, O my Hope! who cleansest me from the uncleanness of such affections, directing mine eyes towards Thee, and plucking my feet out of the net. 293 For I was astonished that other mortals lived, since he whom I loved, as if he would never die, was dead; and I wondered still more that I, who was to him a second self, could live when he was dead. Well did one say of his friend, “Thou half of my soul,” 294 for I felt that my soul and his soul were but one soul in two bodies; 295 and, consequently, my life was a horror to me, because I would not live in half. And therefore, perchance, was I afraid to die, lest he should die wholly 296 whom I had so greatly loved.



Ps. 25.15.


Horace, Carm. i. ode 3.


Ovid, Trist. iv. eleg. iv. 72.


Augustin’s reference to this passage in his Retractations is quoted at the beginning of the book. He might have gone further than to describe his words here as declamatio levis, since the conclusion is not logical.

Next: Chapter VII

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