Love at first sight is an emotional condition whereby a person feels romantic attraction for a stranger on the first encounter with the stranger. The term may be used to refer to a mere sexual attraction or crush, but it usually refers to actually falling in love with someone literally the very first time one sees him or her, along with the deep desire to have an intimate relationship with that person. The stranger may or may not be aware that the other person has any such notion, and may not even be aware of the other person's presence (such as in a crowded place). Sometimes two people experience this phenomenon towards each other at the same time, usually when their eyes meet. See also love.
In the classical world, the phenomenon of "love at first sight" was understood within the context of a more general conception of passionate love, a kind of madness or, as the Greeks put it, theia mania ("madness from the gods"). This love passion was described through an elaborate metaphoric and mythological psychological schema involving "love's arrows" or "love darts", the source of which was often given as the mythological Eros or Cupid,, sometimes by other mythological deities (such as Rumor). At times, the source of the arrows was said to be the image of the beautiful love object itself. If these arrows were to arrive at the lover's eyes, they would then travel to and 'pierce' and 'wound' his or her heart and overwhelm him/her with desire and longing (love sickness). The image of the "arrow's wound" was sometimes used to create oxymorons and rhetorical antithesis concerning its pleasure and pain.
"Love at first sight" was explained as a sudden and immediate beguiling of the lover through the action of these processes. "Love at first sight" occurs in numerous Greek and Roman works. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Narcissus becomes immediately spellbound and charmed by his own (unbeknownst to him) image. In Achilles Tatius's Leucippe and Clitophon, the lover Clitophon describes his own experience of the phenomenon thusly: "As soon as I had seen her, I was lost. For Beauty's wound is sharper than any weapon's, and it runs through the eyes down to the soul. It is through the eye that love's wound passes, and I now became a prey to a host of emotions..." "Love at first sight" was not, however, the only mode of entering into passionate love in classical texts; at times the passion could occur after the initial meeting or could precede the first glimpse.
Another classical interpretation of the phenomenon of "love at first sight" could be found in Plato's Symposium in Aristophanes' description of the separation of primitive double-creatures into modern men and women and their subsequent search for their missing half: "... when [a lover] ... is fortunate enough to meet his other half, they are both so intoxicated with affection, with friendship, and with love, that they cannot bear to let each other out of sight for a single instant."
The classical conception of love's arrows were elaborated upon by the Provenšal troubadour poets of southern France in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and became part of the European courtly love tradition. In particular, a glimpse of the woman's eyes was said to be the source of the love dart. In some medieval texts, the gaze of a beautiful woman is compared to the sight of a basilisk.
These images of the lover's eyes, the arrows and the ravages of "love at first sight" continued to be circulated and elaborated upon in the Renaissance and Baroque literature and pictorial imagery. Boccaccio for example, in his Il Filostrato mixes the tradition of love at first sight, the eye's darts and the metaphor of Cupid's arrow.: "Nor did he (Troilus) who was so wise shortly before... perceive that Love with his darts dwelt within the rays of those lovely eyes... nor notice the arrow that sped to his heart."
Other works of fiction which use these tropes include:
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