O thou who passest thro’ our valleys in
Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat
That flames from their large nostrils! thou, O Summer,
Oft pitched’st here thy golden tent, and oft
Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld
With joy thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.
~ To Summer, William Blake
His own voice startled him awake, and in her inmate’s tunic, with her fiery hair spilling over her shoulders, he saw Sierva María discard the old carnation and place a bouquet of newly opened gardenias in the vase on his work table. Delaura, with Garcilaso, told her in an ardent voice: “For you was I born, for you do I have life, for you will I die, for you I am now dying.” Sierva María smiled without looking at him. He closed his eyes to be sure she was not an illusion of the shadows. When he opened them the vision had disappeared, but the library was saturated with the scent of her gardenias.
~ Of Love and Other Demons, Gabriel García Márquez
If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.
~ Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson
You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.
I look at you, I don’t see an intelligent, confident man. I see a cocky, scared, shitless kid.
But you’re a genius Will; no one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart.
You’re an orphan right? Do you think I’d know about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you?
Personally, I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what? I can’t learn anything from you I can’t read in some fucking book.
Unless you want to talk about you. Who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in.
But you don’t want to do that do you, sport? You’re terrified of what you might say.
Your move chief.
~ Sean Maguire [Robin Williams], Good Will Hunting [Movie, 1997]
We don’t read and write poetry because it is cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But Poetry, Beauty, Romance, Love! These are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman,
“O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish
— What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse”
What will your verse be?
~ Mr. John Keating [Robin Williams], Dead Poets Society [Movie, 1989]
It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown back, throat to the stars, ‘more like deer than human being.’ To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.
~ The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Beauty works true miracles. All mental shortcomings in a beautiful woman, rather than provoking disgust, become unusually attractive somehow: vice itself comes in the guise of prettiness. But if good looks disappear, then a woman needs to be twenty times cleverer than a man to inspire, if not love, then at least respect.
~ Nevsky Prospect, Nikolai Gogol