**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Beautiful
by [?]

“from the mind itself must issue forth
A light, a glory, a fair luminous mist,
Enveloping the earth.”

The real difficulty of these lifelong hunters after the beautiful exists in their own spirits. They set up certain models of perfection in their imaginations, and then go about the world in the vain expectation of finding them actually wrought out according to pattern; very unreasonably calculating that Nature will suspend her everlasting laws for the purpose of creating faultless prodigies for their especial gratification.

The authors of Gayeties and Gravities give it as their opinion that no object of sight is regarded by us as a simple disconnected form, but that–an instantaneous reflection as to its history, purpose, or associations converts it into a concrete one,–a process, they shrewdly remark, which no thinking being can prevent, and which can only be avoided by the unmeaning and stolid stare of “a goose on the common or a cow on the green.” The senses and the faculties of the understanding are so blended with and dependent upon each other that not one of them can exercise its office alone and without the modification of some extrinsic interference or suggestion. Grateful or unpleasant associations cluster around all which sense takes cognizance of; the beauty which we discern in an external object is often but the reflection of our own minds.

What is beauty, after all? Ask the lover who kneels in homage to one who has no attractions for others. The cold onlooker wonders that he can call that unclassic combination of features and that awkward form beautiful. Yet so it is. He sees, like Desdemona, her “visage in her mind,” or her affections. A light from within shines through the external uncomeliness,–softens, irradiates, and glorifies it. That which to others seems commonplace and unworthy of note is to him, in the words of Spenser,–

“A sweet, attractive kind of grace;
A full assurance given by looks;
Continual comfort in a face;
The lineaments of Gospel books.”

“Handsome is that handsome does,–hold up your heads, girls!” was the language of Primrose in the play when addressing her daughters. The worthy matron was right. Would that all my female readers who are sorrowing foolishly because they are not in all respects like Dubufe’s Eve, or that statue of the Venus “which enchants the world,” could be persuaded to listen to her. What is good looking, as Horace Smith remarks, but looking good? Be good, be womanly, be gentle,–generous in your sympathies, heedful of the well-being of all around you; and, my word for it, you will not lack kind words of admiration. Loving and pleasant associations will gather about you. Never mind the ugly reflection which your glass may give you. That mirror has no heart. But quite another picture is yours on the retina of human sympathy. There the beauty of holiness, of purity, of that inward grace which passeth show, rests over it, softening and mellowing its features just as the full calm moonlight melts those of a rough landscape into harmonious loveliness. “Hold up your heads, girls!” I repeat after Primrose. Why should you not? Every mother’s daughter of you can be beautiful. You can envelop yourselves in an atmosphere of moral and intellectual beauty, through which your otherwise plain faces will look forth like those of angels. Beautiful to Ledyard, stiffening in the cold of a northern winter, seemed the diminutive, smokestained women of Lapland, who wrapped him in their furs and ministered to his necessities with kindness and gentle words of compassion. Lovely to the homesick heart of Park seemed the dark maids of Sego, as they sung their low and simple song of welcome beside his bed, and sought to comfort the white stranger, who had “no mother to bring him milk and no wife to grind him corn.” Oh, talk as we may of beauty as a thing to be chiselled from marble or wrought out on canvas, speculate as we may upon its colors and outlines, what is it but an intellectual abstraction, after all? The heart feels a beauty of another kind; looking through the outward environment, it discovers a deeper and more real loveliness.