Friday, 23 June 2006

Things we learn in time

As man advances through life, and begins to see things from a higher angle, then everything the world has agreed to call beauty loses much of its importance for him, as well as carnal pleasures and other trifles of that sort.

In the eyes of a clear-sighted and disillusioned man each season has its beauty, and it is not spring that is the most enchanting, nor winter the most evil. Henceforth beauty for him will not mean the promise of physical pleasure and happiness. It is Stendhal who says that beauty will henceforth be the form which promises the most kindliness, most loyalty in fulfilling one's side of the bargain, most honesty in keeping trust, most delicacy in intellectual perception. Ugliness will mean cruelty, avarice, falseness and stupidity. Many men do not know these things and only learn them later to their own cost. Just a few know them now, but each knows them for himself alone.

By what means would I ever make it clear to a young flibbertigibbet that the great attraction and sympathy I feel for ageing women, for those poor unfortunate creatures who have suffered much though their lovers, though their husbands, though their children and most of all through their own fault, are coupled with no sensual desire? If the notion of virtue and love is not mingled with our pleasures, then those pleasures will only become anguish and a source of remorse.

Beaudelaire

In similar vein, Coleridge:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles
Quietly shining to the quiet moon

1 comment:

  1. Giles9:38 am

    ..and Schiller who asserted that only good health was worth loving, for without it beauty could not be appreciated. The German expression for illness is 'Es fehlt mir etwas' — or 'I am lacking something'. What society lacks these days is the ability to live with reality as a whole and with it an appreciation of each moment's offering of beauty. In Phaedrus, Plato notes that one could not treat the body without also treating the soul. Knowledge about health, therefore, requires knowledge about the whole of being, not just knowledge about the body and its pleasures.


    I hope you re enjoying retirement and your new reality

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