Beauty and the Beast

In an earlier post, “Beauty will save the World,”  I highlighted the last section of the poem by Czeslaw Milosz called One More Day. Milosz lived through the horrors of attrocities in 20th cent. Europe. He draws attention to the reality of moral absolutes built in by God. In light of the current raw evils that seem to  flood over us, I find the whole poem timely and poignant.

One More Day

Comprehension of good and evil is given in the running of the blood.
In a child’s nestling close to its mother, she is security and warmth,
In night fears when we are small, in dread of the beast’s fangs and in the terror of dark rooms,
In youthful infatuations where childhood delight find completion.
 
And should we discredit the idea for its modest origins?
Or should we say plainly that good is on the side of the living
And evil on the side of a doom that lurks to devour us?
Yes, good is an ally of being and the mirror of evil is nothing,
Good is brightness, evil darkness, good high, evil low,
According to the nature of our bodies, of our language.
 
The same could be said of beauty. It should not exist.
There is not only no reason for it, but an argument against.
Yet undoubtedly it is, and is different from ugliness.
 
The voices of birds outside the window when they greet the morning
And iridescent stripes of light blazing on the floor,
Or the horizon with a wavy line where the peach-colored sky and the dark-blue mountain meet.
Or the architecture of a tree, the slimness of a column crowned with green.
 
All that, hasn’t it been invoked for centuries
As mystery which, in one instant, will be suddenly revealed?
And the old artist thinks that all his life he has only trained his hand.
One more day and he will enter the core as one enters a flower.
 
And though the good is weak, beauty is very strong.
Nonbeing sprawls, everywhere it turns into ash whole expanses of being,
It masquerades in shapes and colors that imitate existence
And no one would know it, if they did not know that it was ugly.
 
And when people cease to believe that there is good and evil
Only beauty will call to them and save them
So that they will still know how to say: this is true and that is false.

(from  Unattainable Earth, and also New and Collected Poems 1931-2001)

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