Advent to Candlemas (Vol. 4)

On Beauty


Where beauty subtly warms the aching heart,
Seeming more pliant, mere prettiness hurts;
Thus, snow which hides the blemishes of earth
Wraps cruel fingers round a doubtful birth.

And, come the ugly thaw, bedraggled mess
Asserts itself, though something is amiss;
A shard of beauty lights the drizzling day
Transmitted from the manger where he lay.


Dull and worn out, sky, clothes and wood,
Insipid shabbiness from swaddling to shroud;
But then, Renaissance paint depicting light
Excludes the dull and champions the bright.

The grey of lowering skies and smoking lamp,
Fabric uncertain in its dye; and limp
Give way to shepherds bright in pink and green,
And Mary, blue as sapphire, Fairy Queen.

While hidden light heroic birth
The essence of its heroism is dearth;
In art technical facility must protect
Beauty from the snare of mere effect.


The smooth, heroic elegance of rhyme
Unchecked by assonance betrays the theme;
Beauty is in the jaggedness of things,
Not in the smooth abstractedness of dreams.

The danger of Demosthenes is to speak
Where substance is subjected to technique;
Beauty is found less in the poetry
Than in Luke's story of Nativity.