A l'alta fantasia qui mancò possa

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new.... —St. Augustine, X.xxvii

After some weeks of talking back and forth with Masha and Mr. Pond, it's become clear that a fair portion of our different ideas come from being different personalities and having different associations for different words. This was the focus of last week's conversation, and talking about our impressions of the word entertainment proved so profitable that Masha suggested we try and do the same thing with some of the other words we've discussed.

This week's focus is beauty, which we've already talked about a fair bit. We've talked definitions, the mystery of beauty, and the relation of beauty to art. Now, I'm supposed to talk connotation and impression, more what the word means to me than the plain statement of what it means.

I've spent a fair portion of the past twenty-four hours thinking about what to say. I've thought of it while listening to Beethoven's Piano Trio #2 with the sun streaming golden through the sheer drapes. I've thought about it at Mass, going through the reading of Scripture and the recitation of creed and the prayers of the Eucharist. I've thought about it while reading Dante's Paradiso aloud, with Lou, by candlelight.

And to be honest, I'm not sure what else I can say—not without breaking the sacred wall that keeps me from getting too free with what ought to be kept a mystery. Write a blog-post about what beauty means to me? Too blunt, and too difficult. I had to write a whole novel about that.

Perhaps Dante can express it for me. I don't always understand the Italian political references or the mythology, and the Inferno horrifies me at every turn, yet I love the Divina Commedia. The higher the ascent up the mountain of Purgatory and through the stars to the Empyrean, the closer I come to perfect Beauty. And its pinnacle is in the last canto—its goal fulfilled in the joy of these last lines, which make best sense when one has made the entire climb. The translation here is Anthony Esolen's.

...Already were all my will and my desires
turned, as a wheel in equal balance, by
the Love that moves the sun and other stars.


  1. Thank you, Jenna, for showing us what Beauty means to you. The examples are revealing, though I'm not sure they mean the same to you as to me or another person. The closing Dante quotation is what grabs me the most, literally--I feel like a cord is tugging at the inside of my chest.

    Beauty moves us, turns us, sets us right, or simply re-affirms that the universe is wondrous. The marvelous ability to see Beauty is a sign of health that we are connected to things in a proper way. As long as we do not lose this ability (and I think there's a large element of choice here), then no matter what events transpire, at the end of our lives we can always say "All was well."

    Hmmm... Wonder where I've seen that phrase before... :o)

  2. I'm just glad I hang around with people online who aren't afraid to admit they read the Paradiso by candlelight with their spouse. :)

  3. Carrie-Ann, thanks! Your comment made me smile, especially the Potter reference. :) And the cord tugs at the inside of my chest when I read those lines, too.

    I think you're absolutely right about the element of choice. The ability to see and appreciate beauty is an important life skill and absolutely needs cultivation.

    George, LOL! Is there some stigma attached to that practice that I'm unaware of? Dante, spouse, candlelight.... I can't imagine what would be wrong with that. :D

  4. Jenna.
    Fantastic post. Your examples are wonderful, they give such an impression of beauty that I can see and relate to, and such a depth. Impressions are so much more welcoming than definitions in discussions like these, I agree with everything here! :) Especially the candlelight. Candlelight never gets old, even if you use it everyday.

  5. Thanks, Masha! The impressions are fun to do, too. I totally agree about candlelight. :)


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