Friday, October 12, 2007

Poetry Friday - What is Beautiful?

I was a typical awkward teenager, with no confidence about the way I looked or dressed. I kept a small journal during this time with quotes and poems on beauty. Somehow reading them got me through those difficult years. I found this notebook recently while searching through a box of old letters in my attic. Here are some of my favorite quotes.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
Kahlil Gibran

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.
Anne Frank

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.
David Hume
While these quotes all gave some degree of comfort, I found the greatest solace in this poem. I memorized it in junior high and can still recite it today.
Swift Things are Beautiful
by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Swift things are beautiful:
Swallows and deer,
And lightening that falls
Bright-veined and clear,
Rivers and meteors,
Wind in the wheat,
The strong-withered horse,
The runner's sure feet.

And slow things are beautiful:
The closing of day,
The pause of the wave
That curves downward to spray,
The ember that crumbles,
The opening flower,
And the ox that moves on
In the quiet of power.
Poetry Friday this week is being hosted by Ruth and Stacy over at Two Writing Teachers. Please stop by and check out all the terrific contributions this week. Happy poetry Friday, all!


  1. My favorite is:

    "There is no absolute standard of beauty. That precisely is what makes its pursuit so interesting." --John Kenneth Galbraith

    I love that you found your old notebook and hadn't thrown it away!

  2. Tricia,

    I was certainly no great beauty. I got by on my wicked sense of humor! Fortunately, I found a guy who likes funny women.

    I've always liked that poem by Coatsworth. I wish more of her poems were in print today.

  3. Sara - I love that quote! And I'm going to add it to my journal.

    Elaine - I've seen your picture and that amazing smile. I don't believe for a minute that you weren't a beauty!

  4. How I wish I had memorized that beauty poem in school! We got Pied Beauty and Gerald Manley Hopkins was HARD! (But also well-worth his tongue-twisting!) Thank you for sharing this - it evokes such images.

  5. OOOH! I love both Swift Things Are Beautiful AND Pied Beauty. Do you know Barter by Sarah Teasdale?

    Life has lovliness to sell...

    And the soundtrack for this post could be Ordinary Miracle by Sarah McLachlan.

  6. And Tricia, I think your story would make an interesting book. Really. There are a few books that explore beauty as a theme, but not enough of them in a deeper way. And I have a real soft spot for books with quotes in them.

  7. Sara,
    I too enjoy stories that use quotes. One of the things I loved about Looking for Alaska were all the famous last words quotes. I would love to see a middle grades novel with a female protagonist that struggles with what it means to be beautiful. Given the images we are bombarded with today, I can see why middle and high school girls are so conscious about looks. While these images existed when I was growing up, they weren't nearly as prevalent, and I certainly didn't feel I needed to live up to them. Now the cheerleaders . . . that's another story!

  8. Thank you for this - it has opened my Sunday with grace.

  9. What a beautiful, candid post, Tricia. Your junior-high musings will make you (or perhaps have already made you) one of those few, precious aunts/mentors for some lucky young girl (is that role also open to a mother? not sure yet...)

    That Swiftly.. poem should be a cleverly illustrated children's book.