We must be tender with all budding things.
Our Maker let no thought of Calvary
Trouble the morning stars in their first song.
~William Butler Yeats, from The Land of Heart’s Desire
The poet William Butler Yeats referred to himself as “the last romantic”, and while I know he meant that in the broader sense of his company with Keats, I also know he must have winked as he said it. Romance is a popular topic, but it’s a cheap drink these days. The beating heart of romance is beauty, and like Yeats wrote elsewhere in his poem Adam’s Curse, we “must labor to be beautiful.”
When God made the world it was “very good” but sin’s scar runs deep. We scratch and claw at the earth to make it yield fruit and every effort of man to reclaim paradise is an imperfect, losing battle. We all share the poet’s agony of at once answering the call of God’s image wherein we were created, yet struggle to see glory through the darkened glass behind which we are imprisoned.
Yes, we were born for beauty, and though we can only dream of the day when we are finally, ultimately saved from the presence of sin, our souls rejoice that we are already saved from its penalty. To such love we can only aspire and surrender our grateful hearts to the great lover of our soul.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
“Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
D I G D E E P E R
William Butler Yeats and Beauty
Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 13, 1865, the eldest son of an artist. Although the family soon moved to London, the children spent much time with their grandparents in County Sligo in northwestern Ireland. The scenery and folklore of this region greatly influenced Yeats’s work.
One of Ireland’s finest writers, William Butler Yeats served a long apprenticeship in the arts before his genius was fully developed. He did some of his greatest work after he was 50 years old.
Yeats understood the paradox of beauty’s relationship to innocence yet likewise the struggle necessitated by time to apprehend it in a fallen world. As he wrote in his poem “Adam’s Curse,” “we must labor to be beautiful.”
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
Art: L’Innocence by William Bouguereau
Born in November 1825, William-AdolpheBouguereau is certainly one of the greatest artists in history. He was a renowned French academic painter in his time and was a staunch traditionalist whose themes and paintings carried a heavy emphasis on the female body. In his early painting days, he had great popularity in the United States and France, and he received many honours and prices for his work. Towards his death in August 1905, he had produced a total of 822 finished paintings. The assiduous painter used traditional methods in his paintings and mostly employed oil sketches and pencil studies. His work translated to an accurate and perfect rendering of the human form. The paintings he produced of hands, feet and skin particularly were the perfect view his admirers appreciated. Erotic and religious symbolism such as the broken pitcher, which signified lost innocence was also used. Innocence William-AdolpheBouguereau painted L’Innocence in 1893. In this painting, he followed the 16th-century style. He seemed to follow the footsteps of Raphael who was inspired by the ancients, yet no one accused him of being unoriginal. In most of his works, he adopted the classical approach to subject matter, form and composition. Throughout the 1800s he was involved in painting for the Catholic Church. In Innocence, the Virgin Mary is seen holding her sleeping son Jesus on one hand, and on the other, a little lamb. The painting signifies the future sacrifice of Jesus. It is viewed as the perfect gift for an expectant mother, where she can hang in the nursery or a present to a woman who has already given birth to celebrate her newborn. The painting featured in a wood frame can be found in three sizes including 12×24, 8×16 and 5×10. To many, William-AdolpheBouguereau epitomised refinement and taste in his works and respect for tradition. American millionaires who considered his work important made purchases during his lifetime. The graceful portraits of women were highly appreciated for being charming, and also because he could capture attention with a beautiful background. Classical subjects embraced Christianity and paganism. His idealised work brought to life nymphs, goddesses, shepherdesses, and bathers. He was also a great portrait painter, but most of the paintings are now in the hands of wealthy patrons. Today, more than a hundred museums around the world exhibit William-AdolpheBouguereau’s works.