On Beauty

On Beauty
by Theodora Goss

I was trying to describe to you my idea of beauty:
how it consists of complexity within simplicity,
multiplicity within unity,
variety in harmony with itself,
like the serrated edges of a maple leaf,
the hexagonal points of a snowflake,
the gradations of brown on a hawk’s feathers.
It is the tension of the many
within one, like the peaks
of the Rockies, purple at sunset.

I explained it all so badly,
and going back to Hogarth’s line of beauty,
to Addison and Burke and Kant,
would have made the situation so much worse.

And yet look at yourself: singular,
yet infinitely complex,
multiplicitous, variable, like clouds
against an afternoon sky, like the waves of the Atlantic,
like all the visible stars of a summer night,
demonstrating what I mean by beauty
more neatly than any nineteenth-century philosopher.

(The image is The Floating World by Utagawa Hiroshige.)

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