On Beauty

We take turns sketching articles of clothing. I am copying my daughter’s favorite summer dress – a simple spaghetti strap that flows to mid calf  in a beautiful sunset of yellow, orange, and rose – set off by her sparkly starfish necklace. Pleased, she draws bell bottom trousers and a sequin top, and then attempts a mermaid dress – her pencil pressing lightly on the paper. She completes her pieces and goes back, adding small ballet shoes beneath my sketch – the perfect finishing touch.

The paper barely protects the blue cover of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, a slim volume in the Yale Shakespeare, edited by Edward Bliss Reed (New Haven, 1925), which we are using as a drawing base that early evening. The book belonged to my father who studied there, and I am dipping into my cherished studies of English literature, done in the green hills of Devon, seeking inspiration for the next Socratic conversation. I re-read all 154 sonnets, surprised that “beauty” is not indexed– and go on to count the times that the word appears — most prevalently within the first series of 17 sonnets addressed to an unknown youth. I fasten on one particular passage:

But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As ‘Truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou woudst convert;’
Or else if thee this I prognosticate:
‘Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

Sonnet 14 , lines 9-14

There is but a wisp of a breeze, and I realize that I don’t need to look far as I contemplate beauty’s rose: my fair daughter, right beside me, soon twirling barefoot — arms extended, chin lifted, eyes twinkling — like a sprite in the grass at dusk; my blond son playing soccer just thirty feet away — a smile framing his rosy face, blue eyes deep like sapphires, as he runs lion-like across the field.

Referencing: Challenging the Beauty Advantage: A Socratic Conversation, Thursday, 8/5, 4-5pm