Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
Excerpt from Have You Noticed Beauty? by Johanna Byrkett
I have noticed that on my most exhausting days of travel or work, what I long for is Beauty. To watch the sun set and the stars creep into the sky, one by one and then in clusters. To read a story or a poem. To listen to an album straight through while I eat my dinner. To dance in my kitchen. To make food, yes, but also to group it by colour on my plate. To sit down—feet free of shoes—listening to the evensong of birds give way to cricket choruses. To listen to an audio book because I’m too tired to read anything beyond five lines.
I have noticed that when I’m not reading much or stopping to enter into Beauty, it is then that I have no words. I cannot write. I make a poor conversationalist. I feel too tired for friends. I run and run, but it is more like a crawling car on petrol fumes. In short, I get crabby and withdrawn when I am not able to be immersed in Beauty in some form.
Goethe explains why: there is a sense of the Beautiful which God has twined into the human soul. We are different from the animals…and the angels, and from God himself. Yet neither animals nor angels are made in God’s image, only man is. We are distinct—imaging God in our very being, in our capacity to know and to appreciate Beauty, in our cultivating and stewarding whatever things God gives to us, from children and gardens, to art and music.
I have noticed that Beauty is a gift that we get to enjoy. That we are allowed to savour the words of a poem on our tongues. That our eyes burn with the glory of a sunset or a sky on fire with meteors. That our hearts nearly break or burst in the highest swell of a song, either poignant or joy-filled.
It is a gift to know that Beauty itself is a gift. It is a gift to know God and to be known by him. It is Beauty that leads us to praise. Beauty is our companion to draw us into worship. It is Beauty that beckons us to enter into itself and find that we are in the courts of God. Beauty leads us further up and further in.
Have you noticed?