Like any discussion about something, the first thing you need to do is define what you’re talking about. It can be difficult enough when talking about something that people generally agree on, but take a topic that is very subjective, and you’ll likely never come to a full agreement. For instance, what is ‘beauty’? This is probably one of the most subjective, individualistic concepts that man has ever come up with. The reality is, beauty can be found any place we look. We can see beauty in a flower, in someone’s smile — we can even see it in something like a tear. This later one we usually look away from, as seeing someone cry usually makes us feel uncomfortable — and it’s not something we would think of look at to find beauty. Yet, if we looked long enough, we might just see something amazing. Gerard Manley Hopkins talks about this in his poem regarding the natural world around him. He seems to find beauty in nearly everything that he sees.
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
So having only touched on the problem of identifying beauty, now comes the equally difficult task of trying to find poetry that talks about it. It isn’t that there isn’t a lot to choose from — just the opposite — there is too much to choose from. There are some very obvious poems that we know from the outset are going to talk about beauty, as it’s in the title. And some of the better known poems like that are popular for a reason — they match the opinion of the majority of people regarding beauty. For instance, Lord Bryon, known for his many romantic escapades, focused mostly on romantic beauty. In fact, his personal behavior and antics were very costly to him. His infatuation with ‘beauty’ cost him his marriage and had a significant impact on her reputation — to the point that he relocated from Europe to North America to avoid some of the scandal that developed as a result of his life style. Many people began avoiding him for that very reason. He moved to Switzerland for a while where he met Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, and had an affair with her sister as well. Nonetheless, his poem about a woman who is generally believed to be his half sister, August Leigh, has been praised for its romantic qualities. Some have suggested that it is a big ‘sappy’, but many romantics find it worthy of praise.
She Walks in Beauty
by Lord Byron
There are so many things in the world to speculate about their beauty. While Lord Byron pined over his feelings for his beloved half-sister, other people find more beauty in the natural things of life. One of my favorite poets is the renowned Ralph Waldo Emerson. His poems often deal with natural beauty — the things we find out in the woods or along the country lane.
The Rhodora – On Being Asked Whence Is the Flower
by Ralph Waldo Emerson