‘Beauty is always and inevitably compounded of two elements, although the impression it conveys is one; for the difficulty we may experience in distinguishing the variable elements that go to make beauty’s unity of impression does not in any way invalidate the need of variety in its composition. Beauty is made up, on one hand, of an element that is eternal and invariable, though to determine how much of it there is is extremely difficult, and, on the other, of a relative circumstantial element, which we may like to call, successively or at one and the same time, contemporaneity, fashion, morality, passion.
‘Without this second element, which is like the amusing, teasing, appetite whetting coating of the divine cake, the first would be indigestible, tasteless, unadapted and inappropriate to human nature.’
Surely this concept couldn’t have been given such evocative a projection in semantic form by a lesser aesthetic sensibility than that which Baudelaire eloquently proves in the opening chapter of “Le Peintre de la vie moderne“. His whole essay on beauty as a multifaceted idea subjected to both consistency and versatility provides an apt viewpoint I personally share and almost instinctively apply for the proper valuation of things or beings rendered beauteous in absence of concrete criteria. Because we never actually employ a set of conscientiously selected principles each time we formulate appreciations, do we? It often just comes natural to us, this perpetual endowment of nearby entities with various qualities that ultimately lead to their classification…
But I’m going to take heed of what Borges remarks -“to speak is to fall into tautology”- and promptly make way for your answer:
How right is Baudelaire in asserting the dual essence of beauty?
Patricia Beykrat – the Roving Aesthete