Goto Thread: PreviousNext
Goto:  Message ListNew TopicSearchLog In
Goto Page: Previous123AllNext
Current Page: 2 of 3
Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 03:47PM
I think this is what Dale was getting at, but it's a very slippery subject with few adequate words to describe it in any satisfactory fashion.

It's kinda like Greek philosopher stuff, and 'way over my pay grade...

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 04:14PM
Bringing in Platonism might have been a mistake, but my intention was to emphasize the understanding that the beautiful is a category of reality, not just what I/we/society like(s), and that apprehension of the Beautiful thus involves more than a glancing moment in which to decide whether or not I like it, &c.

Well, I'm convinced that Lovecraft cared about Beauty although (1) there is little place for it in the philosophy he professed and (2) he seems to have apprehended it especially when beholding sunsets across roofs as seen from an elevation. His surface rationalism told him that this experience, like anything and everything, was unimportant, without signification -- you can't have pockets of meaningfulness (not really) if everything is meaningless. But his imagination told him that the Beautiful was indeed important. He resolved the conflict, if you want to say this is a resolution, by saying that his feelings about and imaginative response to Beauty were mere facts about the idiosyncratic mental phenomena of an organism called HPL. I think a better resolution is possible -- (vide C. S. Lewis -- but I'm glad HPL was willing to love the beauty he saw, despite his philosophy, up to his death.

I think further that this love of the beautiful is actually an element of the appeal of Lovecraft's fiction even though it is famous for crawling eldritch horrors. It would probably be possible to compile quite a collection of passages in praise or enjoyment of the beautiful in his work -- well, of course that's what Peter Cannon did as regards sunsets in his excellent essay, which isn't available online so far as I know.

Similarly the Beautiful is important in the work of Lewis,* Tolkien, Arthur Machen, & other fantasists. I think it is there in some work by Algernon Blackwood relating to rambles in the Caucasus Mountains, etc. but I don't know his work terribly well.

I'm not sure it's much of an element in Robert E. Howard. Nonhuman beauty (palaces, etc.) is just mentioned as a backdrop. The beautiful that interests him is almost entirely, from what I had read, a matter of curvy female bodies as objects of lust that are apparently of no interest once the heat of lust has passed.

What about Smith?

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 05:47PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Bringing in Platonism might have been a mistake,
> but my intention was to emphasize the
> understanding that the beautiful is a category of
> reality, not just what I/we/society like(s), and
> that apprehension of the Beautiful thus involves
> more than a glancing moment in which to decide
> whether or not I like it, &c.

Beauty is independent of the observer, or of any observer, for that matter?

Beauty exists without an observer, like the sound of a falling tree with no living entity to hear it, is this right?

>
> Well, I'm convinced that Lovecraft cared about
> Beauty although (1) there is little place for it
> in the philosophy he professed and (2) he seems to
> have apprehended it especially when beholding
> sunsets across roofs as seen from an elevation.
> His surface rationalism told him that this
> experience, like anything and everything, was
> unimportant, without signification -- you can't
> have pockets of meaningfulness (not really) if
> everything is meaningless.

I'm playing around with the idea that meaning is subjective and exists as a phenomenon for the individual, but in no independent fashion.

> But his imagination
> told him that the Beautiful was indeed important.

It is, to the individual.

> He resolved the conflict, if you want to say this
> is a resolution, by saying that his feelings about
> and imaginative response to Beauty were mere facts
> about the idiosyncratic mental phenomena of an
> organism called HPL.

So far, so good... :^)

> I think a better resolution
> is possible -- (vide C. S. Lewis -- but I'm glad
> HPL was willing to love the beauty he saw, despite
> his philosophy, up to his death.
>
> I think further that this love of the beautiful is
> actually an element of the appeal of Lovecraft's
> fiction even though it is famous for crawling
> eldritch horrors. It would probably be possible
> to compile quite a collection of passages in
> praise or enjoyment of the beautiful in his work
> -- well, of course that's what Peter Cannon did as
> regards sunsets in his excellent essay, which
> isn't available online so far as I know.
>
> Similarly the Beautiful is important in the work
> of Lewis,* Tolkien, Arthur Machen, & other
> fantasists. I think it is there in some work by
> Algernon Blackwood relating to rambles in the
> Caucasus Mountains, etc. but I don't know his work
> terribly well.

Would you be comfortable in identifying one or two such passages? Concrete examples would be great her, Dale.

>
> I'm not sure it's much of an element in Robert E.
> Howard. Nonhuman beauty (palaces, etc.) is just
> mentioned as a backdrop. The beautiful that
> interests him is almost entirely, from what I had
> read, a matter of curvy female bodies as objects
> of lust that are apparently of no interest once
> the heat of lust has passed.
>
> What about Smith?

It seems like beauty is unlikely to exist in Zothique, doesn't it. Spendor, awe, maybe.

Hyperborea is different; perhaps there are passages about the beautiful in those tales.

Perhaps his poetry?

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 06:58PM
DN on HPL: He resolved the conflict, if you want to say this
> is a resolution, by saying that his feelings about
> and imaginative response to Beauty were mere facts
> about the idiosyncratic mental phenomena of an
> organism called HPL.

Sawfish: So far, so good... :^)

Well, no, because if there is no truly Beautiful, only idiosyncrasy, then aesthetic discussion is pointless, isn't it? It's as if we were having a conversation like this -- ?:

Joe: What a magnificent waterfall!
Sally: No, I feel quite well.

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 07:08PM
I put an asterisk by Lewis's name above (message of 4:14 pm) but forgot to put the reference. I was thinking of That Hideous Strength, where the Beautiful is important in the rehabilitation of Jane Studdock and mark Studdock.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 20 Jan 21 | 07:10PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 07:29PM
DN: > Similarly the Beautiful is important in the work
> of Lewis,* Tolkien, Arthur Machen, & other
> fantasists. I think it is there in some work by
> Algernon Blackwood relating to rambles in the
> Caucasus Mountains, etc. but I don't know his work
> terribly well.

Sawfish: Would you be comfortable in identifying one or two such passages? Concrete examples would be great here, Dale.

1.For Lewis, read, say, the third section of Chapter One of That Hideous Strength, the narrator's visit to Bragdon Wood. I think Lovecraft would have relished it. Or take the final paragraph of Chapter 6 (Jane's train journey).

2.For Tolkien, read early in The Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo & friends have only just set out to walk east through the Shire, before anything alarming has happened.

3.For Machen, oh, say this from "The Novel of the Black Seal":

-----We set out at midday, and it was in the dusk of the evening that we arrived at a little country station. I was tired and excited, and the drive through the lanes seems all a dream. First the deserted streets of a forgotten village, while I heard Professor Gregg's voice talking of the Augustan Legion and the clash of arms, and all the tremendous pomp that followed the eagles; then the broad river swimming to full tide with the last afterglow glimmering duskily in the yellow water, the wide meadows, the cornfields whitening, and the deep lane winding on the slope between the hills and the water. At last we began to ascend, and the air grew rarer. I looked down and saw the pure white mist tracking the outline of the river like a shroud, and a vague and shadowy country; imaginations and fantasy of swelling hills and hanging woods, and half-shaped outlines of hills beyond, and in the distance the glare of the furnace fire on the mountain, glowing by turns a pillar of shining flame and fading to a dull point of red. We were slowly mounting a carriage drive, and then there came to me the cool breath and the secret of the great wood that was above us; I seemed to wander in its deepest depths, and there was the sound of trickling water, the scent of the green leaves, and the breath of the summer night. The carriage stopped at last, and I could scarcely distinguish the form of the house, as I waited a moment at the pillared porch. The rest of the evening seemed a dream of strange things bounded by the great silence of the wood and the valley and the river.

The next morning, when I awoke and looked out of the bow window of the big, old-fashioned bedroom, I saw under a grey sky a country that was still all mystery. The long, lovely valley, with the river winding in and out below, crossed in mid-vision by a mediæval bridge of vaulted and buttressed stone, the clear presence of the rising ground beyond, and the woods that I had only seen in shadow the night before, seemed tinged with enchantment, and the soft breath of air that sighed in at the opened pane was like no other wind. I looked across the valley, and beyond, hill followed on hill as wave on wave, and here a faint blue pillar of smoke rose still in the morning air from the chimney of an ancient grey farmhouse, there was a rugged height crowned with dark firs, and in the distance I saw the white streak of a road that climbed and vanished into some unimagined country. But the boundary of all was a great wall of mountain, vast in the west, and ending like a fortress with a steep ascent and a domed tumulus clear against the sky.

I saw Professor Gregg walking up and down the terrace path below the windows, and it was evident that he was revelling in the sense of liberty, and the thought that he had for a while bidden good-bye to task-work. When I joined him there was exultation in his voice as he pointed out the sweep of valley and the river that wound beneath the lovely hills.-----

4.For Blackwood, take this from the beginning of "The Camp of the Dog" in John Silence, the Swedish story:

-----Islands of all shapes and sizes troop northward from Stockholm by the
hundred, and the little steamer that threads their intricate mazes in
summer leaves the traveller in a somewhat bewildered state as regards
the points of the compass when it reaches the end of its journey at
Waxholm. But it is only after Waxholm that the true islands begin, so
to speak, to run wild, and start up the coast on their tangled course
of a hundred miles of deserted loveliness, and it was in the very heart
of this delightful confusion that we pitched our tents for a summer
holiday. A veritable wilderness of islands lay about us: from the mere
round button of a rock that bore a single fir, to the mountainous
stretch of a square mile, densely wooded, and bounded by precipitous
cliffs; so close together often that a strip of water ran between no
wider than a country lane, or, again, so far that an expanse stretched
like the open sea for miles.

Although the larger islands boasted farms and fishing stations, the
majority were uninhabited. Carpeted with moss and heather, their
coast-lines showed a series of ravines and clefts and little sandy
bays, with a growth of splendid pine-woods that came down to the
water’s edge and led the eye through unknown depths of shadow and
mystery into the very heart of primitive forest.

The particular islands to which we had camping rights by virtue
of paying a nominal sum to a Stockholm merchant lay together in a
picturesque group far beyond the reach of the steamer, one being a mere
reef with a fringe of fairy-like birches, and two others, cliff-bound
monsters rising with wooded heads out of the sea. The fourth, which we
selected because it enclosed a little lagoon suitable for anchorage,
bathing, night-lines, and what-not, shall have what description is
necessary as the story proceeds; but, so far as paying rent was
concerned, we might equally well have pitched our tents on any one of a
hundred others that clustered about us as thickly as a swarm of bees.

It was in the blaze of an evening in July, the air clear as crystal,
the sea a cobalt blue, when we left the steamer on the borders of
civilisation and sailed away with maps, compasses, and provisions for
the little group of dots in the Skärgård that were to be our home for
the next two months. The dinghy and my Canadian canoe trailed behind
us, with tents and dunnage carefully piled aboard, and when the point
of cliff intervened to hide the steamer and the Waxholm hotel we
realised for the first time that the horror of trains and houses was
far behind us, the fever of men and cities, the weariness of streets
and confined spaces. The wilderness opened up on all sides into endless
blue reaches, and the map and compasses were so frequently called
into requisition that we went astray more often than not and progress
was enchantingly slow. It took us, for instance, two whole days to
find our crescent-shaped home, and the camps we made on the way were
so fascinating that we left them with difficulty and regret, for each
island seemed more desirable than the one before it, and over all lay
the spell of haunting peace, remoteness from the turmoil of the world,
and the freedom of open and desolate spaces.-----

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 08:59PM
Someone seems to have posted That Hideous Strength here:

[www.samizdat.qc.ca].

However, I have my doubts about its legality. But for our purposes, just to check a couple of passages that I've referred to -- that much use might be OK in itself. Here are two sentences from the penultimate paragraph, and the the final paragraph, of Chapter 6:

"The train was blessedly warm, her compartment empty, the fact
of sitting down delightful. The slow journey through the fog almost
sent her to sleep. .... [She gets off the train and walks.]

"She was roused from this state by noticing that it was lighter. She
looked ahead: surely that bend in the road was more visible than
it ought to be in such a fog? Or was it only that a country fog was
different from a town one? Certainly what had been grey was becoming white, almost dazzlingly white. A few yards further and luminous blue was showing overhead, and trees cast shadows (she
had not seen a shadow for days), and then all of a sudden the enormous spaces of the sky had become visible and the pale golden sun,
and looking back, as she took the turn to the Manor, Jane saw that
she was standing on the shore of a little green sun-lit island looking down on a sea of white fog, furrowed and ridged yet level on
the whole, which spread as far as she could see. There were other
islands too. That dark one to the west was the wooded hills above
Sandown where she had picnicked with the Dennisons; and the far
bigger and brighter one to the north was the many caverned hills —
mountains one could nearly call them — in which the Wynd had its
source. She took a deep breath. It was the size of this world above
the fog which impressed her. Down in Edgestow all these days one
had lived, even when out-of-doors, as if in a room, for only objects
close at hand were visible. She felt she had come near to forgetting
how big the sky is, how remote the horizon."



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 20 Jan 21 | 09:07PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 09:07PM
I was reminded of another passage. This is from Colin Wilson's The Philosopher's Stone. The character has gone for a walk on a grey Christmas morning in the English countryside:

"Even the greyness of the sky seemed inexpressibly beautiful, as if it were a benediction. I saw cottages across the fields with smoke rising from their chimneys, and heard the distant hoot of a train. Then I was suddenly aware that all over England, at this moment, kitchens were full of the smell of baked potatoes and stuffing and turkey, and pubs were full of men drinking unaccustomed spirits and feeling glad that life occasionally declares a truce. Then there was the thought that this world is probably one of the most beautiful in the solar system. Mercury is all white-hot rock; Venus is all heavy cloud, and the surface is too hot to support organic life. (Oddly enough, I had a clear intuition that there is life on Venus, but that it somehow floats in the atmosphere.) Mars is an icy desert with almost no atmosphere, and Jupiter is little more than a strange ball of gas. All barren – metallic, meteor-pitted rocks, revolving around the blank sun. And here we have trees and grass and rivers, and frost on cold mornings and dew on hot ones. And meanwhile, we live in a dirty, narrow claustrophobic life-world, arguing about politics and sexual freedom and the race problem."


So I think these authors -- Lovecraft with his sunsets (and cats! cats!), and Lewis, Tolkien, Machen, Blackwood, and Wilson, are writing imaginative fiction, "fantasy" in a broad sense that encompasses science fiction as well as "fantasy"), and demonstrate what seems to me real feeling for the Beautiful. But I think other fantasists don't demonstrate this sensibility. But what are your findings and observations?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 20 Jan 21 | 09:10PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 January, 2021 09:57PM
I thank you for your effort in selecting this, Dale.

I'll need to spend some time with them to do them justice.

I tend to quibble too much.... :^(

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 21 January, 2021 02:17PM
Someone might think "Dunsany! Surely he's all about the Beautiful!"

Myself, I'd hesitate to say so. I think there's much that's pretty, that's decorative, in his fantasy. It's often appropriate to make a distinction between the beautiful, on one hand, and the pretty, or exquisite, or decorative, etc. on the other. I find Dunsany's characteristic fantasy is usually something I have to force myself to read, though when I was in my teens in the 1970s he was one of my favorite authors. He didn't wear well at all.

If I were going to look for evocation of the beautiful in his work, I'd turn first to The Curse of the Wise Woman, which, as I recall from a reading around eight years ago, seemed to evoke a sense of the beautiful in some Irish landscapes. But in his characteristic fantasy do we find anything similar to the instances I have mentioned? Point them out, please, if so -- I should revisit them!*

*I read the six Ballantine Dunsany volumes more or less as they were published, plus some in the Dover selection Gods, Men, and Ghosts, etc. By "characteristic fantasy" I'm referring to "The Sword of Welleran," "The Fortress Unvanquishable, save for Sacnoth," "The Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller and of the Doom that Befell Him," etc etc.; and not to "The Kith of the Elf-folk," etc.

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 21 January, 2021 04:36PM
What about de la Mare? I'm now thinking of how vividly he describes the hike down to All Hallows, and it seems like if he wanted to evoke beauty, he's definitely a guy with the tools to do so.

But I haven't read enough of his stuff.

Any thoughts on this, Dale?

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 21 January, 2021 05:08PM
De la Mare I'm sure. I'd have mentioned him if I'd thought of it. Perhaps his poetry more than his stories.

But there are the major fantasists also who, so far as I remember or know, do not show much attention to the beautiful, for example, William Hope Hodgson. Probably not M. R. James.

I think Merritt wanted to evoke the beautiful but might not have had the imaginative grasp and literary artistry to do so convincingly. Please note well: If anyone does want to make the case for Merritt, you must do so by focusing on what he actually wrote -- not basing your remarks actually on your memories of Virgil Finlay illustrations, for example!!

Fritz Leiber -- not much sense of the beautiful. He likes to suggest the sexually alluring, but not what I mean to be getting at as regards the beautiful; he's really not that different from Robert E. Howard (see above). I don't think other sword-and-sorcery fiction does much to evoke the beautiful either -- de Camp? Lin Carter? Moorcock? John Jakes?

You can go through the whole works of various authors and have little sense of the beautiful -- and yet they might be good authors. I'd have to think about whether it's there in Dickens -- and I've read all 14 1/2 of his novels.

I appreciate the good humor with which folks are responding to this topic. It's good to compare notes.

One more thought: I'd hesitate to say, of myself, that I recognize the Beautiful when I see it or hear it. I'm thinking of Bach's Musical Offering. I have no doubt it is a work of great beauty, but it's one that probably largely eludes me so far. But I love what James Gaines says in his excellent and evocatively titled book Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment -- a book I wish I could give to any serious inquirer -- anyway, here's Gaines:

"A work that may be read as a kind of last will and testament, Bach's Musical Offering leaves us, among other things, a compelling case for the following proposition: that a world without a sense of the transcendent and mysterious, a universe ultimately discoverable through reason alone, can only be a barren place; and that the music sounding forth from such a world might be very pretty, but it can never be beautiful."




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 21 Jan 21 | 05:17PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 21 January, 2021 05:35PM
This exchange is becoming increasingly meaningful to me. I believe that I am beginning to se your points.

Right now I'm finishing up Berlin Alexanderplatz, and I'll say that more than once it has brought to mind Joyce's oddball vision of what is effective in literature. The book is like a combination of Ulysses and Dreiser's An American Tragedy. Bleak is the best single word.

No beauty here, folks. Move along...

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 24 January, 2021 05:49PM
Machen's story A FRAGMENT OF LIFE, might be taken as illustrating (eventually) his idea of the beautiful and wholesome.

I hesitate to recommend the story, because one must wade through much that is neither particularly beautiful, nor particularly wholesome, to reach the interesting bits (which is the point, I guess). I just reread the story, and for at least half the story I did not realize I had read it before, because there was so much that was simply too banal and mundane to stick in my mind.

Re: The Beautiful
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 24 January, 2021 10:10PM
I think I like “ A Fragment of Life” more than you did, Platypus, but I’d admit it’s not something I’ve read more than three times or so, and not very recently. Maybe it should get a thread of its own here sometime. But I’m too busy with other reading to do that now.

Goto Page: Previous123AllNext
Current Page: 2 of 3


Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
Top of Page