To Whom Do You Beautifully Belong?

I have just finished reading Alan Hollinghurst's "The Line of Beauty", a novel about the ruthless and decadent '80s. One segment of the novel is entitled, "To Whom Do You Beautifully Belong?", after a phrase taken form another novel by the American master, Henry James. The book is, on one level, about purely aesthetic beauty as it is contrasted with moral vulgarity, the main character of the book, Nick Guest, being in thrall to all things purely beautiful. Indeed, the title of the novel is taken from a phrase coined by Hogarth to describe the "ogee", which to him was the ultimate "line of beauty".
So, all this got me thinking about the purely beautiful, particularly in terms of writing or language, and the question, "to whom do you beautifully belong?", has been running through my mind ever since, striking me, as it did, as particularly gorgeous.
I remember when I was very young that I was always taken by poetry or prose that had a particular ring to it. Perhaps too young to understand fully exactly what was being said, I took great pleasure nonetheless in the sheer aesthetic beauty of a certain sentence or phrase.
Some have said that the phrase, "cellar door", is the most beautiful in the English language in terms of phonaesthetics (sound) as opposed to semantics (meaning). But, it is perhaps the marriage of sound and meaning which produces a truly great sentence or phrase. Tom Stoppard, I believe, said that Shakespeare was the ultimate exemplar of this marriage, where form and content are interwoven and seem to enhance each other.
However, being something of an admirer of the purely aesthetic form of beauty, I thought I would just print here a few of the lines or extracts that have wowed me in the past. I'm sure you can all think of some of your own favourite extracts or sentences, but just for you, here are a few of mine:
"...tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further...And one fine morning-
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby".
"LOLITA, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."
Vladimir Nabokov, "Lolita".
"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."
George Eliot, "Middlemarch".
"By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what is down there. The rest is weather. Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves, or spring ice thawing too quickly. Just weather. Certainly no clamor for a kiss."
Toni Morrison, "Beloved".
"From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away."
Raymond Chandler, "The High Window".
So, there are just five of my favourites. I have restricted myself to just prose, as to delve into poetry also would probably provide so many examples that I'd be here all day. I wonder, then, what your favourite, most aesthetically beautiful, lines, sentences or extracts are, and to whom do they beautifully belong?


klahanie said…
Dear David,
Ah yes, bring back the 80's and the 'me, me, me', mentality. Cynically, not much has changed since then.

"Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig."
Marcus Aurelius

Actually, David, I'm not really that much into quotes. I'd much rather read points of great poignancy from folks I know. Folks such as your good self.
Thanks for a thoughtful article.
With kind wishes, your way, Gary
David said…
Dear Gary,
I just thought I'd try something a little different with this post. I guess the point was to find a quote which you thought was aesthetically beautiful, the emphasis being on not what was said, but rather how it was said. Still, you have managed to come up with a rather nice quote, even if you're not too keen on them!
Very Best Wishes, your way,
P.S. I wouldn't want to bring back the '80s, although Cameron seems to be trying his best to. I just read a book about them!
David said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
dcrelief said…
Hello David.

1)"Beauty is life when life unveils her lovely face. But you are life and you are the veil."
~Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet".

My Mom gave me a copy of this book (of treasures) when I turned 17. I've read it over and over; the wisdom and peace is profound and always fresh!

Such a great idea for your blog; loved it, and all the quotes you chose.
bazza said…
A wonderful subject you have chosen here David.
I'm sure there will be a touch of l'esprit d'escalier here but what always comes to mind is:
"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals...." from Hamlet.
Coming to think of it, almost the whole of Shakespeare is worthy of quoting.
I also like "“Amateur psychiatric prognosis can be fascinating when there is absolutely nothing else to do.” from Richard Condon's The Manchurian Candidate.
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thanks for the comment and the quote. I haven't read the book you mention, so will perhaps seek it out.
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear bazza,
I actually left out Shakespeare in my own little selection, as I thought it might all come under the heading of "poetry". However, I know the quote you chose very well, as I studied "Hamlet" at school.
My own fave Shakespeare lines are perhaps the ones from Sonnet 29, which begins, "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state...". I shan't print the whole thing here. I'm sure you can look it up if you want!
Thanks, bazza.
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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