Three Sonnets on Beauty

By George Sterling

             I. Enigma

The changing loveliness of earth and sky
  Has mystery beyond it, and unrest.
  Beauty is come a transitory guest,
Whose smile the heart remembers with a sigh.
I would she lived in but one face, that I
  Might seek it past the waters of the West—
  One lure, one adoration and one quest
Beyond the world's horizon till we die.
Her mystery is question and despair.
  She is the peril that the Theban faced,
  She, and not Death, the couchant Sphinx that bars
Our pathway on the illimitable waste.
The burden of her shadow who shall bear,
  Cast on the spirit from her voiceless stars?

             II.  From the Heights

On other words, by Beauty could one know
  If life had crossed the liberative space
  That severs brutehood from the mental race;
For at her altar would those dwellers show
How great the ascendant soul has dared to grow.
  And thus my own, aspiring too, would trace
  The unimagined meanings of her face,
Until they end in life's far afterglow.
Her clarion is from inviolate hills,
  That seem eternal, yet shall pass, as we
  Who take so soon the road of mystery.
Oh! may none slumber when that music thrills,
  But hark, that she, the giver of the soul,
  Be found our absolution and our goal.

               III. To Beauty

O thou, inherent in this earthly scheme!—
  Thou haunter of this life, this life's despair!
  Has life, grown grave, not found thee everywhere
On every world its destiny and dream?
From what abysses do thy pinions gleam!
  How near the path thy dusty sandals wear!
  Thou iris of the heart! Thou heavenly air!
Thou starlight in the ocean or the stream!
With many names we name thee, finding not
  The secret of thy strangeness and its pain,
    Nor whether thou art born of us, or we
Are children of thy Country long forgot.
  A silence is within thy central fane,
    Like that below the caverns of the sea.

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