Quotations about:
    beauty


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Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) English social philosopher, feminist, writer
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ch. 3 (1792)
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Added on 25-Jan-23 | Last updated 25-Jan-23
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Da Vinci Folio A. 10 r.
Da Vinci Folio A. 10 r. Red bracket to the right side of the quoted text (which is written in mirrored form). (Source)

The art of procreation and the members employed therein are so repulsive, that if it were not for the beauty of the faces and the adornments of the actors and the pent-up impulse, nature would lose the human species.

[L’atto del coito e li membri a quello adoperati son di tanta bruttura che se non fussi le bellezze de’ volti e li ornamenti delli operanti e la frenata disposizione, la natura perderebbe la spezie umana.]

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Notebooks, De Anatomia, folio A. 10 r. [tr. McCurdy (1939)]
    (Source)

Windsor Anatomical manuscript A., folio 10 r / R. L. 19009R (Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

The act of procreation and everything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if it were not a traditional custom and if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions.
[tr. Brill (1916), after Freud (1910)]

The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions.
[Variant tr. Brill (1916), after Freud (1910)]

The act of procreation and everything connected with it is so disgusting that mankind would soon die out if it were not an old-established custom and if there were not pretty faces and sensuous natures.
[tr. Tyson (1961), after Freud (1910)]

The act of coition and the members employed are so ugly that but for the beauty of the faces, the adornments of their partners and the frantic urge, Nature would lose the human race.
[tr. Dalwood (1962) after Bataille (1957)]

The act of copulation and the members employed are so repulsive, that if it were not for the beauty of faces and the adornments of the actors and unbridled passion, nature would lose the human race.
[tr. Armstrong (2013), after Nancy (2009)]

 
Added on 28-Sep-22 | Last updated 28-Sep-22
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Rich men’s houses are seldom beautiful, rarely comfortable, and never original. It is a constant source of surprise to people of moderate means to observe how little a big fortune contributes to Beauty.

Margot Asquith
Margot Asquith (1864-1945) British socialite, author, wit [Emma Margaret Asquith, Countess Oxford and Asquith; Margot Oxford; née Tennant]
Autobiography, Vol. 2, 5 May 1908 (1922)
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Added on 22-Aug-22 | Last updated 22-Aug-22
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A soiled baby, with a neglected nose, cannot be conscientiously regarded as a thing of beauty; and inasmuch as babyhood spans but three short years, no baby is competent to be a joy “forever.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“Answers to Correspondents,” Sketches New and Old (1875)
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Ostensibly in response to a "Young Mother" who had written that her new baby was a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
 
Added on 26-Jul-22 | Last updated 26-Jul-22
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Your lady friends are ill to see,
All old or ugly as can be,
And in their company you go
To banquet, play, and portico;
This hideous background you prepare
To seem, by contrast, young and fair.

[Omnes aut vetulas habes amicas
Aut turpes vetulisque foediores.
Has ducis comites trahisque tecum
Per convivia, porticus, theatra.
Sic formosa, Fabulla, sic puella es.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 8, epigram 79 (8.79) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921), “The Contrast”]
    (Source)

"To Fabulla." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

All thy companions aged beldames are,
Or more deform'd than age makes any, far:
These cattle at thy heels thou trail'st always
To public walks, to suppers, and to plays.
'Cause when with such alone we thee compare,
Thou canst be said, Fabulla, young or fair.
[tr. Killigrew (1695)]

All the companions of her grace, I'm told,
Are either very plan, or very old.
With these she visits: these she drags about,
To play, to ball, assembly, auctions, rout:
With these she sups: with these she takes the air.
Without such foils is lady dutchess fair?
[tr. Hay (1755)]

Old women are thine only friends;
     Or rivals, safe as they.
No other face thy face attends,
     To table, porch or play.
Fabulla, thus thou beauteous art,
     And thus thou still art young.
Oh! solace to my eyes impart;
     Or silence to my tongue.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 6, Part 3, ep. 94]

All your female friends are either old or ugly; nay, more ugly than old women usually are. These you lead about in your train, and drag with you to feasts, porticoes, and theatres. Thus, Fabulla, you seem handsome, thus you seem young.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

All the female friends you have are either old crones or ugly, and fouler than old crones. These, as your companions, you conduct and drag about with you through parties, colonnades, theaters. In this way, Fabulla, you are lovely, in this way young.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

The friends that old Fabulla owns
Are harridans and ancient crones,
Ill-favored witches, what you will;
These are her constant comrades still
To banquets, theatres, and shows;
So ever fair and young she goes.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 442]

The only female friends she has
     Are old or ugly crows.
These she drags along with her
     To parties, visits, shows.
So it's no cause for wonder that
     Amidst such company
She's young, attractive, beautiful --
     Almost a joy to see!
[tr. Marcellino (1968)]

Her women friends are all old hags
Or, worse, hideous girls. She drags
Them with her everywhere she goes --
To parties, theaters, porticoes.
Clever Fabulla! Set among
Those foils you shine, even look young.
[tr. Michie (1972)]

With women you keep company
Who are ugly as can be.
These ancient frights you take along
To show off in your social throng.
You hope that we will make compare,
So even you look young and fair.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

All your friends are ancient hags
or eyesores uglier than those.
These are the company you drag
to banquets, plays, and porticoes.
Fabulla, when you're seen among
such friends, you're beautiful and young.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

 
Added on 24-Jul-22 | Last updated 24-Jul-22
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Translation is like a woman. If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017) Russian poet, writer, film director, academic [Евге́ний Евтуше́нко, Evgenij Evtušenko]
(Attributed)

Also attributed to Edmond Jaloux and Tahar Ben Jelloun.
 
Added on 12-Jul-22 | Last updated 12-Jul-22
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There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect. Men do not quarrel about the meaning of sunsets; they never dispute that the hawthorn says the best and wittiest thing about the spring.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
“A Defence of Heraldry,” The Defendant (1901)
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Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks: 1935-1942 Notebook 1, May 1935 [tr. Thody (1963)
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Beauty’s of a fading nature,
Has a season and is gone!

Robert Burns (1759-1796) Scottish national poet
“Will Ye Go and Marry, Katie?” (1764)
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Art for Art’s Sake means, for its adepts, the pursuit of pure beauty — without any other consideration.

[L’art pour l’art signifie, pour les adeptes, un travail dégagé de toute préoccupation autre que celle du beau en lui-même.]

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) French poet, writer, critic
L’Art Moderne, “Beauty in Art [Du Beau Dans L’Art]” (1856) [tr. Ruckstull (1925)]
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For me, a hearty “belly laugh” is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.

Bennett Cerf (1898-1971) American publisher, humorist
An Encyclopedia of Modern American Humor, Foreword (1954)
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Variant: "For me, one of the most beautiful sounds in the world is a hearty laugh."
 
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Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its colour, how perfect was its roundness. It was an admirable thing and altogether precious.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) English writer, fabulist, philologist, academic [John Ronald Reuel Tolkien]
The Lord of the Rings, Vol. 1: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, ch. 2 “The Shadow of the Past” (1954)
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Observe that part of a beautiful woman where she is perhaps the most beautiful, about the neck and breasts; the smoothness; the softness; the easy and insensible swell; the variety of the surface, which is never for the smallest space the same; the deceitful maze, through which the unsteady eye slides giddily, without knowing where to fix, or whither it is carried. Is not this a demonstration of that change of surface continual and yet hardly perceptible at any point which forms one of the great constituents of beauty?

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, 3.15 (1756)
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As the love increases in thee, so the loveliness increases: for love is itself the beauty of the soul.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Homilies on the 1st Epistle of John [Tractatus in epistulam Ioannis ad Parthos], Homily 9 [tr. Browne (1888)]

Sermon on 1 John 4:17-21. Alternate translations:

Beauty grows in you to the extent that love grows, because charity itself is the soul's beauty.
[tr. Ramsey (1990)]

Inasmuch as love grows in you, in so much beauty grows; for love is itself the beauty of the soul.

 
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Beauty always has an element of strangeness. I do not mean a deliberate cold form of strangeness, for in that case it would be a monstrous thing that had jumped the rails of life. But I do mean that it always contains a certain degree of strangeness, of simple, unintended, unconscious strangeness, and that this form of strangeness is what gives it the right to be called beauty.

[Le Beau est toujours bizarre. Je ne veux pas dire qu’il soit volontairement, froidement bizarre, car dans ce cas il serait un monstre sorti des rails de la vie. Je dis qu’il contient toujours un peu de bizarrerie, de bizarrerie naive, non voulue, inconsciente, et que c’est cette bizarrerie qui le fait être particulièrement le Beau.]

Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) French poet, essayist, art critic
“The Universal Exhibition of 1855 [Exposition Universelle de 1855],” sec. 1 (1855) [tr. Charvet (1972)]
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Frequently paraphrased as "Strangeness is a necessary ingredient in beauty." See also Bacon.

Collected in Curiosités Esthétiques, ch. 4 (1868). (Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The Beautiful is always strange. I do not mean that it is coldly, deliberately strange, for in that case it would be a monstrosity that had jumped the rails of life. I mean that it always contains a touch of strangeness, of simple, unpremeditated and unconscious strangeness, and that it is in this touch of strangeness that gives it its particular quality as Beauty.
[tr. Mayne (1965)]

Beauty is always bizarre. I do not mean to say that it is deliberately, coldly bizarre, for in that case it would be a monster that has escaped from the confines of existence. I mean that it always contains a certain amount of strangeness, naïve strangeness, unforced and even unconscious, and that it is this strangeness that stamps it as Beautiful.
[tr. Gregory (1961)]

 
Added on 23-Feb-22 | Last updated 23-Feb-22
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BECKET: Beauty is one of the few things which don’t shake one’s faith in God.

[Le beauté est une des rares choses qui ne font pas douter de Dieu.]

Jean Anouilh (1910-1987) French dramatist
Becket, Act 1 (1959) [tr. Hill (1960)]
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The official English translation approved by Anouilh. (Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Beauty is one of the very few things that don't shake one's faith in God.
[tr. Raphael and Raphael (2004)]

Beauty is one of the rare things that do not lead to doubt of God.
[Frequently found translation, but source unknown]

 
Added on 21-Feb-22 | Last updated 21-Feb-22
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You’re rich and young, as all confess,
And none denies your loveliness;
But when we hear your boastful tongue
You’re neither pretty, rich, nor young.

[Bella es, novimus, et puella, verum est,
Et dives, quis enim potest negare?
Sed cum te nimium, Fabulla, laudas,
Nec dives neque bella nec puella es.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 1, epigram 64 (1.64) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921), “The Boaster”]
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"To Fabulla." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

You're fayre, I know't; and modest too, 't is true;
And rich you are; well, who denyes it you?
But whilst your owne prayse you too much proclame,
Of modest, rich, and fayre you loose the same.
[17th C Manuscript]

Faire, rich, and yong? how rare is her perfection,
Were it not mingled with one soule infection?
I meane, so proud a heart, so curst a tongue,
As makes her seeme, nor faire, nor rich, nor yong.
[tr. Harington (fl. c. 1600), ep. 291; Book 4, ep. 37 "Of a faire Shrew"]

Genteel 't is true, O nymph, you are;
You're rich and beauteous to a hair.
But while too much you praise yourself,
You've neither air, nor charms, nor pelf.
[tr. Gent. Mag. (1746)]

Pretty thou art, we know; a pretty maid!
A rich one, too, it cannot be gainsay'd.
But when thy puffs we hear, thy pride we see;
Thou neither rich, nor fair, nor maid canst be.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 6, Part 3, ep. 48; Bohn labels this as Anon.]

You are pretty, -- we know it; and young, --it is true; and rich, -- who can deny it? But when you praise yourself extravagantly, Fabulla, you appear neither rich, nor pretty, nor young.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Fabulla, it's true you're a fair ingénue,
And your wealth is on every one's tongue:
But your loud self-conceit
Makes people you meet
Think you neither fair, wealthy, nor young.
[tr. Nixon (1911), "The Egoist"]

You are beautiful, we know, and young, that is true, and rich -- for who can deny it? But while you praise yourself overmuch, Fabulla, you are neither rich, nor beautiful, nor young.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

You're beautiful, oh yes, and young, and rich;
But since you tell us so, you're just a bitch.
[tr. Humphries (<1987)]

You're rich, and young, and beautiful!
It's true, and who can doubt it?
But less and less we feel that pull
The more you talk about it.
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

Of debutantes you are beyond compare --
So wealthy, beautiful, and debonair.
Yet you make all this matter not a whit:
Your beauty to undo -- you boast of it.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

You’re lovely, yes, and young, it’s true,
and rich -- who can deny your wealth?
But you aren’t lovely, young or rich,
Fabulla, when you praise yourself.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

 
Added on 18-Feb-22 | Last updated 18-Feb-22
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Gross and obscure natures, however decorated, seem impure shambles; but character gives splendor to youth, and awe to wrinkled skin and gray hairs.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Beauty,” The Conduct of Life (1860)
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I, having built a house, reject
The feud of eye and intellect,
And find in my experience proof
One pleasure runs from root to roof,
One thrust along a streamline arches
The sudden star, the budding larches.

The force that makes the winter grow
Its feathered hexagons of snow,
and drives the bee to match at home
Their calculated honeycomb,
Is abacus and rose combined.
An icy sweetness fills my mind,

A sense that under thing and wing
Lies, taut yet living, coiled, the spring.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
“The Abacus and the Rose” (1965)
    (Source)

First published in Bronowski, Science and Human Values (1965 ed.).
 
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Dear indolent, I love to see,
in your body bright,
How like shimmering silk the skin
Reflects the light!
[…]
When you walk in rhythm, lovely
With abandonment,
You seem to be swayed by a wand,
A dancing serpent.

Que j’aime voir, chère indolente,
De ton corps si beau,
Comme une étoffe vacillante,
Miroiter la peau!
[…]
À te voir marcher en cadence,
Belle d’abandon,
On dirait un serpent qui danse
Au bout d’un bâton.

Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) French poet, essayist, art critic
Les Fleurs du Mal [The Flowers of Evil], Part 1, #29 “Le Serpent qui danse [The Dancing Serpent],” st. 1, 5 (1857) [tr. Gibbs (1947)]
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These phrases use very similar imagery to the previous poem in the collection. (Source (French)). Alternate translations:

I love to watch, while you are lazing,
Your skin. It iridesces
Like silk or satin, smoothly-glazing
The light that it caresses.
[...]
To see you rhythmically advancing
Seems to my fancy fond
As if it were a serpent dancing
Waved by the charmer’s wand.
[tr. Campbell (1952), #28 "The Snake That Dances"]

Indolent darling, how I love
To see the skin
Of your body so beautiful
Shimmer like silk!
[...]
To see you walking in cadence
With fine abandon,
One would say a snake which dances
On the end of a staff.
[tr. Aggeler (1954) "The Dancing Serpent"]

Indolent love, with what delight
I watch the tawny flesh
Of your sweet body shimmer bright
As a bright silken mesh.
[...]
Your sinuous cadenced walk enhancing
Your slim proud gait, a frond
Swaying, you are, or a snake dancing
Atop a fakir's wand.
[tr. LeClercq (1958) "Dancing Serpent"]

How I love to watch, dear indolent creature,
The skin of your so
Beautiful body glisten, like some
Quivering material!
[...]
Seeing your harmonious walk,
Abandoned beauty,
One would say a snake was dancing
At the end of a stick.
[tr. Wagner (1974) "The Dancing Serpent"]

Dear indolent! I love to see
with every move you make
the iridescence of your skin
gleam like watered silk.
[...]
And when you walk to cadences
of sinuous nonchalance,
it looks as if a serpent danced
in rhythm to a wand.
[tr. Howard (1982) "As If A Serpent Danced"]

How I adore, dear indolent,
Your lovely body, when
Like silken cloth it shimmers --
Your sleek and glimmering skin!
[...]
Viewing the rhythm of your walk,
Beautifully dissolute,
One seems to see a serpent dance
Before a wand and flute.
[tr. McGowan (1993), "The Dancing Serpent"]

How love to look, dear indolent one, at your beautiful body and see, like a shot silk, the changing gleam of your skin! [...]
Seeing your rhythmic walk, beautiful in its abandon, one thinks of a serpent dancing at the head of a stick.
[tr. Clark (1995), #18 "The Dancing Serpent"]

How I love, dear lazybones, to see how the skin of your beautiful body sparkles like cloth billowing [...]
To see you walk in cadence, fair unconstrained, brings to mind a serpent dancing at the prodding of a stick.
[tr. Waldrop (2006), "Dancing Serpent"]

 
Added on 10-Feb-22 | Last updated 10-Feb-22
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The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) English writer, fabulist, philologist, academic [John Ronald Reuel Tolkien]
The Lord of the Rings, Vol. 1: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, ch. 6 “Lothlórien” [Haldir] (1954)
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Beauty soon grows familiar to the lover,
Fades in his eye, and palls upon the sense.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
Cato, A Tragedy, Act 1, sc. 4 (1713)
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At that,
as she turned away her neck shone with a rosy glow,
her mane of hair gave off an ambrosial fragrance,
her skirt flowed loose, rippling down to her feet
and her stride alone revealed her as a goddess.

[Dixit et avertens rosea cervice refulsit,
Ambrosiaeque comae divinum vertice odorem
Spiravere; pedes vestis defluxit ad imos,
Et vera incessu patuit dea.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 1, l. 402ff (1.402-405) (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006), l. 487ff]
    (Source)

Describing Venus. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Thus having said, she turn'd, and made appear
Her neck refulgent, and dishevel'd hair,
Which, flowing from her shoulders, reach'd the ground.
And widely spread ambrosial scents around:
In length of train descends her sweeping gown;
And, by her graceful walk, the Queen of Love is known.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

She said, and turning away, shone radiant with her rosy neck, and from her head ambrosial locks breathed divine fragrance: her robe hung flowing to the ground, and by her gait the goddess stood confessed.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

She turned, and flashed upon their view
Her stately neck's purpureal hue;
Ambrosial tresses round her head
A more than earthly fragrance shed:
Her falling robe her footprints swept,
And showed the goddess as she stept.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

She said; and turning, gleamed with rosy neck,
And from her head divinest odors breathed
In her ambrosial hair. Around her feet
Floated her flowing robe; and in her gait
All the true goddess was revealed.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 524ff]

Speaking she turned away, and her neck shone roseate, her immortal tresses breathed the fragrance of deity; her raiment fell flowing down to her feet, and the godhead was manifest in her tread.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

She spake, she turned, from rosy neck the light of heaven she cast,
And from her hair ambrosial the scent of Gods went past
Upon the wind, and o'er her feet her skirts fell shimmering down,
And very God she went her ways.
[tr. Morris (1900), l. 402ff]

So saying, she turned, and all refulgent showed
Her roseate neck, and heavenly fragrance sweet
Was breathed from her ambrosial hair. Down flowed
Her loosened raiment, streaming to her feet,
And by her walk the Goddess shone complete.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 53; l. 478ff]

She ceased and turned away. A roseate beam
from her bright shoulder glowed; th' ambrosial hair
breathed more than mortal sweetness, while her robes
fell rippling to her feet. Each step revealed
the veritable goddess.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

She spoke, and as she turned away, her roseate neck flashed bright. From her head her ambrosial tresses breathed celestial fragrance; down to her feet fell her raiment, and in her step she was revealed a very goddess.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

And as she turned, her shoulders
Shone with a radiant light; her hair shed fragrance,
Her robes slipped to her feet, and the true goddess
Walked in divinity.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

She spoke. She turned away; and as she turned, her neck
Glowed to a rose-flush, her crown of ambrosial hair breathed out
A heavenly fragrance, her robe flowed down, down to her feet,
And in gait she was all a goddess.
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

Those were the words of Venus. When she turned,
her neck was glittering with a rose brightness;
her hair anointed with ambrosia,
her head gave all a fragrance of the gods;
her gown was long and to the ground; even
her walk was sign enough she was a goddess.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 572ff]

On this she turned away. Rose-pink and fair
Her nape shone, her ambrosial hair exhaled
Divine perfume, her gown rippled full length,
And by her stride she showed herself a goddess.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 552ff]

When she was finished speaking and was turning way, her neck shone with a rosy light and her hair breathed the divine odor of ambrosia. Her dress flowed free to her feet and as she walked he knew she was truly a goddess.
[tr. West (1990)]

She spoke, and as she turned, her neck
Shone with roselight. An immortal fragrance
From her ambrosial locks perfumed the air,
Her robes flowed down to cover her feet,
And every step revealed her divinity.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

As she turned away, her neck gleamed rosily, her ambrosial hair gave off a divine scent and her robes grew longer, flowing to her feet. Her gait too revealed the goddess.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
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I praise your body’s beauty. “Quite enough,”
Galla, you say, “it’s better in the buff.”
Let’s go a-bathing then, but you decline.
Galla, are you afraid you won’t like mine?

[Cum faciem laudo, cum miror crura manusque,
Dicere, Galla, soles ‘Nuda placebo magis,’
Et semper vitas communia balnea nobis.
Numquid, Galla, times, ne tibi non placeam?]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 3, epigram 51 (3.51) [tr. Barger]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

When, Galla, thy face, hands, and legs I admire,
Thou say'st, I, when naked more pleasing shall be.
Yet, one common bath, I full vainly require:
Dost fear that I shall not be pleasing to thee?
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 4, Part 3 ep. 38]

When I praise your face, when I admire your limbs and hands,
You tell me, Galla, "In nature's garments I shall please you still better."
Yet you always avoid the same baths with myself!
Do you fear, Galla, that I shall not please you?
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

When I compliment your face, when I admire your legs and hands,
You are accustomed to say, Galla: "Naked I shall please you more,"
And yet you continually avoid taking a bath with me.
Surely you are not afraid, Galla, that I shall not please you?
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Whene'er I praise your legs and arms,
Your eyes and rosy cheeks admire,
You whisper low -- "My hidden charms
A deeper wonder will inspire."

And yet whenever I suggest
A bath together, you say no,
Perhaps you fear that when undressed
Without my clothes I shall not do.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

I praise your face and figure as divine
"But if you saw me nude -- I really shine"
Yet rather than shed clothes you seek distraction
Because a letdown will be my reaction?
[tr. Wills (2007)]

 
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The very women who object to the morals of a notoriously beautiful actress, grow big with pride when an admirer suggests their marked resemblance to this stage beauty in physique.

No picture available
Minna Antrim (1861-1950) American epigrammatist, writer
Naked Truth and Veiled Allusions (1901)
 
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After nine months of familiarity with this panorama, I still think, as I thought in the beginning, that this is the fairest picture on our planet, the most enchanting to look upon, the most satisfying to the eye and the spirit. To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of color that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature, and make a sympathetic one drunk with ecstasy.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Autobiography, “Chapters Added in Florence (1904)” (1924) [ed. Bigelow]
    (Source)

Recounting his previous stay in, and view of, Florence, Italy, starting in 26 September 1892; written while again staying there in 1904.
 
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If a man should ascend alone into heaven and behold clearly the structure of the universe and the beauty of the stars, there would be no pleasure for him in the awe-inspiring sight, which would have filled him with delight if he had had someone to whom he could describe what he had seen.

[Si quis in coelum ascendisset, naturamque mundi, et pulchritudinem siderum perspexisset, insuavem illam admirationem ei fore; quae jucudissima fuisset, si aliquem, cui narraret, habuisset.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship], ch. 23 / sec. 88 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Cicero attributes this as a paraphrase of Archytas of Tarentum (d. 394 BC), a Pythagorean philosopher and astronomer. Alternate translations:

If any one could have ascended to the sky, and surveyed the structure of the universe, and the beauty of the stars, that such admiration would be insipid to him; and yet it would be most delightful if he had someone to whom he might describe it.
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

If one had ascended to heaven, and had obtained a full view of the nature of the universe and the beauty of the stars, yet his admiration would be without delight, if there were no one to whom he could tell what he had seen.
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

If a man could ascend to heaven and get a clear view of the natural order of the universe, and the beauty of the heavenly bodies, that wonderful spectacle would give him small pleasure, though nothing could be conceived more delightful if he had but had some one to whom to tell what he had seen.
[tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]

If a man could mount to heaven and survey the mighty universe with all the planetary orbs, his admiration of its beauties would be much diminished, unless he had someone to share in his pleasure.
[Source]

 
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Here’s a comforting thought for you, Peter. However long you may live, the world will never lose its ability to surprise you with its beauty.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Lies Sleeping (2018)
    (Source)
 
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No object is so ugly that, under certain conditions of light and shade, or proximity to other things, it will not look beautiful; no object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
Lecture to Art Students, Royal Academy, London (30 Jun 1883)
    (Source)
 
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The innocent and the beautiful
Have no enemy but time.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet and dramatist
“In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz” (1927)
    (Source)
 
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Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
Cakes and Ale, ch. 11 (1930)
    (Source)
 
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Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance; at least I suppose this quill I hold in my hand writes better than a peacock’s would, and the peasants of Vevay, whose fields in spring time are as white with lilies as the Dent du Midi is with its snow, told me the hay was none the better for them.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Stones of Venice, ch. 2 “The Virtues of Architecture,” sec. 17 (1851)
    (Source)
 
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For even the humblest person, a day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search for truth and perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) American writer, philosopher, historian, architect
The Condition of Man (1944)
    (Source)
 
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The ideal has many names, and beauty is but one of them.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
Cakes and Ale (1930)
    (Source)
 
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The good things of youth are strength and beauty, but the flower of age is moderation.

[Ἰσχὺς καὶ εὐμορφίη νεότητος ἀγαθά, γήραος δὲ σωφροσύνη ἄνθος.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 294 (Diels) [tr. Freeman (1948)]
    (Source)

Diels citation: "294. (205 N.)"; ; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium IV, 115, 19.

Alternate translations:

  • "The good things of youth are strength and beauty; moderation is the flower of age." [Source]
  • "Strength and beauty are the blessings of youth; temperance, however, is the flower of old age."
 
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A full bosom is actually a millstone around a woman’s neck: it endears her to the men who want to make their mammet of her, but she is never allowed to think that their popping eyes actually see her.

Germaine Greer (b. 1939) English reformer, author, educator
“Curves,” The Female Eunuch (1970)
    (Source)
 
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People who care for you inevitably become beautiful.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Bingo, ch. 38 (1988)
    (Source)
 
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Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks.

John Muir (1838-1914) Scottish-American naturalist
The Yosemite, ch. 15 “Hetch Hetchy Valley” (1912)
    (Source)
 
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The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) Swiss-American psychiatrist, author
Death: The Final Stage of Growth (1975)
    (Source)
 
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If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

[Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, deerit nihil.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Epistulae ad Familiares [Letters to Friends], Book 9, Letter 4 “To Varro” (9.4) (46-45 BC)

In June 708 AUC. Sometimes rendered "nihil deerit."

Alt. trans.: "If you have a garden in your library, everything will be complete." [Source].

Original Latin in context.
 
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To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.

Paul Klee (1879-1940) Swiss-German artist
Diary 3, #759 (Mar 1906)
    (Source)
 
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Youth is full of sunshine and life. Youth is happy, because it has the ability to see beauty. When this ability is lost, wretched old age begins, decay, unhappiness. […] Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Czech-Austrian Jewish writer
In Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 1971 ed.)
 
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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (1855-1897) Irish novelist
Molly Bawn (1878)
    (Source)

The first formulation of this precise phrase in print. The speaker "quotes" the words, as the sentiment was already widespread (believed to have originated from Hume).
 
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Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others.

David Hume (1711-1776) Scottish philosopher, economist, historian, empiricist
“Of the Standard of Taste” (1739)
    (Source)
 
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Behold the hippopotamus!
We laugh at how he looks to us,
And yet in moments dank and grim,
I wonder how we look to him.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“The Hippopotamus”
    (Source)
 
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The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) South African writer and political activist
“A Bolter and the Invincible Summer” (1963)
    (Source)

See Keats.
 
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Who on earth could blame them? Ah, no wonder
the men of Troy and Argives under arms have suffered
years of agony all for her, for such a woman.
Beauty, terrible beauty!
A deathless goddess — so she strikes our eyes!

[Οὐ νέμεσις Τρῶας καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιοὺς
τοιῇδ’ ἀμφὶ γυναικὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἄλγεα πάσχειν·
αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 3, l. 156ff (3.156-158) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 187-190]

Alt. trans.:
Surely there is no blame on Trojans and strong-greaved Achaians
if for long time they suffer hardship for a woman like this one.
Terrible is the likeness of her face to immortal goddesses.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

No wonder, such celestial charms
For nine long years have set the world in arms!
What winning graces! what majestic mien!
She moves a goddess, and she looks a queen.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Trojans and Grecians wage, with fair excuse,
Long war for so much beauty. Oh, how like
In feature to the Goddesses above!
Pernicious loveliness!
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 181-83]

It is not a subject for indignation, that Trojans and well-greaved Greeks endure hardships for a long time on account of such a woman. In countenance she is wondrous like unto the immortal goddesses ....
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

Small blame is it that Trojans and well-greaved Achaians should for such a woman long time suffer hardships; marvellously like is she to the immortal goddesses to look upon.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

And, "'tis no marvel," one to other said,
"The valiant Trojans and the well-greav'd Greeks
For beauty such as this should long endure
The toils of war; for goddess-like she seems."
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Small wonder that Trojans and Achaeans should endure so much and so long, for the sake of a woman so marvellously and divinely lovely.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

It is no wonder
that Trojans and Akhaians under arms
should for so long have borne the pains of war
for one like this. Unearthliness. A goddess
the woman is to look at.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974), l. 186ff]

There is indeed no blame on the Trojans and well-greaved Achaians,
over a woman like this so long a time suffering sorrows;
dreadfully like the immortal goddesses is she to look on.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]
 
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Beauty, like truth and goodness, is a quality that may in one sense be predicated of all great art, but the deliberate attempt to beautify can, in itself, only weaken the creative energy. Beauty in art is like happiness in morals: it may accompany the act, but it cannot be the goal of the act, just as one cannot “pursue happiness,” but only something else that may give happiness.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
Anatomy of Criticism, “Mythical Phase: Symbol as Archetype” (1957)
    (Source)
 
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Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they’re much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity.

Eric S. Raymond (b. 1957) American software developer, writer [a.k.a. ESR]
The Cathedral & the Bazaar (1999)
 
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Marrying a woman for her beauty makes no more sense than eating a bird for its singing. But it’s a common mistake nonetheless.

Charles Frazier (b. 1950) American novelist
Cold Mountain (1997)
    (Source)
 
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Many complain of their looks, but none of their brains.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Italian proverb

Also noted as a Jewish or Yiddish proverb.

This is also often cited to Sally Koslow, Little Pink Slips, ch. 5 (2007); it appears there as ""Many complain of their looks, few of their brains," but is described as an unoriginal needlepoint on a pillow cover.

See also La Rochefoucauld for a similar construction.
 
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The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes,
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and empty skies.

Ewan MacColl (1915-1989) Scottish folk singer, songwriter, labour activist, playwright [stage name of James Henry (Jimmy) Miller]
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (1957)
    (Source)
 
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Beauty without grace, is a hook without a bait.

Anne "Ninon" de l'Enclos (1620-1705) French author, courtesan, patron of the arts [Ninon de Lenclos, Ninon de Lanclos]
The Memoirs of Ninon de L’Enclos, Vol. 1, “Life and Character” (1761)
    (Source)

Ralph Waldo Emerson used almost precisely the same phrase in "Beauty," The Conduct of Life (1860).
 
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Beauty is but a lease from nature.

No picture available
Edward Counsel (fl. 19th C) Australian author, composer
Maxims: Political, Philosophical, and Moral, #541 (2nd ed., 1892)
    (Source)
 
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She’s adorn’d
Amply that in her husband’s eye looks lovely —
The truest mirror that an honest wife
Can see her beauty in!

No picture available
John Tobin (1770-1804) British playwright
The Honey Moon, Act 3, sc. 4 (1805)
    (Source)
 
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