Wilfred Owen: Beauty

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[Notes for an unfinished poem]

The beautiful, the fair, the elegant,
Is that which pleases us, says Kant,
Without a thought of interest or advantage.

I used to watch men when they spoke of beauty
And measure their enthusiasm. One
An old man, seeing a ( ) setting sun,
Praised it ( ) a certain sense of duty
To the calm evening and his time of life.
I know another man that never says a Beauty
But of a horse; ( )

Men seldom speak of beauty, beauty as such,
Not even lovers think about it much.
Women of course consider it for hours
In mirrors; ( )

A shrapnel ball –
Just where the wet skin glistened when he swam –
Like a fully-opened sea-anemone.
We both said ‘What a beauty! What a beauty, lad’
I knew that in that flower he saw a hope
Of living on, and seeing again the roses of his home.
Beauty is that which pleases and delights,
Not bringing personal advantage – Kant.
But later on I heard
A canker worked into that crimson flower
And that he sank with it
And laid it with the anemones off Dover.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

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