Page:Some soldier poets.djvu/91

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"Flower-like and shy
You stand, sweet mortal, at the river's brim:
With what unconscious grace
Your limbs to some strange law surrendering
Which lifts you clear of our humanity!

Now would I sacrifice
Your breathing, warmth, and all the strange romance
Of living to a moment! Ere you break
The greater thing than you, I would my eyes
Were basilisk to turn you to a stone.
So should you be the world's inheritance,
And souls of unborn men should draw their breath
From mortal you, immortalised in Death."[1]

Human beauty, that "greater thing than you," haunts mankind. Its complex attraction maddens not only saints and artists but every honest heart. To arrest it, to keep it steadily in view is our greatest need, yet like the wind it is here and is gone. Having moved men like a hurricane to prove by devastation that their race or their religion is its chosen vehicle, it will be content to fondle a child with caressing indulgence, turning her self-will "to favour and to prettiness." Generations have sought to mew it in a sentence, to immortalise it as the memory of a man or the record of a god's visit. Some have claimed that only perfect form could express it, while others find eloquent a "visage more marred than that of any man," capable of suffering a greater persecution than any other creature. The notion that this revelation may wholly possess one of ourselves, one who may stand emptied of it like a vacant house an hour hence, is old and beautiful. Yes, one lovely moment of a

  1. "Gloucestershire Friends. By Lieutenant F. W. Harvey. Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd. 2s. 6d. Quotations by permission of Mrs Harvey and of Bishop Frodsham.