"Beauty Is Momentary In The Mind"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The poet, reflecting upon the nature of music, concludes that there is a music of the spirit as well as for the ears. The realization that "music is feeling, then, not sound" directs the poet's mind to several aspects of this inner music. Recognizing the rhythms of his own deep feelings for his beloved, he is reminded of the story of the rape of Susanna by certain Hebrew Elders. The emotional variations reflected in the story are conveyed as intense musical sensations. The desire "waked in the Elders by Susanna" made "the basses of their beings throb/ In witching chords, and their thin blood/ Pulse pissicati of Hosanna." Susanna's thrill at her own loveliness and charm was a melody too. And when the Elders seized her, "a cymbal crashed,/ And roaring horns." The story is concluded with the "noise like tambourines" which comes in discovery and accusation. The poet concludes that the immortal beauty is that which lives naturally a part of the human sensibility:

Beauty is momentary in the mind–
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.
The body dies; the body's beauty lives.
So evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing. . . .