“The dream was quite at an end. The last spark had died out of the paper in the grate and left only black tinder; the table was left bare, the golden plates and richly embroidered napkins, and the garlands were transformed again into old handkerchiefs, scraps of red and white paper, and discarded artificial flowers all scattered on the floor; the minstrels in the minstrel gallery had stolen away, and the viols and bassoons were still. Emily was sitting with her back against the wall, staring very hard. Sara saw her, and went and picked her up with trembling hands.”
Even after hundreds of readings, I have to admit that I still get a little choked up when I reach this paragraph in Francis Hodgson Burnett’s novel, A Little Princess. After a heroic attempt to create beauty out of rubbish and a concerted act of imagination, young Sara Crewe faces utter despair.
I wonder, wasn’t there something beautiful about her attic room, just for a moment before Miss Minchen found her out and destroyed everything? I think that there was and I think it was palpable.
A paper cup of dandelions can be beautiful when they are given to you by your child. A poverty-stricken mission church in Africa can be beautiful when it is constructed with love. Even a tacky desktop wallpaper can be beautiful when it is the manifestation of the last ray of hope for someone living cubicle-imprisoned existence.
Although I am not completely convinced by my own argument, I want to believe that a pure intention, even when combined with severely limited resources or a malnourished aesthetic, can create beauty. Is that beauty objective, subjective, or just supernatural?