Sonnet to Beauty – Lola Ridge – Analysis

Sonnet to beauty

Show me thy way. Though I have held thy name,
that tremulously now my lips let fall,
as word too dear for traffic of the tongue,
yet I have loved thee, Beauty, beyond all.
Be with me in this hour: dread shapes of thee
apparelled in the lustre not their own –
as buzzard, gracened by the wizardry
of light, looks all but lovely as the swan,
shall not appal. In thy high company –
whereof all things are free and each wild theme
weaves in a relentless rise and fall
to resolution. I shall brokenly –
hear through the fury, through the windless dream,
heart of the terror, chiming at thy call.

Lola Ridge (1873-1941)

Published posthumously.

This poem is all about appreciating beauty when, for whatever reason, it is hard to find beauty in what is happening in life. But LR wants ‘Beauty’ to show her the way and talking about beauty is nonsense – ‘too dear for traffic of the tongue’. She has known beauty through her life.

But she pleads for ‘Beauty’ to be with her in this hour – an hour of need due to sickness or impending death perhaps. She sees some shapes of ‘Beauty’ and likens this to light falling on a buzzard giving ‘Beauty’ to this bird so that it becomes swan like. Swans are beautiful and grace filled images. And high company links to the bird reference in the wild freedom of flight.

The last six lines recognise the power of ‘Beauty’ in everything – it resolves all in a relentless rise and fall. And LR states that she will brokenly hear ‘Beauty’ as she goes through the current terror afflicting her. She will eventually hear ‘Beauty’ answering the call of ‘Beauty’.

This was one of the last poems that she wrote. May beauty astound her to eternity.

Lola Ridge on Wikipedia
and an interesting podcast on Lola Ridge (including commentary by biographer Terese Svoboda)