Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shelley, Spontaneous Order, and Beauty

Rereading Percy Bysshe Shelley's Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, I noticed in the first stanza that Shelley seems to be describing a spontaneous order:

The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats through unseen among us, -- visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower, --
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening, --
Like clouds in starlight widely spread, --
Like memory of music fled, --
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

This certainly sounds like Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand," or Hayek's Spontaneous Order. Most striking is that Shelley connects this to beauty:

Spirit of Beauty, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form, -- where art thou gone?

In connection to this, I would direct you to my posting where I connect beauty and spontaneous order.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the poet who said that "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" in his A Defense of Poetry should have had this insight.
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