Helen. Encom. [XI] §§ 54—58.
In the Helen
it is interesting to mark both the likeness and the deep unlikeness to a Platonic strain:—
‘They had reason for their choice, and I for the greatness of these praises; for she was gifted above all others with Beauty, the first of all things in majesty and honour and divineness. It is easy to see its power; there are many things which have no share of Courage, or Wisdom, or Justice which yet will be found honoured above things which have each of these; but nothing which is devoid of Beauty is prized; all things are scorned which have not been given their part of that attribute; the admiration for Virtue itself comes to this, that of all manifestations of life Virtue is the most beautiful.
The supremacy of Beauty over all other things can be seen from our own dispositions towards it and them. Other things we seek merely to attain, as we may have need of them; we have no further affection of the mind about them; but beautiful things inspire us with love—love, which is as much stronger than wish as its object is better. We are jealous of those who excel in ability or anything else, unless they
conciliate us by daily benefits and constrain us to feel kindly towards them: but the beautiful inspire us with goodwill at first sight; to them alone, as to the gods, we are never tired of doing homage, delighting to be their slaves rather than to be rulers of others, and feeling more gratitude to those of them who set us many tasks than to those who lay no commands upon us. We reproach the subjects of any other despotism with the name of flatterers; but we see only a clear-eyed and noble zeal in the lieges of Beauty. Care for that gift is to us so perfectly a religion that we hold the profaners of it in themselves more dishonoured than sinners against others, but honour for all time, and as benefactors to the State, those who have guarded the glory of their own youth in the chasteness of an inviolable shrine.’