Where Beauty and Grace Reside

One of the things I appreciate most about having adult children is the opportunity to learn from them, especially about thoughtful books and films.  A few years ago, our son, Garrett, introduced us to the sleeper film, The Painted Veil.  Ironically, only a few days later, our daughter, Haley, telephoned me from Texas and said, “You and Dad have to see this film!”  

During September, our wedding anniversary month, I think about weighty quotes, on the nature of love and marriage, that are substantial enough to ponder and to share with you, my Faithful Readers.  While re-watching The Painted Veil, I found them.

The Painted Veil film is based upon the same-titled novel, by W. Somerset Maugham [pronounced, “Mom”], English dramatist & novelist (1874 – 1965).  The title, in turn, is based upon the Sonnet, Lift Not the Painted Veil, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822.

Here is the sonnet, since it is very short:

Lift Not the Painted Veil

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it—he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

Here is a very brief summary of the book:  The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham, 1925:

“A quiet, uncluttered, straightforward book in its rendition of the pitfalls of adultery. When Walter Fane discovers his wife Kitty’s involvement with another man, Charles, he takes her to Mei-tan-fu, a far off place in China during a cholera epidemic. Kitty, brought up never wanting, raised to marry well, shallow and ignorant of sacrifice and devotion discovers what and how it is to be compassionate as she faces unimaginable poverty, hardship and death in this ‘painted veil called life.’ ” [From A Thousand Books and Quotes, a blog]

I hope the following quotes [from the book] will encourage you to read the book and watch the film, in whichever order you prefer.  As for me, I watched the film first and  I read the book later and, as I recall, the two were slightly different.  Watch the film because it is visually  stunning.  Read the book because the language is masterful.

Proviso:  The film is achingly beautiful but it is intense.

The Painted Veil may challenge your assumptions about the nature of love and marriage.  It will certainly provide “food and drink” for hours of rich conversation with one, two, three, or more persons.

I would love to read your thoughts on the book and/or film.  Submit a Reply to me and we can converse!

Quotes from the book:

‘One cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one’s soul.’

‘Remember that it is nothing to do your duty, that is demanded of you and is no more meritorious than to wash your hands when they are dirty; the only thing that counts is the love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding.’

‘Beauty is also a gift of God, one of the most rare and precious, and we should be thankful if we are happy enough to possess it and thankful if we are not, that others possess it for our pleasure.’

‘I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.’

‘Each member of the orchestra plays his own little instrument, and what do you think he knows of the complicated harmonies which unroll themselves on the indifferent air? He is concerned only with his small share. But he knows that the symphony is lovely, and though there’s none to hear it, it is lovely still, and he is content to play his part.’

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1 Comment

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One response to “Where Beauty and Grace Reside

  1. This movie has dominated my idle thoughts for days. It has given me language and visuals to articulate my views, now slightly more formed than before, on marriage. One of the few movies that is not happy, that I love.

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