Sunday, February 27, 2022

Loved but Still Unknown

by Constance Naden

Eternal Beauty, Truth’s interpreter,
Is bound by no austere æsthetic creed;
All forms of art she uses at her need,
And e’en unlovely things are slaves to her:
And we, whose hearts her lightest breath can stir,
Must prize her flowers, whoe’er has sown the seed,
And love each noble picture, song, or deed,
Whose soul is true, although the form should err.

She is God’s servant, but the queen of man,
Who fondly dreams she lives for him alone,
And while her power is felt through time and space,
Proclaims her priestess of some petty clan,
Catching but transient glimpses of a face
Veiled in rich vestures, loved but still unknown.

Because Hylo-Idealism recently came up in reading Oscar Wilde, I have been thinking a bit about Constance Naden (1858-1889), one of the philosophical movement's primary figures. In her lifetime she was recognized as one of the great English poetesses of the day, but she also wrote philosophical works, mostly essays for various scientific or freethinking periodicals. Her Induction and Deduction, first published in 1887, is an unusually good discussion of the history of various positions taken on the relation of induction to deduction, particularly given the state of philosophical historiography of the time -- while not perfect, the work bursts a number of myths that you can still find professional philosophers accepting a hundred years later. People largely stopped reading her works until the 1980s, and since then there has been a slowly increasing interest in her.