The following piece is by Frederick W. Robertson, and like the title, "A Stray Thought", it is random but intrigues me. I have never read this subject addressed in this way and it puts to words many thoughts I've had.
A Stray Thought
“Perhaps no man can attain the highest excellence who is insensible to sensuous beauty. A sense of earthly beauty may, and often does, lead to softness, voluptuousness, and defilement of heart; but its right result is to lead on as a stepping-stone to the sense of a higher beauty. Sensuous beauty leaves the heart unsatisfied; it gives conceptions which are infinite, but it never give or realizes the infinite.
For human beauty is a sight
To sadden rather than delight,
Being the prelude of a lay
Whose burden is decay.
Still it leads on to the infinite. It answers partly to a sense which it does not satisfy, but leaves you craving still, and, because craving, therefore seeking. The true objective of that sense is moral beauty; and by degrees we find and feel, as the outward fades and crumbles away, that there is a type of super sensuous; through the visible the invisible loveliness. Through disappointment at the unreal phantom, we learn to believe in and live for the unchangeable. No man knows the highest goodness who does not feel beauty. The beauty of holiness is its highest aspect. To act right because it is beautiful, and because noble, true, self-denying, pure acts commend themselves to a soul attuned to harmony, is the highest kind of goodness.
“To see the King in his beauty” is the loftiest and most unearthly attainment. Can any one be keenly alive to this who has no heart for external beauty? Surely he who is callous to form and color, and unmoved by visible beauty, is not above but below our nature; he may be good, but not in the highest order of goodness. Goethe says that "Beautiful is above the Good": probably meaning that the beauty of an action is a more spiritual and elevated notion that its obligation or usefulness.”
I like this final quote and Robertson's interpretation; deeds of obligation and usefulness are always appreciated, but when an action is not required or expected it has its own beauty.