Vision of the Ainur: Integritas, Consonantia, Claritas

Metaphysics of the Music, part 30

Adding to the Vision’s theological and theodical superiority over the Music is its comparative aesthetic excellence, a point brought home in the Vision when Ilúvatar explains to Ulmo, the Ainur who later assumes dominion over the sea, that the “bitter cold immoderate” caused by Melkor has not in fact destroyed “the beauty of [Ulmo’s] fountains, nor of [his] clear pools,” but has instead managed only to contribute to “the height and glory of the clouds,” “the everchanging mists,” and “the fall of rain upon the Earth.” To this disclosure Ulmo responds with appropriate awe: “Truly, Water is become now fairer than my heart imagined, neither had my secret thought conceived the snowflake, nor in all my music was contained the falling of the rain” (Silmarillion 19, emphasis added). To frame the difference in the aesthetic categories of St. Thomas, the essential visual character of the Vision, “giving sight where before was only hearing,” means that to the integrity and proportionality or harmony of the Music, the Vision adds the further aesthetic property of clarity or splendor, the radiance of created form. (For an application, incidentally, of Thomas’s three qualities of beauty of integrity, proportion, and clarity to the art of the Elves, see Alison Milbank, Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians, 23-4.)

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