"It is better to be beautiful than to be good, but it is better to be good than to be ugly."
"You do not love a woman because she is beautiful, but she is beautiful because you love her."
"You do not love a woman because she is beautiful."
Of course, at a philosophical level, one could more than quibble with Wilde’s premise. If beauty is an absolute entity, ultimately spiritual and not necesarily physical, then Beauty inheres and emanates from The Divine and is therefore one with essential Goodness. Thus defined, then Beauty, inherently possessed of Goodness, could indeed move the soul to Love. But such philosophical quibbling would destroy the elegant simplicity of Wilde’s beautiful proverb. What the poet aims to communicate is a simple truth unsullied by philosophical complexity–merely physical beauty, and thus physical attraction, cannot be a true motive for love.
Physical beauty is temporal, "the grass withers" and
The flower that smiles today
All that we wish to stay
Tempts and then flies.
But the ultimate potency of Wilde’s proverb derives from the aphoristic juxtaposition of his second clause:
"she is beautiful because you love her."
Dante would have us remember that Love beautifully metamorphoses both the beloved and the lover himself. Dante’s love for Beatrice indeed transfigured her in his eyes, but equally transfigured him. Like the moon embraces and then throws back to the sun its light, Dante’s love for Beatrice ricocheted back to his very own soul, and thus he describes her as
"she who doth imparadise my soul."
There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, . . .
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.