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Beauty, from "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," sung by Roberta Flack

Subthemes: Eyes of the Beholder, Cosmetics Contours and Clothes, More Than Just the Face, Components and Composites

Roberta Flack’s rendition of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” conveys the powerful, lightening attraction of someone beautiful. That “pitter patter of the heart” happens mysteriously but it flashes into lives all the time. Infatuation, perhaps, or love at first sight, the song brings to mind several subthemes of beauty.

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” sung by Roberta Flack

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love
To the dark and the endless skies

I have omitted the remaining lyrics but you can listen to the song.

Eyes of the Beholder: We should all be thankful that when it comes to looks, “different strokes for different folks.” The first time ever I saw your face instantly and completely transported the singer to celestial rapture; another person might have just walked on by. A stunner to one is a shrugger to another. Because tastes differ, each of us can appeal to someone and we find a variety of others visually appealing to us. Chacun à son goût: each to his or her own taste since who is a breathtaking beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Cosmetics, Contours and Clothes: The first stanza highlights only the eyes nature gave him without any makeup. That simplicity glosses that an enormous, profitable industry fuels and feeds the desires of billions of people for a more attractive face and body. Start with what you can do for your face: blush, Botox, contact lenses, cucumber slices, eyebrow plucking and filling, eyelashes, eye liner, facial creams, foundation, lip-liner, lipstick, mascara, mud baths – all cosmetics and techniques to beautify what the world principally notices – the face.

Then consider shaping the contours of the body in pursuit of beauty: braces, breast implants or reductions, diets of every conceivable type, exercise regimens, hair implants, hair styling (extensions, braids, cuts, curling, coloring ….), hydration, fingernail extensions, liposuction, nips and tucks, tats, shaving razors and beard trimmers, toe nail polish. Moreover, what you wear can promote your pro’s and conceal your con’s: luxury brands, high heels, lift-up bras, perfume, spandex, and the fashion-industry’s unceasing efforts to persuade you to style your look with the apparel they sell. Robert Herrick knew the effect of clothes: “Whenas in silks my Julia goes”. Taken positively, we all enjoy appealing looks; taken negatively, the efforts suggest trickery, artifice and painted ladies.

More Than Just the Face: The first stanza of this song calls out the face, or more precisely the eyes, of the inamorato. But the rest of the song praises more of the other person. To the improvements of cosmetics, contours, and clothes one can add good posture, health, confidence, plenty of sleep and personality. How she moves contributes to the total effect as does experience, sophistication, power and money. Those deemed beautiful glow with vitality. Confidence, posture, calmness, a sultry voice or a gravelly growl, whatever weight, height and proportions one’s milieu deems best all contribute to physical beauty.

Components and Composites: Not only does the overall appeal of someone vary among us, even the individual components of appearance – eyes, skin, lips, smile, hair, muscles, height, weight – hit home differently. For Roberta Flack’s smitten singer, the eyes overwhelmed.

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes

Still, all of us have our individual likes and dislikes, our hot buttons and kinks. Someone lusts over his smile, her perky nose, his gluteal muscles, her neck, his fingers, her toes, his height or her hips, his pecs or her cleavage. Even so, the composite appeal often leaves lovers unable to pinpoint which component takes pride of place. No one falls in love with eyebrows, but take them away or mar them, and beauty fades. The person’s whole look spins the straw of parts into the golden girl.


Sung slowly yet with smoldering passion, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” reminds listeners of the magnetic pull of a beautiful person. Theirs is a force field that in particulars and composite gives enduring pleasure whether artfully worked on or naturally displayed.

To consider subthemes of Beauty that are not associated with this song or the other three creative works discussed in this set, please visit Additional Subthemes. Read this for more about Themes from Art.

We invite you to read about other rock songs discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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