truth, beauty, the chicken and the egg

I had some time between classes this evening, and so went to the library to spend it. I found this poem and thought, “that’s true–but only when talking about Truth and True Beauty.” On what level is Emily Dickenson correct, and where is she wrong? Is it a question of epistemology? Can we know beauty without Truth? Is one just the aesthetic outcome of the other? I’m not comfortable with philosophy, so someone help me out here.

I died for Beauty–but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room–

He questioned softly “Why I failed”?
“For Beauty”, I replied–
“And I–for Truth–Themself are One–
We Brethren, are”, He said–

and so, as Kinsmen, met a Night–
We talked between the Rooms–
Until the Moss had reached our lips–
And covered up–our names–

The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Shorter Edition. Arthur M. Eastman, ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1970.

Beautiful. But is it True?

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