Alexander Grin was what I consider the greatest romantic Russian writer of the early 20th century. Sadly, the only work of his that is still in publication in English is The Scarlet Sails. His use of metaphor is truly masterful and his language - challenging and superb. Here is one of my favorite passages from his novel The Glittering World - it is truly one of the best musings on the subject of women's beauty I have ever read anywhere.
"While cleaning her room, she wiped off the dust with a rag, rattled the chairs, washed and dried the dishes, and her tender cheeks became flushed with all this running around. Feeling the blush, Tavi came to the mirror, snorting and sneezing.
- Yuck, yuck! You are like a witch or a chimney sweep, I am no better than a Saracen!'
"Sure enough, her nose was covered with dust, a streak of soot marred her cheek and her neck became nearly gray with grime. Tavi just about grabbed a towel to wipe it off, but then, defeated, lowered her hand with a sigh, shaking her head, 'I have no one to make pretty for nowl; I am well enough just as I am.
"Truly, she was well enough just as she was.
"There is no more convenient moment to describe a woman, when she herself remembers to do it; to describe her with a good excuse, so to say. Once we have such an excuse, it would be a sin to let it go and expect another one to come along. An astute reader had probably realized, that when we emphasized the words 'young and well enough as she was; - that is lovely despite her dust and soot-covered little face, we mean not the classic harmony of features, that could never be touched by soot, as a spot of soot would destroy its beauty instantly. Try doing an experiment with a statue, marring its beautiful features, devoid of any expression except that of conditional perfection, with something dark (soot will do) - the enchantment will vanish instantly. A stain or a streak will add a ruinous feature to the calm of perfect marble form, striking at its completeness as mercilessly, as an ink splat on a white sheet of paper makes the entire sheet appear untidy. Equally, a head-to-toe beauty, a woman of perfect and stern refinement, loses everything if her nose acquires a spot of dust or her cheek - an ink smear; such is the nature of any perfection, powerful yet helpless, whenever it backs down before something minute.
"A lively and cheerful girl, however, with an irregular but sweet and charming face, with a gaze luminous and warm, like quiet ringing of silver bells, whose expression is endlessly varied; a girl constantly weaving around herself an invisible trace of light and careless movements; slender, but well-built, with open and clear voice, with a smile, glimmering like the movement of summer foliage - now she can get messy as much as she pleases; her charm, inducing a protective smile, will win the black onslaught of soot, because she is better equipped for that, than a motionless statue or a living goddess with a slower tempo of impressions she exudes. Can the latter possible jump up and down, laughing and slapping her own sides? No. But any lovely-looking girl can do it just fine because she cares little of how such an experiment must look."