I have been struggling to find a word that I, at one time, had seen in my vocabulary lessons. I am trying to describe something that is “beautiful or attractive” yet also possessing “sadness or melancholy.” I think this word was most commonly used in the sense of describing a lady’s face, where the poignant feature was seen as “beautifully sad.”
I might say “the damsel’s face showed lines of worry and stress, and her eyes dripped a touch. Her tousled hair and reddened skin made her a ‘pathetic and beautiful’ mess.”
As much I try searching for this word, “pathetic” is the closest I’ve come to finding it. This word could be a borrowed one and potentially naturalized.
Melancholy itself can describe this. Sadness alone tends to imbue a sense of forlorn or general unhappiness. Melancholy often rings with a sense of beauty or serenity in the face of sadness.
In Russian, Тоска (Toska) describes this in a way. It’s a very multifaceted and variant sadness that is often wrought with beauty.
Your initial “pathetic and beautiful mess” is actually really good, assuming that folk read pathetic literally rather than commonly. I can definitely envision that.