Sidor som bilder

The final cause of the propensity is an additional proof of its existence: human works are of no significancy till they be completed; and reason is not always a sufficient counterbalance to indolence: some principle over and above is necessary, to excite our industry, and to prevent our stopping short in the middle of the course.

We need not lose time to describe the co-operation of the foregoing propensity with surprise, in producing the effect that follows any unusual resemblance or dissimilitude. Surprise first operates, and carries our opinion of the resemblance or dissimilitude beyond truth. The propensity we have been describing carries us still farther; for it forces upon the mind a conviction, that the resemblance or dissimilitude is complete. We need no better illustration, than the resemblance that is fancied in some pebbles to a tree or an insect; which resemblance, however faint in reality, is conceived to be wonderfully perfect. The tendency to complete a resemblance acting jointly with surprise, carries the mind sometimes so far, as even to presume upon future events. In the Greek tragedy entitled Phineides, those unhappy women, seeing the place where it was intended they should be slain, cried out with anguish, "They now saw their cruel des"tiny had condemned them to die in that place, "being the same where they had been exposed in "their infancy."*

The propensity to advance every thing to its perfection, not only co-operates with surprise to

It is the same principle, if I mistake not, which operates imperceptibly with respect to quantity and number. Another's property in. dented into my field, gives me uneasiness; and I am eager to make the purchase, not for profit, but in order to square my field. Xerxes and his army, in their passage to Greece, were sumptuously entertained by Pythius the Lydian: Xerxes recompensed him with 7000 Darics, which he wanted to complete the sum of four millions.

* Aristotle, Poet. cap. 17.

deceive the mind, but of itself is able to produce that effect. Of this we see many instances where there is no place for surprise; and the first I shall give is of resemblance. Unumquodque eodem modo dissolvitur quo colligatum est, is a maxim in the Roman law that has no foundation in truth; for tying and loosing, building and demolishing, are acts opposite to each other, and are performed by opposite means: but when these acts are connected by their relation to the same subject, their connexion leads us to imagine a sort of resemblance between them, which by the foregoing propensity is conceived to be as complete as possible. The next instance shall be of contrast. Addison observes, "That the palest features look the most agreeable "in white; that a face which is overflushed ap❝pears to advantage in the deepest scarlet; and "that a dark complexion is not a little alleviated

by a black hood."* The foregoing propensity serves to account for these appearances; to make which evident, one of the cases shall suffice. A complexion, however dark, never approaches to black when these colours appear together, their opposition strikes us; and the propensity we have to complete the opposition makes the darkness of complexion vanish out of sight.

The operation of this propensity, even where there is no ground for surprise, is not confined to opinion or conviction: so powerful it is, as to make us sometimes proceed to action, in order to complete a resemblance or dissimilitude. If this appear obscure, it will be made clear by the following instances. Upon what principle is the lex talionis founded, other than to make the punishment resemble the mischief? Reason dictates, that there

*Spectator, No. 265.

ought to be a conformity or resemblance between a crime and its punishment; and the foregoing propensity impels us to make the resemblance as complete as possible. Titus Livius, under the influence of that propensity, accounts for a certain punishment by a resemblance between it and the crime, too subtile for common apprehension. Treating of Mettus Fuffetius, the Alban general, who, for treachery to the Romans his allies, was sentenced to be torn in pieces by horses, he puts the following speech in the mouth of Tullus Hostilius, who decreed the punishment. "Mette Fuffeti, in"quit, si ipse discere posses fidem ac fœdera ser"vare, vivo tibi ea disciplina a me adhibita esset. "Nunc, quoniam tuum insanabile ingenium est, at "tu tuo supplicio doce humanum genus, ea sancta "credere, quæ a te violata sunt. Ut igitur paulo "ante animum inter Fidenatem Romanamque rem "ancipitem gessisti, ita jam corpus passim distra"hendum dabis."* By the same influence, the sentence is often executed upon the very spot where the crime was committed. In the Electra of Sophocles, Egistheus is dragged from the theatre into an inner room of the supposed palace, to suffer death where he murdered Agamemnon. Shakspeare, whose knowledge of nature is no less profound than extensive, has not overlooked this propensity:

Othello. Get me some poison, Iago, this night; I'll not expostulate with her, lest her body and her beauty unprovide my mind again; this night, Iago.

Iago. Do it not with poison; strangle her in bed, even in the bed she hath contaminated.

Othello. Good, good: The justice of it pleases; very good. Othello, Act IV. Sc. 5.

* Lib. i. sect. 28.

Warwick. From off the gates of York fetch down the head, Your father's head, which Clifford placed there. Instead whereof let his supply the room. Measure for measure must be answered.

Third Part of Henry VI. Act II. Sc. 9.

Persons in their last moments are generally seized with an anxiety to be buried with their relations. In the Amynta of Tasso, the lover, hearing that his mistress was torn to pieces by a wolf, expresses a desire to die the same death.*

Upon the subject in general I have two remarks to add. The first concerns resemblance, which, when too entire, hath no effect, however different in kind the things compared may be. The remark is applicable to works of art only; for natural objects of different kinds have scarce ever an entire resemblance. To give an example in a work of art, marble is a sort of matter very different from what composes an animal; and marble cut into a human figure produces great pleasure by the resemblance; but, if a marble statue be coloured like a picture, the resemblance is so entire, as at a distance to make the statue appear a person: we discover the mistake when we approach; and no other emotion is raised, but surprise occasioned by the deception: The figure still appears a real person, rather than an imitation; and we must use reflection to correct the mistake. This cannot happen in a picture; for the resemblance can never be so entire as to disguise the imitation.

The other remark relates to contrast. Emotions make the greatest figure when contrasted in succession; but the succession ought neither to be rapid, nor immoderately slow if too slow, the effect of contrast becomes faint by the distance of the emo

* Act IV. Sc. 2.

tions; and if rapid, no single emotion has room to expand itself to its full size, but is stifled, as it were, in the birth, by a succeeding emotion. The funeral oration of the Bishop of Meaux upon the Dutchess of Orleans is a perfect hodge-podge of cheerful and melancholy representations following each other in the quickest succession: opposite emotions are best felt in succession; but each emotion separately should be raised to its due pitch, before another be introduced.

What is above laid down, will enable us to determine a very important question concerning emotions raised by the fine arts, namely, Whether ought similar emotions to succeed each other, or dissimilar? The emotions raised by the fine arts are for the most part too nearly related to make a figure by resemblance; and for that reason their succession ought to be regulated as much as possible by contrast. This holds confessedly in epic and dramatic compositions; and the best writers, led perhaps by taste more than by reasoning, have generally aimed at that beauty. It holds equally in music in the same cantata, all the variety of emotions that are within the power of music may not only be indulged, but, to make the greatest figure, ought to be contrasted. In gardening, there is an additional reason for the rule: the emotions raised by that art are at best so faint, that every artifice should be employed to give them their utmost vigour a field may be laid out in grand, sweet, gay, neat, wild, melancholy scenes; and when these are viewed in succession, grandeur ought to be contrasted with neatness, regularity with wildness, and gaiety with melancholy, so as that each emotion may succeed its opposite: nay it is an improvement to intermix in the succession rude uncultivated spots as well as unbounded VOL. I. I i

« FöregåendeFortsätt »