Sidor som bilder

THE SUPERJORITY OF NATURE OVER ART. But however beautiful the works of the most celebrated masters may be, when we would compare them with the productions of Nature, how comparatively feeble do their efforts appear ! Insipid are the outlines of Salvator Rosa, the aerial tints of Claude, and the romantic groups of Ruysdael and Poussin. No wonder ! since language itself has comparative poverty, when it would presume to describe the variety which is observable in almost every prospect that the eye beholds. Fields, vales, glens, rivers, and mountains, even when described by the most powerful pen, do but glide before the imagination in mysterious confusion : if, therefore, one scene cannot be represented with precision, how shall we attempt to give even a faint idea of its numerous combinations? And how numerous those combinations are, may be, in some measure, conceived from the knowledge, we possess, of the almost infinite combinations of sound.

Winkelmann's antagonist was, assuredly, wrong, when he asserted, for the honour of the arts, that the mallows of Veerendel, and a rose of Van Huysum, bewitch us more than the best favourites of the botanists; and that a landscape of Dietrich is more agreeable to the fancy than even the Thessalian Tempe. To the works of art we can give length, breadth, and thickness; we can also colour them with appropriate shades ; but who can measure the productions of Nature? Who sketch with such enchanting skill? The painter may select individual objects,—an ivied bridge, a hanging tower, an embattled castle, and the larger creations

care with which he studied and varied his compositions before he committed them to canvass. It has been beautifully observed, that there are few more interesting subjects of contemplation, than the first hints of a magnificent con. ception, the virgin scenery of the mind, the slight and rapid indications of that which is afterwards, with much study and toil, to be wrought into a perfect work.

Guido has a small picture on the same subject. That of Titian has every essential of magnificence; that of Guido, delicate, graceful, and exquisitely finished.

of landscape ;—these he may, by a judicious disposition of his materials, form into an entire whole : but the effort is one, and the effect is one : it changes not with the seasons ; it knows none of the vicissitudes of winter; and, therefore, never glows with the renovation of spring.

NOVELTY, WITH ITS FINAL CAUSE. This exhaustless variety produces in the mind a continual thirst after novelty. For were there but few combinations, and still fewer objects, the mind would recoil upon itself, and its powers be confined, as it were, in a prison. But as the variations of natural objects are unlimited, its faculties are proportionately enlarged ; and, in consequence, bearing an analogy with magnetical induction, the more it receives, the more capable is it of the powers of receiving. Thus, man's appetite for novelty is nothing but the general result of Nature's unbounded power of gratifying his thirst.

If the final cause of sublimity be to exalt the soul to a more intimate alliance with its Creator; and that of beauty to enable the mind to distinguish perfection and truth :—the love of novelty may, not unreasonably, be supposed to be planted in our nature, in order to stimulate the mental powers to that degree of activity, which enables them continually to feel the effects of beauty and sublimity.

The lover of landscape, therefore, is ever on the watch for new combinations. Having derived enjoyment from a mountainous country, he finds a sensible gratification in traversing extended plains, boundless heaths, and in permitting his eye to wander over an interminable tract of ocean. Without darkness, even the brilliancy of the sun would be no longer splendid; without discords, the most agreeable melody would fatigue the ear; without the interchange of varied objects, even the finest landscape in Gascony, or Savoy, would pall upon the sight.

A general love of novelty, however, which is not indulged as a beneficial mean for improvement, resembles the rose of Florida, the bird of Paradise, or the cypress of Greece. The first, the most beautiful of flowers, emitting no fragrance ;-the second, the most beautiful of birds, yielding no song ;the third, the finest of trees, yielding no fruit. It has, not inaptly, been called a species of “ adultery.” It characterizes a weak and superficial mind, ill qualifies it for honourable exertion, and peculiarly unfits its possessor for selecting brilliant subjects to exercise his fancy; or furnishing correct and sound materials to form and elevate the understanding.

To a judicious love of novelty, on the other hand, may we refer some of the pleasures we derive from contrast; the various changes of climate and seasons ; the observance of manners and customs of nations; the charms of science; and the delights of poetry. Since, by directing the attention to a diversity of objects, the mind roves, as it were, in an enchanted theatre; imbibing rich and comprehensive ideas, that administer, in a manner the most vivid and impressive, to the organs of perception and taste. Directed to its proper end,—the enlargement of the understanding, by the acquirement of knowledge, -it conduces to the improvement of every art, and contributes to the perfection of every science.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOVE AND ADMIRATION. As the passion of legitimate love is engendered and confirmed by intimacy of connexion, so, on the other hand, the passion of admiration is awakened by distance, and kept alive by continual novelty. For these two passions,—0 often con

founded with each other,--are not more different in their • origin, than in their results. What we love becomes more endeared to us by repetition; what we admire ceases to please us, when it ceases to be new. Thus is it with scenery. The vine in our garden, the oak that shades our cottage, the woods that shelter us from the north, are not more high, more shady, more neat, or more fruitful, than other oaks, vines, cottages, and woods ; but, from long familiarity, they acquire a title to our preference, by the interesting associations with which they are connected; and having acquired that title, we should be unwilling to exchange them for the most beautiful vale of the South, or the proudest mountain of the North. On the other hand, let us climb the triple Cader-Idris, Ben Lomond, or Ben Nevis; and, after viewing with admiration their several wonders, let us inquire of our own feelings, if we do not look around for other objects to gratify our desires. Novelty once satisfied, admiration ceases ; and when we cease to admire, we become weary.

Such is the difference between love and admiration in scenery. The one, begetting tranquillity and content, requires no aliment; the other, continually searching for food, engenders restlessness. Hence the poet, wandering among the rocks of Pelion, and the vales of Olympus, hails with pleasure the plains of Larissa, decked with all the riches of a fertile soil. The traveller, who has long been indulging in the more elevated scenery of the Grisons, feels himself relieved, when he enters the green valleys of Piedmont, and the extended vales of Tuscany; and the white summits of St. Bernard, the glaciers of the Rhetian, and the wonders of the Pennine Alps, are exchanged, with satisfaction, for the calm and fertile meads of Novorese and Aosta. · Distance gives mysterious beauty to landscape, as it does to human greatness : and when we have quitted scenes, hallowed to our feelings by the moral treasures they possess, the greater the distance, the greater the pleasure we derive from a remembrance of them.

Admiration requiring something ever new to gratify its appetite, those objeets, which excite the wonder and admiration of strangers, are viewed with indifference, bordering on frigidity, by the natives of the country, in which they are situated. Humboldt relates, that at Schauffhausen he knew




many persons, who had never seen the fall of the Rhine; and while at Santa Cruz, he could find only one person, who had ascended the Peak of Teneriffe.

Totally unconscious, and sometimes utterly unworthy of the beautiful country, in which they live, men of this kind require some one to point out to them the lovely scenes, by which they are surrounded ; in the same manner, as many a nobleman of England, Germany, and Italy, know the value of their paintings and sculptures, only by the applause, bestowed on them by learned and enlightened strangers. They are the bodies of insects, buried in amber! Thus was it when Petrarch visited Rome, in the fourteenth century. While viewing the fragments of temples, the remnants of statues, the falling porticoes, the baths, the aqueducts, the tesselated pavements, and, above all, the gigantic ruins of the Coliseum, he was indignant to find, that the tribune Rienzi, and his friend Colonna, were alone conversant in the history of, and appeared alone to sympathize with, those noble and magnificent ruins. “No one,” said he, “were more ignorant of Rome, than the Romans themselves.”

MYSTERY IN LANDSCAPE. SOME scenes there are, which acquire an increased interest, from being only partially revealed to us. Landscape has its secrets, as well as women. We must not see every thing at once; nor must we see every thing, there is to be seen. The rose, in full display of beauty, is not so captivating, as, when opening her paradise of leaves, she speaks to the fancy, rather than the sight. Thus the imagination, which so frequently borrows from Nature, repays her obligations, by giving additional grace and splendour to her beauties. In poetry, the light touches of Anacreon fire the fancy, in a much higher degree, than the minute descriptions of Ovid;~the nervous brevity of Lucretius defines more clearly to the mental eye, than all the profuse delineations of Cow

« FöregåendeFortsätt »