« FöregåendeFortsätt »
every shade of feeling, and in that union of the graceful and magnificent in both, which, as it is the most uncommon, is moré captivating than either.
Admiration of beauty, whether in bodies, morals, orin scenery, may be denominated intuitive: hence Plato called beauty Nature's masterpiece ; and believed that the pleasure, arising from it, was the result of a remembrance of visions, enjoyed in a former state of existence. Theophrastus called it a silent fraud ; and Carneades, a silent rhetoric. “It is a quality," says Xenophon, “ upon which Nature has affixed the stamp of royalty ; and the reason it has been so much admired in every age, is, because our souls are essences from the very source of beauty, harmony, and perfection.”
Aristotle defines beauty“ order in grandeur ;” order involving symmetry; and grandeur uniting simplicity and majesty. Father André defined it “ variety reduced to unity by symmetry and harmony.” One description of theorists, however, maintain, that beauty is nothing but illusion ; having no more positive existence, than colour. As well may we assert, that the nerves are conductors of electric fluids; that all matter is representative; or that all virtue is illusive ; as to doubt the existence of beauty and deformity. Beauty, “ bear witness earth and heaven !” by being the result of association“, is not the less positive on that account. For every object, which
a In association we may trace the Linda of the Spaniard ; the Buona Roba of the Italian; and the je ne sais quoi of the French. Were it otherwise, beauty never could be understood; for in Africa a black complexion is indispensable; the Arabs of the desert esteem large dark eyes; the Chinese and Peruvians, small eyes and small feet; the Ladrones, black teeth and white hair; the Turks, red hair, dark eyelashes, and rose-coloured nails : while the Greenlanders paint their faces blue, and not unfrequently blue and yellow. The Moors of Senegal regard beauty and corpulence as synonymous terms; the Indians of Louisiana depress the foreheads of infants to make them more comely; in many parts of the East a large head is esteemed a great beauty; the Japanese admire “ golden” hair; and the Javanese a “ golden” com. plexion : and a Circassian, to be exquisitely beautiful to a Persian, must have a small nose and mouth, white teeth, dark hair, large black antelope eyes, and a delicate figure.
awakens pleasure in the mind, is beautiful ; since it possesses some internal or external quality, which produces the sensation of pleasure. Whatever excites agreeable emotion, therefore, possesses some intrinsic quality of beauty. Hence the term beauty may be applied to every thing, which gives serenity or pleasure to the mind; from a woman to a problem ; from a planet to a flower. Hence arises the intimate connexion between beauty and virtue ; “no falsehood can dwell in the soul of the lovely,” says the Celtic proverb ; and as nothing produces so many agreeable emotions, as the practice of virtue, whatever is virtuous, or conducive thereto, is really and essentially as beautiful as a carnation always in bloom, or the group of angels in the Assumption of Guido.
In the true spirit of this doctrine, Wieland, the celebrated German poet, who was so fond of solitude, that he used, as he confesses in a letter to a friend, to spend whole days and summer nights in his garden, feeling and describing the beauties of Nature, -has written a dialogue, conceived in the manner, and executed with much of the sweetness and delicacy of Plato. He imagines Socrates to surprise Timoclea, a captivating Athenian virgin, at her toilet; dressed for a solemn festival in honour of Diana ; attired in all the beauty of Nature and in all the luxuriance of art. His surprising her, in this manner, gave rise to a dialogue, in which the subject of real and apparent beauty is philosophically discussed. The arguments are summed up by Timoclea, at the end of the discourse ; in which she declares herself a convert to that fine moral doctrine, which teaches, that nothing is beautiful, which is not good : and nothing good, but what is, at the same time, intrinsically beautiful. This union of virtue, happiness, and beauty, is in strict conformity to the doctrines of the ancient Platonists, and the evidence of experience. For, as affinity acts upon bodies in contact, and gravitation upon bodies at immeasurable distances, so virtue, partaking of the nature of both, has the power of combining all minds, rightly disposed,
of whatever country, and at whatever distance, in the persuasion, that beauty and virtue are one ; and that, from their union, in this world or the next, must proceed a long and lasting happiness. Constituting at once the column, pedestal, and capital to each other, they form, as it were, that Doric column, which Palladio writes of ; which, being neither Grecian, Roman, Gothic, nor Italian, is far more beautiful than either ; and charms and fascinates wherever it is seen.
The dissertation of Maximus Tyrius, in which the doctrine of the Platonists, on this subject, is so fully explained, has most of the essential qualities of a poem. Well might Casaubon b call that accomplished writer“ Mellitissimus Platonicorum !” The pleasure, which is derived from scenery, we may trace, in some way or other, to something, which has an immediate or collateral reference to humanity. The conclusions of Alison, therefore, are perfectly just. For, unless the imagination be excited, the emotions of beauty and sublimity are unfelt. Hence, whatever increases the powers of that faculty, increases those emotions, in like proportion : and no objects or qualities being felt, either as beautiful or sublime, but such as are productive of some simple emotion, no composition of objects, or qualities, produce emotions of taste, in which that unity is not preserved.
It is association, then, which produces that intimate connexion, which subsists between the beauties of Nature and the beauty of sensation. Every scene, to be perfectly beautiful in the eye of man, must, in consequence, possess something which refers to humanity. Either horses, sheep, or oxen; either cottages, churches, or ruins ; or something that has reference to ourselves, as sentient beings, must meet the eye or the ear in some part or other of the scene, or the whole is incomplete. The Mississippi would have less interest for the traveller, were not the warblings of the red-bird heard upon
a Diss. ix.; also Seneca de Benef. v. 1, 2; Lucret. lib. iii. ; Cic. de Off. lib. iii. c. 3.
b Misc. Observ. lib. i. c. 20.
its banks; and the solitudes of Valdarno would be far less affecting in their character, were there no echoes of matin and vesper chaunts from the monastery of Vallombrosa. .
Every one feels how much even the most magnificent view acquires, if a sheperd is seen, tending his flocks, among the precipices : a fisherman hanging his nets on the side of a rock; a student reclining under a ruined arch ; a woodman returning by the light of the moon; or if a hunter, weary of bounding among the crags, should
throw him on the ridgy steep Of some loose hanging rock to sleep.
It is, nevertheless, true, that, as every landscape should be observed from its proper point, so every sound must be heard in its proper place. Who is not displeased with the horn of the huntsman, if sounded in a garden? And who can listen to the bleating of sheep, confined in a house ; or to the lowing of cattle near the windows of a drawing-room? And yet how agreeable are our sensations, when lambs bleat upon the mountains ; when cows low among the meadows; and when the huntsman's bugle echoes through the forest !
Hence, all our more celebrated masters in the art of painting, never fail to animate their pictures with living objects ; in unison with the scenes, they respectively exhibit. How comparatively unmoving were the creations of Salvator Rosa, without his groups of banditti! and how far less interesting were the rocks, valleys, and woods of the romantic Claude, were we to expunge his shepherds, his flocks, and his ruins ! The poets seldom neglect to embellish their subjects in a similar manner". Full of those allusions and associations is the poem of Grongar Hill.
Grongar!—The imagination immediately transports us thither. This celebrated eminence, my Lelius, is situated in
• A neglect of this is one cause why De Lille's poem of Les Jardins excites so little interest.
the most picturesque part of the vale of Towy. No place do I remember, in which the combinations of water, wood, mountain and ruin, assume so agreeable a variety :-sacred have been the moments, I have passed, on that enchanting spot!
Grongar in whose mossy cells,
In scenes, like those of Grongar, tranquillity loves to repose; and solitude, beloved by the good, and sought as a refuge by the great, most delights to linger. “Delicacy and distinction,” says Sir William Temple, “make a man solitary.” By a love of solitude, however, far am I from alluding to that misanthropic dislike of society, which impels man to forsake his fellow, in order to indulge a selfish and indignant passion. A desire of solitude of that nature is seldom engendered by a contemplation of Nature; which impels only to that description of retirement, the charms of which we may whisper to a friend :-an idea, realized in a picture of Solitude, painted by Gaspar Poussin, in the collection of his Majesty: illustrated by Balzaca ; and alluded to by Cowper.
I praise the Frenchman; his remark was shrewd,
& La solitude est véritablement une belle chose ; mais il y auroit plaisir d'avoir un ami fuit comme vous, à qui on pút dire quelquefois, que c'est une belle