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CHAPTER XIII.

ESTHETICS OF EXPRESSION—THE

BEAUTIFUL.

He who cannot see the beautiful side is a bad painter, a bad friend, a bad lover; he cannot lift his mind and his heart so high as goodness.-JOUBERT.

The useful encourages itself; for the multitude produce it, and no one can dispense with it; the beautiful must be encouraged; for few can set it forth, and many need it.-GOETHE.

AN

N affluent and immortal theme, to some notion of which we may be helped, though we reach not the heart of the mystery.

A figure of speech, a thought, a star, a landscape, a musical air, may strike us pleasurably without any direct and definite exertion of the intellect. property that they have in common

What is that one what is beauty?

According to Hume, it is subjective a mere feeling, a quality residing in the percipient, and not in the external object. 'Things are not beautiful in themselves,' says Jeffrey, 'but only as they serve to suggest interesting conceptions to the mind.' Therefore, a poem and a pair of slippers, an act of charity and a saddle-horse, are equally beautiful, since all alike may lead to the same chain of interesting remembrances.

The universal speech and consciousness of men attest that the beautiful comes into our experience from without, a reality not originated within us. But what is it in the object that constitutes its beauty? Is it novelty? things, when first seen, are novel; but not all are beautiful, while many continue to charm us when they have ceased to be curious or strange, and others even displease

Or is it utility - fitness to

-

simply because they are new. conduce in some way to our welfare, to serve in some way our purposes? Then is a stack of straw fairer than the roseate hues of morning, or a spade more admirable than the Apollo Belvidere? Is it unity in variety? Not everything is beautiful that presents this combination, while some things that lack it, as particular colors, valley

mists or cloud-masses, are beautiful. Is it order and proportion? The snout or the leg of the swine is as fine a specimen of these elements in conjunction as that of the agile and graceful courser, but it is not equally admired, if admired at all.

There remains the spiritual theory, which makes beauty to consist in the more or less translucent embodiment of idea. Behind and within every form of being-the crystal, the violet, the spreading elm, the drooping willow, the statue, the cathedral, insect, bird, beast, and man- there is immanent, and variously manifested, the Over-Soul: all mean something, all express something; and in proportion to depth of meaning, to luminousness of expression in proportion as the Infinite discloses itself, is object, act, thought, or emotion beautiful. Thus Hegel becomes intelligible, when he calls the beautiful 'the sensuous shining forth of the idea'; and Schelling, who says: 'The beautiful is beyond form; it is substance, the universal; it is the look and expression of the spirit of Nature.'

We are to be congratulated that so high an authority as Mr. Ruskin has spoken so fully, so clearly, so instructively, on this subject. Of the theoretical writings of others in this field, we might almost say, 'Burn them, for their value is in Modern Painters.' Surely no apology will be needed for quoting, at some length, utterances that will so amply reward your attention by the nobleness

of their truths and the excellence of their manner. And, foremost, a definition of the word:

By the term beauty, then, properly are signified two things. First, that external quality of bodies already so often spoken of, and which, whether it occur in a stone, flower, beast, or in man, is absolutely identical, which, as I have already asserted, may be shown to be in some sort typical of the Divine attributes, and which, therefore, I shall, for distinction's sake, call typical beauty; and, secondarily, the appearance of felicitous fulfilments of function in living things, more especially of the joyful and right exertion of perfect life in man. And this kind of beauty I shall call vital beauty. Accordingly, of external Nature so conceived:

She has a body and a soul like man; but her soul is the Deity. It is possible to represent the body without the spirit; and this shall be like to those whose senses are only cognizant of body. It is possible to represent the spirit in its ordinary and inferior manifestations; and this shall be like to those who have not watched for its moments of power. It is possible to represent the spirit in its secret and high operations; and this shall be like only to those to whose watching they have been revealed.

In the more definite articulate expression of the spiritual, lies the main difference between the mineral and the plant. A warmer sympathy with the latter is natural, and the attribution of life to it but expresses the finer feeling of fellowship with it. Happy is he who in the material forms of the world recognizes the Divine.

Of that second kind of beauty which consists in the ' appearance of felicitous fulfilment of function in living things':

snow.

I have already noticed the example of very pure and high typical beauty which is to be found in the lines and gradations of unsullied If, passing to the edge of a sheet of it, upon the lower Alps, early in May, we find, as we are nearly sure to find, two or three little round openings pierced in it, and through these emergent, a slender, pensive, fragile flower, whose small, dark, purple-fringed bell hangs down and shudders over the icy cleft that it has cloven, as if partly wondering at its own recent grave, and partly dying of very fatigue after its hard won victory; we shall be, or we ought to

be, moved by a totally different impression of loveliness from that which we receive among the dead ice and the idle clouds. There is now uttered to us a call for sympathy, now offered to us an image of moral purpose and achievement, which, however unconscious or senseless the creature may indeed be that so seems to call, cannot be heard without affection, nor contemplated without worship, by any of us whose heart is rightly tuned, or whose mind is clearly and surely sighted.

From the foregoing observations, it must be plain that certain elements enter into the formation of the beautiful are signs of it, others into the enjoyment of it — are reinforcements of its effects, while they do not constitute its ground or essence. Of the latter class is association, which, though not a principle or cause of beauty, is a most important source of the pleasures of taste. of music the poet says:

With easy force it opens all the cells

Where memory slept. Wherever we have heard
A kindred melody, the scene recurs,

And with it all its pleasures and its pains.

Thus

How

A withered leaf may assist us to live over again the happy hours that have vanished into the rearward of Time. much additional interest does childhood derive from its suggestions of innocence, of careless gaiety, of unsuspecting confidence, of helplessness, of blameless and blissful ignorance! In a rural landscape-green meadows dotted with sheep and cattle, and watered by purling streams, woodland roads with figures of men and horses, well-tilled fields bordered by tufted hedges, and neat cottages half hidden in trees, seen under bright skies and in good weather, much of the gratification afforded by the scene. is due to the picture of human happiness that the mind is assisted in forming to the appearances of comfort and content, of the industry by which those blessings are insured, and of the simplicity by which they are contrasted with the bustle of a city life; and perhaps our

delight is enhanced by the dreams in which we are led to indulge of those primitive or fabulous times when man was uncorrupted by luxury and ambition, and of those humble retreats in which we fondly imagine that love and philosophy may find an unpolluted asylum.' For the rest, let us transcribe a passage from Mr. Alison:

What, for instance, is the impression we feel from the scenery of spring? The soft and gentle green with which the earth is spread, the feeble texture of the plants and flowers, the young of animals just entering into life, and the remains of winter yet lingering among the woods and hills - all conspire to infuse into our minds somewhat of that fearful tenderness with which infancy is usually beheld. With such a sentiment, how innumerable are the ideas which present themselves to our imagination! ideas, it is apparent, by no means confined to the scene before our eyes, or to the possible desolation which may yet await its infant beauty, but which almost involuntarily extend themselves to analogies with the life of man, and bring before us all those images of hope or fear, which, according to our peculiar situations, have the dominion of our hearts! The beauty of autumn is accompanied with a similar exercise of thought: The leaves begin then to drop from the trees; the flowers and shrubs, with which the fields were adorned in the summer months, decay, the woods and groves are silent; the sun himself seems gradually to withdraw his light, or to become enfeebled in his power. Who is there, who, at this season, does not feel his mind impressed with a sentiment of melancholy? or who is able to resist that current of thought, which, from such appearances of decay, so naturally leads him to the solemn imagination of that inevitable fate, which is to bring on alike the decay of life, of empire, and of nature itself?

The beautiful in literature comprises all that raises in the mind an emotion of the gladsome, placid kind, similar to that excited by the contemplation of the beautiful in nature. It appears in the theme, in the invention, in thought, sentiment, imagery, movement-matter and style. This singular advantage, writings and discourse possess, that they encompass so large and rich a field on all sides, and have power to exhibit, in great perfection, not a single set of objects only, but almost the whole of

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