Page images
PDF
EPUB

he has reached the summit of his art, and is the fictions of fairy land, should have any a master of the Beautiful. As it is the pecu- value in a moral point of view, may to some liar function of the moral powers (of which hasty critics seem even ridiculous to say; high art, whether in poetry or in design, is and yet it is impossible to seize and enjoy the representer and delineator) to subdue the spirit of fairy, or of grotesque, without and calm the passions, without lessening first being capable of what is serious. It is them, or diverting them from their objects, the sport of the superior nature, letting loose the calmness of a marble, or the classic re- the passions, and observing their play. An pose of a poem, is to be attributed to the Undine, a Gnome,—what are these but inpresence of those powers, and not to a want tellect and passion, freed from the conscious of passion, nor to that feeble intellectual governing spirit? But is it possible for any ism which is unacquainted with any thing but the conscious spirit itself to image such but manner and sentiment. As there is no creatures, or enjoy the imagery? Cupid, grandeur nor dignity but that which reposes the love fairy of the ancients, is the unreaon subdued but obedient and ready passions, soning, uncontrolled passion of love; but so there is no artistic beauty which does not what a force of genius is required to delineowe its power to a concealed or latent power ate the freaks and gambols of this immortal of love. It is necessary, in speaking of ar-elf! Boccaccio and Ovid stand unabashed tistic pleasure, to exclude that kind which in the presence of Shakspeare and of Milton. addresses only the sensual temperament, and Byron and Burns, who have most faithfully which is gross and general, as good in one delineated the passions which early toras another, and distinct from the individual. mented and sported with them, won for The beauty of which we now speak is the themselves a popularity which grave and beauty of a Reason, an Individual, admirable philosophic versifiers sigh for in vain. in particular, and distinguished from all

That character, in other words, that the others. In these, as in perfect living men, moral power, is directly the cause of Humor, the sensuous, the passionate, and the moral and gives its entire value to the humorous, are so blent as to be undistinguishable. will be readily admitted, as it has been con

When we speak of the sublimity and stantly asserted. It is frequently observed beauty of a heroic character, we intend its that native humor indicates a good heart. superiority in possessing and subduing of The true humorist sports with the vanity or terror and love; inspiring at once awe and conceit of another, without wounding his affection. The filial passion of a child is feelings or exciting his anger. While it perhaps the most perfect instance in nature makes the folly apparent, it spares the man. of love at once excited and subdued. The It has no malignity. Humor, though not as child at once loves and fears the parent, and rare an endowment as poetic genius, attracts these passions are controlled by the moral almost equal admiration and respect. It sentiment, and refined into veneration and shows in those who possess it several great sublime confidence. The just and kind qualities,-moral insight and sympathy, parent is a sublime and at the same time an pride of character, and self-possession. honored and beloved object to the child. In Satire and the satiric, the moral is unToward the idea of the Supreme Being, per questionably the ruling power. It is only sonified as a Parent, love ascends mingled by tearing off the veil of hypocrisy, fashion, with an awful fear. In the secret recesses and false greatness, aud showing wickedness of the soul, the subdued spirits of all the in form of weakness, that satire attains its passions mingle in prayer.

end. If we have come near to the expression (in It was the purpose of our remarks to this feeble and almost hopeless effort) of what show, not that passion is the object of art, is meant by the Sublime and the Beautiful but passion under control; or rather, the in art, as the representer and expresser of presence of their controlling powers, under the moods of the soul, it seems proper to the several names of Pride, Honor, Modesty, speak briefly of the Fanciful, the Humor- &c., seen in the immediate kingdom of the ous, and the Satiric, in order not to seem heart. The passions will be expressed, and forgetful of their existence, or their value. with their full intensity ; but this expression

That what passes under the name of will be valued as it shows their mastering s fanciful,” in art, either in grotesques, or in principles.

It seems strange, and almost ridiculous, standing to know this, but that is another to a critic of the present day, to ask at all, kind of pleasure." The understanding is whether the moral enters into a work of art, pleased” when it is instructed; the imagiin any shape; so grossly have fiction and nation when images of the beautiful and desigă degenerated from their ancient dig- sublime are created in it. All that can be nity. Time was, and that too but a century said, therefore, in answer to the question, ago, when a poem containing nothing but a “What is poetry ?" is perhaps to separate dream, related in a musical jingle of words, the various causes of pleasure, the rhythm, would have been passed over with neglect, the harmony, the imagery, the contrasts, the as unworthy a second perusal. Although sublimity, the beauty. By dwelling sepathe fashion of condemning Pope and slight- rately upon each of these, we attain at length ing Addison has been lately a prevailing one, to a more full and satisfactory appreciation it has insured the immortality of those au- of the whole. When a beautiful statue is thors, as it has of the Greek and Roman first presented to the eye, it produces a faint classics, that they wrote for moral ends, and sensation of delight; but when, after many regarded their art as the handmaid of morals. views, every minute elegance of feature and

But though high art demands a moral form has made its due impression, the sepatheme and purpose, to attain its immortality, rate beauties enter together into the mind, the mere poetic passion makes no such de- until they produce one feeling. And so in mand, and even resents a purpose.

The the critical appreciation of a poem, we are instruction of art is given to the heart, not at first delighted with the melody of the to the head; but as the heart is of greater verse, and then with the picturesqueness and dignity than the head, the artist is superior passion of the language; last of all, with the in dignity to the artisan. Art is not under- moral passion, to coin a new phrase, of the stood, it is only felt; and consequently, to entire work. When these have been sepathose who have no feeling, the artist is an rately appreciated, the pleasure which we empty impostor. One cannot reply to the afterwards receive from the whole is of a question so often asked, "What is poetry?" kind incomparably superior in worth and The feeling alone can make a suitable reply. duration to a first, hasty delight. The idea must be in us, or the image, when Nature seems to have made some persons presented, will not remind us of any thing without poetic sympathy, or in whom it is real. The critic must therefore suppose that exercised at such remote intervals, or so readers already know “what poetry is,” at faintly, as to add nothing to their pleasures. least as well, or better, than he does himself. Others, on the contrary, find poetry in every He must suppose that a beautiful poem will thing; they cannot listen to a fall of water, produce effects of beauty in their imagina- or the rustling of leaves, or the distant hum tions, attended with a certain glow and en- of cities, or any sound that has softness, thusiasm which are proper to it, and belong monotony or sweetness, without a rise of the to it alone. He takes it for granted that poetic sensation. When we speak of the sublimity appears sublime ; that pathos poetic sensation, we do not mean that poetry moves their feelings; that sentiment touches is itself a sensation, nor the faculty of it what is sentimental; that grace meets a merely a feeling; but as every idea and pasgraceful appreciation; that the laughable sion has its own sensation, so has poetry. moves laughter, and the keen and witty are It creates a pleasure in the sense which is their own recommendations. Readers are distinguishable from every other pleasure. before critics.

We distinguish the pleasure of music from In answering the question, "What is the pleasure of poetry, although they are poetry ?” we aitempt rather to please than similar and closely allied; but we find readto instruct; for it is the purpose of poetry to ers, and even composers of verse, in whom charm, and not to instruct. "It is impossible the delight in music is faint. An excellent to show why we are pleased. I am pleased poet may be hardly able to distinguish a with the form of a circle, or with a concord tune. of fifths in music: I am instructed by being That characteristic of poetry which has told that the diameters are equal, or that the been set foremost by the critics, as the most vibrations divide each other without frac- admirable, and conveying the highest degree tions. It may indeed satisfy my under-1 of pleasure, we commonly call grandeur, sublimity. It seems to be a rousing up of limity, by observing that in one the element the soul, attended with intense emotions akin of terror is present, while in the other we to fear. It carries a mixture of fear and of find only monotony and expansion. Poetry pride. It gives a momentary dignity to the which describes what is merely large and interior nature, and brings it into fellowship extended, may have nothing of the sublime, with the vast and mysterious. It seeins to because it moves no terror. Fine-sounding be of nearer kin to, and in closer alliance verses, without passion, are not sublime, with, the immortal and rational emotions of though they convey pictures of the universe. the soul, than any other movement of intel- Lord Byron was wont to insist that poetry ligence. Much as there is of terror in the was passion : he meant, perhaps, that there sublime, the delight of it is akin to that of was no poetry without passion; and we are heroism. In passages of the most ancient sure of being right when we say that there poetry, quoted for their sublimity, there is an is no poetic sublimity without the passion of expression of the divinity and dignity of the terror, as there is no poetic beauty without interior nature, an elevation of the soul that of love. toward the creative Source, conferring a sub- But how does it happen that two persons lime pleasure. The most terrible subjects and equally susceptible to poetry will be differimages are chosen and touched with freedom ently affected by the same verse ; one having by the poets of the Sublime. Nature is set the passion of sublimity, the other no passion at defiance; destiny alone is awful. The at all! Before attempting to answer, we creative Power is appealed to in a vein of may observe, first, that we never hear of a companionship. The spirit of man acknowl- discovery of sublimity without beauty by one edges nothing that can daunt or suppress person, and of beauty without sublimity, in it. It descends into hell, unappalled among the same verse, by another. If the imagery eternal tires; it ascends into heaven, gazing is sublime, its effect, if felt, will be sublime; with clear eyes upon the glory of God. It if it is beautiful only, and carries no sensapervades the abysses of the universe, and tion of terror, it will never awaken a sublime carries passion and pride into the movements emotion. But as the faculty of sublime is of the spheres. It personifies the sun and not always active in the reader, it will not the stars. The sun speaks, and there is a always produce its effect; and if his heart music for his motion. The powers of earth be unsusceptible and dry, he will perceive and nature converse with it as with their nothing of beauty, even though beauty be master. It images to itself the first begin- expressed. Among all the controversies of nings even in the mind of Deity, and looks critics, we have never yet seen one which forward and onward toward the end, fancying made a question whether sublimity alone, or to itself the intonations of the Creator on beauty alone, should be attributed to the the seat of judgment. Into all things this same poem or verse. The two qualities may soaring ardor carries tremulous emotions of exist together, and the same verse be sublime fear; not the crouching terror of the flesh, and beautiful at once, having in it the power but a fear acknowledged only while it is con- both of love and of fear; but the passions quered. The poet need not therefore explain and their languages are distinct, and ought his choice of such images. It is the glory of not to be confounded together. his art, that over extreme and depressing Those phenomena in nature which discover fear he is able to induce a something which immense and uncontrolled powers awaken quells it; and the pleasure of this is like the the simple passion terror in minds not gifted pleasure of controlling a powerful and dan- with sublimity; but to the sublime imagigerous steed. The superior nature grasps nation, whatever has an incalculable weight the reins of its own terror, and moves reso- and stability,—the interminable, that which lute and charmed through the terrors of moves with an irresistible force, —whatever, death and hell.

in short, either hints or fully displays the So much then for the pleasure of the existence of powers compared with which Sublime; it is the pleasure of superior na- the physical force of man himself is trifling tures, and akin to pride. As a proof, let us and ineffectual, raises images of sublimity. observe that poets of the Sublime have been There is sublimity in the echo of a cannon, remarkable for pride. Mere pomp and vast- reverberating among mountains ; in the moness of expression is distinguished from sub-| tion of a steam car, or of a great ship move ing before a strong wind; there is sublimity observation, and satisfying to the intellect. in the movements of vast bodies of men, In his larger works, want of unity detracts when they seem to be informed with a com- from their dignity and value as works of art. mon purpose. The sublime carries with it It has been said of him, that though a “lawa feeling of the mysterious. The majesty of giver of art, he was not an artist;** and yet oratory awakens a sublime emotion in which who but an artist could have created the the uncertain and mysterious largely prevail. character of Mignon, or composed the drama We feel in the speaker himself a power, a of Iphigenia ? Was it that he knew too consciousness and a confidence, which over- much, that his sight was microscopic and whelms while it elevates.

interfered with the just perspective, the seeFor the production of great and continuing of the whole ?!! Clearly pot; but that ous sublimity and beauty, there is needed a he lacked concentration ; for if the possesquality of intellect akin to obstinacy : we sion of the microscopic eye were inconshould perhaps have said, rather, a quality sistent with that of the higher artistic of intelligence, of the active and impulsive, faculties, what shall we say of Shakspeare, and not of the gubernatorial faculties. If | Aristophanes, Swift, Homer, in whom unity not a quality, then a power, a faculty, for of design and singleness of purpose are traits which psychology has no name, (psychology as conspicuous as any other proper to the being a science uncultivated in our language.) artistic mind? “He is fragmentary — & to which we are obliged to give the name writer of occasional poems." Yes, and concentrativeness," invented by the phre- these poems, at least the best of them, have nologists. The brokenness and want of con- an undeniable unity. “When he sits down tinuity of Keats may perhaps be attributed to write a drama or a tale, he collects and to a want or weakness of this faculty; a sorts his observations, and combines them deficiency which no cultivation could fully into a body, as fitly as he can.” But, with compensate, whose want excludes the artist an utter deficiency of the artistic power, he from the epic and dramatic circles, restricting could not have collected his observations; the efforts of his genius within the sphere he could see their fitness, but he could not of lyric and essay. While the fit is on him, fuse them into a consistent whole; he could he is able to give unity to his work; but he build the sacrificial pile, but he could not set cannot recover the mood. The faculty of fire to it. His nature was cold, and the soaring is denied him; his flights, though quality of concentrativeness is a quality of powerful, are brief and swooping ;—a quality heat, and lies on the side of passion. The excellent only for a wit, a song-writer, a sto- man who is devoid of it will not only prory-teller, or å humorist

. It is said by those duce no long works of art, but he will have who have read the epic of Petrarch, that it no life friendships nor enmities. Warm for is deficient in every quality of an epic. It the moment, his fire is soon out; he is sentimay have been a deficiency of the kind mental and fickle; he is rersatile, not so which we have described, which limited this much from the plasticity and variety of his author to the production of a sonnet or a intellect, as from a natural coldness and canzonet. It may have been the same de- shallowness of feeling; he is skeptical, not ficiency, or rather the consciousness of it, so much from a want of insight, as from which restrained Boccaccio from any fiction observing in himself the incessant change of magnitude. In a fiction of three pages, and fluctuation of his own feelings; and Boccaccio has no rival; in a fiction of twenty, learning to despise this weakness in himself, he fatigues the reader: the shorter the story, he mistakes it for a weakness of all humanity. the better it is told. The fire is intense, but To return to the subject of our article. It it burns only for a moment.

is not easy to determine whether in Keats Was there not a similar deficiency, nat- the interruptedness and want of unity arose ural and inherent, in the greatest of the more from a physical or an intellectual weakGerman poets, Goethe! In a chapter of ness. Feeble, and of a consumptive habit, cool advice to the young poets of Germany, the fire of his passions devoured the strength he forbids the undertaking of long works; of his body; and as we observe in his later for wise reasons, perhaps, he restricted himnself; and his reputation rests rather upon * Emerson, Representative Men, page 282. lyrical passages, brief essays, full of pith and

| Id.

works a unity which the earlier do not show, author does not seem at all surprising; for it may have been in him a defect more of the of all passions that afflict humanity, that of flesh than of the spirit; and as a token of poetic renown is the most consuming and this, we observe in all his works a most abso- invincible. A great genius, failing in youth lute unity of feeling at least: the quality is under the burden of an immortal design, is even, the texture only broken; the pursuit an object most pathetic, most touching, and is steady, but the limbs are weak. He we dare say, most venerable. The passion needed, it may be, only the ripening and that actuates and consumes him is a desire solidifying influence of health and experi- for the love, not of one person, but of all ence.

mankind, of all futurity. There is in him After every minor difficulty has been sur- no scorn of humanity, but the most exalted mounted by the artist, the taste cultivated, regard; he falls a victim to it; he is a lover, expression abounding, imagery at command, dying of an eternal passion. It is no shalknowledge full and serviceable, the field and low vanity that spurs him; he is content the limit of genius ascertained, the greatest with a present obscurity in exchange for a of all remains yet to be overcome; and that lasting renown. His desire is to please all is, the choice of subject. If his genius is mankind, and while he pleases, while he epical, but one theme will occur to him in fascinates, to elevate and to calm. He is, in the entire course of his life. If it occurs at a strict sense, the prophet, or rather the illusall, with the conviction of fitness attending it, trator and the expounder of the beauty and it may be undertaken too early, or at an the harmony of the universe; and not only unseasonable time, and its weight may kill of the beauty and the harmony, but of the the author; or it may never rise before him eternal sweetness, of which individual love until he has become so far engaged in the is but a spark. Is he not, then, in a peculiar business of life, there is no leisure left. The and sublime sense, a favorite with the creaconjunction of four planets is hardly more tive Power? And as such, ought we not rare than the fortunate conjunction of time, seriously, and apart from all sentiment, to subject, circumstance, preparation, and abil respect and honor him in his vocation ? ity for the work. That it should kill its

J. D. w.

[blocks in formation]

The breeze creeps still from plain and hill

Within the forest black and hoary ;
The sunlight gleams in rounded streams,

And floods the woodland maze in glory.
Fall, torrent, fall, and let thy thunders flying
Fill the far glens, the echoes faint replying.
From mosses deep on ruined steep

Slow drops descend in sullen plashing;
From rocky brim, with eddying swim,

The waters leap in foam-wreaths flashing.
Fall, torrent, fall, and let thy thunders flying
Fill the far glens, the echoes faint replying.
It rolls away—the river gray,

But columned mists to sky are driven ;
So flows our life-a tumbling strife,

So mount our better thoughts to heaven.
Fall, torrent, fall, and let thy thunders flying
Fill the far glens, the echoes faint replying.

REINHOLD.

« PreviousContinue »