Billeder på siden
[blocks in formation]

the poet. But we must not conceive, merely because they are sublime, that they comprehend the whole office of imagination, or even its most important uses.

It is of far more importance to mankind, as it operates in the common offices of life,-in the familiar feelings of every hour.

What are all those pictures of the future, which are ever before our eyes, in the successive hopes, and fears, and designs of life, but imaginations, in which circumstances are combined that never perhaps, in the same forms and proportions, have existed in reality, and which, very probably, are never to exist but in those very hopes and fears which we have formed ? The writer of romance gives secret motions and passions to the characters which he invents, and adds incident to incident in the long series of complicated action which he developes. What he does, we, too, are doing every hour ;contriving events that never are to happen,-imagining motives and passions, and thinking our little romances, of which ourselves, perhaps, are the primary heroes, but in the plot of which there is a sufficient complication of adventures of those whom we love, and those whom we dislike. Our romances of real life, though founded upon facts, are, in their principal circumstances, fictions still ; and, though the fancy which they display may not be as brilliant, it is still the same in kind with that which forms and fills the history of imaginary heroes and heroines.

It is well known, from experience, that the activity and consequent improvement of imagination, depend not a little upon the character of the objects with which it is first occupied. The great, the sublime, the beautiful, the new, and ihe uncommon, in external nature, are not only striking and agreeable in themselves, but, by association, these qualities powerfully awaken the sensibilities of the heart, and kindle the fires of youthful imagination. If the student permit objects which are mean, low, or sensual, to usurp possession of his mind; if the books which he reads, and the studies that he pursues, are contaminated with gross ideas, he has no right to expect that this omnipotent faculty shall ever draw from the polluted treasures of his memory, any thing noble, useful, or praiseworthy; or that his name shall ever be enrolled among those who have delighted, instructed, and honoured their native land and the world at large.

By an excessive indulgence in the pleasures of imagina



But a

tion, the taste may acquire a fastidious refinement unsuitable to the present situation of human nature; and those intellectual and moral habits, which ought to be formed by actual experience of the world, may be gradually so accommodated to the dreams of poetry and romance, as to disqualify us for the scenes in which we are destined to act. well-regulated imagination is the great spring of human activity, and the principal source of human improvement. As it delights in presenting to the mind scenes and characters more perfect than those with which we are acquainted, it prevents us from ever being completely satisfied with our present condition, or with our past attainments, and engages us continually in the pursuit of some untried enjoyment, or of soine ideal excellence. Destroy this faculty, and the condition of man will become as stationary as that of the brutes.

QUESTIONS.-1. What is imagination ? 2. By whom are its most sublime exertions made ? 3. Illustrate its operation in the common offices of life. 4. On what do the activity and improvement of ima. gination greatly depend? 5. What may be the consequence of an excessive indulgence in the pleasures of imagination ? 6. Why is a well-regulated imagination the great spring of human activity, and source of human improvement?


Beauty and Sublimity.
Emo'tions, vivid feelings arising immediately from the consider-

ation of objects, perceived, remembered, or imagined.
Cartoon', a painting or drawing upon several sheets of large paper

pasted on canvass. The most celebrated are the cartoons of

Raphael. See Lesson on Painting. OUR emotions of beauty are various; and, as they gradually rise, from object to object, a sort of regular progression may be traced from the faintest beauty to the vastest sublimity. These extremes may be considered as united, by a class of intermediate feelings, for which grandeur might, perhaps, be a suitable term, that have more of beauty, or more of sublimity, according to their place in the scale of emotion. Let us imagine that we see before us a stream gently gliding through fields, rich with all the luxuriance of summer, overshadowed at times by the foliage that hangs



over it, from bank to bank, and then suddenly sparkling in the open sunshine, as if with a still brighter current than before. Let us trace it, till it widens to a majestic river, of which the waters are the boundary of two flourishing empires, conveying abundance equally to each, while city succeeds city, on its populous shores, almost with the same rapidity as grove formerly succeeded grove. Let us next behold' it losing itself in the immensity of the ocean, which seems to be only an expansion of itself, when there is not an object to be seen but its own wide amplitude, between the banks which it leaves, and the sun that is setting, as if in another world, in the remote horizon ;-in all this course, from the brook to the boundless waste of waters,—if we were to trace and contemplate the whole continued progress, we should have a series of emotions. The emotions which rose, when we regarded the narrow stream, would be those which we class as emotions of beauty. The emotions which rose when we considered that infinity of waters, in which is was ultimately lost, would be of the kind which we denominate sublimity; and the grandeur of the river, while it was still distinguishable from the ocean, to which it was proceeding, might be viewed with feelings, to which, on the same principle of distinction, some other name or names might be given.

The same progressive series of feelings, which may thus be traced as we contemplate works of nature, is not less evident in the contemplation of works of human art, whether that art has been employed in material things, or be purely intellectual. From the cottage to the cathedral—from the simplest ballad air, to the harmony of a choral anthem from a pastoral to an epic poem or tragedy—from a landscape to a cartoon, -in each case there is a wide interval, and you may easily perceive, that, merely by adding what seemed degree after degree, you arrive at last at emotions which have little apparent resemblance to the emotions with which the scale began.

In the moral scene the progression is equally evident. Let us suppose, for example, that in the famine of an army, a soldier divides his scanty allowance with one of his comrades, whose health is sinking under the privation. We feel in the contemplation of this action, a pleasure, which is that of moral beauty. In proportion as we imagine the famine

[blocks in formation]

of longer duration, or the prospect of relief less probable, the action becomes more and more morally grand and heroic. Let us next imagine, that the comrade, to whose relief the soldier makes this generous sacrifice, is one whose enmity he has formerly experienced on some interesting occasion; and the action is not heroic merely, it is sublime.

It is in the moral conduct of our fellow men, that the species of sublimity is to be found, which we most gladly recognise, as the character of that glorious nature, which we have received from God,-a character which makes us more erect in mind, than we are in stature, and enables us not to gaze on the heavens merely, but to list to them our very wishes, and to imitate in some faint degree, and to admire at least, where we cannot imitate, the gracious perfection that dwells there.-BROWN,

Questions.-1. What illustration is given of the emotions of beauty and sublimity which arise from contemplating the works of nature? 2. The works of human art ? 3. What is the example for illustrating moral beauty and sublimity ?



Fine Arts, the arts generally distinguished by the appellation fine,

are poetry, music, painting, sculpture, and engraving, with their several branches. To these may be added architecture

and gardening. The word taste has two general significations: one literat or primitive relating to corporeal sensations; the other figurative, referring to mental discernment. This metaphor would not have been so general, had there not been a conformity between mental taste, and that sensitive taste which gives us a relish of every flavour. The subject of this lesson is mental or intellectual taste.

Without the emotions of beauty and sublimity, there would be no taste to discern the aptitude of certain means for producing these emotions. On the other hand, without the judgment, which discerns this order, in the relations of means and ends, there would be no voluntary adaptation of the great stores of forms and sounds, and colours, for producing

[blocks in formation]

them,- none of those fine arts which give as much liappiness as embellishment to life. Reason and good sense have so extensive an influence on all the operations and decisions of taste, that a thorough good taste may well be considered as a power, compounded of natural sensibility to beauty, and of improved understanding. Frequent exercise and curious attention to its proper objects must greatly heighten its power. Nothing is more improveable than that part of taste, which is called an ear for music. At first, the simplest and plainest compositions only are relished. Our pleasure is extended by use and practice, which teach us to relish finer melody, and by degrees enable us to enter into the intricate and compound pleasures of liarmony. An eye for the beauties of painting is never acquired all at once. It is gradually formed by being conversant among pictures, and studying the works of the best masters. It is the same with respect to the beauty of composition or discourse : 'attention to the most approved models, study of the best authors, comparisons of lower and lugher degrees of the same beauties, operate towards the refinement of taste.

In no part of nature is the pure benevolence of heaven more strikingly conspicuous than in our susceptibility of the emotions of this class. In consequence of these emotions, it is scarcely possible for us to look around, without feeling either some happiness or some consolation. Sensual pleasures soon pall, even upon the profligate, who seeks them in yain in the means which were accustomed to produce them; weary, almost to disgust, of the very pleasures which he seeks, and yet astonished that he does not find them. The labours of severer intellect, if long continued, exhaust the energy which they employ; and we cease, for a time, to be capable of thinking accurately, from the very intentness and accuracy of our thought. The pleasures of taste, however, by their variety of easy delight, are safe from the languor which attends any monotonous or severe occupation, and, instead of palling on the mind, they produce in it, with the very delight which is present, a quicker sensibility to future pleasure. Enjoyment springs from enjoyment; and if we have not some deep wretchedness within, it is scarcely possible for us, with the delightful resources which nature and art present to us, not to be happy, as often as we will to be happy.

« ForrigeFortsæt »