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loftiest aspirations. So much do we learn in youth, and so unfortunate it seems to grow old early, and abridge this holiday-floor, where, in games, we harvest deep experience. I have been long laboring at outlines, yet feel I have accomplished little, compared with what I might, other pursuits have so abridged my time. I have not yielded to your earnest request, to dwell only in art, to abandon these college studies; in short, to identify my whole external existence with the beautiful. I prize the unselfish enthusiasm that leads you to desire for your friend only the happiest results. For your sake I should love to yield myself entirely to the radiant sunlight of picture, and dispense with the cold economy of the world.
What will you think if I confess I have not that confidence which enables me to say entirely, that I can produce anything to warrant me in following an artist's life?' An irresistible impulse draws me to landscape. I take my pencil, but the scenes do not flow warm and living. In a measure I satisfy myself, yet not to that extent I desire. You will send the lesson I have just read, on haste, and the necessity of taking degrees in art, step by step. Alas! I find I can read lessons to everybody better than practise them.
It would not avail to be an amateur; I must be all or nothing; and in fully feeling this, I found my right to be. come a painter. He, who truly aspires to the loftiest, has the consolation of knowing he can make no failure; yet to pass life in stepping from one stone to another, would not be sufficient excuse for deserting what other avenues I may have to knowledge. I am an unresting man; all I hear, all I see, all I do, is but the faint uncertain dawn of what I am equal to; and it would be a sensation profoundly satisfactory, did I seize what jewels are strewn by the way; but I seem to be carried forward with such rapidity that I cannot stoop to seize even these. I am possessed with the idea, that I cannot neglect any of the common avenues to knowledge, and find myself faithfully performing every college duty, no matter how dry, with the instinct that something may be in it. The ancients yield me more fruit than the moderns, and Homer, Æschylus, Lucan, and Virgil, I would not exchange for any four of the moderns. would not aim at acquiring a critical knowledge of the
dead languages; but these four years, we spend at college, are a convenient period for mastering them sufficiently. These are youth's leisure days, in our age, to read the past. The Greeks I never tire of. I have lately made a prize in a bust of the Apollo, which was sent from Italy as a specimen cast, and now have it in a corner of my chamber. I have captured, this week, Flaxman's Homer, and spent some pleasant hours over it, in which I wished you with me. What manly fellows these Greeks were! So bold, so finished, so splendidly wrought up to a pure, stern ideal, yet without that sentiment which spoils our ideality.
What a strange point of history is this, when we stand in an age not capable of producing any work of sublime excellence, yet having a back ground filled with monu, ments cut in eternal beauty. That there should have been preserved, through the dark ages, these sayings of former civilization, which we now comprehend, yet cannot reproduce, makes our time a youth of speechless beauty, whose eyes penetrate the shroud before his birth; and how individual we are, for we only survey the future with promise. I know of nothing so singular, as that our age should be the age of reform. I doubt, indeed, that it is. Our people of reform love to cover their imperfections with this vanity, while their eyes swim with tears, when they look into the bright face of the past. Give me, if not the power of present creation, the capacity to appreciate those matchless ancients who sat supreme among forms, and bend their successors into an unsuccessful imitation. If I can make nothing new, if this is a winter's day, when the fieldflowers do not bloom, let me twine my brows with the evergreen laurels of the summer past. I can, at least, live with the divinities, if I cannot match them in performance. I can worship in silence, and believe, though speechless.
There has been a revival, of late years, all over Europe, of the Greek spirit, surprising to behold, and finally the discovery that if Shakspeare is the first of moderns, it is only that he inherited, the largest share of the ancient. Yet, I do not look upon Shakspeare as such an immortal as Homer, and fancy I can discover traces that he shakes on his seat. But you know that I am not such a Shakspeareman as you; if he should suffer, I think it will be a partial obscuration, caused by the extreme meanness of his
late critics, who have overloaded the public mind with their leaden lumber.
Even in America, the puritan side of modern cultivation, I see this Greek spirit marching forward to conquer custom. This new development of sculptors, is a warning, while late poets tend to a smoothness, a finish, and neatness, which gives us the workmanship of Pope's time, while we possess besides a liberal idea. I rejoice in this, and cling to my old books the closer, when I see they are beginning to warm the mass. I will not quarrel with your devotion to what is only new, and shall always be delighted with your mill, and your sails on the river.
I have fallen in with a new person this last week, whom I met on Grecian hill, where we used to walk. He was loitering, apparently, like myself, a cloud-gazer. I found more tenderness in his eyes than in his speech, and that he did not do credit to his heart. We conversed about books and pictures. He was not so fond of the ancients as I. He professed not to be a favorite in general society, yet I saw, by the manner in which he spoke of several of our mutual acquaintances, that he had approached in a way agreeable to them, as he was full master of their faults. Í detected he was impatient of defects, yet would not tolerate a stately beauty, with great external polish, because he believed nature knew best how to win affection, and that the apex of cultivation, if lofty, was covered with snow. In this, he differed from me, as I believe that true polish can do no more than proportion nature. I found he dwelt more on defects than beauties, and that it was owing to his love of the ridiculous which set out the imperfection, if never so small, in a humorous light, leaving the equal graces to shine unobserved. He had detected this tendency, as in speaking of some of the old humorists, he said, “They are like me; they love the comic, yet see what lies below without mentioning it.” Still, I thought, from his conversation, which lacked any one distinguishing peculiarity, that his húmor was 'not natural, but the product of sorrow united with an original mirthfulness, whose proper outlet would have been fair smiles. He had no wit, but labored with his power to express himself; and though what he said sounded fresh and honest, from an occasional alteration, or a repetition of the same thought, I concluded he found it
difficult to fit expression precisely to thought. He must have been a writer, rather than a painter; but yet as he showed a keen sense of beauty in the landscape, which, you remember, is one of those that do nothing but suggest, I concluded he had studied pictures. We spoke of love, and he mused moodily, and showed he had been disappointed in some passion. I believed, from the fair oval of his brow and the undrooped eyelids, that his character was trusting, and that a long life of affection lay before him, to be tinged with occasional shade from the recollection of his past affections. As we strolled on, I was charmed with the quick eyes he had for every object. Nothing escaped, neither cloud, flower, tree, bird, nor insect, and I was glad to find he valued masses, and where the landscape opened he traced a good foreground, a wide distance, and a sidelight which struck a group of trees in the middle, brought out a winding brook, a small golden valley, and an elm tree with a cottage under it, and connected these domestic emblems with a group of gray clouds. He looked at me, as if this picture did not satisfy him, but had formed a better in his mind, which he did not show. When I spoke to him of books, I found he had read a number; yet on his quoting some poetry, discovered he did not give it correctly, though he added words which made it better, and seemed musing whether he had read the right line. He selected some half dozen books out of all he had read, as the sum and substance of books, and placed them on his shelves, as silent reserves, specimens of what had been done, which held in them no obligation for him to read. I spoke of the old masters, and the Greek sculpture, and found he loved painting best, but did not prefer any special artist. I spoke with him, also, of philosophers, and found he had read them rather in his imagination than in fact, and formed figures of the past men, as well as epochs, without having really taken much notice of their works. In the midst of very serious criticisms, he called me off to point to some tree waving by the wall's side, or plant at our feet, and I saw he was firmly fixed in nature rather than art.
Pray send me another letter from your mill, before long, and if you write any verses, some copies, and if I find a chance, I will send some of my late outlines.
EXTRACTS FROM THE DESATIR.
[PRELIMINARY NOTE. The Desatir or Regulations, purports to be a collection of the writings of the different Persian prophets, being fifteen in number, of whom Zerdusht or Zoroaster was the thirteenth, and ending with the fifth Sasan, who lived in the time of Chosroes, contemporary with the Emperor Heraclius. In England, attention was first called to this book by Sir William Jones in the Second Volume of the Asiatic Researches, and the book was afterwards translated from the Persian by Mr. Duncan, Governor of Bombay, and by Mulla Firuz Bin Kaus, a Hindoo, and published at Bombay in 1818.]
Let us take refuge with Mezdam from evil thoughts which mislead and afflict us.
O creator of the essence of supports and stays; 0 thou who showerest down benefits; 0 thou who formest the heart and soul; O fashioner of forms and shadows; O Light of lights!
Thou art the first, for there is no priority prior to thee. Thou art the last, for there is no posteriority posterior to thee.
O worthy to be lauded ! deliver us from the bonds of terrestrial matter.
Rescue us from the fetters of dark and evil matter. Intelligence is a drop from among the drops of the ocean of thy place of souls.
The Soul is a flame from among the flames of the fire of thy residence of Sovereignty.
Mezdam is hid by excess of light. He is Lord of his wishes; not subject to novelties; and the great is small, and the tall short, and the broad narrow, and the deep is as a ford unto him.
Who causeth the shadow to fall.
In the circle of thy sphere, which is without rent, which neither assumeth a new shape, nor putteth off an old one, nor taketh a straight course;
Thou art exalted, O our Lord ! From thee is praise, and to thee is praise.