« ElőzőTovább »
when he contemplates the waving features of numberless flowers, when he gathers on the seashore wreathed and variegated shells, or beholds through distant meadows the winding stream, or pauses in the pathless wood to gaze on the constantly-changing position of its branches, whether he does not at once feel within him a spontaneous more ment of delight. Is not the object, which is directly be fore him, in itself a source of this feeling? Although be may have a superadded pleasure from some other source,
as we shall have occasion to see; still, considering the subject particularly in reference to the object before hire, may not the true philosophy be summed up in the singie assertion that he sees and he feels; he beholds and be admires; the intellect, through the instrumentality of the eye, has a knowledge of the object, and the awakened heart expands with the homage of its voluntary joy.
Ø 26. Original or intrinsic beasty.–The circle. It is necessary, in examining the subject of beauty, to look at it in two points of view, viz., as Intrinsic and as Associated. In the remarks which we may have occasion to make in this chapter, we bave reference exclusively to what may be denominated Original or Intrinsic beauty; by which we mean that which is founded in the nature of the object, independently of accidental or merely accessory circumstances.--Accordingly, in view of the remark at the close of the last section, it seems to result from the common experience of mankind, that objects which are circular, or approach that forto, exhibiting a constantly varying outline, have in themselves, and on account of this configuration, a degree, and not unfrequently a high degree, of beauty. The bending stem of the tulip, the curve of the weeping willow, the windings of the ivy, the vine wreathing itself around the elm, the ser. pentine river, are highly pleasing. The vast circular expanse of the visible sky, when seen in a cloudless night, is a beautiful object, independently of the splendour that is spread over it by its brilliant troops of stars. The arch of the rainbow, expanding its immense curve over our heads, could hardly fail to be regarded as an object of great beauty, even if nothing but the form and outline were presented to our vision, without the unrivalled lustre of its colours. And the same of other instances, scattered in profusion through the works of nature, but too numerous to be mentioned here.
On this question, as on many others in mental philosophy, we appeal to the common feelings of mankind. And it is on this account that what we now say on the subject of the intrinsic beauty of some objects and combinations of objects, we take to be no “fable of man's device,” no tinkering of an earthly philosophy; but the response of a higher oracle, the voice of nature, the announcement of the universal heart of humanity. We are aware that some may object to such an appeal; they perhaps regard it as below the dignity of science; but no one is ignorant that philosophers, who were not wanting in sagacity, have frequently made it. Their great inquiry on subjects of this nature is, what men generally have thought and felt. “ I never remember," says Mr. Burke, « that anything beautiful, whether a man, a beast, a bird, or a plant, was ever shown, though it were to a hundred people, that they did not all immediately agree that it was beautiful, though some might have thought that it fell short of their expectation, or that other things were still finer. I believe no man thinks a goose to be more beautiful than a swan, or imagines that what they call a Friezland hen excels a peacock.”
0 27. Of the beauty of straight and angular forms. Although the circular or constantly varying outline is thought, more than any other, to excite the delightful emotions under consideration, we are not to suppose
that the power of beauty is excluded from other forms. In examining the works of nature, it is hardly necessary to say that we find numerous instances of straight and angular forms, as well as of the serpentine and winding, although perhaps less frequently. It can hardly be doubted that these forms, as they are operated upon and moulded in nature's hands, possess more or less beauty. It is almost a matter of supererogation to attempt to illustrate this statement to those who have a heart and eye open to the great variety of her works, which on every side are presented to our notice. Her forms, either original or in their combinations, are without number; and if it be true that beauty does not claim a relationship with all, it is equally so that it is not restricted to one, or even a
small portion of them. The intertwining shrubbery, which . spreads itself abroad upon the ground, emits, if we may
be allowed the expression, its sparkles and gleams of beauty around our feet. The elm, which rises upward towards the heavens, and forms its broad and green arch over our heads, is radiant with beauty also, although it is exceedingly diverse in its appearance. We readily admit, for we cannot well do otherwise without violence to the suggestions of our nature, that the curve of the weeping willow possesses beauty. But, at the same time, we are not prepared to assert that the solitary palm-tree is absolutely destitute of it, although it displays, as it arises on the bosom of the desert, nothing but a tall, straight, branchless trunk, surmounted at the top, like a Corinthian column, by a single tuft of foliage.
“ There are an infinite number of the feebler vegetables,” says Mr. Alison," and many of the common grasses, the forms of which are altogether distinguished by angles and straight lines, and where there is not a single curvature through the whole, yet all of which are beautiful.” He ascribes, in another place, a high degree of beauty to the knotted and angular stem of the balsam. And remarks also, in regard to the myrtle, that it is "generally reckoned a beautiful form, yet the growth of its stem is perpendicular, the junctions of its branches form regular and similar angles, and their direction is in straight or angular lines.
Although it seems to be unnecessary to delay at much length on this topic, we take the liberty to refer to a single instance more, because it has probably escaped the notice of many persons, and has never, so far as we know, been adduced in illustration of the subject under review. One would hardly look for symmetrical and beautiful configurations in the falling flakes of snow. It appears, however, that the snow, at different times, and under the different circumstances in which it falls, assumes about a hundred different forms; not merely accidental, but determinate and permanent forms. Exact delineations of these forms have been executed; particularly of those which were observed by Mr. Scoresby in the Polar Seas; and although the circular or waving outline is almost entirely excluded from them, they are, in general, highly beautiful.
8 28. Of square, pyramidal, and triangular forms. The remarks of the last section, going to show that beauty is not limited to circular forms, is confirmed by what we observe in the works of art as well as of nature. The square, for instance, although we do not suppose it presents very high claims, comes in for a share of notice. On account of its practical convenience, and also for the reason of its being more entirely within the reach of human skill than some other forms, it is frequently introduced into architecture ; generally with a pleasing effect, and sometimes with a high degree of beauty.
In the Gothic architecture, the pyramidal, a form still further removed from any relationship with the circle, has a conspicuous place; and, when properly combined with other forms, gives a decided pleasure. Hogarth, in illustration of his remark, that variety has a great share in producing beauty, explicitly observes that the pyramid, which gradually diminishes from its basis to its points, is a beautiful form. And it is in consequence of be regarded that we find it so frequently employed, not only as a characteristic feature in the order of architecture just referred to, but in steeples, sepulchral monuments, and other works of art.
Triangular forms also are not without beauty. Mr. Alison states that the forms of Grecian and Roman furniture, in their periods of cultivated taste, were almost universally distinguished by straight or angular lines. What is there, he inquires, more beautiful than the form of the ancient tripod? “The feet gradually lessening to the end, and converging as they approach it; the plane of the table placed, with little ornament, nearly at right angles to the feet; and the whole appearing to form an imperfect triangle, whose base is above. There is scarcely, in such a subject, a possibility of contriving a more an
gular form, yet there can be none more completely beautiful.”
In connexion with these statements, it is proper to add a single explanatory remark. We have much reason to believe that the emotion will be stronger in all cases in proportion as the beautiful object is distinctly and immediately embraced by the mind. It may be asserted, with undoubted good reason, that the square form has a degree of beauty as well as the circle, although it is generally conceded that it has less. But it is a matter of inquiry whether the difference in this respect is owing so much to the original power of the forms themselves as to the circumstance just alluded to. In other words, whether it be not owing to the fact that the circle, being more simple, makes a more direct, entire, and decided impression; whereas the attention is divided among the sides and angles of the square and other similar figures.
ộ 29. The variety of the sources of that beauty which is founded on
forms illustrated from the different styles of architecture. The doctrine that all beauty is limited to a particular form or a small number of forms, does not appear to be sustained, but rather to be discountenanced and rebuked, by what we notice in the different orders of architecture: as it is, in fact, by all the arts that are based on the feelings now under review. An interesting field of inquiry is here opened, which we are not at liberty to enter, but must merely glance at and leave.
The simple facts which it is important for us to notice are, First, that all the acknowledged styles of architecture are more or less beautiful; and, SECOND, that they all differ from each other, being respectively distinguished by their own characteristics. We cannot be expected to go into particulars. We read, however, of the architecture of Egypt; and the monuments of its existence, surprising for their number and extent, still remain. No one, if we are at liberty to receive the statements of travellers, can walk amid the desolate cities on the banks of the Nile, and amid the splendid ruins of its sacred islands, without profound emotions of delight and admiration, as he contemplates the remains of sculptured grot