« ElőzőTovább »
There he arriving round about doth flie,
No. XXIV.-WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22nd, 1820.
ON THE REALITIES OF IMAGINATION.
There is not a more unthinking way of talking, than to say such and such pains and pleasures are only imaginary, and therefore to be got rid of or undervalued accordingly. There is nothing imaginary, in the common acceptation of the word. The logic of Moses in the Vicar of Wakefield is good argument here:- Whatever is, is.” Whatever touches us, whatever moves us, does touch and does move
We recognise the reality of it, as we do that of a hand in the dark. We might as well say that a sight which makes us laugh, or a blow which brings tears into our eyes, is imaginary, as that any thing else is imaginary which makes us laugh or weep. We can only judge of things by their effects. Our perception constantly deceives us, in things with which we suppose ourselves perfectly conversant; but our reception of their effect is a different matter. Whether we are materialists or immaterialists, whether things be about us or within us, whether we think the sun is a substance, or only the image of a divine thought, an idea, a thing imaginary, we are equally agreed as to the notion of it's warmth. But on the other hand, as this warmth is felt differently by different temperaments, so what we call imaginary things affect different minds. What we have to do is not to deny their effect, because we do not feel in the same proportion, or whether we even feel it at all; but to see whether our neighbours may not be moved. If they are, there is, to all intents and purposes, a moving
But we do not see it? No;-neither perhaps do they. They only feel it; they are only sentient,--a word which implies the sight given to the imagination by the feelings. But what do you mean, we may ask in return, by seeing? Some rays of light come in contact with the eye; they bring a sensation to it; in a word, they touch it; and the impression left by this touch we call sight. How far does this differ in effect from the impression left by any other touch, however mysterious? An ox knocked down by a butcher, and a man knocked down by a fit of the apoplexy, equally feel themselves compelled to drop. The tickling of a straw and of a comedy equally move the muscles about our mouth. The look of a beloved eye will so ihrill the whole frame, that old philosophers have had recourse to a doctrine of beams and radiant particles flying from one sight to another. In fine, what is contact itself, and why does it affect us? There is no one cause more mysterious than another, if we look into it.
Nor does the question concern us like moral causes. We may be content to know the earth by it's fruits; but how to increase and improve them is a more attractive study. If instead of saying that the causes which moved in us this or that pain or pleasure were imaginary, people were to say that the causes themselves were removeable, they would be nearer the truth. When a stone trips us up, we do not fall to disputing it's existence: we put it out of the way.
In like manner, when we suffer from what is called an imaginary pain, our business is not to canvass the reality of it. Whether there is any cause or not in that or any other perception, or whether every thing consist not in what is called effect, it is sufficient for us that the effect is real. Our sole business is to remove those second causes, which always accompany the original idea. As in deliriums for instance, it would be idle to go about persuading the patient that he did not behold the figures he says he does. He might reasonably ask us, if he could, how we know any thing about the matter; or how we can be sure, that in the infinite wonders of the universe, certain realities may not become apparent to certain eyes, whether diseased or not. Our business would be to put him into that state of health, in which human beings are not diverted from their offices and comforts by a liability to such imaginations. The best reply to his question would be, that such a morbidity is clearly no more a fit state for a human being, than a disarranged or incomplete state of works is for a watch; and that seeing the general tendency of nature to this completeness or state of comfort, we naturally conclude, that the imaginations in question, whether substantial or not, are at least not of the same lasting or prevailing description.
We do not profess metaphysics. We are indeed so little conversant with the masters of that profound art, that we are never sure whether we are using even it's proper terms. All that we may know on the subject comes to us from some reflection and some experience; and this all may be so little as to make a metaphysician smile; which if he be a true one, he will do good-naturedly. The pretender will take occasion from our very confession, to say that we know nothing. Our faculty, such as it is, is rather instinctive than reasoning; rather physical than metaphysical; rather wise because it loves much, than because it knows much; rather calculated by a certain retention of boyhood, and by it's wanderings in the green places of thought, to light upon a piece of the old golden world, than to tire ourselves, and conclude it unattainable, by too wide and scientific a search. We pretend to see farther than none but the worldly and the malignant. And yet those who see farther, may not all see so well. We do not blind our eyes with looking upon the sun in the heavens. We believe
it to be there, but we find it's light upon earth also ; and we would lead humanity, if we could, out of misery and coldness into the shine of it. Pain might still be there; must be so, as long as we are mortal;
For oft we still must weep, since we are human: but it should be pain for the sake of others, which is noble; not unnecessary pain inflicted by or upon them, which it is absurd not to
The very pains of mankind struggle towards pleasures; and such pains as are proper for them have this inevitable accompaniment of true humanity,--that they cannot but realize a certain gentleness of enjoyment. Thus the true bearer of pain would come round to us; and he would not grudge us a share of his burden, though in taking from his trouble it might diminish his pride. Pride is but a bad pleasure at the expense of others. The great object of humanity is to enrich every body. If it is a task destined not to succeed, it is a good one from it's very nature; and fulfils at least a glad destiny of it's own. To look upon it austerely is in reality the reverse of austerity. It is only such an impatience of the want of pleasure as leads us to grudge it in others; and this impatience itself, if the sufferer knew how to use it, is but another impulse, in the general yearning, towards an equal wealth of enjoyment.
But we shall be getting into other discussions.-The ground-work of all happiness is health. Take care of this ground; and the doleful imaginations that come to warn us against it's abuse, will avoid it. Take care of this ground, and let as many glad imaginations throng to it as possible. Read the magical works of the poets, and they will
If you doubt their existence, ask yourself whether you feel pleasure at the idea of them; whether you are moved into delicious smiles, or tears as delicious. If you are, the result is the same to you, whether they exist or not. It is not mere words to say, that he who goes through a rich man's park, and sees things in it which never bless the mental eyesight of the possessor, is richer than he. He is richer. More results of pleasure come home to him. The ground is actually more fertile to him: the place haunted with finer shapes. He has more servants to come at his call, and administer to him with full hands. Knowledge, sympathy, imagination, are all Divining Rods, with which he discovers treasure. Let a painter go through the grounds, and he will see not only the general colours of green and brown, but all their combination and contrasts, and all the modes in which they might again be combined and contrasted. He will also put figures in the landscape if there are none there, flocks and herds, or a solitary spectator, or Venus lying with her white body among the violets and primroses. Let a musician go through, and he will hear “ differences discreet”
t” in the notes of the birds and the lapsing of the water-fall.. He will fancy a serenade of wind instruments in the open air at the lady's window, with a voice rising through it; or the horn of the hunter; or the musical cry of the hounds,
Matched in mouth like bells,
Let a poet
or a solitary voice in a bower, singing for an expected lover; or the
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
The Cynosure of neigbouring eyes. But not to go on quoting lines which are ever in people's mouths like a popular tune, take a passage from the same poet less familiar to one's every-day recollections. It is in his Arcadian Mask, which was performed by some of the Derby family at their seat at Harefield, near Uxbridge. The Genius of the place, meeting the noble shepherds and shepherdesses, accosts them:
Stay, gentle swains, for though in this disguise,
And early, ere the odorous breath of morn
Of human mould, with gross unpurged ear. " Milton's Genius of the Grove," say's Warton, “ being a spirit sent from Jove, and commissioned from heaven to exercise a preternatural guardianship over the “saplings tall,” to avert every noxious influence, and “to visit every sprout with puissant words, and murmurs made to bless," had the privilege, not indulged to gross mortals, of hearing the celestial Syrens' harmony. “This enjoyment," continues the critic, in the spirit of a true reader, luxuriating over a beautiful thought,“ This enjoyment, which is highly imagined, was a relaxation from the duties of his peculiar charge, in the depth of midnight, when the world is locked up in sleep and silence.”* The music of the spheres is the old Platonic or Pythagorean doctrine; but it remained for Milton to render it a particular midnight recreation to “purged ears,” after the earthly toils of the day. And we partake of it with the Genius. We may say of the Love of Nature, what Shakspeare says of another Love, that it
Adds a precious seeing to the eye. And we may say also, upon the like principle, that it adds a precious hearing to the ear. This and Imagination, which ever follows upon it, are the two purifiers of our sense, which rescue us from the deafening babble of common cares, and enable us to hear all the affectionate voices of earth and heaven. The starry orbs, lapsing about in their smooth and sparkling dance, sing to us.
The brooks talk to us of solitude. The birds are the animal spirits of nature, carolling in the air, like a careless lass.
The gentle gales,
PARADISE Lost, B. 4.
* If the reader wishes to indulge himself in a volume full of sheer poetry with a pleasant companion, familiar with the finest haunts of the Muses, he cannot do better than get Warton's Edition of the Minor Poems of Milton. The principal notes have been transferred by Mr. Todd to the sixth volume of his own valuable Edition of Milton's Poetical Works; but it is better to have a good thing entire. The two together might be still better, but a work complete now-a-days, in one volume, is a work complete.