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represented is so perfect, as to stand in no need of previous infor. mation and relation. Thus the incidents which have afforded the happiest subjects for painting, have been precisely those with which we have been most intimately acquainted. The most celebrated events from profane or classical and mythological history, and especially many of the characters and events connected with Christian history and belief, produce the greatest impression, because the mind of the spectator, from his historical knowledge, has not felt the necessity of being previously interested and excited.
In addition the poet possesses the power of producing the most powerful effects, by a sudden contrast of passion; he may arrange a succession of emotions, so as to produce the most striking effects and exhibition of character. All the attempts which have been made in painting to represent what inay be termed a mixed passion, are so many proofs of the impotence of the art. The mind of a hero may be agitated at one time, by contending and opposite emotions, and the delineations of which, by a great poet, is affecting in the very highest degree. No art of the painter dare aspire to represent this sudden and changeful expression, these mixed and abrupt emotions.
For example, a painter may with great effect paint the ambitious chief Macbeth, in conversation with his lady at the time when she is breaking her purpose of the intended murder of Duncan, and which his lustful ambition leads him to approve; he might be represented at the moment of his answer to her taunts of cowardice" I dare do all “ that may become a man:" this is within the painter's art, bis stern defiance of danger, and his steady courage; but no painter could mix with this, what he then really felt, and what is implied by his immediate question of doubt and irresolution, when he asks, “ If we should “ fail " Yet this, and all such mixed or sudden successions of feeling, are those by which our minds are most affected in history or poetry.
The painter's art is, in truth, confined to the representation of one instant of time, one attitude, one expression. The time may
be chosen with refined judgment, the attitude designed with consummate knowledge of effect, and the expression dignified and exquisitely displayed ; but the effect of the whole, it seems to me, must be greatly inferior to a poetical description of the same event, in which the succession of incidents may be delineated, and our hearts and affections warmed by a previous knowledge of the persons and characters concerned in the event pourtrayed.
For these reasons, also, it may be further remarked, that painting is incapable of communicating, however a painter may conceive, the ideas of a new and imaginative combination of human character. The foundation of all painting, descriptive of human passion and emotion, must be history or poetry. Now, the chief beauty of an historical painting, is unquestionably its fidelity; it must be strictly in agreement with the fact as recorded, and no considerable departure can be made from historical truth, with any chance of approbation or success. It is, indeed, in the painter's power to represent these facts in the most poetical and imaginative form; he may also add such cir
cumstances as may make the event more forcible and affecting; but any invention of character is in this case clearly unnatural and improper.
The merit of the painter of history, may be of the same kind as that of the writer of history. The fact that is to be impressed on the mind of a reader, may be so eloquently related, with such beauty of coloring, so much propriety and force, that it may receive an almost incalculable addition of attention and interest; but no historian can dare to bestow upon any one, for the sake of effect, those virtues in which it may be notorious he was deficient; he dare not give credit to Alexander for those virtues of temperance and moderation, which belong only to Scipio.
The poet, on the other hand, is not subject in any degree to restraints of this nature. He creates his hero by the powers of his imagination, bestows on him all the virtues which can awaken admiration, with such a proportion of failing and infirmity, as may serve to the general interest of the poem, and give occasion for the display of mixed and contending passions. In this consists the inferiority of painting; the painter is limited by his art, he may possess the finest and most creative imagination, but he can only adhere closely to the materials furuished by history or poetry, or he will fail to produce any effect, and, in short, to be intelligible. The highest effort of painting is to represent scenes of passion and interest, which history may describe or poetry invent. No man, whatever his powers of invention or execution might be, could ever convey by painting any one single idea or conception of an entirely new combination of character, such as is displayed, for instance, in Byron's Manfred, or in any other poetical concentration of varied emotions in one human being.
There is, however, one point in which painting and sculpture possess a decided advantage over poetry. It is this,-the accurate delineation of the attitudes of passion and feeling. No description, however powerful, can arrive at the force and dignity of a finely conceived and delineated attitude. The gestures of intelligent beings, distinctly convey to us ideas of the emotions which are felt; and when shown with the art which a great painter knows how to employ, move us with an extraordinary degree of power and effect. Thus no description of poetry or prose could convey to us in the remotest degree those notions of conscious dignity and resistless eloquence, of which we feel the force when looking at the Paul preaching at Athens of Raphael. This exclusive power on the part of painting to represent propriety and impressiveness of gesture, will, of itself, always preserve for it a very high rank in the scale of the arts.
In drawing these distinctions between the comparative powers of poetry and painting, I am very far from wishing to excite or inflame any of that petty rivalry or jealousy which sometimes deforms their admirers. I wish constantly to bear in mind the Horatian precept “ Nec tua laudabis studia, aut aliena reprendes.” On the contrary, I think that a just and accurate knowledge of their natural limits, and of their respective powers, is the most effectual method of promoting
a rational and manly esteem for each. We ought not to expect from oue art, those effects which another alone is, perhaps, calculated to produce; nor does it in the least follow, because we may believe poetry to possess the most perfect means of moving our passions, that we should not entertain for the other arts respectively, a very warm, though at the same time a judicious and discriminating, admiration.
The art which must be placed next in rank to painting, undoubtedly is, sculpture. It is an art of much more simplicity and uniformity than painting. It cannot with propriety, or a good effect, be applied to many subjects. The objects of its pursuit may be prised in two words, form and character; and while painting has many styles and various manners, sculpture may be said to possess but one. It must be free from all the petty arts of ornament and picturesque contrast, producing its effect solely by presenting in one form a combination of excellencies, separated nature; but when seen combined, impress us with exalted ideas of beauty and character.
There are many interesting subjects of enquiry connected with this art, but upon the present occasion, I can hardly afford space to refer to them. If the excellence of art, be a just imitation of nature, why is it that sculpture receives no improvement from color, by which nature would certainly be more closely and effectually imitated ? It is because sculpture makes it her duty to afford pleasure of a higher kind; the delight resulting from the contemplation of perfect beauty, or an imaginative concentration of those forms and proportions to which we attach by association, nobleness, and other exalted and agrecable qualities of mind. This is, in truth, an intellectual pleasure, while a mere imitation of nature being addressed only to our senses, would be an inferior art, though perhaps more captivating to ignorance and levity.
We are sure from experience, that beauty of form alone, without the assistance of any other quality, claims our esteem and admiration. As a proof of the high value we set on mere excellence of form, we may produce the greatest part of the works of Michael Angelo, both in painting and sculpture, as well as most of the antique statues, which receive the very highest esteem, chiefly for this concentration of excellencies in one ideal figure, this perfection of abstract form.
Having thus slightly touched upon this branch of our subject, I must for the present leave it; a full enquiry, however interesting in itself, would prove much too extensive for the present lecture, an omission which, wearied as I am afraid you already are, will less stand in need of apology.
There is, however, another art, which perhaps is more generally pleasing than either of those I have mentioned, and it would certainly leave those critical notices of the arts very imperfect, if I were altogether to omit any mention of it-I allude to music. This is the allowed and orthodox theme for glowing and flowery, as well as urmeaning, talk. What poet has failed to celebrate the charms of music; its powers of kindling the latent fires of the breast, and moving the passions, at one time inspiring nobleness of sentiment, at another
exalted courage, extending its influence even to the brute ereation, refining their manners, and softening their tempers ? No power, in a word, has been denied to music from the wonder-working Orpheus and Timotheus of old, the latter of whom, as Dryden tells us,
“ Could swell the soul to rage, and kindle soft desire." But let us leave the poets, who are not supposed to deal in a strictly examined philosophy, and ask what really are the powers and operations of music on the mind? A philosophical writer (Usher) thus expresses himself on music: “It is a language of delightful sensa“ tions, that is far more eloquent than words, and it breathes to the
ear the clearest intimations; we feel plainly, that music touches and
gently agitates the agreeable and sublime passions; that it wraps us “in melancholy, that it dissolves and inflames, that it melts us in ten“ derness, and rouses to rage."
For my part, I must own, after some investigation, that I cannot entertain any such belief of its powers and influence. Being a great lover of music, and somewhat of a practical musician, I have been very slow in coming to the opinion to which I have been forced; that music has not of itself any thing of a mental nature, and that its pleasures are almost entirely of a sensual and mechanical character. It is, in short, very little more dignified in its nature, than the corporeal pleasures of delicious flavors or agreeable perfumes. I honestly believe that no music which was ever composed, from the simplest melody, to a symphony of Beethoven, was ever more capable of conveying distinct ideas, or impressing uniform emotions, than any other physical and corporeal gratification. Not more capable of originating ideas than the flavor of French wines, or the delightful odour of Stringer's distilled lavender water.
These are strong remarks, and I am very far from wishing to deal in paradox, or in propositions that are merely startling; particularly when I remember how much merited odium I am likely to bring on myself, if I fail in some degree to explain and justify my meaning.
Now, if music deserve to be ranked with poetry and painting, it must be because of its power in operating on our minds and passions, in conveying ennobling and gratifying impressions and ideas, which originate in the minds of the poet and artist. And this chiefly by reference to human conduct, and the actions of intelligent beings. But how is this to be performed by sound of any kind, or by any succession or combination of tones, whether proceeding from catgut, wind, or wire ?
The truth is, that sounds can represent nothing but sounds, and the natural sounds which music is allowed to imitate, are but very few and unimportant. A musician can certainly, by direct imitation of natural tones, associate in our minds those notes with certain classes of objects, but no emotion and sentiment of the mind unaccompanied by peculiarity of sound, can ever be brought to recollection by any instrumental music
whatever. The musician's art extends no further than to remind us of any simple and natural sound, by similar inflections of tone. We may, for example, be reminded of the song of birds, and through them of coolness and quiet of their natural haunts in the groves; but to convey any notions of any one passion of the mind, of fear, honor, fraud, or courage, or indeed of any social feeling by musical combinations, is a thing distant, and, as I believe, impossible.
If, then, music is incapable of conveying any moral sentiment, if no precise idea that may be formed in the mind of the composer can be conveyed in a certain image to the mind of the hearer, it leaves us nothing in the delights of music, but agreeable corporeal and sensual excitations. I allude of course to merely instrumental music ; its association with poetry, may render it much more exalted by so noble and dignifying an alliance.
But I think I hear some lover of music exclaim, Music convey no moral feeling! How do you explain the notorious and striking examples of association, connected with certain kinds of music, the love of home and of country, which may be excited by a musical air? How can poetry or painting do more than produce such noble and passionate emotions of the soul ?
These are very just and pertinent questions, but admit, I think, of a very simple explanation. All the associations of music with any moral sentiment, are the effect of an accidental, not of a general, association. If the patriotism of an Englishman be greatly inflamed by one or more familiar and national airs, let it be remembered, the same air can convey no such sentiment to any man but an Englishmap; to any one not of the same nation, or not possessing the same peculiarity of association, his emotions are unintelligible, and the air altogether unmeaning and uninteresting. Now, contrast this with the effects produced by poetry or sculpture. Let the poet relate an act of heroic bravery, or the sculptor create some ideal form of beautiful proportion, the interest of each being founded on the immutable nature of man, bis unchanging fornis and passions, these will be intelligible to all men of whatever nation or degree of civilization. A savage may be delighted with the Iliad as soon as he can comprehend the events, because heroism and danger naturally affect the minds of every human being, because every man from his inherent nature must sympathize with such sentiments common in a degree to all. But nothing of this general nature at all applies to musical expression. No one would be affected by a national air so locally powerful; no one, for instance, could ever be properly moved by the combined beauty and loyalty of the air of God save the King, like him who had become acquainted with its peculiar and local associations, and especially with those convivial libations, its inseparable and recommendatory accompaniments. None, in a word, so properly estimate the value of loyal music, as he who has taken for his motto, “ Siccis omnia nam dura Deus proposuit.”
Reverse the illustration, and let a refined and perfectly civilized man hear the most simple and inartificial poetry imaginable, the