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footing with the pictures of our primary affections—that their originals are necessarily familiar to all men,
and inseparably associated with their own most interesting impressions. Whatever may be our own condition, we all live surrounded with the poor, from infancy to age; we hear daily of their sufferings and misfortunes; and their toils, their crimes, or their pastimes, are our hourly spectacle. Many diligent readers of poetry know little, by their own experience, of palaces, castles, or camps; and still less of tyrants, warriors, and banditti; but every one understands about cottages, streets, and villages, and conceives, pretty correctly, the character and condition of sailors, ploughmen, and artificers. If the poet can contrive, therefore, to create a sufficient interest in subjects like these, they will infallibly sink deeper into the mind, and be more prolific of kindred trains of emotion, than suhjects of greater dignity. Nor is the difficulty of exciting such an interest by any means so great as is generally imagined. For it is common human nature, and common human feelings, after all, that form the true source of interest in poetry of every description; and the splendour and the marvels by which it is sometimes surrounded, serve no other purpose than to fix our attention on those workings of the heart, and those energies of the understanding, which alone command all the genuine sympathies of human beings, and which may be found as abundantly in the breasts of cottagers as of kings. Whereever there are human beings, therefore, with feelings and characters to be represented, our attention may be fixed by the art of the poet—by his judicious selection of circumstances —by the force and vivacity of his style, and the clearness and brevity of his representations.
In point of fact, we are all touched more deeply, as well as more frequently, in real life, with the sufferings of peasants than of princes; and sympathise much oftener, and more heartily, with the successes of the poor, than of the rich and distinguished. The occasions of such feelings are indeed so many, and so common, that they do not often leave any very permanent traces behind them, but pass away, and effaced by the very rapidity of their succession. The business and the cares, and the pride of the world, obstruct the development of the emotions to which they would naturally give rise; and press so close and thick
the mind, as to shut it, at most seasons, against the reflections
that are perpetually seeking for admission. When we have leisure, however, to look quietly into our hearts, we shall find in them an infinite multitude of little fragments of sympathy with our brethren in humble life-abortive movements of compassion, and embryos of kindness and concern, which had once fairly begun to live and germinate within them, though withered and broken off by the selfish bustle and fever of our daily occupations. Now, all these may vived and carried on to maturity by the art of the poet; and, therefore, a powerful effort to interest us in the feelings of the humble and obscure will usually call forth more deep, more numerous, and more permanent emotions, than can ever be excited by the fate of princesses and heroes. Independent of the circumstances to which we have already alluded, there are causes which make us at all times more ready to enter into the feelings of the humble than of the exalted part of our species. Our sympathy with their enjoyments is enhanced by a certain mixture of pity for their general condition, which, by purifying it from that taint of envy which almost always adheres to our admiration of the great, renders it more welcome and satisfactory to our bosoms; while our concern for their sufferings is at once softened and endeared to us by the recollection of our own exemption from them, and by the feeling that we frequently have it in our power to relieve them.
From these, and from other causes, it appears to us to be certain, that where subjects, taken from humble life, can be made sufficiently interesting to overcome the distaste and the prejudices with which the usages of polished society too generally lead us to regard them, the interest which they excite will commonly be more profound and more lasting than that can be raised
loftier themes; and the poet of the Village and the Borough be oftener, and longer read, than the poet of the Court or the Camp. The most popular passages of Shakspeare and Cowper, we think, are of this description: and there is much, both in these productions, and in Mr Crabbe's former publications, to which we might now venture to refer, as proofs of the same doctrine. When such representations have once made an impression on the imagination, they are remembered daily, and for ever. We can neither look around, nor within us, without being reminded of their truth and their importance; and while the more brilliant effusions of romantic fancy are recalled
only at long intervals, and in rare situations, we feel that we cannot walk a step from our own doors, nor cast a glance back on our departed years, without being indebted to the poet of vulgar life for some striking image or touching reflection, of which the occasions were always before us, but -till he taught us how to improve them—were almost always allowed to escape.—JEFFREY.
NATURE, THE FOUNDATION OF ART.
Raffaelle has said, “ The artists object was to make things not as Nature made them, but as she would make them.” Raffaelle was a painter of humanity, and assuredly there is something the matter with humanity. We have most of us heard of original sin, and may perhaps, in our modest moments, conjecture that we are not quite what God, or Nature, would have us to be. Raffaelle had something to mend in humanity: I should have liked to have seen him mending a daisy, or a pease-blossom, or a moth, or a mustard seed, or any other of God's slightest works. If he had accomplished that, one might have found for him more respectable employment,--to set the stars in better order, perhaps, they seem grievously scattered as they are, and to be of all manner of shapes and sizes—except the ideal shape, and the proper size-or to give us a corrected view of the ocean ; that, at least, seems a very irregular and improvable thing; the
very fishermen do not know, this day, how far it will reach driven up before the west wind-perhaps Some One else does, but that is not our business. Let us go down and stand by the beach of it of the great, irregular seaand count whether the thunder of it is not out of time. One, two; here comes a well-formed wave at last, trembling a little at the top, but, on the whole, orderly. So, crash among the shingle, and up as far as this grey pebble ; now stand by and watch! Another:-Ah, careless wave! why couldn't
you have kept your crest on? it is all gone away into spray, striking up against the cliffs there ; I thought as much, missed the mark by a couple of feet! Another :How now, impatient one! couldn't you have waited till your friend's reflux was done with, instead of rolling yourself up with it in that unseemly manner ? You go for nothing. A fourth, and a goodly one at last. What think we of yon
der slow rise, and crystalline hollow, without a flaw? Steady, good wave; not so fast, not so fast; where are you coming to? By our architectural word, this is too bad; two yards over the mark, and ever so much of
you face besides; and a wave which we had some hope of, behind there, broken all to pieces out at sea, and laying a great white table-cloth of foam all the way to the shore, as if the marine gods were to dine off it! Alas, for these unhappy arrow-shots of Nature; she will never hit her mark with those unruly waves of hers, nor get one of them into the ideal shape, if we wait for her a thousand years. Let us send for a Greek architect to do it for her. He comes, the great Greek architect, with measure and rule. Will he not also make the weight for the winds ? and weigh out the waters by measure ? and make a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder ?
But the sea was meant to be irregular! Yes, and were not also the leaves, and the blades of grass; and, in short, as far as may be without mark of sin, even the countenance of man? Or would it be pleasanter and better to have us all alike, and numbered on our foreheads, that we might be known one from the other ?
Is there, then, nothing to be done by man's art? Have we only to copy, and again copy, for ever, the imagery of the universe ? Not so. We have work to do upon it; there is not any one of us so simple, nor so feeble, but he has work to do upon it. But the work is not to improve, but to explain. This infinite universe is unfathomable, inconceivable, in its whole; every human creature must slowly spell out, and long contemplate, such part of it as may be possible for him to reach ; then set forth what he has learned of it for those beneath him; extricating it from infinity, as
: one gathers a violet out of grass.
One does not improve either violet or grass in gathering it, but one makes the flower visible, and then the human being has to make its power upon his own heart visible also, and to give it the honour of the good thoughts it has raised up in him, and to write
upon it the history of his own soul. “And sometimes he
may be able to do more than this, and to set it in strange lights, and display it in a thousand ways before unknown ways specially directed to necessary and noble purposes, for which he had to choose instruments out of the wide armoury of God. All this he may do—and in this he is only doing what every Christian has to do with the written, as well as the created word—“rightly dividing the word of truth.” Out of the infinity of the written word, he has also to gather and set forth things new and old, to choose them for the season and the work that are before him, to explain and manifest them to others, with such illustration and enforcement as may be in his power, and to crown them with the history of what, by them, God has done for his soul. And, in doing this, is he improving the Word of God ? Just such difference as there is between the sense in which a minister may be said to improve a text, to the people's comfort, and the sense in which an atheist might declare that he could improve the Book, which if any man shall add unto, there shall be added unto him the plagues that are written therein; just such difference is there between that which, with respect to Nature, man is, in his humbleness, called upon to do, and that which, in his insolence, he imagines himself capable of doing.
Have no fear, therefore, reader, in judging between Nature and Art, so only that you love both. If you can love one only, then let it be Nature; you are safe with her, but do not then attempt to judge the art, to which you do not care to give thought, or time. But if you love both, you may judge between them fearlessly; you may estimate the last, by its making you remember the first, and giving you the same kind of joy. If, in the square of the city, you can find a delight, finite, indeed, but pure and intense, like that which you have in a valley among the hills, then its art and architecture are right; but if, after fair trial, you can find no delight in them, nor any instruction like that of Nature, I call on you fearlessly to condemn them.-RUSKIN.