Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

with expression; and the point of greatest interest is where the land and water meet. So must we admire in man, the form of the formless, the concentration of the vast, the house of reason, the cave of memory. See the play of thoughts! what nimble gigantic creatures are these! what saurians, what palaiotheria shall be named with these agile movers? The great Pan of old, who was clothed in a leopard skin to signify the beautiful variety of things, and the firmament, his coat of stars, was but the representative of thee, O rich and various Man! thou palace of sight and sound, carrying in thy senses the morning and the night and the unfathomable galaxy; in thy brain, the geometry of the city of God; in thy heart, the bower of love and the realms of right and wrong. An individual man is a fruit which it cost all the foregoing ages to form and ripen. He is strong, not to do, but to live; not in his arms, but in his heart; not as an agent, but as a fact. The history of the genesis, or the old mythology, repeats itself in the experience of every child. He too is a demon or god thrown into a particular chaos, where he strives ever to lead things from disorder into order. Each individual soul is such, in virtue of its being a power to translate the world into some particular language of its own; if not into a picture, a statue, or a dance,—why, then, into a trade, an art, a science, a mode of living, a conversation, a character, an influence. You admire pictures; but it is as impossible for you to paint a right picture, as for grass to bear apples. But when the genius comes, it makes fingers : it is pliancy, and the power of transferring the affair in the street into oils and colours. Raphael must be born, and Salvator must be born.

There is no attractiveness like that of a new man. The sleepy nations are occupied with their political routine. England, France, and America read Parliamentary debates, which no high genius now enlivens ; and nobody will read them who trusts his own eye : only they who are deceived by the popular repetition of distinguished names. But when Napoleon unrols his map, the eye is commanded by original power. When Chatham leads the debate, men may well listen, because they must listen. A man, a personal ascendancy, is the only great phenomenon. When Nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it. Follow the great man, and you shall see what the world has at heart in these ages. There is no omen like that.

But what strikes us in the fine genius is that which belongs of right to every one. Let us speak plainly and with no false humility. The humility which is the ornament of man in the presence of the ideal good and fair, is not to cloud his perception of that energy which he is. A man should know himself for a necessary actor. A link was wanting between two craving parts of Nature, and he was hurled into being as the bridge over that yawning need, the mediator betwixt two else unmarriageable facts. His two parents held each of one of the wants, and the union of foreign constitutions in him enables him to do gladly and gracefully what the assembled human race could not have sufficed to do. He knows his own materials; everywhere he applies himself to his work; he cannot read, he cannot think, he cannot look, but he unites the hitherto separated strands into a perfect cord. What are the thoughts we utter but the reason of our incarnation ? To utter these thoughts we took flesh, missionaries of the everlasting word which will be spoken. Should not a man be sacred to himself and to men? Is it for him to account himself cheap and superfluous, or to linger by the way-side for opportunities? Did he not come into being because something must be done which he and no other is and does ? If only he sees, the world will be visible enough. He need not study where to stand, nor to put things in favourable lights; in him is the light,-from him all things are to their centre illuminated. What patron shall he ask for employment and reward? Hereto was he born, to deliver the thought of his heart from the universe to the universe, to do an office which Nature could not forego, nor he be discharged from rendering, and then

immerge again into holy silence and eternity out of which as a man he arose. God is rich, and many more men than one he harbours in his bosom, biding their time and the needs and the beauty of all. Is not this the theory of every man's genius or faculty ? Why then goest thou, as some Boswell or listening worshipper, to this saint or to that? That is the only lèse-majesty. Here art thou with whom so long the universe travelled in labour; darest thou think meanly of thyself whom the stalwart Fate brought forth to unite his ragged sides, to shoot the gulf,-to reconcile the irreconcilable ?

Whilst a necessity so great caused the man to exist, his health and erectness consist in the fidelity with which he transmits influences from the vast and universal to the point on which his genius can act. The ends are momentary; they are vents or the current of inward life which increases as it is spent. A man's wisdom is to know that all ends are momentary, that the best end must instantly be superseded by a better. But there is a mischievous tendency in him to transfer his thought from the life to the ends, to quit his agency, and rest in his acts: the tool runs away with the workman, the human with the divine. I conceive a man as always spoken to from behind, and unable to turn his head and see the speaker. In all the millions who have heard the voice, none ever saw the face. As children in their play run behind each other, and seize one by the ears and make him walk before them, so is the spirit our unseen pilot. That well-known voice speaks in all languages, governs all men, and none ever caught a glimpse of its form. If the man will exactly obey it, it will adopt him, so that he shall not any longer separate it from himself in his thought; he shall seem to be it—he shall be it. If he listen with insatiable ears, richer and greater wisdom is taught him, the sound swells to a ravishing music, he is borne away as with a flood, he becomes careless of his food and of his house, he is the fool of ideas, and leads a heavenly life. But if his eye is set on the things to be done, and not on the truth that is still taught, and

for the sake of which the things are to be done, then the voice grows faint, and at last is but a humming in his ears. His health and greatness consist in his being the channel through which heaven flows to earth; in short, in the fulness in which an ecstatical state takes place in him. It is pitiful to be an artist, when, by forbearing to be artists, we might be vessels filled with the Divine overflowings, enriched by the circulations of omniscience and omnipresence. Are there not moments in the history of heaven when the human race was not counted by individuals, but was only the influenced, was God in distribution, God rushing into multiform benefit? It is sublime to receive, sublime to love; but this lust of imparting as from us, this desire to be loved, the wish to be recognized as individuals, is finite-comes of a lower strain.

Shall I say, then, that, as far as we can trace the natural history of the soul, its health consists in the fulness of its reception, call it piety, call it veneration,-in the fact that enthusiasm is organised therein. What is best in any work of art, but that part which the work itself seems to require and do; that which the man cannot do again; that which flows from the hour and the occasion, like the eloquence of men in a tumultuous debate? It was always the theory of literature, that the word of a poet was authoritative and final. He was supposed to be the mouth of a Divine wisdom. We rather envied his circumstances than his talent. We too could have gladly prophesied standing in that place. We so quote our Scriptures; and the Greeks so quoted Homer, Theognis, Pindar, and the rest. If the theory has receded out of modern criticism, it is because we have not had poets. Whenever they appear, they will redeem their own credit.

This ecstatical state seems to cause a regard to the whole, and not to the parts; to the cause, and not to the ends; to the tendency, and not to the act. It respects genius, and not talent; hope, and not possession; the anticipation of all things by the intellect, and not the history itself; art, and not works of art; poetry, and not experiment; virtue, and not duties.

There is no office or function of man but is rightly discharged by this divine method, and nothing that is not noxious to him if detached from its universal relations. Is it his work in the world to study Nature, or the laws of the world ? Let him beware of proposing to himself any end. Is it for use ? Nature is debased, as if one looking at the ocean can remember only the price of fish. Or is it for pleasure ? he is mocked: there is a certain infatuating air in woods and mountains, which draws on the idler to want and misery. There is something social and intrusive in the nature of all things; they seek to penetrate and overpower each the nature of every other creature, and itself alone in all modes and throughout space and spirit to prevail and possess. Every star in heaven is discontented and insatiable. Gravitation and chemistry cannot content them. Ever they woo and court the eye of every beholder. Every man who comes into the world they seek to fascinate and possess, to pass into his mind; for they desire to republish themselves, in a more delicate world than that they occupy. It is not enough that they are Jove, Mars, Orion, and the North Star, in the gravitating firmament; they would have such poets as Newton, Herschel, and Laplace, that they may re-exist and reappear in the finer world of rational souls, and fill that realm with their fame. So is it with all immaterial objects. These beautiful basilisks set their brute glorious eyes on the eye of every child; and, if they can, cause their nature to pass through his wondering eyes into him; and so all things are mixed.

Therefore man must be on his guard against this cup of enchantments, and must look at nature with a supernatural eye. By piety alone-by conversing with the cause of Nature-is he safe and commands it. And because all knowledge is assimilation to the object of knowledge, as the power or genius of Nature is ecstatic, so must its science or the description of it be. The poet must be a rhapsodist : his inspiration a sort of bright casualty: his will in it only the surrender of will to the

« AnteriorContinuar »