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penter, the tollman, are much displeased at the in. timation.
But whilst we acquiesce entirely in the permanence of natural laws, the question of the absolute existence of nature still remains open. It is the uniform effect of culture on the human mind, not to shake our faith in the stability of particular phenomena, as of heat, water, azote; but to lead us to regard nature as phenomenon, not a substance; to attribute necessary existence to spirit; to esteem nature as an accident and an effect.
To the senses and the unrenewed understanding, belongs a sort of instinctive belief in the absolute existence of nature. In their view man and nature are indissolubly joined. Things are ultimates, and they never look beyond their sphere. The presence of Reason mars this faith. The first effort of thought tends to relax this despotism of the senses which binds us to nature as if we were a part of it, and shows us nature aloof, and, as it were, afloat. Until this higher agency intervened, the animal eye sees, with wonderful accuracy, sharp outlines and colored surfaces. When the eye of Reason opens, to outline and surface are at once added grace and expression. These proceed from imagination and affection, and abate somewhat of the angular distinctness of objects. If the Reason be stimulated to more earnest vision, outlines and sur
faces become transparent, and are no longer seen ; causes and spirits are seen through them. The best moments of life are these delicious awakenings of the higher powers, and the reverential withdrawa ing of nature before its God.
Let us proceed to indicate the effects of culture. 1. Our first institution in the Ideal philosophy is a hint from Nature herself.
Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us. Certain mechanical changes, a small alteration in our local position, apprizes us of a dualism. We are strangely affected by seeing the shore from a moving ship, from a balloon, or through the tints of an unusual sky. The least change in our point of view gives the whole world a pictorial air. A man who seldom rides, needs only to get into a coach and traverse his own town, to turn the street into a puppet-show. The men, the women, -talking, running, bartering, fighting, — the earnest mechanic, the lounger, the beggar, the boys, the dogs, are unrealized at once, or, at least, wholly detached from all relation to the observer, and seen as apparent, not substantial beings. What new thoughts are suggested by seeing a face of country quite familiar, in the rapid movement of the railroad car! Nay, the most wonted objects, (make a very slight change in the point of vision,) please us most. In a camera obscura, the butcher's cart, and the figure
Turn the eyes
of one of our own family amuse us. So a portrait of a well-known face gratifies us. upside down, by looking at the landscape through your legs, and how agreeable is the picture, though you have seen it any time these twenty years !
In these cases, by mechanical means, is suggested the difference between the observer and the spectacle, between man and nature. Hence arises a pleasure mixed with awe; I may say, a low degree of the sublime is felt, from the fact, probably, that man is hereby apprized that whilst the world is a spectacle, something in himself is stable.
2. In a higher manner the poet communicates the same pleasure. By a few strokes he delineates, as on air, the sun, the mountain, the camp, the city, the hero, the maiden, not different from what we know them, but only lifted from the ground and afloat before the eye. He unfixes the land and the sea, makes them revolve around the axis of his primary thought, and disposes them anew. Possessed himself by a heroic passion, he uses matter as symbols of it. The sensual man conforms thoughts to things; the poet conforms things to his thoughts. The one esteems nature as rooted and fast; the other, as fluid, and impresses his being thereon. To him, the refractory world is ductile and flexible; he invests dust and stones with humanity, and makes them the words of the Reason. The Imagi
nation may be defined to be the use which the Reason makes of the material world. Shakspeare possesses the power of subordinating nature for the purposes of expression, beyond all poets. His imperial muse tosses the creation like a bauble from hand to hand, and uses it to embody any caprice of thought that is uppermost in his mind. The remotest spaces of nature are visited, and the farthest sundered things are brought together, by a subtile spiritual connection. We are made aware that magnitude of material things is relative, and all objects shrink and expand to serve the passion of the poet. Thus in his sonnets, the lays of birds, the scents and dyes of flowers he finds to be the shadow of bis beloved; time, which keeps her from him, is his chest ; the suspicion she has awakened, is her ornament;
The ornament of beauty is Suspect,
A crow which flies in heaven's sweetest air. His passion is not the fruit of chance; it swells, as he speaks, to a city, or a state.
No, it was builded far from accident;
In the strength of his constancy, the Pyramids
seem to him recent and transitory. The freshness of youth and love dazzles him with its resemblance to morning;
Take those lips away
- the break of day, Lights that do mislead the morn. The wild beauty of this hyperbole, I may say in passing, it would not be easy to match in literature.
This transfiguration which all material objects undergo through the passion of the poet, - this power which he exerts to dwarf the great, to magnify the small, — might be illustrated by a thousand examples from his Plays. I have before me the Tempest, and will cite only these few lines.
ARIEL. The strong based promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs plucked up
The pine and cedar. Prospero calls for music to soothe the frantic Alonzo, and his companions;
A solemn air, and the best comforter
The charm dissolves apace,