Imagens da página

Tower of Babel.—Temples.--Derivation of styles.-Egyptian.

Shinar, which was in its failure called the Tower of Babel, shows that the vigorous mind of the youthful world could grasp great ideas, and feared no difficulties. And among their cunning workmen, there is, from the experience of all ages, every reason to suppose that there were some in whom the creative energies of the imagination stirred, until they were prompted to use the skill acquired with tools and instruments, in the production of mere ornament and objects which could minister only to the gratification of the fancy.

It was, doubtless, the effort to erect a fit dwelling-place for Deity, or for gods many, that first called forth the ingenuity of

nan to any extraordinary display of architectural skill. This attempt was not only a natural consequence of the desire to pay honour to superior beings, but it had a foundation in the philosophy of our moral nature. For the effect of fine architecture is to give an elevated tone to the feelings, raising them above the ordinary things of life. The exhibition of beautiful proportions, of strength, firmness, durability, and loftiness, calls forth corresponding emotions, and tends to develop the latent powers of the soul by association and sympathy. It makes man forget the presence of his fellow, and prompts him to seek communion with a higher power.

The Egyptian style of architecture seems to have derived its characteristics from the caves and excavations in which their forefathers dwelt; the Grecian, from the wooden cabin, the trunks of trees forming the models for the columns which always adorn their finest edifices ; while the Gothic style has for its type the overarching glades of dense forests.

That the distinctive architecture of a nation takes its rise, in a great measure, from the intellectual character of its people, may be seen by the various styles that have prevailed in different

Indian.—Grecian.—Gothic.—Children imaginative.

countries and ages. The ponderous colossal architecture of the Egyptians, excluding the light of day, gloomy and grand, but never soaring from the earth, except in the pyramids, the extent of whose ground-plan takes away the idea of extraordinary height, might almost suggest to us the nature of their government—despotic and iron-handed ; and of their religion-grovelling and mysterious.

Indian architecture is slight, tapering, and grotesque ; and we find that their government is unstable, and their religion wild and fanciful.

The architecture of the Greeks, chaste and stately, speaks of their intellectual refinement, and the political independence of the people. The architecture of Rome was, like its warlike people, rude and unpolished, until, on the conquest of more refined nations, it adopted their arts. During the reign of luxurious and unmanly indulgence, which preceded the fall of the state, it loaded the borrowed orders of the Greeks with extravagant ornaments,

In the Gothic style, we see typified the lofty aspirations and soaring hopes of Christianity, and still, amid much that is grand, we discover in some of its Protean forms evidences of the wild and romantic superstitions of the middle ages. In the baronial castles of this period, we see exemplified the spirit of feudalism. Modern nations can scarcely claim any distinctive style as their


A close observation of children will show the universality of the principle that seeks for gratification in the beautiful. Shakespeare says,

“ The poet, the lunatic, and the lover,

Are of imagination all compact.”

The love of beauty in childhood.

He should have also added, the little child. Children have powers of perception, and a keen sense of delight in whatever is beautiful and true, little dreamed of by the undiscerning observer With what unwearied ecstasy will they pluck flower after flower, never satiated with sweets ; how do they joy in the

fringed margin of the brook," or in the still forest, where the twinkling sunshine spreads a shifting carpet for their feet. No fiats of criticism, no comparisons of merits or demerits, disturb their pure enjoyment; they quench their thirst for beauty as from an inexhaustible well-spring, and only feel that which maturer minds reflect and reason upon.

“ Trailing clouds of beauty do we come

From God, who is our home :
Heaven lies about us in our infancy !
Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy;
The youth, who daily from the East
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,

And by the vision splendid

Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.”

The beneficent Creator has garnished all nature with beauty : the sky with stars and the ever-changing loveliness of clouds ; the earth with the agreeable variety of hill and valley, rock and forest, rapid stream and quiet lake-yes, and finished the picture with minute touches, the delicate flower and glowing fruit, the soft-plumed bird and brilliant insect; but how soon is the sense

Imaginative faculties.-Education.— Propriety of cultivating the taste.

of delight in all these, swallowed up in the pleasures and cares of what is called life. The imaginative faculties, which should be fostered by the study of the higher arts, are suffered too generally to lie uncultivated, or rather, in the words of a brilliant essayist, “ Education, as we commonly practise it, amounts simply to the rooting out of God's predilections, and the planting of our own in their stead. Every indigenous germ is carefully weeded away, and the soil exhausted in producing a scanty alien cror.

The safe instincts of nature are displaced by conventional sciolisms.”


The pro

The fine arts are not mere idle vanities, which may with impunity be cherished or cast aside at the dictation of caprice or convenience, they are intimately connected with the framework of man's nature, and no mind can be completely developed without the power of appreciating their excellence. priety of cultivating a taste for these sources of refined pleasure, is founded both in nature and reason. Man is endowed with an imagination, and it cannot be admitted that the All-wise Creator, who formed nothing without a design, could have bestowed the gift that it might lie dormant, or rather, that its continual outgushings should be repressed, or become the means of tormenting apprehensions. This, as well as every other mental faculty, should have its appropriate sphere of action, for, if left untrained, it either pines away and leaves the mind without its fairest ornament, or chokes it with a sickly luxuriance of weeds.

The cultivation of art is a source of innocent pleasure, a recreation from the sterner duties of life. There is an intimate connexion between the physical and mental states, and perhaps half the

Health.-Addison.—Affinity between beauty and virtue.

cases of prolonged ill-health arise from want of proper intellectual stimulus or cheerful recreation, or from slavish devotion to business or labor—often, from the petty vexations and rivalries of society. A cultivation of the taste, by a proper degree of attention to literature and the fine arts, elevates the mind above trivial cares and conventional jealousies, giving it a vigorous independence, and a fund of inexhaustible resources within itself. They present a means of quiet enjoyment, that gently exhilarates the spirits, and produces a cheerful state of mind highly conducive to health. “ Delightful scenes,' says Addison, “ whether in nature, painting, or poetry, have a kindly influence on the body, as well as the mind; and not only serve to clear and brighten the imagination, but are able to disperse grief and melancholy, and to set the animal spirits in pleasing and agreeable motions. For this reason, Sir Francis Bacon, in his Essay on Health, has not thought it improper to prescribe to his readers a poem or a prospect, where he particularly dissuades him from knotty and subtle disquisitions, and advises him to pursue studies that fill the mind with splendid and illustrious objects, histories, fables, and the contemplation of nature.”

The daily realities of earth, the seeking after gain, and often no less toilsome seeking after pleasure, are not sufficient to fill the desires of the human soul. Neither, indeed, can earth, with all its stores of nature and art, give it a safe resting-place ; its goal is beyond the confines of mortality, where perfect beauty is the emblem of perfect holiness. By infusing a love of the beautiful, the fine arts have a tendency to disgust the mind with the deformity of vice; and though not always leading to the practice of virtue, they at least tend to the admiration of it. “ Perfect virtue,” says Madame De Staël, “is the ideal beautiful of the moral world : and there is some similitude and affinity between


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