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powers a mailed warrior with all his armor on; and then calm in the dignified and mellowed wisdom of a mind fully ripe—and in all his progress, we say of him, as a star of our own literature, what he himself has said of the greatest of our citizens—" he is all-all our own"-Webster is an American.
We name not the other stars that are now ushering in the dawn of American literature. They will occur to the minds of all. But as we behold them, each shining with its own peculiar light, we say with exulting pride—“ if these be the morning stars of American literature, glorious indeed shall be the rising of the Day.”
TASTE AND MORALS:-THE NECESSITY OF ÆSTHETIC CULTURE TO THE HIGHEST MORAL EXCELLENCE.
By Prof. Henry N. Day, Western Reserve College, Ohio.
It is now a century since Baumgarten gave reality, by giving a name, to the Science of Taste. Whatever opinions may be entertained in regard to the etymological appropriateness of the term, æsthetics, by which this new science was denominated, the ready reception of the name, and the general and rapid extension of it in the different European languages, abundantly show how wide-felt was the necessity of its introduction. The æsthetic element of our nature, that element which finds its employment and its gratification in the forms of things, as distinguished from their essences, is working in society now, with a force and a prevalence that are giving character to the age, and are moulding the destiny of coming generations. Whether this rising force shall ultimately prove to be an antagonist or an auxiliary to the sensualizing influences now at work in society, will depend, under a redeeming Providence, upon the vigilance, the sagacity, and the energy of the wise and good, who, from their elevated position, observing the rise and tendency of the blind instinctive impulses of society, interpose in time to guide them in safe and beneficent directions.
It is in art, comprehending the various embodiments of the beautiful by human skill, as distinguished from nature—the repository of the Divine creations, that the taste finds its first food and entertainment. It imports a certain degree of cultivation and development, that the beautiful forms in the natural world give pleasure. And it is in impure Art—if the designation may be allowed to distinguish that department of Art in which the end of
the product is not an aesthetic one; but for instance, one of know. ledge, as in literature, or of utility, as in architecture, from pure Art in which the end in the production, and the regulating form of producing, are exclusively æsthetic; it is in impure Art that the nascent taste seeks its earliest nutriment. It was in the meridian perfection of Grecian art only, that even artists, not to say the students and admirers of Art, could grasp a purely æsthetic end. The progress and the decline of Art are decisively indicated by the more or less exclusive preference in its productions, of other unæsthetic ends, as of historical or moral teaching, and the like.
Further, we must not be surprised if we find an infantile taste preferring the lowest and grossest kinds of even impure Art. The child will turn away from the most finished painting, to entertain itself with the roughest outline of a familiar object; and readily exchange a perfect statue for the most 'mis-shapen puppet which it can caress and fondle. Yet the power of Art will show itself in the fact that imitation will be preferred to reality—the likeness to the original. In this respect, society is as the individual. The first dawnings of taste are to be detected in the demands for the grosser forms of Art. Fine buildings will appear before fine statues, a tasteful literature before beautiful paintings; as a man will possess himself of a house before he will ornament it, and acquire thoughts before he will care to see them depicted in soft and graceful colors. Thus, in fact, in the infancy of the art of landscape gardening, we find that straight lines and angles are universally preferred; while in the progress and maturity of the Art, the expression of true æsthetic sentiments, by a partial imitation of the freedom and ease of nature, is uniformly demanded.
If these observations be just, we shall not look for proof of the widely diffused prevalence of an æsthetic awakening and growth in society at the present time, in the number of our professional artists, or in the perfection of their products, as compared with those of other ages. We must seek it in the useful, rather than in the fine arts. We must not reject it because it shows an immature, rude, or even a gross and perverted taste.
The indications of an awakening and developing taste, are to be detected in the general and earnest requisition, that æsthetic principles be applied to the useful arts; the prompt rejection of such products of skill as evince neglect or disregard of those principles, and the eager reception of such as exhibit some trace of their application. They are to be detected, also, in the demand for instruction in the principles of taste as applied to these arts; the readiness with which it is received, and the devoted study of those principles both in books and in models. Thus, in architecture, it is not enough that a mere shelter be provided from the elements, that arrangements be made for convenience and comfort; but the taste must be consulted. Architecture must not be merely a useful art; it must be elevated to the rank of an elegant art; not, indeed, of a perfectly pure art, but yet of an art that, with an unæsthetic end-utility, conforms, in its production, to regulative æsthetic principles. Landscape gardening, too, in all its branches, is studied and cultivated with an unprecedented zeal and devotion. Its sister art of agriculture shows the influence of this æsthe. tic spirit, and even the plough is now required to turn a graceful furrow.
So, likewise, if the greediness with which the light, licentious literature of the day is received, proves a low, vitiated taste; it still proves there is an æsthetic want awakenetl, demanding gratification. For with all the thirst for knowledge, and all the base love of whatever ministers to the grosser sense, which characterize this reading age, it is apparent that an æsthetic element is regulating both the supply and the demand. Illustrative and decorative art is as severely plied, as the mere productive; and imagination is required to give plumage as well as wings to science.
This æsthetic passion has entered the sphere of manners and religion. In the forms of fashion and the rites of devotion, its presence and its
power are discoverable. Like indications are to be found in the culture of the critical
Such, indeed, is the fecundity of this modern Art, that criticism is well nigh out-measuring and weighing down productive art itself. Nor múst we hastily infer with some, that this fact is rather proof of the decline than of the rise of true creative art. It is a great mistake to suppose that criticism is quickened into being only in the decay of Art. That it appears only after some progress in taste and refinement, only proves that the material must have its existence prior to the product. That it survives Art is but natural; for the memory of the dead is pleasant. It were sad, indeed, if the great and the good were at once forgotten after they have passed away. But that Art is admired after the age of its birth and growth, certainly does not prove that it was slighted and rejected before. The truth is, art and criticism grow up and flourish together. Useful art is the birth of necessity; and may, perhaps, come forth, like its mythological patron, in perfect maturity at first. Imaginative, æsthetic art, has an Apollo's experience. It grows up under trial and hardship. Its imperfections inust receive the unrelenting blows of a stern criticism; and its shape be perfected by the rough rubbings, as well as by the unguents of the gymnast. If criticism must await the appearance of Art as the necessary occasion of its existence, still critical principles must precede the perfection of Art. Indeed, as is true of every art, theory and practice go together, and help each other on in their way. The names of Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Lessing, West, Coleridge, and many others illustrious in German and in English art, will recall to every one corroborations enough of the
fact that Art and criticism flourish contemporaneously. It is, then, an encouraging circumstance in regard to modern Art, that criticism is so abundant. It proves that. Art has a strong hold on the interest of the
With all these varied indications of the presence of the æsthetic element in the developments of society at the present time, there are likewise to be discovered certain grosser tendencies and characteristics, to which the culture of the taste is the appropriate and indispensable antidote. Indeed, to him who recognises a directing and disposing Providence in the affairs of men, steadily aiming at the final redemption and perfection of the race, and undeviatingly pursuing this high aim, the correspondence between the supply and the demand--the excited want and the furnished provision to meet it, will be apparent; and he will need no labored demonstration to be convinced that every wise coöperator in this great work will make the fullest use possible of the gracious provision.
These grosser tendencies and characteristics may be summed up and generalized, in the prevalent disposition to subordinate the inward and spiritual to the outward and sensual; the enduring and changeless, to the immediate and transient; fixed rational principles living deep in the soul, to superficial impulsive and therefore vapid, spiritless feeling; a subordination of spirit to sense, specifically distinguished from the gross sensualism of other times, by its substitution of sensual imaginations and forms for pure carnality. The age of sottishness and debauchery is past. While, indeed, human nature remains a compound of flesh and spirit, and until the perfect triumph of the spirit over the flesh in the anticipated redemption of the race, men will occasionally fall victims to brutal lusts; but we are not to expect to see the struggle renewed between this grossest form of sensualism and a pure spirituality. Asceticism was the proper opposite of this gross animalism, into which men, ever prone to the furthest extremes, in avoiding a Scylla, to rush into a Charybdis, naturally fell, in their immoderate endeavors to escape an obviously ruinous sensualism; and as the one, so also the other, has passed away. That battle is not to be fought over,
But the bondage of sense is not therefore broken. There is a sensualism still to be overcome, as real, as ruinous, if not as gross, as that which has passed away-passed away, we mean, as a characteristic stage in the progress of society. And the first form of it we have to notice, is what we may call imaginative sensualism -a sensualism which finds its gratification through the images presented through the sight and the hearing.
There is a sensual world for the eye and the ear, as well as for the lower senses and appetites; and in that, may aliment be found for a corrupt and debased spirit. There may be as truly, as really a sensual indulgence, poisonous to all true morality and virtue, in the gratifications of the sight and hearing, as in the gratifications of those other senses in which the object comes in immediate contact with the sense. If we rise above mere animalism, when we substitute the pleasures of the sight and the hearing for those of the taste and the touch, we do not yet, by this alone, attain to that proper spiritual elevation which the Bible commands, and our rational natures demand. There is a sphere of sensualism above the animalism that has characterized other ages, and yet far below even the lowest form of a pure morality among men, to say nothing of angelic, unfleshly natures—a sphere in which sense may have as complete and as fatal a control. We prefer to characterize rather than to define that sphere; equally distrustful as to the perfected accuracy of our own views, and to the unequivocalness of the language we are compelled to employ.
We say, generally and in its more outward characteristics, it is distinguished from mere animalism, as the senses of sight and hearing are distinguished from the other senses. Sight and hearing possess this high distinction above the other outward senses, that in them, reference is never made to the organ through which the object is conveyed to the mind. When we see and hear, we are sensible of no impression made on the eye or the ear. The visible object or the sound seems to us to be removed from us,
and not to be in immediate control with the organ, at least not so as to produce upon it any sensible impression. In the taste, the smell
, the touch, on the other hand, there is an organic impression which is distinctly sensible. We unavoidably refer the impression to the organic part on which it is made, and feel it to be there.'
Gratifications of these latter senses, are, accordingly, more gross, ly sensual, more strictly corporeal, than those of the sight and hearing. They may, for the sake of distinction, be denominated the animal senses. They predominate and rule in the brute. The eye and the ear are, in the mere brute, only subservient and ministerial to these other senses. They only indirectly and instrumentally minister to mere animal gratification; while, in man, they have a peculiar function, we may say, a properly spiritual function, which the brute, however perfect otherwise these senses may be, yet knows noth:ng of, and which in it they can never exercise. They minister directly to man's æsthetic nature. They gratify his love of beauty—a passion which the brate has notwhich, perhaps, more immediately and precisely than anything else, characterizes the rational nature, and distinguishes it from the animal
. The eye and the ear may thus, to distinguish them from the others, be denominated the esthetic senses. As will appear
2 See Introduction to Lord Kames's Elements of Criticism.