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Observation of nature.—Moral advantages.-Savage tribes.
rayed orb of day careering through the skies, rejoicing in his might, and yet this is but the background of the imagery. We see afar off, half veiled in the showery radiance, the human-like god, with floating locks, touching the celestial golden lyre, and hear the united harmony of all that high bards have sung. And all this, too, in a moment of time, even as the eye glances over the lines. Such is the winged power of art, it can transport us to the heavens ; such its mysterious potency, it can make ages pass in review before us in a moment.
The contemplation of the works of the painter cultivates a minute observation of natural objects. The lover of the beauties of nature is best prepared to appreciate the excellencies of art, and the devotee of art, traces in nature many beauties which by the uncultivated eye are unnoticed. And, in the delineation of the human face, what sweetness, what nobleness, what gentleness, and what strength of soul may the artist teach! Silently, but surely, will his lessons take effect. " As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man;" and does not genius give a heart and a soul to the painting, the statue, and even to the architectural pile? The cultivation of the fine arts has, then, not only intellectual but moral advantages. And should they not be used in the work of education? The imagination will be active, then surely it is expedient to direct it into proper paths, and to provide it with nutritious food.
Among savage tribes, where even the useful arts are almost unknown, there is still found a rude appreciation of beauty, shown in the ornaments and trinkets with which they seek to adorn themselves and the uncouth objects of their worship. But in proportion as civilization and elegance of manners advance, the fine arts rise in excellence, and in their zenith of splendor mark the highest point of a nation's refinement.
Art a universal language.- Italy.-Rules of criticism.
Art is a universal language, limited to no age and no country. It speaks to us from the past in a well-known voice, and binds us to the generations of the departed with feelings of sympathy which it is well to cherish. But for her poets, her painters, her sculptors, her architects, how would Greece,
“ Immortal Greece, dear land of glorious lays,”
address us from the olden time? But in the harsh and discordant voice of anarchy and war, and far from being a watchword to call up thoughts of chaste and exalted beauty, and lofty heroic glory, she would scarcely appear elevated above the barbarous tribes of the north.
To Italy, the present sanctuary of the arts, the eye turns with peculiar fondness, as to the trysting place of the world ; a neutral ground, where all become fellow-denizens with the great souls of the past, who still live in their works. Nature, in its sublimest scenes, awes and subdues the soul, while art excites the mind, and challenges it to activity. It is the achievement of man, and conveys the idea of human power and energy; and by that action and reaction that passes from mind to mind, till, like the restless waves of ocean, commingling and separating, each forms a part of each; by that pervading sympathy that forms, and moulds, and develops, as, with increasing power, it passes
from age to age, does it call aloud on the soul of man to awake and act.
A FEW GENERAL RULES OF CRITICISM.
The rules of criticism are not arbitrary, they are drawn necessarily from the constitution of our intellectual nature
Fashion.—Manner.—Idealizing.–Talent and genius.
There is in the mind of man an innate power of appreciating the beautiful. True, the wayward prejudices of fashion may, for a time, esteem deformity an excellence; it may even find delight in distorting that most perfect work of nature, the human form. Still the standard of beauty is unchanged and unchangeable, however custom may sanction that which is ungraceful and inelegant. Both the eye and the ear may become the slave of habit, and receive most pleasure from the peculiarities of manner to which they have been accustomed; hence enlightened criticism will seek for beauty independently of differing styles.
Art is not satisfied with merely copying nature ; it seeks to refine it, or rather to seize its hidden soul, and embody it anew. It rejects all that is common-place, and even succeeds in enduing matter with an air expressive of intellect or sentiment, A column of fine proportions seems to tower up in conscious majesty, and the poet may impart a peculiar expression to the delicate flower, or the beetling cliff. Art, then, in its highest develop ment, is not only an imitation of nature, but an ideal, an etherealized representation both of natural objects and of human nature. Who cannot recall some scene, that, without particular interest when beheld in broad sunshine, became invested with exceeding beauty when the sun threw his gorgeous cloudy mantle to the breeze, and suffused earth and air in a flood of soft radiance ; when the deepening shadows of twilight brought out more fully each feature of the landscape, and beautified it as much by what it hid as by what it revealed. Thus, exalted art casts an ideal light, a sunset glow over the object imitated. The artist aims not only at copies of nature, but at re-creations of it. In this consists the nature of artistic genius ; talent can copy, or cement together scattered fragments, but genius alone can, out of various elements, bring organized life and beauty.
Chaos of artist.-Natural language of the mind.—Oneness.
Whatever is lovely or grand in the natural world, the mysterious stars, the gloomy storm, the sunset sky, the frail flower, the soaring mountain, the glittering dew-drop, all serve to open the artist's mind and interest his heart. And in that other world, the world of illimitable spirit, he is continually searching and wondering. The knowledge of mankind, as learned from observation and the developments of art, is enlightened by a selfconsciousness which can sympathize with, and understand the workings of the human heart, revealing, in all their depth, thi passions and aspirations of man. This gathered fund of natural beauty and knowledge of humanity, forms, so to speak, the chaos of the artist, whence his creations are produced. And not exactly by combining a selection from these objects; for as the forest leaves, and the flowers that grew in their shade, are decomposed, and wither into dust but to spring afresh into organized beauty, so outward things enrich the artist's mind and heart. And while thousands can appreciate the beauties of nature and art, many with as pure a love as that of the artist himself, yet it is but here and there that one is found who can reproduce these materials into order and beauty. The power to do this constitutes genius; a relish for the beautiful is denominated taste.
Art is the natural language of the higher faculties of the mind, and is comprehended by every cultivated intellect. Whatover calls into exercise the powers of the mind, delights us; and whatever is agreeable to all well developed minds must be the standard of the rules of art. What would be agreeable to a perfect mind, if such could exist in our fallen world, might be called the standard of the laws of art. Taste is the result of the harmony of many faculties. They need exercise in order to development, but they are inherent in the mind.
Oneness may be called the first requisite in a production
of art. In literary works of genius there is ever a right onwardness, a rushing to the end, which keeps the mind awalie and alert. So in all works of art there should be nothing superfluous, nothing to break the unity or confuse the identity; there should be one focus of attraction, or rather one radiating point, whence the interest should flow. Every episode and concc. nitant circumstance should be subordinate, and should bear a definite and explanatory relation to the whole. A beautiful work of art is often ruined by having some foreign circumstance grafted upon it, while the two subjects, separately executed, would both have been excellent. Again, nothing should be omitted that is necessary to completeness. Every production of art should, as it were, live of itself, and be endowed with a voice to speak its own intention. The “Ancient Mariner," is a poem that entirely fails in this respect. It was even expedient to place along the margin an explanation that “ telleth what the text meaneth.” And yet the wizard genius has touched it with his wand, and it gleams with enchanting beauty. Written probably without design and without aim, its undersong of kindly all-pervading love has, I doubt not, sunk into many an unconscious heart. Rules do not create genius, but genius creates rules, and may also dispense with them.
In the next place, truthfulness, or consistency is essential. The mind is disgusted with falsehood in any shape. Though the poet lay his scenes in fairy-land, or the painter place upon his canvass the imaginary beings of the supernatural world, there must be no inconsistency of circumstances, nothing impossible in the nature of things as represented ; every thing must seem to be produced by an adequate cause. That a fairy should engage in actual conflict with a furious beast, or that a Titan should dally with tiny flowers, would be alike ridiculous; while the fairy might tame the animal by a magic syllable, or reduce to weak