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A MIDNIGHT MEDITATION.
BY JOHN D. GODMAN.
'Tis midnight's solemn hour! now wide unfurled
-See where the waning moon
Faint warblings from the neighbouring groves arise,
The details of the career of this remarkable man must be so familiar as to render it a work of supererogation to record them. His humble birth, in an obscure settlement, where civilisation had advanced scarcely farther than the threshold ; the singular precocity of his imitative talent; the irresistible strength of his vocation, which overcame every impediment, even the uncompromising spirit of sectarian prejudice; the kind friends whom he was so fortunate as to encounter, who fostered his genius and contributed the means of enabling him to cultivate it to the utmost in the richest school of art; the sensation which he excited in Italy, both by the anomaly at that period of a young American's repairing thither to acquire excellence with the pencil, and the merit of the works which he produced; his subsequent success in England, where he elevated himself to a friendly communion with royalty, and what was a far more honourable testimony to his character, was raised by his fellow-artists to the loftiest station amongst them, the Presidential chair of their Academy, and where he died, full of honours and of years—all this might almost be called one of our school-boy lessons, so proud do we naturally and properly feel that our Temple of Fame should so soon have had one of its most eminent niches filled in a department which, in the progress of other nations, has generally
been long unoccupied; and so inspiriting is the lesson which it inculcates, of the admirable results of industry and virtue and perseverance, no matter what the obstacles through which they may be obliged to force their way.
The merits of West seem to us to be better calculated to attract the artist than the mere amateur. In the excel. lence of his composition and the correctness of his design, there is much that the former must love to contemplate, for purposes both of gratification and instruction; but admirable as those qualities are, they cannot be duly appreciated and enjoyed by the unscientific, when not befriended in just proportion by pne or another of the two requisites most essential for communicating general delight, in which he was deficient-expression and colouring. He neither enthrals the mind, nor fascinates the eye. His is not the magic pencil around which the passions throng, nor that which is dipped in the hues of the rainbow. He rarely if ever 6 gloriously offends,” or snatches a grace which uninspired art may not reach. Soul is wanting there, and the most attractive quality, upon canvass, of body likewise. Take, for instance, his celebrated work belonging to the Hospital of Philadelphia, Christ healing the Sick, and what are the effects which it is fitted to produce? It is doubtless skilfully and judiciously composed, and the figures are well drawn, but is not your eye immediately repelled by the want of morbidezza in the tone, by the hardness of the outlines, exhibiting the work of the pencil as distinctly as that of the brush, and destroying all illusion by the evidence thus afforded, that the personages before you were born not of women, but of the artist's hand, and by the absence of that genial glow of complexion which seems to indicate the active current of the life-streams beneath ? Is one inspiring idea excited in your mind, one powerful emotion awakened in your bosom, by the sublimity and pathos of the subject? Does the head of the Saviour prompt you to adoration, and gratitude, and love ? do you commiserate the sufferings of the sick man, or rejoice in the release which he is about to obtain ? do you sympathise with the distress of the mother, desiring yourself to wipe away that tear which seems not to have dropped from her eye, but to have been placed on her cheek for the occasion ? do you second the father's prayer for his daughter's restoration to sight? or are you horrified by the malignant hatred and covert rage of the priests, or shocked by the contortions of the demoniac boy ? Imagine the same scene depicted by Raphael. What dignity inspiring homage, what compassion inducing love, would have been blended in the person of the Redeemer—what strength and diversity of sentiment would have been imparted to the apostles, the disciples, the priests, and the gazing crowd-what depth of parental and filial love, illumined by hope and yet tempered by awe, would have been impressed upon the countenances of those soliciting his mercy for their afflicted kindred—what commingling of physical infirmity with moral elevation would have been portrayed in the expectants of divine bounty-how vividly would the whole spectacle have spoken of helpless humanity and celestial power and goodness! The group of which the demoniac boy is the chief figure, is a strong reminiscence of the one of the same nature in the Transfiguration; the woman looking at the Saviour and pointing to the possessed behind her, is almost a copy ; but what a difference between her unmeaning, and we must say, rather vulgar physiognomy, and the striking countenance of Raphael's creation, so admirably contrasted