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“ Thou mak’st all nature beauty to his eye,
Or music to his ear; well pleas'd he scans
The goodly prospect; and with inward smiles
Treads the gay verdure of the painted plain;
Beholds the azure canopy of heaven,
And living lamps that overarch his head
With more than regal splendor; bends his ears
To the full choir of water, air, and earth;
Nor heeds the pleasing errours of his thoughts,
“ So sweet he feels their influence to attract
“ The fixed soul; to brighten the dull glooms
Of care, and make the destin'd road of life
Delightful to his feet.”

Such are the pleasures of a mind purified by virtue, and cultivated by taste. Can a being capable of such sublime contemplations, and commanding such high sources of pleasure, drop from its dignity into some sink of vice, or be lost in the mazes of sensual dissipation ?

When speaking of the morality of the fine arts, I should be unpardonable were I not to fortify myself with the sentiments of the elegant and philosophical critic, Lord Kaims. He remarks that the pleasures of the ear and eye “ approach the purely mental, without exhausting the spirits; and exceed the purely sensual, without the danger of satiety.”—That they have “a natural aptitude to draw us from immoderate gratifications of sensual appetite," and that the Author of our nature has thus qualified us to rise, by gentle steps, “ from the most groveling corporeal pleasures, for which only the mind is fitted in the beginning of life, to those refined and sublime pleasures which are suited to maturity;" and these refined pleasures of sense lead “to the exalted pleasures of morality and religion.” We stand, therefore, says this eloquent writer “engaged in honour, as well as interest, to second the purposes of Nature, by cultivating the plea

sures of the eye and ear, those especially that require extraordinary culture, such as are inspired by poetry, painting, sculpture, music, gardening, and architecture.” Shall I say that he adds,“ this is chiefly the duty of the opulent, who have leisure to improve their minds and feelings?” He further declares, that “ a taste in the fine arts and the moral sense go hand in hand.” May I be indulged in a further extract from this distinguished critic and moralist? “ Mathematical and metaphysical reasonings,” he says, “ have no tendency to improve social intercourse; nor are they applicable to the common affairs of life: but a just taste in the fine arts, derived from rational principles, is a fine preparation for acting in the social state with dignity and propriety.” It moderates the selfish affections, and“ by sweetening and harmonizing the temper, is a strong antidote to the turbulence of passion and the violence of pursuit.” It “procures a man so much enjoyment at home, or easily within reach, that in order to be occupied, he is, in youth, under no temptation to precipitate into hunting, gaming, drinking; nor, in middle age, to deliver himself over to ambition; nor, in old age, to avarice.” “I insist on it," continues he, “ with entire satisfaction, that no occupation attaches a man more to his duty than that of cultivating a taste in the fine arts, a just relish of what is beautiful, proper, elegant, and ornamental in writing or painting, in architecture or gardening, is a fine preparation for discerning what is beautiful, just, elegant, or magnanimous in character and behaviour."

“ For the attentive mind,
By this harmonious action on her powers,
Becomes herself harmonious: wont so long,
In outward things, to meditate the charm
Of sacred order, soon she seeks at home

To find a kindred order; to exert
Within herself, this elegance of love,
This fair inspir'd delight; her temper'd powers
Refine at length, and every passion wears
A chaster, milder, more attractive mien."

If such pleasures can require any other recomendation than their exquisite and dignified delight, their perfect innocence, their entire exemption from all disgust and remorse, do we not find it in their universality and ease of acquirement. To enjoy a fine painting, a correct and elegant building, a beautiful garden, it is not necessary we should own them. It is only necessary we should have chastened and improved that taste of which every man has from nature a portion, to derive from these expensive possessions every pleasure they can bestow. Thus it is that wealth spreads her bounty, even if reluctant, and is compelled, while she gratifies her vanity, to diffuse her enjoyments.

Further; every man has not only the means of gratification, thus cheaply furnished, but also the power of enjoying them. This is given him by nature. Whatever distance there may be between the rude and the refined taste, every one has more or less of it; afforded, indeed, in different portions, but always capable of much improvement. When therefore I have heard gentlemen excuse themselves from contributing their aid to this institution, by alleging they have no taste for such things, I have been astonished. It is not true. Does the gentleman mean to say, he cannot tell a straight line from a crooked one; that he cannot discern whether an imitation be correct or otherwise; that he has no pleasure in beauty, no disgust from deformity? What is this taste they are so eager to disclaim ? There is no magic in the word:

“ What, then, is taste, but these internal powers,
Active and strong, and feelingly alive
To each fine impulse; a discerning sense
Of decent and sublime, with quick disgust
From things deformed, or disarranged, or gross in species?"

If this be taste, is any one willing to avow himself destitute of it? What does it require? Sight, sensibility, and judgment. That it is possessed in portions almost infinitely different; that it affords pleasure in different degrees to different men, is undoubtedly true: but, every man who sees, feels, and judges, has taste, which, by culture, he may enlarge and improve.

Let us imagine some gross disproportion in a building, or deformity in a statue or picture, the most common eye would discover it, and be offended. This deformity may be so diminished, that a more accurate eye, and scrutinizing judgment is necessary to detect it, which is obtained by more experience, and, perhaps, a superior original sensibility or delicacy of mental organization. When a painter spreads over his canvass some animated scene of nature; or portrays the actions or passions of men, what is that taste which decides upon the merit of his work? It is the faculty of discerning whether his imitations are accurate, his combinations just, and whether grace and harmony pervade the whole.

No man is without some portion of this discernment.

It is, indeed, so far from being true, thạt men, in general, are not competent to judge of the productions of the fine arts, that it is by public judgment their merit or demerit is finally established. This is the tribunal before which they stand or fall; and, generally speaking, it is not only impartial, but just and correct. Public opinion has, in more instances than one, triumphed over critics and connoisseurs, and the triumph has been sanctioned

critic prove

by time and experience. Plays and poems finally take their rank in literature by the reception they meet with in the world, and not by the square and compass of the professed critic. Is not this taste, and a high exercise of its prerogatives? And this is all as it should be. The object of the fine arts, in all their branches, is to please; to engage attention, to fascinate. Now, these are emotions of which every man is susceptible. We require no critic or connoisseur to tell us whether we shall be delighted with a play, or subdued by the powers of music. Can any

that we must not be melted with the tenderness of Shakspeare, or prevent him from shaking our souls with terror? Is there a picture which has fascinated every eye; or a piece of music which has touched every heart, and can they be proved, by any course of reasoning to be bad ? It has long since been agreed, that the truest test of eloquence is the impression it makes upon the common audience; even upon

the vulgar and unlearned. May not the same test be applied, not, perhaps, with equal confidence, or to the same extent, to other efforts of genius ?

Professors of an art are frequently prejudiced by attachments to particular schools; to particular masters; by personal friendships; perhaps, sometimes, by envy or dislike: but the public voice speaks over such considerations; and, when combined in one sentiment, is seldom wrong, and always irresistible.

The highest efforts of art are but attempts to imitate Nature; and it is excellent in proportion as it succeeds in the imitation. Is it only to the man of education that Nature unfolds her excellence and offers her enjoyments? Is it only to him she displays her beauties, her perfections, her symmetry?

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