« AnteriorContinuar »
to their utility, or some way or other enhance an essential beauty.
In a garden, also, many things may be properly introduced which are not necessary to the production of fruit and vegetables. The luxuriance of vegetation under careful culture, renders it perfectly proper to admit many things in a garden which are calculated only to give pleasure to the eye. Because in nature there are many objects which apparently have no higher purpose. This propriety is limited by the fact, that it is not the end of cultivation to contradict, but to follow nature. The ornaments of a garden must be of such a kind as result from the careful cultivation of nature, in accordance with her own principles. A garden is not a mere imitation of any natural scene, but an improvement. Improvement, however, can only be made by carrying out natural principles to greater perfection, and with less mixture than in nature. Therefore, the ornaments of a garden can never properly be of that kind so common in the Roman gardens, in the latter days of the Republic, and under the Empire, in which every thing was fashioned after the whim of the gardener, no tree or shrub was permitted to grow in its own way, but all were compelled into fantastic forms of birds, beasts, pieces of cabinet work, and letters of the alphabet-conceits which held their place in modern gardens until little more than a century ago.
It is clear that the dissatisfaction occasioned by such
objects, arises from their opposition to nature. Animals may be very beautiful in themselves, and in their proper place; but it is not the nature of a tree to grow into such a shape. The ornaments of a garden are, therefore, limited, not only by the character of the chief object, but also by a due regard to the principles of vegetable nature. Whatever, in its collocation, is evidently useless, or at variance with nature, however beautiful in itself, can never be anything but a blemish.
When, from these arts, we turn our attention to painting, we find the field of ornament greatly limited. For the chief object of painting being relative truth, nothing in it can be proper, which does not represent some other visible object, something conceived to be visible, or associated with visible objects. While in landscape it is limited in the same manner as gardening; in draped human figures, as the art of dressing; and in pictures of buildings, as that of architecture; in itself it entirely excludes ornament. Because, in order faithfully to represent visible things, it dare not add one quality or adjunct, which does not really belong to them. It must not represent a tree, or a horse, with any quality or adjunct which a tree or a horse was never known to have. It may picture any given horse as more beautiful than he really is; but that is not ornament. It may deck him with fine caparisons.
. That is ornament indeed; but it belongs not to painting, but to the art of harnessing horses. Painting may combine things in more pleasing groups than they often appear in nature; but that very grouping must represent something real, however uncommonsomething that can be conceived of as existing, out of the picture, and to which the picture corresponds. The arabesques found upon ceilings, upon illuminated pages of books, etc., are the ornaments of the ceilings or pages upon which they occur; but they can not be introduced into an intelligent picture, except as constituting part of the expression of the represented idea.' In painting there is properly no place for ornament. For it would be destructive of truth.
In a statue of the human figure can anything be properly introduced which is foreign to the actual human figure ? If it is, then the statue is not a correct representation of its subject, and so far faulty: while to include every thing necessary to the perfection of the subject, is nothing more than the proper work of the art. The whole work of statuary is confined within the limits of relative truth. Whatever it attempts, more than that, is a blemish; and of course it has no place for ornament.
In literature, all critics agree that whatever does not effect a full expression of the intended idea, is faulty, and that whatever is more than sufficient is a fault. No room can, therefore, be left for ornament in this art either. Because its whole object is to embody, or express, the author's thoughts and feelings on separate and determinate points.
I think, then, we may depend upon the correctness of this rule, that all arts having for their object the representation, or embodying of any other thing, whether of external nature, or of the human spirit, in other words, relative truth, are incapable of ornament: and that those of absolute design admit ornament as far as consistent with their design and the nature of their materials. Architecture admits it to considerable extent; gardening more sparingly, because to some degree imitative; while painting, statuary, and literature exclude it entirely, or admit it only to their injury. Due attention to this principle would, I think, sufficiently guard against the tawdry style of those, who
“With gold and jewels cover every part,
and which, though often condemned, is perpetually returning and obtruding itself upon the student. Unless the error can be proved by a fair exposition of the principle upon which ornament is admissible, it is difficult for the young mind, enamoured of beauty in all its forms, to withstand the allurements of that meretricious style.
But some, who will readily admit the correctness of our conclusion, as far as respects other arts, may reject its application to literature, because learned men have been in the habit of talking of ornament in literary productions, as something admissible. By way of reply, I would request an objector to point out a passage in any writer, which can be called ornament, in the sense in which the word is properly understood. He will not find it impossible. There are too many such in some productions. But as soon as he has found one, and examined it, together with the connection in which it stands, he will discover it to be a blemish. If, for an ornament, he pitches upon some passage really beautiful, he will learn, upon examination of its nature and relations to the subject, that it is not ornament, but essential to the full utterance of the author's conception. What looks to the casual glance more like ornament than that celebrated simile, in which Ossian says, that “The music of Caryl was like the memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the soul” ? Yet when compared with the connection and the object for which it was written, nothing can be farther from being a mere additional grace. It is expressive of deep feeling, and tells the character of the music more clearly and fully than any arrangement or choice of technical words could describe it to the common understanding. The poet, might, indeed, have told us in what mode the music was, and in what key; but even then, not musicians themselves could have had so distinct a conception of its nature, or of the peculiar feeling which it awakened, as every man receives who ponders the comparison,“ like the memory of joys that are past."