Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VI.

INVENTION.

WITHIN itself the mind possesses the powers and character of its thinking, and the elements of thought; from without must be acquired all the material of its fabrics. Invention can, in no case, consist in bringing forth from the uninformed intellect creations radically new; and as little can the term be applied to the mere imitation of nature, or of the productions of other artists. Being derived from invenio, to find out, it must be distinguished from creation, inasmuch as while the latter implies the power of bringing into existence, invention means only the finding out of what is suitable for a given purpose. To create, can never be said of the human mind, otherwise than figuratively. It is the peculiar power of God. To invent, or find out, among his creatures, that material, which answers the purpose of our shaping minds, is the nearest approach to creation admitted to human intellect.

Invention is to art as discovery to science; the one brings forth into light what was previously unknown, but makes no other use of it than to enlarge the classified list of similar things; the former takes up the already known, the probable or the possible, and combining their elements in new shape, makes them answer the purpose of uttering some original design. Nor is new material necessary to the expression of new ideas; the old already constitutes a well known language, of great flexibility in the hands of genius, while the entirely new would be strange and unmeaning as an unknown tongue. The same elements, and the same general subject, may convey an endless diversity of ideas, as thus modified by the inventive faculty of various artists. Thus the fable of Medea becomes a very different thing, and teaches a different lesson, according as it is wrought up by Euripides, Seneca, or Corneille, and there can be little doubt that the Medea of Ennius presented features unlike either of them; and after all the hands through which it has come,

other shall use the same subject for the expression of a nobler idea, he shall enjoy the honors of invention as truly as if it had never been handled before. Such is the endless diversity of colors assumed by the same materials presented in the light of various minds. At the same time, it must be admitted that the use of an old basis is more largely granted to the orator than to the poet, and that the remodeling of a familiar and favorite character, or tale, no matter how much invention it displays, meets with little favor from a modern public. But the still older and well known materials of nature, if hitherto unemployed, are always new when woven into art. From inexhaustible treasures of reality the poet is expected continually to draw previously unappropriated stores.

if any

In oratory, the use of an old fact or argument for a new purpose, a new turn given to a well known train of thought, or a new combination and a new point made from old data, are correctly set down to the credit of invention.

The painter and sculptor, though employing a more difficult language, and more limited in range of topics, are subjected to demands scarcely inferior to those made upon the poet.

In brief, however, the principal mine of invention is the artist's own spirit. If some great or beautiful native thought, which has had its birth and growth within him, be the genius of his work, and shape for itself and to its own proportions the imagery drawn from nature, the result, when complete, will be confessed the truest offspring of inventive power. The finding out of materials, and of methods of applying them to such a purpose, is the utmost of human invention: and no imitation, or description, of the most beautiful object in nature, if devoid of this spiritual interest, can be of more than secondary value.

The attempts sometimes made to secure the honors of invention by extravagances and unprecedented conceits, only serve to demonstrate the folly of their authors. The freshest work of the greatest master is made up of elements accessible to all. Life and novelty must be conferred upon them by the idea they subserve.

18

CHAPTER VII.

OF GENIUS AND TALENT.

IF men differ in the tone, the turn, or bearing of their intellectual faculties, not less do they differ in the degrees of their strength and activity. While some have hardly force of mind enough to make their individuality distinguishable, others impress the features of their own character, not only upon all they do, but to some degree upon all with whom they are connected, or even upon the whole age in which they live; and some few have left such a mark

the world as time seems unable to erase. The peculiar aptitude, or bearing, of the individual mind, has long ago been marked in common language. When we say of a person, that he has a genius for mathematics, or languages, or that he has a talent for mechanics, or a tact for certain manipulations, we distinctly recognize the existence of a peculiar turn of the mind. When used merely for the purpose of stating this fact, these three words are almost synonimous. Genius and talent are more common than tact, and of the two, perhaps genius is the more frequently employed. But

upon

« AnteriorContinuar »