Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

there are also distinctive senses in which they are more correctly used, as marking different degrees of strength, clearness, subtilty of the individual character, as well as different intellectual powers.

In its distinctive and appropriate sense, the term genius is applied to mind only when under the direction of its individual tendencies, and when those are so strong or clear as to concentrate all its powers upon the production of new, or at least independent results; and that whether manifested in the regions of art or science.

con, Descartes, and Newton, were no less men of genius, than Michael Angelo, Raphael, Shakspeare, and Scott, although the work they performed and the means they employed were different.

The patient thought, the refined calculations, which unfolded the laws of the material universe, are slow in reaching their end, but are no less truly the productions of new and beautiful results, than that more rapid intuition which penetrates the mysteries of the human spirit, to em body them in creations which rise before the observer like living things. Genius, however, must agreeably coöperate with imagination, and from the most fascinating deductions of argument, though directed by itself, turns with an affectionate joy to those pursuits in which its flight is unconstrained. Those ideas which come unsought, whose light rises upon the mind not like the slow progress of dawn, but as the midday sun when he bursts through an interposing barrier of clouds, it delights to revel in. Yet it rests not in idle

revery. No power of the human mind is so abundant in labor. The unchanging lover of the beautiful, it dwells with peculiar affection upon the charms of resemblance and design, in accordance with which its creations are most rapidly achieved, while its own existence is an irresistible impulse to productive activity. If taste is the faculty of criticism, genius is that of original invention. The word is Latin, and in that language signified the guardian spirit of the individual man, the divinity which came into existence at his birth, watched over and directed all the changes of his life, and at his death was again merged in the all-pervading Deity from whom it sprang. There is a beautiful relation existing between this meaning and that which we have derived from it. Absolute creation is the work of God alone; but that faculty in man, which, in the use of preëxisting material, seems to approach creative power, we designate by a divine name. Genius can effect new ends only by recombining old material; but being itself original, its own freshness is breathed into its offspring, giving them the hue of new creations, diffusing over them the light of its own peculiar dowry from the hand of God.

By talent in its distinctive meaning, we understand the power of acquiring and adroitly disposing of the materials of human knowledge, and products of invention in their already existing forms, without the infusion of any new enlivening spirit. It looks no farther than the attainment of certain practical ends, which

experience has proved attainable, and the dextrous use of such means as experience has proved to be efficient.

Talent values effort in the light of practical utility; genius always for its own sake, labors from the love of labor. Talent may be acquired. For in the distinctive meaning of the word), it does not entirely coincide with native character. It may be imitative, the acquired ability to repeat what has already been done, while the individuality may be too feebly developed to mark very distinctly even its manner of operation. Genius always belongs to individual character, and may be cultivated, but can not be acquired. Talent qualifies eminently for the duties of business life: genius for the most exalted efforts of intellect. Genius, however, commonly operates unconsciously, and when best developed always manifests itself during the cultivation and exercise of talent. It was by improving his talent for the stage that Shakspeare unfolded his poetic genius, which otherwise would have concealed, perhaps, its vast capacities from himself; and the cultivation of a talent for singing, or playing, is the invariable means whereby musical genius is made acquainted with its own power. Whoever despises his talent will never make much of his genius; but if he has any, will squander it on things of little profit. In daily work talent is the more serviceable. For he can be yoked into the harness at command. Genius comes only at his own free will, and then it is commonly to

a

take the reins into his own hand and guide the car which talent draws.

By tact we mean an inferior or limited degree of talent—a skill or adroitness in adapting words or deeds to circumstances, involving, of course, a quick perception of the propriety of circumstances. It is also applied to a certain degree of mechanical skill. In literature, it designates that very convenient faculty of perceiving the demands of the book market, and of successfully meeting them by compilations and adaptations of common property. It implies quickness of observation and facility of execution, but neither profundity nor strength. Nearly of kin to instinct, its ends are always temporary and definite. Because its range is narrow, and its force limited. Yet when connected with higher mental endowments it greatly enhances their value, and many a fine genius has been sadly crippled by the want of it. How much wider would have been the influence of Coleridge and of Shelley had their transcendant genius been united to a little tact! In Goëthe all these powers were so happily combined that it is not very easy to determine what amount of his success was due to each. Certainly neither his remarkable genius, nor his laborious talent would have won for him the place he occupies without the coöperation of consummate tact.

We sometimes hear of a universal genius, a phenomenon which is never seen. The term is commonly applied to a man of great talent in acquisition; or of

tact to employ his knowledge in various ways. A man of true genius is never fluctuating in his pursuits. He will exert great power upon whatever he attempts ; but will certainly fix upon one prominent occupation, from the impulsive power of strong individuality, and the clearness with which he determines the comparative value of things. At the same time, if any one intends the word to apply, not to pursuits, but to powers, there is a sense in which the highest genius may be called universal—that is, comprehensive of all the powers of the mind to whom it belongs. For it is nothing more than an intense energy of spiritual life. But as each individual has his own peculiar character of spirit, that fact will only the more certainly determine the singleness of his aim. Hence in the ordinary acceptation of the term, there can be no such thing as a man of universal genius.

« AnteriorContinuar »