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deal in forms, colors, outlines. Conception is all that they can really express. Emotion they move only as conception suggests it. A speaker can do more, it is true; for the expression of his face, the attitude of his body, and the light of his eye, constitute a class of signs naturally appropriated to the indication of feeling; but these are very limited and defective in themselves, and in the general field of art we may still say that conception is that which is immediately recognized and addressed. Feelings, in all their kinds and degrees, are invisible. We can not present them to the eye. They manifest their existence by outward signs, but refuse to be embodied; and if one would call them up, he can do so only by employing the signs whereby they indicate their existence. Consequently, the most refined discrimination is needed to detect, in the ordinary utterance of conception, that wherein the mystic signs of feeling lie, and a masterly delicacy of touch, in order to reproduce them with true effect. In this, the highest achievement of art, very few are entirely successful. That concrete object whereby one person moves the deepest emotion, will, as presented by another, be merely recognized as correct, while in the hands of a third it might actually look absurd. One will move feeling by his statements, almost without intending it; another can not do so with his utmost effort. The signs whereby feelings make their existence known to the external observer, and by which their proper antecedents are inevitably and effectively restored, are intangible to all but the hand of genius. Humbler powers may suggest ideas with sufficient liveliness to be entertaining, but fail of imbuing them with life and reality.
It is convenient to distinguish, as far as our language can, the different degrees of this impersonating power. That more comprehensive sway, which, by means of conception, wields the feelings of men with a force like that of the senses, is now very generally called imagination ; while the term fancy is limited to that which avails only to the presentation of brilliant but cold imagery. The former may effect the highest degree of the beautiful; the latter scarcely more than the pretty. This distinction could be illustrated from every department of art-for example, the group of the Knight and Serpent, by Otten, is a product of fancy: Kiss's Amazon, a beautiful work of imagination ; Cole's Dream of Arcadia sparkles in the drapery of fancy, while his Voyage of Life is bathed in the light of imagination. But one or two literary specimens will more clearly define the difference. Observe the effect of the following verses :
“Let the postillion Nature mount, and let
The coachman Art be set,
Make a long row of goodly pride,
In a well worded dress,
In all their gaudy liveries."
In comparison with the following:
“ What envious streaks
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops." In both passages there seems to be equal lack of dignity in the imagery. Taken separately, out of their connection, postillion, coachman, dress, liveries, etc., are certainly as good as lace and burned out candles, and a man standing on tiptoe ; yet the former is a cold conceit, and the latter one of the most striking and suggestive pictures that could be drawn in the same number of words.
Yet I would not be understood as intending to laud one degree of impersonation at the expense of another. Extreme cases best answer the purpose of marking distinctions; but every example must not be assumed as equally cold and uninteresting. We could ill spare from the kingdom of art the brilliant creations of fancy, and there are many unnamed degrees between the cold conceit and the life breathing personification. The more comprehensive is generally found to embrace the other. The best examples of both can be drawn from the productions of the same mind. Thus, the following is an offspring of pure fancy, elegant as frost work.
“0, then I see queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife; and she comes
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep.
Time out of mind the fairies' coachmakers.” For the purpose of comparison with this, I select, from the same author, another passage, consisting of images not more intimately associated with human feeling in their own nature :
“Come on, sir, here's the place. Stand still. How fearful
And giddy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
Here the imagery is so woven together as to move the very feeling which an observer of the reality would experience, until the reader is ready to exclaim, with the character personated :
" I'll look no more, Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight Topple down headlong."
It is by the hand of fancy that images taken from the external world are employed to the expression of ideas without any touch of emotion ; imagination is the power of imbuing all with a healthy human interest.
The distinction is one of degree and combination, and may not be recognized by metaphysics, nor necessary to the understanding of the radical operations of intellect, but is indispensable to true appreciation of the most important element in art. For the faculty of conferring upon inanimate material the utterance of human feeling is the profoundest source of sympathy between the artist and those whom he addresses. It is the secret of poetical interest, which arises mainly from our sympathy with other beings of our race. Why do we read the works of Cowley and other poets of his class with so much languor? They have imagery in abundance. They overflow with it; yet fail
; to interest the reader, or even to detain his attention long. It is a labor to peruse them for a few minutes. And why do the dreams of John Bunyan, with no pretension to reality, take such hold upon the mind as to withdraw it entirely from external things, abstracting attention from the information of the senses to engross it all for themselves; while the works of many a learned historian, deep in the most important transactions of the real world, are a laborious study. Or why has their allegorical meaning an interest not to be found in more learned and thorough theological works ?