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a sensible blemish in the manner, receives the honor of that name. There is more poesy in Cole's Voyage of Life than in a whole gallery of equally well executed pictures, which are mere landscapes. Art is a language which may be beautiful only in itself, or also convey beautiful ideas. Poesy may exist in the latter where there is but a moderate degree of the former; but not in the former without the latter. Though many other works equal the Dying Gladiator in beauty of externals, few can be compared with it in the poetry of sculpture. In the Voyage of Life, though the whole is full of poesy, the most affecting of the series is No. 3, which is at the same time the most rugged and scanty in details.
Some of the rough outlines of Michael Angelo embody a grandeur of poesy which is not to be found in the most highly finished works of inferior minds.
I do not know that the term is ever applied to any variety of the risible, except the humorous, and to that only in cases involving the most delicate feeling. Some of the playful productions of Charles Lamb might well be called the poesy of humor.
In all subjects of Art, invariably the most poetic are those which most beautifully express the loves, the sorrows, the patience, the piety, the sympathetic tenderness-in short, the more interesting affections of the human heart.
It occurs as appropriate to the foregoing topics to add a few words on the nature of style and morale in Art.
Radically, style is the impress of the individual mind; but, from the fact that men in society are greatly influenced by each other, and adopt, without designing it, some portion of each other's thoughts and feelings, an aggregate of manner comes to belong to any given age or country. Hence, style is not only the mark of the man, but also of his country, and of the stage of its progress in improvement or decline.
The basis of classification, here, must be the relation between the rational and emotional in the human mind. For according as one or the other predominates so will the style be warm or cold, redundant or severe. Subdivisions might be made, under the name of the kind of intellectual power, or the kind of embodied; as, on the one hand, the materially correct and the suggestive; on the other, the voluptuous and the holy.
The style of an individual, being his peculiar way of expressing himself, will vary with the change of his feelings, the growth or decay of his powers, or his adoption of different principles. The style of Raphael's youth was very inferior to that of his maturity, and from Byron's “Hours of Idleness” none could have anticipated the energy of the “ Corsair.” Still, there is generally something, even in the humblest efforts of a man of genius, that shows, or at least intimates, its outgoings as soon as a tolerable command has been obtained of the language to be employed. On this point, all are unconscious expounders of themselves. Their express ideas and feelings they can observe, examine, criticise, and form a fair opinion of, but of their style they can never form the notion that others do.
Because it is the effluence of his own internal being, one's true style necessarily appears without any singularities in his own eyes. Mozart replied to an inquiry concerning his style, that he had not the most distant idea of the Mozartish in his compositions; and it is a notorious fact that poets are poor judges of the proper merits of their own style. If any one seems to be perfectly aware of the niceties of his manner, and of that wherein it differs from others, he furnishes thereby a strong presumption that the garment is not his own, but borrowed.
Consequently, no rule for style can be more fundamental than that each one express in the most satisfactory manner to himself what he thinks best. Attainment of absolute excellence will depend upon the correctness of his taste; and that, again, upon maturity and justness of thought and feeling. The style of the boy will, thus, be boyish, of the youth, youthful, and of the man of bad taste, at any age, it will be bad. But no improvement could be made by laboring upon style without effecting a change upon the mind ; no good could come of aping the fine style of another, while there is nothing corresponding to it within. The works of our predecessors are invaluable helps, by example, and warning, and precedent; but more directly for improvement of taste than of style. On the latter point, the radical guide, at all times, is the question, “Does that embody precisely what I mean, in a way that perfectly satisfies me?” If the answer is negative, the man has not yet matured his style; and nothing but the effort to secure an affirmative can guide him to that end. He may, indeed, never attain it; few do succeed in bringing their style to perfection : but there is only the one way whereby it can be done. And even an approximation to it in that
way will be more effective than the results of any other, however promising at the outset. It may be well for a painter to think how he should feel on presenting his works to some great master, and to keep the fear of such a critic before him; but that is in reality nothing more than awing himself into an earnest effort to embody his highest ideas of excellence
as he himself thinks best. To go to work servilely to copy the master's manner would certainly not be a rational mode of obtaining his approbation. One's style is never matured until he is himself satisfied with it; and when that end is reached, the style may be, in itself considered, either good or bad ; but it is the best for its author. The style of a cold-hearted man may be cold and formal, and, so far, bad, yet the best for him. To ape anything absolutely better would be false and ridiculous. A more kindly spirit, however, would deal very unfairly with itself to rest content with such
The style of a passionate man may be reckless and disjointed; but he is not capable of a better. To improve it he must begin with his own heart. Let that be properly subdued to the rein, and the externals of expression will follow.
There can be no one standard of excellence in style. What is good for one class of intellect would be highly improper for another. The excellence of Beethoven is very different from that of Bellini; yet both are true excellence. What is good in the style of Burke is not the same that we call good in that of Addison, save in the fact that they are both true to their respective authors. Goldsmith's structure of sentence, though of inimitable beauty, would have formed a very inadequate vehicle for the stupendous thoughts of Chalmers. The style of Canova may be humbler than that of Phidias ; the fault is not in the style, but in the man.