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in its own proper and unmingled light, the state to which it disposes the observer is that of repose—a state in which imagination wanders, uncommanded, from the agreeable impressions of the sense to all the associations which they recall, selecting from the most diversified experiences a wealth of homogeneous delight. Beauty, though a principle of great power in the human spirit, is calm and gentle in its operations. Though near of kindred to sublimity, the difference between them furnishes enough of contrast to aid in the description of both. They agree in conferring a pure and elevated delight, the noblest handmaid of religion ; but while the one is quiet, the other is bold; the one soothing, the other exciting. Beauty leads in her train admiration and love; sublimity is attended by wonder, reverence, and awe. Nor is the difference of their effect upon the physical man less distinguishable. Sublimity produces a tension of the muscles, and nervous excitement, which soon wears out the subject of it. Such was the grandeur of conception and style of the celebrated Robert Hall, that often his audience unconsciously arose from their seats; and when Massilon, preaching on the fewness of the elect, pictured the entrance of the Saviour to judgment, and the separation of the righteous from the wicked, the whole assembly arose simultaneously, in deep and solemn silence. But not even Hall or Massilon could have maintained that degree of excitement beyond a brief period. The mortal frame can not long endure such overpowering emotion. The effect of beauty, on the other hand, is to relax the muscles and incline the body to quiescence. The visitor to Lake Como or Geneva may on other occasions be roused to energy in proclaiming their perfections, but in presence of the objects of his admiration, he prefers to remain at rest, to gaze in silence, and enjoy the contemplation, for hours. Prolonged meditation produces no exhaustion, being itself conducive to tranquillity, and calculated to calm all the troubles of the spirit. Or, to recur
Or, to recur to the more common experience of him who in hours of reverie yields to the control of feelings arising in the course of unrestrained suggestion, while visions of beauty pass before his imagination, he naturally seeks an attitude of rest, and, for the period of their duration, continues forgetful alike of motion and the flight of time; but should a sublime idea flash upon him, the effect is immediately apparent in a more erect attitude, if he does not even bound to his feet and stride across his room, to aid, as it were, in expressing an emotion which is too great for him. In a few moments the excitement has passed away, and he sinks into quiet contemplation of the resultant beauty, which is always the ultimate effect of an object truly sublime. So mirth, or grief, or joy, or surprise, may prompt to activity; but when they result in beauty, the mind naturally subsides into repose.
Hence, whatever other excellence a work of art may have, without the element of repose it is greatly
defective : not that it must necessarily embody an attitude of rest; but such is the most desirable spiritual effect. How profoundly was this felt by the great Athenian sculptor, whom Aristotle designated skillful in beauty, when he conceived the immortal tranquillity. of those works which stamped the generic character upon the gods of Greece.
“Motion may be beautiful, as well as rest; but it must be such as to leave upon the observing mind no impress of laborious effort. There are valuable ends to be attained by the representation of action ; but that pleasure can not be other than imperfect, which arises from the study of a Discobolus arrested in the act of throwing his quoit, or of a boxer stretching out his fist to all eternity. Whatever images of action or endurance a work may contain, in order to the effect of beauty, they must all harmonize in the expression of one idea, on which the spirit can dwell with satisfaction.”
- Plato, Phædrus, Menon, Hippias major. Augustine. Addison, Pleasures of Imagination-papers, Spectator. Burke, on the Sublime and Beautiful. Reid, subject, Beauty. Dugald Stewart's Works, vol. IV. Dr. Thomas Brown, Lect. LIII–LVIII. Payne Knight, Essay on Beauty. Jeffrey, Miscellanies, on Taste. Crouzas. Winkleman, History of Art, Book IV.
On the Risible : Shaftsbury, Characteristics, Essay II. Campbell, Phil. Rhet., Book I, chapter 111. Kames, Ele. Crit, chaps. X, XII, XIII. Beattie, on Laughter and Ludicrous Composition. Brown, Lect. L.
On the Sublime: Longinus, Burke, Blair, Lect. III, IV.
On the Picturesque: Works of William Gilpin. Essays of Sir Uvedale Price, ed. by Sir Thomas D. Lauder.
UPON noting carefully the operation of the senses, it will be found that there are some objects which pain the organs, and others that are productive of gratification. A sudden glare of light thrown
the productive of acute suffering; also, rapid alternations of bright light and deep darkness; so piercing and jarring sounds, as intimated by the very names applied to them, are painful; while a mild, steady light is grateful to the eye, and soft, pure, and distinct sounds to the ear. A very pungent taste hurts the tongue and palate, and certain smells the nostrils, and I need not add, that there are substances which pain the surface of the body; while on the other hand, there are many tastes, smells, and objects of touch, conducive to the comfort of their respective organs, and consequently pleasant. Mankind, in the common use of language, have declared that such are not beauty and ugliness, but merely pleasure and pain. They are only sensations: and we have seen already, that beauty can not be a sensation. But all our acquaintance with the external world has been made through the senses. Consequently, our notions of it must be associated, in greater or less degree, with the gratification or pain of the organs whereby they have been admitted. In many cases, this pain or gratification is so slight, as to form a very feeble item of consciousness, of little or no practical effect. But in others, the pathological nature of the sensation is distinctly perceived the moment that attention is turned to it, and others even compel the interest of the whole thinking being. Many of our ideas of the external world are associated in the mind with distinct conceptions of pain or pleasure. These pains and pleasures, I have said, are not beauty and its opposite, neither does the common understanding of men so esteem them; but when the mind perceives a certain class of sensations to be pleasurable, it immediately enjoys a higher delight from the recognition of that conduciveness to its own well being. A person is often heard to remark of an article of food, that he likes it, because its taste is pleasant to him; or of a sound, that he dislikes it, because it is grating to his ears; expressions distinctly referring to a consciousness, that liking and disliking are secondary states of mind, and subsequent to a perception of the nature of the sensations. Another remark, no less common, that a green field is beautiful, for the eye can rest upon it with such pleasure and refreshment that it never tires of the sight, is quite as plain an assertion of the individual consciousness that the emotion of beauty is