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results of truly artistical mind, aspired also to a precise and skilful representation of natural appearances, the attention of the spectator is liable to be distracted, if not wholly diverted, from the all-important meaning to secondary matters. The prayer of the great artist, who requires that he may fit audience find, though few,' is not likely to be granted to him who labours to make his productions interesting, also, to those who, in common with the birds that pecked at the grapes of the ancient painter, can recognise and approve nothing beyond a more or less complete literal resemblance to natural objeets. All really great artists have perceived the comparative worthlessness of literal verisimilitude. In most cases, violations of literal likeness, by artists of the generally imitative schools, are only of negative purpose; that is, to get rid of some difficulty standing in the way of another and more important object. Shakespeare, however, presents us with an instance of the most violent departure from natural verisimilitude, which not only serves an important negative end, but provides also a most striking artifice in the construction of his drama; we refer to the porter's speech, which has so long puzzled the commentators on 'Macbeth. By this passage Shakespeare, in a surprising manner, has broken the continuity of the time, without disturbing that of the action, the unchecked rapidity of which is an essential element in Macbeth. It is the middle of the night: Lady Macbeth and her husband have retired, warned by a knocking at the gate, ‘lest occasion should show them to be watchers;' the knocking continues all the while the porter is uttering his soliloquy, which is purposely discordant in itself and with the adjacent portions of the play, though it is far from being altogether mal-à-propos ; he at last opens the gate, but by that time it is good morrow;' everybody is up, Macduff is going to wake Duncan at the appointed hour; and the reader, or spectator, has not perceived that a few seconds of time have represented the best part of a night.
If likeness to natural objects as men commonly behold them, is to be regarded as constituting art, art must, of course, be excellent in proportion to the perfection of that likeness; and Madame Tussaud's waxwork exhibition must rank above the Vatican. Taking the lowest kind of art, namely, that which treats of external facts and phenomena for their own sake—is not its essential character the power of showing things in a new light, that is, as we do not see them? This negative quality of art is, however, so widely admitted at present, that we need dwell upon
it no longer. It is, indeed, true that there is a large class of persons whose souls have been so constituted or degraded, that nothing but mere imitation of what they have seen or felt will touch them-persons who, by no amount of outward cultivation, will be able to comprehend the assertion, that true art is, to those who can receive it, a real revelation ;
the light that never was, by sea or land,' is to them darkness; the simplicity and frequent worldly ignorance of the man of genius are to them folly; if they use the word genius at all, they apply it to flashily informed cleverness, and the emotional correlative of mere cleverness, 'sensibility ;' an excitable temperament, and feelings that flash in the pan, stand with them for enthusiasm ; and the calm will that scorns delights and lives laborious days,' working with power resembling that which lifts a coast-line for a thousand miles, passes with them for cold plodding, and a sort of perversion of stupidity to good purposes. It is a great, though indirect commendation of art, that persons of this stamp—and, be it remarked, they are pretty equally distributed among all ranks of society—usually exhibit a similar incapacity for the appreciation or assimilation of every kind of substantial worth : their morality is prudence; their spirituality, too often, conceited and unsteady impulse;
• And when they travel right, it is
Progressing swift in silent cars.'
To come to positive characters: Art resolves itself into two great kinds, namely, direct, and indirect or symbolical, representation. Direct representation, if it is artistical, is always ideal-an excellent word, but one which has been discredited by frequent abuse. The great French critic, M. Quatremere de Quincy, thus describes it: “The ideal does not here mean that which people are accustomed exclusively to attach to the term ; that is to say, the beautiful par excellence. Each class of object or subject, in the wide range of imitation, 'has its ideal'; its character generalized, and brought, by the genius of art, to the idea, or distinct image, which becomes, at one and the same time, for the imagination its type; for the mind its definition; for the eye its copy. A pig of Morland's, for example, is the ideal of a pig; and the Apollo Belvidere is the ideal of a beautiful young man; and the merit of the pig and of the Apollo consists, not in their accurate resemblance to the pigs and human beings about us, but in their being, severally, more piggish and more human than anything that we have ever seen, or ever shall see. This delineation of the
spirit and intention, so to speak, of Nature, instead of her exact forms and real results, seems, upon the face of it, to be a very powerful means of instructing the soul in the most worthy kinds of knowledge.
Let it not be supposed that the faculty of accurate imitation is to be slighted. On the contrary, it is an essential steppingstone to the representation of that which is above imitation. Constantly, indeed, imitation is well worth having for its own sake: many who cannot perceive the beauty of a natural object are quite capable of recognising its transcript in a picture, poem, or statue; for in these beauty is separated from distracting circumstances. There are faces, forms, characters, landscapes, and skies, which are not to be excelled by art; but such high natural revelations confine themselves wonderfully to the eye of the born artist, and require to be clothed anew by him, in order to become visible to the common gaze. In this kind of imitation, however, the ideal is still at work: the artist detects and selects the essential, rejecting non-essentials; the faculty of such detection and selection being of a piece with the mind's creative power. There are also moments of feeling, of which often we think little at the time, but to which, as to the epocha of our lives, the most of us look back. These the memory commonly fails to restore; and yet, be it joyful or sad, or even terrible, and in its full recurrence to be dreaded, past feeling comes, with inexpressible charms, to the recollection. Now, among the many attributes which go to make the artist, especially the poet, is the power of remembering emotion; and he often does the work of a true artist in recalling that emotion, without change or adornment, to minds which have unwillingly forgotten it. It may
aid the attainment of some distinct notion of art, and of its ethical capacities, if we say that the artistic is, in all its range, the antithesis of the scientific. The scientific deals exclusively with second causes, and our common language and thoughts are, perhaps unavoidably, impregnated with this element. The artistic confines itself, no less exclusively, to phenomena and to the First Cause, and takes note of no relationships between the former and the latter, but such as are immediate and direct. The artist does not regard phenomena as unreal, but rather as the only realities, apart from his soul and from God: he says with Goethe
• They are not shadows which compose a dream;
I know they are eternal, for they are.' From this it results that artistical expression is always absolute ; and that the poet, as Dryden says, is a lawgiver; and that true poetry, as Aristotle says, is the most philosophical of all writing. Donne writes very poetically
• We have added to the world Virginia, and sent
Two new stars lately to the firmament.' Here the phenomena—that is to say, the facts considered only in their effects, and apart from the method of their origin—are alone regarded ; and the mind delights in beholding the simple result of a couple of scientific discoveries conveyed in its simplest possible form. The noblest examples of this rule of poetical expression are to be found in the Bible and in the Apocrypha : “Thou coveredst it (the earth) with the deep as
with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains; at thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunders they hasted away; they go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys into that place which thou hast founded for them; thou hast set a bound which they may not pass over, that they turn not again to cover the earth.
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth. . . . . He toucheth the hills, and they smoke,” (Psalm civ). The beauty of heaven, the glory of the stars, an orna
ment giving light in the highest places of the Lord: at the commandment of the Holy One, they will stand in their order, ' and never faint in their watches. Look upon the rainbow, and 'praise him that made it; very beautiful is it in the brightness 'thereof: it compasseth the heavens about with a glorious
circle, and the hands of the Most High have bended it.' (Ecclesiasticus xiii.) The phenomena italicised are treated without any reference to gravitation, theories of the earth, astronomical or optical laws. They are described as they seem to a child-like and religious mind; and here, as is oftener the case than most people suppose, the appearance is identical with the reality. It is this characteristic of expression which has conferred never-fading beauty and life upon the writings of poets who have not attempted any task higher than the artistical transcription of separate thoughts, facts, and natural images; and it is this, also, which has endowed the productions of the greatest artists with a permanence far beyond that which attaches to the works of the philosopher or the theologian. Whether we read, in William Browne, of
Homely towns, Sweetly environ'd with the daisied downs,' or rise, with Dante, into regions of thought and feeling, where Time becomes the mystery, and not Eternity, we find our delight to be still dependent, in no small measure, upon the circumstance that we meet the feeling, fact, or thought, face to face, instead of being required to stumble prosaically about it
and about it.' Here, then, is another general quality which must favour the notion that Art is peculiarly adapted to become a teacher of the soul.
The attribute last described confers upon Art a power of extreme brevity, and consequent pregnancy; and this brevity and pregnancy may be indefinitely increased, in the hands of the great artist, by the means which he has of suggesting more than he explicitly affirms. When should we have done, if we attempted to write in full all the truth that is intentionally suggested in some one of Shakspeare's plays ? This pregnancy is a great advantage in the teaching of art, especially at a time when books have so increased that our imperfect national library counts more than a dozen miles of crowded shelves.
The foregoing remarks chiefly concern the mode of expression which is employed by Art: the thing to be expressed is reality, of whatever kind. It is a mistake, in modern times prevalent in proportion to the degradation of art, to suppose that its highest and fittest, not to say its essential object, is the direct representation of beauty-of beauty either merely physical, or of physical beauty operating as the symbol of the soul's excellence, This, truly, was a leading idea of pagan art; witness its opposite extremes in the Apollo and the Laocoon. But pagan art is of small importance to the present question: its remains are few, and it can never be revived. Beauty is one among the many realities which Art now grasps.
The artist reveals reality whenever he exhibits or suggests the true relation of any object to the rest of the universe. Such relation constitutes its reality; reality, in this sense, is by no means a familiar sight to ordinary men, and the revelation of it seems calculated to be extremely edifying. Be the object an event, or a series of events, a man's character, a moral law, an emotion, the human form, a cloud, or a stone, the artist invests it with its proper life, and teaches it to proclaim its peculiar lesson, by abolishing the state of isolation in which it commonly presents itself to us, and exhibiting it as an integral portion of nature: we say of nature, because the assertion, as it stands thus, answers to the whole sphere of Art of which there is at present any popular knowledge in England. Of super-nature-of truly spiritual life, as the subject of Art, we are not accustomed to hear much talk. Properly devotional Art flourished most extensively in Spain; but Spanish poetry and Spanish painting are not widely, studied or understood; partly because few learn the language, and since Spanish paintings out of Spain are rare; partly because the very excellence of such artists as Calderon and Velasquez must of itself condemn them to general neglect in times of a general absence