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ing pleasant, and are in every respect always the same in nature; but which may differ from each other, both in the occasions of their origin, and also in the degree or intensity in which they exist.- (I.) In regard to the occasions on on which they arise, we may remark further, that emotions of beauty are felt, and frequently in a very high degree, in the contemplation of material objects that are addressed to the sense of sight, such as woods, waters, cultivated fields, and the visible firmament. We look abroad upon nature, in the infinite variety of her works, as she is exhibited in the depths below and in the heights above, in her shells and minerals, in her plants and flowers and trees, in her waters and her stars and suns ; and we find the mind kindling at the sight; fountains of pleasure are suddenly opened within us ; and we should do violence to our mental structure, if we did not pronounce them beautiful.
(II.) Again, emotions of beauty are felt in the contemplation of intellectual and moral objects. In other words, mind, as well as matter, furnishes the occasion, on which they arise. The means or instruments, by which mind, which is not a direct object of sight or of any of the senses, is revealed to us, are various, such as the natural signs of the countenance, the tones of the voice, conventional language, and the actions of men in trying situations. Whenever, and in whatever way, we discover intelligence, wisdom, truth, honor, magnanimity, benevolence, justice, or other traits of a mind acting as it was created and designed to act, we have a foundation laid, (varying, it is true, with the degree in which they exist, with the combinations they form with each other, and with the circumstances in which they are put forth,) for the emotions of beauty. The human countenance, considered merely as a material object, and as presenting nothing more than outline and color, is undoubtedly beautiful ; but becomes more so, when it distinctly indicates to us intelligence and amiability. This is particularly true, when moral traits are made known to us. The approbation, which we yield, when the poor are relieved, the weak are defended, and the vicious are reclaimed, and when in general, any other striking deeds of a virtuous kind are performed, is always attended with a delightful movement of a heart, which, as it is reflected back upon it, gives to the action a decided character of beauty.
(III.) But emotions of beauty are not exclusively limited to these occasions. Feelings, which not only bear the same name, but are truly analogous in kind, exist also on the contemplation of many other things. The sentiment or feeling of beauty exists, for instance, when we are following out a happy train of reasoning; and hence the mathematician, who certainly has a delightful feeling, analogous to what we experience in contemplating many works of nature, speaks of a beautiful theorem. The connoisseur in music applies the term beautiful to a favorite air ; the lover of poetry speaks of a beautiful song; and the painter discovers beauty in the design, and in the coloring of his pictures. We also apply the term, beauty, to experiments in the different departments of physics ; especially when the experiment is simple, and results in deciding a point, which has occasioned doubt and dispute. We speak of it, and, as we suppose, with a degree of propriety, as a beautiful experiment.
So that all nature, taking the word in a wide sense, is the province of beauty; the intellectual and the sensitive, as well as the material world. We do not, however, mean by this to descend into particulars and to say, that every thing, which exists within the range of these departments, is beautiful; but merely that from none of the great departments of nature are the elements of beauty excluded.
§. 23. All objects not equally fitted to cause these emotions. From what has been said, it must be evident, that there is a correspondence between the mind and the outward objects, which are addressed to it. This has already been clearly seen in respect to the sensations and external perceptions; and it is not less evident in respect to that part of our nature, which we are now attending to. The mind, and the external world, and the external circumstances of our situation, are reciprocally suited to each other. Hence, when we ascribe the quality of beauty to any object, we have reference to this mutual adaptation. An object is ordinarily call. ed beautiful, when it has agreeable qualities ; in other words, when it is the cause or antecedent of the emotion of beauty, However it might appear to other beings, it would not have the character of beauty to us, if there were not a sort of correspondence, an adaptedness to each other, between our mental constitution and such outward object.
But no one can be ignorant, that not all objects cause the emotions in question ; and of those which possess this power, some have it in a greater, and some in a less degree. This brings us to a very important inquiry. It is no unreasonable curiosity, which wishes to know, why the effect is 80 limited, and why all objects are not embraced in it? Why different objects cause the same emotion in different degrees? And why the same objects produce a diversity of emotions in different individuals, and even in the same individual at different times? §. 24. A susceptibility of emotions of beauty an ultimate principle of our
mental constitution. In answering these questions, something must be taken for granted, there must be some starting point; otherwise all, that can be said, will be involved in inextricable confusion. That is, we must take for granted, that the mind has an original susceptibility of such emotions. Nor can we suppose, there can be any objection to a concession, which is warranted by the most general experience. We all know, that we are created with this susceptibility, because we are all conscious of having had those emotions, which are attributed to it. And if we are asked, how, or why it is, that the susceptibility at the bottom of these feelings exists, we can only say, that such was the will of the Being, who created the mind; and that this is one of the original or ultimate elements of our nature.
Although the mind, therefore, is originally susceptible of emotions of beauty, as every one knows; still it is no less evident from the general arrangements we behold, both in physical and in intellectual nature, that these emotions have their fixed causes or antecedents. We have seen that these causes are not limited to one class or kind, but are to be found under various circumstances; in the exercises of reasoning, in the fanciful creations of poetry, in musical airs, in the experiments of physics, in the forms of material existence, and the like. Perhaps we may assert as a general statement, (that is to say, in a great number or majority of cases,) these objects cannot be presented to the mind, and the mind be unmoved by it; it contemplates them, and it necessarily has a feeling of delight of a greater or less degree of strength, which authorizes us in characterizing them as beautiful.
In asserting, that this is correct as a general statement, it is implied, that some objects do not originally cause these emotions. And hence we are led to enter into more particular inquiries, having reference to this difference in what may be called, in the phraseology of some recent writers, the ÆSTHETic power of objects. Accordingly our purpose, in the remarks which are to follow, is to point out some of those objects, and forms and qualities of objects, which seem from their very nature, and in distinction from other objects which do not have this power, fitted to create within us the feelings under consideration.
§. 25. Remarks on the beauty of forms.—the circle. In making that selection of those objects and qualities of objects, which we suppose to be fitted, in the original constitution of things, to cause within us pleasing emotions of themselves, independently of any extraneous aid, we cannot proļess to speak with certainty. The appeal is to the general experience of men; and all we can do, is, to give, so far as it seems to have been ascertained, the results of that experience. Beginning, therefore, with material objects, we are justified by general experience in saying, that certain dispositions or forms of matter are beautiful ; for instance, the CIRCLE.
We rarely look upon a winding or serpentine forın, without experiencing a feeling of pleasure ; and on seeing a circle, this pleasure is heightened. Hence Hogarth, who, both by his turn of mind, and by his habits of life, has claims to be regarded as a judge, expressly lays it down in his Analysis of Beauty, that those lines, which have most variety in themselves, contribute most towards the production of beauty; and that the most beautiful line, by which a surface can be bounded, is the waving or serpentine, or that which constantly, but imperceptibly, deviates from the straight line.
This, which we frequently find in shells, flowers, and other pleasing natural productions, he calls the line of beauty.
Without entering into the question, whether the circular form has absolutely, all other things being equal, more beauty than any other form, it can certainly be said without hesitation, that it possesses the power of exciting this emotion, at least, in a considerable degree. We might safely refer it to almost any man's experience, whatever his mental character or situation in life, and let him say, when he contemplates the waving features of numberless flowers, when he gathers on the seashore wreathed and variegated shells, or beholds through distant meadows the winding stream, or pauses in the pathless wood to gaze on the constantly changing position of its branches, whether he does not at once feel within him a spontaneous movement of delight. Is not the object, which is directly before him, in itself a source of this feeling? Although he may have a superadded pleasure from some other source, as we shall have occasion to see; still, considering the subject particularly in reference to the object before him, may not the true philosophy be summed up in the single assertion, that he sees, and he feels; he beholds, and he admires; the intellect through the instrumentality of the eye has a knowledge of the object, and the awakened heart expands with the homage of its voluntary joy.
§. 26. Original or intrinsic beauty.—the circle. It is necessary in examining the subject of beauty to look at it in two points of view, viz, as Intrinsic and as Associated. In the remarks, which we may have occasion to make in this chapter, we have reference exclusively to what may be denominated Original or Intrinsic beauty ; by which we mean that, which is founded in the nature of the object, independently of accidental or merely accessory circumstances.Accordingly, in view of the remark at the close of the last section, it seems to result from the common experience of mankind, that objects, which are circular or approach that form, exhibiting a constantly varying outline, have in them. selves, and on account of this configuration, a degree, and not unfrequently a high degree, of beauty. The bending stem of the tulip, the curve of the weeping willow, the wind