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§. 51. Summary of views in regard to the beautiful. As the subject of emotions of beauty is one of no small difficulty, it may be of advantage to give here a brief summary of some of the prominent views in respect to it.
(1) of emotions of beauty it is difficult to give a definition, but we notice in them two marks or characteristics.—They imply, first, a degree of pleasure, and secondly, are always referred by us to external objects as their cause.
(2) Every beautiful object has something in itself, which discriminates it from other objects that are not beautiful. On this ground we may with propriety speak of beauty in the object. At the same time, a superadded lustre is reflected back upon it from the mind; and this too, whether the beauty be original or associated.
(3) The feeling, which we term an emotion of beauty, is not limited to natural scenery, but may be caused also by the works of art, by the creations of the imagination, and by the various forms of intellectual and moral nature, so far as they can be presented to the mind. All these various objects and others may excite within us feelings of pleasure; and the mind, in its turn, may reflect back upon the objects the lustre of its own emotions, and thus increase the degree of their beauty.
(4) There is in the mind an original susceptibility of emotions in general, and of those of beauty in particular ; and not only this, some objects are found, in the constitution of things, to be followed by these feelings of beauty, while others are not; and such objects are spoken of as being originally beautiful. That is, when the object is presented to the mind, it is of itself followed by emotions of beauty, without being aided by the influence of accessory and contingent circumstances.
(5) Without pretending to certainty in fixing upon those objects, to which, what is termed original or intrinsic beauty may be ascribed, there appears to be no small reason, in attributing it to certain forms, to sounds of a particular character, to bright colors, to some varieties of motion, and to intellectual and moral excellence in general, whenever it can be made a distinct object of perception.
(6) Many objects, which cannot be considered beautiful of themselves, become such by being associated with a variety of former pleasing and enlivening recollections; and such, as possess beauty of themselves, may augment the pleasing emotions from the same cause. Also much of the difference of opinion, which exists as to what objects are beautiful, and what are not, is to be ascribed to differences of association.
- These are some of the prominent views resulting from inquiries into this subject.
S. 52. Of picturesqne beauty. We apply the term PICTURESQUE to whatever objects cause in us emotions of beauty, in which the beauty does not consist in a single circumstance by itself, but in a considerable number, in a happy state of combination. The meaning of the term is analogous to the signification of some others of a like termination, which are derived to us from the Italian through the medium of the French. Mr. Stewart remarks of the word, arabesque, that it expresses something in the style of the Arabians ; moresque, something in the style of the Moors; and grotesque, something, which bears a resemblance to certain whimsical delineations in a grotto or subterranean apartment at Rome. In like manner, picturesque, originally implies what is done in the style and spirit of a painter, who ordinarily places before us an object made up of a number of circumstances, in such a state of combination as to give pleasure.
The epithet may be applied to natural scenery, and also to paintings, and to poetical descriptions. The following description from Thomson, which assembles together some of the circumstances, attending the cold, frosty nights of winter, is highly picturesque.
“Loud rings the frozen earth and hard reflects
EMOTIONS OF SUBLIMITY.
§. 53. Connection between beauty and sublimity.
Those emotions, which, by way of distinction, we designate as SUBLIME, are a class of feelings, which have much in common with emotions of beauty ; they do not appear to differ so much in nature or kind, as in degree. When we examine the feelings, which are embraced under these two designations, we readily perceive, that they have a progression ; that there are numerous degrees in point of intensity ; but the emotion, although more vivid in one case than the other, and mingled with some foreign elements, is, for the most part, essentially the same. So that it is, by no means, impossible to trace, in a multitude of cases, a connection even between the fainter feelings of beauty, and the most overwhelming emotions of the sublime.
This progression of our feelings from one, that is gentle and pleasant, to one, that is powerful and even painful, has been illustrated in the case of a person, who is supposed to behold a river at its first rise in the mountains, and to follow it, as it winds and enlarges in the subjacent plains, and to behold it at last losing itself in the expanse of the ocean. For a time the feelings, which are excited within him, as he gazes on the prospect, are what are termed emotions of beauty. As the small stream, which had hitherto played in the uplands and amid foliage, that almost hid it from his view, increases its waters, separates its banks to a great distance from each other, and becomes the majestic river, his feelings are of a more powerful kind. We often, by way of distinction, speak of the feelings existing under such circumstances, as emotions of grandeur. At last it expands and disappears in the immensity of the ocean : the vast illimitable world of billows flashes in his sight. Then the emotion, widening and strengthening with the magnitude and energy of the objects, which accompany it, becomes sublime. Emotions of sublimity, therefore, chiefly differ, at least in most instances, from those of beauty in being more vivid.
§. 54. The occasions of the emotions of sublimity various. As the emotions of sublimity are simple, they are consequently undefinable. Nevertheless, as they are the direct subjects of our consciousness, we cannot be supposed to be ignorant of their nature. It may aid, however, in rendering our comprehension of them more distinct and clear in some respects, if we mention some of the occasions on which they arise.—But before proceeding to do this, it is proper to recur a moment to a subject more fully insisted on in the chapter on Beauty : but which also properly has a place here. We have reference to the unquestionable fact, that the occasions of sublime emotions, are not exclusively one ;. in other words, are not found in a single element merely, as some persons may be likely to suppose ; but, like those of beauty, are multiplied and various. The measure of the sublimity of the object is the character of the emotion, which it excites ; and if the sublime emotion exists, as unquestionably it does, on various occasions, this of itself is decisive as to the remark, which has been made. Accordingly the proper object before us, in the first instance, seems to be to indicate some of these occasions.
$. 55. Great extent or expansion an occasion of sublimity. In endeavoring to point out some of the sources of sublimity, our first remark is, that the emotion of the sublime may arise in view of an object which is characterized by vast extent or expansion ; in other words, by the attribute of mere horizontal amplitude. Accordingly it is with entire propriety, that Mr. Stewart makes a remark to this effect, that a Scotchman, who had never witnessed any thing of the kind before, would experience an emotion approaching to sublimity, on beholding for the first time the vast plains of Salisbury and Yorksbire in England. Washington Irving also, in a passage of the Alhambra, has a remark to the same purport. “ There is something, (he observes,) in the sternly simple features of the Spanish landscape, that impresses on the soul a feeling of sublimity. The immense plains of the Castiles and La Mancha, extending as far as the eye can reach, derive an interest from their very nakedness and immensity, and have something of the solemn grandeur of the ocean.” In regard to the ocean, one of the most sublime objects which the human mind can contemplate, it cannot be doubted, that one element of its sublimity is the unlimited expanse which it presents.
§. 56. Great height an element or occasion of sublimity. Mere height, independently of considerations of expansion or extent, appears also to constitute an occasion of the sublime. Every one has experienced this, when standing at the base of a very steep and lofty cliff, bill, or mountain. When, in the silence of night, we stand under the clear open sky, we can hardly fail, as we look upward, to experience a sublime emotion, occasioned partly by the iminensity of the object, but also in part by its vast height. Travellers have often spoken of the sublime emotion, occasioned by viewing the celebrated Natural Bridge in Virginia, from the bottoin of the deep ravine, over which it is thrown. This bridge is a single solid rock, about sixty feet broad, ninety feet long, and forty thick. It is suspended over the head of the spectator, who views it from the bottom of the narrow glen, at the elevation of two hundred and thirty feet ; an immense height for such an object. It is not in human nature to behold without strong feeling such a vast vault of solid lime-stone, springing lightly into the blue upper air, and remaining thus outstretched, as if it were the arm of the Almighty himself, silent, unchangeable, eternal.
§. 57. Of depth in connection with the sublime.
It is a circumstance confirmatory of the view, that it is impossible to resolve the grounds of sublimity into a single occasion or element, that we find the depth as well as the height