Obrazy na stronie

and no one who retained the possession of draw upon when occasion may require, or his reason would be excited to laughter by a as a secret lamp from which he may somethunder storm, or to awe and reverence by times borrow light to rekindle his imaginathe tricks of a merry-andrew. But there are tion, launches forth into the world of thought, medium cases of a minor and more dubious and extracts from all existing or imaginable nature, in which the poet's discriminating things that ethereal essense, which beautieye can oest distinguish what is exalted or fies the aspect of nature, elevates the soul of refined, puerile or base; and consequently man, and gives even to his every day exiswhat is most worthy of his genius. Nor let tence such intensity of enjoyment, as those him who has openly committed himself in who look at facts only as they are recorded, verse, believe that such distinction entitles and study matter merely as it is, can never him to make laws for his own accommoda- know. tion, and observe or transgress the establish- General associations must therefore occued rules of taste just as his own fancy may py an important place in the consideration dictate. The same celestial fire which of all who would study the poetry of life; prompts his lay is warming humbler blos- nor will such deem their time misspent in soms unmarked amongst the crowd; and following up a close examination of some mingled with the dense multitude which he particular subjects with reference to this esdisdains are countless poets uncommitted, sential point. who constitute a tribunal from which there Let us first consider that well known and is no appeal; who must eventually sit in familiar object, the human face, of which judgment upon his works, give the tone to even single and distinct features have frepublic opinion, and pronouncing his irrevo- quently been thought sufficiently important cable doom, consign him to oblivion or to to inspire the poet's lay. From the earliest fame.

times, the forehead has been dignified with Those who have taken little pains to in- a kind of personality, and regarded as an qure into the nature and origin of their index to the character of man, whether bold mental sensations, often express instantane- or bland, threatening or benign, disturbed or ously a correct judgment of works of art, serene: nor is it in language peculiar to the from what they would be very likely to call poets only, that we speak of a man confronta kind of instinct or intuitive perception of ing his enemies with undaunted brow-or what is right or wrong; but which might that he receives his sentence of punishment more philosophically be referred to combi- with a forehead undisturbed—that we are nations of ideas derived from certain impres- encouraged to hope for mercy by the bland sions associated, compared, and established or benign forehead of the judge—or bear by a process of the mind which they took no adversity with a brow serene. Physiognonote of at the time, and with which they have mists profess to read the natural character of never made themselves acquainted. Of such man chiefly from the form of his forehead; is a great proportion of the multitude com- but whether studied scientifically or not, posed; and it is this fact which gives to pub- we all know in an instant what is indicated lic opinion that overpowering weight against by the simultaneous contraction and lowerwhich no single critic, or even select body of ing of the brow; we know also, without critics, can prevail.

much assistance from study of any kind, The poet who is not a blind enthusiast, when the nature of the forehead is noble or will learn by experience, if he know not with mean, harsh or mild; we naturally look to out, that the public taste must be consulted the upper part of the face, in order to form in order to recommend himself to public ap- those instantaneous opinions of our fellowprobation. He therefore gives himself up to creatures at first sight, which are not unfrethe study of what is universally regarded as quently a near approach to truth; and we most ennobling, touching, or sublime. He may, with some degree of certainty, read in endeavors to forget himself, and setting the forehead, when at rest, what are the aside the pains and pleasures of his own principal elements of character in those limited experience as a little private store to with whom we associate. But scarcely can


a feeung be excited, or a passion stirred, than there the confirmation of her strange tones the muscles of the forehead are agitated by of anger or reproof, and if there is no cona corresponding movement. How suddenly demnation in that oracle of truth, he feels and strongly is the forehead affected by as- that her words are but empty threats, retonishment! and even in listening attentive- turns to his gambols, and laughs again. ly to a common story, the eyebrows are occa- The lover knows that his earnest suit is resionally elevated, and thus aford a sure jected if the eye of his mistress has no reindication that the hearer is interested, and lenting in its glance; and the criminal who that the narrator may proceed. How strik- pleads for some mitigation of his sentence, ing is the contraction of the forehead in deep looks for mercy in the eye of the judge. and earnest thought! How unspeakably It would be a fruitless expenditure of mournful under the gloom of sorrow! How words to set about establishing the fact, frightfully distorted by the violence of rage! that the eye is poetical. Every poet capaHow solemn and yet how lovely in its char- ble of stringing a rhyme has proved it to acter of intellectual beauty! It is difficult the world ; every heart capable of feeling to connect one idea of a gross or corporeal has acknowledged it to be true. nature with the forehead; all its indications But while thousands and tens of thousands are those of mind, and most of them of a are poetizing about the eye, no one dares powerful, refined, or elevated character; venture upon the nose; a fact which can from the Madonna, whom no painter has only be accounted for by our having no thought worthy of a high degree of intellec- intellectual associations with this member, tual grace, yet whose forehead invariably and being accustomed to regard it merely indicates a character mild, delicate, and pure, for its sense of smell or as an essential orto the dying gladiator, whose expiring an- nament to the face. The nose is incapable guish is less of the body than of the mind. of expressing any emotion of mind, except

The forehead, therefore, is a subject well those which are vulgar or grotesque-such fitted for the poet's pen, and he may sing of as laughter or gross impertinence. It is its various qualifications without fear of true, the nostrils are distended by any effort transgressing the rules of good taste. of daring, but it is rather with animal than

The eye is poetical in a still higher de- moral courage, such as might animate a gree, because it possesses a greater facility barbarian or a horse. It is indeed a curious, in adapting itself to present circumstances, but incontrovertible fact, that while the enand reveals in greater minuteness and va- raptured slave of beauty is at liberty to riety the passions and affections of the mind. expend bis poetic fire in composing sonnets Indeed, so perfect is the eye as an organ of to his lady's eye, no sooner does he descend intelligence, that it is more frequently spoken to the adjoining feature, than the poetry of of in its figurative sense than in any other; his lay is converted into burlesque, and he and there is scarcely a writer, however is himself dismissed as a profaner of love grave, whose pages are not embellished by and the muses. frequent poetical expressions in which the The mouth, though frequently spoken of eye is the principal agent; such as,-the in a figurative sense, is less poetical than language of the eye—the eye of the mind- the eye, most probably because of its immethe eye of omnipotence and a countless diate connexion with the functions of the multitude of figures, without which we body. In the language of poetry, the lips should find it difficult to express our ideas, and the tongue are generally substituted and which sufficiently prove how intimate for the mouth; the one being associated and familiar is our acquaintance with the with the more refined idea of a smile, and eye as a medium of intelligence, no less the other with the organs of speech. than as an organ of sense. With the universally intelligible expression of the eye, the chin is not a subject for poetry; for are associated our first ideas of pain or though its peculiar formation may be strongpleasure, fear or confidence: the infant nat-ly indicative of boldness or timidity, as well urally looks up into its mother's eye to read as some meaner traits of character, it is so

i- Every one sees at the first glance, that

incapable of changing with the changing beast, they lost sight of the characteristics of emotions of the mind, that the chin must the man. The Egyptians appear to have imremain to be considered merely as a feature bodied in their sculpture the first, or rather the of the face, and nothing more.

embryo idea of the sublime ; and their huge, These notions, derived from the study of massive, and unmeaning heads, scarcely the human countenance, may appear to give chisselled into form, are as far removed in to the subject a greater degree of import their expression from what is gross, as what ance than it really deserves; for there are is human. The Grecians knew better what many individuals not aware that they have was requisite to the gratification of a refined ever bestowed more physiognomical study and intellectual taste. They knew, that in upon the face of man, than upon the plate order to ennoble their representations of the from which they dine. But let one of these countenance of man, it must not only be direlate his favourite story to a stranger, who vested of all resemblance to the brute, but neither raises his eyes nor his eyebrows that, to rouse the human bosom to sensawhile he is speaking, whose mouth never tions of admiration and delight, it must be for one moment relaxes into a smile, and enlivened with the expression of human inwho gives no sign that he is interested by telligence. Had they proceeded but one any other motion of the head or face; the step farther in their imitation of nature as it teller of the story how little soever he may is—had they consulted the sympathies and think he has studied the subject, will per- | affections of humanity, they might have imceive that he has wasted his words upon mortalized the genius of the times by proone who could not, or would not appreciate ductions equally sublime, but infinitely more their value. This fact he knows with cer- touching and beautiful. tainty, and without being told; because As the Grecians reasoned and acted in from childhood he has always been accus- the early stage of civilization, so we, in formtomed to see earnest attention accompanied ing our earliest notions of the abstract naby certain movements, or positions of the ture of beauty, reason, perhaps unconface; and has observed, that the same face sciously, to ourselves. We see that a low would be very differently affected by weari- and rapidly retreating forehead, sunken ness or absence of mind. Thus, we gather eyes, short nose, distended and elevated at knowledge from experience every day with the tip, wide mouth, and scarcely perceptiout being aware of it, and are satisfied with ble chin, are common to animals of the most the possession of our gain without inquiring repulsive character; and we loathe the from whence it was obtained.

image of a human animal in any way reThe sentiments upon which mankind are sembling these. With that propensity ingenerally agreed respecting the beauty or herent in our nature to rush towards the opdeformity of the human countenance, origi- posite of every thing which excites dislike or nate more frequently in association, than, pain, we create a false taste, and affect to without examination of the subject, we admire what is not to be found in real life. should be disposed to allow. How often are And as most living faces have some faint we struck with a similarity between certain touch of resemblance to the animal creation, faces and certain animals of the brute crea- we are more enraptured than the rules of tion; and just in proportion as the resem- physiognomy would warrant, with the cold blance is gross and brutal, we regard it with sublime of Grecian statuary. Nor is this disgust and horror. The ancients estab- taste likely to be corrected, because we lished for themselves a standard of beauty, study these marble beauties as statues only, as far removed from such resemblance as and consequently find in them all that is rethe form of the human countenance would quired for loveliness in repose; but could a allow; and sometimes, in their contempt for Grecian divinity step down from her pedesthe rude expression of animal life, they tal, and come to visit our couch in sorrow, rushed into the opposite extreme, and ex- bend over us in sickness, or meet us at the tinguished all apparent capability of living door of our home after long absence and -in their anxiety to avoid the mark of the weary travel; we should then perceive the


harsh coldness of what are called celestial spirit, while the “tablet of unutterable brows, but which were certainly never in- thoughts is traced” upon it; we immetended to relax into the expression of affa- diately begin to ponder upon what may be bility, kindness, or sympathy.

the secret springs from whence flow the The faces which are universally consi- thoughts, feelings, and affections of such a dered most interesting, are those which vary character. We bestow upon it much of with every emotion of the soul; which sel- what is closely interwoven with our own. dom fail to please in general society, by We invest it with imaginary powers, and keeping up a sort of corresponding indica- believe it to be possessed of resources from tion with the feelings excited by different which the mind may draw as from unfailing subjects under discussion. Yet these varia- wells, until at last we seem to have estations must not be too rapid, they must not blished an ideal intercourse with the myscorrespond with every trifling change, or the terious unknown, and to have made a friend expression will become puerile; because we by no other agency than the sympathy of are sure that so many different emotions felt the soul. in quick succession must neutralize each What is most generally esteemed in sociother, and we consequently doubt whether ety, might be easily discovered by what the any feeling in connexion with such a coun- greatest number of individuals are disposed tenance can be deep or lasting.

to affect. Thus, while the affectation of atThere is, however, beyond this charm of tention is often substituted for attention itself, the human face, another of a more abstruse while dull faces are compelled to brighten and intellectual character, one which more into smiles without the animation of joy, properly entitles it to be called poetical; and while brows are stretched into a mockery of here it may not be improper to remark, that good humour when good humour is wanta certain degree of mystery enhances the ing; there are deeper practitioners playing value most all our mental enjoyments. off the art of being mysterious, dealing in

The suman mind is so constituted, that it half-revealed secrets, concealing their own feels peculiar gratification in being occasion- names, looking abstracted by design, and ally thrown upon its own resources. In- forming plans for their own dignity, mimickstead of being constantly supplied with food ing the Corsair, and fancying they resemble selected and prepared for its use, it delights Lord Byron; with a hundred absurdities in being sometimes permitted to issue forth besides, too gross or to contemptible to enuon an excursion of discovery, and is satisfied merate, yet all tending to prove that there is on such occasions with very uncertain ali- a disposition prevailing amongst mankind, ment. Mystery offers to the mind this kind to admire and delight in what is mysterious. of liberty. We dwell the longest upon that If we are generally agreed in our notions face which reveals a great deal, but not all of the beauty or deformity of the human of what the thoughts are engaged with; we face, we are still more unanimous in our esrecur with redoubled interest to those sub- timate of that of animal form in general. jects which we do not, on first examination, Some, it is true, may prefer a tall or a broad fully understand.

figure, and others may choose exactly the But to return to the human countenance. opposite, but we are all of one opinion on the We meet with many faces animated, lively, subject of symmetry and proportion; beand quickly affected by the topics or events cause our associations are the same, and we of the moment. We remark of such, that bestow the highest degree of admiration on they are pleasing, and our admiration ends the bodies, both of men and animals, when here. But if, amongst the crowd, we dis- they posssss the combined qualities of firmtinguish one possessed of this capability in ness, flexibility, and adaptation. the extreme, not always using it, however, All who have bestowed any attention upon but sometimes looking grave and abstracted, the horse, must regard this noble animal retiriny, as it were, from the confusion or with feelings of admiration and delight. It the folly of the passing scene, to listen for needs not the aid of scientific study to perawhile to the inner voice—the voice of the ceive in what perfection he possesses the combined qualities of strength and swiftness, come, without fear that the fountains should endurance and facility of motion. Had one be sealed, or the waters should become less of these qualities been wanting--had he pure. been feeble or inactive, had his power or his patierce been soon expended, had he moved with awkwardness or difficulty, our admiration would have been considerably less, and we should probably now look with as little

THE POETRY OF FLOWERS. pleasure on the horse as on the rhinoceros. Again, every one thinks the stag a beautiful

THERE are few natural objects more poetanimal, perhaps the most beautiful in nature; ical in their general associations than flowers; but the stag wants the majestic power of the nor has there ever been a poet, simple or horse to give him an aspect of nobility, and, sublime, who has not adorned his verse with therefore, our admiration of him is of a qual these specimens of nature's cunning workified and secondary nature. In the same manship. From the majestic sunflower, manner, it would not be difficult to trace the towering above her sisters of the garden, correspondence of our ideas through the and faithfully turning to welcome the god whole extent of animal creation, except only of day, to the little humble and well-known where the chain of association is broken by weed that is said to close its crimson eye beaccidental or local circumstances; and hap- fore impending showers, there is scarcely py is it for the human race, that they are so one flower which may not from its loveliness, constituted as to be disposed unanimously to its perfume, its natural situation, or its classavoid what is repulsive, and are able to par- ical association, be considered highly poetitake, in social concord, of the exquisite en-cal. joyment of admiring what is beautiful. As the welcome messenger of spring, the

Had the mind of man been composed of snowdrop claims our first regard; and countheterogeneous or discordant elements, he less are the lays in which the praises of this must have wanted the grand principle of little modest flower are sung. The contrast happiness-sympathy with his fellow-crea- it presents of green and white, (ever the tures. He might unquestionably have pos- most pleasing of contrasts to the human eye,) sessed his own enjoyments, but he must may be one reason why mankind agree in have been a selfish and isolated being. His their admiration of its simple beauties; but intellectual powers might possibly have been a far more powerful reason is the delightful cultivated, but without the stimulus of social association by which it is connected with the affection, their growth must have been with idea of returning spring; the conviction that out grace, and their fruit without value. To the vegetable world through the tedious wincompute the distance of the planets, to mea- ter months has not been dead, but sleeping; sure the surface of the earth, and penetrate and that long nights, fearful storms, and into its secret mines, are occupations which chilling blasts, have a limitation and a bound might be carried on by man in his solitary assigned them, and must in their appointed and unconnected character; but in order time give place to the fructifying and genial that he might enjoy the benefit of a high influence of spring. Perhaps we have murtone of moral feeling, and thus be fitted for mured (for what is there in the ordinations a state of existence where knowledge is only of Providence at which man will not dare to less supreme than love, it was necessary murmur?) at the dreariness of winter. Perthat the general current of his feelings haps we have felt the rough blast too piershould be softened and refined, by innumer- cing to accord with our artificial habits. able springs of tenderness and affection, Perhaps we have thought long of the meltflowing through the finer sensibilities of his ing of the snow that impeded our noon-day nature, and filling that ocean of enjoyment, walk. But it vanishes at last; and there, of which the human family have drank to- beneath its white coverlet, lies the delicate gether in unity since the world began, and snowdrop, so pure and pale, so true an emmay continue to drink for generations yet to blem of hope, and trust, and confidence, that


« PoprzedniaDalej »