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Whom joys with soft varieties invite,
where none the
Where then shall hope and fear their objects find ?
eyes discern afar
For faith, that, panting for a happier seat,
235.-A DEFENCE OF ENTHUSIASM.
H. T. TUCKERMAN. (HENRY THEODORE TUCKERMAN is a living American writer, who, like many others of his literary contemporaries, has passed much time in Europe. He is an agreeable Essayist and a pleasing Poet. tendencies of his mind are strongly opposed to the false and chilling philosophy which sees nothing good but in material things which have a market value.]
Let us recognise the beauty and power of true enthusiasm; and, whatever we may do to enlighten ourselves and others, guard against checking or chilling a single earnest sentiment. For wbat is the human mind, however enriched with acquisitions or strengthened by exercise, unaccompanied by an ardent and sensitive heart? Its light may illumine, but it cannot inspire. It may shed a cold and moonlight radiance upon the path of life, but it warms no flower into bloom; it sets free no ice-bound fountains. Dr. Johnson used to say, that an obstinate rationality prevented him from being a Papist. Does not the same cause prevent many of us from unburdening our hearts and breathing our devotions at the shrines of nature? There are influences which environ humanity too subtle for the dissecting-knife of
In our better moments we are clearly conscious of their presence, and if there is any barrier to their blessed agency it is a formalised intellect. Enthusiasm, too, is the very life of gifted spirits. Ponder the lives of the glorious in art or literature through all ages. What are they but records of toils and sacrifices supported by the earnest hearts of their votaries ? Dante composed his immortal poem amid exile and suffering, prompted by the noble ambition of vindicating himself to posterity; and the sweetest angel of his paradise is the object of his early love. The best countenances the old painters have bequeathed to us are those of cherished objects intimately associated with their fame. The face of Raphael's mother blends with the angelic beauty of all bis Madonnas. Titian's daughter and the wife of Correggio again and again meet in their works. Well does Foscolo call the fine arts the children of love. The deep interest with which the Italians hail gifted men, inspires them to the mightiest efforts. National enthusiasm is the great nursery of genius. When Cellini's statue of Perseus was first exhibited on the Piazza at Florence, it was surrounded for days by an admiring throng, and hundreds of tributary sonnets were placed upon its pedestal. Petrarch was crowned with laurel at Rome for his poetical labours, and crowds of the unlettered may still be seen on the Mole at Naples, listening to a reader of Tasso. Reason is not the only interpre of life. The fountain of action is in the feelings. Religion itself is but a state of the affections. I once met a beautiful peasant woman in the valley of the Arno, and asked the number of her children. I have three here and two in Paradise,” she calmly replied, with a tone and manner of touching and grave simplicity. Her faith was of the heart. Constituted as human nature is, it is in the highest degree natural that rare powers should be excited by voluntary and spontaneous appreciation. Who would not feel urged to high achievement, if he knew that every beauty his canvas displayed, or every perfect note he breathed, or every true inspiration of his lyre, would find an instant response in a thousand breasts? Lord Brougham calls the word "impossible" the mother-tongue of little souls. What, I ask, can counteract self-distrust, and sustain the higher efforts of our nature, but enthusiasm ? More of this element would call forth the genius and gladden the life of New England. While the mere intellectual man speculates, and the mere man of acquisition cites authority, the man of feeling acts, realizes, puts forth his complete energies. His earnest and strong heart will not let his mind rest; he is urged by an inward impulse to embody his thoughts. He must have sympathy; he must have results. And nature yields to the magician, acknowledging him as her child. The noble statue comes forth from the marble, the speaking figure stands out from the canvas, the electric chain is struck
in the bosoms of his fellows. They receive his ideas, respond to his appeal, and reciprocate his love.
Constant supplies of knowledge to the intellect, and the exclusive culture of reason may, indeed, make a pedant and logician; but the probability is, these benefits, if such they are, will be gained at the expense of the soul. Sentiment, in its broadest acceptation, is as essential to the true enjoyment and grace of life as mind. Technical information and that quickness of apprehension which New Eng. landers call smartness are not so valuable to a human being as sensibility to the beautiful, and a spontaneous appreciation of the divine influences which fill the realms of vision of sound, and the world of action and feeling. The tastes, affections, and sentiments are more absolutely the man than his talents or acquirements. And yet it is by and through the latter that we are apt to estimate character, of which they are, at best, but fragmentary evidences. It is remarkable that, in the New Testament, allusions to the intellect are so rare, while the “heart” and the “spirit we are of” are ever appealed to. Sympathy is the “golden key” which unlocks the treasures of wisdom; and this depends upon vividness and warmth of feeling. It is therefore that Tranio advises-"In brief, sir, study what you most affect.” A code of etiquette may refine the manners, but the “heart of courtesy” which, through the world, stamps the natural gentleman, can never be attained but through instinct; and, in the same manner, those enriching and noble sentiments, which are the most beautiful and endearing of human qualities, no process of mental training will create. To what end is society, popular education, churches, and all the machinery of culture, if no living truth is elicited which fertilizes as well as enlightens ? Shakspere undoubtedly owed his marvellous insight into the human soul to his profound sympathy with man. He might have conned whole libraries on the philosophy of the passions; he might have coldly observed facts for years, and never have conceived of jealousy like Othello's, the remorse of Macbeth, or love like that of Juliet. When the native sentiments are once interested, new facts spring to light. It was under the excitement of wonder and love that Byron, tossed on the lake of Geneva, thought that “ Jura answered from her misty shroud,” responsive to the thunder of the Alps. With no eye of mere curiosity did Bryant follow the lonely flight of the water-fowl. Veneration prompted the inquiry,-
“ Whither 'midst falling dew
When glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Sometimes, in musing upon genius in its simpler manifestations, it seems as if the great act of human culture consisted chiefly in preserving the glow and freshness of the heart. It is certain that, in proportion as its merely mental strength and attainment takes the place of natural sentiment, in proportion as we acquire the habit of receiving all impressions through the reason, the teachings of nature grow indistinct and cold, however it may be with those of books. That this is the tendency of the New England philosophy of life and education, I think can scarcely be disputed. I have remarked that some of our most intelligent men speak of mastering a subject, of comprehending a book, of settling a question, as if those processes involved the whole idea of human cultivation. The reverse of all this is chiefly desirable. It is when we are overcome, and the pride of intellect vanquished before the truth of nature, when, instead of coming to a logical decision, we are led to bow in profound reverence before the mysteries of life, when we are led back to childhood, or up to God, by some powerful revelation of the sage or minstrel, it is then our natures grow. To this end is all art. Exquisite vocalism, beautiful statuary and painting, and all true literature, have not for their great object to employ the ingenuity of prying critics, or furnish the world with a set of new ideas, but to move the whole nature by the perfection and truthfulness of their appeal. There is a certain atmosphere exhaled from the inspired page of genius, which gives vitality to the sentiments and through these quickens the mental powers. And this is the chief good of books. Were it otherwise, those of us who have bad memories might despair of advancement. I have heard educated New Englanders boast of the quantity of poetry they have read in a given time, as if rich fancies and elevated thoughts are to be despatched as are beef-steaks on board our steamboats. Newspapers are estimated by their number of square feet, as if this had any thing to do with the quality of their contents. Journeys of pleasure are frequently deemed delightful in proportion to their rapidity, without reference to the new scenery or society they bring into view. Social gatherings are not seldom accounted brilliant in the same degree that they are crowded. Such would not be the case, if