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Now let us see how this epithet of thirsty got into the mind of Mr. Gray. Perhaps he stole it (I believe he did); but if he did, we have only to reflect how it got into the mind of the person whose original property it
But let us suppose it to have been Mr. Gray's own. By what process did he acquire it? He began thinking about lances, and all the common notions attached to that of a lance rushed into his mind, bloody, fierce, cruel, thick, thin, murderous, rapid, brazen, iron, &c. &c. At last came, all of a sudden, the epithet of thirsty; and the poet, perceiving its relation to his original substantive, and its aptitude to excite poetical feelings in the mind, immediately made it a part of his poem. If we follow out any long and complicated description in a poem, the same process will be found constantly to have taken place. Now is there anything very different from this which takes place with respect to mechanical invention? You want to work the rod of a pump by means of a horizontal axis which revolves above it. In considering how it is to be effected, innumerable ideas connected with machinery crowd into the mind. A thousand projects are proposed, examined, and rejected, till at last the idea of a crank is hit upon. Its relation to the other parts is immediately perceived, and it becomes a part of the machine. Now in these two processes of mind, which have received such different names, I am not able to discover any difference; -association brings together in each, a great number of connected ideas, and judgment discovers some relation between them which was not at first obvious: the only difference is in the ultimate objects which they have in view. The imagination of a poet proposes to itself to give pleasure by the sublime and beautiful; that of a mechanical inventor has in view to promote some purpose of utility. It is precisely the same with every sort of invention. Pythagoras, in inventing his media of
proof for the forty-seventh proposition, went to work very much as a poet goes to work, — first raising a multitude of images by dint of association, and then selecting and applying them from the perception of their relations. In the same manner with wit: the object differs, and the rapidity differs; but the process of the understanding is the same as that we designate by the word imagination, ideas are gathered together, connected by the lighter sort of association, and then that particular relation which constitutes wit is discovered. Indeed all the processes I have specified have received the common name of invention, though they have not been called by that of imagination: we speak of poetical, mechanical, geometrical invention, and of the invention of wit ; though we use the word imagination in a much more restricted sense.
Imagination of all sorts, though originally dealt out with very different degrees of profusion to different men, is capable of great improvement from habit. As great part of imagination depends upon association, and the power of association always increases with practice, men acquire extraordinary command over particular classes of ideas, and are supplied with copiousness of materials for their collection, to which inexperienced and unpractised minds can never attain. What a prodigious cominand, for instance, over all those associations which are productive of wit, must the head wit of such a city as this or Paris have acquired in twenty years of facetiousness, — having been accustomed, for that space of time, to view all the characters and events which have fallen under his notice with a reference to these relations! What an enormous power of versification must Pope have gained, after his translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey! so that no combination of words or inflection of sounds, could possibly have been new to him ; and he must have almost meditated in hexameters, and
conversed in rhyme. What a powerful human being must that man become who, beginning with original talents, has been accustomed, for half his life, to the eloquence of the bar or the senate! No combination of circumstances can come before him for which he is unprepared; he is always ready for every purpose of defence and attack; and trusts, with the most implicit confidence, to that host of words and images which he knows from long experience will rise up at any moment of exigence for his ornament and support.
Imagination is improved by imitation; as in living with men who are eminent for that faculty, or by reading those works in which its greatest efforts are to be found. It was the practice of some notorious man (I believe Bossuet) to read a hundred lines of Homer before he sat down to compose; and I have no doubt but that he might have derived from such a practice unusual energy and elevation, – that it must have filled his mind full of great images, and diffused heat and light over all that he thought and wrote.
The imagination (which delights to be fed by the eye) is cherished and inflamed by great sights. Nothing can be more striking and solemn than the first sight of a mountainous country to a person who has been only accustomed to the sleepy flatness of an alluvial district. The abruptness and audacity of the scene, the swelling and magnitude of nature, the universal appearances of convulsion, the magnificent disorder and ruin, astonish a feeling mind, and not only fill it with grand images at present, but awaken its dormant life, rouse slumbering irritability, and tell those whom nature has made orators and poets that it is time to fulfil the noble purposes for which they were born.
Mere magnitude — anything vast -- affects the imagination and sets it to work. A first-rate ship of war, or a Gothic cathedral, the waters of an immense river dis
charging itself into the sea, the boundless prospect of the earth below, that we gain from the top of a high mountain, an expanse of stormy sea, the concave of heaven in a serene night, — all these examples of iminensity are ever found to have a powerful effect upon this faculty of imagination. The imagination is stimulated by novelty; and so much so, that whatever other cause affects it, it must be joined
FRAGMENT OF LECTURE VIII.
ON REASON AND JUDGMENT.
we connect together two ideas in early life which we find it absolutely impossible to separate in advanced age; — we reason from them as from intuitive truths, and upon such topics are utterly impregnable to every attempt at conviction. These are the principal obstacles to the progress of the reasoning faculty; and they are disorders of the mind so common, and so detrimental, that I shall speak of them more at large in my next and concluding lecture. When they happen not to exist, or when they have been guarded against by a good understanding or a superior education, the conclusions we draw upon most subjects are sound and just: for if a question be discussed coolly, if the parties have no other interest in its termination but that of truth, if they thoroughly understand the terms they employ, if they are well informed upon the related facts, and if they are both, in the habit of guarding against accidental associations, the conclusions in which they terminate will probably be the same: there is hardly any difference of opinion not resolvable into one or the other of these causes. Here, then, we have an outline of that manly and high-prized reason, which, under the blessing and direction of God, arranges the affairs of this world; which cools passion, unravels sophism, enlightens igno