Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

mind of every individual, that it is impossible for any person to say how much of the complicated delight is to be ascribed to each of the two ingredients; and, therefore, the pleasing conception which is linked with the appearance of the object, no less than the appearance itself, may be justly regarded as a constituent of its Beauty:—it is unquestionably the union of both which has secured to the Rose her undisputed title as Queen of Flowers. The principle of Association is not, in this instance, employed to account for the pleasing effect which the smell of the rose produces on its appropriate sense; but to explain in what manner the recollection of this agreeable sensation may enter, as an element, into the composition of an order of pleasures distinguished by a different name, and classed with the pleasures of a different organ. In so far, therefore, as the sensations of Smelling minister to the Beauty of nature, it may, with great correctness, be said, that they do so only through the medium of that principle, which combines the conception of them in the mind of the spectator with the perception of the colours and the forms exhibited to his eye. What has now been remarked with respect to smell, is applicable to every other pleasing impression or emotion which Association can attach to a visible object. In consequence of the close relation which subsists between the senses of Seeing and of Touch, it applies with peculiar force to those things about which the latter sense is likely to be employed; and hence, in many instances, the influence (formerly explaimed) of ideas connected with the

perceptions of the hand, in modifying the judgments

concerning Beauty, which the eye pronounces. * It is, however, chiefly by Intellectual and Moral Associations that our notions of Beauty are influenced. How powerful the charm is which may be thus communicated to things of little intrinsic interest, may be judged of from the fond partiality with which we continue, through the whole of life, to contrast the banks and streams of our infancy and youth, with “other banks and other streams.” t In this manner, by means of Association, any one pleasing circumstance or occurrence in nature, how remote soever in itself from the idea of the Beautiful, may be yet so combined in our imagination with the Beautiful properly so called, that no philosophical analysis can separate them in their effect. On such occasions, the task of the philosopher is limited to the gratification of a speculative curiosity in collect

[ocr errors]

“Chaque sens, par un heureux concours,
“Prete aux sens alliés un mutuel secours;
“Lefrais gazon des eaux m'embellit leur murmure,
“Leur murmure, a son tour, m'embellit la verdure.
“L'odorat sert le gout, et l'oeil sert l'odorat;
“L’haleine de la rose ajoute a son eclat;
“Et d'un ambre flatteur la péche parfumée,
“Parait plus savoureuse à la bouche embaumée;
“Voyez l'amour heureux par un double larcin'
“La main invite l'oeil, l'oeil appelle la main,
“Et d'une bouche fraiche ou le baiser repose
“Le parfum est plus doux sur des levres de rose.
“Ainsi tout se repond, et doublant leurs plaisirs,
“Tous les sens l'un de l'autre eveillent les desirs.”

De Lille, L'Imagination, Chant I. f Shenstone. Ode to Memory.

ing new illustrations of his theories; or (where he experiences the inconveniencies of his own early prepossessions) to a more judicious regulation of the habits of others, whose associations are yet to be formed. But on this view of the subject, although I consider it as by far the most curious and important of any, I do not mean to enlarge. The strong and happy lights which have been thrown upon it by Mr Alison render any farther illustration of it superfluous; and leave me nothing to add, in this part of my argument, but a few slight hints, tending to connect some of his conclusions with that peculiar idea of Beauty which I have been attempting to develope. It is scarcely necessary for me to observe, that, in those instances where Association operates in heightening the pleasures we receive from sight, the pleasing emotion continues still to appear, to our consciousness, simple and uncompounded. How little soever the qualities that are visible may in themselves contribute to the joint result, it is these qualities which solely, or at least chiefly, occupy our attention. The object itself seems invested with the charms which we have lent to it; and so completely are these charms united, in our apprehensions, with those attached to the organic impression, that we never think of referring them to different causes; but conceive that the Beauty of the object increases in proportion to the rapture with which we gaze on it. Hence the surprise and disappointment we are apt to feel, when we strive in vain, by an exhibition of the supposed cause of our delight, to impart to a stranger an enthusiasm similar to our own: And hence, upon all questions in which the affections are concerned, a diversity in the tastes and predilections of individuals, which is not to be reconciled by any general principles drawn from the Philosophy of the Human Mind.

Nor is there anything in this process different from what the analogy of our other perceptions would lead us to expect. If the constant co-existtence of two such heterogeneous qualities as colour and eartension in the objects of sight, renders them completely inseparable in our thoughts, why should we wonder, that the intellectual and more fugitive elements of Beauty, should be insensibly identified with whatever forms and colours may chance to embody them to the eye or to the fancy 2

The most striking illustration of this that can be produced is the complicated assemblage of charms, physical and moral, which enter into the composition of Female Beauty. What philosopher can presume to analyze the different ingredients; or to assign to matter and to mind their respective shares in exciting the emotion which he feels 2 I believe, for my own part, that the effect depends chiefly on the Mind; and that the loveliest features, if divested of their expression, would be beheld with indifference. But no person thus philosophizes when the object is before him, or dreams of any source of his pleasure, but that Beauty which fixes his gaze.

With what admirable precision and delicacy are its undefinable elements touched on in the following verses! . 7

“Rien ne manque à Venus, niles lys, miles roses,
“Ni le melange erquis des plus aimables choses,
“Ni ce charme secret dont l'oeil est enchanté,
“Ni la grace plus belle encore quila beauté.” "

In Homer's description of Juno, when attiring herself to deceive Jupiter, by trying “the old, yet still successful cheat of love ;” it is remarkable that the poet leaves to her own fancy the whole task of adorming and heightening her personal attractions; but when she requests Venus to grant her

“Those conqu'ring charms,
“That power which mortals and immortals warms,"—

The gifts which she receives are, all of them, significant of mental qualities alone :

“The gentle vow, the gay desire,
“The kind deceit, the still reviving fire,
“Persuasive speech, and more persuasive sighs,
“Silence that spoke, and eloquence of eyes."

The exquisite allegory of the Cestus expresses, in one single word, how innumerable and ineffable were the enchantments, visible and invisible, which the Goddess of Love mingled together, in binding her omnipotent spell. t

* La Fontaine. Adonis.

t I have adopted, in the text, Pope's version (though somewhat paraphrastical), in preference to the original; as it combines at once the authority of ancient and of modern taste, in confirmation of the point which it is brought to illustrate. The words of Homer are at least equally apposite to my purpose with those of his translator:

“Evo in usy pixorno, so 6 pasgo;, so 0 ozgisvo,
“TIagozac, or sz?.svg voãw ruxo Greg pgorioslaw.”

« AnteriorContinuar »