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Perhaps it may appear to some, that the general analogy of these transitions is sufficient, of itself, independently of all other considerations, to account for the application of the word Beauty to objects of hearing. But although this analogy certainly goes a considerable way towards a solution of the problem, it by no means removes the difficulty completely; inasmuch as it suggests no reason why the epithet Beautiful should be applied to agreeable sounds, rather than to agreeable tastes, or to agreeable odours. On a little farther examination, however, we shall find various other circumstances which render the transition much more natural and much more philosophical in the case before us, than it would be in any other class of our perceptions.
(1.) The picturesque effect (if I may use the expression) which custom, in many instances, gives to sounds. Thus, the clack of a mill, heard at a distance, conjures up at once to the mind's eye the simple and cheerful scene which it announces; and thus, though in an incomparably greater degree, the songs which delighted our childhood, transport us into the well-remembered haunts where we were accustomed to hear them. Is it surprising, that, on such occasions, the same language should be sometimes transferred from the things imagined, to those perceptions by which the imagination was awakened?
(2.) The expressive power of sounds naturally pathetic. It is thus that the word Beauty, which is at first transferred from the face to the mind, comes to be re-transferred from the mind to the voice; more especially, when its tones express such passions as we have been led, in the manner already explained, to consider as beautiful. Such a transference, which is at all times easy and obvious, seems to be quite unavoidable, when both face and voice, at the same moment, conspire in expressing the same af. fection or emotion. When the soft tones of female gentleness, and the benignity of an angel-smile, reach the heart at one and the same instant, the emotion which is felt, and the object by which it is excited, engage the whole of our attention; the diversity of organs by which the effect is conveyed disappears altogether; and language spontaneously combines, under one common term, those mixed. attractions which are already blended and united in the fancy. The Beauty of a musical voice, and the Harmony of beautiful features, are accordingly expressions so congenial to our habits of thinking and of feeling, that we are unconscious, when we use them, of departing from their literal or primitive import. Nor is the case essentially different with some other sounds which, in consequence of early habit, have been very intimately associated with the pleasures of vision. While we are enjoying, in some favourite scene, the beauties of nature, how powerfully do the murmur of fountains, the lowing of cattle, and the melody of birds, enhance the delight ! and how irresistibly are we led, by this joint influence of “ rural sights and rural sounds,” to confound, in our conceptions and in our speech, these two distinct sources of our pleasure . If, on such occasions, the impressions produced by objects of Sight predominate so far, as to render Beauty and not Harmony or Melody the generic word; this is no more than might be expected, from the principles formerly stated with respect to the peculiar connection between the Eye and the power of Imagination. so The transference being once made in a few instances, the subsequent extension of the term Beauty to musical composition, and to all other cases, in which the ear is concerned, will not appear wonderful to those who have been accustomed to study the natural proceedings of the Mind, as exhibited in the diversified applications of Language. (8.) The significant power of sounds, in consequence of conventional speech. In this way, they every moment present pictures to the imagination; and we apply to the description, as to the thing described (with hardly any consciousness of speaking figuratively), such words as lively, glowing, luminous, splendid, picturesque. Hence an obvious account (as will be afterwards stated more fully) of the application of the epithet Beautiful to Poetry; and hence also (if the circumstances already suggested should not be thought sufficient for the purpose) an additional reason for its application to Music; the natural expression of which is so often united with the conventional expression of her sister art. . These different circumstances, when combined with the general causes, which, in other instances, produce transitive uses of words, account sufficiently, in my opinion, for the exclusive restriction (among our different external senses) of the term Beauty te
the objects of Sight and of Hearing. To the foregoing considerations, however, I must not omit to add, as a cause conspiring very powerfully to the same end, the intimate association, which, in our apprehensions, is formed between the Eye and the Ear, as the great inlets of our acquired knowledge; as the only media by which different Minds can communicate together; and as the organs by which we receive from thematerial world the two classes of pleasures, which, while they surpass all the rest in variety and in duration,-are the most completely removed from the grossness of animal indulgence, and the most nearly allied to the enjoyments of the intellect. The unconsciousness we have, in both these senses, of any local impression on our bodily frame, may, perhaps, help to explain the peculiar facility with which their perceptions blend themselves with other pleasures of a rank still nobler and more refined—It is these two classes, accordingly, of organical pleasures, which fall exclusively under the cognizance of that power of intellectual Taste, which I propose afterwards to examine; and for the analysis of which, this disquisition, concerning some of the most important of its appropriate objects, seemed to me to form a necessary preparation. If the view of the subject now given be just, we are at once relieved from all the mystery into which philosophers have been insensibly led, in their theories of Beauty, by too servile an acquiescence in the exploded conclusions of the ancient schools concerning General Ideas. Instead of searching for the common idea or essence which the word Beauty denotes, when applied to colours, to forms, to sounds, to compositions in verse and prose, to mathematical theorems, and to moral qualities, our attention is directed to the natural history of the Human Mind, and to its natural progress in the employment of speech. The particular exemplifications which I have offered of my general principle, may probably be exceptionable in various instances; but I cannot help flattering myself with the belief, that the principle itself will bear examination.—Some objections to it, which I can easily anticipate, may perhaps be in part obviated by the following remarks. Although I have endeavoured to shew that our first notions of Beauty are derived from colours, it neither follows, that, in those complex ideas of the Beautiful which we are afterwards led to form in the progress of our experience, this quality must necessarily enter as a component part; nor, where it does so enter, that its effect must necessarily predominate over that of all the others. On the contrary, it may be easily conceived in what manner its effect comes to be gradually supplanted by those pleasures of a higher cast, with which it is combined; while, at the same time, we continue to apply to the joint result the language which this now subordinate, and seemingly unessential ingredient, originally suggested. It is by a process somewhat similar, that the mental attractions of a beautiful woman supplant those of her person in the heart of her lover; and that, when the former have the good fortune to survive the latter, they appropriate to themselves, by an imperceptible metaphor, that language, which, in its