« AnteriorContinuar »
It is scarcely necessary to remark, that it is not by reasoning d priori, that we can hope to make any progress in ascertaining and separating the respective effects of the various ingredients which may be thus blended in the composition of Beauty. In analyzing these, we must proceed on the same general principles by which we are guided in investigating the physical and chemical properties of material substances; that is, we must have recourse to a series of observations and experiments on beauti
“Il fant se rendre à ce palais magique, “Oules beaux vers, la danse, la musique, “L'art de charmerles yeux parles couleurs, “L'art plus heureux de séduire les coeurs, “De cent plaisirs font un plaisir unique.” Akenside has remarked this disposition of the mind, to identify the sources of the secondary or accessory pleasures it enjoys, with those perceptions of seeing and hearing, which form the physical basis (if I may use the expression) of our idea of the Beautiful. The examples he has selected are equally familiar and striking: “So, while we taste the fragrance of the rose, “Glows not her blush the fairer? while we view, “Amid the noon-lide walk, a limpid rill “Gush through the trickling herbage, to the thirst “Of summer yielding the delicious draught “Of cool refreshment; o'er the mossy brink “Shimes not the surface clearer, and the waves “With sweeter music murmur as they flow?”
Another illustration of the same thing may be collected from the wonderful effect on the estimate we form of the beauty of a particular landscape, by the agreeable or disagreeable tempera. ture of the utmosphere at the moment we see it. How very different seems the aspect of the same scene, according as the wind happens to blow from the East or from the West'
ful objects of various kinds; attending diligently to the agreeable or the disagreeable effects we experience, in the case of these diversified combinations. The conclusions thus formed may, it is obvious, enable us afterwards to recompound the same elements, according to our own fancy, so as to diversify or to increase the pleasure produced; while they furnish an agreeable exercise to the intellectual powers, in tracing the beauties, both of mature and of art, to their general laws. In all these experiments and observations, it is of importance to add, the result is judged of by attending to our own feelings; as, in our researches concerning heat, we appeal to the thermometer. By habits of this kind, therefore, it is reasonable to expect that we may acquire a power of remarking those slighter impressions, whether pleasant or painful, which are overlooked by ordinary observers; in the same manner as the touch of a blind man appears to improve, in consequence of the peculiar attention which he is led to bestow on the perceptions of the hand. Our sensibility to beauty does not, in this way, become really more exquisite and delightful than before; but, by attracting our notice in a greater degree, it is rendered a nicer and more delicate instrument for assisting the judgment in its estimate of facts. Nor is it only in analysing the pleasing ingredients which enter into the composition of beautiful objects, that observations and experiments are necessary to those who wish to study the principles of Beauty, with a view to their practical applications. G g
Whether their aim may be to produce new combinations of their own, or to pronounce on the merits and defects of those executed by others, it is of essential importance, that they should be able to separate what is pleasing from what obstructs the agreeable effect. Independently of experience, however, the most exquisite sensibility, seconded by the most acute intellect, cannot lead to a single conclusion concerning the particular circumstances from which the pleasure or uneasiness arises. In proportion, indeed, to the degree of the observer's sensibility, he will be delighted with the former, and offended with the latter; but till he is able to draw the line distinctly between them, his sensibility will afford no lights of which he can avail himself in future, either as an artist or as a judge. It is in this distinguishing or discriminating perception, that the power denoted by the word Taste seems to me chiefly to consist. The fact is perfectly analogous in that bodily sense from which this mental power derives its name. A dealer in wines is able, in any of the common articles of his trade, to detect the least ingredient which does not properly enter into the composition; and, in pronouncing it to be good or bad, can fix at once on the specific qualities which please or offend. It is not on the sensibility of his organ that this power depends. Some degree of sensibility is undoubtedly necessary to enable him to receive any sensation at all; but the degree of his distinguishing power is by no means proportioned to the degree of his sensibility. At the same time, it is manifestly this distin
guishing power alone, which renders his judgments in wine of any use to himself in his purchases, or of any value to those whose gratification is the object of his art. Mr Hume, in his Essay on the Standard of Taste, has approached nearly to this view of the subject, in the application which he makes to it of a story in Don Quixote: And, although I by no means assent to the general train of reasoning which that essay contains, I cannot help availing myself of the support which, on this fundamental point, my conclusions may receive from their coincidence with those of so profound a writer; as well as of the very happy illustration which he has employed in its statement. “It is with good reason,” says Sancho to the squire with the great nose, “that I pretend to have “a judgment in wine. This is a quality hereditary “in our family. Two of my kinsmen were called “to give their opinion of a hogshead which was sup“posed to be excellent, being old and of a good vin“tage. One of them tastes it; considers it; and “after mature reflection, pronounces the wine to be “good, were it not for a small taste of leather which “ he perceived in it. The other, after using the “ same precautions, gives also his verdict in favour “ of the wine ; but with the reserve of a taste of iron, “ which he could easily distinguish. You cannot “imagine how they were both ridiculed for their “judgment. But who laughed in the end ?. On “emptying the hogshead, there was found at the “bottom an old key, with a leathern thong tied to “ it.” Another circumstance, remarkably characteristical of intellectual Taste, is the instantaneousness with which its decisions appear, in most instances, to be formed. In this respect, likewise, it resembles the external sense after which it is named ; and, indeed, the analogy between the two powers is, in various points, so complete, as sufficiently to account for an application of the same expressions to both ; and even to justify those writers who have attempted to illustrate the theory of the former, by an examination of the more obvious and familiar pereeptions of the latter. It is somewhat curious that Voltaire should have been so strongly impressed with this analogy, as to conclude, that it must have presented itself universally to the human understanding, in all ages of the world. “The feeling,” he observes, “by which we “distinguish beauties and defects in the arts, is “prompt in its discernment, and anticipates reflec“tion, like the sensations of the tongue and palate. “Both kinds of Taste, too, enjoy, with a voluptuous “satisfaction, what is good; and reject what is bad, “with an emotion of disgust. Accordingly,” he adds, “this metaphorical application of the word “taste, is common to all known languages.” " In hazarding this last assertion, Voltaire has, by a strange inattention, overlooked the well-known and often remarked fact, that the metaphor here men