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All around, he beholds a tinted mass: earth and sky, land and water, are seen by him only as expanses of varied colour. Everything is coloured, and the forms of nature are to him but tinted surfaces, whose outline consists simply of the bordering of one colour upon another. Below and around him is a far-reaching expanse of green,- above him, a mighty canopy of blue; and he feels that nothing could suit so well, for wide and permanent beholding, as this lively green of the earth, and the cool calm azure of the skies. But variegating those vast surfaces of blue and green, he sees spots and shadings of all diverse hues: the purple of the heath-clad mountains, the golden bloom of the furze upon their lower slopes, the rich mosaic of the autumnal woods, the grey of rocks and ruins, or the yellow of the waving cornfields. Above, by night, he sees the dark-blue expanse sparkling all over with the light of stars, or decked with a silvery veil by the radiance of the moon;-by day, he sees it checkered and sailed over by clouds, ever-changing in aspect, and at length bursting into the gorgeous magnificence of sunset, when clouds and sky are alike filled with richest colouring, with brilliant ever-shifting hues which at once dazzle and mock the gaze. All this is new to him. He has walked the earth for years, tasted its fruits, felt and understood many of its forms, -he has known how useful it is, but not till now does he comprehend its beauty. He stands amazed at the spectacle which his new-born vision reveals to him;-the sights are all strange, but not so the emotion which they produce in him. The same nameless pleasure, the same indescribable sensation of enjoyment, which now swells and thrills within him, he
has felt before, when listening to the strains of music, or when some loveborn joy has set the chords of his heart a-vibrating. It is a joyous excitement,-he nor any man can tell you no more; but he knows from previous experience that it is a sigu of the soul having found something in rare harmony with itself.
A garden-or those graceful crystal pavilions which are now devoted to the culture and display of fine exotic plants and flowers-is the place where beauty of colour may be seen in its greatest variety and perfection. There colour is seen in peculiar gorgeousness, and combined with so much else that is attractive, as to constitute Flowers but another name for the beautiful. The most distinguished of Transatlantic writers,† in a burst of enthusiasm, styles them "Earth's raptures and aspirations-her better moments—her lucid intervals." Certainly they are the lovely offspring of earth's brightest hours; and so ravishing are they, from the blended charms of brilliant colour, graceful form, and exquisite odour, that no one need wonder that they should be chosen for so many sweet purposes of life, or to symbolise in the poetic regions of the South the language and emotions of mankind. "The greatest men have always thought much of flowers. Luther always kept a flower in a glass, on his writing-table; and when he was waging his great public controversy with Eckius, he kept a flower in his hand. Lord Bacon has a beautiful passage about flowers. As to Shakespeare, he is a perfect Alpine valley, he is full of flowers; they spring, and blossom, and wave in every cleft of his mind. Witness the Midsummer Night's Dream. Even Milton, cold, serene, and stately as he is, breaks forth into exquisite
Lord Jeffrey held that mankind liked blue and green simply because we see them everywhere in nature,-instead of perceiving the great truth, that it is because these colours are agreeable to man's nature that the Creator has clothed with them the earth and sky. Jeffrey's idea of cosmogony evidently was, that the earth is a haphazard creation, made without any particular regard to the tastes of its tenant Man, and to whose phenomena we get accustomed by sheer dint of habit; instead of perceiving (what would knocked his fallacious theory of Beauty to pieces) that earth and man are made expressly for each other, and that our beneficent Maker has caused the general aspect of the world around us to give us pleasure by being in harmony with our physical and mental constitution.
+Mrs H. B. Stowe.
gushes of tenderness and fancy when he marshals the flowers, as in Lycidas and Comus." *
Whatever be the subsidiary sources of attraction in flowers, Colour unquestionably is the supreme one. Men often talk disparagingly of this kind of beauty, as if it were something far lower in its nature than the beauty of Form and Sound, and indeed hardly worthy of our regard at all. This is a great mistake, and is owing to the circumstance either that the vast majority of mankind are little sensitive to any kind of beauty, or because a certain fashion of speaking has led them insensibly to disregard this particular manifestation of it. "Such expressions," says Mr Ruskin, "are used for the most part in thoughtlessness; and if such disparagers of colour would only take the pains to imagine what the world and their own existence would become if the blue were taken from the sky, and the gold from the sunshine, and the verdure from the leaves, and the crimson from the blood which is the life of man, the flush from the cheek, the darkness from the eye, the radiance from the hair,-if they could but see for an instant white human creatures living in a white world, they would soon feel what they owe to colour. The fact is, that, of all God's gifts to the sight of man, colour is the holiest, the most divine, the most solemn. We speak rashly of gay colour and sad colour, for colour cannot at once be good and gay. All good colour is in some degree pensive, the loveliest is melancholy; and the purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most."
Mr Ruskin is not a correct thinker. Eminently sensitive to the impressions of external nature and art, he is destitute of the analytic power to ascertain the real character of those impressions. He lacks the turn of mind by which a man is enabled to "know himself;" and hence, when he comes to expound his views, founded upon those impressions, he not seldom arrives at most absurd conclusions. Right as to his feelings, he is far wrong as to the inferences he draws from them. Thus, instead of under
standing the feeling of repose which symmetry tends to produce in the beholder, he roundly charges Greek architecture, which is of all others most symmetrical, with being "dead" and atheistic" in its spirit; while Gothic architecture, which is eminently irregular and expressive in its style, he quite as absurdly discovers to be symbolic of all the Christian graces. In the sentences upon Colour which we have quoted, he falls into a similar error. In speaking of the "sacredness" and "holiness" of colour, and in expressing his conviction that all artists who were fine colourists, (i. e., dealing in pure and bright colours), were good religious men, he falls into another of his fantastic mistakes, although in this case his misinterpretation of his feelings does not lead him very wide of the mark. Gifted with a fine sensibility, he feels, when pure bright colours are harmoniously presented to his eye, a thrill of elevated pleasure,-calm and pure, because free from all tincture of passion, and felt all the more divine because nameless, indefinite, and mysterious,-because baffling language to describe, or the mind to analyse it. But this sensation is not occasioned by the "holiness" of colour,—it is produced by its beauty. True, the emotion of the beautiful is in one sense sacred and holy; because it arises from our being brought face to face with perfection,-with objects which bear most deeply impressed upon them the signet-mark of their Maker, and which the soul, made in that Maker's image, yearns towards and welcomes with delight. It is a noble and divine feeling, but not the one for which Ruskin here mistakes it. It is physical beauty, not the "beauty of holiness," which charms us in Colour,- just as it does in music or the chefs-d'œuvre of Form. And when Ruskin goes on to say, that colour "cannot be at once good and gay," that "all good colour is pensive, and the loveliest melancholy," he is again treading upon ground which he does not fully understand. He enunciates only a half-truth. In so far as his remark is true, it refers not to colour only, but to every other em
* Mrs H. B. Stowe. Sunny Memories.
VOL. LXXVI.-NO. CCCCLXIX.
bodiment of the beautiful. For we have ever felt ourselves-and believe that the feeling is common to all persons of ordinary sensibility-that the beholding of high beauty, whether in nature or art, excites a sentiment of joy which is ever mingled with pensiveness, if not with melancholy. It is not a depression-on the contrary, it is an elation of spirits. It is not painful, but pleasing. The heart clings to it, and feels as if elevated and purified by its presence. It is "a divine sadness," occasioned by the presence of some object so beautiful, so divinely perfect, so native in character to the soul, yet so rarely met with, that the spirit yearns towards it as to a visitor from a higher sphere from which we are exiles, and for which, in such moments, our heart is pining, it may be unconsciously, as does the wandered mountaineer for his native hills. It is this perfect harmony between beautiful objects and the soul, -it is this strange tender delight at the presence of anything supremely lovely, that made Plato account for earthly love by the romantic theory of Reminiscence,-by the supposition that lovers, and especially lovers at first sight, are attracted to each other not, as is really the case, by a congeniality of nature, on the world-wide principle of "like draws to like," but because their souls existed together as twins in a prior and higher state of existence, and long to reunite and blend themselves together again when they happen to meet on earth. A fancy so beautiful that we willingly say with Cicero, “Malim cum Platone errare quam desipere aliis!"
In point of richness and gorgeousness of colour, flowers are unrivalled. If we may be allowed the simile, the ethereal phenomenon of colour in them gains as much by a union with earthly substance, as the spiritual nature of man is rendered more rich and beautiful by the action of the sensuous emotions. But if we would see colour
in its native purity and brilliance, even Flowers must be put aside as too gross and earthy in their structure. We must turn to gems, and fire, and light itself. Throw a few grains of chemical stuff into a bright-burning fire, and see how the flame shoots aloft in a wavy pyramid of purest emerald,— or change the substance, and lo! undulating spires of loveliest ruby or amethyst,-burning with so celestial a brilliance and transparency as if freed from every tinge of earthy matter, and re-shining with the splendour of its native skies. Or take the living light itself, and refract it through prisms of crystal, and see how the dissevered tremors of the ray reappear on the screen in a band of many-hued light, red, blue, orange, green, yellow, and violet, blending into each other by most delicate gradations, and all glowing with a richness which no mortal pencil can copy. Substitute for this crystal prism, one of diamond,-suppose the Koh-i-noor, that "mountain of light," used as a refractor of the sunbeams-as a breaker-up of the symmetry of the solar ray,-and then imagine how brilliant would be the spectral colours thus produced. The lustre of the diamond, the topaz, the ruby, the emerald, the amethyst, is well known,
but how comes that lustre which so distinguishes them from other substances? It is because they, of all earthly substances, are the most ethereal in their structure, and hence vibrate and sparkle most readily in unison with the solar rays. Take a diamond out of the sunlight into a dark room, and you will see it still lustrous for a few moments, because its particles are still vibrating. substances-air, water, wood, and rock-consist of identically the same atoms, only variously arranged; each possessing different qualities according to the closeness and form in which the particles of their molecules arrange themselves.* Thus carbon,
* We do not think that the truth of the Atomic Theory admits of argument. It is irrefragably demonstrable by the pure light of reason, and it has now been all but demonstrated according to the Baconian system of experiment. Already some of our most positive and practical inquirers confess themselves within an ace of accepting the doctrine. Professor Faraday says:-"The philosopher ends by asking himself these questions, In what does chemical identity consist-whether the so-called chemical elements may not be, after all, mere allotropic conditions of purer univer
when in its amorphous state, is charcoal; when crystallised in prisms, it becomes black and opaque graphite; and when crystallised in octohedrons, it is etherealised into the limpid and transparent diamond. Gems, in truth, are of all earthy substances the most similar in atomic structure to the ether, to that pure and subtle fluid pervading all space, which gives birth to the lightning, and whose vibrations are Heat and Light. They are formed in the veins of the rock by the slow and continuous action of electric currents, which, in the lapse of ages, gradually alter the arrangement of the ultimate atoms of the rock, crystallising them in forms congenial to their own ethereal structure.
Science can imitate in some degree this rarest and most beautiful of nature's processes. "There is strong presumptive evidence," says Mrs Somerville, "of the influence of the electric and magnetic currents on the formation and direction of the mountain-masses and mineral veins; but their slow persevering action on the ultimate atoms of matter has been placed beyond a doubt by the formation of rubies and other gems, as well as other mineral substances, by voltaic electricity." What flowers are to the vegetable world, gems are to the mineral. Both of them are embodiments of the beautiful, but the latter are of a purer substance, and, if slower of growth, only the more imperishable.
A science of Colour must be based upon a correct theory of Light. We believe the foundations of such a theory already exist. The carefullyconducted though much-contested experiments of Von Reichenbach tend to show that all polarised bodiessuch as magnets, crystals, and the
like-give off a subtle light of their own, which becomes visible in a dark room to persons of a sensitive nervous organisation. We certainly know that the Earth radiates a light of its own, as exhibited in the beautiful corruscations of the aurora-borealis and the zodiacal light;-the explanation of this phenomenon being, that our planet is a large magnet, through which, as in all polarised bodies, there is a constant passage to and fro of electrical currents, which ray off in light from the poles. It will ere long be discovered that every planet is luminous, although its light may be overpowered by that of some larger orb,—even as a taper's light is unnoticed in the full blaze of the sunlight;* and one of the most fundamental canons in optics will be, that every body radiates more or less of light when its particles are in a state of electrical vibration. The sun and its planets being in opposite states of polarity, a constant magnetic efflux is flowing from each to the other,
this efflux occasions a thrill, or vibrating motion, in the ether which fills the interstellar spaces,-and the result of this vibratory motion on the eye is Light; just as a spark, or continuous stream of light, is the concomitant of a similar flux from an electricmachine.
Under the full blaze of the sunlight, the Earth throbs as with a million pulses. Those substances which are most ethereal in their atomic structure, such as glass and crystals, vibrate most readily and most powerfully; but all things, even the most amorphous in structure, join more or less in the electrical pulsation,-transmitting, reflecting, and modifying into colours, the limpid light which streams from the sunny skies.† When the
sal essences?—whether, to renew the speculations of the alchemists, the metals may be only so many mutations of each other, by the power of science naturally convertible? There was a time when this fundamental doctrine of the alchemists was opposed to known [fancied?] analogies; it is now no longer opposed to them, but only some stages beyond their present development."-Lectures, p. 105-6.
*The great Herschel expressly admits the correctness of this important and selfobvious, though little-thought-of truth, when, speaking of the systems of Double Stars, and of the revolution of sun round sun, he says-" Each accompanied with its train of planets and their satellites, closely shrouded from our view by the splendour of their respective suns."-Outlines of Astronomy, chap. xvi. § 847.
This vibratory action is indispensable to the process of vegetation; and, in regard to the prodigious effect of this vibratory influence of the solar rays, Professor Gregory says: "It has been calculated that the mechanical force exerted by the sun upon the amount of wood growing on one square foot of surface, in the course of
sun sets, this vibratory motion of the earth's surface to a great degree ceases, is feebly kept up by the cold radiance of the moon, or fades into almost quiescence beneath the tremulous light of the stars. Put out the stars, and all seems absolute darkness. But is it so? We trow not. Draw the thickest curtain of cloud over the sky,-let neither moon nor star, nor feeblest glimmer of the violet-coloured skies of night, break the darkness; and yet, while men grope and stumble, and call to their aid the appliances of luciferous art, myriads of the lower creation-birds of the air, fish of the sea, and prowling and creeping things without number, ply their life as easily as if with them it were not night but day. What does this show, but that Light and Darkness are but relative terms,that what is Night for man is Day for other creatures;-and that even in the night-time the surface of the earth is vibrating, far too feebly indeed to excite vision in man, but sufficient for a vastly wide range of animal life, to whom eyes have been given extremely susceptible to the ethereal vibrations. The great Creator has furnished each class of his creatures with visual organs fitted for their peculiar sphere of action; and man, made for the day and the sunshine, has eyes whose range of discernment is limited to the diurnal phenomena. His organ of sight is adapted for a certain degree of light, more or less than which tends equally to blindness. He is not more baffled by the shadows of night than by a superabundance of the illuminating rays. Light itself may become darkness. The eagle gazes undazzled on the orb of day; but to us,
the sun in its noontide splendour is an invisible spot in the sky; and "dark from excessive bright," is a phrase not more poetic than true. Since, then, our range of vision is thus limited, let us beware of dogmatising as if light were a word of absolute instead of relative significance;-and although we may not be able to see what Reichenbach's sensitives saw, still less to walk by the feeble rays which suffice for the lower creation, let us confess that the auroral and zodiacal lights, as well as all sound reasoning, show that Earth has a light of her own, by which it is as seemly that some orders of creatures should walk, as we, children of light and of the day, by the nobler radiance of the
It is known to men of science that every part of nature, even the hardest and most solid, is in a state of molecular motion,-so subtle, as in most cases to defy ocular scrutiny, yet indubitably revealing itself in its effects.* It is only when those vibrations grow strong and frequent that they become perceptible to our senses; and then they do so in the form of those ether-born twins, Heat and Light. Let us examine the spectrum, and see how this vibratory motion exhibits itself in the production of Colour. To the ordinary eye, the spectrum, produced by refracting or breaking up the symmetry of the solar beam, is merely a series of hues, beginning with red, brightening into yellow, and then fading away through violet into darkness. But if you examine it scientifically, you will find that those bright hues are produced by a series of tremors or vibrations of the broken ethereal ray, the strongest and slowest of which vibratory rays are least refract
a year, corresponds to what would be required to raise a weight of 486,000 lb. to the height of one foot; and this is only 1-11th of the whole effect of the sun's rays, of which only 1-5th reaches the plant, and half of that is lost."-Handbook of Organic Chemistry, p. 482.
"Nothing can be more certain," says Mrs Somerville," than that the minute particles of matter are constantly in motion, from the action of heat, mutual attraction, and electricity. Prismatic crystals of salts of zinc are changed in a few seconds into crystals of a totally different form by the heat of the sun ;-casts of shells are found in rocks, from which the animal matter has been removed, and its place supplied by mineral:-and the excavations made in rocks diminish sensibly in size, in a short time, if the rock be soft, and in a longer time when it is hard: circumstances which show an intestine motion of the particles, not only in their relative positions, but in space, which there is every reason to believe is owing to electricity, a power which, if not the sole agent, must at least have co-operated essentially in the formation and filling of mineral veins."-Physical Geography, I. chap. xv. p. 288-9.