Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

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.

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

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

* Mrs H. B. Stowe. Sunny Memories.

VOL. LXXVI.-NO. CCCCLXIX.

2x

bodiment of the beautiful. For we in its native purity and brilliance, even have ever felt ourselves—and believe Flowers must be put aside as too gross that the feeling is common to all per- and earthy in their structure. Wemust sons of ordinary sensibility—that the turn to gems, and fire, and light itbeholding of high beauty, whether in self. Throw a few grains of cheminature or art, excites a sentiment of cal stuff into a bright-burning fire, joy which is ever mingled with pen- and see how the flame shoots aloft in siveness, if not with melancholy. It a wavy pyramid of purest emerald, — is not a depression on the contrary, or change the substance, and lo! unit is an elation of spirits. It is not dulating spires of loveliest ruby or painful, but pleasing. The heart clings amethyst, ---burning with so celestial to it, and feels as if elevated and puri- a brilliance and transparency as if fied by its presence. It is “a divine freed from every tinge of earthy matsadness," –occasioned by the presence ter, and re-shining with the splendour of some object so beautiful, so divine- of its native skies. Or take the living ly perfect, so native in character to light itself, and refract it through the soul, yet so rarely met with, that prisms of crystal, and see how the the spirit yearns towards it as to a dissevered tremors of the ray reappear visitor from a higher sphere from on the screen in a band of many-hued which we are exiles, -and for which, light,-red, blue, orange, green, yelin such moments, our heart is pining, low, and violet, blending into each it may be unconsciously, as does the other by most delicate gradations, wandered mountaineer for his native and all glowing with a richness which hills. It is this perfect harmony be- no mortal pencil can copy. Substitween beautiful objects and the soul, tute for this crystal prism, one of -it is this strange tender delight at diamond, -suppose the Koh-i-noor, the presence of anything supremely that “mountain of light," used as lovely, that made Plato account for a refractor of the sunbeams—as a earthly love by the romantic theory breaker-up of the symmetry of the of Reminiscence,-by the supposition solar ray,—and then imagine how that lovers, and especially lovers at brilliant would be the spectral colours first sight, are attracted to each other thus produced. The lustre of the not, as is really the case, by a con- diamond, the topaz, the ruby, the geniality of nature, on the world-wide emerald, the amethyst, is well known, principle of “like draws to like," but --but how comes that lustre which because their souls existed together so distinguishes them from other subas twins in a prior and higher state of stances ? It is because they, of all existence, and long to reunite and earthly substances, are the most blend themselves together again when ethereal in their structure, and hence they happen to meet on earth. A vibrate and sparkle most readily fancy so beautiful that we willingly in unison with the solar rays. Take say with Cicero, Malim cum Platone a diamond out of the sunlight into a errare quam desipere aliis !

dark room, and you will see it still In point of richness and gorgeous- lustrous for a few moments, because ness of colour, flowers are unrivalled. its particles are still vibrating. All If we may be allowed the simile, the substances — air, water, wood, and ethereal phenomenon of colour in them rock-consist of identically the same gains as much by a union with earthly atoms, only variously arranged ; each substance, as the spiritual nature of possessing different qualities accordman is rendered more rich and beau- ing to the closeness and form in which tiful by the action of the sensuous the particles of their molecules aremotions. But if we would see colour range 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 char- like-give off a subtle light of their own, coal; when crystallised in prisms, it which becomes visible in a dark room becomes black and opaque graphite; to persons of a sensitive nervous orand when crystallised in octohedrons, ganisation. We certainly know that it is etherealised into the limpid and the Earth radiates a light of its own, transparent diamond. Gems, in truth, as exhibited in the beautiful corrusare of all earthy substances the most cations of the aurora-borealis and the similar in atomic structure to the zodiacal light ;-— the explanation of ether,—to that pure and subtle finid this phenomenon being, that our planet pervading all space, which gives birth is a large magnet, through which, as to the lightning, and whose vibrations in all polarised bodies, there is a conare Heat and Light. They are form- stant passage to and fro of electrical ed in the veins of the rock by the currents, which ray off in light from slow and continuous action of electric the poles. It will ere long be discurrents, which, in the lapse of ages, covered that every planet is luminous, gradually alter the arrangement of although its light may be overpowerthe ultimate atoms of the rock, crys- ed by that of some larger orb,-even tallising them in forms congenial to as a taper's light is unnoticed in the their own ethereal structure.

full blaze of the sunlight;* and one of Science can imitate in some degree the most fundamental canons in optics this rarest and most beautiful of nature's will be, that every body radiates more processes. “There is strong presump- or less of light when its particles are tive evidence,” says Mrs Somerville, in a state of electrical vibration. The “ of the influence of the electric and sun and its planets being in opposite magnetic currents on the formation states of polarity, a constant magnetic and direction of the mountain-masses efflux is flowing from each to the other, and mineral veins ; but their slow this efflux occasions a thrill, or vipersevering action on the ultimate brating motion, in the ether which fills atoms of matter has been placed be the interstellar spaces,—and the result yond a doubt by the formation of of this vibratory motion on the eye is rubies and other gems, as well as other Light; just as a spark, or continuous mineral substances, by voltaic electri- stream of light, is the concomitant city.” What flowers are to the vege of a similar flux from an electrictable world, gems are to the mineral. machine. Both of them are embodiments of the Under the full blaze of the sunlight, beautiful, — but the latter are of a the Earth throbs as with a million purer substance, and, if slower of pulses. Those substances which are growth, only the more imperishable. most ethereal in their atomic structure,

A science of Colour must be based such as glass and crystals, vibrate upon a correct theory of Light. We most readily and most powerfully ; believe the foundations of such a but all things, even the most amortheory already exist. The carefully- phous in structure, join more or less conducted though much-contested ex- in the electrical pulsation,-transmit. periments of Von Reichenbach tend ting, reflecting, and modifying into to show that all polarised bodies — colours, the limpid light which streams such as magnets, crystals, and the from the sunny skies.f 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 nou 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 rier by the splendour of their respectire 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

sun.

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.

« AnteriorContinuar »