« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ministry to our education ; but where would it stop ? We are associated in adolescent and adult life with some friends, who, like skies and waters, are co-extensive with our idea ; who, answering each to a certain affection of the soul, satisfy our desire on that side ; whom we lack power to put at such focal distance from us, that we can mend or even analyze them. We cannot choose but love them. When much intercourse with a friend has supplied us with a standard of excellence, and has increased our respect for the resources of God, who thus sends a real person to outgo our ideal—when he has, moreover, become an object of thought, and, whilst his character retains all its unconscious effect, is converted in the mind into solid and sweet wisdom,-it is a sign to us that his office is closing, and he is commonly withdrawn from our sight in a short time.
Tas is the unspeakable but intelligible and practicable meaning of the world conveyed to man, the immortal pupil, in every object of sense. To this one end of Discipline, all parts of Nature conspire.
A noble doubt perpetually suggests itself, whether this end be not the Final Cause of the Universe ; and whether Nature outwardly exists. It is a sufficient account of that appearance we call the world, that God will teach a human mind, and so makes it the receiver of a certain number of congruent sensations, which we call sun and moon, man and woman, house and trade. In my utter impotence to test the authenticity of the report of my senses, to know whether the impressions they make on me correspond with outlying objects, what difference does it make, whether Orion is up there in heaven, or some god paints the image in the firmament of the soul ? The relations of parts and the end of the whole remaining the same, what is th difference, wh her land and sea interact, and worlds revolve and intermingle without number or end ?
deep yawning under deep, and galaxy balancing galaxy, throughout absolute space, or whether, without relations of time and space, the same appearances are inscribed in the constant faith of man. Whether Nature enjoy a substantial existence without, or is only in the apocalypse of the mind, it is alike useful and alike venerable to me.
Be it what it may,
it is ideal to me, so long as I cannot try the accuracy of my senses.
The frivolous make themselves merry with the Ideal theory, as if its consequences were burlesque—as if it affected the stability of Nature. It surely does not. God never jests with us, and will not coinpromise the end of Nature, by permitting any inconsequence in its procession. Any distrust of the permanence of laws would paralyze the faculties of man. Their permanence is sacredly respected, and his faith therein is perfect. The wheels and springs of man are all set to the hypothesis of the permanence of Nature. We are not built like a ship to be tossed, but lik a house to stand. It is a natural consequence of this structure, that, so long as the active powers predominate over the reflective, we resist with indig. nation any hint that Nature is more short-lived or mutable than spirit. The broker, the wheelwright, the carpenter, the tollman, are much displeased at the intimation.
But whilst we acquiesce entirely in the permanence of natural laws, the question of the absolute existence of Nature still remains open. It is the uniform effect of culture on the human mind, not to shake our faith in the stability of particular phenomena, as of heat, water, azote, but to lead us to regard Nature as a phenomenon, not a substance ; to attribute necessary existence to spirit—to esteem Nature as an accident and an effect.
To the senses and the unrenewed understanding belongs a sort of instinctive belief in the absolute existence of Nature. In their view, man and Nature are indissolubly joined. Things are ultimates, and they never look beyond their sphere. The presence of Reason mars this faith. The first effort of thought tends to relax this despotism of the senses, which binds us to Nature as if we were a part of it, and shows us Nature aloof, and, as it were, afloat. Until this higher agency intervened, the animal eye sees, with wonderful accuracy, sharp outlines and coloured surfaces. When the eye of Reason opens, to outline and surface are at once added grace and expression. These proceed from imagination and affection, and abate somewhat of the angular distinctness of objects. If the Reason be stimulated to more earnest vision, outlines and surfaces become transparent, and are no longer seen; causes and spirits are seen through them. The best, the happiest moments of life, are these delicious awakenings of the higher powers, and the reverential withdrawing of Nature before its God.
Let us proceed to indicate the effects of culture. 1. Our first institution in the Ideal philosophy is a hint from Nature herself.
Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us. Certain mechanical changes, a small alteration in our local position, apprise us of a dualism. We are strangely affected by seeing the shore from a moving ship, from a balloon, or through the tints of an unusual sky. The least change in our point of view gives the whole world a pictorial air. A man who seldom rides, needs only to get into a coach, and traverse his own town, to turn the street into a puppet-show. The men, the women,-talking, running, bartering, fighting-the earnest mechanic, the lounger, the beggar, the boys, the dogs, are unrealized at once, or, at least, wholly detached from all relation to the observer, and seen as apparent, not substantial beings. What new thoughts are suggested by seeing a face of country quite familiar in the rapid movement of the railroad.car! Nay, the most wonted objects (make a very slight change in the point of vision) please us most. In a cameraobscura, the butcher's cart, and the figure of one of our own family, amuse us. So, a portrait of a well-known face gratifies us.
Turn the eyes upside down, by looking at the landscape through your legs, and how agreeable is the picture, though you have seen it any time these twenty years !
In these cases, by mechanical means, is suggested the difference between the observer and the spectacle,-between man and Nature. Hence arises a pleasure mixed with awe;
I may say, a low degree of the sublime is felt from the fact, probably, that man is hereby apprised that, whilst the world is a spectacle, something in himself is stable.
2. In a higher manner, the poet communicates the same pleasure. By a few strokes he delineates, as on air, the sun, the mountain, the camp, the city, the hero, the maiden,-not different from what we know them, but only lifted from the ground, and afloat before the eye. He unfixes the land and the sea, makes them revolve around the axis of his primary thought, and disposes them anew. Possessed himself by an heroic passion, he uses matter as symbols of it. The sensual man conforms thoughts to things; the poet conforms things to his thoughts. The one esteems Nature as rooted and fast; the other, as fluid, and impresses his being thereon. To bim, the refractory world is ductile and flexible; he invests dust and stones with humanity, and makes them the words of the Reason. The imagination may be defined to be, the use which the Reason makes of the material world. Shakspeare possesses the power of subordinating Nature for the purposes of expression, beyond all poets. His imperial muse tosses the creation like a bauble from hand to hand, to embody any capricious shade of thought that is uppermost in his mind. The remotest spaces of Nature are visited, and the farthest sundered things are brought together by a subtile spiritual connexion. We are made aware that magnitude of material things is merely relative, and all objects shrink and expand to serve the passion of the poet. Thus, in his Sonnets, the lays of birds, the scents and dyes of flowers, he finds to be the shadow of his beloved ; time, which keeps her from him, is his chest; the suspicion she has awakened, is her ornament;
The ornament of beauty is Suspect,
A crow which flies in heaven's sweetest air.
His passion is not the fruit of chance ; it swells, as he speaks, to a city, or a state.
No, it was builded far from accident;
tears not policy, that heretic, That works on leases of short-numbered hours, But all alone stands hugely politic.
In the strength of his constancy, the Pyramids seem to him recent and transitory ; and the freshness of youth and love dazzles him with its resemblance to morning.
Take those lips away
Lights that do mislead the morn. The wild beauty of this hyperbole, I may say, in passing, it would not be easy to match in literature.
This transfiguration which all material objects undergo through the passion of the poet,—this power which he exerts, at any moment, to magnify the small, to micrify the great,might be illustrated by a thousand examples from his Plays. I have before me the “ Tempest,” and will cite only these few lines :
ARIEL.-The strong-based promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs plucked up
The pine and cedar. Prospero calls for music to soothe the frantic Alonzo and his companions :
A solemn air, and the best comforter
Now useles, boiled within thy skull.
The charm dissolves apace;
That now lie foul and muddy. The perception of real affinities between events (that is to say, of ileal affinities, for those only are real) enables the poet thus to make free with the most imposing forms and phenomena of the world, and to assert the predominance of the soul.
3. Whilst thus the poet delights us by animating Nature like a creator, with his own thoughts, he differs from the philosopher only herein,—that the one proposes Beauty as his main end ; the other, Truth. But the philosopher, not less than the poet, postpones the apparent order and relations of things to the empire of thought. “The problem of philo