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No. 412. MONDAY, JUNE 23.
PLEASURES OF THE IMAGINATION.
•Three sources of all the pleasures of the imagination, in our survey of outward objects. How what is great pleases the imagination. How what is new pleases the imagination. How what is beautiful in our own species pleases the imagination. How what is beautiful in general pleases the imagination. What other accidental causes may contribute to the heightening of those pleasures.'
-Divisum sic breve fiet opus.
Mart. Ep. Iv. 88.
I shall first consider those pleasures of the imagination which arise from the actual view and survey of outward objects : and these, I think, all proceed from the
sight of what is great, uncommon, or beautiful. There may, indeed, be something so terrible or offensive, that the horror or loathsomeness of an object may over- bear the pleasure which results from its greatness, novelty, or beauty; but still there will be such a mixture of delight" in the very disgust it gives us, as any of these three qualifications are most conspicuous and prevailing.
By greatness, I do not only mean the bulk of any single object, but the largeness of a whole view, considered as one entire piece. Such are the prospects of an open champaign country, a vast uncultivated desert, of huge heaps of mountains, high rocks and precipices, or a wide expanse of waters, where we are not struck with the novelty or beauty of the sight, but with that rude kind of magnificence which appears in many of these stupen. dous works of nature. Our imagination loves to be filled with an object, or to grasp at any thing that is too big for its capacity.
• Very incorrrect. It should be thus-There will be a mixture of delight, &c. according as, &c.--or rather thus—There will be such a mixture of delight, as is proportioned to the degrce with which any of these three qualifications prevail in it.-H.
We are flung into a pleasing astonishment at such unbounded views, and feel a delightful stillness and amazement in the soul at the apprehension of them. The mind of man naturally hates every thing that looks like a restraint upon it, and is apt to fancy itself under a sort of confinement, when the sight is pent up in a narrow compass, and shortened on every side by the neighbourThood of walls or mountains. On the contrary, á spacious horizon
is an image of liberty, where the eye has room to range abroad, to expatiate at large on the immensity of its views, and to lose itself amidst the variety of objects that offer themselves to its observation. Such wide and undetermined prospects are pleasing to the fancy, as the speculations of eternity or infinitude are to the understanding. But if there be a beauty or uncommonness joined with this grandeur, as in a troubled ocean, a heaven adorned with stars and meteors, or a spacious landscape cut out into rivers, woods, rocks, and meadows, the pleasure still
grows upon us, as it rises from more than a single principle. r Every thing that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the
imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possest. We are indeed so often conversant with one set of objects, and tired out with so many repeated shows of the same things, that whatever is new or uncommon contributes a little to vary human life, and to divert our minds, for a while, with the strangeness of its appearance: it serves us for a kind of refresh ment, and takes off from that satiety we are apt to complain of in our usual and ordinary entertainments. It is this that bestows charms on a monster, and makes even the imperfections of nature
The same fault as above, p. 339, Essay upon Health-where-and may be reformed in the same manner, by putting a full stop after liberty, and beginning the next sentence thus:--The eye, &c. or still better in some such way as this:-On the contrary, it [the mind of man) finds itself at liberty in a spacious horizon, where the eye, &c.—H.
please us. It is this that recommends variety, where the mind is every instant called off to something new, and the attention not suffered to dwell too long, and waste itself on any particular object. It is this, likewise, that improves what is great or beautiful, and makes it afford the mind a double entertainment. Groves, fields, and meadows are at any season of the year pleas. ant to look upon, but never so much as in the opening of spring, when they are all new and fresh, with their first gloss upon them, and not yet too much accustomed and familiar to the eye. For this reason there is nothing that more enlivens a prospect than rivers, jetteaus, or falls of water, where the scene is perpetually shifting, and entertaining the sight every moment with something that is new. We are quickly tired of looking upon hills and vallies, where every thing continues fixed and settled in the same place and posture, but find our thoughts a little agitated and relieved at the sight of such objects as are ever in motion, and sliding away from beneath the eye of the beholder.
But there is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty, which immediately diffuses a secret satisfaction and complacency through the imagination, and gives a finishing to any thing that is great or uncommon. The very first discovery of it strikes the mind with an inward joy, and spreads a chearfulness and delight through all its faculties. There is not perhaps any real beauty or deformity more in one piece of matter than another, because we might have been so made, that whatsoever now appears loathsome to us, might have shewn itself agreeable; but we find by experience, that there are several modifications of matter, which the mind, without any previous consideration, pro
* A little inexact: and to be set right in various ways: as, because it was possible for our nature to be so constituted, that, &c. Or, by changing the second inight into should. But then should have shewn, hurts the ear. Better I think thus:--because we might have been so made, that what is now loathsome to us would have been agreeable.-H.
nounces at first sight beautiful or deformed. Thus we see, that every different species of sensible creatures has its different notions
of beauty, and that each of them is most affected with the beautic
ties of its own kind. This is no where more remarkable than in
Scit thalamo servare fidem, sanctasque veretur
Hinc merula io nigro se oblectat nigra marito,
The black-bird hence selects her sooty spouse ;
The nightingale her musical compeer,
There is a second kind of beauty that we find in the several products of art and nature, which does not work in the imagination with that warmth and violence as the beauty that appears in our proper species, but is apt, however, to raise in us a secret delight, and a kind of fondness for the places or objects in which we discover it. This consists either in the gaiety or variety of colours, in the symmetry and proportion of parts, in the arrangement and disposition of bodies, or in a just mixture and concurrence of all together. Among these kinds of beauty the eye takes most delight in colours. We no where meet with a more glorious or pleasing show in nature, than what appears in the heavens at the rising and setting of the sun, which is wholly made up of those different stains of light that shew themselves in clouds of a different situation. For this reason we find the poets, who are always addressing themselves to the imagination, borrowing more of their epithets from colours than from any other topic.
As the fancy delights in every thing that is great, strange, or beautiful, and is still more pleased the more it finds of these perfections in the same object, so is it capable of receiving new satis. faction by the assistance of another sense. Thus any continued sound, as the music of birds, or a fall of water, awakens every moment the mind of the beholder, and makes him more attentive
* By the dexterous application of what, which, and that, a sentence something embarrassed and incorrect, is made to run off so well, thut few readers are, perhaps, disgusted with it. But the fault is only palliated by this mismanagement, and no ; avoided.-H.