Изображения страниц

ble variety of figure. For this reason they are considered more beautiful than straight lines; and, similarly, figures bounded by curves are more beautiful than those bounded by straight lines. Of curved lines the elliptical are more beautiful than the circular, because they not only present constant variety, but also depart more from the line of curvature than do those which are circular. For the same reason waved and spiral lines are among the most beautiful; they are also found of most frequent occurrence in flowers, shells, and the ornaments used for decorations, especially in architecture.

3. Motion.—Bodies in motion are generally more beautiful than bodies at rest. A human body full of life is more beautiful than a carved statue, however good the imitation.

Curvilinear Motion.—Movement in curves or undulatory lines is more beautiful than movement in straight lines, for the same reason that figures with curved outlines are more beautiful than those bounded by straight lines. This accounts for the singular beauty of curling smoke and flame as they ascend.

Gentle Motion.—Motion when swift, like the flash of lightning or the rush of a torrent is sublime, but the gentle motion of a bird gliding through the air or the flowing of a rivulet or a brook through a meadow is beautiful because it is gentle.

4. Smallness and Delicacy.-Smallness and delicacy are elements of the beautiful, just as vastness and strength are elements of the sublime. Thus, we speak of the pansy, the violet, and the rose as being beautiful, but we would not apply the term to the mighty trees of the forest. So also we attribute beauty to delicacy of outline in the animal kind, as in the slender greyhound and the delicate-limbed thoroughbred racer, rather than to the sturdy mastiff and the rugged plough-horse.

5. Complex Beauty.-While each of the foregoing is in itself an element of beauty, there is no doubt that beauty is much heightened where color, figure, motion, and delicacy are all combined, or where even a number of them are united. Thus, we find the height of beauty in flowers, trees, and animals, where harmony of color, beauty of figure, gracefulness of motion, and delicacy of outline and size all unite to make an object pleasing to the eye.

A landscape which contains a sufficient variety of objects presents one of the most beautiful combinations in nature, but the perfection of beauty is to be found in the human countenance. The beauty of the human countenance includes not only beauty of color, figure, and delicacy, but adds to all these beauty of expression, in which the emotions of the heart and the qualities of the mind show themselves through the countenance, mainly in the curve of the lip and the beaming of the eye.

6. Moral Beauty.-Moral sublimity, as we have seen, characterizes acts of self-sacrifice, exalted patriotism, etc. In like manner, moral beauty belongs to the gentler characteristics, such as generosity, compassion, friendship, and affability.

7. The Beautiful in Sound.--Beauty is a characteristic not only of the objects of sight, but also of those of hearing. It especially applies to those pleasing combinations of sound which we call music.

While some music, remarkable for its loudness, strength of tone, and quick transition, may be regarded as sublime, most music is distinguished for its sweetness, and is therefore simply beautiful.

Beauty of sound is also somewhat a matter of association. To every patriotic man probably the dearest music is his own national hymn and the lullabies of his childhood-sounds which awaken within him, wherever he may be, memories not only of his country, but of his home.

The requisites for the beautiful in writing are-

1. Beauty of Subject.-By this is meant that the subject must be one that is agreeable, one that is likely in itself, and independent of the composition, to awaken pleasant emotions. Our object in writing on such a topic should be to please, and it therefore seems specially necessary that the subject should be agreeable.

2. Beauty of Expression. Not only should the subject be agreeable, but special care should also be taken to treat it in as pleasant and as agreeable a manner as possible. All low expressions, all vulgarisms, all slang terms, and all harşh-sounding words should be rigidly excluded from a composition that aims to be beautiful. The most euphonious words and sentences possible should be used. Similes, metaphors, and other rhetorical figures may be used freely if used correctly.

Conciseness, which adds to sublimity, is not requisite for beauty of expression. A sufficient degree of diffuseness to give ease and grace of expression is permissible in all composition whose chief characteristic is beauty.

3. Wir. Wit requires such an association of objects or ideas not usually connected as produces an agreeable sur


The special properties of style heretofore considered, beauty and sublimity, find expression in the works of nature and their operations, as well as in those of man; but wit and humor, the two remaining properties, belong to man and his works alone. They find expression chiefly in speech, but they may be, and frequently are, expressed also in painting, drawing, sculpture, and music.

Thus, while mountains, tempests, conflagrations, etc. may be sublime, and flowers, landscapes, brooks, and birds are beautiful, none of these are ever spoken of as being witty or humorous. The two latter qualities are applicable only to human expression.

Incongruity the Principal Source of Wit.—The essential element of wit is incongruity; that is, the bringing together in a sudden and unexpected manner ideas or objects which are in their nature incongruous. This may be the result of accident or of design, but in either case the unusual or unexpected relation presented creates a pleasant surprise and a sense of the ludicrous is awakened.

Surprise an Element of Wit.—Whatever is incongruous is likely to create surprise. No saying is apt to be considered witty unless the unexpected relation in which ideas are put is such as to create surprise; and it is on this account chiefly that wit does not seem witty when frequently repeated.

Note.-The surprise created by wit should not be combined with any higher ellution, as beauty or sublimity.

The surprise may be excited in several ways:

1. By Degrading Elevated Things.-Butler's Hudibras is full of examples of this kind of wit. This species of wit is usually known as burlesque. The parody or traresty is a variety of the burlesque, as in the following:

Original: “Oh, ever thus, from childhood's hour,

I've seen my fondest hopes decay;
I never loved a tree or flower,

But 'twas the first to fade away."

Parody: "Oh, ever thus, from childhood's hour,

This cruel fate on me hath fell;
There always comes a soaking shower

When I've forgot my umberell.”

In the parody, serious productions by the change of a few words or lines are made to apply to subjects of a ludicrous nature. Sometimes a composition may maintain a serious tone throughout until near the close, where some unexpected sentiment or image is introduced that changes the whole tenor and meaning. See the following specimen :

“Old man! old man! for whom diggest thou this grave ?

I asked as I walked along;
For I saw, in the heart of London streets,

A dark and busy throng.

“'Twas a strange wild deed, but a wilder wish

Of the parted soul, to lie
Midst the troubled numbers of living men,

Who would pass him idly by!

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »