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affinity between the forces of religion and the forms of Art. Therefore it is that the higher efficacies of Christian culture and the deeper workings of religious thought and emotion have instinctively sought to organize and enshrine themselves in artistic creations; no other mode or power of expression being strong enough to hold them, or inclusive enough to contain them. It is in such works as the ancient marvels of ecclesiastical building that the Christian mind has found its most fitting and most operative eloquence.
What was the motive-principle, what the inspiring power, of those architectural wonders that transport the impress of mediæval piety across the ocean of so many centuries ? Wordsworth, referring to some of the English cathedrals, says,
They dreamt not of a perishable home,
Who thus could build.” And, sure enough, we may well deem that nothing less than the most intense and burning conceptions of eternity could have inspired the souls of men and made them strong enough to project and accomplish those stupendous structures which, in their silent majesty and awe-inspiring suggestiveness, are the most persuasive and the most unanswerable preachers of Christianity that the Church of two thousand years has produced. “They builded better than they knew.” And what are all the sermons and theologies of that time in comparison with those great old monuments of Christian Art ? “ The immortal mind craves objects that endure." And immortality itself, the spirit of celestial order, a beauty that awes while it charms, and chastens while it kindles, are imaged in the aspect and countenance of those structures. And it is remarkable that nothing has come down to us touching the persons of those grand old builders, not even their names. It seems indeed as if their great souls had been so possessed by the genius that stirred within them, so entranced in the contemplation of their religious ideals, as to leave no room for any self-regarding
thoughts; so that we know them only as a band of anonymous immortals.
“ They were pedants who could speak :
Grander souls have passed unheard ;
Now it is the nature of Christian meaning thus embodied to penetrate and pervade the depths of the mind without agitating its surface; and when the effect is greatest, then it is that the mind is least conscious of it: it is a silent efficacy that “sweetly creeps into the study of imagination," and charms its way into“ the eye and prospect of the soul” by delicacy of touch and smoothness of operation. Such art is of course in no sort an intellectual gymnastic. It is as complex and many-sided as our nature itself; and the frame of mind from which it proceeds, and which it aims to inspire, is that calmness wherein is involved a free and harmonious exercise of the whole man; sense, intellect, and heart moving together in sympathy and unison : in a word, it is the fitting expression of
“ That monumental grace
That reason should control;
A statue of the soul.” From such workmanship, every thing specially stimulant of any one part of the mind, every thing that ministers to the process of self-excitation, every thing that fosters an unhealthy consciousness by untuning the inward harmonies of our being, every thing that appeals to the springs of vanity and self-applause, or invites us to any sort of glass-gazing pleasure, — every such thing is, by an innate law of the work, excluded. So that here we have the right school of moral healthiness, a moral digestion so perfect as to be a secret unto itself. The intelligence, the virtue, the piety, that grows by such methods, is never seen putting on airs, or feeding on the reflection of its own beauty; but evermore breathes freely and naturally, as in communion with the proper sources of its life.
Works of Art, then, above all other productions of the mind, must have solidity and inwardness, that essential retiring grace which seems to shrink from the attention it wins, that style of power held in reserve which grows upon acquaintance, that suggestive beauty, “part seen, imagined part,” which does not permit the beholder to leave without a silent invitation to return. And in proportion as the interest of such works depends on novelty, or stress of manner, or any strikingness of effect, as if they were ambitious to make themselves felt, and apprehensive of not heing prized at their worth ; in the same proportion their tenure of interest is naturally short, because they leave the real springs of thought untouched.
This, to be sure, holds more or less true of all the forms of mental production ; but its truth is more evident and more self-approving in the sphere of Art than in the others. Hence the common saying, that poetry, for instance, must be very good indeed, else it is good for nothing. And men of culture and judgment in that line naturally feel, in general, that a work of art which is not worth seeing many times is not worth seeing at all; and if they are at first taken with such a work, they are apt to be ashamed of it afterwards, and to resent the transient pleasure they found in it, as a sort of fraud upon them. In other words, Art aspires to interest permanently, and even to be more interesting the more it is seen; and when it does not proceed in the order of this “modest charm of not too much," this remoteness of meaning where far more is inferred than is directly shown, there we may be sure the vital principle of the thing is wanting.
Allston, the distinguished painter-artist, is said to have had an intense aversion to all “eccentricity in Art." He might well do so; and, being a philosopher of Alt as well as an artist, he had no difficulty in knowing that his aversion was founded in truth, and was fully justified by the reason of the thing. For the prime law of Art, as is implied in what I have been saying, is to produce the utmost possible of silent effect; and to secure this end truth must be the all-in-all of the artist's purpose, — a purpose too inward and vital, perhaps, for the subject to be distinctly conscious of it; which is the right meaning of artistic inspiration. But eccentricity in Art aims, first and last, at sensible effect; to appease an eager, prurient curiosity is its proper motive-spring; and it is radically touched with some disease, perhaps an itch of moral or intellectual or emotional demonstrativeness; and so it naturally issues in a certain plurisy of style, or some self-pleasing crotchet or specialty of expression, — something which is striking and emphatic, and which is therefore essentially disproportionate and false. In a word, there is a fatal root of insincerity in the thing. For instance, if one were to paint a tree in the brilliancy of full-bloom, or a human face in the liveliest play of soul, I suppose the painting might be set down as a work of eccentricity; for, though such things are natural in themselves, they are but transient or evanescent moods of Nature; and a painting of them has not that calmness and purity of truth and art on which the mind can repose :
“Soft is the music that would charm for ever.” Moreover a work of art, as such, is not a thing to be learnt or acquired, as formal knowledge is acquired : it is rather a presence for the mind to commune with, and drink, in the efficacy of, with an “eye made quiet by the power of Beauty.” Nor is such communion by any means unfruitful of mental good: on the contrary, it is the right force and food of the soundest and healthiest: inward growth; and to be silent and secret is the character of every process that is truly vital and creative. It is on this principle that Nature, when conversed with in the spirit of her works, acts “ as a teacher of truth through joy and
through gladness, and as a creatress of the faculties by a process of smoothness and delight”; and we gather in the richer intellectual harvest from such converse when the mind is too intent on Nature's forms to take any thought of its gatherings. We cannot truly live with her without
being built up in the best virtues of her life. It is a mighty ! poor way of growing wise, when one loves to see
“ Each little drop of wisdom as it falls
Into the dimpling cistern of his heart." And so the conversing rightly with works of art may not indeed be very available for showing off in recitation : it is all the better for that, inasmuch as its best effect must needs be too deep for the intellectual consciousness to grasp: because the right virtue of Art lies in a certain self-withdrawing power which catches the mind as from a distance, and cheats the forces of self-applause into abdication through intentness of soul. All which infers, moreover, that a full appreciation of any true work of art cannot be extemporized; for such a work has a thousand meanings, which open out upon the eye gradually, as the eye feeds and grows and kindles up to them : its virtue has to soak into the mind insensibly; and to this end there needs a long, smooth, quiet fellowship.
PRINCIPLES OF ART. The several forms of Art, as Painting, Sculpture, Music, Architecture, the Poem, the Drama, all have a common root, and proceed upon certain common principles. The faculties which produce them, the laws that govern them, and the end they are meant to serve, in short their source, method, and motive, are at bottom one and the same. Art, therefore, is properly and essentially one: accordingly I take care to use the phrase several forms of Art, and not several arts. This identity of life and law is perhaps most apparent in the well-known fact that the several forms of Art, wherever they have existed at all, and in any character