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enough to enjoy him. Touching all the strings of humanity, our bosoms, unless they be entirely stringless, must perforce vibrate to some of his sounds. Hence it is, that so many relish, without beginning to appreciate him. . He brings us flowers and fragrances from every forest and garden in creation; so that if we have ever been in forest or garden at all, we cannot but recognize some among his flowers, that have been wont to breathe and smile on ourselves. All, of course, know and love the specimens from their own fields and gardens; but that boundless collection, from climes they have never visited, they know not, nor do they stop to examine. The apt figures, fine sentiments, pithy aphorisms, and graceful expressions, which he has in common with many others, they understand well enough; but these are only the dress and drapery which he throws over excellencies of a far deeper and rarer kind. He is, indeed, a good intellectual tailor; but Sir Walter Scott is nearly, or quite as good a tailor as he: and the chief differenee between them, in the words of Carlyle, is, “that Shakspeare begins at the heart of a subject, and works outwards towards the surface; while Scott begins at the surface, and works inwards, but never gets at the heart of it at all. Many others, indeed, have made nearly as good surfaces as Shakspeare; and those who are fond of fine clothes, and never look any deeper than dress, though unable to see any such wonderful difference between him and others, will doubtless find something in him to admire. Hence it is, that many people, with a profusion of Shakspeare's words, and figures, and phrases on their tongues, fancy they know all about him; while, in fact, they have not the first idea, either of his individual conceptions or of his dramatic combinations of character; and yet, it is on these very points that he is most distinguished from and above all other men that have ever written.” To return ; it is not of individual books, but only of classes of books, that we shall attempt to speak. And the first classification that we shall propose is, into works of genius, and works of talent. The distinction between these two forms of mind, though readily enough admitted by the common sense of mankind, is by no means easily explained. The difference between their productions is, indeed, too great and too obvious, not to be im
mediately felt, and is seen to be inexplicable, except by supposing a corresponding difference in the productive powers. But to analyze these powers; to ascertain their respective elements; and to draw a mutually exclusive line of distinction between them;-is a task which few have the ability or the inclination to perform. Great and obvious, however, as is this distinction, we have of heard it treated with derision, o by a sort of triumphant call for its exp nation. The truth is, there are some people, whose faith is only in things that are seen, and to whom a clear and complete explanation is the only rational ground of belief. Now, we freely confess ourselves unable to give such an explanation. To such people, therefore, we have nothing to say. So small, in fact, is the amount of our demonstrative knowledge, that we are strongly inclined to make up the deficiency, in part, by believing some things which we cannot fully prove. We do freely acknowledge, that the things which we see force upon us a belief in something unseen; and we are so credulous as to admit the reality of many things which we cannot explain. If others, by denying the existence of anything beyond the scope of their vision, have convinced themselves that they know everything, they are certainly quite welcome to enjoy their conviction. But, for ourselves, though we can assert, with some confidence, the reality of what we see, we cannot so confidently deny the reality of many things which we have not seen, but of which we have been assured by those whose eyes seem quite as good as our own. Nor can we think that we lose anything thereby; for, presuming there are some things which we do not know, but are desirous to learn, we have yet room for improvement; and we must think that an effort to learn them is better than to console ourselves with the assurance that they do not exist. But how difficult soever it may be to explain the distinction between the powers of Milton and Locke, for example, it were surely absurd to refer Paradise Lost and Essay on the Understanding to the agency of the same power. To class the logical concatenations of the one with the living, breathing pages of the other, were nearly or quite as unphilosophical as to refer the actions of a man and a brute to the same constitution of nature. Such an attempt, however plausible in
theory, would at once be defeated by that surest test of all our theories, the common sense and common feeling of mankind. For if few can explain the difference between those powers, none can account for such different results from the same power; and to refer a given production to an inexplicable origin, is far more philosophical than to refer such different productions to the same origin; for if *the one be, frankly to confess our ignorance, the other were, boldly to maintain an absurdity. But hard of explanation as is this difference in respect of the powers themselves, it is easily discerned and traced in their respective works; and it is probably by tracing it there, that the superiority of works of genius, for all the higher ends of reading, may be best shown. What, then, it may be asked, is it that has given Bunyan and Burns, untaught and unlearned as they were, such a resistless influence over the minds of men : an influence which Locke and Read, with all their learning and speculative subtilty, could never hope to attain. They approach us with but a whisper, a tale, or a song; and yet, in one minute, they finish a work which a whole host of logical artillerymen, with the labor of years, could not begin. Why is it that our “gentle Shakspeare,” with the least stroke of his pen, awakens a chord within us which all the learning and logic in the world could never reach He comes to us, not as our sovereign, to exact our allegiance, but as our smiling brother; and yet he seats himself on the throne of our souls, and holds our hearts in willing and cheerful submission to his power. Undisciplined and uninstructed as he was, the least sound of his voice teaches us a lesson which Johnson, with all his erudition, his logical acumen, and grandiloquent diction, might have labored forever in vain to teach. hy is it that the rapt Milton, with one sweep of his awful lyre, or one motion of his singing robes, raises us to a height which all the scientific and argumentative ladder-makers in creation could never enable us to reach or that the calm, pensive Wordsworth, with one note of his Orphean harp, or one breath of his moral minstrelsy, moves us to a purity and intensity of thought, which whole libraries of ethical reasoning could never awaken 2 We answer, it is the possession of a mysterious something, which others have not, and cannot obtain; whose power
and excellence we can all feel, but whose nature we cannot explain. This mysterious something, which works within us with such secret, but resistess energy, like some spiritual electricity or magnetism, has been baptized into the name of Genius; and is no other than, “the vision and the faculty divine;” the power to
“Add the gleam, The light that never was on sea or land. The consecration and the poet's dream-"
It is not to be had for study, nor for price; a man may be familiar with all science, as with household words. and yet not have this unacquirable and in: communicable knowledge ; he may sport with all languages, as with his mothertongue, and yet know nothing of this universal language, which reaches every mind, and leads captive every heart. Take all the men of mere learning and talent the world has ever seen, and melt them down into one intellectual moun: tain-building, star-grasping giant, and still it is not in him. He may open upot us his batteries of logic and argument in vain: he may carry all the outposts and spike all the guns of the understanding. by storm; but he cannot move the heart or the will; and yet but a whisper irom one of these marvellous soul-touchers, in whom dwells a portion of this wonderful gift, and he leads us whithersoever he lists. One important distinction between talent and genius is, that talent gives usinformation of the objects and agencies that exist and act around us; genius calls up and draws out what is within us; gives life and reality to the slumbering possbilities of our being. The man of genius does not try to leius wherein life, and thought, and feeling, and action consist. but causes us to live, and think, and feel, and act. He does not tell us how, or why, or what to sing and feel, but puts a song into our mouths, and a feeling into our hearts. He does not speak of our nature, but to our nature; and it is his triumph so to speak that the answer cannot be withheld. Instead of doing up our thinking and feeling for us, he simply sets us to thinking and feeling for curselves.—The man of talent triumphs over us in the superiority of his own power: the man of genius causes us to triumpt in the new power he awakens within us. The mere reasoning moralist may convince us, by the force of his logic, cf the duty or advantage of kindness and brotherly love; but this is all he can do. Meanwhile, there comes along a Wordsworth or a Burns, and, with “one touch of nature, makes the whole world kin.” Talent, in short, informs, genius inspires us; the former speaks to us about truth, the latter speaks truth into us, and makes truth speak out of us. It is the striking peculiarity of genius, that, for the time, it finds or creates itself in all who come within its reach. The man of talent can only impart us his knowledge; he cannot impart us his power, or himself; he may act upon us as an external force, but can call up no ally within. But the man of genius transforms us, for the time, into what he is himself; there is enchantment in his words,-a spell-like power, that makes the listener to become a genius too. While he is speaking, we ourselves can speak as well as he ; but the moment he leaves us, why, “Richard is himself again.” What he teaches us seems but a revival of what we have always known—as if we had learned it in a previous state of being; and we wonder that truths once so familiar, and now so precious, should have been so long forgotten. But there are other points of distinction equally decisive. Talent proves; genius reveals: the former speaks to the inductive, the latter to the intuitive faculties. Talent only marshals what it finds without into the service and support of a given proposition; it brings all its evidence from external sources. Genius needs no evidence to authenticate its words, but what it creates in the tribunal to which it appeals. The message it has to deliver but sleeps within us, and starts up at the sound of its voice. It gives only what it finds in us, but what we could never find without its help. Talent, then, is like a mirror, which only collects and transfers the light it receives from other sources; enius is like the sun, which pours forth ight as from a fountain, at once revealing itself and the objects on which it shines. With talent, moreover, the mind works in but one of its faculties or activities at once. The head and heart will not beat time together; one of them is always pulling the other under; the subject stops feeling as soon as he begins to think, or stops thinking as soon as he begins to feel; so that, to borrow a figure, he is either like the moon, all
light and no heat, or like a stove, all.
heat and no o But with genius the head and the heart are always acting in
concert and reciprocity. The perceptive, reflective, creative, and sensitive faculties interpenetrate each other, so that all work in each, and each works in all. The subject, therefore, gives us truth, beauty, thought, passion, all in a state of interfusion. Every word he utters is the result of his whole mind, and brings contributions from its inmost depths; as every leaf or blossom is the product and expression of all the powers and elements that enter into the tree. In short, talent is like a prism, to break and scatter the rays of truth into cold, elementary colors; genius is like a lens, to gather and concentrate them all into a colorless, burning whole. Again: talent combines; genius creates. The utmost that mere talent can reach, is, a mechanical adjustment of parts for a given purpose. To arrange and modify the materials it already has, and adapt them to specific ends, is all it can do; it cannot add a single new element to what it has received. Its processes and results are altogether mechanical ; with vital powers it has nothing to do: and lifeless mechanism, more or less perfect, is the highest production in its power. The productions of genius, on the contrary, are organic. It works, not as a skillful mechanic, in the combination and arrangement of parts, but as nature works in the evolution and embodiment of vital, animating principles. Talent may bring matter, ...} color, and form together into an artificial flower, or thoughts, images, and numbers together into verse; but with genius, the germ sprouts forth, and buds, and blossoms out into a breathing flower, or thoughts, images and numbers grow up together into poetry. Talent may arrange the form, compact the joints, and adjust the cords, and yet it gives us but a lifeless automaton; the living principle is wanting—an element which the mere combining power can never supply: it is, indeed, a mere machine, incapable of life or motion, except by the application of external force. Genius proceeds by a natural growth, from a living i. it begins with a vital principle which, by virtue of its innate assimilative power, shapes itself a body from surroundin materials, and clothes it with beauty j life. The human body, for example, is obviously but a combination of materials that have always existed; it is but old matter organized into a new form: but the invisible builder and inhabitant of this form is an absolute creation—a perfectly original existence, from whose individuality the very idea of combination is necessarily excluded. It is in this sense that genius creates. . Its productions are to those of talent, what a genuine living tree is to the manufactured appearance of a tree. In the visible form both may, indeed, be alike; but the one is nothing but form; it has no life, and therefore can do, can produce nothing; in short, it is nothing, but only seems: the other contains a living, creative power, which produces leaves, and blossoms, and fruits, and finally reproduces itself in the seeds which it drops; for every seed is a perfect tree mysteriously slumbering in the rudiments, and, if it find a fit soil, will spring up, and produce like its parent tree. It is in this sense, too, that genius is truly said not only to be creative, but to give forth creative ideas; for its ideas are perfect germs, containing in miniature all the elements of the mind from which they sprung; and, if they fall in a enial soil, will vegetate, and grow up into the beauty and fruitfulness of the parent mind. Nor is it, on this ground, at all difficult to account for the variety of forms in which genius manifests itself. For while genius is inexhaustible in vital powers, nature is also inexhaustible in the materials for their embodiment. Whether, then, genius appears, as in Shakspeare, “passing, like a protean spirit, into all the forms of character and passion;” or, as in Milton, “drawing all things into itself, and melting them down into the unity of its own ideal:” or, as in Burns, “sighing over the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,” and “ changing the vulgar wind, as it passes, into articulate melody;” or, as in Wordsworth, diffusing through all things the breath of a sensi. tive moral existence, and penetrating them with its own warmth and radiance:–it is still the same divinity of intellect, enshrined in various forms, for the instruction and up-building of our common humanity. But again; with talent the ends are always apart from and beyond the means. It reaches its objects only by the indirect, roundabout process of logic and contrivance. But with genius, the ends and means, though distinct in idea, are not separate or separable in reality. It unites them both in one and the same process, so that the attainment of the end is always involved in the use of the means. Genius is to truth and beauty, what true piety is to religion. Those who only perform the visible and audible service
of religion, to secure a certain reward, are not truly pious. They but employ religion as a means to compass the ends of self-love. They are lovers of salvation, not lovers of the Saviour. They do not so much serve Religion, as serve themselves of her. But with the truly pious man, religion is both the means and the end of his service; his object is, not the reward of religion, but simply the life of religion itself. It is not the prospective offers of religion, but the being religious, that makes his heaven. True |. is not the road to happiness; it is appiness. Going to heaven implies, not a change of place, but a change of mind and heart; so that we get into heaven just as fast and as far as we get heaven into us. With genius, in like manner, truth and beauty are at once the means and the end of its action ; at once the light that reveals and the object revealed. The process of genial production is, for the time, 'a' continued adoration of the Beautiful and the True. Genius does not pursue truth and beauty, as external objects to be reached by intermediate means, but lives, and moves, and has its being in them; and its productions are but the expression, the very pulse and breath of that life. And finally; genius works not logically, but imaginatively; not by calculation, but by inspiration. The man of genius does not govern his subject, but is governed by it; he does not lay hold of it, to move and direct its development, but so thinks himself into it, or thinks it into himself, that it comes to move and direct him. So far, therefore, as genius acts in accordance with its nature, it works not from the pressure or solicitation of any outward calls, but from a vital impulse within; it acts simply because activity is the element of its existence, the very utterance of its life. It produces, simply because, when wedded to this goodly universe in love and holy passion, it is its nature to produce. The cup of its emotions runneth over of its own accord: and the contents lose all their virtue the moment it attempts to pour them out for udding, or for praise. . Its music, springing up unbidden within itself, is not drawn forth as the price of gain or applause, but simply exhaled as the breath of its soul; is not brought out, but warbles itself out, into expression, because it cannot keep still. In short, genius is, so to speak, a mysteriously-constructed harp, whose strings are so instinct with life, and so redundant of melody, that they tremble into eloquence of their own accord, without waiting for the fingers of outward motives to play them into vibration; it is the spirit within, not any influence without, that moves them to utterance. There are two living authors, both excellent, indeed, in their kind, but with scarce a single quality in common, who offer so apt an illustration of the difference between talent and genius, that we probably cannot do better than refer to them. They are best known by several volumes of critical and biographical Essays. As might be expected, the greater of them is the least popular of the two. We allude to Thomas B. Macauley, and Thomas Carlyle; the former a man of consummate talent, the latter a man of high, though not the highest, genius. Both are eminently original; Role; in the dress
and form of his works, Carlyle in the .
soul and substance of them. Macauley's Essays are like finished pieces of furniture, elegant but lifeless; Carlyle's are like crooked, scraggy trees, ugly, but full of life. The former gives the reader his thoughts in the most polished style; the latter sets the reader a-thinking any way he can. Macauley always means just what meets the ear. His pages are illuminated by a perfect blaze of light; so much so, indeed, that they sometimes rather dazzle than assist the vision. Iliustration after illustration comes pouring in upon us from the four corners of creation, all equally pertinent, all equally perspicuous. No one can possibly miss, or mistake, his meaning. Every sentence is understood and exhausted as soon as its words are uttered. Periods hurry on and hurry off in breathless succession. One of his Essays, in short, is like a fine Macadam turnpike, perfectly straight and perfectly smooth, so that the reader rushes through from beginning to end in a perfect intellectual gallop. Carlyle, on the other hand, always means much more than meets the ear. His pages are deep, sometimes mysterious, inexhaustible. Often, however, amid surrounding darkness, some winged word unseals a fountain of light in the reader's mind, which kindles the page before him into more than noonday brightness. Often he simply gives his reader the clue to a. lo. of meaning, and then leaves him to trace its windings, and explore its riches at his leisure. In short, one of his Essays is like a natural road, winding
through vallies and among mountains; sometimes passing in sight of magnificent groves and grottoes, where the traveler cannot choose but turn aside, and linger, and forget both journey and guide in the wonderful beauty and strangeness of the scenery about him.–Macauley's flowers are all culled, and picked, and tied into finished bunches with inimitable art; their very sweetness is increased by the crushing of their innocent lives, and the coming on of untimely decay; and the beholder's thoughts stop at the perfection of their ordering, or the surprising skill that ordered them thus. Carlyle's flowers appear scattered here and there, smiling out from the place of their birth, and enjoying the air they breathe, as they nestle in their mother's warm bosom ; and draw the beholder's thoughts away from their forms down to the divinely-mysterious agency that wrought their purity, and loveliness, and happiness from the senseless soil at their feet.—Macauley takes the reader out into some precise, definite field of thought, and leads him round, and shows him its riches, one by one, and tells him their names, and unfolds their properties, that he may lay them up on some shelf in his memory, and keep them for use, as occasion may require. Carlyle, by some strange motion of his spirit, opens the door into a boundless prospect, stretching away through clouds and sunshine, into dimness and invisibility,+a perfect wilderness of thought, ever widening upon the beholder's view, and even where the horizon bounds his vision, inviting his imagination to traverse the infinite regions that lie beyond. With Macauley, therefore, we are benefitted only by what we receive; with Carlyle, we are benefitted chiefly by what we give; and that it is more blessed to give than to receive, is quite as true in intellect as it is in morals.
The stamp, then, of decided genius, is the highest intellectual recommendation that a book can bring. But there are other circumstances which may do much to guide us in the choice of books. As a general thing, age may be safely pronounced a decisive proof of excellence. The longer a book has lived, the more evidence it brings of having been born for immortality. And besides, the world, we suspect, has known periods more favorable than the present to the growth of excellence. Men once wrote because they had sométhing which they wanted to say; men now seek for something to say, be