Page images
PDF
EPUB

Taste is not a quality merely negative in its influence : it is, in language, a positive power. It suggests and prescribes beauty; and, in all expression, beauty is power. Taste virtually decides and ordains the forms of language. It is therefore justly classed as an expressive faculty. It blends its effects, undoubtedly, with those of imagination and fancy, and with those of sentiment and emotion; controlling and directing and modifying these by its intuitive recognition of the eternal laws of beauty and proportion, and instinctively rejecting every blemish. If it is sometimes lost, to appearance, in the effects produced by the more obvious working of other expressive forces; its actual presence and power are not less deeply felt in the pervading harmony which, in such circumstances, it has established, and the genuine beauty which it has diffused. Its influence extends over every form of expressive art; and its results are equally legible in all. It guides the pencil of the painter, the chisel of the sculptor, the tool of the artizan, the land of the musician, the pen of the poet, the voice and action of the speaker. It reigns over every form of language; and it moulds alike habit, character, and manners; for all of these are but varied modes of expression.

Taste, under the Influence of Culture --Of all the faculties with which man is endued, none, perhaps, is more susceptible of cultivation than taste; and none yields larger results to the process. Trained under the fresh aspects of nature, and the strict discipline of truth, it becomes one of the most healthful influences that a liberal culture infuses into the human soul. It leads to the true, the pure, and the beautiful, in every relation of thought and feeling. Next to the hallowing influence of religious principle, it elevates and refines the whole being, and confers pure and lasting enjoyment on its possessor. It forms one of the most attractive graces of character, and breathes a genuine charm over the aspect of social life. But neglected, corrupted, or perverted, deprived of the healthful air of nature, abandoned to coarse and low association, vitiated by the influence of false custom, distorted by conventional regulations, or tainted by the impure atmosphere of vice, taste becomes depraved, and morbidly craves deformity instead of beauty, and prefers falsehood to truth. (11.) THE ACTUATING PRINCIPLE, OR IMPELLING FORCE, OF

EXPRESSIVE FACULTIES. Feeling : its Office in Erpression.— The Sensibility with which the constitution man, as a sentient animal and as a self-conscious moral being, is invested, and by which he is stimulated to action and to utterance, may, for our present purpose, be defined as that element in his nature, which, --whether manifesting itself in temporary sympathy, in permanent affections,—in vivid emotion, or intense passion,

THE

has, for its office, the excitation of his being. As the stimulus of his constitution, it impels man to the function of expression, as a result indispensable to sympathy and communication,—the necessary condition of his social and moral life. It originates in that sensibility to pleasure and pain by which the Creator has enhanced to man the enjoyment and the value of his organized and conscious existence, and secured it, at the same time, by a law of instinctive dread, from exposure to peril and to destruction.

Feeling, as an Incitement to Sympathy.-The effect of sensibility, in this relation, is three-fold; producing in man, (1.) a sympathy with the conditions and aspects of the surrounding external world, whether pleasurable or painful, attractive or repulsive; (2.) the mutual sympathy, conscious correlation, and consentaneous action of the two component elements of his constitution,--body and mind; (3.) a sympathy with his fellow men, which makes him a partaker of their pleasures and pains, causes him to desire a return of their sympathies to himself, and consequently leads him to expression and communication, as the means of exciting and attracting it.

Feeling, as an Involuntary or Empassioned Instigation. The sentient and susceptible nature of man, his capacity and his experience of pleasure and pain, affected by causes whether external or internal in their operation, render him liable to unconscious and involuntary excitement, rising, sometimes, to the height of passion. This excitement manifesting itself in emotion,--the main spring of expression, --becomes, in some circumstances, itself a language sufficiently definite, intelligible, and expressive ; as may be observed in the laughter and the crying of the infant, in the sympathizing countenance of the compassionate mother, in the ruffled features and angry temper of impatient youth, in the ghastly face of the terrified child, in the glare of the hostile savage, or in the glad smiles of the emancipated schoolboy at his holiday sport.

Feeling, influenced by Imagination and Volition. The beings and forms of his own ideal world of imagination and fancy, or of creative thought, have also their exciting power over the internal sense of pleasure or of pain, and impel man, more or less voluntarily, to exhibit emotion, and to find its natural or customary form of expression in the articulate words of speech, --in the simpler eloquence of mere vocal tone, uttered or suppressed, ---or in the silent but more enduring form of the written word.

Influence of Feeling on the Artist.--Even language itself, however, in its most distinct and definite forms, is not always sufficiently expressive for empassioned emotion. The admiration of grandeur or

[ocr errors]

beauty may be strong enough and deep enough to demand some more palpable and durable shape in which to express itself. The intense delight in beauty impels the Artist to devote himself to days and nights of toil over the image which alone can satisfy the longing of his soul, for the visible presence of the loveliness which his fancy has conceived in his inner world of life and form.

On the Actions of the Child and of the Adult. It is the untaught, unconscious working of the emotion of love which makes the child find expression for his sympathy in the act of imitating the gait and actions, and the characteristic expressions of those whom he admires. Nor does adult man always escape the effects of this tendency, when maturity of mind and habits of grave research seem sometimes to render the result ridiculous.

On the Actor and his Audience. The natural delight in sympathy and communication, is the incitement which impels the actor on the stage to assume and exhibit, in his plastic frame and features, the agonies of dramatic passion, in all their terrific extremes, while he personates the ravings of Lear, the frenzy of Othello, or the remorse of Macbeth ; and it is the same cause which attracts, night after night, to the crowded theatre, the audience who thus acknowledge the force of the great element of sympathy in human nature, and the power which vivid expression exercises over the heart, when it has even the well sustained semblance of coming from the heart.

On the Éloquence of the Orator. It is from sympathy with the very passions which he delights to excite, that the orator devotes his days of seclusion and nights of application to the study of every art by which expression may be heightened and emotion aroused, when the decisive moment is come, and the interests of the state are at hazard, and men are to feel that their welfare or their safety is to depend on adopting the views of an eloquent and competent leader.

On the soul of the Poet.—It is sympathy with the highest sentiments and emotions of his race, and the conscious delight in giving these a noble utterance, that inspires the poet with the assurance of immortality, while he meditates his great theme, and touches and retouches his artistic work, till it stands forth complete in the majestic beauty and perfection after which his soul has, for years, aspired.

Universality of Feeling, as the Actuating Principle of Expression.In all the above and similar instances, the sympathetic feeling which thirsts for expression, and impels to the utterance or the recording of sentiment, is one and the same. It may assume the definiteness and the depth of a personal affection, or the intensity and the comparative excess of a passion, to whatever extent the instigation of feeling may excite the sentient agent. But it is still the same element of sensibility, only working in deeper channels, and with a stronger tide, and therefore doing its work more effectually and impressively. In whatever form, it is still but an act of obedience to the law of his constitution, by which man, as a sympathetic being, is impelled to expression, that he may attain to the power and the habit of communication; and thus fulfill the conditions of his social and moral nature.

Influence of Feeling on Moral Character, as a Form of Expression.The extent to which the element of feeling exerts its power over expression, and the degree to which its development in this relation may be carried, under the influence of educational culture, can be appropriately measured only when we trace it to its effects on the tendencies, the character, and the will of human beings individually, or in their aggregations in society. In either case, we see it in the gentle, the peaceful, and affectionate spirit of the genuine disciple of Him whom we reverence as the “ meek and the lowly,” and in the genial intercourse of communities governed by the influence of His law of universal love; or we read it in the arrogance, the violence, and the hatred, of which perverted humanity is so fatally capable. As "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," the prevalent emotions and expression, the manners, and the habitual language of man, in these opposite conditions of individual and social life, will depict themselves on character and action.

Influence of Feeling on the Character of Art.-In the visible language of graphic art, we read the same lesson of the power of feeling as an element of expression. We see it in the appalling force with which the sculptor has presented the agony of pain and struggle, in the writhing frame and contorted features of Laocoon, or the perfect placidity and repose with which he has invested the face and form of Antinous. Nor is the lesson less impressive when we turn from the superhuman fierceness of expression in attitude and features, which characterizes the delineations of passion and penal torture, in some of the figures depicted by the hand of Angelo, to the serenity, the sanctity, and the unutterable loveliness, beaming from the half-divine forms in which innocence or holiness is pictured by the pencil of Raphael.

Its power in Music.—The ear drinks in the same lesson of the power of empassioned expression, while it listens to the great masters of musical art, and feels the majesty of its utterance, as conceived in the soul of Handel, and worthily executed by the skillful hand of the accomplished performer. From such effects of sublimity and force and solemn grandeur, down to the breathings of tenderness in a plaintive strain of pastoral melody, the thrill, responding to the stirring air of

66

the soldier's march, or the wild gayety of the peasant's dance, we have but the varied forms in which emotion evinces its sway over this most expressive of arts, by the inspiration which it breathes into its numberless moods.

Its Effect on Language.—To the emotive force of feeling, Language owes all its sublimest and most beautiful forms of cultivated utterance, whether in expressing the depth of affection or the intensity of passion; and the remark is equally true of the literature of the elder world and that of modern times. In no record of humanity is the fact more strikingly exhibited than in the pages of the Sacred volume, where the heart of man is laid open in all its workings, in the primitive language of poetic imagination and Divine truth combined, and where the human soul pours itself forth in every mood; now wondering at the vastness of the creation, or adoring the infinite majesty of the Creator; now humbled to the dust, under the sense of man's insignificance, or, in the tones of contrition and penitence, imploring the boon of pardon; uttering thanks for boundless goodness and mercy ; rejoicing in the conscious favor of God; sympathizing in the gladness and beauty of nature ; touched by the paternal tenderness and compassion of Jehovah, or joining in the denunciations of “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish," threatened to his enemies.

In all the uninspired delineations of thought which have come down to us from ancient times, it is the same pervading element of feeling which has given them their lasting life and their sway over the mind: To some prominent passages of this character we have already alluded; and, for the present, the allusion must suffice. Nor have we time now to dwell on corresponding examples drawn from modern literature, the peculiar charm of which, in one word, is the power with which it calls forth the natural emotions of the heart. In every form which literature assumes, as a power or an influence over the soul, exerted through the medium of expressive language, the main spring of effect, the grand motive power, is feeling. The life of expression, in all its cultivated forms of language or of art, is emotion.

Feeling, under the Guidance of Education.--Recognizing the fact last mentioned, the intelligent superintendent of education will direct his endeavors to the due cherishing, strengthening, and developing, as well as to the moulding, guiding, and governing of this great element of intellectual and moral power. With his eye fixed on this momentous issue, he will watch the natural tendency and direction of the instinct whose action he is to guide, so as intelligently to coöperate with its spontaneous working, and aid in the accomplishments of its peculiar office.

m

« PreviousContinue »