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tion appears especially in his imagistic trend, in his pursuit of the descriptive detail for its own sake. To set out like Chateaubriand to restore the monarchy and the Christian religion and instead to become the founder of “l'école des images à tout prix” is an especially striking form of the contrast in romantic morality between the ideal and the real.
The attempt that we have been studying to divorce beauty from ethics led in the latter part of the eighteenth century to the rise of a nightmare subject, - æsthetics. Shaftesbury indeed, as we have seen already, anticipates the favorite romantic doctrine that beauty is truth and truth beauty, which means in practice to rest both truth and beauty upon a fluid emotionalism. Thus to deal æsthetically with truth is an error of the first magnitude, but it is also an error, though a less serious one, to see only the æsthetic element in beauty. For beauty to be complete must have not only æsthetic perceptiveness but order and proportion; and this brings us back again to the problem of the ethical imagination and the permanent model or pattern with reference to which it seeks to impose measure and proportion upon sensuous perception and expansive desire. We should not hesitate to say that beauty loses most of its meaning when divorced from ethics even though every æsthete in the world should arise and denounce us as philistines. To rest beauty upon feeling as the very name æsthetics implies, is to rest it upon what is ever shifting. Nor can we escape from this endless mobility with the aid of physical science, for physical science does not itself rise above the naturalistic flux. After eliminating from beauty the permanent pattern and the ethical imagination with the aid of which it is perceived, a man will be ready to term beautiful anything that reflects his ordinary or temperamental self. Diderot is a sentimentalist and so he sees as much beauty in the sentimentalist Richardson as in Homer. If a man is psychically restless he will see beauty only in motion. The Italian futurist Marinetti says that for him a rushing
a motor car is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace. A complete sacrifice of the principle of repose in beauty (which itself arises from the presence of the ethical imagination) to the suggesting of motion such as has been seen in certain recent schools, runs practically into a mixture of charlatanism and madness. “He that is giddy thinks the world goes round,” says Shakespeare, and the exponents of certain ultra-modern movements in painting are simply trying to paint their inner giddiness. As a matter of fact the pretension of the æsthete to have a purely personal vision of beauty and then treat as a philistine every one who does not accept it, is intolerable. Either beauty cannot be defined at all or we must say that only is beautiful which seems so to the right kind of man, and the right kind of man is plainly he whose total attitude towards life is correct, who views life with some degree of imaginative wholeness, which is only another way of saying that the problem of beauty is inseparable from the ethical problem. In an absolute sense nobody can see life steadily and see it whole; but we may at least move towards steadiness and wholeness. The æsthete is plainly moving in an opposite direction; he is becoming more and more openly a votary of the god Whirl. His lack of inner form is an error not of æsthetics but of general philosophy.
The romantic imagination, the imagination that is not
drawn back to any ethical centre and so is free to wander wild in its own empire of chimeras, has indeed a place in life. To understand what this place is one needs to emphasize the distinction between art that has high seriousness and art that is merely recreative. The serious moments of life are moments of tension, of concentration on either the natural or the human law. But Apollo cannot always be bending the bow. Man needs at times to relax, and one way of relaxing is to take refuge for a time in some land of chimeras, to follow the Arcadian gleam. He may then come back to the real world, the world of active effort, solaced and refreshed. But it is only with reference to some ethical centre that we may determine what art is soundly recreative, in what forms of adventure the imagination may innocently indulge. The romanticist should recollect that among other forms of adventure is what Ben Jonson terms "a bold adventure for hell”; and that a not uncommon nostalgia is what the French call la nostalgie de la boue man's nostalgia for his native mud. Because we are justified at times, as Lamb urges, in wandering imaginatively beyond “the diocese of strict conscience,” it does not follow that we may, like him, treat Restoration Comedy as a sort of fairyland; for Restoration Comedy is a world not of pure but of impure imagination.
Lamb's paradox, however, is harmless compared with what we have just been seeing in Chateaubriand. With a dalliant imagination that entitles him at best to play & recreative rôle, he sets up as a religious teacher. Michelet again has been described as an “entertainer who believes himself a prophet,” and this description fits many other Rousseauists. The æsthete who assumes an apocalyptic pose is an especially flagrant instance of the huddling together of incompatible desires. He wishes to sport with Amaryllis in the shade and at the same time enjoy the honors that belong only to the man who scorns delights and lives laborious days. For the exercise of the ethical imagination, it is hardly necessary to say, involves effort. Perhaps no one has ever surpassed Rousseau himself in the art of which I have already spoken, that of giving to moral indolence a semblance of profound philosophy.
One cannot indeed always affirm that the Rousseauist is by the quality of his imagination an entertainer pure and simple. His breaking down of barriers and running together of the planes of being results at times in ambiguous mixtures -- gleams of insight that actually seem to minister to fleshliness. One may cite as an example the “voluptuous religiosity” that certain critics have discovered in Wagner.
The romanticist will at once protest against the application of ethical standards to Wagner or any other musician. Music, he holds, is the most soulful of the arts and so the least subject to ethics. For the same reason it is the chief of arts and also — in view of the fact that romanticists have a monopoly of soul — the most romantic. One should not allow to pass unchallenged this notion that because music is filled with soul it is therefore subject to no ethical centre, but should be treated as a pure enchantment. The Greeks were as a matter of fact much concerned with the ethical quality of music. Certain musical modes, the Doric for example, had as they believed a virile "soul,” other modes like the Lydian bad
a the contrary (“Lap me in soft Lydian airs”). For the very reason that music is the most appealing of the arts (song, says Aristotle, is the sweetest of all things) they were especially anxious that this art should be guarded from perversion. Without attempting a full discussion of a difficult subject for which I have no competency, it will be enough to point out that the plain song that prevailed in Christian churches for over a thousand years evidently had a very different “soul,” a soul that inspired to prayer and peace, from much specifically romantic music that has a soul of restlessness, of infinite indeterminate desire. The result of the failure to recognize this distinction is very often a hybrid art. Berlioz showed a rather peculiar conception of religion when he took pride in the fact that his Requiem (!) Mass frightened one of the listeners into a fit.
The ethical confusion that arises from the romantic cult of "soul" and the closely allied tendency towards a hybrid art - art that lacks high seriousness without being frankly recreative — may also be illustrated from the field of poetry. Many volumes have been published and are still being published on Browning as a philosophic and religious teacher. But Browning can pass as a prophet only with the half-educated person, the person who has lost traditional standards and has at the same time failed to work out with the aid of the ethical imagination some fresh scale of values and in the meanwhile lives impulsively and glorifies impulse. Like the half-educated person, Browning is capable of almost any amount of intellectual and emotional subtlety, and like the halfeducated person he is deficient in inner form: that is he
1 Confucius and the Chinese sages were if anything even more concerned than Plato or Aristotle with the ethical quality of music.