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produces less mental and physical commotion. This tendency in the mind to find pleasure in complexity was observed even by Aristotle.
Experience teaches us that no literary style is attractive without a certain interlacing of thoughts and feelings. The sentiments which are most treasured and survive longest, are those which are conveyed rather in a complex than simple form_emotion is thus most quickened, and memory impressed. The beauty and charm of form lie greatly in its bringing ideas closer together, and succinctness implies fulness of thought. Thus a vast number of paradoxical expressions have been generated, which are far more agreeable than plain language. We speak of “ blushing honours,” “ liquid music,” “ dry wine,” “ loud” or “ tender colours,” “round flavour,” “cold hearts,” “trembling stars," "storms in tea-cups," and a thousand similar combinations, putting the abstract for the concrete, transferring the percep. tion of one sense to another, intermingling the nomenclature of arts, and usiug a great variety of metaphorical and even ungrammatical phrases. Poets owe much of their power to such combinations, and we find that allusions, which are confessedly the reverse of true, are often the most beautiful, touch the heart deepest, and live longest in the memory. Thus the lover delights to sing
Poetry and Humour.
“ Why does azure deck the sky ?
'Tis to be like thiue eyes of blue." Poetry has been called “the conflict of the elements of our being,” and it is a mark of genius to leave much to the imagination of the reader. The higher we soar in poetry and the nearer we approach the sublime, the more the distance between the intertwined ideas increases. But we are scarcely conscious of any contradiction or discordance, as there is always something to resolve and explain it. Thus in « Il Penseroso,” when we read of “the rugged brow of Night,” we think of emblematic representations of Nox, and of the dark contraction of the brow in frowning. There is no breach of harmony, and we always find in poetry stepping stones which enable us to pass over difficulties. Often, too, we are assisted in this direction by the intention or tone of the writer or speaker.
Athenæus exhibits well, in a story fictitious or traditional, the contradictory elements to be found in poetry, and shows how easily metaphorical language may become ludicrous when interpreted according to the letter rather than the spirit. He makes Sophocles say to an Erythræan schoolmaster who wanted to take poetical things literally, “Then this of Simo- · nides does not please you, I suppose, though it seems to the Greeks very well spoken
“ The maid sends her voice
From out her purple mouth !". Nor the poet speaking of the golden-haired Apollo, for if the painter had made the hair of tne god golden and not black, the painting would be all the worse. Nor the poet speaking of the rosy-fingered Aurora, for if anyone were to dip his fingers into rose-coloured paint, he would make his hands like those of a purple dyer, not of a beautiful woman.”
The praise of women is so common, and we so often compare them to everything beautiful, that the harsh lines in the above similes are coloured over and almost disappear. Such language seems as suitable in poetry, as commonplace information would be tedious, and being the scaffolding by which the ideal rises, the complexity is not prominent as in humour, thongh it adds to the pleasure afforded. But whenever the verge of harmony is not only reached, but transgressed, the connection of opposite ideas produces a different effect upon us, and we admit that from the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step. When we go beyond the natural we may, if, we heed not, enter the unnatural. In such cases we have an additional incentive to mirth-a double complication as it were, from the failure of the original intention.
If there were nothing in the world but what is plain and self-evident, where would be the
• Conflict in Humour.
romance and wit which form the greatest charm of life. Poetry recognises this; and in comic songs, especially of the Ethiopian class lately so popular, there is rather too prominent an aim to obtain complexity of ideas--sometimes to the verge of nonsense. Humorous sayings are largely manufactured on this plan.
The ideas in humour, although in one respect distant, must be brought close together. * Protraction in relating a story will cause it to fail, and this is one reason why jokes in a foreign language seldom make us laugh.
Locke speaks of wit as the assemblage of ideas. Most philosophers acknowledge the existence of some conflict in humour, and in many instances of the ludicrous it seems to lie between the real and ideal. External circumstances appear different from what we should expect them to be, and think they ought to be. Thus we have seen a dignified man walking about quite unconscious that a wag has chalked his back, or fastened a “tail” on his coat behind.
Some have attempted to explain all humour on this basis, but the complication in it does not seem capable of being brought under this head. Weiss and Arnold Ruge say it is “the ideal captive by the real”—an opinion similar
to that of Schopenhauer, who calls it “the triumph of intuition over reflection.” Of course, this cannot be taken as a definition, for in that case every mistake we make, such as thinking a mountain higher than it is, or a right action wrong, would be laughable. We contemplate acts of injustice or oppression, and failures in art and manufacture, and still feel no inclination to laugh. But we may accept the opinion as an admission of the principle of complication. The ideal and real often meet without any spark being struck, and in some cases the conflict in humour can scarcely be said to lie between them. It is often dependent upon a breach of association, or of some primary ideas or laws of nature. Necessary principles of mind or matter are often violated where things, true under one condition, are represented as being so universally. Our American cousins supply us with many illustrative instances. “A man is so tall that he has to go up a ladder to shave himself.” Generally we require to mount, to reach anything in a very high position, but if it were our own head, however lofty we carried it, we should not require a ladder. Somewhat similar is the observation “that a young lady's head-dress is now so high, that she requires to stand on a stool to put it on.”
We have heard of a soldier surprising and