Графични страници
PDF файл

» 1

always labouring to impart, and which he dies at last without imparting.”

I have dwelt thus at length on poetry because of the wideness of its grasp, embracing as it does almost every species of beauty, and assaying to discover and celebrate almost everything that is admirable in nature or in art. A special examination of the suggestiveness of architectural beauty would not be thrown away; the following considerations, however, must suffice.

Architectural ornament consists in an imitation of nature. The key to architectural beauty, therefore, must be sought for in the pleasurable suggestiveness of such imitations, and its value in their success. Large buildings, such as churches and cathedrals, on which ornament is bountifully lavished, are very suggestive. They suggest nature in her fairest and most pleasant forms. A set of massive columns, for example, may suggest woods and groves, the trunks of trees—ancient oak, and beech, and elm, and pine-staunch and stately, deeply rooted in the earth, and clad in honourable bark. The lofty arches with their mouldings may suggest branches reaching across the walks and meeting each other overhead-generous, serviceable boughs, protecting from the sun and rain. The mullioned and transomed windows may suggest openings skyward, which admit the light by measure and restrain the glare by twigs and foliage. This whole idea is seconded and the effect enhanced by the addition of tracery and sculpturing in some of the many forms to be hereafter mentioned. Some decorations (cable mouldings, for example) are, it might be objected, not copies of nature, but of art. There is no necessity to think so; cables themselves are copied from nature—from the honeysuckle, the convolvulus, or the ivy, “the sweetbriar or the vine or the twisted eglantine.” If the objects already examined are thus suggestive, and

1 Sir Joshua Reynolds.

[ocr errors]

if poetry can find nothing admirable in any object except through its suggestiveness, it would seem unnecessary to devote special attention to other objects of avowed beauty —to birds, fishes, shells, insects, jewellery, &c.—with a view of proving that they also are beautiful only by their suggestiveness. The latent suggestions begotten by these and many other classes that might be named are perhaps more, perhaps less numerous, perhaps of a lower, perhaps of a higher order, than those we have investigated; but they are all, I apprehend, in keeping with the suggestive principles of the flowers, plants, and sunsets already examined.

It may, however, be necessary to point out how the grace of motion is also dependent on suggestiveness. A beautiful motion is that which suggests some other motion of a grateful or pleasant sensation. There is indeed no motion which is attended with strong sensations; nevertheless such feelings as certain movements are attended with are suggested by similar movements, and these suggestions cause certain movements to be regarded as graceful and others as ungraceful. The movements which constitute swimming, diving, dancing, skating, riding, rowing, leaping, vaulting, sliding, swinging, sailing, floating, bending—as of corn ; revolving—as of windmill sails; flowing—as of rivers ; waving—as of trees; flying—as of birds; streaming—as of flags, &c., are graceful motions, and may all suggest one another. That this is really the case may be gathered from the hints contained in the passages of poetry already quoted to illustrate beauty in general, or from any poem wherein the phenomenon is dealt with. Falling, slipping, rushing, thrusting, chopping, tearing, filing, planing, hammering, breaking, scraping, sawing, shooting, boxing, fighting, struggling, wrestling, shuffling, kicking, stamping, hopping, pickaxeing limping, dragging, beating, &c., are all more or less attended with unpleasant sensations or disagreeable feelings; they also may suggest each other, and are therefore

ugly or ungraceful. Shapes, in like manner, are accompanied by pleasant or unpleasant sensations to the eye or to other parts of the body: certain shapes suggest like shapes, and are therefore comely; certain other shapes suggest like shapes, and are therefore uncomely.

Lastly, may not some light be thrown upon this part of our subject by comparing the names bestowed upon members of the various classes of objects in nature ? Let us reason from hypothesis to fact. Articles which form the necessaries or requisites of life, and whose value is quickly discovered, would, in the progress of knowledge, be sure to be seized upon, named, and utilised by men without delay; and the names given to them would be arbitrary, or such as were suggested by some very obvious quality in the articles themselves. Objects, on the other hand, which are in no respect requisite or necessary to the enjoyment of existence, but are, in fact, sources of pastime or amusement, would be long looked at and admired by uncouth or primitive peoples, but would be left without names until communities were tolerably well off as regarded the necessaries of life and at leisure to concern themselves about such matters. In the progress of civilisation, however, these things would at length be attended to, but gradually and fragmentarily; one by one birds and butterflies, moths and insects, flowers, plants, ferns, and grasses would be admired, examined, christened, and finally tended and valued; and the names chosen would be such as were suggested by some peculiarity in the objects themselves. After this leisurely interval, when the fulness of time was come for any of these ornamental species, such associations as had at first suggested themselves to the spectator would have grown dull and common, and other analogies more latent and removedthe germ of genuine poetry-would be recognised, would develop into intelligible conceptions, would receive a verbal clothing, and become the appellations of the objects in question. And do we not find that this is the process which, in its results at least, has, in fact, taken place? When we compare the names given to eatables-meats, vegetables, and fruits—with those given to birds, flowers, and insects, we find that a large proportion of the former are simple terms whose origin seems, from the few that can be traced, to be taken from some palpable feature in the object; while a large proportion of the latter are compound appellations founded on analogies, sometimes far-fetched and surprising, and often poetical.

We shall take a few examples of this truth from the two classes of objects named, viz., the necessaries and the superfluities of existence. The utility of beef, mutton, oxen, sheep, bacon, pig, veal, bread, butter, tea, crust, crumb, water, apples, pears, will be denied by few. Now the etymological origin of all these words is involved in the obscurest antiquity. Some dictionaries fetch us back to the Sanscrit and Hebrew, and fine away the syllables until there is but a single letter left; which shows at least at what a very early period these things had been made objects of attention and received names. Many of the terms in question have blood - relations in half the languages of Europe, and affiliated connections in the other half; and, from what we know of their primary significations, they seem to be of a very simple and unsophisticated description. Most of the significations, however, are entirely beyond our reach: tea may be derived from cha, the Chinese for the leaf of the tea-tree, but why the leaf was called cha it would probably puzzle the Chinese themselves to say. There can be little doubt, however, that if the primary meaning of all the above - named articles was discovered, it would be found to be based on some very obvious idea suggested by the object itself. This view is attested by the account given of several kindred words, whose meanings have been traced, more or less successfully, to their inception. Wheat, for instance,

1 For the derivation of most of the following words see Wedgewood's “Dictionary of English Etymology."

grass ;

seems to have been so called from a word meaning white; cabbage is thought to come from the Latin for a head (caput); horse is so called from a word meaning to neigh, and cow from a word meaning to bellow; cake is so called because it is a mass, and loaf because it is a lump or body; hay is so called because of its connection with hen is taken from a word signifying a cock (cf. hahn, the German for cock); egg and eye seem to have a common parentage; grass comes from a word meaning to grow;. meal from a word meaning to grind; oats from a word meaning eatables; barley and bread are twin offspring; milk comes from a word meaning to stroke or squeeze ; biscuit is so called because it is twice baked ; cod is constructed from a term meaning stuffed or bulging; and so with other words. These derivations are sufficiently primitive and unpoetical.

As we get farther from the necessaries of life, we find that the names become less obvious and more poetical. Mark the derivation of mackerel from a word meaning a bruise or stain in fruit. When we come to birds, we find a great many compound names built up in order that the suggestions produced by the object in the beholder's mind should be worthily sustained and represented A graduated table might be drawn up on this principle dealing with all classes of objects in nature; and, were this the place for such a task, it might be shown that, as a general, but, of course, not invariable rule, we have given to objects names becoming more and more complex or poetical as we reach those species which are comparatively of minor value and of comparatively recent systematisation. It must, however, here suffice to mention a few examples from the lighter classes of articles before specified, with a view of showing that, on the whole, the rule holds good in a remarkable degree. We shall, therefore, draw upon British birds, butterflies, moths, ferns, and grasses.

And first of birds. Let the lapwing, sandpiper, redshank,

« ПредишнаНапред »